Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mr. Playboy



[Literature, Biography, Reading, and some bunnies]

I just finished reading Mr. Playboy, the biography of Hugh Hefner. I can't quite explain my recent interest in Hefner and the Playboy enterprise. Regular readers know I really like the Girls Next Door but this read did remind me of a few things.

First, biographies are not my favorite form of literature. I enjoy them much more when they are of still living or only recently demised central characters. Otherwise, they begin to quickly become fiction based on the prejudices of the biographer. This one is already partly that way because the writer states right up front that although Hefner fully participated, the conclusions were the authors and the subject did not agree with all of the interpretations made.

I guess that is the nature of a biography, we surely don't want the subject to provide the social or political context of their own life. But in this case, I really wanted to know when Hefer disagree with the grand social contexting the author provides.

Like so many others, I have not seen a Playboy is decades. I found the analysis of how Playboy moved in and out of the cultural mainstream to be reasonable. I had forgotten the Reagan administrations attacks on pornography (The Meese Report) and I only peripherally remembered the other high and low points of Hefner's life, which mirrored almost exactly the corporate life of Playboy Enterprises.

My primary critique of the book is simply that it is an academic biography. Steven Watt, the author, is a history professor who has written to previous biographies on Henry Ford and Walt Disney. The style is not dry but equally not engaging. I should be tempted to read the Disney work but the thought of plying my way through another 500 pages of Mr. Watt's speculation is numbing. 

There is another, more ambitious Hefner book out there, I would give you the alluring details, but I think I had better pitch it to Mr. Playboy first lest someone steal my notion.



Monday, April 27, 2009

WSOP: World Swine of Poker


[Poker, Swine Flu, World Series of Poker]

World Series of Pigs? World Swine of Poker?

If you have never been to the World Series of Poker at the Rio in Las Vegas, here is a fact you might want to consider this year. People get sick. Long hours of playing poker, not sleeping, eating poorly, drinking more than normal, lots of late night distractions. Sleep, when you get it interrupted by housekeeping staffs and tournament schedules. Add to that the cards and chips that move from player to player at break neck speed and players who are sick, incubating or carriers and well...

"The Amazon Room at the World Series of Poker is the perfect storm for a swine flu outbreak."

On some level there is always the "poker room crud" or the "tournament wheezes" that break out at any big tournament series. Put that many players and staff together for that long a time and someone gets ill and passes it on. Transmission is just too easy at the poker table. Then suppress the normal immune systems of many players by running a six week long series in Las Vegas with all of its "other temptations" and well you see where I am going with this.

But generally speaking people disappear for a few days and hole up their rooms, ordering ginger ale from room service. This year could be different. They are canceling nearly all public events in Mexico to try and stave off the epidemic, pandemic spread of the Swine Flu.

Here's hoping.... blah, blah, blah.

I don't want to be an alarmist, but......

I just don't see Texas Dolly playing a final table wearing a paper mask.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Life Gets In the Way


[Content Disclosure: Illness, Life Interruptus, Stamina]

It wasn't a swarm of hornets, the swine flu or a drunk driver but merely a morsel or two of food but that was enough to remind me again how fragile a little creature we can be. I awoke in the middle of the night about sixty hours ago with a full blown case of food poisoning. I have not eaten now in 66 hours and have no immediate plans to end that fast. I should note to my perhaps not as frequent readers that I have an aversion to scatological references and deeply descriptive accounts of passing maladies. so you will be spared discomforting details but not personal reflections.

At first I thought it was the flu, probably because of the sound and fury on the news the last several days and secondly because when you wake very ill in the dark of night, you tend to focus on physical symptoms and not mental acuity. Besides being sick, I was also thinking in start-up mode with no peripherals connected. Friday and Saturday, I spent in bed. Sleep was on the top of all agendas, so I slept. The "no-details" interruptions of sleep were followed by cold towels and more sleep.

Today, I can type but I am guessing my wit, wisdom and insight are running without enough coolant. What I have noticed is how fortunate I am to have a life that I was able to simply go to bed. I wasn't going to be fired, no pressing corporate proposal was going to be derailed, no deadlines would be missed. I admire and pity those individuals who literally would have slugged through this illness by keeping up with their appointed rounds. Parents come to mind, particularly parents who are caring to kids who have the illness too. Small business owners--you don't go to work, the business doesn't open. I grew up in a family like that, I know my dad went to the store many times when he should have stayed in bed. I admit when I ran the business for several years after college that was the only job I have ever had where I would and did go in feeling like something nasty warmed over.

Now, well I am fortunate that when life gets in the way, I can pull a comforter up over my head and wait until the dark cloud moves on. Right now, I think I need a nap.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reality or Something Like It


[Content Disclosure: Reality Television, Guilty Pleasures]

Yes, I admit it I like reality television. However, I have both discrimination and taste; neither of which is to be found in the shows I like. The truth is I distain and have never seen most of the pseudo-reality squalor that passes for entertainment. Meaning: No Idol, No Amazing Race, No bitch-slap in the kitchen shows, No Survivor, No shows at all where some expert verbally abuses the contestants, and No shows with weigh-ins.

