Thursday, April 30, 2009

Troy Bear is now on Twitter! Unfortunately, I have no idea what I am doing - or twittering about - at this point; but with enough time I may learn...

Photo: flickr (photo of and by Nathan)

Bob Dylan keeps his hands in his pocket on Together Through Life...

Click on the orange link below to read this record review from the Boston Globe.

Dylan finds the rhythms of love - The Boston Globe

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Photo: Amazon

Munchy has released this photograph...

Although he earlier took a "no more photos" stance, Munchy has consented to release this recent photograph to his multitude of fans. He appears to be a gray tabby here due to the angle of the sunlight, but rest assured that he is still brown.

Photo: Joseph / Munchy Archives

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Pizza War Rages On in Berkeley...

Cheeseboard Pizza or Bobby G's Pizzeria. What's your pleasure?

Click on the orange link below to read the article.

The Daily Californian :: Bobby G's Pizzeria

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Photo of Cheeseboard Pizza from flickr (SusieFoodie).

Note: Sometimes Cheeseboard is listed using one word, sometimes as Cheese Board. I will let Cal students determine what the truth of the matter is.

If you're heading to Sacramento... (a nice place to stay)

A year ago, I experienced a non-sleeping night because of some mechanical problems at a Hilton Garden Inn (HGI) in southern California. Hilton made it up to me be sending me a Be My Guest certificate good for a free night's stay at any HGI. Because I recently had a lot of pressing work to do, and since it would cost too much money to fly or drive out of the area, I used the certificate at the Sacamento/South Natomas HGI. I highly recommend this property to anyone traveling to the Sacramento area.

The hotel provides a shuttle service to and from the Sacramento Intergalactic Spaceport, and guests are also driven to nearby shopping and eating facilities. This business hotel is located on the more newly-developed side of Interstate 5, placed in and among several corporate campuses (giving it the feel of Silicon Valley). Although it's less than the length of a football field from the freeway, noise is not a big issue.

If you are noise sensitive, it's best to request a room on the west side or a pool/interior room. During my stay the only noticeable sounds were of someone closing a couple of drawers before taking a shower.

The hotel is extremely clean and well maintained; even the hallway carpeting looks as it was installed just yesterday. Staff members were noticeably busy making touch-up repairs during the day.

In the room, there's a Magic Chef refrigerator that is extremely efficient, a Sanyo microwave, a sharp Philips flat screen TV with HBO and the all-important Golf Channel; and a large bed with adjustable firmness levels. There's also a work desk with an ergonomic chair by Herman Miller, and a surprisingly comfortable upholstered chair with a nice Ottoman.

The interior colors and artwork all make up for a relaxing stay. My stay was quite productive. Yes, the rooms in newer HGIs may be a touch smaller than in some of the older locations, but I didn't find this to be a major negative.

On a scale of 1 to 10 pillows, I award the HGI Sacramento/South Natomas hotel a rating of 9 pillows.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If a Toyota Prius were mated with a Volkswagen Bug (New Beetle)...

Its offspring would likely look pretty much like this (pictured is the Mitsubishi eMiEV electric car).

Next: Our first lodging review.

the word of the day

Today's word is hearth, meaning a brick, stone or concrete area in front of a fireplace, or the floor of the fireplace. It can also mean home or a vital or creative center as in "the central hearth of occidental civilization." (A.L. Kroeber)

Thus, if you were moving out of your house in San Francisco and heading east, and you suddenly realize that you forgot to remove the brick from the front of the fireplace in your former home, you might yell out, "I left my hearth in San Francisco!"

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Small Faces Alert!

For West Coast, U.S.A., fans of the Small Faces and for European residents who may be visiting southern California, this is a reminder that Ian McLagen of the faces small will be performing in San Diego this Wednesday. That's right, Ian will be performing with Jerry Fuentes at 7:30 p.m. on the evening of April 29, 2009 at Anthology, 1337 India Street in the Gaslight District. For tickets or information, call (619) 595-0300.

If I could be there, I'd request the instrumental Pineapple and the Monkey.

Bailout, bailout, who's got the bailout?

