Monday, August 24, 2009

Flooding, Desert Islands, Tomatoes and the Hard Sell

It was good to spend a few days with my sister, down from Maine. We don't get together much these days due to the geographical thing, but she came down to visit us, and her son, and some old school chums. She'd be the first to tell you, though, that her trip here (and to Ohio to see her daughter) was full of mishaps, the last and probably biggest being the flooding of her car. She was visiting in Glassboro Saturday night ater a huge rainstorm, turned onto a side street into a large puddle which turned out to be more like a small lake. The water came up to her headlights and rushed into her floorboards, and she could actually feel the car floating. Fortunately she was able to drive through it, and though the car stalled out temporarily, it seems okay now. Damp, but okay. It should be good for the trip back to Maine tomorow.

Poetry: It's me again, the broken record! One last reminder that pre-sales period for my new poetry chapbook, Breathing Out, ends this Friday the 28th! If you like my poetry and would like to have a handsome collection of it, plus help me meet my publication goal, please go to:

Music: Once again WXPN is having their annual top 885 list and asking listeners to compile a top ten list based on this premise: If you could take only ten songs with you to a desert island, which ten would they be? This is the list I compiled and submitted at the XPN Fest after about an hour's cogitation in the hot sun. I went somewhat eclectic with this, figuring if I were to be stuck with ten songs for God-knows-how-long, they'd better be fairly diverse.

10. Gaudete - Steeleye Span: representing the folk genre, this gorgeous a capella piece is indicative of a great band's harmonies - it's also made just about every Christmas mix tape/CD I've ever compiled, so it can serve double duty as a seasonal number. It was a toss-up, though, between this and Fairport Convention's "Matty Groves".

9. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning - Richard Thompson: Maybe a bit too obvious, but I have never grown tired of this one, the best acoustic song ever done by one of my favorite all-time artists. (His best electric song? "Shoot Out the Lights".)

8. Kashmir - Led Zeppelin: Big and bombastic, heavy with Eastern modality, this song still gives me goose bumps whenever I crank it up.

7. My Girl - Temptations: One of the smoothest, most romantic songs ever recorded, period.

6. I Heard it Through the Grapevine - Marvin Gaye: Not sure why I included two Motown songs (maybe it was the sun), but this is just one of the most perfect pop songs ever.

5. Sshh/Peaceful - Miles Davis: My all-time favorite jazz artist, with his best lineup ever, doing one of the prettiest numbers of the genre. (I had it picked before I even saw Mezz's list - honest!)

4. (Stuck Inside of Mobile with the) Memphis Blues Again - Bob Dylan: I had to include something by the greatest pop singer-songwriter ever, didn't I? It was a toss-up between this one and "Desolation Row".

3. The Four Seasons: Winter - Antonio Vivaldi: Any good recording of this will do - I love baroque, and this is one of my favorite works - also, like #10 above, it can do double duty as a seasonal piece (I'll need something on that desert island to remind me of snow and winter!)

2. I Am the Walrus - The Beatles: Can't go anywhere without my Fabs, and this is still my all-time favorite song of theirs - psychedelic, goofy, obtuse, overproduced, and just friggin' wonderful.

1. 9th Symphony: 4th Movement, "Ode to Joy" - Ludwig von Beethoven: I'd prefer to take the whole symphony, but if limited to one movement, this is the one - glorious, inspiring, just one of the most incredible pieces ever written. Again, any good version will do, but I'm still partial to the version from the 1960's with Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra. (Honorable mention: Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus")

Just missing the cut:
Brandenburg Concerto #2 - J.S. Bach
The Boxer - Simon and Garfunkel
Baba O'Riley - The Who
My Favorite Things - John Coltrane
Sister Jack - Spoon
Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect - The Decemberists
Use It - The New P*rnographers
Shine On You Crazy Diamond - Pink Floyd
The Great Curve - Talking Heads
Music for 18 Musicians - Steve Reich

Poem of the Week (more or less):

It's been ten years this summer since I started writing poetry again after a long, long hiatus. This is one of the first ones I wrote that summer, and it appeared in a journal called Maelstrom in 2001:


Three plump tomatoes,

products of my late summer garden,

sit on the kitchen cutting board

in a triangular array,

each a bit smaller than the other

but every one just as red,

awaiting their fate.

Today, they are almost decorative;

tomorrow, they’ll be someone’s salad,

split open by serrated knives,

sliced, cubed, even crushed,

their thin seeds and juices

staining the wood.

They look so peaceful now, so red

in the terrible white kitchen.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Buy My Book! Buy My Book!

Those of you who are fans of the short-lived animated series "The Critic" will get the joke. For those who don't, "The Critic" was about a movie critic named Jay Sherman, voiced by Jon Lovitz, and brought to you by the same folks who produced “The Simpsons”. It was a wonderfully funny send-up of the movie, TV and entertainment business in general, and chock full of movie spoof scenes. One episode was a spoof of the Stephen King-based film “Misery”, with Jay held captive by a deranged fan. In the fan's apartment was a life-sized promotional animated cut-out Jay holding a copy of his latest book, waving its arms and shouting, “Buy my BOOK! Buy my BOOK!” That’s what I feel like doing, yet I don’t want to get that obnoxious about it. It’s just that the arrangement I have with Finishing Line Press makes it necessary to push it hard during the pre-sale period. I’m getting worried because as of this writing, I have only sold 18 copies so far, and I need to sell 37 more by August 28, or I won’t get a first printing (250 copies including 25 free to me). So this is my final appeal: Buy my BOOK! To those of you who have already: thanks so much, and please be patient till it finally is released in mid-October. Those of you whom I see in person, I will be glad to autograph it if you wish. To the rest of you: I know you have the best intentions, but don’t procrastinate – please order it today! Go to, click the tab for new and forthcoming releases, and scroll down alphabetically to my name and my book. Thank you for your time and attention. Sincerely yours, Bruce.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Rehearsals for Retirement?

Well, blog, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and post more often, even at the risk of becoming inane and boring. Well, more inane and boring, anyway. The summer has been a pretty good one so far. This week my wife and I are “childless”- our youngest is off to Boy Scout camp again and our second-youngest, who has been back home for the summer, is off on a cross-country road trip. So the missus and I planned a two-night getaway at a B&B in Lancaster County, PA. Unfortunately, the owner called us the night before and told us he had air-conditioning problems, so we decided to cancel our plans and spend our three days off at home. It was wonderful, kind of a “rehearsal for retirement” – doing things at an unhurried pace, going out to dinner, sleeping in, puttering around, shopping, even setting up a new bed for ourselves (wink, wink). I could get used to this. No bingo or bus trips yet, though.

Good news in poetry: My poem, “Old Man at Bedtime”, has been nominated for a Best of the Net Award by the online journal Thick with Conviction. It’s one of two poems I’ve written about my late father-in-law, and both have earned me some accolades. I think he’s smiling down on me.

Baseball: How ‘bout them Phillies? Seven games ahead in first place, last time I checked. Let’s hope they can keep the lead and make the playoffs again – and dare I say it – even the World Series, for the second year in a row. (Pardon my skepticism, but as a long-time Phillies fan I’m old enough to remember their colossal collapse of 1964.) Their hitting – especially Rollins – is picking up again after a bit of a slump, and they have a surplus of good starting pitchers all of a sudden. Getting Cliff Lee was a major coup, and that kid Happ is looking like a Rookie of the Year candidate – what a gem he pitched the other night! GM Amaro even suggested they may go to a six-man rotation. It’s a pleasant dilemma when you have to decide whether to keep Jamie Moyer or Pedro Martinez in the rotation. The only weak link is the bullpen – Brad Lidge this year seems like a shadow of his former self.

Music: I just realized that I never posted anything about the XPoNential Music Festival, the annual event I attended about two weeks ago at Wiggins Park in Camden. It’s a 3-day affair, but I went on Saturday (all by myself, it turns out). A bit hot, but a fine day for music. Steve Wynn and Pete Yorn rocked, local bands East Hundred and Illinois were excellent, John Gorka was great as always, The Bacon Brothers were surprisingly good, Yeasayer (see below) were a revelation, local gal Sharon Little was sexy and bluesy, They Might Be Giants were quirky and fun as expected, and The Hold Steady were awesome and rockin’ as expected, till rain shortened their set.

I just downloaded two albums that I’m enjoying:

1. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix – This French band is upbeat, breezy and poppy with a splash of electronica, and the album kicks off with two of the best songs of the year, “Lisztomania” and “1901”. It’s already making a bunch of best-of-the-year lists, and will probably make mine as well.

2. All Hour Cymbals by Yeasayer – I saw these guys at the XPoNential Music Festival this year, and they were impressive, with an eclectic, progressive mix of rock and world music styles, and tight harmonies. This is their debut album from last year, and it too got a lot of favorable reviews. The music is almost impossible to describe, so all I can say is give it a listen.

Poem of the Week: Here’s a summer poem with a slightly erotic edge that appeared previously in Thick with Conviction:


On the weekend, you were a steady rain.

Yesterday, when you were mostly cloudy,

it was hard to read your sky.

But today you’re bright sunshine and warm

with a light southerly breeze

and a high in the upper 80’s.

Everything blooms around you

and fragrances follow your path.

I want to meet you on the veranda

as lemonade glasses sweat the afternoon.

Let’s generate a strong Bermuda high.

Tonight, let’s make a little thunder in the bedroom,

and glisten afterward, twisted in dampened sheets.

It’s not your heat, baby,

it’s your humidity.