Tuesday, December 31, 2002

What decade is this?

No one seems to have come up yet with a moniker for the decade we're in. The 20th century was conveniently divided into the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, etc. But what do we call this time? The "Oh-Ohs"? That sounds a little too flippant. The first decade of the previous century was apparently called the "aughts"--as in, "I remember back in aught-seven, when Jebediah came home in his Stanley Steamer . . . ." But that sounds more than a bit archaic. The next decade will probably be called the "teens," though, as the corresponding decade was in the last century. Maybe we could call this decade the "pre-teens"? Too childish sounding, I suppose. How about the "zeros"? That has a nice ring to it, hmm? Anyway, happy new year.

Monday, December 30, 2002

The Interregnum

I like these weird days between the holidays, when time seems suspended. And this year, they're especially prolonged. (Because the holidays fall on successive Wednesdays, the break extends to two weeks for many people: Holiday Hiatus: 2 Workweeks Evaporate.) There's time to do many things that I usually put off, like maintaining my website and even cleaning up the disaster area that our condo has become. Today, though, I'm stuck babysitting my son and his two friends as they virtually beat up on each other via the PlayStation. Bang, crash, boom, expletive deleted . . . . How does the song go? "The most wonderful time of the year . . . ."

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Paths to Nowhere

This is one of a series of photos I've taken, called Paths to Nowhere. You'll find a link to a slightly larger version of this image, and others as well, on my home page at Dream House.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Quote of the Day

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."
--George Harrison

Friday, December 27, 2002

Middle Earth

Saw Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers today. Though I enjoyed it, I found it a somewhat odd experience. Usually a sequel film can also serve as a standalone movie, but not TTT. There's no prologue explaining the story so far, and the film ends without an ending. To be continued. I felt I was watching a three-hour excerpt from a nine-hour film, which is essentially what Two Towers is, I suppose. I suspect that, in the future, people will watch each segment one after the other, as a nine-hour DVD marathon. Or maybe whatever technology replaces DVD will allow all nine hours to be edited together on one disk. People will have a "Rings" day and watch it all at once. That would be the best way to enjoy this trilogy, I think. . . . By the way, does anyone know why this chunk of the story is called The Two Towers? There was only one obvious tower in the film . . . . A-

Thursday, December 26, 2002


Is there anything as boring as the day after Christmas? The day when all the kids are complaining about having "nothing to do" as their toys and games litter the livingroom floor? Well, it's better to be bored than stressed, isn't it? Maybe. The worst feeling, of course, is simultaneous boredom and stress--the way I feel when I'm working sometimes. Give me plain old boredom any day.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Xmas Poem

Merry Xmas to all, and to all a good night. Here's a poem I wrote a couple of Xmases ago. It was originally published in Melic Review. Enjoy (I'm not always such a Scrooge . . .)

Fa La La

Red, green, red, green--
your lights nictitate like
arrogant cop cars,

making my eyes throb
as your garlands drip
Yule-shine onto the crust

of this decomposing snow.
All night you're dreaming of
the right Christmas--

gilded styrofoam,
tinsel and trash beneath a tree
of wires strung like nerves.

Let's admit that you're dying
to get it over with,
the frozen fa-la-la

for that suckling in the cow trough,
who will someday wander
the tepid Israeli hills

in dusty sandals,
knowing nothing
of such nonsense.

Monday, December 23, 2002


Ever wonder about those people who spend $2.00 apiece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backwards.
--George Carlin

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Haiku 2,498: A cure for insomnia?

Perhaps I should read
Volumes of modern poems
Late at night in bed

Friday, December 20, 2002

Go with the flow

What makes people happy? You've heard the cliches: "follow your bliss," "go with the flow," "money can't buy happiness," etc. Turns out there's more truth to them than you might think:

Psychologists now know what makes people happy

My take on this is that happiness is always transitory. It's futile to aim for constant happiness--how would you know if you were happy if you didn't have any other mental state to compare it to? And, in my experience, trying to hold on to a feeling inevitably makes it slip away. Better to appreciate our moments of happiness and think of life as a melody of high notes and low notes. You have to let go of one note to hear the next.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Requiem for a Pencil

I do all of my writing with either a ball-point pen or a keyboard. I've never been particularly fussy about what I write with, as long as it gets the words on paper (or screen) and doesn't leak all over my fingers. Some writers are fussy about their instruments, though, and quite a few through modern history have preferred to use the Blackwing 602. Alas, this pencil is no longer being manufactured, though you can still find them on eBay--for about $20 a piece.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

What's going on next door?