Priceless! (This comic is from Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis. Click on the comic strip to see a larger version.)

The Rain Falls on Bad Moon Rising (a book review)...

Let me provide a warning right up front... If you're a huge John C. Fogerty (JCF) fan and wish to remain as such, you may not want to read this book. If you're on the fence about Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) and not sure whether they were a great band or simply both a lucky and extraordinarily unlucky one, this book may convince you that the latter is more likely the case. This band biography is simply not a pretty picture which is why Bad Moon Rising is subtitled "The Unauthorized History of CCR."

How bad does JFC come off here? On page 293 of this 316-page treatise, he's quoted as saying: "We call these Beatles songs and I guess we call them Monkees songs, and in my case we call them Creedence songs. But actually, John Fogerty wrote all the songs. So I think now that I'm out in this limelight, I'm going to try and straighten out that misconception."

Ouch! Not only does JFC compare CCR to both Those Guys and The Monkees, but he refers to himself (Himself?) in the third person. The book does, on the plus side, clear up the misconception that JFC refused to appear at the deathbed of his brother Tom. But little else here puts either JFC or the two other surviving CCR members - now in Creedence Clearwater Revisited - in a positive light.

Slogging through this book is like revisiting the worst parts of your own family's history while watching an unpleasant soap opera on the tube. And remember all those stories about Saul Zaentz, founder and head of Berkeley-based Fantasy Records, as the supposed bad guy (which culminated with JCF's solo song Zanz Can't Dance/Vanz Can't Dance)? There's little here dealing with this, which may even be fortunate.

Bottom line, there's more unsaid than said in this not so definitive book which was advertised as covering "30-odd years of legal wrangling, thwarted ambitions and lost potential." Lost potential for the reader, definitely.

For me, it has been more difficult to listen to either JFC or CCR since reading this book. No more unauthorized band biographies for me, as long as I can see the light.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Good Pizza, Wine & Friends at Selland's Market Cafe in East Sacramento

Click on the orange link below to read about good pizza in East Sacramento. Pictured above is Ray's Pizza of Greenwich Village, New York City, which is just east of East Sacramento, California.

Sacramento Restaurant Examiner: Pizza, wine and community at Selland's Market Cafe in East Sac

Posted using ShareThis; Photo: flickr (wallyg)

Dance Lessons of the Thirties... (a poem by Donald Justice)

Wafts of old incense mixed with Cuban coffee
Hung on the air; a fan turned; it was summer.
And (of the buried life) some last aroma
Still clung to the tumbled cushions of the sofa.

At lesson time, pushed back, it used to be
The thing we managed somehow just to miss
With our last-second dips and whirls - all this
While the Victrola wound down gradually.

And this was their exile, those brave ladies who taught us
So much of art, and stepped off to their doom
Demonstrating the fox-trot with their daughters
Endlessly around some sad makeshift ballroom.

O little lost Bohemias of the suburbs!

Photo: flickr (gerardov)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Like Chocolates on the Pillow...

In the book Chocolates on the Pillow Aren't Enough, Jonathan Tisch - CEO of Leows Hotels - makes the following comment about AOL: "This is the mark of a company desperate to keep its link to customers alive while behaving in ways that only increase alienation."

While reading this, I had to stop for a second to see if he was referencing AOL or Starbucks...

Photo of the Starbucks in Ripon, California: flickr (suendercafe)

It's another tequila sunrise...

It's another tequila sunrise
Staring slowly across the sky, said goodbye
He was just a hired hand
Workin' on the dreams he planned to try
The days go by

Every night when the sun goes down
Just another lonely boy in town
And she's out running round

She wasn't just another woman
And I couldn't keep from coming on
It's been so long
Oh, and it's a hollow feeling when
It comes down to dealing friends
It never ends

Take another shot of courage
Wonder why the right words never come
You just get numb
It's another tequila sunrise, this old world
still looks the same
Another frame...

Illustration: JDK Graphics Ink

Friday, April 24, 2009

Some Tough Words for Starbucks...

This is an abridged version of an article ("More Bad News for Starbucks as McCafe Moves in For the Kill") printed on the BNET Industries website; BNET Food subcategory. The original article was posted on the morning of April 20, 2009 and was written by Katherine Glover.

Months ago, this same publication had high hopes for a Starbucks revival based on the return of CEO Howard Schultz. Now the view is not so optimistic...

Things are not looking good for Starbucks. McCafe's continue to spread - almost 70 percent of McDonald's outlets now offer specialty coffee, and the Chicago Tribune has reason to believe that McDonald's will launch a national advertising campaign for its coffee starting in May.

"McCafe is a game-changer in coffee," a Deutsche Bank analyst wrote in a recent memo to clients. "We expect McDonald's will extract a significant toll on Starbucks' performance, beginning this summer..." Deutsche Bank has downgraded Starbucks stock to "sell." And as McCafe expands its reach, Starbucks is moving in the opposite direction, closing 200 U.S. stores this year.

But the problem isn't just that McDonald's offers cheaper coffee than Starbucks. The problem is that Starbucks doesn't necessarily have anything to offer for its higher prices. The Starbucks phenomenon itself led to higher standards, and, as a result, more cheap coffee options that don't necessarily taste like dirt water.

QSR Web recently did its own blind taste test and found that a majority of its testers actually preferred McDonald's coffee drinks to Starbucks. So the question is not "Are customers willing to pay more for a better drink?" but "Is the drink really even better."

Photo: flickr

Note: For even more Starbucks-related updates, see

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Editorial: Of coffee shops and neighborhood ties - Sacramento Opinion - Sacramento Editorial | Sacramento Bee

Click on the orange link below to read this editorial from the Sacramento Bee.

Editorial: Of coffee shops and neighborhood ties - Sacramento Opinion - Sacramento Editorial | Sacramento Bee

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Photo of Peet's in downtown Portland: flickr (jdong)

It has been

It has been
by Joseph

I was contacted by the spirits and souls
And elected not to take the call
The past took up so much of my time
So I refuse to feed it anymore...

Suppose tomorrow we could go back
And relive what we lived before
And see who we saw
And love who we loved before...

What makes us think we'd hear a message
We didn't hear before, some lesson
We didn't learn before...
And why would we respond just because
It was the 2nd time the message kicked upon our

I lived my life the first time
I choose not to try to live it again
The answering machine is on; please record your thoughts...

I'm moving onward, my friends

photo: flickr (shoebappa)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pint-sized pour - A review of three organic beers

I'll admit that I have not tried more than two brands' organic beers. They're expensive and have a very high alcohol content, which is perhaps needed to justify the higher prices (more buzz for the buck?). Also, the uniquely flat taste is not my thing. The San Diego Union looks at a sampling of three available organic beers and I would certainly entrust my taste buds to the fine folks at New Belgium Brewing. New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado is the brewer of Fat Tire Amber Ale - one of the best in the business.

Click on the orange link below to read the article.

Pint-sized pour

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Note: When you're in downtown San Diego, a stop at the Karl Strauss restaurant and brewery is a must!

Next: It has been (a poem)

Photo: flickr (rosepetal236)

Dear Paul (a song by Jenny Dalton)

Dear Paul, I am writing
wondering how you have been
Dear Paul, I've been reading
I fear I'm reading too much into this

Give me something more
Give me something strong
Give me something I can believe in
Give me something more
Give me something strong
I know something's wrong with this picture

Dear Paul, I have thrown out
everything that I believe in
I can't decide if I'm a nihilist or a fatalist

Dear Paul, I know I've been
a little bit out of touch, a little bit out of
But now I'll sit beside you
Take my hand, let's see what happens

And he says, "Give me something more.
Give me something strong.
Give me something I can believe in."
And I said, "I can't give you more.
This is all I've got.
This is everything I believe in."

Photo: flickr (slagheap)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sometimes you just...

Sometimes you just come across an interesting and fascinating photograph. All I know about this one is that it pictures a McLaren team Formula One driver practicing in Spain under real-life El Greco (1541-1614) skies.

Click on the photo to see a larger version.

How Long: The Brilliant Musical Career of Paul Carrack

On Friday, as Mrs. Bear and I were driving home after a long week of work I put on one of my favorite movie soundtrack CDs, Invincible. This soundtrack not only includes the previously discussed I've Got A Name by Jim Croce, but also the great 70's single How Long by the band Ace. How Long - without a question mark - was the only hit for this English "pub band," but this did not stop singer-songwriter-keyboardist Paul Carrack from going on to success.

Carrack next joined the critically-loved Squeeze; a band that is well loved by every musician I know. Squeeze had the twice-a-hit single Tempted (1981 and 1993), on which Carrack sang the lead, and the great album track Black Coffee in Bed. Their work is well represented in The Squeeze Singles collection.

And then Paul joined Michael + the Mechanics, where he was the force behind the single All I Need Is A Miracle and the No. 1 hit The Living Years.

For a lot of musicians, this would be enough to cap off a lifetime career. However, Carrack continues to record solo albums, a number of which are purchased by other musicians looking for great songs to cover. As a prime example, when the Eagles made their come-back in 1994, it was Carrack's Love Will Keep Us Alive - co-written with Jim Capaldi of Traffic and Pete Vale - that was released as the first single from Hell Freezes Over.

The Eagles' fine current double-CD set Long Road Out of Eden features I Don't Want to Hear Anymore, written by Paul. I've already predicted that I Don't Want to Hear... will be included on the soundtrack album when Bill Hazelgrove's novel Rocket Man is made into a film.

Keep rockin' Paul!

Mooch Goes for a Ride...

Monday, April 20, 2009

The CEO of Starbucks actually said this...

I found this quote from Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks online: "Our customers are not turning away from Starbucks because they're unhappy or they have lost faith or they don't like the experience... They just do not have the disposable income to come as often as they once did. They're either not coming as often, or cutting out the occasion - having coffee in the office, having coffee at home."

OK, now if he actually believes this, I'll offer to buy him a cup of bold coffee at Peet's.

Photo: flickr (~maitexu~)

The bitter truth about Starbucks...

Every now and then I go to one of the Starbucks-sponsored comment sites - like My Starbucks Idea or Ideas In Action - and post my latest critique of the company; and I'm far from alone in this. As we push one way, its natural that on occasion a young Bucks staff member or bearista pushes back. That's fine but I don't think they quite understand who "we" - me, Melody, Jolene and so many others - are...

So let me try to explain this here. We're the old flame, the one who first thought you were the best person (company) in the world until you let us down. Then we left or thought about leaving... but we haven't, actually.

We were your first and most loyal fans. We were with you when Starbucks was not "cool." We remained with you, in your cooler-than-cool state, when we had to wait the equivalent of two work breaks in line. We were still there when you became un-cool again. But, finally, enough became enough.

We have our memories of the early days... Days of great service, great bold coffee, innovative products, and the knowledge that we would always receive the highest quality of products at our local Bucks shop. Sadly those days are gone, long gone and we're hurt.

(From a music lover's standpoint it's like watching Rod Stewart go from Gasoline Alley to "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?")

One poster - menty66 - added this in response to a Seattle newpaper article on recent moves by Starbucks: "For years sbux touted its cultural standing. Now it's slowly slipping down a stripper pole to McDonald's level."

Menty66 wrote that on February 4, 2009 and I've kept it because it rang so true.

OK, so we still think about you. We don't ignore you which means somewhere in our caffineated hearts and souls we hold out a glimmer of hope... It's not like the final time we shopped at Sears or Penney's, decided to never return and truly never thought of those places again.

So please try to actually listen to us, and not just say that you do. And hire bearistas that will do the same. And please, please, please, please brew us a bold coffee when we tell you we really and truly need it.

Why? 'Cause time is passing, none of us is getting any younger, and there's a guy out there named Peet who is offering some really good times!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Daily Californian :: Original Peet's Site Reopens After Renovation

The original Peet's coffee shop has re-opened in North Berkeley! Click on the orange link below to read the article.

And don't we just love this quote from Berkeley resident and long-time customer Alice Feller: "Real Peet's customers don't drink Starbucks."

Bold coffee rules!

Next: The bitter truth about Starbucks...