So you ask: What do you watch? Well I am the Poker Shrink, so I like the shows with massive psychological content. My very first favorite was The Osbournes. I have said before, when anyone tells me they come from a dysfunctional family, I tell them to buy the first season of the Osbournes, so that they might truly understand the concept.

For similar reasons, I really liked Intervention the first season and I sometimes still watch the first half of the show. The second half of each show, the actual interventions, are basically all the same: you ambush the evil, stupid, pathetic loser of a user, they resist, relatives cry while reading their heart-felt thoughts, the loser caves and goes off to rehab. Tedious. But the first half, where people with massive addictions allow cameras to follow them around while they stick needles in their arms, drink pint after quart of various beverages and gamble the rent, baby food and family jewels on some of the longest shots in creation. That part, I find fascinating.

Speaking of family jewels, the Gene Simmons Show was also a big favorite. Both because Gene is highly intelligent and incredibly greedy with almost no actual reflection on his part. Yet his kids have him read perfectly and actually get the opportunity to reflect on dad's addiction to money without him actually getting it. The playmate wife (Shannon Tweed) is the weak spot in the show but not so the playmates, playgirls, in my current favorite: The Girls Next Door.

Hugh Hefner's agreement to participate in the show was business genius and the progression and development of the project over four years has been incredibly interesting when you consider the collective IQ of the Girls is .. well .. above adequate. More on Hefner next time (unless life gets in the way).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rhythms of Life




[Content Disclosure: Life, Lifestyles, In-Between Times]


Great part of being a grownup, you never have to do anything. -- Peter Blake, House M.D.

Had a chance to do some catching up with some old friends yesterday. Satisfying to see and heard where everyone is at present and to see how little we have changed and how much we are different. At some point someone noted that the "average American" two parent family (two jobs, some kids) arises on a workday at 5:47 AM. My friends, who are not average, have no kids but do indeed have jobs; well they averaged out to just about 5:47 AM. I, on the other hand, throw the mean and mode all out of kilter. I get up when I want to get up. There are days when I am at the computer by seven and others where I need to walk and ponder before my fingers can tippity-tap on the keyboard. A few times I year I am still up at 5:47 AM, either because the muse or the never-ending final table has kept me up.

So the cynical Dr. House in the opening quote is definitely not talking about most adults. Indeed, other than not having to eat your vegetables, most adults do have to do lots of things they don't want to do. I find myself fortunate during this part of my life to have extensive freedom to actually do what I want to do without being filthy rich or blatantly a derelict. Writing is a very cool way to earn income. Yes, you do have to wonder if anyone will pay you for it next month or next year but when they do, it is a very interesting way to makes ones way in the world.

You call it surfing, I call it research. You call it: "getting something off my chest", I call it blogging. You call it a hobby, I call it a living. You say potato, I say a widely cultivated tuberous crop of the Solanaceae family.

To each their own but damn I do feel lucky at 5:47 AM every morning.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sonoma Cats II

[Content Disclosure: Cats, Felines, Kittens, Pussys]

Hard to believe I have been here in Sonoma for over two months, but that also means I am less than a month away from somewhere else. As promised the follow-up post to Sonoma Cats. That is the previously displayed Tigr (one of Matthew's clan) at the top, but how can you pass up a gorgeous orange tiger lounging on a lounge in the sun.

This next guy is the tiger from across the street, he likes to come over daily to visit the ladies who live in the various porches and cottages where I live. He actually will let me get a lot closer these days but I never managed both the camera and he kitty treats at the same time.

My Matisse looks a bit feisty in this shot. He really is a big lovable creature. Very big and prone to jumping into your lap while you are reading.

These two live on the cottage property and can take up perches on the eves where they can see the whole landscape and call out to me when I leave my place. Yep, they are short-haired Orientals. Very friendly and just about as many voices as Siamese.

Lastly, this is Michael's cat. A great hunter and property host. The neighbor's dog regularly gets chased away. Last night while we were enjoying the first barbeque of the season, we even got a little fox chasing in.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Writin' or not

[Content Disclosure: a bit of poker, a hunk of life, a twitter of a notion, a ponder of a potential, adrift in an ocean of verbs ]

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. -- Thomas Mann

There was a time when I was in my mid-twenties when I was determined to be a writer. From that experience I can honestly say that determination has nothing to do with be a writer. I suppose that is not a unique observation. Many endeavours require skill before commitment and at least for me, writing was one of them. If you can't you can't and banging your head against a wall you have no chance of climbing or painting is just crazy. You know the old watching the movie over and over waiting for a different ending.

