Thursday, June 29, 2006


I'll have to start a new file. This time I got a letter from an editor and IT IS NOT A REJECTION! I wrote an essay entitled "Pimping" about the perversion of the Socratic method used in medical education. Pimping, in the context of medical education, means asking a student a question he has little if any chance of answering correctly in order for the teacher to establish his power over the student. I sent the original essay to Verbatim, The Language Quarterly, which is billed as offering "Language and linguistics for the layperson since 1974." Check out their website. You can read back issues online. There's some pretty clever stuff there. After about a month, I got an email from Erin McKean, the editor, who said she would like to accept the essay if I could shorten it from its original 1900+ words to less than 1500. That night, I pared it down to 1488 words and resubmitted it. She accepted the revision, and I signed the agreement to publish "Pimping" yesterday. Unlike a lot of literary magazines, Verbatim actually pays their contributors. I won't be retiring from radiology just yet, but Mary and I could have a couple nice dinners out, or maybe one really nice dinner with the proceeds.

Monday, June 26, 2006

All Things Elektro

On Palm Sunday, 2006, Mary and I drove to Mansfield, Ohio, to see an exhibit concerning robots built by Westinghouse, which used to be headquartered in Mansfield. The star of the exhibit at the Mansfield Memorial Museum was Elektro, the Moto-Man. I wrote an essay about the trip, entitled "Robot Redux," which I have submitted to a couple of literary journals. Eventually, the essay may show up here, but for now, I can't post it until I find out if it will be published elsewhere.

I have been asked repeatedly why I would want to go to Mansfield, Ohio to see a robot. I don't know, but Elektro may symbolize a simpler time, a time when science and technology were viewed as positive forces, before people thought about the consequences of pollution and alienation that technological advances have wrought. Robots like Elektro would make for a better life in America, or so it seemed when he first appeared at the 1939 New York World's Fair. You can learn more about the 1939 NYWF and other World's Fairs at It's free to register at this forum. There are some hard core World's Fair collectors and aficianados at this site. Another blog that discusses Elektro is that of Kimberly Blessing, who is advocating Elektro for a spot in the Robot Hall of Fame. Click on the link to cast your vote. That's it for now. There will be more about Elektro in future posts.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Frank and Joe Show

Last night, Mary and I went to the Elkart Jazz Festival and saw one of my guitar heroes, Frank Vignola. He was there with Joe Ascione. The two of them are known as "The Frank and Joe Show." The current lineup includes Frank on guitar, Joe on percussion, Rich Zucor on percussion, and Vinnie Raniolo on guitar and bass. They have 3 CDs: 33 1/3, 66 2/3, and the latest, Submarine Bus. During the set we saw, they played the standards, Begin the Beguine and My Prayer, from the 33 1/3 and 66 2/3 CDs respectively, and otherwise played originals like Vinnie the Urologist, Barry's Trading Soybeans, and BBBBBADLP. All good stuff, and funny. The best part is that Bucky Pizzarelli and Jake Hanna were among the jazz players who were to follow Frank and Joe. They were standing in the hall and Frank and Joe called them into the room to sit in for one song. Bucky chose "Sing, sing, sing." It was great! This was the first time I've seen Frank abandon his signature archtop for a flat top acoustic guitar.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Another San Francisco Dead Author

I didn't realize it at the time we were there, but Washington Square Park in San Francisco is associated with a dead alcoholic writer besides Jack Kerouac: Richard Brautigan. While idly web surfing today, I was reminded that Brautigan and his wife posed next to the statue of Ben Franklin (see previous post) for the cover of Trout Fishing in America. It's been quite a while since I read that one, but I think I still have it packed away in a box somewhere. In a more accessible box, I have a collection of stuff my mother never threw away, including a church youth magazine entitled Youth (clever, eh?) dated September 24, 1967. The lead article, "Haight Ashbury and the New Generation," seems even today unusually progressive for the Church of the Brethren. It was written by a minister at the Glide Memorial Methodist Church in Haight Ashbury. One reason I've kept this magazine is that Brautigan's poem, "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace," is reproduced in the article:

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

And so on for two more stanzas talking about pines and electronics and deer strolling peacefully past computers. Pretty crazy stuff for 1967! One of my first composing efforts was setting this poem to music, sitting in my room with my dad's no-name acoustic guitar (which I also still have).

By the way, I wore a pair of glasses pretty much like the guy on the cover of the magazine in the sixties. Eventually mine had the obligatory white fabric tape holding them together after I wore them playing football.

Before I quit for the night, I'm going to post one more relic from the box--my first publication:

It's a riveting tale of our second grade class's field trip in 1961, visiting the local telephone company office, the fire station, and riding on a train. It was neatly transcribed by our teacher, Mrs. Snider and put in the mimeographed yearbook she made for us.

Monday, June 19, 2006

More Dead Author Hangouts

We're back from San Francisco now. While in the North Beach neighborhood, we stopped by the Marconi Hotel, where Allen Ginsberg lived when he came to San Francisco in 1954.We also stopped by 1010 Montgomery Street, where Ginsberg wrote "Howl" in 1955.
And we checked out Washington Square Park, where Jack Kerouac is alleged to have consumed a few bottles of port. The statue is Ben Franklin.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Visit to Jack London State Park

Mary and I are in California for a week and today we went to Glen Ellen to see the property where Jack London and his wife Charmian lived in the early twentieth century. London proclaimed himself a socialist, but that didn't prevent him from acquiring 1400 acres in the Sonoma Valley. I wonder what he would have said if some of his comrades had showed up wanting to occupy his land? Anyway, he spent his last years here, experimenting with organic farming. London died in 1916 of renal failure. His ashes were buried under this big rock in the woods on his property. That's yours truly posing next to the fence around the grave. I'll add this to my budding collection of pictures of me next to landmarks related to dead authors. So far that includes Edgar Lee Masters's house and grave in Illinois, and an apartment building in Greenwich Village where Allen Ginsberg lived.


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