Early in my career…


Reading old clips from my first days as a small town newspaperman is a sad reminder that for me, “news” was definitely a four-letter word.

Bingo Unchained

BingoSomewhere, in a parallel universe, “Bingo” is probably the name of the Marx Bros.’ schnauzer. In our universe, however, Bingo is a game of chance that involves matching numbers drawn at random against others on a five by five matrix, with one axis corresponding to the letters B-I-N-G-O. The first to “spell” Bingo announces this loud and proud and wins whatever prize is at hand (cash, booze, eternal life).
Early versions of the game can be traced back to 16th century Italy, however, Bingo as we know it today wasn’t codified as such until the 1920s by a Pittsburgh carnie promoter named Hugh J. Ward. Despite, the ability to win cash, Bingo is to gambling as a Vargas pin-up is to porn. It’s good clean fun that’s apparently enjoying popularity among hipsters and those with hip replacements alike.

From twenty-somethings to pensioners, Bingo is the great equalizer in social games seeing as it’s a pastime predicated on pure chance and requires no strategy whatsoever. Basic knowledge of the alphabet and numbers (at least to 90) helps as does a couple cocktails and a sense of comic irony – at least when playing at the Park Slope Bingo Club in NYC. There, your hosts are a couple of wags who go by the Mad Men-era-inspired sobriquets Dick Swizzle and Perry Comb-over. Their main prize seems to be more drinks.

Predictably, there’s been a Cambrian explosion of bingo-related games online, many of which, like PartyBingo.com, emanate from the trendsetting UK, where it’s thought as many as 350 online Bingo sites currently operate according to BBC News.

Online or off, Bingo is like vodka – you can mix anything with it, hence the innumerable variations and customizations of its basic game play. Sports and popular culture themes are prevalent. Are we far off from Beatles fans playing “Ringo!” in which various tunes by the Fab Four are used instead of numbers or an Aussie version called “Dingo!” that uses baby names?

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a “version in Philadelphia involving drag queens on roller skates, to ‘cosmic bingo’ played under black light.” Bingo! We have a winner.

Pathetic Phallus, See (or is it Fallacy?)

Pathetic Phallus
Here’s what it really means, per Wikipedia: The Pathetic fallacy ascribes human, emotional qualities (feelings, thought, sensation) to inanimate objects, as if possessed of human awareness. And, yes, I agree that this is a long way to go for a dick joke.

Look Homeward Angel

PetalumaAfter two-and-a-half years of self-imposed exile in the East Bay, my family and I are repatriating to Sonoma County – specifically to my hometown of Petaluma. For me, the move marks an interesting chapter in my ongoing autobiographical opus, which I’ll likely lead with an epigram cribbed from Simon and Garfunkel: “Homeward bound, I wish I ?wa-a-a-s …”
But now I a-a-a-m.

Thinking of home I realize I’ve never read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel, which might provide the psychic fortitude I might need when “going home.” Due to some karmic snafu – be it destiny or derailment – when trawling the shelves of Copperfield’s Books used department, I found Tom Wolfe instead. Suffice it to say, I drank the electric Kool-Aid and was soon spiraling headfirst into New Journalism. I’ve never recovered. Years later, a subsequent sidewalk meeting with George Plimpton in front of Elaine’s in NYC, only deepened my affinities and here I am still writing first-person columns in newspapers. Admittedly, this is neither New nor Journalism per se, but it pays the rent. Part of it. Continue reading “Look Homeward Angel”

Video on the Radio, My Billboard Interview

BillboardI recently had a chat with Billboard editor Mike Stern about how radio peeps might inexpensively incorporate video into their bag of tricks. Yes, it may seem a tad counter-intuitive that radio stations need to make forays into a visual medium but since the web has become the unified field theory of all media, we apparently also need to see radio to believe it.
This happens to the best of them – remember This American Life‘s Ira Glass getting ready for his close-up on Showtime? The TV version of his show made it through two seasons – traditional radio stations, however, are typically on a daily grind so expect to see more live streams and a proliferation of YouTube channels filled with faces “made for radio.” Anyway, you can click-through to see my mug beaming back at you from the center of the page of Stern’s piece, aptly titled Video Actually Enhances The Radio Star (PDF).  More to the point, there are some good tips for those who wish to make some decent video on the cheap. And if your needs transcend iPhoneography, consider dropping the gang a line at FMRL. Otherwise, just remember there are no second takes on live radio but there are viral blooper videos. Continue reading “Video on the Radio, My Billboard Interview”

Did Shakespeare Smoke Weed?

shakespeare pipe
Doobie, or not doobie? That is the question that circulated the Internet a couple years ago when anthropologist Francis Thackeray, the director of the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, suggested that William Shakespeare might have sought creative inspiration by smoking pot.