When writing finally came to me, it was completely unexpected and not something I was seeking. But there it was one day, my voice at the tips of my keyboard and I just started to write.

Which brings me to the last week or so. I have been banging on two screenplays, nibbling around the edges of my sci-fi book and churning out gobs on internet SEO material and even getting a head start on my summer WSOP obligations. But nearly every day I have turned to this blog and come up empty, blank, move on. What is that about?

I know I ran into an old friend who started a blog and has managed four posts in just under a year. And I joined Twitter and found lots of folks have 140 character voices.

I think I will speculate myself out of my blog malaise. Blogging is a different form of writing, just google it. You will find cyber-reams of thoughts and even "rules" about what blogging is and is not. But from a personal level, there is an aspect of blogging that you either consider or you just accept and that is: Just how comfortable are you with putting your insides out there into the webosphere? Where is your privacy line? What won't you disclose? What is truly private and off-limits? Once you think you know this, try to blog every third day. Eventually, I guarantee, your "third day" will be an off day for you. Something is not quite right with your world and, of course, that is what is up for you and "should" be blog fodder. But you hesitate.

There really are rules of blogging. The ones that are important reside inside of you, in your heart, in your soul, in some deep dark recessed places. Until you come to grips with them, you will either show up only on the surface of your writing or you will post pictures of baked goods and sunsets. Nothing wrong with that, we just are more interested in hearing from your inner writer.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Someday This Will Be Over . . .


[100% that damn book; 12% whining; 34% more whining]


My wonderful co-author Amy Calistri has said most of what follows better than I could; perhaps, that is because men don't get to use an "afterbirth" metaphor quite as easily as do the ladies. As I write this, a printing press is turning out copies of Check-Raising the Devil. I can't change the last line of the first paragraph, no matter how much I want to. I can't tweak the chapter on tweaking. It's all locked down, done finished, over.

Am I glad not to be spending so much time inside of Mike Matusow's head; hell yes! Even Mike should spend less time there.

I also know I am experiencing what ever first-time (every time?) author feels when the book is out of their hands. But I am glad that poker fans will finally get the opportunity to hear Mike's side of the story. I can only promise that some of the tales will seem like Mike is covering up his guilt or blame, others will surely seem like way more of a confession than you ever would have expected but finally, there are stories in the book that no one has ever heard before and Mike was honest enough to tell them like they happened and never once asked us to tone them down or clean them up.

Amy promised on her blog that she would post the original first chapter. The one that didn't make the book. We will coordinate that day and post on both of our blogs.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Where's Waldo?


[Content Disclosure: Travels, Mt. Shasta and Some Poker]


I should be drifting back down to Sonoma in the next couple of days after a week in Weed. Actually I am getting close to my homeless date, my friend will be back to reclaim her cottage in Sebastopol in early May. With the WSOP starting at the end of May, I guess I should start looking for a summer rental in Las Vegas.

We now know the Matusow book will officially hit the stores on May 12th. I wish I could be enthused about that, but the final editing process ground a lot of the joy of accomplishment out of the whole process. But over a month to recover should help a bit.

The ever so slow scramble for WSOP media positions is in full crawl. The Shrink will be there for the entire Series again this year; stay tuned for assignment disclosure. I would like to predict that the planned twitter projects are overkill. Too much information for too small an audience. But then again, I didn't buy Google stock.

Finally, in the "All Good Things" category filed under 'Kittens I Have Known." Smokey has gotten very old since I last visited and I expect she will not be here next time I venture up to the Mt. Shasta area. We shared the bed as always and she remains in fine if subdued spirits. It has been over a decade of visits that I have shared with Smokey and she will be missed and warmly remembered.





Friday, April 03, 2009

Who Wrote That Song and Why?


[Content Disclosure: No Poker, Some Music, Serendipity]

I was digging around in my bag o'discs and found an old one from David. While I drove around Mt. Shasta today, I heard Jerry Jeff Walker make a reference in a live concert track to "being inspired to write this song, in the First Precinct jail." Hence this story:

After being arrested Fourth of July weekend 1965 in New Orleans for drunkenness, Jerry Jeff Walker found himself sharing a holding cell with dozens of street people, who had been rounded up in conjunction with a murder investigation. "Round up the usual suspects (and all the homeless)."

Among those those into the First Precinct cells was a street performer who used the alias of "Mr. Bojangles" clearly after the great negro performer Bill Robinson. As Walker tells it, the man told story after story but the mood darkened after he told about his dog being run over. To bring the mood (in the cell), someone suggested a tap dance and Mr. Bojangles obliged.

Walker always makes the point that the object of his song is not Bill Robinson but indeed this street performer, who Walker notes was white. Had to be, even the jails in New Orleans were segregated in 1965.

I wander around the InnerTube a bit to find some covers of Mr. Bojangles:
Video:
Sammy Davis Jr. (for Bea)
Audio: