Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sunset over Jersey City

december sky 2

My favorite power station at sunset (click the image to see it larger). I've photographed this scene before, but I've got a new camera, so I thought I'd give it another try. The stacks are part of Public Service Gas & Electric's Hudson Generating Station on Duffield Street.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Word of the Day: gobemouche

gobemouche (n)

Literally, this word refers to someone who swallows flies, that is, someone whose mouth is always open -- a silly, gullible person or a boor. It's also the name for a type of bird.

"You dunno nuffin. You nuffin but one big fool ob a Gobemouche. I spec you nebber heerd dat we win de battle ob Bunker Hill--eh?"
--Albert Taylor Bledsoe, "The Gobemouchian Ideal of Government"

A bug flew into my mouth once when I was a kid. I managed to spit it out, but the odd feeling stayed with me for a long time.

I know an old lady who swallowed a fly...

Microfiction

The Night He Joined the "Cirkus"

Afterward, he had to remind himself and everyone he told about it that he wasn't making any of it up, that it wasn't a dream.

On a random Saturday, Ivan, one of those non-descript computer programmer-types you often see walking around, journeyed into Manhattan to attend a photographer friend's exhibit at a Midtown gallery. Afterward, he had a solitary dinner at a cafeteria-style restaurant, then decided to stroll down 42nd Street. Amid the Disneyfied tourist traps and neon encrusted marquees, he noticed a shabby little doorway with a sandwich sign out front: the Museum of Variety. The museum, the sign said, included a theater, whose mission was to preserve the vaudeville and burlesque atmosphere of the "old" 42nd Street -- "where peep shows and prostitutes were as common as today's plasma screens and Mickey Mouse tchotchkes."

He wandered inside to look at the museum exhibits, which were all of the "Ripley's Believe It or Not variety": a stuffed, four-legged duck under a bell jar; the upholstered chair that a side-show fat lady used to sit on; a picture of a two-headed baby. He noticed that the current show in the museum's theater was a performance by the "Vagabond Family Cirkus." He'd never heard of it, but, having time to waste, he decided to buy the ten-dollar ticket and attend.

While Ivan waited in line for the theater's doors to open, a gorilla appeared and began to accost him. The costumed creature bent down and kissed Ivan's shoe and then gave him a short back rub. "Okaaayy," Ivan said. Then, just before he entered the theater, he was frisked and closely examined with a large magnifying glass by two men wearing clown-face make up.

Ivan was beginning to realize that this would be no ordinary circus. The inside of the small theater presented a distinctly seamy milieu -- black walls, worn bits of scenery and tattered red velvet curtains that rose almost two stories from the floor-level "stage" to form the "big top." Steep banks of seats, some of which were covered with faux leopard skin, accommodated an audience of about 100. It looked like a theater in a David Lynch movie –- like the Red Room in Twin Peaks or the Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive.

The only available seats were in the front row, which Ivan suspected could be trouble. He had a strong premonition that this was going to be an audience-participation spectacle.

Much of the show consisted of tawdry clowning and more or less conventional juggling and acrobatic stunts, all of which featured a high degree of sexual innuendo. The performers also worked in a number of political comments about the gentrification of 42nd Street. It was entertaining and funny, but Ivan had the nervous feeling that his moment was coming.

His time came with the arrival of Svetlana, an attractive blonde in a lizard-skin unitard who looked like someone out of an early James Bond movie. The M.C. introduced her as being from a part of the former Soviet Union that is now an independent country: "Tear-you-a-new-crack-istan." Her talent was spinning a dozen sequined hula-hoops around her undulating body as a live band played new-age bump-and-grind music.

After a minute or so of spinning, she announced, in a heavy Russian accent, that she needed help from a member of the audience.

Svetlana pulled Ivan onto the stage and instructed him to spank her if any of the hula-hoops dropped to the floor. Eventually one did, of course, and she bent over. Feeling like an idiot, he spanked her, just once, as the audience roared. (You had to be there, Ivan later told his mother.) Svetlana did another dance, in which none of the hoops fell, and it was now Ivan's turn to be spanked. He bent over, facing the audience. "No, no, no," Svetlana said, shaking her finger. "You must turn around this way." So he pointed his posterior at the audience and she gave it a whack. Ha, ha, ha.

Next, Svetlana asked him to twirl one of her hoops around his arm while she had a brief conference with her assistant, Sylvia. She and Sylvia then slipped behind the curtain and began a loud, screaming argument. Ivan continued to spin the hoop, alone on stage, for about a minute as the audience giggled. "You are so talented," Svetlana told him when she re-emerged.

She then handed him a dozen hoops and instructed him to throw them to her as she danced. If she managed to complete the dance without any of them dropping to the floor, she said, he would be allowed to kiss her (in her words) "on the ass." If any of them fell, she would kiss his butt. What did he think of that, she wanted to know. "That sounds fair," Ivan said.

He did as he was told, tossing each hoop as she gyrated to some pulsating Euro-disco. The hoops stayed up, and when the music stopped, she bent over. There was a drum roll, and Ivan looked over at the audience. They were all laughing hysterically -- possibly because of the look on his face. There was nothing else to do but plant a kiss on Svetlana's rear -- to the accompaniment of a loud cymbal crash. She straightened up, grabbed his hand and they took a bow as the audience cheered.

Such was Ivan's moment in the spotlight. He knew that, in his mind at least, he would never hear the end of it.

(This story is 99 percent autobiographical.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A New Look

I finally updated my template. It's a real chore re-adding all the elements, but I think it looks cleaner and more contemporary. (Is it actually possible I've been doing this since 2002?) I kind of miss all the little icons, though. Maybe they'll come back in some form or from time to time. (If I've neglected to re-add a link to your site, let me know.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Quote of the Day: the sign of Christmas

Fifth Avenue Star

Quote of the Day

"The sign of Christmas is a star, a light in darkness. See it not outside of yourself, but shining in the Heaven within."
--A Course in Miracles

(That's a picture I took of the Fifth Avenue star a couple of years ago.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How to Stay Positive

Put away your violin?

Many people get depressed at this time of year. How to Stay Positive When You Know Your Life Sucks may be able to help.

Personally, I won't be sorry to see 2008 go.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Words to describe Bush

Quote of the Day

"In a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, respondents were asked to volunteer their assessments of how Bush would be remembered after he leaves office. The most frequent response, from 56 people, was 'incompetent,' followed by 'idiot, 'arrogant,' 'ignorant,' 'stupid,' and so on. Nine people volunteered a three-letter synonym for donkey."
--The Washington Post, December 19, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Word of the Day: arsiversie

arsiversie (adj)

Meaning: upside down?

"...he was a botcher, cheese-eater, and trimmer of mans flesh imbalmed, which in the arsiversie swagfall tumble was not found true."
--François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel

I think this word means "upside down." It's hard to find a definition for it.... I've always enjoyed looking at the topsy-turvy sky and world you can see on the surface of a calm lake. One dropped pebble and the universe is destroyed in a burst of concentric circles.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Brain Dump

Cry baby cry me a river of time to go to hell is other people who live in glass houses for sale price is right or left to die cast toy gun the engine of development cost of living history channel islands in the storm clouds are forming. A pillow fight the good fight crime wave of the future generations to come back to back support your local pub crawl. My cupboard is bare naked truth is stranger things have happened to be passing through the fire department of justice for all the way home.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Joined Wordie

Prolixity

I joined Wordie, a sort of social networking site for logophiles, and put some of my "Word of the Day" postings there. You word mavens should check out that site, which describes itself as "like Flickr, but without the photos".

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Riding in a commuter van tonight with dark, dark tinted windows: felt lost.... Listening to jazz (?) noodling on the radio right now: feel confused.... My wife wrote a poem about baking Christmas cookies and finding maggots in the dough (not autobiographical, thank God): felt nonplussed.... Took an orange out of the refrigerator at lunch time. It felt too cold to eat. Considered microwaving it for a few seconds. Decided not to eat it instead: felt ambivalent....

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Microfiction

Watching

Ivan didn't mind doing the dishes. In fact, he enjoyed it. There was something soothing and almost meditative about immersing his hands in the warm water, squeezing the sponge and wandering through the white clouds of soap suds, searching for sunken forks. Even the greasy pans and plates didn't bother him. He liked transforming their dirty faces into smooth, clean circles of porcelain and steel. It all seemed to take a lifetime, but he didn't mind.

That was partly because Ivan could look out the window over the sink while he worked. The window looked out into an alley between his building and the apartment next door, barely 10 feet away. And directly across from him was another window, though which he could often see something odd going on.

It was the bedroom of a gray-haired man who appeared to be about 70 -- almost twice Ivan's age -- and who was a habitual pacer. He walked back and forth across the room constantly, at least while Ivan did his dishes at about 7 o'clock every night. The man never seemed to notice that he was being observed as he strode back and forth, with his hands behind his back. He seemed to be talking to himself. Ivan was no lip reader, but the man seemed to be mouthing the word "future" over and over.

This went on for weeks. The man was obviously an obsessive compulsive, Ivan thought. Gradually, he began to notice other things in the room across the alley besides the pacer. There were Native American masks on the walls and dusty stacks of National Geographic magazines on tables and chairs. And something caught Ivan's eye on the table next to the crazy man's window: a gold watch.

It looked exactly like the Seiko watch Ivan had lost months ago -- the antique timepiece that his dead father had given him and that he suspected had fallen off outside his building the day he had moved in. Ivan had been carrying a stack of boxes when the band broke. He had gone back to look for the watch a minute later, but it was gone. Someone must have picked it up and taken it, he assumed. Now he knew who.

One hot summer Saturday, Ivan noticed that Mr. Crazy had left his window open and didn't appear to be at home. The gold watch was still on the table, glittering and calling to him, but out of reach.

Ivan had an idea.

He took a mop out of the closet and wrapped some duct tape around the end of the handle, making sure to leave some of the sticky side exposed. He reached out of his own window and poked the handle through the window of the apartment across the alley. He managed to get the watch to stick to the tape, and began to pull the mop handle back.

Just before he was able to grab the watch, though, it fell, disappearing into the shadows four stories below. There was a sickening, splintering sound, and the rumble of pigeons fluttering.

That evening, Ivan washed his dishes and watched his neighbor pacing back and forth, as always. God damn him, Ivan thought.

The old man suddenly stopped, as if he had heard the words out loud. For the first time, he turned and faced Ivan, looking him in the eye. He raised his hand and pointed his index finger at his dish-washing voyeur, as if his hand was a gun. His lips moved, and Ivan didn't have any doubt about the simple word they formed: "Pow!"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Zen Stories

Zen Again

Inspiring stories (very short ones) of "humor, insight, wisdom or compassion": Zen Moments. Click the Random Moment button to bring up another one. Read them, then close your eyes. Think small.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Word of the Day: cynosure

cynosure (n)

A center of attention; an attraction magnet.

"Ransom could see that, according to a phrase which came back to him just then, oddly, out of some novel or poem he had read of old, she was the cynosure of every eye."
--Henry James, The Bostonians

My favorite Henry James work is The Turn of the Screw, one of the few ghost stories that is truly scary and disturbing -- mostly because it's impossible to know exactly what is going on in the story. Ambiguity can be more frightening than any monster.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Nobody likes me because..."

According to Google

Nobody likes me because...

"people think I'm a geek."
"i am fat"
"I'm smart"
"i wouldn't let him brush his teeth"
"I am strange and dirty"
"I'm boring and don't say much and still dress like I'm ten"
"I'm a Bitch!"
"i'm a loser"
"I have no interests in anything"
"I'm not Pro-Bama or Pro Obama. It's all good, tho. I aint pro McCain either."
"i smell and i am brown and look like a doody"
"I'm a dummy?"
"I type more than I talk."
"I'm unlikable! I have no friends because I'm unfriendly! I hate everybody! Poor Me! Boo hoo!"
"my face is hideous. I must sit here in my catacombs, playing this stupid organ, because I have no friends."
"I'm different. They say I'm weird and they're just mean."
"I'm a big fat weirdo and so I have to make up my own friends so I won't feel so you know all by myself."
"of my sick and twisted mind."
"I have all these worries, and they're written on every line in my face."
"they are ignorant times a million, and obviously don't know what a debate is."
"they don't want to hear what I have to say."
"how can you like a bungler, a being who subjects the whole house to her moods..."
"A.) I'm progressive and they're philistines B.) I'm seeking new truths and everybody else wallows in self-deception..."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Microfiction

Whatever Happened to Aaron?

Ivan had been thinking a lot about Aaron Leggatt lately. He hadn't seen or heard from Aaron in over a decade, and he wasn't sure why he was thinking about him now -- except that he'd been thinking of himself as even more of a misfit than usual lately.

He'd known Aaron only slightly in college; they were both philosophy majors and had taken several classes together. Ivan had always thought they had much in common -- both rather standoffish, and they even looked a bit alike, with dark hair and glasses -- but they had never become more than acquaintances, despite some overtures on Ivan's part. Still, Ivan felt an affinity for him. He was one those mirror people, an altar ego.

What had happened to Aaron? They had seemed to be on parallel tracks in college. Was Aaron successful today? Married? Happy? Everything that Ivan wasn't, at the moment?

One Saturday afternoon, with nothing better to do, Ivan decided to Google him. It was fortunate the Aaron had a fairly unusual name. Not many Web pages came up. Those that did were obscure: a membership listing for a bicycle club in Sephora, Illinois; a geneaology page about someone with the same name who lived in the 19th century; and several pages in a foreign language Ivan couldn't identify. There was also a page for a bookstore in Sephora, Illinois, owned by someone named…Aaron Leggatt.

It seemed to be an odd bookstore -- one that specialized in "hard to find, out-of-print science fiction," according to the page, which consisted of a single paragraph and a picture of a dusty, rundown storefront. There was an e-mail address and a phone number at the top of the page.

So.... Aaron had moved to Illinois, over a thousand miles away. He'd gone into business for himself -- not a prosperous business, by the look of it, but it was more than Ivan had been able to accomplish. He wondered if Aaron would remember him. He wondered if it might still be possible to connect with him, maybe start an e-mail correspondence with someone he thought of as a double, a doppelganger.

Feeling mischievous, he dialed the number, thinking he would probably hang up if Aaron answered. But instead there was a recorded female voice: "Leggatt Bookshop is closed until further notice, due to the death of Mr. Leggatt. Thank you for your patronage."

Dead. The mirror shattered.

Ivan sighed. Later that evening, he joined an Internet chat room devoted to out-of-print science-fiction books. He had to choose user ID for himself, and after several seconds of indecision, he decided on one: Aaron L.

Word of the Day: roun

roun (n or v)

A whisper, or to whisper.

"Another rouned to his fellow low."
--Chaucer

An obsolete word, replaced by "whisper." Why do words fall out of favor? In this case, maybe because "whisper," with its S sound, actually sounds more like a whisper.

I remember a game we used to play as kids: tell a friend you have a secret and then just make a pssst pssst sound in his or her ear, making the friend giggle and driving the other kids crazy. ("What is it? What is it?")

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Quote of the Day: dreams of childhood

"What is the matter with a Fairy-tale world where everything had harmony? Nothing, but it has rarely been achieved in the history of mankind. So the next time a cow jumps over the moon or your dessert spoon runs away with the dish, leaving your ice-cream in a sticky puddle on your table, laugh and remember the hopes, great feelings, sincerity and uninhibited attention to your dreams of childhood. And try to carry it with [you]."
--Anonymous

This quotation, intended as filler type, comes from a prop newspaper clipping in the film Fire Walk With Me. It was never intended to be read by the film's viewers (it has nothing to do with the movie's plot), but it is legible in freeze frames. I think it deserves an audience. You can see the original here:

A Closer Look

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Glossary of Archaisms from Shakespeare

Verily, a fardel of meed....

How about a list of "Old Words That Occur Frequently in Shakespeare".

My favorite:

"And we have done but greenly in huggermugger to inter him" (Claudius to Gertrude, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act IV, Scene V).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Silent film: Phantom of the Opera

The Silent Opera

I saw the 1925 silent film Phantom of the Opera at the Loew's Jersey Theater last night. Or did I? According to Wikipedia's article about the film, multiple versions were created by Universal Studios, including a later dubbed sound version and an alternate with color sequences. There were alternate cuts with different scenes distributed too. Anyway, what I saw was silent (with terrific musical accompaniment from the Loew's massive theater organ) and entirely in black and white.

Scary? Not by today's standards, though the scene in which the Phantom is unmasked reportedly caused some viewers to faint in 1925, due to Lon Chaney's still impressive make-up. It was entertaining, though, and an interesting history lesson.

The audience was huge, which surprised me. But then, there aren't many places where film buffs can see silent movies with live musical accompaniment these days.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Word of the Day: Clinquant

clinquant (adj)

Glittering, but usually in a false or cheap way, like tinsel

"No, there are too many of these fine sparks you talk of who perhaps may be very clinquant, slight, and bright and make a very pretty show at first, but the tinsel-gentlemen do so tarnish in the wearing, there's no enduring them."
--Thomas Shadwell, The Virtuoso

I once had a cat that liked to eat the tinsel (of the "icicle" type) off the Christmas tree. Maybe he had an iron deficiency. Anyway, he always threw it up later, in a sort of shiny hairball, which was both pretty from a distance and disgusting close up -- like many things, I guess.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Walking on a college campus today, momentarily felt as if in a time warp.... Set up the stereo last weekend -- the one that's been in the basement, in a various boxes, since we moved. Was amazed (but shouldn't have been) at how much better it sounds than the boombox.... Listening to the audiobook of Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman) while on the subway (PATH), felt a certain irony. The book is about an underground society (figuratively and literally) beneath the steets of London.... Watched The Fall last weekend. Interesting film about the power of storytelling with an amazing performance by a five-year-old girl....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quote of the Day: Yoko Ono

"Consider if it is such a catastrophe
to live without your head or if it
shouldn’t be easier for you to go
around since your body would be much
lighter."
--Yoko Ono

Thursday, October 09, 2008

John Lennon's Birthday

Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé

lennon

I believe, yes I believe, that today is John Lennon's birthday. Number 9, number 9, number 9....

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Starry Night: the SIMBAD Astronomical Database

The images in this SIMBAD Astronomical Database remind me of the sparkling night sky in rural upstate New York (where I grew up).

Word of the Day: sprezzatura

sprezzatura (n)

rehearsed spontaneity, studied nonchalance

"To get an idea of this sprezzatura at work...one need only recall
some of the supreme moments of comic films."
--Gerald Mast, The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies

"What, the curtains?"

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

David Lynch on catching ideas

fish

"Ideas are like fish"

David Lynch and Donovan discuss "catching" the ideas embodied in their art in this video, which also includes clips from their films and music videos. (There's some brief footage of the Beatles in India, too.) It reminds me that the first words heard in Lynch's Twin Peaks are "Gone fishing."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Word of the Day: cavil

Word of the Day

cavil (v)

To object in a trivial way or for trivial reasons

"Tutor: ....So, in a word, you stand head and shoulders above the ruck and, what's more, you could hold a chair of philosophy or architecture in a great university. And yet you cavil at your lot!

Orestes: No, I do not cavil. What should I cavil at? You've left me free as the strands torn by the winds form spiders' webs that one sees floating ten feet above the ground. I'm light as gossamer and walk on air."
--Jean Paul Sartre, The Flies

Every weekend, I find a spider web in the same place in the backyard shed. I have to break it to get to anything in there, but it always comes back. I've started to feel sorry for the spider, but also impressed by its persistence.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Quote of the Day, from The Great Gatsby

Quote of the Day

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and
creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness, or
whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess
they had made."
--F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The complete idiot's guide to the way I feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Can't think of a thing to write about. Feel empty.... Two people in my family recently lost their cell phones. Feel out of touch.... Wall Street's house of cards is collapsing. (Associated Press today: "...a glass panel near the top of a Bank of America skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan fell more than 50 stories onto the street below and shattered.") So many people saw it coming years ago, but nothing was done. Feel queasy.... Found out that all the stuff I was supposedly recycling at the office -- papers, cans, etc. -- is actually being thown in the regular trash by the building staff. Feel frustrated.... Listening to WFMU, "free-form radio." Feel odd, but ready to dance.... Saw a beautiful sunset tonight. Felt transcendent....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Falling Man...or Flying Man?

Falling...or flying?

falling man

This image, which I've posted before, gets more Google hits than just about anything else on this blog. I can't decide if he's falling or flying, terrified or ecstatic -- although that contraption he's strapped to doesn't look too effective.

Brain Dump

Brain Dump

Go for the gold coin operated vending machine part two by two three blind mice eat cheese sandwich shop till you drop dead in the water park the car in the lot of money is the root canal boat dock your pay the piper. Face the music hall monitor your blood pressure point your gun barrel of monkeys around the world class clown suit yourself. Pass the salt water fish fry the egg cup of coffee pot calling the kettle black tie event horizon. Fasten your seat belt one out of your mind your own business meeting someone new age before beauty.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The most alien place on Earth

Is that Earth?

Feast your eyes on the "most alien-looking place on Earth":

Socotra Island

It seems like an obvious location to shoot a low-budget sci-fi movie on location. No sets to build! Love those dragon's blood trees.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Word of the Day: salubrious

Word of the Day

salubrious (adj)

Healthful

"You'd better be. If he loses his temper and throws us off the case, we're going to have to start looking for new premises in a less salubrious part of town."
"I didn't think there was a less salubrious part of town."
"My point exactly."

--Alastair Reynolds, Century Rain

A new word I just heard on CNN: "Palintology" Ha ha...

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Words used at each convention

Word Count

Here's a New York Times word-balloon graphic, showing the frequency of words or phrases ("health care", "taxes", etc.) mentioned at each of the recent political conventions:

The Words They Used

It also shows the number of mentions by each major speaker. Interesting that Democrats mentioned 9/11 more than Republicans.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

My short story published in The Hudson Current

Word are flowing out....

My short story, "Vanilla", appears in the current issue of The Hudson Current, in print and online: Back Page

Sunday, August 24, 2008

911 Writers Block Help

Dialing for Dialogue

Stuck? 911 Writers Block provides emergency settings, characters, dialogue, verbs, ways to "kill a character", and endings, such as:

"You drop the antique gold pocket watch into a storm drain. It has brought you nothing but pain."

Hmm, everything except plots -- except, I suppose, by implication.

You select your emergency help by pressing a button on a telephone keypad. Cute.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Word of the Day: incunabulum

Word of the Day

incunabulum (n)

A book printed before the 16th century; artwork from an early period

"'It's a long story, Sergeant. A few months ago we had a rare book stolen from this room. A beautiful old Tier Buch -- a book of animals -- an incunabulum.'"
--Carey Magoon, I Smell the Devil

I attended an antiques fair last weekend in upstate New York. There were many old books there -- though not as old as incunabula. The aroma of musty, falling-apart books invokes the past like nothing else, I think. Nostalgia stinks?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Stress Remedies

"We could learn a lot from crayons....

....Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box."

More such wisdom can be found at Stress Remedies.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ellis Island stairwell spiral

Spiral

Ellis Island stairwell

Ellis Island stairwell

Brain Dump

Brain Dump

Let me take you down to business is bad boy band together we can do it was the best of times change your life on Mars invaded China dishes break the silence is golden parachute opens the door frame up to you never know your own strength in numbers don't lie down to business. The rain falls under the bridge the gap between the two by two steps forward march madness. I have a question authority to order in the court disaster planning a vacation time is money is the root cause and effect a change in the weather report to me.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Color photos of the 1930s

Kodachrome!

Color photography, though rare, did exist in the 1930s, and these pics of Depression-era people and places make those times seem a lot more contemporary than the monochrome photos we usually see. And that's a little bit disconcerting, given the current economic climate.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Haiku 1449

Haiku 1449

whispering light rain
juniper waving calmly
spittlebugs scatter

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Word of the Day: susurrus

Word of the Day

susurrus (n)

A sound like rustling or whispering

"Gentle winds had lulled the swell and the continual susurrus of the south wind enticed them towards the deep."
--Virgil, The Aeneid

I like "white noise", and the susurrus of a white noise CD I have often entices me towards the deep -- deep sleep, that is.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Quote of the Day: Marianne Faithfull

Quote of the Day

"We lived these lives a thousand years ago as courtesans, as opium-eaters at the court of the Kubla Khan. We had drunk of the milk of Paradise and its transforming liquidity made us all quite porous. There were no boundaries where Alph the sacred river ran. No genders, no time and space. We simply sparkled and vibrated. We were all pulsating little Bodhisattvas. I was in love with everybody. Actually, I was everybody."
--Marianne Faithfull

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Word of the Day: scuppernong

Word of the Day

scuppernong (n)

A type of grape, usually green or bronze in color, or a wine made from this grape.

"Maudie Atkinson told me you broke down her scuppernong arbor this morning. She's going to tell your father and then you'll wish you'd never seen the light of day!"
--Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I read To Kill a Mockingbird a long time ago, but whenever I hear the title, I think of the film and Gregory Peck, a great actor and orator. I never get tired of hearing his voice.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Would you talk on your cell phone while standing at a restroom urinal? Saw that today, felt weird.... Found out today that horse racing is very popular in Japan. Who knew?.... I was asked how to pronounce methylenetetrahydrofolate today -- felt unsure.... A drunk came up to me on the street yesterday and asked me where the nearest liquor store was. I told him where to find one, but then he got mad and started cursing because I named one too far away. Felt bewildered.... Why don't I... ship swing apps?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fishing off the pier, Ocean Grove, New Jersey

Gone Fishing

fishing

I saw these guys fishing off the pier at Ocean Grove, New Jersey, yesterday. Didn't notice them catching anything. The surf was rough.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Word of the Day: coryza

Word of the Day

coryza (n)

The common cold or its symptoms, sniffles

"The planet Pluto is so far away, and isolated from the sun, it is said, that it produces coryza tempratures."
--Angel Steinborn, Urban Dictionary

Of course, Pluto isn't a planet anymore; it's been downgraded by astronomers to a dwarf planet, or minor planet. (I would prefer to call it a planetoid, just because I like the sound of that.) It's essentially a celestial snowball, probably with a rock in the center -- the kind of thing the bully down the street threw at you in when you were a kid, just because he hated your snowsuit.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Names: Gone But Not Forgotten

Gone But Not Forgotten

People I used to know, well or slightly:

Phyllis Jaselle
Randy Egnaczyk
Steven M. Katz
Mark Suran
Charlie Pekunka
Margaret Leonard
Zeta Chulik
Mr. Shipey
Chuck Wunderman
Don Longabucco
Jean Vestal
"Beezer" Bevins

I don't know why certain names stick in my head for decades. Some of them just have a "ring" to them. I especially like the more unusual ones -- maybe because my name is common -- and the ones that sound like characters in a novel.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Infinite Regress: The Saragossa Manuscript

Infinite Regress

I watched the Netflix DVD of The Saragossa Manuscript this weekend -- all three luscious black-and-white hours of it. It's a cult mind-bender of a movie, produced in Poland in 1965, and quite the experience. It's almost as convoluted and confusing as Inland Empire, with stories within stories within stories (within stories), like a Russian doll. Saragossa was the favorite movie of Jerry Garcia and also among Martin Scorsese's favorites, which perhaps tells you something. They both had a hand in its preservation and restoration, as did Francis Ford Coppola. Recommended if you're after more than pure entertainment from a movie, and if you like puzzles. More here:

Bright Lights Film Journal | The Saragossa Manuscript

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Essay Contest Loser

Essay Contest Loser

Here's an essay I entered in a local magazine's "Life Along the Hudson" contest. It didn't win, or even achieve runner-up status, and I realize now that it's way too negative for such a boosterish magazine. (It wouldn't have fit too well among the real-estate-oriented ads.) It probably has other problems, too. Nevertheless, I enjoyed writing it, so why not put it out there....

RIVER VIEW

For 17 years, from late 1989 to 2006, I lived a half block from one of the smallest and least known parks in Hudson County: Riverview-Fisk Park in Jersey City. It was the site of some of the most pleasurable, reflective and shocking moments of my life.

Located between Ogden and Palisade Avenues at the top of a cliff, Riverview-Fisk is a narrow "vest pocket" park with inspiring views of the Hudson and Manhattan. Packed into this small urban oasis is a gazebo, a playground, a basketball court, a community garden, a bronze bust of Henry Hudson, and pathways that wind around ancient trees and amoeba-shaped green spaces.

The most enjoyable times I spent there were with my young son. I remember teaching him not to be afraid of a playground slide, how to ride a bicycle, and how to catch and hit a baseball. When he was very young, the park was our fantasy land. He dressed up like a cowboy with a (squirt) gun, a knight in shining (plastic) armor, and a pirate who waved a (rubber) sword. The adults in the park were agreeable enough to pretend to be terrified during his play-acting; the other kids, depending on their age, were amazed or simply rolled their eyes.

I would often take long walks by myself in the park, especially when I had something to think over. When I was fired from my job in New York, and found myself with lots of spare time, I became one of those sad-faced people you sometimes see in public places, the slow walkers who seem to have no particular destination. After rambling for a while, I would often sit on a bench for a few minutes, gazing at the New York skyline and wondering where it had all gone wrong.

Some might say I should have been working on my resume or making phone calls, but I didn't think of that time as wasted. I needed to reinvent myself, professionally, and I had to figure out which direction to take. So as I trod those meandering paths and stared at the river, I gradually came to conclusions about what a really wanted, something I wouldn't have been able to do while "keeping busy." That's one of the things parks are for, I think: they give us space to think, away from the all our high-speed, hyperlinked madness.

The park wasn't always a refuge. My most memorable experience there took place on September 11, 2001. That morning, my wife, Beth, left for her job at 7 World Trade Center as usual, and I made sure my son got on his school bus. I puttered around for a while, then sat down at the computer with a cup of coffee. The phone had rung twice earlier, but I hadn’t bothered to answer it. I played back the first voice-mail message. It was my sister, who never calls me. "I saw on the news what happened at the World Trade Center," she said. "I just wanted to know if Beth is OK...."

The next thing I remember is being in the park. The Twin Towers looked like smokestacks billowing immense plumes. The park was filling up with spectators, and someone had a radio. I heard that the Pentagon had also been hit. "Am I awake or asleep?" I asked myself. I decided I was awake.

Then the first tower collapsed, accompanied by gasps and a chorus of "oh-my-gawds" from the crowd.

I began to have a peculiar feeling, one that I’ve only experienced a few times in my life: a contradictory sensation of time standing still while events rush forward at a terrible speed. Involuntarily, it seemed, I climbed up on the iron fence at the side of the park that faces New York. I watched a huge cloud of smoke rise, as if an atomic bomb had just exploded. "What about Beth?" I thought.

She was fine, it turned out. She had caught one of the last PATH trains out of the city, just before the entire transit system shut down.

I never felt quite the same about the park after that. When I visit it today – I still live close by – I don't think of it as a sanctuary or a place of innocent fun. Now, for me, that view of the river opens an album of memories: some beautiful, some melancholy, some terrifying.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Alfred Hitchcock The Birds Barbie Doll - Mattel - Hitchcock - Dolls at Entertainment Earth

For the Birds

My wife is into collecting unusual Barbie dolls and creating sculptural art with them (long story). Maybe I'll buy her this one:

Alfred Hitchcock The Birds Barbie Doll

I'm sure Hitch would approve. He was always interested in novel ways to promote his films. And he once presented Birds star Tippi Hedron's daughter (Melanie Griffith) with a doll that looked exactly like her mother -- in a tiny toy coffin.

(via boynton)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

candent - Word of the Day

Word of the Day

candent (adj)

Glowing because of, or as if from, intense heat

"If you are out in the desert or on an island far from the mainland, the Milky Way can be genuinely astonishing. In its full splendor it is a scintillating, candent pathway across the sky...."
--James Elkins, How to Use Your Eyes

Hmm. I've always wondered why our galaxy has a candy-bar name when most other heavenly bodies are named after mythological figures or eminent scientists.

Monday, June 16, 2008

100 Acorns - Yoko says...

Yoko says...

"Tell us when you first noticed the sky."

That's one of the 100 Acorns: 100 days of new conceptual instructions by Yoko Ono. So far, they seem more open ended and interactive than her "Grapefruit" instructions of the pre-Internet 1960s, which were more like mind games (e.g., "Hammer a nail in the center of a piece of glass. Send each fragment to an arbitrary address"; "Imagine the clouds dripping. Dig a hole in your garden to put them in.") Amusing? Intriguing? Annoying? You decide.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

FreeRice

Oryza sativa?

FreeRice is a word-game website that tests your vocabulary. For each word you get right, they donate 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Program to help end hunger.

It's fun, and a worthy cause, if a bit gimmicky. Their stated goals are to:

1. Provide English vocabulary to everyone for free.
2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

I don't quite get the connection between the two. Why not just donate the rice? It's not as if demonstrating word knowledge on a website generates cash to buy more rice. Maybe it's a consciousness-raising tool? In any case, it's a pretty addictive, feel-good diversion.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

comic strip

Sin Titulo is a weekly comic strip that revolves around a David Lynch-style mystery. Black-and-white and sepia graphics are appropriately noirish. The comic has been around for a year, but you can probably click from the first page to the current page in about a half hour. It's addictive.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Today's Synchronicity

Today's Synchronicity

While standing in the check-out line at the grocery store, a man behind me was talking on his cell phone about Russian authors and the Russian intelligentsia of the late 19th century. (That in itself is pretty bizarre for this neighborhood.) Two women who were also in line behind me were at the same time conversing in Russian. They didn't appear to be with the man on the cell phone, and they paid no attention to him. Odd.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Word of the Day: truttaceus

Word of the Day

truttaceus (adj)

Pertaining to or like a trout.

"....crowded with the boats of paradise, we would fancy parades and serenades mid its roral gales, lepid glens and truttaceus charms...."
--Edmund Lester Pearson, Queer Books

A "chub" and a catfish -- those are the only types of fish I ever caught. And I threw them back. That's the kind of guy I am.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Real Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones and the Real-Life Inspiration

According to this article, Col. Percy Fawcett, a British archaeologist and explorer, was the model for Indiana Jones. Fawcett disappeared in 1925 in Brazil, while searching for the "Lost City of Z." Sounds like a Spielberg/Lucas type to me.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Word of the Day: tittup

Word of the Day

tittup (n or v)

A caper or prance; to move in a lively way

"Well," he says, "it's not much of a place for a tittup. There are one or two jolly old cockalorums there, and, when the season's on, you can go on the scoop in the way of a music-caper, or a hop, and you can get rid of the stuff there as well as anywhere."
--Francis Cowley Burnand, More Happy Thoughts

I haven't felt much in the mood to tittup lately. Scramble the letters and you get "putt it". That's more like it....

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Eulogy for My Father

Memories

My father passed away last Saturday. Since I'm the writer in the family, I wrote and delivered the following eulogy during the memorial service on Friday. It was well received. Someone asked me if it was difficult to write. Actually, the writing of it was not difficult -- I work as an editor, and I'm used to "assembling" essays out of diverse bits of text. The hardest part was getting other family members to contribute memories of my father at a busy and difficult time. But it all worked out, I think. I'm posting it here as both a memorial and -- who knows? -- perhaps an aid to someone out there who needs to compose a similar piece.

Thank you all for coming. Today we remember my father, Edward Gates, and I would like to share some fond memories that my family has of him with you, some of the "little things" that you may not know about.

***

My mother has many stories about meeting my father in Tacoma, Washington, and knowing him when he was a pilot stationed there in the Air Force. He used to fly low over her house in his F-86 fighter jet, which impressed her and her mother, but disturbed their neighbors. My mother was charmed enough to marry him and move all the way from a city on the West Coast to a small town in Upstate New York.

My parents built a home and my father built a business on East Main Street here in West Winfield. And in his spare time, my dad liked to work in his woodshop in the basement of our house. He made lots of furniture there, including our kitchen table. He also made kids' furniture and bookcases for me. (And you can see some photos of his handiwork on the table here in the foyer.)

Later on, when we grew up and moved away, he was still making things for us and delivering what he had made in his truck or his trailer. My sister, Nancy, recalls that whenever we asked him to make something for our new homes, he would ask for plans and then rush out to get the materials. He made a cradle out of cherry wood for Adam, for example, who was the first of his grandchildren.

***

Speaking of grandchildren: Every time another grandchild was born, my mom was hoping for a granddaughter, to join Stacie, but instead my parents ended up with six grandsons, which pleased my father. He thought he was on the way to having a complete baseball team of grandsons. Instead, he ended up with two thirds of a team, which included three hockey players, one aspiring film-maker, one future paleontologist -- and only one grandson who actually did play baseball.

***

More memories: My brother Dan, who lives the closest to West Winfield, remembers all the projects he helped my father with. He often helped him attach the snow-blower to his lawn tractor – quite an operation that often also involved Doug Evans, who helped my parents with many jobs around the house in recent years – so my dad could plow the driveway in the winter – an activity he seemed to enjoy. Other wintertime activities that Dan recalls include skiing trips that Dad took us to at the old Gunset Ski Bowl in Richfield Springs and attending Buffalo Bills games with Dad and the Whitchers in Buffalo.

Dad loved his fireplace and his wood-burning stove in the winter, which meant that we kids – and especially Dan – helped him split wood and stack it in the basement. Dad seemed proud of the enormous stack of fireplace logs he collected.

***

My father loved his home but he also liked to travel. He loved to drive, especially in a truck or camper.

When I was a kid, we did a lot of camping with a travel trailer or a motor home. When I was about 13 or 14, we took a camping trip clear across the country in a motor home, which seems kind of crazy today, when gas is approaching four dollars a gallon. I remember visiting my mother's relatives in Minnesota and the state of Washington on that trip. I remember being in the Rocky Mountains and the desert in the southwest, and the badlands of South Dakota -- and even crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in this enormous house on wheels, which seemed like a very surreal experience.

Every year after that, at least once a year, my father would ask me if I remembered that trip, which I thought was strange question and even a little annoying at times. How could I possibly forget it? "Of course I remember it, Dad," I would say. But he kept asking. Gradually, I came to understand that the trip meant even more to him than it did to us kids. It was his gift to us.

***

As a gift to him, a few years ago my brother Ted put together a scrapbook of my father's life which you can see on the table in the foyer. Over a period of days, Ted remembers my father bringing him an astonishing number of clippings and articles about things Ted never knew about, such as the time that my father, as a teenager, found a meteorological radio balloon that landed on the farm where he grew up, or the article that referred to him as a the "triple threat freshman star of the 1946 Hartwick football team."

Probably the biggest news item was an article from the Tacoma New Tribune that detailed the mid-air collision my father survived when he was a pilot in the Air Force. Typically, my father was nonchalant about all these things.

***

In recent years, the family would gather on almost every holiday at my parents' large, welcoming home on East Main Street.

Originally a farm boy, Dad was up and around in the morning before any of us. We remember him whistling old tunes in the morning, like “Those Were the Days” and “Tammy” as he was going through his morning routine. Sometimes he would sing, replacing the words he would miss with “bum bums” – always in tune and fading in and out as he passed from room to room.

Just one of my father's memorable contributions to these occasions was buying doughnuts for breakfast every morning. When my nephew Josh, who very much wanted to be here today, heard that his grandfather had passed away, he offered to buy the doughnuts in the future. And we may hold him to that.

***

Over the last few days, we've been amazed by the number of messages and cards we've received from people touched by my father's life. Over and over, they mention that they will miss seeing him at the post office. My father's daily routine always included a visit to the post office to pick up the mail – he never wanted it delivered – which we never thought too much about. Now we realize that it was his way of staying in touch with the community he was born and raised in, and never wanted to leave for too long.

In closing, we're all grateful for the years we had with my father. We wish there could have been more time, but we're also grateful that he didn't have to endure more of the ill health he encountered over the last couple of years. We'll remember him fondly, and we hope you will too, and will think of him -- perhaps when you visit the post office.

Thanks again for coming today to remember Ed Gates.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Micro Fiction: Vanilla

Micro Fiction: Vanilla

Marcus didn't mind the bus ride back and forth to "the job" every day. The 30-minute transition from his doorstep to desk gave him time to think or meditate. And he had a lot to think about.

He would have to make the decision today. He would have to either decide to try the complicated plan, the one that might offer a bigger reward but that involved certain ethical loop-de-loops, or he would have keep it simple, and let the situation unspool slowly while he held on to his morals.

What to do? That's what he was asking himself, when just about the last type of creature he would want to sit next to on a crowded public bus was deposited on the seat beside him: a tiny little human with a large ice cream cone.

Marcus looked down at what appeared to be a chubby three- or four-year-old boy. His mother sat across the aisle with what looked to be the boy's slightly younger sister. The girl was also licking an ice-cream cone. The mother gave Marcus a tight little smile and a shrug, as if to say, "You pay your fare and you take your chances."

Marcus offered to change seats with her, but she refused. "These two fight if I put them together," she said, "and I want to sit next to my daughter."

There were no other seats to move to, so Marcus resigned himself to sharing his perch with this very sticky little homunculus, who had ice cream all over his hands and a frosty white mustache.

"Please don't touch me," Marcus said, thinking about his latest dry cleaning bill. He disliked children and could hardly believe he'd ever been one himself. The little guy looked up at him and grinned.

His mind wandered back to the problem. What to do? The ultra-complicated course with the bigger potential payoff, but the guilt-inducing dirty work, or the simple plan? Devil or angel – Marcus couldn't decide which to be. And he only had half an hour, the length of this bus ride, to decide.

He didn't believe in prayer, but he did believe in intuition and a higher self, or whatever it was. "Tell me what to do," he thought, addressing the cosmos. "Tell me if I should structure the deal, or shoot it straight, the fancy or the plain. . . .

Just then, he felt something cold in his lap. He looked down and saw a lump of something glistening and white, a blank glob of undifferentiated creaminess slowly oozing between his legs.

The kid was looking up at him with a solemn expression. "Vanilla," he said.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Man trapped in elevator for over 40 hours

Boxed In

Watch some time-lapse video of a man trapped in an elevator for over 40 hours: Trapped in Car 30. A claustrophobic nightmare.

There's an article about this incident in The New Yorker.

Today I Am...

Today I am...

...circumventing the pervading atmosphere.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel: Queasy

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Lot's of religion in the news these days. The Pope is visiting and meeting with sex-abuse victims. CNN is obsessed with a bizarre polygamist religious cult. Hillary and Barack are talking about their "faith" in a "Compassion Forum". It all makes me feel like I've eaten something that doesn't quite agree with me. Queasy.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"I can't think of any sorrow in the world that a hot bath wouldn't help, just a little bit."
--Susan Glasee

Monday, April 07, 2008

Word of the Day: tourbillon

Word of the Day

tourbillon (n)

A whirlwind or vortex.

"In this state of things, had I accepted and returned home, do you think that a seat upon the bench would have removed me from the tourbillon of politics?"
--John Quincy Adams

These days, in English, a tourbillon most often refers to a type of watch. My watch is an L.L. Bean field watch. When the battery went dead recently, and I didn't have time to replace it for a week, I took it off - and felt naked for a few days.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

DarkCopy - Simple, full screen text editing

Just Your Type?

DarkCopy is a simple, full-screen text editor with no distractions. All you can do with it is ... write. There's no formating -- you just see green text in a typewriter font on a black background. You can save what you write as a text file, or copy and paste into another program. And it's free. Whoever created it doesn't even ask for a donation. Too good and yet true.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Truck Spills - Whale

Whale of a Tale

Truck Spills is "The website of odd, strange, interesting, and unbelievable things spilled on the road by trucks." It currently features a whale on a flatbed and a rather disgusting accident. "Thar she blows," indeed.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Micro fiction: Scattered to the Winds

Scattered to the Winds

If there was anyplace Marcus disliked visiting more than a graveyard, he couldn't think of one. But it was Memorial Day, a hot, muggy Memorial Day, and grandma needed tending.

He was the only one around anymore who could do it -- take the geranium to the cemetery, clip the crabgrass around her headstone, spade up the mushy soil and make a little green and red garden on her plot. It was what she would have wanted. She always did have a green thumb; she loved gardening.

"That's probably why, instead of being cremated like grandpa, and scattered to the winds like he had been, she'd wanted herself, well, planted," Marcus thought.

He'd had to steal himself to do his duty, though -- he'd stopped in for a beer at the dive down the street first, wanting to have a slight buzz on before walking through those rusty cemetery gates.

He hated walking across the grass-covered graves, always wondering what was down there beneath his sneakers. The stone angels and ancient obelisks gave him the creeps. So did the eerie silence of the place.

Grandma's stone was plain and simple -- a granite rectangle with "Alice" carved in sans-serif letters. Marcus could still remember her face; she'd died less than a decade ago. Grandpa had died earlier, when Marcus was a toddler, and that face was lost to him.

He started to clip the cowlicks of grass from around the stone's edges, looking up from time to time to observe other people tending the graves of their own dearly departeds -- all of them silent, or muttering softly about the time their Uncle Harry said such and such, or the what their Aunt Vicky thought about so and so.

"I should NOT have had that beer," Marcus muttered, as he dropped the geranium into the hole he'd dug in front of grandma's stone. He had to pee, bad, and there were no restrooms in this garden of eternal rest. There were no restrooms anywhere nearby.

As he got to his feet, he noticed someone standing a few feet away, on the edge of the path that split the cemetery in half. It was an old guy in overalls and a flannel shirt rolled up to the elbows. A fringe of gray hair was visible around the edges of his baseball cap, and he was smiling as he gazed off toward the horizon, where some dark clouds were massing. "Must be the caretaker," Marcus thought.

"Gonna rain soon, I'm afraid," the man said in a wistful voice, to no one in particular, though Marcus was the only person nearby. Then he turned and spoke to Marcus directly: "Gonna get wet," he said.

It was the wrong thing to say to someone who had to urinate. Marcus shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "I'm not sticking around to get wet," he said. "I gotta go. My bladder's screaming. Gotta find a bathroom."

The man smiled. He had a kind, crinkly face. "You know what they say," he said.

"No. What do they say?" Marcus asked.

"All the world is a man's urinal." He pointed toward a thick clump of bushes and trees at the edge of the graveyard.

Marcus took the hint and trotted off to relieve himself. "Watering the garden," he thought, as he did so. He looked back toward where the man had been standing, but he was gone -- scattered to the winds, perhaps, just like grandpa.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Word of the Day: Ampullosity

Word of the Day

ampullosity (n)

Pretentious inanity or bombast

"In reading, we also 'cruze about the coast,' but that is where the variety, richness, and fabled ampullosity of the text reside in fractals of renewed delight."
--David Solway, Random Walks

I am full of fractals of renewed delight this evening.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Eyelid Twitch

Life's a Twitch

My left eyelid has been twitching a lot lately. It's an annoying "fluttering" feeling that occurs most often when I'm working at the computer. (It just happened actually.) A Google search reveals that its technical name is "blepharospasm" and it's probably nothing serious. The twitching is usually caused by stress, lack of sleep, too much caffeine or prolonged staring at a screen -- or some combination. Given that list, I guess it's not too surprising that my eyelid is twitching. I'm not living a decaf life lately.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Philosofish: Immanuel Kant



Here's my attempt at a comic "strip"/philosophical quotation venue. I hope to include more thought-provoking (or just provoking) quotations in the future, not necessarily from big-name philosophers. But the graphic will remain the same, at least for now.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Reading Leaves of Grass, and enjoying it. I've only read a few bits and pieces before. It's like poetic raving.... Extremely windy tonight. As I was walking down the street, white plastic bags were blowing around, like little ghosts. A couple of them attacked me.... Barack Obama seems to be the first national politician in decades who can give a speech that one might actually like to read as well as listen to.... I'm toying with an idea for a comic strip, somewhat modeled after David Lynch's The Angriest Dog in the World, entitled Philosofish. Just something to fool around with.... Why don't I... validate my personas?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Plot generator

Something Happened

The story starts when your protagonist tears down a wall.

Another character is a college professor who has been tapping your protagonist's phone.


Stuck for a story? You could try this Plot Scenario Generator. Better to twist and exaggerate some incident from you own life, though, I think.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Word of the Day: antipodean

Word of the Day

antipodean (adj)

Opposite to or of another thing.

"Then, indeed, does the tuckered sylph come out in fairy form and proceed with joy under cousinly escort to the exhausted old assembly-room, fourteen heavy miles off, which, during three hundred and sixty-four days and nights of every ordinary year, is a kind of antipodean lumber-room full of old chairs and tables upside down."
--Charles Dickens, Bleak House

Love Dickens, but he wrote as if he was being paid by the word. Maybe he was.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Whether of Not Report

Weather or Not Report

Showers and thundershowers this evening will give way to a steadier rain overnight - a rumble of thunder still possible. Low 43F. Winds ESE at 20 to 30 mph. Rainfall near a half an inch.

This has been a winter of mostly rain, not snow, so far. I've only worn boots once, and I've only had to shovel snow once. There's a big, 50-pound sack of ice-melting calcium chloride pellets near the front door, hardly used. I'm tempted to put it down in the basement. I think if I do, though, a blizzard will blow in immediately.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Gnomon*

I am a clock.
I talk with my hands,
tick through tense hours.
My face: a white circle measuring
effort and waste.

Somewhere
there is a perfect Michael,
imperturbable,
easy in nature,
undisturbed by appalling events.

Finding his pinnacles and mistakes
less than a feather
on a March wind,
fluttering and spiraling
into a stiff field

of winter grass,
he confronts
nights, storms, desires, ridicule,
love and cold
with the patience of a tree,

with the calm of a sundial.

---
*According it Merriam-Webster, a gnomon is "an object that by the position or length of its shadow serves as an indicator esp. of the hour of the day [such as] the pin of a sundial [or] a column or shaft erected perpendicular to the horizon."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Candles for Men: Manterns Man Candles

Candle Power

Ah, the aroma of a ballpark ("fresh cut grass"), sawdust ("for the rugged handyman"), or the 4th of July ("gunpowder"). All of these manly scents can be yours with Candles for Men: Manterns Man Candles. They also offer candles that smell like beer, dirt, a baseball glove and a tennis-ball can. (I think I'll pass.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Going Down (short fiction)

Going Down

"Is that you, Ned?" Alan asked.

It sure looked like Ned, standing in the corner of the elevator: Ned with dark, dark sunglasses and a fedora. He didn't answer; he only smiled a little, with his lips closed.

"That is you, isn't it?"

Before the man could say anything, the elevator doors rumbled open and several people got on -- too many people. Alan was pressed against the control panel, where he tried not to touch any buttons, and Ned, or whoever it was, was jammed into the opposite corner. Alan could hardly see him behind an obese man in a business suit and an old woman wearing a parka. Ned, if that's who he was, wore a trench coat, which made him look, with the hat and glasses, like a secret agent.

Alan hadn't seen Ned in years, not since losing his job in the big shake up at Klax-a-Co. Ned had been the only decent guy there -- the only one who had protested, at least a little, when the knives had come out for Alan.

It was too awkward to continue talking to Ned (or pseudo Ned) with so many silent people standing between them. Alan would have felt foolish if it wasn't Ned, and if it was -- well, they could catch up when the elevator stopped.

It was an express between the 13th floor and the lobby, and Alan felt his stomach flutter as the car began its quick descent. It was similar to the feeling he'd had in his stomach a few minutes ago, when Dick, his boss, had yelled at him about that idiotic Masterson Report. He hadn't exactly yelled, Alan realized, now that he felt a bit more calm, but it had felt like he had.

The elevator slowed, making Alan feel for a moment as if he weighed an extra 50 pounds, and stopped. The doors rolled open. Sunlight from the glass-walled lobby poured in. Alan had to step aside as the crowd brushed past, and Ned managed to get off several seconds ahead of him. He scanned the lobby, but Ned had disappeared. He had a quick impression of him getting into a taxi outside the revolving doors, but he wasn't sure.

Was it Ned? Was he in trouble again? His head felt light, like a balloon. There was a couch along one wall of the lobby, and for the first time in the three years he had worked in this building, Alan sat down on it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Whether Report

Whether or Not Report

Today: Sunny. Highs in the lower 40s. West winds 5 to 10 mph.

With all the snow on the ground, temperatures in the 40s will undoubtedly result in slush -- an cold, gray substance that hesitates somewhere between liquid and solid. It's ambiguous. Ambiguity is fine in art but annoying on the sidewalks. If the past is any guide, the sun and (relatively) warm temperatures will tempt me to venture out with just my sneakers on, and then the slush will make me wish I'd worn my boots. This is puddle jumping weather.

Monday, February 11, 2008

surreal images at roadside scholar

Spare Me

Check out a series of surreal, minimalist watercolors by Canadian artist Marc Johns at roadside scholar. They are like mildly humorous passing thoughts captured on parchment. And they make me want to start doodling again.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Word of the Day: Boanthropy

Word of the Day



boanthropy (n)

A mental disorder; the belief that one is a cow or an ox.

"Tea will cure your lumbago and strengthen your frail and nervous constitution. It will enhance your virility and cause your you-know-what to grow. It prevents hangnails and may even aid in cases of boanthropy, the bizarre and often mistaken belief that one is a cow." --William I. Lengeman III, epicurean.com

I've never been much of a tea drinker. I used to drink green tea for a while, because of its supposed health benefits, but the awful taste got to me. There wasn't much I could do about it; "they" say if you add milk to green tea, it obliterates the anti-oxidants. Coffee contains anti-oxidants, too, just not as many. So I started drinking more coffee to make up for it. Ha.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Talked to somebody who attended the Sundance Film Festival today. She said she liked the film In Bruges there. Somebody else said Sundance is only for lightweight comedies. Hmm.... Speaking of lightweight comedies (ahem), Citizen Kane is playing at the Loews Theater on Friday night. Must see that on the big screen.... Interesting that the Kennedy family is split on whom to endorse. The "bigger" Kennedys, the ones that still have some of that old Camelot "mystique" about them -- that is, Ted and Caroline -- endorsed Obama; the more down-to-earth RFK branch is going for Clinton. My preference bounces back and forth like a ping-pong ball. I could vote for either of them.... It's recycling night. I like to think about all of my junk mail becoming a poetry book or, more likely, a roll of toilet paper someday.... Why don't I... talk about fictional characters as if they were real? I know someone who does....

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The T&T List

The T&T List

Black-tie event
Brown algae
bird seed
pizza
Twin Peaks
Mazda 5
Hiroshima
Risperdal
cable modem

My weekend revolved around all of the above in some way. Hints: I went to a "ball" in our new car, which was manufactured in a Japanese city. The rest mostly involved various errands, chores and time-wasters. Such is life.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

George W. Bush Garden Gnome

Garden Pest

Get your very own George W. Bush garden gnome here.

"The only thing that is wrong with this is that he is missing his flag." How appropriate, little man. (He's missing his codpiece, too.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Word of the Day: weltanschauung

Word of the Day

Weltanschauung (n) (often capitalized)

A personal philosophy about life or the world; world view

"News coverage revolves around strong personas: in the Weltanschauung of the Washington press corps, the President must be the focus of events."
--Steven Stark, "The First Postmodern Presidency," The Atlantic, April 1993

My world view: We all have at least two sides -- at least. There are hidden meanings in just about everything, often unconscious meanings. And our primary task is to reconcile opposites. So there.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Microfiction: "The Wild Umbrella"

The Wild Umbrella

Marcus stepped outside his house and stared up at a sky gray as pigeon's feathers. "Rain" he thought, though the streets were still dry. Miles away, thunder was grousing. As he walked toward the train station, a few icy drops fell on his scalp and down the back of his neck.

With a sigh, he reached into his nylon briefcase, rummaged around among the paperbacks and wrinkled photocopies, and pulled out a black, compact umbrella. Pressing a button on the handle made it blossom, with a pleasing "twack," like a black flower. One of its points had come loose, and a portion of the fabric flapped back and forth like a broken wing.

A sudden gust turned the umbrella inside out. Marcus pivoted and aimed it into the wind, which pushed it back into its proper shape with another "twack."

As Marcus trudged along, the shifting wind forced him to do a little dance, aiming the umbrella in different directions to keep it from deforming again.

While he was doing this, he bumped into a trench-coated stranger walking in the opposite direction, who was also fighting to keep his umbrella under control. The umbrellas brushed against each other with a swishing sound. Marcus caught a glimpse of the man's face: thin, wrinkled, with a whitish beard, and momentarily startled.

"Watch where you're going, knucklehead," the man barked. Just as he said this, another gust filched the umbrella from the his grip, and the man went scuttling down the shiny sidewalk after it. It blew into traffic and was crushed by a passing van. "Shit!" the man yelled, not so much at Marcus as at a malicious world.

Marcus turned away and resumed his march toward the train station. It was raining harder now, and the bottoms of his pant legs were getting soaked. He stopped at an intersection, waiting for cars to pass. The umbrella tugged at his hand as if it wanted to escape. The station was in sight, less than a block away, and, despite the downpour, a tiny aperture of blue had appeared in the sky.

It's a bad umbrella, Marcus thought. He released it to the wind, and it flew off into the sky, like a wild bird.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Word of the Day: elanguescence

Word of the Day

elanguescence (n)

The soul's gradual loss of its powers

"The acceptance theory can more comfortably accommodate a rule of desuetude....and allow laws to fade away with their waning acceptance and usage, slowly disentrenched by the elanguescence of memory, relevancy, and desire."
--Peter Suber, The Paradox of Self-Amendment

Being the adult child of a deteriorating alcoholic, I'm quite familiar with elanguescence. As James Brown said, "What we want -- soul power! What we need -- soul power!"

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Random Acts of Poetry: The Beat

Random Acts of Poetry

The Beat

The trail of a snail
on a land of flagstone?

I can't be there.

A golden circle traced in the sky,
leaving red, empyrean clouds?

It is not applicable.

A slow-boiling kettle
releasing vaporous imaginings?

No use. No use at all.

Electrons rush at light speed,
the contortionists twist to a beat.