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Poetry Corner with Richard Dalton

Richard Dalton, apropos of last week's review of Lincoln Lawyer, the movie:
I've read it and highly recommend it. Great characters and a wonderful new vector for Connelly who may have been feeling burned out by his intense detective series. There are two sequels with the same characters.
He also checked in with a note about writing to understand how you feel about something, combined with a poem about Las Vegas, which we both grew to hate during the years of Comdex, when we were required to go there every year for a week. It was apropos of my note last week about journals.

Newsletters, blogs, journals, memoirs, biographies......and one more--poetry, which can (or may not be) another way to capture what's happening inside.

As you may recall, I have written some poetry that I consider to be a direct channel for my feelings. I've been a bit concerned that I haven't written much poetry in the last decade. I was in Las Vegas last week, doing an annual presentation for senior managers in the conferencing industry. I have a visceral dislike for Las Vegas and always feel like I escape when I fly out of McLaren (appropriately via Wayne Newton Boulevard, the gateway to the airport). This aversion goes back to the bad old COMDEX days that you know very well.

I was waiting for the second day of the conference to start when I wrote this poem. It only took fifteen minutes, which is typical, although it's fair to say that this poem has been in gestation for about 30 years. In any event, I believe my poetry is how I am honest with myself about my feelings. Whether others like it or not is really beside the point, but as you know, it's good when your writing causes others to understand and share your feelings.

On my 30th(?), 40th(?) Sentence to Las Vegas

Hundreds of stretch Hummers and Escalades
whisk punters past
the non-casino reality

Did you pass
weary keno runners,
cocktail waitresses
and room cleaners?

Did the flashing lights hide poverty
that mirrors
the worst of south-of-the-border misery?

Or acres of shabby stucco apartments
bled by the sun of any color?

Payday loans on every other block
competing with Adult Superstores?

Grizzled street folk
panhandling players
as they as haul cups of quarters out of casinos?

"Whaddaya say, Honey?"
"Let's go blow
a few bucks on the tables."

"We deserve it."

Richard Dalton
March, 2011

Political Briefs


4 Stars out of 5
Director Greg Mottola has done something that I thought nearly impossible. He has created a film with heart and soul that is centered around a CGI character. Writers Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, who are also the co-stars of the film, must also take a lot of the credit. But in an era when the special effects tail has a tendency to wag the movie dog, somehow this trio got it right; this is a funny film in which the third lead just happens to be not real. Mottola, Pegg and Frost probably had a big assist from Seth Rogen, who provides the voice of Paul, the titular alien. A good friend of mine pointed out that the humor in this film is exceedingly juvenile. Well, that's as may be, but not a single minute of this 90 minute film passed by without me laughing. Be sure to stay for the extra bits under the credits. Worth a special trip to see.

Dern spots great job ad, Peterman on vocabulary and Congress, Dan Grobstein File

Daniel Dern found a very interesting ad for a journalism job.
Kent Peterman turned me on to an amusing vocabulary exercise. Rather than reprint his (excellent) list and take up a lot of space, I searched for a longer and equally amusing list of pompous proverbs. He also passes along a small note about "fiction:"

The Wizard of Oz is more than 70 years old. Nowadays, if Dorothy were to encounter Men with no brains, no hearts, and no courage - she wouldn't be in Oz - she'd be in Congress.

Dan Grobstein File

Mali Journal

My older daughter is in Mali with the Peace Corps.

She reports: So, I'm in Sikasso after having spent a week at my site.  It was a good week.  It was a little intense, as I was mostly with Malians, but I had one day where the Peace Corps came to check on me and then they gave me a ride to my banking town where I saw where the nearest other trainee's house is (right across from the bus station, so super easy to find), and talked with a third year volunteer who lives here in the capitol. 

Also my last day in village a current volunteer who lives 7 km off the main road in the opposite direction (I'm also 7 km off the road, so we're 14 km apart and share a bus stop village, Dugukoloubugu) came by to visit, and she ended up spending the night so we could bike to the main road together to flag down a bus.  It was a little odd because in the US someone I'd never met wouldn't stop by for a sleep over unannounced, but it worked out fine because she's cool.  She's been here since July.  Her Bambara is obviously better than mine so everyone in the village is kind of wondering when I'm going to get some language skills too.


My tutor does speak some English, but he actually seemed relieved when he found out I could speak French, so I think we're going to do my Bambara lessons in French.  We did a practice session for a couple hours and his French and Bambara are both very clear and easy to understand.

There is a lot going on in N'tjila.  We did a lot of "greeting," so basically we just went around and said hi to people and I got introduced, but I also attended a caisse mobile (local bank) meeting, visited the women's garden, and met some women who do cloth dying.  They also already know about drying and canning fruit, and they're making good quality shea, so I'm going to be building on a solid foundation rather than starting from scratch.

I don't get phone reception in my village.  I get some reception on the top of a hill next to the school if I really need to call out, and I can SMS from next to a tree in the middle of a field.  No joke.  There are two land lines or "cabines" in the village, but I found out that while they can receive and make reliable calls, they need to be charged and need to have credit to work, so they aren't always going to be in service.

My banking town doesn't have internet, but I'll probably get my mail box there.  There is a market on Sundays which I'll probably come in for.  I can either bike in, bike to the main road and flag down a bus or taxi, or go on the special once a week taxi special for market day.

Sikasso didn't have internet or electricity when we first got here, but obviously it does now.  Internet is slow, but apparently better than it was a couple months ago.

Journal Writing

My younger daughter was talking to me the other day about keeping a journal. She's been advised that instead of just writing quotidian descriptions of her life, she should pick a person, a place, a thing or an incident each day and write about that. I don't think I have a talent for close observation.

And I know I am unlikely ever to need research for a novel, because I stopped writing fiction when I was 13 for a very good reason--my fiction was crap. I am great with non-fiction, and that's probably where I will stay. Anyway, I got to thinking about the times in my life when I have kept a journal, and the times I have gone back to reread it, and three things seems certain; one, we never know what kind of moment we're in when we're in it; two, don't trust your memory, and three, perspective is a function of experience plus time.

A few years back, I wanted to share with my wife the journal entries I wrote around the time we met. Alas, it turns out they were bland to the point of embarrassment. She may have known I was the one from the first, but it took me a while to catch on the the obverse proposition.

There are two examples where actually reading my journal embarrassed me. I am a story teller, and I discovered that stories I had told for 40 years about my time at the MIT radio station were just plain contrary to the facts. I was, in fact, creamed in the election for General Manager, but I did get more than two votes. Also, I have romanticized the time I spent in a relationship when I was a young man. Here, reading my journal was truly salutory. Apparently, I was in near constant emotional pain for the entire 18 months the relationship lasted. I surely don't remember it that way, but I begin to see why my friends were relieved when we broke up.

Finally, I have written two versions of my biography, with my daughters as the primary target audience. They are lukewarm about the efforts, because they don't feature prominently in them. And that is a matter of perspective. My autobiography is all about me, and that shouldn't come as a surprise. But given that my wife and children are the most important things in my life, you'd think I'd have the sense to write more about them. Perspective. It's hard to come by.

Pure GOP Hypocricy, Conflict Of Interest, Briefs

Pure GOP Hypocricy
Let's make this a viral internet meme folks. There is no better example of pure Republican hypocricy than these four back-to-back news releases by a cut and burn GOP congressman: Not Clear On The Concept. I am sure he will have scrubbed his site by the time you read this, but I checked it. They are there, just like the article says.

Conflict Of Interest

"Federal Housing Administration Commissioner David H. Stevens will head the Mortgage Bankers Association after he leaves his current post, sources familiar with the matter said." Last week his story was the he had not accepted any job offers. So what is he doing while he is your employee? "He’s been deeply involved in several high-profile initiatives that involve the mortgage banking industry, including current negotiations that will determine what kinds of fines and penalties might be imposed on mortgage servicers who took part in shoddy mortgage foreclosure practices." The term "shoddy mortgage foreclosure practices" translates as swearing out false affidavits, forging documents, committing perjury, and otherwise defrauding homeowners of the title to their homes which title the mortgage industry thought it had secured but which security it apparently lost in the case of several million homes due to what might be diplomatically described as sloppy practices. During the negotiations, Mr. Stevens has the ability to save his future employers (the MBA and its members whose offer he had not accepted last week) several trillions of dollars. But not to worry, he has (according to anonymous sources) been in touch with the HUD general counsel "since he started talking with MBA to ensure that he has followed all relevant ethics rules." Be assured because The Washington Post alleges on its own authority with no stated source that Mr. Stevens "will have no further contact with the MBA or any of its member organizations with respect to any matter pending before  HUD." Neither Mr. Stevens, HUD, or The Washington Post have offered any assurance that Mr. Stevens will refrain from participating in the negotiations affecting a few trillion dollars of the money of the member organizations of his future employer which negotiations require no contact with his future employer and its member organizations.

Conflict Of Interest Revisited
"So when I’m greeted with something described as “Mary Meeker’s Brilliant, Tech-Centered Turnaround Plan for USA Inc,” you’ll pardon me if the first thing I want to know is “how do Meeker and her clients stand to get rich off of this.”


Lincoln Lawyer

4 stars out of 5
This is a very clever, funny, dramatic and involving film. Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei and Ryan Phillippe turn in first class acting performances. Director Brad Furman never drops any of the balls he has in the air, as the movie moves from humor to seriousness and back. John Romano (whose career goes all the way back to Cop Rock) has written a wondeful script. I don't know Michael Connelly's novel, upon which the film is based, but the film makes me want to read it. Tomei is McConaughey's ex, and Ryan Phillipe is an embodiment of pure evil as McConaughey's client. The film handles its exposition briskly, its plot development deftly, and its climax is both exciting and unexpected (except for the old rule about a gun you see in one scene needing to go off in another scene). Very entertaining.

Ready for IPV6? Dalton on dying newspapers, Edwin Diamond, Steve Coquet on the Right-Wing Threat, Dern spots Obama at Gridiron, Dan Grobstein File

The Internet ran out of "telephone numbers" (IP addresses) recently. No need for panic, the current supply will last for a while as the internet transitions from version 4 to version 6. I got my heads up from the Windows Secret newsletter. The internet now uses "phone numbers"  expressed in four groups of numbers between 0 and 255. For example, or The new IPv6 addresses appear as a group of eight numbers, each with four hexadecimal digits, such as:
You don't have to wait for World IPv6 day on June 8 to test your readiness; you can test your ISP now: Oh, and eventually, you'll have to replace every router in your house or office.

Richard Dalton found some data about newspapers, and an article that claims the loss of classified ads is what is killing newspapers.

My old journalism professor, Edwin Diamond, was the science editor of  Newsweek magazine in 1960. He wrote a prescient cover story that is being revisted this week.
The article includes an interview with Edwin's wife, whom he interviewed for the original story.
Reliving History: 'Young Wives With Brains' (In a special report from March 1960, NEWSWEEK investigated the changing lives of educated women in America. In this weekly feature, we dig into the NEWSWEEK archives to see how times have changed—or in some cases, haven't.)

Steve Coquet offers a link to a thoughtful analysis of the right-wing revival in the US:
Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here)

Daniel Dern passes along the link to a Transcript of Obama's remarks at the Gridiron Club.

Dan Grobstein File

  • I just watched "Inside Job" (rented it from Netflix). It seems to me that the filmmakers spent a lot of time interviewing economists and others and felt that they had to use the footage. Someone who knows little about the crisis would have been helped by more narration and animated explanation.
    OPINION   | March 14, 2011
    Op-Ed Columnist:  Another Inside Job
    More from the abusive bankers and their political friends. 
  • While I would be happy to see lots more solar, wind, tide and geothermal, I too would be happy if we could build more modern design nuclear generating stations. Oil is too valuable to burn. Fossil fuels are killing us slowly from pollution (cancer) and global warming just as a radiation leak would cause cancers. The unexpected derailment of a mile-long train carrying dangerous chemicals as it moves thru town is going to kill you just as dead. I was watching NHK World on my iPhone. They were working from a script. Anytime I'd turn it on the hosts were saying the same thing with the same shots. AlJazeera English (on iPhone and Roku) had actual coverage and useful interviews. I don't have cable tv so cannot tell you about CNN or the others.
    About Nuclear Safety
  • There's a whole lot more links at the Dan-O-Rama