Is there anything more annoying than the Neighbor from Hell? (This is a saga about suburban tract-house neighbors. It can be even worse in an apartment building, let me tell you.)

Monday, December 16, 2002

Quote of the Day

”Shadows are harshest when there is only one lamp.”
--James Richardson

I think this aphorism refers to our tendency to look at issues from only one point of view (“lamp”). When we open ourselves to other points of view—even if we end up not agreeing with them—the shadows may multiply but they also fade. We’ve let in more “light.”

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Haiku 9,867

Winter's leafless trees
Whisper gnarled philosophy
As evening grows near

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Corporate Christmas

I ventured into Manhattan today to find the sort of artsy Christmas cards that I like to send to my clients. I found what I needed at Barnes & Noble—nondenominational photography cards depicting winter scenes—then walked a few blocks uptown to Rockefeller Center. Every year at Christmastime, I make a point of walking around the plaza to watch the skaters and observe the decorations and the enormous tree.

I’m not sure why I keep doing this every year, as the experience always leaves me feeling somewhat numb. Maybe it’s the giganticism that turns me off: the 20-foot toy soldiers, the 10-foot wire angels, the 76-foot Christmas tree. Combined with the milling, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, all of this makes me feel small.

Maybe that’s the idea. Maybe it’s supposed to make me feel like a child, a kid again, gazing up at a world made by giants—i.e., adults.

The decorations along Sixth Avenue are even more extreme. Ten-foot Christmas balls float in a fountain outside one skyscraper, as if they’ve fallen off some colossal tannenbaum. Six-foot faux holiday light bulbs sit in another fountain, as if dropped by some careless giant. These baubles are so large that they seem designed to make me feel like an embryo, not a child.

I don’t like feeling infantilized; that’s not the Christmas spirit I want. I also don’t much appreciate the overly art-directed, oh-so-tasteful ambiance of Rockefeller Center’s less spectacular holiday wrappings—the gold lamé flags that ring the skating rink, for example, or the swaths of evergreen dotted with tiny white sparkle lights. It’s impressive to be sure (the tourists ooh and aah) but cold and corporate, too. I’d rather see something naïve but sincere—a row house with a tree in the window and a wreath on the door, or even something religious. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Christmas at Rockefeller Center

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Prejudiced Prose

" 'I was strolling past some Korean shops in Chinatown when I overheard members of a Cambodian mafia having a powwow. One of these heathens had welshed on a deal to buy a ghetto blaster and was shanghaied off to the Near East. As if that weren't hurtful enough, it was Dutch treat all the way . . . . but my narrative doesn't end with a Mexican standoff: the thugs are massacred by Siamese-twin American Indian boys."

That's a quote from a hilarious review of a new book, Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing (Indiana University Press). The book was written by, and is intended for, copyeditors (of which I'm one, by the way). Though it contains some practical advice, the book seems to be primarily an excercise in political correctness run amok. ("Never say wheelchair-bound when living with mobility impairment will do.") The sentence in the above paragraph is reviewer Denis Dutton's, who writes: "The chapter on 'Race, Ethnicity, and Religion' in these Guidelines contains so much vivid (and therefore offensive) language, it tempts me to imagine a story-line based on vocabulary the Bias Persons would prohibit."

Monday, December 09, 2002

Quote of the Day

"Perception is a mirror not a fact. And what I look on is my state of mind, reflected outward."
--A Course in Miracles

True, I think. I look at a situation with a troubled mind, and it seems like the whole world is aligned against me. If I look at it calmly, rationally, drawing on both knowledge and intuition, it seems like a relatively small problem. And it's the same damn situation.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

More Poetry Outtakes


In front of God and everyone
Promises of passion
Whirl before our eyes

Look into my face and tell the time

In the normal course of events
With or without fear
We are walking in our sleep

There is nothing we need

Friday, December 06, 2002

Snow Day

I got very little “real” work done yesterday, unless you count the physical labor of shoveling snow. By lunchtime, the steps and sidewalk outside the condominium building where I live and work were piled high with a blanket of fluff. The “super” for our building is a part-timer with a day job, and I’m the only able-bodied male around the building during the day, so it was up to me. (Apparently. No one else seemed to be volunteering.)

