Poetry for You and Me

בקטגוריות: Exported|Uncategorized

7 Dec 2008

Mid-winter evening,
alone at a sushi bar—
just me and this eel

– Billy Collins

It’s important, I feel, to have a favorite poet. It’s adds that important veneer of intellectual sophistication: I don’t just read poetry, I have a taste in poetry! None of that first-come-first-served bring-me-whatever-they’ve-got-at-the-buffet poetry reading for me! 

And if you do decide on a favorite, it better not be someone that everyone’s heard of. Robert Frost? Emily Dickinson? Shakespeare, god forbid? That’s no sign of a cultured mind! That’s just things you learned in high-school.

But seriously, though, I do have some favorites. Some poets that seem to click more often than others. The first such was Frank O’Hara, with The Day Lady Died and Lana Turner Has Collapsed. But more recently, I’ve really started liking Billy Collins. It started with his Introduction to Poetry, which I’ve read in my Introduction to Poetry class, and today I found a new one of his, which I not only found wonderful, but it linked really well to an old post of mine, and it’s sentiment is one I identify with.

So this whole introduction has been, in effect, just a segue into Billy Collin’s Some Final Words, courtesy of 3QD. It’s lovely.

Covered By Blues

בקטגוריות: Exported|Uncategorized

5 Dec 2008

Old Blues tunes have a tendency to resurface in many incarnations. Back in the first half of the 20th century they would be blues standards that float around regionally, getting many versions over the years. These tend to be very different, reflecting the time, place and origin of their performance. When rock’n’roll co-opted the blues, it added a new spin on many of those old blues songs. When the classic blues-rock began to wind down, newer artists gave their own twists on it.

No real point here. Just going to link to some songs I like.


  • Crossroads
    • Robert Johnson’s version is the most popular version of the “musician sells his souls to the devil in the crossroads, dying young in exchange for guitar master”.
    • Cream’s version is very symbolic of their contribution to early blues rock – take a classic blues standard, play it LOUD and play it FAST. A lot of early Cream and Led Zeppelin songs were blues standards sped up.
  • Hey Joe
    • Jimi Hendrix’s version is the most popular one, but there are literally hundreds of versions over the years, and the song itself is based on earlier songs covering similar topics – jealousy and murder.
    • Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s lead singer, recorded a version in 1967, but only released another one in 2002 on the album Dreamland. Appropriately, his version is dreamy, hypnotic, starting relatively slow and quiet but building up to a wonderful crescendo. Befitting the topic, this version is dark and disturbing, and very very good.
    • The Leaves, a little known 60’s band, is the first known recording of this particular variation on the song. A curiously cheerful rendition for such a loaded song.
  • Where Did You Sleep Last Night
    • Lead Belly recorded this between 1944 and 1948, but it’s been around at least 50-60 years before that. Jealousy is a recurring theme here.
    • A group of country singers, including Tom Jones for some reason, do a country version of this song called ‘In The Pines’, featuring different lyrics – more yearning than jealous.
    • Mark Lanegan, grunge rocker turned dark Nick Cave-style crooner, recorded this dark and pained version in his 1993 solo album, with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic on instruments. Later, Nirvana would play this  in their famous Unplugged show.

That’s it, for now, until I am hit by another bout of procrastination.

Tales of Girls and Boys and Marsupials

בקטגוריות: Uncategorized

5 Dec 2008

I’ve just read that The Wombats will be releasing two new singles during the next couple of months, which is good. Their first album was fun, though the second half is certainly not as good as the first. Let’s home they’ve learned and improved.

This video for Let’s Dance To Joy Division is trying to be too many things at once – if it would focus on just one style it would probably be better – but it’s still one of my favorite songs of the past year.


The Soda Pop Wars

בקטגוריות: Export|Uncategorized

5 Dec 2008

Cola? Soda? Coke? Pop?

What generic term do YOU use to refer to those lovable, carbonated drinks we so love to drink?

In the US, it seems, the popular terms are Soda, Coke or Pop, and the choice is extremely regional. Different areas have different terms, but in some places you can find specific counties with local terms used:


(click for full map, of course)

For a set of comments on this map, see here.

For another, interactive map, go here. They have more statistics, too!

Having finished John Steinbeck’s delightful Travels with Charley, I’ve now started reading Michael Chabon’s latest novel, Gentlemen of the Road, a break from his usual 20th century fare taking us to the Caucasus mountains around the turn of the first millennium, while putting his usual Jewish spin on things – an adventure story set in the Jewish kingdom of Khazaria.

I’ll be writing more as my reading progresses, but for now I’ll just note that Chabon managed to stump me three times in the first two pages with words I didn’t know. So in keeping with the tradition of fine book reviewers before me, I’ll elaborate on these words here:

Words Looked Up:

  • Shatranj: An earlier form of chess, invented in India but popularized in Persia and the Middle East around the first millennium AD.
  • Bambakion: A type of padded under-garment, worn under armour, especially by Byzantine troops.
  • Buskin: a knee- or calf-length boot made of leather or cloth which laces closed, but is open across the toes.

I Wanna Go Back To Dixie

בקטגוריות: Uncategorized

3 Dec 2008

An Ethnotelephonic Study of Ol’ Dixie – based on the work of cultural sociologist Dr. John Shelton Reed, this map attempts to map the the cultural borders of the Old South based on a telephone-book count of businesses using the name Dixie in their names. Fascinating.

(Click for bigger picture)

State of Anxiety

בקטגוריות: Exported|Uncategorized

24 Nov 2008

There are many bridges and tunnels leading out of the familiar landmarks of Manhattan, the symbol of American that everyone knows. They lead out to Bronx, or to New Jersey, and from there on out to Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, down to Florida or all the way to far-off Idaho or California. There are maps to all those places, Pictures. Tour guides.  No surprises.

But if you leave New York at dawn or at dusk, when the night and day are too busy to notice your passing. If you don’t leave through the big, visible bridges or well-monitored tunnels, you can find your way out to a different America. America of the almost-was and the might-have-been. Go up north to the Republic of Madawaska, where the inhabitants refused the terms of the Treaty of Paris which put them in Canadian New Brunswick, preferring to be a US State adjacent to Maine. Nearby, between Vermont and New Hampshire, the Republic of Indian Stream had an organized, independent government in the late-1700’s, elected by a constituency of 300. Go down through Westsylvania, which was eventually admitted to the union as West Virginia, and further down to Alabama and Tennessee where the Union-loyalist states of Winston and Nickajack seceded from the Confederate Secession and joined the Union army, declaring themselves free states deep in the slave-owning south.

Then kick it up a notch. Go up to Lake Michigan, where the Strangist Mormons split off the main branch established the Kingdom of Beaver Isle. Between Montana and Wyoming cowboys opposed to Roosevelt’s New Deal established the State of Absaroka to preserve economic independence.  Drive down through Nevada to the Cimarron Territory, where miners declared independence in their mountains, to the State of Deseret, built on rigorous Mormon beliefs. Down to the Long Republic, which can’t decide whether it secedes from Mexico or the US, and the State of Sequoya, a Native American state between Oklahoma and Kansas.

Many more states fill this shadowy Union. The states of Jefferson, Franklin and Lincoln all vie for existence. West Florida and North Virginia consider their own secession, while Comancheria, Lenapehoking and Aztlan could split from the US along ethnic lines. And above all, the Confederate States of America still looms large above the old South, building its myths and legends.

Each of these offers a vision of a different America. An America of a small US surrounded by sovereign Indian countries, independent Jeffersonian states sick of the Federalist government. A Mormon monarchy of religious fanatics. Islands in the total mishmash of cultures, races and religions that is the United States of America, both real and imagined. Each of these visions could spawn stories, songs, alternate histories and variations on American themes through different glasses. A Mormon Indiana Jones? A slave-owning Batman? Everything is possible.

Heroes, season 3. Spoilers abound.

בקטגוריות: Uncategorized

14 Nov 2008

…and most of it is crap, like everything. But still worth observing.

Dorbanot, a new site/blog, is trying to document contemporary Hebrew slang take the role of a Hebrew UrbanDictionary, though hopefully with less munging (no link – trust me. Don’t search for it if you value your lunch)

Many of the terms outlined within are boring, or not-as-witty-as-people-think-they-are, but that’s to be expected. This is a work in progress, much like all culture is. Some entries are tasteless, some boring, some are already in use by me today, and some make you feel like taking them and spreading the word – which is mainly the point on the site, I suppose.

Too many texts in too many subjects, Hebrew, English. Mind starts to float. Load another site. Download another paper. Expulsion of the Jews in Spain. An innocent title, but someone made a typo when typing up the file name. A simple switch, two flipped letters. Explusion of the Jews in Spain. My mind, tired, takes the next required step. A simple switch, one vowel for the other. Explosion of the Jews in Spain. Other parts of my brain, alerted to the possibilities, join in the fun. The visuals start pouring in: synagogues in Pythonesque explosions. Maimonides, his face a mask of utter surprise, blasted into smithereens. The images cascade: detonated paellas rain down rice and shrimp. Python makes a comeback as red-robed cardinals are hurled through the sky. I am no longer fit for human company, and people are starting to give me funny looks.

פעם היה לי לייבג'ורנל. עכשיו הוא כאן, מגובה.