Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Book Review #5

Dune Dune by Frank Herbert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Dune is a compelling landscape of ecology, technology, culture, politics, and ideas. In short, it's truly a masterpiece. That said:

Do you remember lateral thinking problems? They re-entered the vogue, or perhaps just my consciousness about 10 years ago. To be fair, I've never read any of Edward De Bono's books, and maybe I will, but I found those problems really annoying.. Some of the answers were borderline obvious ("he knew he was in Australia because the water went down the drain the opposite direction") while others were merely discarded beginnings of movies such as "Dude Where's My Car" or "The Hangover" (A man wakes up in the desert with one burnt match, frost bite on his left hand, a string of multi-colored hankerchiefs, and half a gallon of margarita mix. What the hell happened to him last night?). I remember that one of the notions [maybe apocryphal) of LTPs that I heard over and over was that computers couldn't do them. Only the unique and powerful human mind could, through yes or no questions, construct the stories that explained these scenarios.

And so I wonder, could a Mentat solve a lateral thinking problem?

The Mentat is simultaneously one of the coolest and most dated of Dune creations. Herbert reiterates several times that Mentat reasoning was more effective than the most powerful computers of Earth's golden age.

Think about it. When Herbert was writing Dune the most advanced computer game was "SpaceWars!" They could not "play DOOM." Packet networks (the interwebs) were a mere theory. Transistors were brand new to the computing world.

So on rereading "Dune" I spend most of the time wondering about the limitations of a Mentat. I imagine a Mentat would have the edge on all of my friends who applied for investment banking positions five or so years ago when interviews asked questions like "How many golf balls would fit on a 727?" But would I enjoy going on a date with a mentat? Or, since Herbert refers to the "golden age," is it safe to assume that a masterful mentat (or at least Duncan Idaho) would be able to beat Deep Blue at chess?

View all my reviews >>

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jerry Beary's Cherry Cake

Not so much a cake as a shapeless muffin, this is another food product that I have had the opportunity to experience thanks to the GED program at the other end of the office.

As opposed to PB&J whose production is merely shrouded in mystery, or murky, the Beary packaging gives nothing away. In fact, several variations of google searches only served up one matching hit.

Jerry Beary's Cherry Cakes are disappointing. It doesn't have the heartiness I expect from a muffin or the sweetness I want out of cake. Jerry Beary does get some points for having real cherries mixed in with what I've been thinking of as "cherry pearls," though on further reflection that's much too generous. Most disturbing is the texture, which is waxenly-moist, like bread baked with crayons. It's not dry, it won't crumble, but if you eat it plain it sticks to your teeth and lodges itself persistently at the roof of your mouth.

For some reason I can't stop eating them.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

And it's for Charity!

Selections from the Music & Entertainment section of CharityBuzz:

Justin Timberlake Personalized Steinway Baby Grand Piano

Meet Lady Gaga at the Concert of Your Choice with Two VIP tickets

I think the piano is the biggest ticket item available in that section, while the Lady Gaga offering is the one where the bids have already most exceeded the estimated value.

Friday, December 11, 2009


No, it's not the Zombie Apocalypse, but it's at least as terrifying:

Time Lapsed Map of Unemployment

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Misadventures in Adcopy #4

Today's misadventure in adcopy is found at GECKO sfx. Okay, so Geico's spokesgecko's more doe-eyed cousin wanted to start a graphic effects company. I have no problem with that as long as he's done his homework and goes full out.

A smaller graphic tells me,

WARNING! Creative Blast Area

I've always got my creative hard hat ready (it absorbs the impact of explosive ideas rather than deflecting them). However, this website is totally stactic. There's not even a single link. I don't feel like I'm in any sort of danger, really, I'd welcome slightly more danger.

But I'm having most difficulty with the adcopy:

Creating Myths and Making Dreams ComeTrue is Our Mission. Switch On Your Creativity. Abuse of it.

GECKO sfx seems a little confused about what they want to capitalize, and there's a space missing between "Come" and "True," but what really throws me for a loop is the imperative, Abuse of it. Any interpretations?

Maybe this is a direct result of fragmentation from the afformentioned creative blast area.

*The accompanying blog has not been updated since 2008, so this pretty clearly a ghost site. I wouldn't have been so interested except that I was googling Artifice Magazine and a site supposedly under construction by Gecko sfx was one of the top hits.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Misadventures in Adcopy #3

What comes to mind when you see this word:

Don't be shy. To be fair, this isn't so much a misadventure in adcopy as it is in brand-naming. The adcopy is fine. But I don't know how anyone could get from the brand-name to the product without the picture.

This is one case where I'd really appreciate the addition of a hyphen, Bump-its, or a bit of well-placed capitalization, BumpIts. Though lacking those things the packaging is much more funny.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Scenic [Root] Canals of Venice

Root Canals of Venice

One of my teeth, which already has a crown, hurts. Dentist appointment today. Not in Venice.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Robodating: Mr. Eset searches for the Wobot of his dreams

Could it be this Svedka model? Yes, she's sexy and cheeky, but it's unclear whether she has the the intellect or gravitas to satisfy him.

Frankly, I think he's more likely to fall for Cameron.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Postcard Rescue #5

Front: 302 Tunnel No. 4 Moffat Road Colorado
Postmarked: October 18, 1908

Stamp: Franklin, 1 cent

Miss Nora Sheriff
Sulpher, Springs

Postcard Message:

Oct., 16 - 1908
Hello! Heaps of snow, almost
sleighing. Winter
must be comming
near. good-bye
Charles H. Yust

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Space for Ideas to Meet

It's true, both the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the Chicago Manual of Style recommend using one space, though neither brands two spaces as wrong, merely out of date. In the days of letterpress and typewriters, which used monospaced fonts, two spaces were considered essential to create a visual break. However, with the advent of computers and proportional fonts this break is apparently unnecessary.

Maybe I'm just a bit claustrophobia, but I like the breathing room and feel that two spaces are still valuable. If I left just one space I'd be afraid that something would emerge from the narrows between sentences, and perhaps make off with my commas. We do one space after each word. Between paragraphs there's the remainder of the line from the paragraph before, and at least a tab mark. Some even use a full blank line in separation. Shouldn't we pay sentences a little more respect?

Sometimes I like a sentence so much that I feel I should leave three spaces after it. I generally resist because then I risk leaving prose convention behind and entering the realm of poetry. But maybe poetry is behind the appeal of leaving two spaces. It is the "white space" that gives extra import to the words on either side. Two spaces offer a compromise between an endless and rough sawtooth of words and uncontainable worship of meaningful statements.

Monday, November 16, 2009

PB&J - the story continues

I have always had an interest in food oddities. There's a recent move in our culture towards neurotic food awareness and a lot of it seems colored by contempt for the what middle-america eats. Yes, we're upset about deplorable conditions for animals and eating locally and so on, but we do that because we're privileged enough to be able to it. Meanwhile, millions of people are forced to rely on cheap processed food. We eat to the level we've been educated and then as well compared to that as we can afford. But I don't have contempt for processed foods. When I ran track in high school I used to run about 3.5 miles from the school to the Amherst Village Green. I rewarded myself by making utterly ridiculous impulse food purchases. I think it's safe to say that had PB&J been an option I would have bought it.

As is I would have never had the opportunity to experience it were it not for the GED classes that are run at the other end of my office. HFI Heartland Foods' "PB& J, the PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY Graham Cracker SANDWICH" is a "2.2 oz portion contains one grain-bread serving and 1.0 oz meat alternative for the school meal pattern requirements."

Here are the nutritional value as presented on the label:

Calories 318.09
Total Fat 18.07 grams 28%DV
Saturated Fat 2.69 grams 13%DV
Sodium 270.41 mg 11%DV
Carbohydrates 30.91 grams 10%DV
Dietary Fiber 1.14 grams 5%DV
Protein 11.71 grams
Calcium 2.8 mg, Iron 3.5 mg, 31%

That's right. The good nutritionists over at HFI have their nutritional content down to an absolute, exact science. Some companies would be satisfied to merely round up to 320 calories, but HFI has done their homework out to the second decimal. Really, if you think about it they're just setting a good example for the students eating it.

The origins of the PB&J are something of an enigma. According to the packaging these little bundles of meat alternative are made in scenic Moosic, Pennsylvania, however there's no reference to the factory in any account of Moosic I've been able to locate.

The HFI brand is currently owned by Preferred Meal Systems, Inc. Preferred by who, you might ask? I'd be hard pressed to tell you. PMS (they probably hate it when people call them that) also manages such brands as "Tasty Stuffed Delights" and "Kids Are People Too."

Perhaps the latter brand shows a little more respect for kids taste. Sadly, PB&J falls short, particularly on the "J." I've personally consumed close to a dozen of these, each time hoping against hope that this time I'd find the Jelly, because in truth, with a thin layer of Jelly these would be plenty tasty. But after thorough, scientific dissection the most I've ever been able to find is small purple smear on one of the Graham Crackers.

Recently the GED program has moved to bean burritos as their meat alternative, and while I'll miss PB&J conceptually, the burritos are a definite improvement in flavor.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Visit Scenic Moosic

At the turn of the century, 1,227 people lived in Moosic, ten years
later, 3,964 people lived in Moosic. Had they continued to grow at that rate for the rest of the century one could imagine Moosic to be a bustling small town with over 25,000 people. However, despite having a 20-screen movie theater and being the proud hometown of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre AAA Yankees, in 2000 the census total was 5,575. This means that in Lackawanna County Moosic lagged behind even fellow Borough, Dickson City, which had virtually nothing comparable to recommend it, unless you count the first Starbucks in Northeastern Pennsylvanian and a passing reference in The Office (set in Scranton). Moosic does however have a higher population than the Borough of Throop, home of the annual (for over 20 years) Summer Cow Flop.

Moosic is also home to an ABC news affiliate, the Shoppes at Montage (go to the website, but don't expect that you'll be given any indication of why "Shops" are spelled wrong), and even a PGA tournament golf course. According to Moosic Borough's website "the future horizon looms bright for the Borough of Moosic." Generally speaking I feel that things are more likely to loom ominously than to loom brightly, but then Moosic's situation is so good that it shines through common and idiomatic usage. And yet, despite all these fine attractions, I would never have heard of Moosic if it were not also the place where HFI Heartland Foods' PB& J, the PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY Graham Cracker SANDWICH is produced.

Tune in tomorrow for a full dissection of this food wonder.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Self-Promotion #3

Quoted on the same page as Milan Kundera, Margaret Atwood, and perhaps best of all, The Wonder Years.

Scroll to the bottom of the page, and there I am.

Great Things Found on the Internet

Gay Bar or Steakhouse?

It seems simple enough until you're pulling your hair out because the Rusty Spurs just has to be a steakhouse SOMEWHERE and how could there NOT be gay club called the Pink Pony?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Disturbing Job Titles

These jobs are now available:

5. Loss Prevention Agent

4. Irregular Warfare Analyst

3. Catastrophe Modeler

2. Casualty Adjuster

1. Manager of Denials

Soon to be posted:

Assistant to Malaise
Itch-Control Specialist
Coordinator of Despair

Monday, November 2, 2009

O.J.'s impulse buys #1 - follow up

As will surprise no one, Batter Blaster, is a far better name than it is a product.

Rather than a pancake, batter blaster tends to make somewhat burnt and and sour discs. Even slathered with copious amounts of butter and a healthy drizzle of maple flavored syrup this product will still probably make you wish that you had an extra 7 minutes in your busy life to make bisquick batter. Though actually, they have a pre-made batter option. It's not in a can, but it may actually taste good.

However, while batter blaster does not make great pancakes, seeing the can still makes me giggle.

Dispatches from the West Roxbury Educational Complex

A student:
Last year I wrote a letter to George Bush, but I don't think he read it. I also wrote a letter to some kid in Africa, but I don't think he read it either.

A teacher:
I have some good news and some bad news. Which would you like first? No, wait... it's all bad news.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Review of "Paranormal Activity"

So, what did they spend the other $10000 on?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book Review #4

The Gormenghast Novels: Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Titus Alone The Gormenghast Novels: Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I found this book used for $5. It's a beautiful edition, weighty, with creamy pages. It will undoubtedly cut an imposing figure on your bookcase. The Washington Post Book World review suggests that "many readers" consider it "the true fantasy classic of our time." I wonder who those many readers are. As a caveat, I've yet to read Gormenghast and Titus Alone, so maybe it's best taken as an entire oeuvre, but after reading Titus Groan, I don't feel I have the stamina to make it through the next to books. This is in stark contrast to J.R.R. Tolkien's novels, which I positively inhaled. I couldn't wait to finish one to get to the next.

So what makes Mervyn Peake's work different? Certainly there are things to like about Titus Groan. Robertson Davies says "Peake is a finer poet than Edgar Allan Poe," and whether true or not, it is an apt comparison. Peake's writing is lush beyond compare, utterly exquisite horror writing, swarthy with neogolism. In particular, Peake delights in his characters. Each has a Dickensian name that serves as a constant reminder and indictment, while further description is like a dissection: finely detailed and a little disgusting. I can "hear" Prunesquallor's laugh, I'm duly annoyed by and sympathetic to Mrs Slagg, and I'm positive the aunts Cora and Clarice were Roald Dahl's models for "Spiker and Sponge."

Take this section where he describes the movement of Swelter, the castle's psychotic and obese head chef:

"He insinuated himself through space. His body encroached, sleuth-like, from air-volume to air-volume, entering, filling and edging out of each in turn, the slow and vile belly preceding the horribly deliberate and potentially nimble progress of his fallen arches, (p. 330)."

The language is so poetic that it's imminently quotable. I could have opened to a random page and pointed. However, this quote also gets at my main difficulty with enjoying this novel. It was too "horribly deliberate." The writing overwhelms the story.

Most of the plot developments are announced far in advance and the reader is left watching pathos develop. And develop it does, but sadly, beyond the language level, it rarely excites.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

O.J.'s Impulse Buyes #1

Like so many others, my budget has tightened. My most major splurge this month has been signing on to Netflix, which I'm doing my best to justify by watching a movie every other day. However, leaving aside justifiable treats there are some things which I buy purely on impulse, usually judging the book (sometimes it is a book), by its cover. As with this first installment of O.J.'s impulse buys most incorporate some form of adcopy so good, that even if the product is awful, it's worth simply to reread. Last week while at the super market I found a product that had me first snickering, and then giggling whenever I thought of it. I have yet to use it, but I do enjoy seeing it in my fridge each morning.

The product is Batter Blaster and it's hard to imagine the marketing team couldn't have been aware that it's only a short phonetic and conceptual hop from another alliterative phrase that includes the word batter, i.e. "baby batter." Even if your mind doesn't instantly enter the gutter, the concept is pretty smart and alliteration in food is always amusing.

For now I'm just enjoying the name. Once I've opened it up and made a few pancakes I'll be sure to post if it's really a blast. Tee hee.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Postcard Rescue #4

Front: Federal Building and Post Office, Utica, N.Y. 166
Postmarked: Clinton, N.Y. June 18th, 1945.

Stamp: Green, Statue of Liberty, Industry-Agriculture for Defense, 1 cent.


Phyllis Santman

Postcard Message:

Hello Phyllis;
Received your
card it was nice.
I am an old man
49 years old
Married 6 children
the youngest 16
5 girls one boy.
3 married girls
Also 3 grand child-
ren. Come again

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Book Review #3

Should you read it: yes. Even if it's dated at times Wolfe's writing is insightful, snappy, and often hilarious. It's also a short, blazing fast read.

This is one of many books that I, as a student of nonfiction writing, have had on my shelf for many years, and I'll admit, at times I've pretended I'd read the whole thing, rather than just the first 20 pages.

I finally picked it up, because I just couldn't read only Proust for the whole Summer (10 more pages today!), I don't yet have a library card (soon, soon), and I had a minor epiphany... One of my students was going to a Gala-Grand-Opening Ball. This was the grand opening in honor of the Shepard [Kennerly:] Fairey exhibit. You may have read about it in the Boston Globe at the very bottom of the article with the headline, "Wahlberg and his girlfriend tie the knot." The Globe really has their fingers on the pulse. Of something. Anyway, they couldn't have the opening when it actually opened in February because Fairey was arrested as soon as his plane landed in Boston. And so I wondered, is my student going to a "Radical Chic" event? I suppose I could have looked it up on wikipedia, but I'm glad I read the book instead.

Despite the presence of Chuck D from Public Enemy, I think the answer must be no. Chic, yes. Left-wing, yes. But really, once you're celebrating the work of an artist who has created the most iconic portrait since Alberto Korda's photo of Che Guevara, in support of a presidential candidate who was actually elected, well, it loses some of its radical appeal. You dig?

Sadly, while I work for a non-profit I also don't see any mau-mauing in my future. But leaving aside whether my jew-fro is at all intimidating to the white man, I can see how the general strategy would be effective. I will bring it up at our next staff lunch.

Read more of my book reviews at my read shelf:
Ori's book recommendations, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Discretion is the Better Part of Valor - Part II

The debate about Professor Gates' arrest continues, and I realize that some may feel that my post also lacks discretion (though the impact of that indiscretion is a good deal smaller, essentially insignificant). In my last post I linked to the blog of "Doctor Cleveland," who it could be said was putting the most credence into Gates and his lawyer, Charles Ogletree's, statement, or side of the story.

Since then I have found Sgt. Crowley's initial report. originally posted an alleged copy of the report, but then took it down and put up what seems to be an altered version of the original. You can read more about that and get a full copy of the original posting at The Phoenix, at least until that story is mysteriously removed and replaced.

Crowley's report does place the incident in a very different light, however, even if his side of the story is complete true, it still seems, as one national observer has already noted, as though cooler heads should have prevailed.

And if Sgt. Crowley continues to refuse to apologize and the Cambridge Police Department continues to stand behind him, one really has to wonder: if they were so sure that their conduct was appropriate, why did they immediately drop the charge of disorderly conduct?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Discretion is the Better Part of Valor

I can't help but feel that the arrest of Professor Gates by Sgt. Crowley shares striking similarity with another high profile incident; Officer Robert Powell's detaining of Ryan Moats.

Both incidents involve white officers and high-profile African-Americans, but I don't want to get into the role that racism may or may not have played in these situations. Instead I think they are most striking because of the behavior of the police officer.

Over and over again I've heard the case from colleagues, friends, and random people on the street, "It's a police officer's job to respond in high-pressure situations. It's life or death. They have to be ready for anything. He was just doing his job."

Yes, they have to be ready for anything. And, while it's melodramatic, they do put their lives on the line far more than most professions. But the first and last part of that argument are a gross over-simplification. If you want to reduce the role of the police to a handful of words, at least look as far as the motto on the door of a police cruiser: "to serve and protect." It's not good enough for an officer to just "respond," they must respond appropriately.

There's been plenty of sensationalism about the possibility of racism in this case, and Obama's response, but no one that I've seen has gotten to the heart of this incident better than Doctor Cleveland who's July 23rd post is measured and thoughtful. Something we all wish Sgt. Crowley had been.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Postcard Rescue #3

Postmarked: Yorkton, July 23, 1:30 PM, 1934.

Stamp: Steam removed.


Miss Irene Wilson

Postcard Message:

Dear Irene,
- Well we're on the road
again, this time we're minus
Mother and Constance. We
are combining business
and pleasure in a trip
to Edmonton and Calgary,
perhaps Jasper. Wish
you were here so we could
show you what Manitoba
has to offer in the way of
beautiful scenery, wonderful
roads and camping accommodations.
The road into the park rises 1000 ft.
in 3 miles and is continually
winding and dipping, providing
wonderful views across the
surrounding country. The lake is
nestled in the summit. In four yrs
the woods have been transformed in the most modern
resort - all buildings, cottages, cabins etc. of cedar tongue logs
- wonderful roads - large hotel - modern camp site with
log shelters with stoves and every convenience. Wish you'd
come and see for yourself -- Love to all -- Stuart.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mysteries in Data Entry

I check a tutor sheet for 5/15/09. One of the students on the intake
form is listed as:

Susan Bivian (w/ Mick)

I think, ah, two students have come in to the writing center. Susan
signed in and she didn’t know Mick’s last name, so she just wrote

Then I get to the next tutor form for 5/15/09 where one of the
students on the intake form is listed as:

Susan Bibiano (w/Dick)

That’s funny I think, so I consult the tutor names on the intake form
and discover that on 5/15/09 both “Mick” and “Dick” were serving as
tutors, so these Susans visited both tutors, and that cuts the numbers
of visits from 4 to 2.

Then I look them up in the student rolls to find their schools. There
is no Susan Bivian. There is no Susian Bibiano.

There is one student, a Susan Biliano. So I note it with a star on the
intake forms, and then add 1 writing center visit to the column for
the “PATH” school on 5/15/09.

That’s 1 visit out of a total of around 1500 I have to sort through.

O.J. would make it clear that it's part of his tutors' jobs to spell their students name correctly on the intake sheet (ask them to do it, or just ask them how to spell them. He'd also encouraged them to only make one entry, per student, per visit. But then, O.J. wonders why anyone in this day and age is still doing handwritten intake sheets, rather than using an online scheduling and data entry form, or at least adding the pertinent information to an excel spreadsheet.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The King of Pop is Dead

August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Study in Contrasts

Two quotes from the Boston Globe, June 21, 2009 edition.

From the front page article, continued on A8 under the title, City's sports program flailing:

"When I step on the field, it's the one place where I don't think about all the craziness," said Alex Munoz, a Dorchester High baseball player. For him, the "craziness" is this: a lender threatening to foreclose on his mother's home, a personal dilemma involving his girlfriend, the shooting deaths of several friends, the escalating gang violence in his Roxbury neighborhood.

Compare that to this quote, appearing the same day in the Section V article All-Scholastics Spring 2009:

Spring can be the most challenging season for a high school athlete. How do you stay focused on your game and keep thoughts of the beach, pool parties, and lazy summer days out of your mind? It isn't easy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Book Review #2


Book: The Court of the Air
Author: Stephen Hunt
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars

Minor Spoiler:

I'll admit; I was browsing through the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section of the ICPL and I picked up this book mostly because the cover looked beautiful. That was a mistake I'd like to say I won't make again, but I probably will.

Jay Lake, author of the Mainspring says: "If Charles Dickens and Jack Vance had ever collaborated, they might have written this book... The Court of Air is a collision between English letters and the hard-edged vision of grunge fantasy." Thanks Jay, you've just ensured I will never pick up one of your books. By Dickensian he means that the character all speak in heavily stilted Victorian brogue. It's more comical than interesting, and feels more contrived than natural.

For the first half I slogged through the plot holes and under-developed characters. To be fair there were some interesting ideas and relationships, but while there were plenty of words they some how failed to create the immersion I crave from a well-developed fantasy world. Background, character history, and information about the world were often communicated not through a compelling narrative a la the Golden Compass (a *great* example of a story driven by a spunky young heroine), but instead by asides and expositional dialogue that at times was hilariously bad.

The absolute low point came around page 302 with this quote:

"Don't you not understand? Molly softbody is a descendant of Vindex, which is why her system juices bubble with the very stuff of mechomancy."

Ugh. That was akin to the moment in the Star Wars prequel where we learn that the force is all caused by some goofiness at the mitochondrial level... 302 - 309 seeks to artificially unite all the hints and teases that were laid out ever so ponderously in the first 300 pages.

Fortunately mid-way through page 309 the pitch of the whole novel changes, and this is where Hunt is most proficient. In essence the central conflict of the story finally begins. From there till the end of the book the suspense crackles (as much as it could with my minimal investment in the characters) and the action is genuinely well-written, 4 out of 5 star quality. I just wish he could have gotten to it about 200 pages earlier.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Collection or Book?

I recently, but belatedly ran across this review by Ellen Wehle.

Wehle reviews Joanne Fuhrman's Moraine which Publishers Weekly called, "well positioned somewhere in the nifty triangle formed by Frank O'Hara, Ted Berrigan and the Shins," a nifty triangle I had previously been unaware of.

It's not Fuhrman's book or "nifty triangle[s]" that I feel warrant comment after three years, but Ellen Wehle's main argument independent of the review. Wehle says,

"The very fact that we publish our poems not just individually but in books implies relatedness, a more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts quality that demands the poems be read together. Why, then, will one volume read as a distinct entity, confident and sure, while another reads like a grab bag of bits and pieces? What makes a book a book?"

Clearly Wehle holds some contempt for "grab bag" and it's this sort of attitude that has lead to the death of the first true collection by poets.

Anyone who visits the University of Iowa library has the opportunity to peruse the MFA thesises (even mine) going back to the beginning of the Writers' Workshop. Some of these were then published as collections and these collections provide an interesting window into the creative development of many poets now studied by literary scholars.

However, as the writing industry, and particularly the public interest in poetry has contracted first "collections" and even the initial MFA thesis have become less like a first collection and more akin to the polish level of a contemporary writer's second and third books. They are more likely to include sets of poems similar in form and/or content with the weaker or sometimes simply more difficult to categorize poems strained out. Suitable for individual publication, but not compatible with an over-arching form.

Most books of poetry I've read in the last few years have a discernible theme, even if like in the case of Moraine this a somewhat contrived or obvious post-modern idea like "the chaos of culture." A Collection may be a less polished form of art, but if we seek to demean the collection as a form comprised of mere "bits and pieces" we will miss out on the relative pleasures a first collection offers. Particularly we will be missing a step the writer's early work and trajectory as an artist. The collection won't die, but somehow the publishing community has decided that collections are the domain of more established writers who perhaps have earned the right to write roughly or randomly, whereas new poets must prove their discipline in some way before they're entitled.

By all means a first collection should be selective. I don't want to read a poet's high school journals (unless they're really fantastic), but at the same time I appreciate the possibility of something a little rougher, a debut that indicates exciting potential for future avenues in the poet's work, a collection with several different types of gems.

I suppose what I like best about reading the first collections of contemporary poets is the relative lack of Artifice. Artifice is an idea central to the work of most artists, but at the same time it can result in tunnel vision. It's exciting to read a poet's early work, when they're just discovering their ability to use words to communicate something fresh and interesting about the human experience, but haven't quite figured out the exact categories and strategies that will give form to the words.

Perhaps this is mostly semantic, with "collection" and "book" indicating two vague and overlapping forms. I think the highest volume of poetry readers are probably students taking literature classes in high school or college and I wonder if students with shorter attention spans, taught from anthologies packed with variety would crave the steadfast unity of a "book," or be excited by the possibility of a collection.

Certainly each has merits. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Postcard Rescue #2

P. 19 Sisters of St. Joseph Academy, Prescott, Arizona
Postmarked: Prescott, Ariz. November 22nd, 1939. 5 PM
"Red Cross -ol- Join"

Stamp: Green, George Washington, right facing profile, 1 cent.


Mr. and Mrs. Frank Becicka
R.F.D. No 1.

Postcard Message:

Dear Folks. Here as a------
the southwest h-------
wonderful trip, visited
Los Angeles, San Diego
and old Mexico, in San
Diego we had a boat ride
on the Pacific Ocean and
saw the fleet come in from
practice also our boat picked
up sailor boys off of big
ships where the boys wanted
to spend the weekend in
the city. Your cousin
Lizzie and George Kolda

Will tell you more about it when I see you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Crystal Gavel of Spontanteous Writing

This is another bit of internet-writing-memorabilia akin to Michael Martone's Leftover Water. However, whereas the sale of Martone's water was laden with obvious writerly artifice from start to finish, it seems possible that the assortment of crystal hammer reviews may be born less out of a collective plan to create a postmodern essay or collection of stories, than a spontaneous response to the shear strangeness of the product.

However, this still doesn't come close to matching the fictional delight inherent to the products of merchant starry1_night on ebay. Though I may be close-minded. Perhaps there is nothing fictional about "offering authentic djinn on ebay since 2005."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Poscard Rescue #1

Rock of Crios, Park of the Red Rocks, Morrison, Colo (274)
Postmarked: Seattle Washington, November 22, 1913

Stamp: George Washington, 1 cent

Recipient: Mr. F. O. Johnson
Tacoma, Washington
Box 1034

Postcard Message:

Seattle, Wash.
11, 22,/13

Oh, you Church.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10:40
("Now, who do you s'pose
that's from?")

Love, Alice

Many antique shops carry old postcards. Some people buy them for their kitsch, old-timey feel. Others erase the messages on the back and resend them to friends.

Last year I created a blog specifically dedicated to these postcards. Who was the sender? Who did they send it to? Some how each of these cards left the study desk drawer, scrapbook, or shoebox and made it's way to an anonymous antique shop many decades later. Sadly, many find new homes after estate sales brought on by the death of the recipient, but surely others are just lost, waiting to be reunited with somebody who will cherish them as the worthless, but somehow also priceless artifacts they are.

I've found that I'm unlikely to maintain and post on two blogs, and so ojconfesses is now absorbing and re-posting the postcards that were previously listed on postcard-rescue.

Posts will present the address of the recipient, date and full text written on the postcard, and perhaps pictures of the cards from time to time. Follow-up posts will contain any information I've been able to find about the sender, recipient, and their family. If I manage to find proper heirs' addresses I will send them the postcard. Likewise, if you can provide further information about any card I've posted to this site, please comment.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Konami Code strikes again!

Enter ↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A ENTER while logged on to Facebook to experience a special treat! To be fair, this is far less interesting than the sparkly Unicorns generated by the Konami Code on the ESPN website on April 27th. The ESPN easter egg provided intense, fleeting fun, and it's still unclear whether it was actually ESPN sanctioned. It doesn't seem unreasonable to imagine that Facebook's use of the Konami Code may not be a hack, and so it may be available to enjoy for more than a few hours.

For a more complete list of sites where easter eggs are activated by the Konami Code visit

Most just cause an image to appear on the screen like a proliferation of zombies or prancing uniforms (Adventure Quest's are particularly perky). While I have yet to test every site listed, I wish more used the Konami Code in a spirit similar to its original purpose (to provide extra lives or powerups)to provide bonus functionality or games to the site, a la the original code.

Use the Konami Code on Jquery for an unbeatable Guitar Hero minigame.

Law and Order

Lead in from wired: Don Ayala — the U.S. Army contractor who pleaded guilty to a revenge killing in Afghanistan — won’t be going to prison. Instead, U.S. District Court Judge Claude Hilton sentenced Ayala, a member of the Army’s Human Terrain social science project, to five years probation and a $12,500 fine.

Ayala killed a subdued prisoner in custody, who had doused his partner in gasoline and set her on fire, after he learned that she had been severely burned.

This is a horrifying and tragic story, and perhaps it should be unsurprising that it's bringing out the worst in people on Wired message board. Many are arguing that Ayala shouldn't have been punished at all, or that the killing of unarmed prisoners is okay if the prisoner deserved it, or that Ayala did "the right thing." One even posted out-right racist comments (is anyone at Wired moderating or paying any attention to these messages?).

I may very well be a liberal softy, a title several posters pre-emptively denied, but most of all I'm an American who believes in the value of laws and feels it's important to uphold the very values we are trying to spread. Fortunately there were a few thoughtful responses that held true to American ideals. As posted by FarmerMonkey | 05/8/09 | 12:33 pm:

"This is a tragic case. I certainly sympathize with what Ayala did in the heat of the moment, but I disagree with anyone saying he did the “right” thing. Killing a subdued prisoner is a pretty black and white issue, with many unintended negative consequences."

Americans achieve justice through a legal system. Vigilante justice is exactly the sort of thing we're trying to quell in countries we're helping to democratize. And as posted by rapier | 05/8/09 | 1:39 pm:

"We kill people when they are a threat and Salam, no matter what he may have done, was no longer a threat. The killing of a bound unarmed prisoner is antithetical to the ideals of American military procedure. Ayala’s job wasn’t to exact revenge for the attack on Loyd but to further the goals of the United States."

And crosservice | 05/8/09 | 2:24 pm:

"By taking this man’s life without allowing him the basic right of due process Ayala has diminished the perceived worth of our basic human rights."

These aren't "army principles" as technophile, another poster, termed them. These are American principals, and furthermore they are principles that we are trying to advocate.

But nacoran | 05/8/09 | 3:33 pm has the best point:

"You can’t shoot prisoners. It’s not that this particular prisoner deserved to live, but that it undermines the custodial process. Suddenly bad guys are less willing to surrender without a fight (which can lead to more deaths on BOTH sides), civilians are less willing to cooperate, lines get blurred, criminals never get questioned to see if they know more."

"Making examples" of people is the rhetoric of the enemy. Even if you sympathize with Alaya, even if you understand why he did what he did, even if you think Abdul Salam should have been doused in napalm and then fed to the rancor, you have to realize that Don Alaya broke the law, broke with American principles, and ultimately may have strengthened the negative regional attitude towards Americans that is a major factor in enraging-tragic incidents like the one that befell Paula Loyd.

Please, please Wired comment posters: don't get so caught up in righteous rage that you seek to undermine the very values that we as Americans hold dear. If you think that killing subdued prisoners is acceptable then you're no Patriot, and probably need to stop jacking off to 300.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

House Party

Elsa/Getty Images

Monday, April 27, 2009

Konami Code Unlocks Unicorns on

Type the Konami Code

on select sports front pages of and get free Unicorns like these:

No word yet on whether this is part of a random promotion (buy more unicorns? unicorns playing sports?), or a little guerrilla website programming, but it seems to be the former as the code no longer works on the front page.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Book Review #1

From now on I will be pasting my reviews from the site to this blog. If you're a fan of books/reviews you can check out my reviews and ratings of over 100 books. Goodreads will may be less interesting to you if you're already spread thin across several social networking sites, however, if you're into books and would like your reading list to come peer-reviewed and recommended, then you may discover some fantastic books...

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Minor Spoilers:

This book was passed onto to me by a friend, very well reviewed. And indeed, there were many things to like about this book. The writing was very good. Certain scenes were surprisingly beautiful while at the same time being brutal-- --but at the same time the main character's obsession with fate was far more important that the tragi-fun forrays into geek/dork/nerddom. Now I know, some people are reading this now and saying "fuku!" and "zafa!" but I don't care if a book is about faith and fate, that doesn't give it the right to be so very predictable.

The title is the first problem. Unless you are a hopeless optimist you know that Oscar Wao will be dead by the end of the book, and by about 40 pages in you can probably make an educated guess as to how. Matters are made worse by the fact that the novel had fantastic PR. Something I too hope to have someday, but not in quite the same way. I fear that my sense of deja vu may have been because I read so many different pieces excerpted in different magazines (the New Yorker springs immediately to mind). Large portions of the book are exquisitely rendered, but still feel narratively redundant or unnecessary.

[structural spoiler:]

A perfect example of this is the ending, that starts by giving us five farewell scenes, and then, two separate codas before fading to black, and letting the movie-credits-like acknowledgment page roll. Part of me wants to believe that Diaz is using this ending as a play off of epic fantasies which often need to tie up several loose ends, or in particular the Return of the King movie, which in the last 15 minutes seemed to be entirely slow motion of people smiling and clapping people on the back. But it was a disappointing and monotonous end to the Return of the King, and I can't help but feel the same at the end of this novel. Playful homage is fine, but its limits are the same as the limits of whatever genre it chooses to emulate, and cliche satirized is, unfortunately, often still trite.

View all my reviews.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Savory and Sweet

Thursday night passover came to an end, and after a successful night of bowling my team and I went out to the Village Inn to celebrate. The menu listed many fantastic leavened treats, and I considered several different pancake configurations.

It should be noted that after spending the first half of passover with my family I returned to IA hoping to pick up just a few minor passover essentials. A box of matzah, a jar of borscht, and maybe also a jar of gefilte fish. Instead, when I went to Hy-Vee, the table holding their small selection of kosher for passover foods was gone and had been replaced by a ziggurat of Peppridge farm bagels. I tried the shelf in the ethnic food section where year-round kosher foods are usually stored, but the entire selection had been replaced with a wall of ramen noodles. I was so flabbergasted and annoyed that I left with nothing but a bag of lettuce, a rotisserie chicken, and two boxes of eggs. As a result nearly every meal from Sunday night on was built around eggs. Hard-boiled, scrambled, omelets: each was exquisitely boring to me by Thursday night.

But when I got to the Village Inn I was conflicted. My team mates had been talking about getting pie, and the Caramel Pecan Silk Supreme looked over-the-top good, but I still wanted something savory. Searching for something that would fulfill my craving without being overwhelming I finally decided to get my slice of pie with a side of bacon.

My friends were shocked by this combo, but I was amazed I had never thought of it before. Bacon goes great with pancakes and maple syrup, why not serve it with desert?

A quick internet search reveals that my friends and I are far behind the curve. The blogosphere went into a frenzy over the desert-bacon concept during the middle of 2008 after Marini's Candies began selling chocolate-covered bacon. However, Marini's Candies may have gotten the idea from Vosges release of Mo's Bacon Bar in 2007.

The adcopy for Mo's Bacon Bar is a fine example of food porn:

Rub your thumb over the chocolate bar to release the aromas of smoked applewood bacon flirting with deep milk chocolate. Snap off just a tiny piece and place it in your mouth, let the lust of salt and sweet coat your tongue.

God, I'm getting hot, and hungry.

If your taste-buds are aroused by the idea, but not quite to the tune of $10 a bar, just check out Yum Sugar's do-it-yourself recipe.

And, unsurprisingly, my bacon/pie combo was fantastic.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The perfect blend of apple juices

Can you guess how many different countries contribute apples to Dole 100% Apple Juice? Three, maybe four, right? Try every country on this list:

United States

And the ingredient list doesn't say it "may contain," it says "contains," which seems to imply that each bottle has apple juice from these countries.

Now to be fair, it doesn't say "Juice from apples grown in the following countries," but instead "concentrate from," so in a truly, ridiculously global economy it would be possible that the apples in the concentrates from the listed countries may in fact include apples from other, bordering countries, where there may be a surplus of apples. Or it's possible that all of these concentrates use apples that originate from only one country, such as China, the largest producer of apples on the Dole ingredient list.

Regardless, I can't think of anything else I eat or drink whose components are even theoretically so well-traveled.

barrels of concentrate in a warehouse in China. Kids; this is your opportunity to make your personal or local pool taste just like apple juice!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ebay Strangeness: Martone's Leftover Water

Michael Martone's Leftover Water sold today on ebay for over $20, crushing my maximum bid of $11.53. The following is the complete text of the ebay listing, including some inspired buyer questions and seller answers.


Writer Michael Martone's leftover water
Imbibe literary genius (dozens of authors) in one swig! Item number: 1503358701

You are bidding on approximately 8.3 ounces of Dasani water (plus backwash) in a 20-ounce plastic Dasani bottle (lot number NOV0909 TOC0931L3). This was left by writer Michael Martone on Wednesday, March 25th, 2009, after a reading at Brigham Young University, during which Martone read the “Contributor’s Note” where he talks about his mother writing his school assignments, "G# Minor 7th in the Second Inversion", and “Seventeen Postcards from Terra Incognita.”

Why should you want Michael Martone’s leftover water, especially when Elvis’s may come up for bid again? You may recall from one of Martone’s “Contributor’s Notes” that:

In his role as host of a reading, he is often faced with what to do with the leftover water of his guests … Martone is left behind to secure the room, coil the microphone cables, clean up, kill the lights. Part of the cleaning up part has always included the disposing of the evening’s water. Often the lecture halls and auditoriums are not outfitted with a sink. Indeed, the whole point of the headache of providing water in the first place has been the fact that the hall is not in close proximity to sources of water. So Martone has found that he has fallen into the habit of finishing the water himself, drinking the dregs from the glasses or bottles left by the readers like a priest ingesting the leftover Eucharist at the end of Mass. Martone does this more out of a sense of neatness and order, but, he supposes, there is some of the spirit involved as well. He has witnessed some really amazing performances, listened to the work of famous and remarkably gifted writers. And he has drunk their leftover water. Perhaps a part of him believes some of that talent and skill will find its way into his own metabolism through this communion with greatness. It is a kind of inoculation, by means of this tainted fluid, with the cooties of the greatest. Martone hopes, as he drinks, that its inspirational properties, if not the medicinal ones, have ‘taken.’

So, you’re securing decades’ worth of literary genius--“the cooties of the greatest”--all at once, through the cooties of this pioneering collector. Whose DNA might you find swirling in this literary stew? Gordon Lish, Tobias Wolff, Mary Karr, David Foster Wallace, William Gass, Jane Smiley, Lewis Hyde, Susan Dodd, Susan Neville, Tony Early, Louise Gluck, Dean Young, Louise Erdrich, Charles Baxter, AND MORE! Plus, with over eight ounces of the muse-juice, you can pass it around at your next writers’ group meeting and still have liquid to spare. Save it a few years, collect other writers’ backwash, spit in it yourself, resell it on eBay and make your money back, do what you want to do: you bought it; it’s yours.

Whatever you do with it--whether you gulp it down in one swig, savor it a sip at a time, share it with friends, or simply place it as a trophy on your writing desk--you may be assured of immediate inspiration and better literary output, followed by fame and adulation, and most likely a hefty advance on your next book, not to mention the royalties from the movie version, starring Sean Penn and Winona Ryder.*

In addition to this priceless H2O, the winning bidder will also receive a handwritten Postcard of Authenticity from Michael Martone congratulating him/her on his/her wise investment and certifying that the leftover water is indeed Martone’s.

*Results may vary; seller makes no guarantee, expressed or implied, of literary potion’s actual effectiveness at making your writing better.

Questions from other members : Writer Michael Martone's leftover water

Q: Hi, I'm interested in acquiring the Martone water for my rare waters collection. But I'd like to know, where did the water originally come from? I'd appreciate any information you can share about its origins.
A: Leaving aside questions of "origins" for the moment, the water in Martone's water bottle was taken from the Atlanta, Georgia, public water supply before it was purified by "reverse osmosis" (essentially straining through a filter) and "enhanced" with trace amounts of magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, and salt (sodium chloride). The Coca-Cola company, which brings us Dasani water, assures us that "DASANI is water -- pure and essential. DASANI helps you embrace life with a fresh, optimistic outlook. As basic as breathing, DASANI quenches thirst naturally and deliciously." I'm feeling better already. [Do they realize that they're claiming that Dasani is as basic a breathing?] As for the origins of water on the earth, well, even Wikipedia doesn't quite know the answer, so I can't help you there. I will say, though, that thank goodness there is water on the earth, or how could we live!

Q: In question eight you refer to him as "Dr. Martone." When I graduated from his program, last year, he was Michael Martone, M.A. What institution within the past year granted the great one his doctorate? And what is he now a doctor in? Is he a real doctor (the medical kind)?
A: You're very observant! The truth is, there are plenty of "doctors" who don't have doctorates or medical licenses. To wit: Dr. Pat Robertson, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Demento. Samuel Johnson, for instance, left Oxford without a degree and though his friends long sought to obtain for him some document of his erudition, he received his master's only just before he published in monumental Dictionary of the English Language in 1755 (he was 46). His honorary doctorate degrees came a decade and two later, long after he'd acquired his honorific nickname. William Hazlitt didn't much like Dr. Johnson's writings, but James Boswell sure did: "Had Dr. Johnson written his own life, in conformity with the opinion which he has given, that every man's life may be best written by himself; had he employed in the preservation of his own history, that clearness of narration and elegance of language in which he has embalmed so many eminent persons, the world would probably have had the most perfect example of biography that was ever exhibited. But although he at different times, in a desultory manner, committed to writing many particulars of the progress of his mind and fortunes, he never had persevering diligence enough to form them into a regular composition." This is just fine by us. He wrote essays, not memoir. Super. Anyway, who'll be the first university to confer an honorary doctorate on Michael Martone? Perhaps it'll be Brigham Young. I'll ask.

Q: This is delicate, but I have to ask. Does Martone ever sell other fluids, as in, fluids, you know, that have already passed through certain of his bodily channels? I don't want to come right out and name what I'm looking for, but you get my drift?
A: You mean tears? You must mean tears. I can't think of anything else you might be referring to. The good news is, YES, I believe I recall Martone, moved by his own poetical prose, eyes glistening, a drop meandering slowly from his moist ducts to the tip of his nose, gathering mass, tensing, testing the limits of molecular cohesion until, in the exact moment that he unscrewed the cap of his 20-ounce Dasani water bottle, the teardop dripped and dropped--plop--right into the open mouth of the vessel.

Q: Is this your only Martone item or will you be auctioning other collectibles? I'm most interested in Martone's water from AWP conferences, or pieces of toast with the burnt silhouette of his pompadour...
A: Thank you for bidding and asking this intriguing question, though I have to take issue with your characterization of Martone's hairstyle. The pompadour, which I've just researched a tad (, is short on the sides, combed up in front and back on top, forming a kind of smoothly rounded forehead shelf. Think Elvis, Roy Orbison, James Dean. If you're interested in making your own pompadour (while you still can; I'm beyond this possibility), you may find the instructions at useful. Additionally, you may find it interesting/frustrating to learn that the pompadour is named for Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, who was King Louis XV's mistress in the mid-eighteenth century. Did she wear her hair like this? Not according to the portraits. So why do we trace the etymology of the hairstyle to her? Because "she introduced these styles." Whuh? To make a long story short: I am hoping the exclusivity of this Martone Memorabilia will send its auction price skyrocketing. I have nothing else to auction (at this time).

Q: I have seen the pictures of Michael Martone you have posted. How can I be sure that the Michael Martone who gave the reading was the Michael Martone who wrote the book Michael Martone? Does the Michael Martone who will write the postcard of authenticity of the water come with any kind of certificate that he is indeed Michael Martone or the Michael Martone?
A: "But how do I know that there is not something different altogether from the objects I have now enumerated, of which it is impossible to entertain the slightest doubt? Is there not a God, or some being, by whatever name I may designate him, who causes these thoughts to arise in my mind ? But why suppose such a being, for it may be I myself am capable of producing them? Am I, then, at least not something? But I before denied that I possessed senses or a body; I hesitate, however, for what follows from that? Am I so dependent on the body and the senses that without these I cannot exist? But I had the persuasion that there was absolutely nothing in the world, that there was no sky and no earth, neither minds nor bodies; was I not, therefore, at the same time, persuaded that I did not exist? Far from it; I assuredly existed, since I was persuaded. But there is I know not what being, who is possessed at once of the highest power and the deepest cunning, who is constantly employing all his ingenuity in deceiving me. Doubtless, then, I exist, since I am deceived; and, let him deceive me as he may, he can never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I shall be conscious that I am something. So that it must, in fine, be maintained, all things being maturely and carefully considered, that this proposition (pronunciatum ) I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time it is expressed by me, or conceived in my mind."

Q: What color is the water?
A: Color, when understood beyond the 64-variety Crayola box, is essentially the eye- brain's perception of a certain wavelength range of electromagnetic radiation (approx. 390-730 nm), which we call visible light. An object's color, then, basically consists of the wavelengths of light that it reflects or transmits (as opposed to absorbs). Other factors, such as viewing angle, reflectiveness, source-light, etc. can also influence color perception. In the case of water, small amounts, such as the approximately 8.3 ounces offered here for auction, tend to be viewed as "clear." Yet, as you no doubt remember from your high school physics course, water tends to absorb the longer wavelengths of light (the red end of the visible spectrum) while allowing the shorter wavelengths (blues) to pass through. This effect is enhanced by particulates suspended or dissolved in the water. Water may also reflect ambient light (from the sky, the table it's placed upon), thus offering the curious viewer a soothing spectrum of grays or browns. I highly recommend viewing your Michael Martone Water in a variety of settings and under a variety of circumstances. Perhaps the most rewarding would be this: place a shining flashlight horizontally in a darkened room. Face the same direction as your flashlight beam, a few steps to the side. Hold your Michael Martone water at arm's length in front of you at a 45-degree angle. Turn the bottle, tilt it a little this way, a little that way, raise it, lower it, to find the optimal viewing position. Soon you should see, on the right side of the water, a red sliver; soon you will recognize the rainbow! And thus we see that Michael Martone's leftover water is all colors.

Q: How will you ship this leftover water of Michael Martone? Will certain precautions be taken, it being not just water, which is, speaking from personal experience, tricky enough to ship, but also a unique collector's item? Thank you for your time.
A: In order to keep would-be mail thieves off the trail of this valuable and unique collector's item/literary potency potion, I will mail the bottle, padded by Styrofoam(TM) "peanuts" or bubble wrap, in an inconspicuous corrugated cardboard box of indeterminate dimensions. Contrarily, I am happy to simply spill the water in a major river upstream from you, at a preappointed time, or to simply leave the bottle uncapped outside in the sun for several days so the water evaporates and rejoins the Great Cycle of Life, to then rain down and bless the earth and her inhabitants with deeply moving ideas and inspirations (I'll have to charge a little extra to do my rain dance to make the winds blow the clouds from Utah toward your home).

Q: Would it be possible for Martone to personalize the Postcard of Authenticity?
A: Ooh yeah. It's a handwritten postcard from MIchael Martone telling you A) that the water is authentic; B) that you're awesome; C) don't drink it all now; save some for later.

Q: Hello, madcabre ... (though I wonder who you are). This is Vince Gotera, editor of the North American Review. Michael Martone is one of the NAR's contributing editors, so we are very interested in your auction. ;-D But I'm really writing because if I wondered if I could import your eBay auction text, pictures, and Q&As into my blog? As you know, after 90 days your auction will go poof, so I'm offering eternal access by Michael's fans (and yours) to your wonderful joke/spoof/moneymaking scheme. Possible? --Vince
A: Hello Vince! Of course. That sounds like a wonderful plan. We're fans of the North American Review here in Utah, and we're all for cyberimmortality!

Q: Are there any visible signs of Martone's interaction with the water bottle (floating particles, teethmarks on the cap from opening it, etc.)?
A: I submit into evidence the video stills of Martone drinking from this very bottle of water. From that point to now, I will submit my own spotless record of honesty and truth-telling, even down to my choice of literary genre. Dr. Martone has also agreed to send to the winner a handwritten Postcard of Authenticity suitable for framing or recycling. Of course, you are free to hire your own forensics expert to verify the water bottle's authenticity. Next time you see Martone, simply pluck one of his long gray hairs to get your DNA match. As for the other writers whose germs are also likely swimming in this swill, you'll simply have to believe Martone. We do.

Q: I'd like to inquire about the safety of this product... has Martone been tested for Insanity and other transmittable mental conditions?
A: You are hoping, perhaps, to catch some of what he has? Some of that "benign neurosis" (to borrow a phrase from George Higgins) called "writing"? That's understandable. It is, after all, a rare individual who will hole up for hours, conversing only with himself, spinning stories and ideas from gossamer words, lining them up neatly (or putting them in a cage to fight to the death), straining for communication. If at the microscopic level our atoms never quite touch, then maybe words and diseases are all we have to reach one another.

Q: Does Martone floss?
A: Allow me, instead, to answer the questions I think you're really asking: 1) Did Martone floss soon before drinking, thereby limiting the quantity of valuable food morsels floating in the water? A: No, he did not. The water is sufficiently infested. 2) Why is flossing important? A: If you're like me, then you may floss occasionally, when you remember and aren't too tired, without much gusto. But hear ye my sad tale: Now I've got "deep pockets"--and not the kind that begets prodigal spending--which means "deep cleaning" from the dentist, which hurts, and requires quarterly instead of biannual visits, which most insurance companies won't quite cover, which does some damage to those "shallow pockets" most writers have, which brings up this interesting note from the dictionary--"floss: v. intr. to flirt; to show off, esp. (in later use) by flaunting one's wealth, possessions, etc."--a thing Michael Martone most certainly does not do.



Saturday, March 28, 2009

Space... The Final Advertising Frontier

Last year I read about the ISS toolbag and within the last week I discovered this site:

which provides by-the-second tracking of the ISS toolbag for amateur astronomers, and dorks such as myself. The site also tracks dozens of other objects in orbit.

Clearly the time has arrived for Giant-Floating-Space-Billboards. Yes, it'd probably be moving to fast to read, but just the action of a large company putting an ad in space would probably generate enough buzz to make the billboard's launch worth it. Maybe even with enough optical expertise a rough image or some color could be added. I can see a Pepsi-Moon becoming a big hit. Even the outrage might be good publicity. Of course a free-orbit satellite may be a bit hazardous, but even that provides an opportunity for publicity. Eventually we would be watching for the Pepsi-Meteorite, or praying to whatever we hold dear that it doesn't crash into our neighborhood...

Of course anyone who's read or watched a little sci-fi could tell you that there a plenty of other advertising frontiers. I think we're still a couple hundred years from advertising piped into our dreams, but we may only be a couple of years from advertisements beamed directly to cell phones or PDAs as we walk past particular stores or enter particular areas (if this isn't already being done). Think about that last one. It could be a great way for cellular phone companies to subsidize the cost of data plans. If you could save $20 a month on your cellular phone service by opting into a direct personalized advertising plan, would you do it?

The O.J. Confesses Award for Neologism #1

This the first O.J. Confesses Award for Neogolism and it goes to Alonso Duralde, contributing film critic for

In his March 20th article There's Nothing Good About 'Knowing' Duralde refers to the recent action/suspense flicks of Nicholas Cage as

"Ludicrous Hambonery"

Not only is this phrase hilarious, but it perfectly sums up the roles Nicholas Cage has taken recently. I will admit that I took some guilty pleasure in Ghostrider and I thought the first 10 minutes of Next were a little clever, but both movies were without any doubt, ludicrous hambonery.

And a quick bit of research reveals that no other site on the internet besides Duralde's review of Knowing contains the exact phrase "ludicrous hambonery." Duralde coined it, and for that he should be proud.

O.J. will remain on the look out for more neogolisms, but for now, Congratulations to Alfonso Durande, the first winner of the O.J. Confesses Award for Neogolism.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Adamo Arrives

Earlier in the year I wrote a blogpost where I bemoaned my laptop-less existence and did a little drooling over one of the blurry publicity photos of the Adamo.

Well, the Adamo has arrived, and you can order, or at the very least get the full specs list and non-blurry photos.

As many other reviews have noted the Adamo bears a strong resemblance to HP's Voodoo Envy 133 PC, and in my opinion the Voodoo Envy looks more atractive. Yes, it's .16 of an inch thicker, and I bet the glossy body becomes saturated with fingerprints more quickly, but while both have a similar boxy design, the Voodoo doesn't have the same laptop-butt sticking out behind the screen.

At the very least no one can excuse the Adamo of being a Macbook Air clone (though I'm sure Apple must have some pretty draconian lawyers protecting their design). As I mentioned previously the Adamo is technically slimmer than the Air, or at least it's slimmer than the Air at the Air's thickest point. However the Air tapers down to .16 inches.

The Adamo's real opportunity to shine should have been the hardware, but its guts are even more anemic than either the Voodoo or the Air. The baseline model features a 1.2 Ghz Core Duo processor. That's right, not 2.2 Ghz, 1.2. The Air's base model features a 1.6 Ghz Core Duo processor. Yes, the Adamo is the new generation of Centrino processors, but that isn't really going to give it a boost in speed so much as energy efficiency, and even that probably won't be more than a 20 minute difference in battery life. 1.2 Ghz Core Duo might be a decent upgrade to the Atom processors currently used for netbooks, but netbooks tend to run on Linux, XP basic, or some other stripped down operating system. Anyone expecting to run Vista Premium on their new Adamo better be prepared for some loooonnnnngggg load times.

No where on the website was I able to find information about the graphics card, but as with most laptops it's bound to be integrated, so the only question is whether it uses Intel's pathetic GMA 950 series, or the Geforce series that's currently in all of Apple's consumer notebooks. The Adamo does have the option of an external Blu-Ray drive, but that seems to be targeted at those who simply must have the most expensive gadgetry. The native resolution of the Adamo screen is less than 1080p and the external drive costs $350, which could buy you a PS3 with integrated Blu-ray player. And this information may be buried somewhere, but the Adamo seems to lack an S-Video or HDMI port so the Blu-Ray player would be exclusive to your Adamo's 13 inch screen. Not cool.

One interesting decision Dell has made with the Adamo is that even the base model utilizes a Solid State Drive. Of course this makes the base model of the Adamo about $200 more expensive, but that's still a pretty good deal. It's certainly better than the 4200 speed hard used in the base models of the Voodoo and Air. The high-end model also offers 3G (Mobile Broadband), but otherwise it's hard to tell what your extra $700 is buying you. Certainly an extra .2 Ghz on the processor, 3G, and 4 rather than 2GB of RAM hardly seems worth it. For the same price you could get a nearly fully loaded Sager NP8662 with better than 1080p resolution, a built-in Blu-Ray drive, a bigger SSD, and a pretty fast dedicated graphics card. Of course the NP's battery life is probably about an hour and a half and it weighs triple as much, but the comparative "bang for your buck" is mind-boggling.

On the whole the Adamo seems roughly comparable, and perhaps with the exception of the base model's SSD, a little lower-spec than the Air. O.J. says, if you're so concerned with portability wait for the dual core Atom processor to find its way into netbooks and save yourself $1500 (at least). And if you're in it purely to make everyone around you jealous, and/or if you have a surplus of money and a deficit of taste why not just get yourself a Gold-plated Macbook Air?

Comment Boards #1

Iowa City Man Reportedly Beat Up By Gang

Unfortunately this is not the first time I've heard of people being assaulted in Iowa City by drunken hoodlums. Many times these assaults go unreported because the victims are embarrassed, or they simply don't believe their assaulter will ever be caught.