There was just one problem: the shovels and salt were in the basement, and the basement was locked. We have a key, but my wife had it with her at work. (I keep forgetting to make a copy.)

I thought maybe I should just wait until she got home—usually around 6 or 6:30—but the snow was piling up fast against the front door. I decided to get a broom and at least try to sweep the fluffy stuff from the steps.

It worked at first, but some of the snow was frozen onto the concrete. I tried using the broom handle to break it up, but it was a cheap, plastic broom and the handle broke. Frustration. I went back upstairs and got the dustpan to use as a hand shovel. It worked pretty well on the steps.

While I was doing that—and feeling pretty silly scraping a dustpan along the stoop—our downstairs neighbor came trudging down the street with her kids. She suggested getting the basement key from another neighbor, a recent stroke victim, whom I didn’t realize was at home. She got the key for me, I found the shovel and a bag of salt pellets in the basement, and set back to work in earnest.

A guy from the building next door was also shoveling and offered to help me. Who says people aren’t neighborly in the city? We shoveled for a while, and then I threw some salt around, on his steps and sidewalk as well as mine.

Unfortunately, I used my bare hand to reach into the bag and grab the salt pellets, not realizing what this might do to my skin. I ended up with something resembling a mild sunburn on my right hand. When I was finished, I ran upstairs, washed up, and sprayed lots of Solarcaine (left over from last summer) onto my burnt digits.

The snow was still coming down in plump, wet flakes, and I knew I’d soon have to go out and shovel again. My hand was sore. I made myself a cup of coffee, sat down and thought of the myth of Sisyphus.

(Last year, I wrote a short story--published by Biffs Online--on a similar theme: Snow in the City. It won Biffs' "winter theme" contest.)

Thursday, December 05, 2002

What have you done now?

There's nothing like an apology to clear the air--especially a sincere apology. Sometimes a heartfelt-sounding excuse works, too. If you aren't feeling particularly sincere, though, there's always the Excuse-O-Mat. This text generator furnishes an endless supply of self-justifying rationales for all forms of perfidy.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Bad Writing Rewarded

Britain's least-coveted literary accolade, the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Prize, has been announced. Read about this year's winner, Wendy Perriam, whose novel, Tread Softly, is about "bunions, panic attacks and abuses in old people's homes":

award for godawful sex scenes

Here's an excerpt:

"The jargon he'd used at the consultation had become bewitching love-talk: ... dislocation of the second MTPJ ... titanium hemi-implant ....

"Yes!' she whispered back. Dorsal subluxation ... flexion deformity of the first metatarsal ...'.

"Oh yes!' she shouted, screwing up her face in concentration, tossing back her hair. Yes, oh Malcolm, yes!'."

Now I've Heard Everything Department

I never criticize religious beliefs--as long as they aren't used to oppress others--but this seems like a very peculiar idea to me: people in India are now worshiping an "AIDS goddess." As the author of the article below points out, however, India's religious traditions are very different from what Westerners are used to, and "AIDS-amma" might be more akin to Mr. Tooth Decay or Smokey the Bear than what we usually think of as a "goddess."

Birth of a Goddess

Friday, November 29, 2002

James who?

The latest James Bond saga is the best I've seen in quite some time--certainly the best of the Pierce Brosnan entries. The espionage plot, while not completely believable, isn't too over the top, and the same could be said for the exciting action sequences. There's also an interesting subtext involving the maliablility of identity. Bond starts out as a secret agent (of course), but then becomes a prisoner of war, then is rescued but fired by his boss at MI5, then redeems himself and becomes an agent again. One of his female colleagues turns out to be not at all what she appears to be--not just once but twice. The villain undergoes the most extreme transformation of all, virtually becoming a different person--or is he? The screenwriter seems to have had a little bit more on his mind this time than escapist daring-do and the usual 007 cliches, which is refreshing. A-

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

More Useless Facts

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a famous king from history:

Spades - King David
Hearts - Charlemagne
Clubs - Alexander the Great
Diamonds - Julius Caesar

But now I'm wondering: what about the queens?

Monday, November 25, 2002

Quote of the Day

Madness takes its toll; please have exact change.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Fried Nuts

When I use my ancient ThinkPad (laptop), I usually don't place it on my actual lap--or, if I do, I put a towel or something over my legs. That's because the computer's bottom puts out quite a lot of heat--which can be uncomfortable for us guys after a while. It can even lead to injury. Read on:

Scientist Burns Penis with Hot Laptop

How this guy managed to do this to himself without realizing it, I can't figure. I guess those scientists really must be absent-minded.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Where in the world is New Jersey?

According to a National Geographic survey, among 18- to 24-year-old Americans given maps:

87 percent cannot find Iraq
83 percent cannot find Afghanistan
76 percent cannot find Saudi Arabia
70 percent cannot find New Jersey
49 percent cannot find New York
11 percent cannot find the United States

Amazingly, only 71 percent of the surveyed Americans could locate the Pacific Ocean, the world's largest body of water. Worldwide, three in 10 of those surveyed could not correctly locate the Pacific Ocean.

The full story: Global goofs: U.S. youth can't find Iraq - Nov. 20, 2002

Coming Attractions

A real bomb? Check out this "movie poster":

Gulf Wars, Episode II: Clone of the Attack

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

What's in a name?

Saddam Hussein: When you don't use his full name, is he Saddam, Hussein or Mr. Hussein? The continuing debate:

Call him Saddam?

Did you know that his full name is Saddam Hussein al-Majd al-Tikriti? (Say that 10 times fast.)

Monday, November 18, 2002

Quote of the Day

"We know that a dream can be real, but who ever thought that reality could be a dream? We exist, of course, but how, in what way? As we believe, as flesh-and-blood human beings, or are we simply parts of someone's feverish, complicated nightmare? Think about it, and then ask yourself, do you live here, in this country, in this world, or do you live instead . . . in the Twilight Zone."
–Rod Serling

I'm beginning to wonder . . . .

Sunday, November 17, 2002

An airbag that plays the national anthem?

If you're an inventor who's stuck for new ideas, here's the site for you:

The Prior-Art-O-Matic

It generates random product ideas, many of which I'm sure are not as silly as some of the applications the US Patent Office receives.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Harry Potter and the Digital Video Projector

I took my son and two of his friends to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets today. Much to my surprise, the theater was equipped for digital video projection, so we were essentially watching a "video" on a 40-foot screen. I must say the resolution was fine--I wouldn't necessarily have known it wasn't a "film" film--though the colors seemed a bit flat. Some conventional movies have rather flat color, too, though. The sound, surprisingly, was muddy and for several minutes included some kind of background distortion that sounded vaguely like a steam locomotive chugging down the tracks in the distance--as if the Hogwarts Express was constantly passing by. It may have been a problem with the theater's system and speakers rather than the movie itself, though--some kind of feedback, I guess.

Overall, an enjoyable experience, though one of the kids said there was "too much talking" in the movie. That didn't bother me, but I didn't think this second installment was much better than the first--as some critics have said--and not as good in some respects. The novelty of seeing Hogwarts and the characters from the books come to life has warn off, so all that's left is the plot, which I didn't find that exciting (maybe I'm too old and jaded). The effects were better than in the first film, though--the flying car and the Quidditch match were thrilling--and some of the character acting was quite entertaining. Kenneth Brannagh (sp?) was great as Professor Lockhart, and whoever played Lucius Malfoy was terrific. B+

Friday, November 15, 2002

Read any good books lately?

The following statistics were true as of 1996 (American Booksellers Association stats, most recent survey results). I doubt they've improved much since then.

80% of US families did not buy or read a book in 1995.
70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last 5 years.
58% of the adult US population NEVER reads another book after high school.
42% of US college graduates NEVER read another book after graduation.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Knowing Without Knowing How You Know

Here's an interesting article on the value of intuition (despite the cheesy Star Trek example cited):

Scientific American: The Captain Kirk Principle

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Quote of the Day

"The future held no interest for her; she desired eternity; eternity is time that has stopped, come to a standstill; the future makes eternity impossible; she wanted to annihilate the future." -- From Ignorance by Milan Kundera

I've read some Kundera, but I'm not familiar with this book. I found this interesting, somewhat chilling quote on the Web. It occurs to me that it explains the mystery of suicide, or some suicides.

Monday, November 11, 2002

The Thief of Time

Here's some analysis of and advice on procrastination. Interestingly, the root causes of "putting it off" have to do with insecurity--not laziness. The page is geared toward college students but seems universally applicable. So what are you waiting for? Read it now.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Former English Major Blows Off Steam

Sometimes, I just feel like hurling Shakespearean insults:

Thou crusty botch of nature!
Thou fawning flap-mouthed clack-dish!
Thou beslubbering lily-livered joithead!
Thou puny beetle-headed dewberry!
Thou dankish weather-bitten malt-worm!
Thou goatish pottle-deep miscreant!
Thou bootless half-faced gudgeon!
Thou gleeking boil-brained popinjay!
Thou yeasty tickle-brained foot-licker!
Thou dankish motley-minded strumpet!
Your virginity breeds mites, much like a cheese.
Thou qualling base-court horn-beast!
Thou tottering spur-galled lout!
Thou infectious half-faced haggard!
Thou odiferous doghearted pignut!

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Quote of the Day

The purpose of life is to matter - to count
to stand for something
to have it make some difference
that we lived at all.
--Leo Rosten

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Inspiration Station

Need some fresh ideas? (If you're a Democratic Party official, better say "yes.") Here's a page full of links to creativity tools and techniques:

Creativity Web - Resources for Creativity and Innovation

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Never fear, Smith is here

Well, another little piece of my childhood is gone, except for the memories--and the reruns. Lost in Space was my favorite TV show as a kid. I met actor Jonathan Harris (who played Dr. Smith) in 1997 and thanked him for the many hours of pleasure he gave me as a child. "That is something I never tire of hearing," he said. May he rest in peace.

'Lost in Space' Villain Jonathan Harris Dies

Haiku 4,693

A small stone temple
Stands at the edge of a field
Shelter from the cold

Saturday, November 02, 2002

A Web Without Spiders

The article below is an attempt to diagnose (and diagram) the problems of today's publishing industry--and other "brokers" of creative work--from the perspective of writers and artists. I'm not too sure about the author's proposed solution, but it's an interesting analysis.

Untangling the Design and Production Lines

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Truly Scary

We think of witches as cartoon or fairy tale figures today--or as dabblers in new-age paganism. But it's worth remembering that witchcraft was once deadly serious business in America:

NY Times: They Called It Witchcraft (requires free, one-time registration)

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Wham, Bam, a Poetry Scam

Watch out for poetry "contests" in which all entries "win" and then the "poet" gets hit up for the cost of buying the resulting anthology. The worst (or at least, the biggest) offender is Poetry.com. Here's an amusing link to a ludicrous poem that was submitted to their ongoing contest and was declared a winner because of its "unique perspective" and "artistic vision."

Nicky Nacky Noo by Stephen Abutlol

Monday, October 28, 2002

The Ugliest Butterfly

It's an insult to Lepidopteras everywhere.

Overly aggressive marketeers at Microsoft (can you imagine such a thing?) have been sticking colorful butterfly decals all over everything in midtown Manhattan. No, they haven't gone all warm and fuzzy inside. It's all part of a campaign to promote the (ugh!) MSN Internet service, which, for some incomprehensible reason, uses a butterfly as its logo. Now Microsoft has apologized to the City of New York and offered to peal off the stickers. Shame on you, Cousin Billy! Read on:

Microsoft apologizes for NY decals

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Bad Haiku

Dear little puppy
Alone in the soft sunlight
Smashed to smithereens

Saturday, October 26, 2002

"The Eighth Wonder of the World"

Took my 11-year-old son, Philip, to see King Kong last night at the Loew's Theater (a refurbished movie palace from the 1920s) in Jersey City. It was a restored 35mm print, with scenes deleted in the late 1930s reinserted. Philip didn't say much about it, but he was clearly impressed, as was I. He had never seen it before; I had only seen it (many years ago) on TV (as a feature of Monster Movie Matinee--ie, with commercials). The special effects are, of course, primitive by today's digital, Jurassic Park, standards, but the story is entertaining enough to make up for it. (Story always trumps effects--are you listening, Hollyweird?) Fay Wray, the damsel in distress that the giant ape carries to the top of the Empire State Building, was very appealing--I had forgotten that. And she sure can scream!

King Kong (1933)

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Beautiful (Exquisite, Splendiferous) Words

Find exactly the right word (and a beautifully designed site) at:

Plumb Design Visual Thesaurus

What's interesting here is that alternative terms are displayed in graphical form, as a constellation surrounding the search word. Insert "beautiful," for example, and you get an animated starburst of synonyms.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

That Nigerian Spam Scam

Surely you're among the millions who routinely receive ugent pleas from Nigerian bureaucrats, ex-officials, widows of dictators, etc. You know the one: "Help me get $40 million out of my country (or a Swiss bank account). Just send me your bank account number . . . ."

As incredible as it may seem, there actually are people who fall for this scam, which does originate in Nigeria--in Nigerian cyber cafes, to be exact. Read all about it:

The Nigerian Nightmare

Monday, October 21, 2002

Haiku 14,798

I would like to find
A clearing in the deep woods
Beyond sunlight's reach

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Sorry to disappoint you . . .

Here are some of the search terms that people have used over the last day or so to reach this site:

"nude gunnison"

Apparently, this is someone looking for information about Gunnison Beach, the infamous nude beach at Sandy Hook, on the Jersey shore. I visited it by mistake last summer (and wrote about it here [scroll down]). Believe me, it's nothing to get too excited about if you're a voyeur, but I suppose it would be fun if you're really into skinny dipping. (I'm not.)

"nude beach vacation 2002 my +wife"

How nice that you and your wife have interests in common.

"ben curtis nude"

I wrote something about Ben Curtis, the "dude, you're gettin' a Dell" guy, here (scroll down) a while back. Nothing about him taking his clothes off, though. Why anyone would want to see him naked on the Internet is beyond me.

"elizabeth taylor nude cleopatra"

I think she did do a nude scene in Cleopatra, but I believe it was a bath scene and you couldn't see all that much of her--she was mostly under water and may not have been completely nude. If she did a real nude scene that was cut from the film (as, alas, so much other material was), do tell . . . .

My advice to anyone interested in building traffic for their blog is to write about nudity, nudes and going nude as much as possible.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

A Delicious Word

Do you hear colors? Do you taste sounds? Then you may be among the lucky few who "suffer" from a brain abnormality called Synesthesia. (Either that, or you're taking a lot of LSD.)

Read more:


Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Points to Ponder

From the Amazing Facts list:

"The New York phone book had 22 Hitler's listed before World War II . . . and none after."

Sometimes I wonder if there’s anyone left in the world today named “Hitler.” Presumably, anyone with that surname changed it after World War II, for their own personal safety, if for no other reason (and there were plenty of other reasons). I wouldn’t want to be walking around with a name like “Bin Laden” or “Oswald” or even “Booth,” either. (Although there was the actress Shirley Booth, well known in the 1950s and 60s, who apparently didn’t have a problem with it [?]—even though John Wilkes Booth was part of a famous 19th century acting family!) It’s bad enough carrying the “Gates” surname and being asked constantly if I’m related to you-know-who.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

The Difference a Century Makes

It sometimes seems to me that the 20th century was more like two or three centuries in one, in terms of technical advances and changes in Western living standards. Here are some interesting numbers from Strange Cosmos.

U. S. Statistics for 1902:

The average life expectancy in the US was forty-seven (47).
Only 14 Percent of the homes in the US had a bathtub.
Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.
A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost eleven dollars.
There were only 8,000 cars in the US and only 144 miles of paved roads.
The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California. With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 21st most populous state in the Union.
The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
The average wage in the US was 22 cents an hour.
The average U. S. worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
A competent Accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a Dentist $2,500 per year, a Veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a Mechanical Engineer about $5,000 per year.
More than 95 percent of all births in the U. S. took place at home.
Ninety percent of all U. S. Physicians had no college education. Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard."
Sugar cost four cents a pound.
Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.
Coffee cost fifteen cents a pound.
Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
Canada passed a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for any reason.
The five leading causes of death in the US were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke
The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.
The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30.
Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented.
There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.
One in ten U. S. adults couldn't read or write.
Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores.
Eighteen percent of households in the U. S. had at least one full-time servant or domestic.
There were only about 230 reported murders in the entire US.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Scary Stories

With Halloween coming, you may want to investigate the AUDIBLE SHRIEK THEATER.

It's collection of old radio horror stories, available in streaming audio format. My advice: lie in bed with the covers over your head as you listen to these.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Bad Dream

Last night, I dreamt I was standing in the local park (where I was on Sept. 11, 2001), looking at the New York skyline, as the top of Empire State Building crumpled. Then all the domes on top of the World Financial Center buildings blew off. Then a dark cloud blew across the river toward the park, and people started screaming. I was hit in the shoulder by a piece of plastic debris with a metal spring hanging from it. I hit the ground as the cloud blew past and I started to cry, then woke up with a start. It was morning.

