Okay, it took a couple years, but I have become a fan of CapeCast, the video blog produced by Eric Williams at the Cape Cod Times (where I started my journalism career in 1980 after college).
Williams, who has a Ronco voice and a penchant for driving around the outer Cape with a video camera, wears a red and black checked Elmer Fudd coat and is fond of making up soundtracks for his digressions. The songs are usually credited to “Lovehandle”
Here he tours the impossibly ugly Forefather Monument in Plymouth and sings the “Giant Statue Song”
… I slept an hour later than usual, woke to grey skies, ate bacon and eggs instead of beneficial oatmeal, did rapid-fire errands, stopped by the herring run just as the day turned awesome (I saw a big school of herring waiting in the top pool), installed a new mower blade and mowed the lawn, bought a six-pack of Offshore Ale, strung up my rod with a new lure, and hit the prettiest beach on Cape Cod for two hours of casting practice (no fish yet) in the setting sun before rushing home and catching the last five innings of a four-hour classic of a baseball game against Yankees (who also lost a nailbiter to the Sox the night before), cooking the entire time (rillettes, duck leg confit, vegetable stock, hummous) screaming at the TV in the kitchen, and scaring the dogs.
I congratulated my esteemed neighbor for doing the right thing, and she told me about an profile of your humble narrator in the Barnstable Enterprise. I couldn’t find a copy, but someone dropped it by the house while I was running errands. I feel conspiciously auspicious. I’d point to it, but it’s not online and I am not in the mood for personal promotion.
A good friend dropped by and we got on the topic of seagull attacks and the time I watched a seagull poop into someone’s agape mouth aboard the Hyline ferry M/V Point Gammon when I worked on there as a deckhand in college.
Tomorrow I paint the bottom of the yacht and continue my gardening. My spring peas have sprouted and my arugula is showing itself. The tulips have opened and the alcove reeks of hyacinths.
I can’t blog about work for some reason, writer’s block and spring fever conspire to tie my tongue.
Reading Nigel Calder on Marine Diesel Engines and Peter Compton on Troubleshooting Marine Diesels. I am not a native motorhead but I like the concept of diesel engines, especially the image in my eye of rigging a replacement alternator belt out of a pair of pantyhose (pardon me mam, but can I have your stockings?) and fumbling in the dark in a wicked storm to close the seacock and clean the raw water intake.
I read Steven Johnson’s Ghost Maps after reading his tweet about The Invention of Air – loaded them onto the Kindle and read the former first; an account of the cholera epidemic of 1856 and the empirical proof the disease was transmitted through a corrupted well – and therefore was waterborne, and not, as was maintained by the health authorities, airborne via foul smells. I like medical detective stories and technical/scientific history – Berton Roueche’s Medical Detectives and Dava Sobel’s Longitude are favorites – and Johnson is spectacularly smart. The epilogue is out of place, but compelling nevertheless, as it makes a case for urbanism as a dense force for progress and attacking the bucolic vision of telecommuting that I was partially guilty of spreading in the pages of Forbes from here on Cape Clam in the early 90s. Johnson makes the point that the filth of London in the middle of the 19th century was poisoning and killing the very concept of mega-metropolises, but science and technology made the modern hive possible. Interesting thinking on modern squatters, the Slumdogification of the Third World, and how telecommuters make poor terrorist targets because you won’t find 50,000 of them stacked onto an acre in a skyscraper.
The Big One is reviewed below. I started on Ian MacEwan’s Saturday (following a strong New Yorker profile) and have yet to tackle the latest magazines, including the new Atlantic Monthly with a funny Facebook parody.
In the movie department. I still have some movies to finish in the Essential Art House collection. When I finish I’ll think about writing a post on each of the 50, but for now film criticism doesn’t feel like a strong suit. My son Eliot is providing me with Netflix queue advice, so I’m getting deeper into the Italians, having watched Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers yesterday on the plane from Seattle to Boston.
Watching a graphic rape and stabbing in black and white with subtitles while sitting in the aisle seat in row 16 on Delta may not be as heinous a public act as watching porn in the SUV on the Southeast Expressway during bumper to bumper traffic … with kids in the car … but I was horrified myself and had to build a blinder quickly out of the vomit bag and the current issue of Sky Magazine. Stay tuned for more films. Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies was a stand out. Yasijuro Ozu’s Floating Reeds was another. Watch this scene from Tarr. The dude is outstanding.
In the sporting department. I took in two actual ballgames whilst in Seattle. One with Mitch Ratcliffe in which the Seattle Mariners lost to the Detroit Tigers and again two nights later with colleagues and my stepbro Jos. Nick when the Mariners beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. I ate sushi at the ball game just to earn the right to say I have eaten sushi at a ballpark. I’d get slapped around and given a wedgie if I tried that in Fenway. I have watched, listened, or downloaded all 15 of the Red Sox games and am happy with their current winning streak. I am not a hockey fan right now — I’m too baseball OCD — but I do like to watch this commercial.
Last winter Mark Alan Lovewell, the fishing beat reporter for the Vineyard Gazette wrote that a new book about the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby had been optioned by the Dreamworks studio. Cool, I blogged. I’d pay to see that flick. The author of the optioned book, David Kinney, detected my blog post through the magic of the InterWebs and sent me an email asking if I’d like a copy to review. Sure, I said. Send it along.
I own about six feet of bookshelf space devoted to fishing books. There’s everything from how-to books such as Flounder Fishing and 99 Angling Tips from Lefty Kreh, to big important reference books like Fishes of the Gulf of Maine. In between are the few I pull down every few years and re-read; books like Dick Brown’s authoritative book on bonefish, Thomas McGuane’s 90 Degrees in the Shade, Peter Mathiessen’s Men’s Lives and the late Bob Post’s Reading the Water, the original book about fishing on the Vineyard. Until now, Post’s book has been the one to beat when tackling a subject as steeped in passion as the Derby, one of the oldest and most venerable fishing contests in the world.
It’s not often that a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter (Philadelphia Inquirer) sets his mind to fishing, but David Kinney took the kind of trip most anglers dream about in the fall of 2007; he fished the entire Derby with a fishing rod in one hand and a notebook in the other. In the new tradition set by David DiBenedetto a few years back in On the Run, Kinney inserts himself in the story as the eager student sitting at the knee of the venerable experts. With a big dose of humility and another of humor, Kinney does a great job of explaining the history of the Derby, the culture of the off-season Vineyard (and the on-season celebrity soaked world of waterfront wealth), and the great stories that go with serious fishing. He has pulled off a few feats most angling scribes can’t contemplate, most notably ingratiating himself into a closed secret society that makes the DaVinci Code look like a church bake sale. I can see why Dreamworks took the option on The Big One, there’s enough skull-duggery, intrigue, charges of cheating and lying to drive a dozen plots.
Kinney written a keeper of a fishing book, no mean feat in a genre that tends to get breathless with clichés and pedantic with tips that never seem so smart in actual practice. And spare us from the fishing book that clutters the story with recipes (even, my late mentor John Hersey was recipe-guilty in his Vineyard fishing classic: Blues). This is just a solid story, a great one in parts, thanks to the fortuitous coincidence that Kinney was hanging around with Derby winner and all-around angling ace Lev Wlodyka during “Sinkergate” – the amazing incident where a cow of a striped bass weighed in by Wlodyka was found to contain a pound and half of lead sinkers.
“Instead he reaches all the way into the farthest recesses of the stomach, and as his hand comes out there is a clattering on the dfloor at his feet. It sounds exactly like change falling out of a pants pocket. Martha thinks it is a joke at first, like that time the guy cutting open a leaderboard fish dropped a wrench out of his sleeve as he fumbled around in the stomach. It takes her a moment to see that nobody’s laughing. She looks at Lev and sees his face morph from shock to horror to embarrassment before he speaks.
“What the f#$k?”
“Inside Lev’s fish-of-a-lifetime, D.J. has found a fistful of lead weights.”
That’s a scene just made for Hollywood, indeed, it brings to mind the scene in Jaws when they gut open a shark and out falls a Louisiana license plate.
Kinney infiltrated one of the most close-mouthed, evasive, secretive, mendacious, fraternal secret societies in the world – Martha’s Vineyard fishing fanatics. Steve Amaral, Dick Hathaway, Whit Manter, Kib Bramhall, Nelson Bryant, Ed Jerome, Dave Skok, Chris Windram, Janet Messineo … these are names familiar to saltwater fishing fanatics throughout the eastern seaboard, perhaps the world, and Kinney hitches a ride with them in the fall of 2007, accompanying them and others to the beaches, rips and inlets of the island in search of the Derby winner. Along the way he weaves in sixty-plus years of Derby history, island culture, and current drama. Read this book: if only for the description of the complex culture that exists on the jetties at Menemsha – a place I avoided during that same Derby in 2007, when I used my boat to free myself from the crowd that lives there for 838 hours every fall. There is no better way to greet the spring fishing season in New England than to read a good book that confirms why we stand in the water, up to our knees, hoping against hope and the need for sleep for something to happen out there, in the dark, under the water on the end of our lines.
I leave you with the part that hit home the closest:
“People see Steve [Amaral] bringing in fish and they figure it’s all action for a fisherman like him, but they don’t see him on all those days when he comes home with nothing, all those nights when he’s working the beach and wondering why in the hell he’s out there and not home watching TV in his recliner. “Nothing’s easy in this business. You don’t go to the beach and they jump up on the sand.”
AdAge reports this old news (which has been sent to me by enough people that I have to comment)
“Thinking about letting a big-name blogger test-drive your new hybrid in the hope he’ll post a glowing review about it, or maybe sending some beverage products to an influencer, hoping she’ll spread the word?
“You might have to think twice, if the Federal Trade Commission follows through with its proposed plan to start regulating viral marketing and blogs.”
Libertarian sensibilities and First Amendment misgivings aside, I’d support a truth-in-blogging disclosure policy. I’m sickened by the ongoing”twilight of objectivity” as the traditional press fades away, and the online replacements — from review sites gamed by business owners, to payola agencies that build buzz for a fee — aren’t stepping in with any kind of ethical compass.
Those who play it straight will have no problem. I just want to make sure when I see someone raving about a product or service that I know the terms on how they came to try it. If they bought it themselves, all the better. If they took a test drive or loaner — then tell me. If they cashed a check for the “review” — they better disclose or I hope both them and the writers of the check get whacked for the deception.