Photo of Peet's, North Berkeley: Seattle Times

The Daily Californian :: Original Peet's Site Reopens After Renovation

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We now return you to your regular programming...

The technical problems appear to have been resolved.

We are experiencing some technical difficulties...

The Blogger network, which hosts this site and other Blogspot sites, had an outage last night at 11:00 PDT, 2:00 a.m on the east coast. Some Blogspot sites have experienced problems since the service was resumed. A number of sites, like this one, can only be accessed using the full Universal Resource Locator (URL) address; this means you have to type in the "www" part in your browser.

Based on what I'm reading, some bloggers cannot currently put up new posts - so these sites may appear to be inactive - and a few others cannot add photographs, so those posts will be plainer than usual.

Fortunately, I can still post photos so here's a nice black & white one of the moon over San Francisco's Coit Tower. Let's hope that things soon get back to normal at Blogger so that we can all return to business as usual. Until then, in the words of a Small Faces song, we're all "waiting here in Patience."

Photo: flickr (km6xo); click on the photo to see a slightly larger version.

The Boss Still Has Glory Days (& glory nights)...

This concert review by Kelsey Borreson was printed in the USC Daily Trojan on Friday, April 17, 2009. This is an abridged version.

After two and a half hours of nonstop foot stomping, back-bending and windmill-guitar playing, Bruce Springsteen roused a notoriously hard to please Los Angeles crowd, 3,000 miles away from his Garden State home.

At 7:30 p.m. on April 15th, a predominantly white, middle-aged, middle-class audience poured into the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, hand full of cups of Miller Lite. Never yielding the stage, Springsteen opened and closed the show - when you're "The Boss," you make your own rules.

The house lights went dim and almost immediately, as if rehearsed, the crowd began to cheer "Bruuuuuuce." The stage lit up and there they were: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band playing the 1978 single Badlands. Fans standing near the stage raised their arms and pointed their forefingers to the beat. Those in the tiered section sang along while stepping side to side and clapping their hands.

In just five months, Springsteen will turn 60. But it's a little hard to believe. As his fingers furiously moved up and down the neck of his guitar, the audience's eyes were drawn to a set of sculpted arms that couldn't belong to a man almost old enough (for) a senior citizen discount.

Like most prolific recording artists, Springsteen played a set equal parts old and new, fast and slow, upbeat and serious. He mixed hits like Rosalita and Born to Run with some of his most recent material, including Workin' on a Dream and Outlaw Pete.

But the most powerful of his performances was Waitin' On a Sunny Day which seems eerily prophetic and relevant to the millions of Americans facing financial crises and feeling generally defeated. He made it all seem OK, somehow manageable, as he sang the opening line: It's rainin' but there ain't a cloud in the sky.

His voice and stage presence convinced the audience that no matter how bad things are, we're in it together. Even though he's grossed millions of dollars, there's still this sense that he's just another blue-collar guy trying to make a living.

Fans holding up homemade posters danced, screamed and reached toward the stage in hopes of maybe being lucky enough to touch the working class icon. Sprinsteen showed his appreciation... He ran back and forth across the stage, leaning into the audience to collect the artwork of his fans and assembled it into a pile near the drum set for safekeeping.

It's these things - the little things - that Springsteen does to make a sports arena (concert) feel more like a neighborhood backyard barbecue.

Photo: flickr (Alex Hampton-Smith)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The New Honda Insight

Is this what the Chevy Volt was supposed to be? True, some will see it as a Prius-lite, but anyone who has owned a Honda will know that their cars (like Toyota, Nissan and Volkswagen automobiles) are extremely - perhaps unbelievably - reliable. Click on the orange link below to read the article.

New Insight

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Photo: flickr (harry_nl)

Experts: GM bankruptcy won't be the easy way out

Will bankruptcy save General Motors, or is it too late? Click on the orange link below to read the article.

Sorry, but we couldn't resist posting a photo of our old favorite GM executive, Rick Wagoner. (Ole Rick was demonstrating the small battery that would power the Chevy Volt, which remains vaporware as of this date.)

Experts: GM bankruptcy won't be the easy way out

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Photo: flickr (

An energized Paul McCartney opens Coachella fest - Wire Entertainment -

Paul McCartney put on a rock show at the Coachella Music Festival. Click on the orange link below to read the article:

An energized Paul McCartney opens Coachella fest - Wire Entertainment -

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False Witness

False Witness
by Ken Volonte

I could stop to ask, "Whose fault
That a friend of mine was killed last Saturday?"
Although to him it was still Friday,
So late or early was the hour.

My imagining could vault;
And I could say, "Oh, no! It isn't he."
But at that time and on that stretch of road,
It would be Jeff.
Oh, Jeff!

I could blame God,
Or the highway patrol.
I could say I had no right to live,
To live when Jeff had died,
To see him in every face on the street -
I could tell you stories,
But I won't.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yes, Virginia, Cats Do Grow On Trees...

At least they do in Tokyo, Japan...

Greeter of Souls...

The poet Deborah Digges, who was a professor of English at Tufts University in Massachusetts, died on April 10th at age 59. Here is one of her poems from the collection Trapeze (2004):

Greeter of Souls

Ponds are spring-fed, lakes run off rivers.
Here souls pass, not one deified,
and sometimes this is terrible to know
three floors below the street, where light drinks the world,
siphoned like music through portals.
How fed, that dark, the octaves framed faceless.
A memory of water.
The trees more beautiful not themselves.
Souls who have passed here, tired brightening.
Dumpsters of linen, empty
gurneys along corridors to parking garages.
Who wonders, is it morning?
Who washes these blankets?
Can I not be the greeter of souls?
What's to be done with the envelopes of hair?
If the inlets are frozen, can I walk across?
When I look down into myself I see a scattering of birds,
do I put on the new garments?
On which side of the river should I wait?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Here's Munchy the cat...

Saying "no, thanks" I don't want to be photographed any more today...

Photo: Joseph/Munchy Archives

Wrong About Starbucks?

In a Motley Fool article posted on MSNBC on Monday, April 13th, Tim Beyers reconsidered some things he'd said in a pre-Christmas article. At that time he wrote that Starbucks had lost its appeal as a destination, "(as) a place for writers like me to sit, sip, get connected (wirelessly), and write." In his more recent article, Beyers took the stance that he was wrong about Starbucks as revealed in the full title of his article: I Was Wrong About Starbucks: Wi-Fi is worth paying for, after all.

Interesting, especially as the final words in the article were these:

You want to blame customers for your woes? Look in the mirror first, Starbucks.

Very clever. Good stuff, almost as good as the bold cup of coffee that I can't get in the afternoon at Starbucks. On to Peet's...

Note: Earlier this week I had a change in schedule so I made what is now a rare stop at a Starbucks for a late morning brew. I was the only person standing in line... Nevertheless, the bearista barely listened to my order for a tall (small) bold coffee with room for cream; she was busy talk, talk, talking to a co-worker. Before handing me my coffee, she walked away and grabbed an ink pen for some unknown reason... I was not charging my order.

When she did finally hand me my coffee it was filled to the rim - she clearly did not listen to my order - and with the current supply of bad lids, the coffee spilt all over my hands and my formerly-clean pair of pants. Great, and another reminder of why I almost never pop into a Bucks anymore.

Photo: flickr (chrisdejabet)


Touch-Me-Nots by Jill Bialosky

She brought a little of the country into the city

in the pots of impatiens she had planted

The petals white, pure, the opposite of color.

She had transferred the impatiens from the garden,

digging her hands into soil two parts fibrous loam,

one part leaf mold and peat moss and pushing

the roots into the earth. Despite the quality

of the soil - its rich decomposition of life -

still they would not last. The plants were hard

and tender, with thick stems and dark green leaves,

the seedpods inside waiting to release, the air

awash in pollen. She looked into the flower

as into a pair of beckoning eyes offering

sustenance independent of a body, free floating

and regenerative and wholly belonging

to what was impossible ever to touch.

Note: Jill Bialosky is the author of Intruder, a volume of poetry "which stretches our understanding of the creative process." She will be participating in the Los Angeles Times Book Festival on April 25, 2009.

Photo: flickr (tile432)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Documentary tells David-Goliath brewing tale - Sacramento Living - Sacramento Food and Wine, Home, Health | Sacramento Bee

The article below - click on the orange link to read it - is about a documentary about beer. Here is my favorite excerpt from it, quoting film director Anat Baron: "The big guys have done a good job of convincing people that light-yellow, fizzy beer is what beer's supposed to be. But in reality that's not the case. Over 69 types of beer are being made in America today. The reason the small guys have succeeded is more consumers are concerned with taste and flavor. They don't want the sameness. Beer for some people is becoming like wine."

Photo: flickr (MsBlueSky)

Documentary tells David-Goliath brewing tale - Sacramento Living - Sacramento Food and Wine, Home, Health | Sacramento Bee

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Those with a sharp eye...

Those with a sharp eye will note that the photo in the post, below, is labeled as Buffalo Springfield. In fact, it is actually a picture of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Why it has the wrong title, I do not know.

Above is a photograph of the actual Buffalo Springfield.

Photo: flickr (bob3052)

A Future Soundtrack Album?

Earlier this week we posted two reviews of the novel Rocket Man by Bill Hazelgrove. Our instincts tell us that this novel may be made into a major motion picture... If so, here is one guess as to what the soundtrack might look and sound like:

Rocket Man - Elton John [Opening scene, the rocket boy]
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere - Neil Young [Belleview]
Hung Upside Down - Buffalo Springfield [suburban angst]
Up On Cripple Creek - The Band [bike ride to the white farm house]
Pleasant Valley Sunday - The Monkees [The Belleview Association meeting]
There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve - A.C. Newman [worries]
I Don't Want to Hear Any More - the Eagles [marital problems]
Tomorrow - Paul McCartney and Wings [hope]
Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe - the Byrds [sixty rockets on the pads]
Won't Get Fooled Again - the Who [Rocket Day!]
Rocket Man - Elton John [edit version, final scene]
My Days and All My Days Off - A.C. Newman [the crawl, closing credits]

The Past Is Prologue...

I feel like the 1960's is about to happen. It feels like a period in the future to me, rather than a period in the past. Paul McCartney

Photo: The National Library of New Zealand

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rocket Man by William Elliot Hazelgrove

As I approach that time in life others have said should be "gentle time, learn to laugh" I am more inclined to go with Dylan Thomas' "rage, rage at the dying of the light, do not go gentle into that good night." After reading Rocket Man by William Elliot Hazelgrove I realized that Thomas had the right idea. Yossarian, from Catch 22 fame, meets middle age in the suburbs: "That men would die is a matter of necessity; which men would die is a matter of circumstance."

Rocket Man is one of those novels that brings together drama and comedy in perfect form to make it true life art. At some point in your life, you are going to meet each one of the characters Hargrove brings to life, maybe not in the same relationships as he describes, but believe me, you will know them when you meet them. From the book you'll receive a reminder of life from what it was like when you were a child growing up; to the gnawing impact of middle age; and a glimpse of life as you enter the alleged mature retirement years... "the glory of altruism may be nothing more than walking out and going home."

The characters are well developed but not predictable and just when you think you know where something or someone is going, the story turns on you and leads you down another path for more fun, drama and retrospective personal moments.

It was either or both Charlie Brown or Jean Paul Satre who said "Hell is other people" and through his prose Hazelgrove brings that feeling to light. Whether it is those people we meet in coffee shops; the mall or through our jobs; in social or semi-political organizations; or our children's lives, one day you realize - as Dale senior tells us - "The world wants your balls and usually gets it." But he also reminds us "Everybody has their day in the pickle barrel, and this is yours, but you'll get out."

As I finished the book, I remembered way back in time when I had gone to the school's back parking lot and submitted a rocket I had built for a science project for launch. I was there by myself so, until now, I had no one to share the joy of watching the rocket take off, rise into the clouds, reach its final height and like magic out popped the parachute that brought it back to me.

I kept that rocket for years, packing it with loving care each time I moved. As Wendy said, "It's beautiful, Dale." So belated thanks to Dale, my science teacher Mr. Thane and William Elliot Hazelgrove for the memories.

Nearly 2500 years ago Aeschylus could have been talking about Rocket Man when he wrote in The Oresteian Trilogy:

By cunning we die, precisely as we killed.
Hand me the man axe, someone, hurry!
Now we will see. Win all or lose all,
we have come to this - the crisis of our lives.

I won't tell you how Rocket Man the book ends as I'm not sure it really will ever end. But once you read it, you will have to decide how your own personal version of Rocket Man ends; or at least whether on the path in life you choose you will seek continuing adventure or stop and climb a tree and spend your life counting the leaves.

Robert "Ice B" Gorham

Photo: flickr (carleyware)

See also:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tomorrow's Attraction...

Today we posted the first of two reviews of the novel Rocket Man. Tomorrow we'll be posting another review of the book, this one composed by the artist and noted social critic Robert "Ice B" Gorham.

Stay tuned!

Harmony: A Review of Rocket Man (the novel)

In June of 1995, Richard Ford released what one source called a "dull, jaded, satirical view of suburban life...", a novel called Independence Day. The New York Times' overly serious review of Independence Day carried the weighty headline, "Afloat in the Turbulence of the American Dream."

I loved Ford's earlier (1986) novel, The Sportswriter, but I found Independence Day to be a bit too dry and slow of a read. So when I saw that the novel Rocket Man also deals with suburban angst, I worried that it might be a long trek through its 377 pages. This fear was groundless...

From the very first, I was hooked on this story by William (Bill) Elliot Hazelgrove and I made it straight through to page 370 before putting it down for the day. Hazelgrove smartly starts the tale with some laugh-out-loud humor before settling into the more serious sections. When it dawns on you that the story has become less amusing, it doesn't matter - you just want to know what happens next.

I'm not a fan of book or movie reviews that give away the entire story, but a few things should be mentioned about the plot. The lead character, Dale Hammer, is a former novelist, currently a mortgage broker, who has moved his family form the old, established, city of Oakland, Illinois to the "far west suburb" of Charleston, Illinois. In one week his life goes from being on automatic pilot ("I feel the surprise of a man who occupies a life he is not familiar with.") to one in which he faces multiple and substantive challenges. His life, as Paul Simon might have sung, is on fire and on the evening news.

The one positive in Hammer's situation is that he's been selected (or maybe simply volunteered for the role) to be Rocket Man, the adult who supervises dozens and dozens of scouts on the day they meet in a public park to launch their working rockets. Hammer is trained for the assignment by his predecessor Dale Heinrich, a man both highly intelligent and organized and so strange that Hammer is unsure "whether to shake (his) hand or call for the boys in the white suits."

Does Hammer meet and overcome the challenges in his life? Does he, as a non-conformist, buckle down to succeed in his new role as the Rocket Man?

You'll have to read the book yourself to find out, but for me the ending came together as smoothly as Elton John's song Harmony. I look forward to the next good read from Hazelgrove.

Highly recommended for book clubs.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wouldn't This Be A Great Cover...?

For a Best of Humble Pie collection?

Photo: flickr (FullCreamMilkMan)

Next: A review of Rocket Man, the novel.

I'm not gonna write you a lovesong...

Blank stares at blank pages
No easy way to say this
You mean well, but you make this hard on me

I'm not gonna write you a love song
'Cause you asked for it
'Caused you need one, you see
I'm not gonna write you a love song

Sarah Bareilles, Love Song

Idea and photo: lovegirlnextdoor (flickr)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Child Banishes the Darkness

A Child Banishes the Darkness
by Jill Bialosky (from Subterranean)

The child presides over our lives like the
Blinding presence of tall white pines. In the
Low room she hovers; she is the dark
untamed place, like a thicket in a
neglected wood where I fall to after each new
loss, the unforgotten dream buried like
a small toy under layers of frozen
un-raked leaves. She is the hidden secret
we don't talk about because there is
nothing left to say. So much snow on the roofs
of tall buildings, along the cobbled streets,
in the eaves, and on the narrow bridge and
in the quiet palm of the newborn
Nothing left to fear. All the earth is calm.