While this is a travesty the main reason I'm posting the link is because of the strangely incongruous comments. Of the 41 comments posted at this time over half concern either a) a forthcoming gun show, b) things you can fit in a scatter shotgun, and/or c) small handguns for personal defense. This gun show was brought up apropos of nothing and makes for a sad little parallel. An article about a violent crime followed by a totally un-ironic discussion of who on the message board is going to a gun show...

One poster even suggests that had the victim only been carrying a small firearm with 19-round magazine he may have avoided assault. O.J. thinks mace/pepper spray may be a slightly more sane and less fatal deterrent. But it's ridiculous that any personal defense should be necessary.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Self Promotion #2

Self Promotion
And why not? These are a few links to pieces of writing I have in internet literary (or baseball) magazines. I'm sort of hoping if I post these links enough maybe they'll rise to the top when people google my name and maybe push the link to my sub-par performance in a 5K race I ran 5 years ago out of the top hits (the same one where I'm mistakenly listed as female)...

And leaving aside self-promotion, these are some pretty good journals, if you're just looking for random things to read on the internet, as you clearly are if you're here, then you should give 'em a read.


580Split is an annual journal of Arts and Literature housed by the MFA program at Mills College in Oakland, California. This is their first web edition. Show them some love.

Slurve Magazine
Slurve: The literature and arts review that masquerades as a baseball publication

2 River View
Distinguishes itself by including audio of the authors reading their work. Sadly I had a cold when it was due, but I think it's a great concept. Hearing a work read can add a lot to the literary experience. Though I'm not sure how well these mp3s will mix into your gym work out.

Diagram has a nice clean-quirky aesthetic. Diagram is one of the few literary journals, whether print or web, that consistently excites me with their content. Every issue has a few pieces that are just a little different, a sort of special surprise. Plus they have great merchandising, including the "POE TRY" booty shorts (poe on the left cheek, try on the right).

Opium Magazine
Famed creator of the "Literary Deathmatch." While the authors featured don't fight to the death, they do one of the more exciting reading series around. All pieces on Opium Online feature an estimated reading time. Good for when you have a very specific amount of time to want to spend reading.

More links to publications next month. Hopefully.

A Brief Note on Self-Promotion: when I started this blog I was kind of hoping that this would be the top site one would find when they searched for "Ori Fienberg." However, I've since discovered that the only way to raise this site in those rankings would be to constantly insert Ori Fienberg's name, ideally in every post. But while I wanted this blog to be contiguous to my identity I don't want it to be so blatantly obvious. Alas, I have another problem, an ethereal web nemesis named Uri. No matter how many things I get published, or have articles that feature my name (Ori Fienberg) google still asks me whenever I search myself if I meant "Uri Feinberg." My main motivation to be published used to be entirely to get a wider audience for my writing and build up my C.V., but now I have a new goal. Someday I hope when Uri searches his name google will emasculate his sense of pride and identity by asking, did you mean "Ori Fienberg?"

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Going Somewhere...?

A couple of years ago I worked as an assistant editor/reader at The Iowa Review. During that time assistant editors, mainly students were encouraged to contribute book reviews. I'll admit, I cared precious little for the enterprise of reviewing and was more concerned with entering my name, in a very small way, into the national literary dialogue. I went to the library and picked up several collections of new poetry from the University of Iowa's library. While I picked up books that had blurbs by authors I'd heard of and a couple that had won significant awards, I didn't find anything that I found exciting, or memorable. In response I wrote a couple lukewarm reviews, and one patently negative review.

However, when I submitted them to The Iowa Review's editors they were widely rejected. The general consensus was that publishing a negative review was petty, and in some way detrimental to the enterprise of poetry as a whole. The Iowa Review's main editor David Hamilton explained that to him it seemed as though there was no point in damning a collection with faint praise, because most poetry is doomed to obscurity anyway. Instead he preferred to use the reviews as an area to showcase and promote writing that the editors felt deserved a better readership.

Certainly that's a worthy editorial stance, however, it then seems disingenuous to call these sections and contributions "reviews." To my mind a review should at least have the option of being negative, or at the very least, critical. Otherwise literary journals should rename their review sections "Writer Showcases" or succinctly, "Props."

The most recent edition of POETRY includes an opinion/review piece Going Negative, by Jason Guriel, that addresses this issue. Guriel is perturbed that reviews tend to have a generically positive slant, and he offers up three brief reviews that take a more analytically critical approach. While I appreciate the candor of Guriel's reviews I'm not certain what he hopes their impact will be. However, Jason does offer this reason for why we read so few "negative" reviews of poetry collections:

"Maybe poetry is so marginal, so fragile a commodity, we worry about kicking it when it’s already pretty clearly down."

This captures at least a part of The Iowa Review's sentiment. Unfortunately, this fear is holding poetry back. It seems as though most books of poetry are reviewed by another poet, often times a poet who knows the author, or would like to be on good terms with the insular academic community most poets are a part of. This means reviewers are taken not as independent arbiters of opinion, but instead as members of a club dedicated to promoting other club members. If all reviews are positive it artificially inflates the value of poetry as a commodity.

But more than the issue of reviews, the poetry community needs to do some serious consideration of the last part of his statement, poetry is "pretty clearly down." And so I ask, why is poetry down? How is that poetry has become so culturally irrelevant? And what can the poetry community do to change that perception?

As a start I think acknowledging the over all state of poetry and minor individual failures, or "going negative," is at least an honest first step, and it's significantly better than running, or hiding scared.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Misadventures in Adcopy #2

From the top of Carl Buddig - Orginal Deli Thin - Corned Beef:


I believe certain Buddig products also include SMOKED. With this many verbs, you know it's got to be good. Part of me wants to see the setting in which all these actions are taken. The other part wants to start buying another lunch meat product as soon as possible.

But the 8 ounce Buddig deli thin meats are cheaper than any other, with the exception of Hy-Vee brand (and only when they're running a special). Plus Buddig puts those 8 ounces in a handy reusable plastic tub. And I have to admit, I really like their Corned Beef, which is surprisingly low in fat.

In order to stop thinking of the no doubt heinous and soulless facility that does all these things to the meat I like to come up with other verbs Buddig could have used instead. For instance:


See, now we're thinking about something entirely different. Though I suppose in context it's not, in fact, better. What verbs would make you more likely to buy Buddig products?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Why I stopped playing Word Challenge on facebook

Two words Word Challenge recognized:

Two words it does not recognize:

Now, using the google tool, define:oho, I found that according to wikipedia, Oho is the name of the Japanese era that came after Eiryaku, and before Chōkan. Hardly a word that has entered the English lexicon. However, both the free dictionary and the Scrabble dictionary on the Parker Brothers website define oho as "used to express surprise or mock surprise." Unsurprisingly, there are words I don't know, and others that I wouldn't think of in a word game because they seem less like discreet units of meaning and more like onomatopoeia.

However, I'm totally baffled by the failure to recognize "koan." This is a non-english word that has without a doubt entered the lexicon, at least among literary circles. And given that Word Challenge rightfully names "Poet" as the highest rating, they seem remiss in not including it. Oho!

I'm less surprised and more annoyed by the failure to accept "cunt." If they hadn't accepted "shit" then I would have simply assumed that this game is being marketed to children as well as adults they simply decided to exclude the seven dirty words:

Cocksucker and motherfucker would never appear in Word Challenge because of the 6 letter limit, so I've shortened them simply to "fuck." Since Word Challenge accepted "shit," that narrows the list to five.


As George Carlin noted it's the intention and definition that makes a word dirty, and plenty of words have multiple definitions. They'd almost certainly still include "tits" as a member of the Paridae family of birds (which also includes chickadees), and cock, as a verb. Which leaves:


Since they included "shit" I'm not sure why they'd bother excluding piss, which would leave us with two words, one that we know for sure, that Word Challenge has deemed too dirty to be worthy of inclusion and points in their game.


Still that makes them at least 1/3 less in favor of censorship than Parker Brothers and Scrabble which along with "cunt" would not accept either "shit" or "piss" in their online dictionary.

None of this does anything to explain the failure to include koan, unless perhaps the makers of Playfish find enlightenment obscene.

O.J. would never bother censoring just one or two words from a word game. And further more, O.J. would make sure that the word bank included "koan."

Playfish says that the English dictionary is out of its beta, but perhaps they'll continue to add words...