In 2001, a study conducted by Thackeray found marijuana residue in pipe fragments unearthed in Shakespeare’s garden, reported the journal Live Science. Though cannabis was cultivated in England during Shakespeare’s day for rope-making and other textiles, it’s unclear if it was used recreationally. It was possible references Shakespeare’s work itself, that encouraged Thackeray’s line of inquiry.

“Some Shakespearean allusions, including a mention of a ‘noted weed’ in Sonnet 76, spurred Thackeray’s inquiry into whether Shakespeare may have used the mind-altering drug for inspiration.”

Did Shakespeare Smoke Weed?

Two years ago, Thackeray apparently contemplated petitioning the Church of England to open the Bard’s grave and undertake a chemical analysis of his hair and nails in search of traces of marijuana in whatever keratin might still remain in the samples. There has been little mention of the project since. Because, I surmise, Thackeray is no longer high.

The sonnet below is one of the alleged references that inspired Thackeray to see green:

Sonnet 76

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth and where they did proceed?
O, know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.

Besides the aforecited “noted weed,” I could see how, in certain states of mind, phrases like “To new-found methods” and “compounds strange?” could be pot allusions. Especially after a bong hit. Two questions come to mind, however – Why is it there are some always eager to pin the inspirations of creative types on dope? And secondly, who cares? W.H. Auden took benzedrine in the morning seconal at night but few mention it in the same breath as his poetry. Perhaps he is most qualified to speak to the hazards of reading between the lines of Shakespeare’s poetry – as he wrote in an introduction to the works:

“Probably, more nonsense has been talked and written, more intellectual and emotional energy expended in vain, on the sonnets of Shakespeare than on any other literary work in the world.”

Green Indeed is the Colour of Lovers.

William Fakespeare: A Forger’s Folly

Literary HoaxesIn her aptly named tome, Literary Hoaxes: An Eye Opening History of Famous Frauds, Melissa Katsoulis recounts the bold and bizarre history of William Ireland, whose literary legacy puts the “dung” in bildungsroman (bah dum dum). Born into 18th century London, the teenaged Ireland was long thought an idiot by his father who was an avid collector literary relics and, as was vogue in his era, desired most those artefacts that had been under the pen of William Shakespeare.
The young Ireland’s first foray into forgery was an inscription in a book from Shakespeare to Queen Elizabeth. It worked. His father was delighted, no doubt blinded to the fakery by his own bardolatry. Ireland followed with additional letters and ephemera, always procured from an anonymous source, which led somehow inevitably to the “discovery” of a (drumroll, please)… “lost” play by none other than the Bard himself. Continue reading “William Fakespeare: A Forger’s Folly”

The Origin of 420

medical marijuanaIt’s April 20, otherwise known as 4/20, which has become something of a high holy holiday for smokers of pot and their advocates (yea, pot smokers!).  I got curious about the origin of the term “420” as regards marijuana and found this delightful account on Wikipedia (where else?), with a half dozen citations to attest to its veracity. I love the fact that the term’s point of origin is a Marin County high school  of the 1970s – you know, before the yuppies, hot tubs and cocaine of the 80s.  Continue reading “The Origin of 420”

I Wrote the Plays of William Shakespeare

April 23 marks both the birth and death day of The Bard. No one has enjoyed as much literary fame in the English language as William Shakespeare, despite being alive for a mere 52 years (and dead for nearly 400). For that matter, no author has also endured so much scrutiny as to the authorship of his own work. Conspiracy theories abound. Who wrote the plays of Shakespeare? Kit Marlowe, Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth?

None of the above. I, and I alone, wrote the plays of William Shakespeare. Continue reading “I Wrote the Plays of William Shakespeare”