The New Political Poetry?

Posted by Expert Gadget Reviewer on Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The recent ruckus at the UK’s Poetry Society has so far seen plenty of finger-pointing, gun-jumping, side-taking (but which sides? and who’s on them?), as yet unsubstantiated rumours of some supposedly shady goings-on, high profile resignations, and a(nother) quite funny rehash of one particularly reiterable scene from epic war film Downfall. Business as usual in poetry-biz-land, then.

Something that’s also been bandied about is the idea that the Poetry Society would be better off doing away with Poetry Review. Of course, I would never suggest that many, indeed most of the more fervent supporters of this idea are of an ilk that reacts very, very badly to repeat rejection slips. But I will say that one of the main, if not the reason I continue to be a paid-up member of the Society is to get my quarterly subscription to what has always been a thoughtful, provocative, entertaining, infuriating, but above all engaging magazine.

Yeah right, Ben, you would say that – you’ve got a poem in the latest issue! Ah yes, so I have. Well, shoot me down. Tell me it’s exactly the same as every poem that Poetry Review has ever published; bourgeois, nice & safe, formal pillar of mediocrity that it is. Then send me a copy of a real magazine, with avant-garde stuff that boggles the mind in its self-reflexive boundary-pushing, i.e. its brave disregard for not only sense and musicality, but also for the reader, who’s fast giving up on trying to wrestle something, anything from the brave new spattered word-shrapnel. Amen.

Now the cutting edge trend-vaulters have gone (or as ever, are one step ahead on the road to nowhere, scrolling down to the comments box) and I’ve stopped madly addressing myself, let me tell you that, truly, there’s some great stuff in the latest PR. New poems from Jamie McKendrick, Philip Gross, Daljit Nagra, Adam Thorpe; fascinating political letters to Crane, Milton and Shelley from John Burnside, Gwyneth Lewis and Neil Rollinson; reviews of Duhig, Cope, McDonald and others, including a round-up of debutants. The series of poems by David Harsent for the World Wildlife Fund, commissioned to accompany photographs as part of the ecological campaign Fragile Beauty, are especially compelling in their subtle, dark, questing arguments, as is the Centrefold perspective on Harsent’s work to date by poet-critic Sean O’Brien. Well worth a read.

And before I nip off to sort a nightcap, here’s a link to Dan Wyke’s blog, who kindly asked if he could feature my stab at translating Eugenio Montale’s “Il Balcone”. Needless to say I can’t speak Italian (back when I wrote the piece I worked from a mixture of literal translations and existing versions to first get a feel for the poem, before attempting to make my own), so I’m chuffed to have the poem praised by someone who can, and who’s also a talented poet in his own right. Check out his debut, Waiting for the Sky to Fall, to see what I mean.
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Mod Mom Furniture goes to Amish Country

Posted by Expert Gadget Reviewer on Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Last week, Katie (a whole OTHER wonderful story that will be told soon) and I set off for Dundee, Ohio to review the bedroom set samples and get prepared for the ABC Kids Expo in Louisville, KY in September and we found a whole lot more than just beds and dressers.  I've mentioned it before that I really feel like I hit the jackpot when I was put in touch with Ray Yoder of L&J Woodworking.  This trip just put the cherry on top.

I, like so many, knew very little about the Amish culture/order before meeting Ray Yoder last year.  I knew he and his family dressed in traditional Amish garb, that he was a very good, honest, upstanding man, and that we actually started our businesses similarly, out of the small garages back when. Funny to think we have quite a bit in common but we do. While we were in Ohio, we worked hard to finalize and tweak design samples but all the while, we were also getting to know Ray and his family better.  In fact, on the last day before flying out, Ray offered to introduce us to his wife and younger children we hadn't met yet.  We drove just a short gravel driveway up the way past his 30,000+ square foot L&J Woodworking shop that runs off of hydraulic power to a very cute home, not unlike you'd find in all parts of the country.  In fact, that surprised me on my last trip to Amish country because I'd assumed that Amish families live in either old white farm houses or log cabins...because I'm an idiot. The differences are noticeable but only if you're really looking.  You won't find electricity lines connected to Amish homes and you'll see lines of clothes drying out back.  Oh, and no cars, of course.  But otherwise, they're very similar to our homes. In fact, Ray's home is much larger than mine here in California.

Ray's wife was warm and open, just like Ray.  They shared how they live but even more than that, they shared so much of who they are.  Much more than I would have expected a business partner to share and I was honored to be on the receiving end.  We laughed and talked about things that affect every family in the world:  not enough time spent at home/too much work, kids not coming home at curfew,  and the balance between work and mom-hood. In fact, when Katie and I mentioned that our husbands do most of our laundry, she smiled and said, "Keep it that way," after showing us her laundry set-up which is a manual washer and wringer.

