Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas in the Delta


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pamela the Poet

She's known as the queen of Baywatch and star of Borat's fantasy, but did you know that Pamela Anderson is a poet? Neither did I. But Playboy thinks so...here's an excerpt from her debut piece published in the most recent issue, entitled "Musings from the bed of Pamela."

The youth ... The wild that rose up from the ashes. The adults ... Living and dead that fought for our rights ... Artists ... Sweet artists .... Hold on ... Crazy, the world goes on ... And goes ....

Dig it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

For Crissake...

A group of scientists has taken every single word out of every book from the 18th Century to the present, and compiled them in a database dubbed Culturomics. They claim that words are like genomes for our culture...hence the name. But is this true? I'd argue that only emotionally charged words and phrases (war, marriage, racial slurs, religious terms, etc.) can be thought of as such. The and's and or's are not as important. And then, what information about our culture can be gleaned from such numbers? Our level of pessimism or optimisim? Maybe. Our creativity? That's a little bit harder.

This theory can be tested at Culturomics' sister site, the Book Ngram Viewer. Simply type in a word or phrase to see how often it was used in a certain time period. Sadly, the use of both "love" and "joy" has sharply declined since the early 1800's. But not to worry..."in a pickle" is holding steady, and "for crissake" (which first appeared in the 1930's) is experiencing a tremendous rise in popularity.

But I think where it gets more interesting is when you start to compare the same word in different languages. For instance, in French and German literature, the word "love" is on the rise. In Russian lit, "love" had a crazy peak in the 1920's, but hasn't been used much before or since. And in Chinese, it wasn't even seen before the 1920's. Strangest of all, Spanish language books used the word like crazy in the early 1800's, but not much since.

So are we less loving than the Europeans? Did something happen in the Twenties to spike Russian love or introduce it to Chinese lit? And why did love disappear from Spain? While the data is interesting, conclusions are hard to find.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Workshop: Party On, Wayne

This is the season of parties--cocktails, dinner, gift-swapping, tree-trimming--yet, I've noticed there are very few poems about soirees and get-togethers. Which is strange. The elements are all there: decorations and outfits that can be either festive or garish, depending on your mood; rich, indulgent food and drink; and fascinating personalities you wouldn't normally come into contact with on such an intimate basis. So why so few poems about parties?

I propose we correct this. Let's write poems about holiday parties, whether they are of the intimate or wild and jolly variety. Let's gather the images of the season--the lights, the wrapping paper, the bedazzled sweaters, the food rolled into log shapes, the punch, the cookies, the red cheeks and noses, the obscure and inappropriate relatives--and hold them close. Let's celebrate!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Movie Monday: Who Would Play...

Unlike most classic Christmas movies, It's a Wonderful Life has never suffered a remake (although it has been adapted to other media). And it's no wonder...it is considered one of those perfect films: perfect stars, perfect story, etc. But, if it were to be remade, who would dare to trod where Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore came before? Here are some possibilities:

George Bailey -- Joseph Finnes














Mary (Hatch) Bailey -- Katherine Heigl














Mr. Potter -- Anthony Hopkins














Clarence -- Tom Hanks


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rhymes for Reagan

Because there just aren't enough poems about our 40th president...

Illinois students can enter their best verse in the Poems for the President contest, in honor of Reagan's 100th birthday. I predict many an ode to the Jelly Belly...

Monday, December 6, 2010

On Spiders

This year, as it got colder and darker, we discovered our heater wasn't working. It was busy--the Thanksgiving holiday, Christmas shopping, repairs to our new home--so we compensated with space heaters. One in the bedroom. One in the office. One in the bathroom. One by the couch. A few nights, when the temp dipped below freezing, we put them all in the bedroom and shut the door to the hallway to seal in the heat. It kinda worked. But when I discovered that I couldn't have the space heater and computer on at the same time as I was preparing my morning toast (or risk having to go outside to the breaker box in my slippers) I decided it was time to call in a professional.

He's a nice guy, the Chess Air man, and he knew right away what the problem was. Apparently, our spider population was productive enough that their webs completely blocked the pilot light from the heater's sensor. Now, I knew we had a lot of spiders in our house. They can be found in nearly every corner of every room. And once every month, I'll go around and suck them up with the vacuum hose. But I'll always leave one or two to get the bugs that eventually get inside. I guess that was a bad strategy. I guess I didn't have to worry about killing all the spiders, because there were plenty doing their spidery best right beneath our feet.

So Mr. Chess Air cleaned out the cobwebs, berated me a little for having such a bad "spider problem," and suggested I use bug spray to keep the heater working. Now, we're toasty warm, able to toast and type at the same time. But do we still have spiders in the house? The answer's yes, and I'll tell you why: the winter rains have begun in earnest, and I need my eight-legged soldiers to battle the coming onslaught of ants.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Weekend on the Farm

frost in the orchard

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Do Good This December

Yes, the holiday shopping frenzy is well underway. Have you checked off your gift list yet? If not, consider buying from Better World Books for your literary friends and relatives. You can find all the newest publications here as well as some great deals on used books. There are even movies, CD's, and package deals (3 books for $10? Right on!). Oh, and did I mention the free shipping? No $25 restriction on that either, for those of you used to the Amazon way of life (there's nothing more frustrating than when you're $1.02 under the limit).

Ready for the best part? Better World Books really is committed to a better world. When you check out, you can choose to offset the carbon footprint of your shipment by adding a few cents to your order. And if you click on the B.W.B. link from the International Book Bank website (they send books to needy populations around the world), a portion of your order will be donated to them.

So do something good this December, and order from Better World Books.