Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Radio Lab

Just by chance last summer, I stumbled across a radio show that fascinated me: Radio Lab at WNYC. I would like to describe it, but I know I will fail miserably. The shows cover science, art, music, brains, love, sleep — the list goes on.

My first exposure was the shows "Morality" and "Who Am I?" where I learned about phantom limbs, morality, lying, cheating and brain development. As a result, I pick up the book Phantoms in the Brain, where I learned about physical and mental interaction, where people who are completely paralyzed swear they have just lifted their arms. (Okay, it was David's Christmas present, but it was still a very good book. Ask David.)

I just listened to the segment on "Zoos," which I found fascinating. It was about the establishment of "natural" zoos, jaguar preservation, feedings at zoos and children's perceptions.... (One person was anti-zoo, as am I, and the other likes zoos, so it was about as fair as can be.)

So go right now to Radio Lab and listen or download the shows. Subscribe to the podcasts and start learning while being wildly entertained. You'll thank me later.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ode to a Tiny Muffin

tiny muffin at Red Hot & Blue
served by Olga

you are tiny
and you are a muffin

round and perfect
you cry out for adoration

Rachael loves you

Pete adores you, even
on his birthday

and I, oh, I

I write you an ode

my tiny muffin

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bruuuuuuuuuuuuce! Part Two!

Yes, he was as fabulous as ever. Though I couldn't understand a word he said (is the sound at the Verizon Center that muddy all the time?), he was incredible.

Before the concert, I thought Magic was good. (Okay, fabulous: as though "Radio Nowhere" could be anything short of phenomenal with its powerful start and sustained energy.) Then I listened to Bruce and the E Street Band perform the album live, and the songs came to life for me.

The next day, as the album played quietly on my computer as I worked, I felt the songs. Even when I wasn't really paying attention, they were there and they were beautiful and haunting and lyrical and fun and sad and all of the above.

I hope the young woman who was seeing him for the first time had the same great experience. She nearly vibrated with excitement as she waited for the train to arrive. I remember my first time, when I thought Born in the USA was "a good album." After the 4-hour concert, I was exhausted and thrilled and knew I'd never be the same. After watching him close out the tour a couple of days later, that was confirmed.

I've become very blasé in my old age. I have come to expect little from concerts by, ahem, experienced musicians. I've seen many of the acts of my youth turn old and stale — or maybe I expected them to be the same as they were a couple of decades ago. That is no more fair than expecting myself to remain the same lo these many years later. The only constant is the favorable evolution of The Boss, and I look forward to his next effort. I'm not in a hurry, but I will welcome it.

Rumor has it he's going to swing through town again in the spring. I hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Well, despite all efforts by corrupt ticket scalp— er, brokers, I've managed to get tickets to the Springsteen concert.

Thank the gods for Leslie, who, in her quest for tickets on the night of her choice, haunted the Verizon Center until she got them.

Her second choice tickets are my first. I don't care where they are, as long as they're in the venue. David has binoculars. Even if he didn't, I wouldn't care.

However, this might be my last Bruce concert, if the ticket problems continue. I'm not inclined to go to most concerts these days. I don't want to stand in line (electronically or in person) at the ticket seller's place of business just to find out all tickets have all "sold out" in a half-hour. I don't purchase from brokers who sell them for an arm and a leg. And with tickets costing about $100 each (including the horrifically expensive "service charges"), I'm inclined to just listen to the CDs and sing along in the privacy, comfort and convenience of my own living room.

I'll still try to go see The Boss with the E Street Band. I'll still frequent the smaller venues like The Birchmere to see my favorite performers, like Eddie from Ohio and Betty. I know concerts will never be like they were in college, where $30 bought me a ticket and a t-shirt for Aerosmith, Phil Collins, Journey and Bruce in some of the world's most renown venues.

But today's concerts are too expensive at best and unattainable at worst. Life is too short to spend fighting for concert tickets.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

What We Miss With Current Airport Security

Remember when we used to be able to actually meet people at the gates of airports? Here is what we would have seen.

Thanks to The Writer's Almanac for letting me look ahead to find this wonderful poem!

Gate C22

At gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he'd just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she'd been released at last from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.

Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching —
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn't look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.

But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after — if she beat you or left you or
you're lonely now — you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman's middle-aged body,
her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.

by Ellen Bass, from The Human Line. © Copper Canyon Press, 2007.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

1408, Redux

First thing to remember: the short story is not the screenplay.

The short story is not bad, but it's not as good as the movie.

King's story was creepy in its own way, and it deserved to be made into a movie. However, the screenplay makes Mike into a real character, one the viewer wants to get to know better: a writer whose own tortured soul was mixed with the unrelenting evil of the hotel room. The movie wasn't perfect: it could have been a little shorter, and the hotel room scene went beyond the point of exhausting to making me wish it was just over, for the love of Pete (and not in a good way). Having said that, I wouldn't really opt to change much.

I also preferred the way the movie ended to the story's ending. (Important tip: don't watch the alternate endings on the DVD. There's a reason they weren't chosen as the final ending.)

I am thrilled that the producers chose the actors they did for the movie. King's descriptions do not jive with the actors, but I preferred the actors to those described in the story.

If I had to choose only one, watch the movie and skip the story. You lose nothing by seeing only the movie, which captured the good parts of the story. And if you are going to do both, watch the movie first.

However, skim through the other stories in Everything's Eventual and let me know if you think King has started getting reigned in (by himself or an editor) or if he still is the 1,000 pound gorilla who isn't edited enough. I read a couple of the other stories, and they're not bad — but life is too short (and there are too many good books) to read "not bad."