When we weren't getting lost on gorgeous, country roads or eating at Amish-style buffet restaurants, we enjoyed some down time at The Inn at Amish Door.  If you're in the Akron/Canton area, you have to book a room.  It's an unbelievably wonderful hotel with restaurant, shops, and indoor pool. I would love to share more photos of Ray and his facility, but I want to respect his privacy.  For now, enjoy the shots we took while pulling over on the side of the road, unloading a toy box, getting shocked by an electrical fence and quickly moving on our merry way.  We couldn't have looked more out of place but we felt right at home.

Bertie of the Corn

Maude Tractor

Bertie in a Buggy!
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Mod Mom Furniture Press Release

Posted by Expert Gadget Reviewer on Thursday, 30 June 2011


Mod Mom Furniture Announces U.S. Production Expansion

(LOS ANGELES, CA., June 20, 2011)  Mod Mom Furniture, a Los Angeles-based boutique manufacturer of mid-modern-era children’s furniture, recently announced expansion plans via a partnership with L & J Woodworking in Dundee, Ohio, increasing its national and international production capabilities.

Founded in 2007, by Kiersten Hathcock, each piece of Mod Mom Furniture has been individually designed and hand crafted by Hathcock, a self-taught carpenter and mother of two who until recently has managed all manufacturing out of her LA garage. “As a woman who started this company without carpentry skills or furniture design know-how, I’m thrilled to see it grow beyond my workshop,” says Hathcock.

Shortly upon leaving her job as a cable television marketing executive in the Midwest and relocating to Los Angeles, Hathcock discovered a need for quality, well-designed children’s furniture that would enhance—rather than detract--from the family living space. Her current line features an assortment of toy boxes with names like Maude, Noah, Gracie and Owyn.  All integrate a subtle mid-century modern design and are eco-friendly, achieving immense popularity in both in the United States and abroad.

By keeping production in the United States, Mod Mom Furniture can preserve its core values while expanding the brand through existing retailers and via the social media. Hathcock plans to introduce beds, dressers desks and play tables in the next two years. Each handcrafted toy box will now be shipped fully constructed from L&J Woodworking.

“I’m thrilled to be partnering with an Amish manufacturer in my home state of Ohio. It’s rare nowadays for American furniture companies to be able to keep production in US and I’m excited to be one of the few that is making it happen.”

Since its inception in 2007 in a Los Angeles garage, Mod Mom Furniture has sold its line of modern crafted-by-hand children’s toy boxes throughout the United States and Canada.  The line, which features five custom designs—Owyn, Gracie, Bertie, Maude and Noah, has been recently featured on episodes of Shark Tank and the Nate Berkus Show, along with its founder, Kiersten Hathcock.

 An expanded version of the Owyn series will be introduced at the 2011 ABC Kids Expo in September.  This newest Mod Mom line will feature twin beds with reversible headboards, a nightstand, and five and three drawer dressers.

For more information on Mod Mom Furniture and its product line, please visit

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Fav Biz Saturday: Name Your Wish Images

Posted by Expert Gadget Reviewer on Saturday, 25 June 2011

I was very fortunate, during the filming of Shark Tank, to meet some really wonderful people not to mention very smart, talented entrepreneurs.  The women behind Name Your Wish Images are two of my favorites from my filming experience.  I'm thrilled to share their business with you today.

Who They Are:  
April and Laurie 

What They Do:  We offer a diversity of personalized images which begin with original photography. We add any name(s) you wish to create unique customized gifts to delight family and friends. 

** I'm excited to share that they've recently partnered with Walmart and you can purchase one of their most popular creations here:

Check out their Facebook page as well for new updates!

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Fav Biz Fridays: Coming Soon...

Posted by Expert Gadget Reviewer on Friday, 24 June 2011

Ok, so it's been a crazy week. I've been out of town for a few days and now we have lots of sweet family in town for an LA vacation.  I've had to choose between Fav Biz Fridays and a shower.  I love all my friends with businesses but the shower won out today.

I'll post the new Fav Biz Friday edition on Saturday so I'm now keeping you in suspense til tomorrow AND I'm clean! :)
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Fav Biz Fridays: Patrick Caneday's Book - Crooked Little Birdhouse

Posted by Expert Gadget Reviewer on Friday, 17 June 2011

It's the first edition of Fav Biz Fridays!!  Every Friday I'm going to profile a favorite biz/entrepreneur in hopes you'll take my advice and check them out as well.  I won't steer you wrong people, I promise! I mean, come on, how many of you have secretly tried those fake glue-on toenails because I said they were cool.  What's that?  Not one of you? Sheesh, people.

Regardless, check out one of my favorite writers in the world....

I live down the street from a famous writer.  Not only is he a genius writer but he's the kind of friend you want to sit down with and share a bottle of wine and cheese on the heaviest plate in the world in his front lawn and yell at speeding cars.  I could go on and on about his book, Crooked Little Birdhouse, but instead I'll let a Pulitzer Prize Winner and a published author tell you how great it is.  After all, you haven't tried the glue-on toenails yet based on my recommendation. :)

From AL MARTINEZ, LA Daily News and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist:
               "I love Patrick Caneday's work. He seeks out the humanity in us and writes about it in the kind of seamless prose that any author would envy, in a style that only a few can achieve. I have always looked forward to reading his columns and now I have them at hand to consider them in pleasure. Thanks, Patrick, for the immensity of the gift you have given us and continue to give."

From STEVE LOPEZ, Los Angeles Times columnist and author of "The Soloist":
               “Patrick Caneday writes from the heart. His stories, carefully and gracefully revealed, are about the things that ground and unite us all: family, tradition, place, community. This is a collection you’ll reach for again and again.”

ABOUT THE BOOK:  Whether the subject is a bruised knee or a bruised ego, the death of a loved one or the death of a goldfish, his challenged faith, delusions of grandeur or addiction to grilled meat, Patrick Caneday finds a way to make the mundane and ordinary meaningful. In Crooked Little Birdhouse, Caneday brings together a collection of the most popular pieces from his weekly newspaper column and adds a series of new essays. The result is a life story weaved through random insights on the world, people and a birdhouse. With trademark wit and poignant observation, he's not afraid to offer himself as proof of our shared suffering, humanity and survival, in a book that is more memoir than compilation. While others tell us what’s wrong with the world, Caneday shows us what’s right.

Where to buy a signed copy of 

Crooked Little Birdhouse:

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What's up with your husband? And what happened after Shark Tank?

Posted by Expert Gadget Reviewer on Sunday, 12 June 2011

After Shark Tank aired, my poor husband took a lot of grief for being portrayed as the supportive yet not supportive enough husband because I was doing all the Mod Mom stuff myself.  He laughed at comments made about him but I want to set the record straight because it's not so easy for me to read that stuff about him.  I'm addressing a couple points about him below to clear up the confusion and misperception.  And I threw in a couple more frequently asked questions as well.  :)

"Why didn't he help you build twice the amount of toy boxes so you could make double the money?"
Here's the deal.  He was laid off from his job, doing some consulting work, taking care of the kids, taking care of the house (grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning), and interviewing for full-time work.  His help with everything (including helping me with polyurethaning toy boxes, etc) allowed me to focus on growing Mod Mom and do everything needed to prep for Shark Tank which is an insane amount of work.  While I did make $34K in 2009 (over $100K from 2007-2010), his salary was so far above mine that having him working with me full-time and me making and extra $30K a year wouldn't even touch his income level.  A few people suggested that if he worked with me while he was unemployed, I would have made more money.   He was working with me -- he was handling everything that fell under parenting/homelife. He was unemployed when we filmed the show in October 2010 and remained unemployed til January so every bit of emotion you saw and felt in the Tank was real. We were counting on either MMF or his job or both to save us financially.  The main objective for him (for both of us) was finding a full-time gig making his VP level salary because we knew that what was going to save us immediately.  We live in LA which means if you're making $30K per year for a family of four, you're living in a van down by the river. (Nod to Chris Farley) It's a TV show so they edit it the way they want to have story play out even though I talked quite a bit about how he was helping me.  (Oh, and he does use power tools and builds things as well so he knows his way around the garage.)

"Why wasn't he in the Tank with you showing his support?"
It's my company-- always has been my brain child. While he's insanely supportive and helpful and will be collaborating with me on a few designs in the future, it's still my blood, sweat, and tears all over MMF from the very, very humble beginning in 2007.  I certainly wouldn't go with him to show my support on one of his interviews.  It's the same kinda thing.  Also, he was home taking care of the kids.  Besides, let's be honest.  If he'd been up there by my side, the first question out of the Shark's mouth would've been, "So he's building them, right?" That's the world we live in....the world I'm hoping will change.  I've been working my way through (sometimes fighting my way through) my male-dominated industry for years now so I'm not off in thinking that question would've come up.

"Were you always a stay at home mom? How did you come up with the idea?"

"What happened after Shark Tank? Did you sign with Robert?
I wrote a post about it HERE but also wanted to add a few AWESOME things that have happened since filming Shark Tank in October 2010:
  • I had already partnered with my Amish manufacturer when I pitched the Sharks (we were in the beginning stages) so we're now up and running fully with production of MMF heirloom quality modern kids' furniture from Dundee, Ohio.  More about our partnership here!
  • The Owyn Toy Box will be on the show set of prime-time shows "Up All Night" (with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett) in the fall as well as the new season of "Dexter".
  • MMF retailer list is growing by leaps and bounds and ball is rolling on European distribution! 
  • The Owyn Bedroom Collection will debut at the ABC Kids Show in Louisville in September! 
  • A few other surprises coming up! 
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