I'm not sure, but this may have something to do with the following ominous news:

In Latest Strikes, Officials See Signs of Revived Qaeda

First paragraph: "American officials say they fear that attacks attributed to Al Qaeda in the past week and taped messages from the group's leaders signal the beginning of a new wave of terrorist activity and possibly a large-scale attack."

This is frightening stuff, considering that Al Qaeda's modus operandi is to launch major attacks at one-year or year-and-half intervals.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Quote of the Day

"Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don't have film."
--Steven Wright

A publisher called me today to ask me to proofread a book about Alzheimer's disease. That got me thinking about memory and what an odd thing it is. I often think of it as like a time machine: I'll start thinking about something that happened years ago, and for a few moments, it's as if I'm back there, reliving it, feeling the same emotions again . . . . It's funny what sticks in your mind. I remember certain conversations from years ago, word for word, but if I mention them to the person I was speaking with, they often look at me as if I'm crazy. "I don't remember that," they'll say, shaking their heads. The opposite happens, too. "Remember when . . ." someone will say, and I don't remember, and I think "No, that didn't happen." Then later, if I think hard, it sometimes comes back to me. I guess it's all there, really, hidden in the synapses, and it's just a matter of finding the right pathway back to it. Or something.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

The "Death Card"

So the DC-area sniper who's been shooting innocent people from a distance has left a clue: a Tarot card, the "death card." On the card he (?) wrote, "Dear Policeman, I am God." Am I the only one who thinks that this sounds like a plot device from a B movie or a cheesy TV cop show? In any case, the "death card" doesn't mean what most people think it means:

The Tarot's Death Card: A Symbol of Transformation

Monday, October 07, 2002

Sola lingua bona est lingua mortua

Impress your friends! Say it in Latin:

Latin phrases for all occasions

Saturday, October 05, 2002


In the mood for some arty Flash animations and experimental music? Hurry on over to:

Modern Living

Creepy, alienated and existential, but with a twist of humor--just the way I like it!

(Thanks to Boing Boing)

Friday, October 04, 2002

Nuns' Views on the News

A group of nuns comment on issues in the news at:

Carmelites of Indianapolis

They have some refreshing, original perspectives--too bad the site is weekly not daily.

(Thanks to Breaching the Web)

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Mug Shots of the Rich and Famous

Microsoft boss Bill Gates (no relation?) was photographed by the Albuquerque, New Mexico, police in 1977 after a traffic violation (details of which have been lost over time). Here's the mug shot:

Bill Gates mug shot

You'll find more police mug shots of famous people at:

Arresting Images

(Thanks to The Presurfer)


So funny I forgot to laugh . . .

According to scientists in England (at the University of Hertfordshire's "LaughLab"), the world's funniest joke has been discovered after a year-long search. People around the world were invited to judge jokes on an Internet site as well as contribute their own. From 40,000 jokes and two million ratings, this one was deemed the funniest:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them
collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes
are glazed. The other guy takes out his phone and calls
the emergency services.

He gasps: "My friend is dead! What can I do?"

The operator says: "Calm down, I can help. First,
let's make sure he's dead."

There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard.
Back on the phone, the guy says: "OK, now what?"

Amusing, yes. Laugh out loud hilarious? No. (Not for me anyway. Maybe I'm out of touch with the rest of humanity.)

Read more about this at World's Funniest Joke.

A friend writes:

"Hmmm ...funny, maybe. But funniest? Nah.

Reminds me of an old Monty Python sketch where British scientists during WWII were trying to come up with the world's funniest joke, to use it as a weapon. They came upon one so funny -- and so lethal -- that they had to use several translators who would translate just one word of the joke apiece into German. One translator came across three consecutive words and was hospitalized. The soldiers would each be given a single word to shout out in German until they got through the whole thing, and you'd hear German soldiers laughing in the bushes until they fell out, dead. It continues on in that vein. Now *that* was funny."

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Headed for extinction?

Despite worldwide reports--including some from such major news media as CNN and ABC--the UN's World Health Organization has not concluded that blonds will soon become extinct. How did this rumor get started, and why are people so anxious to believe it? Read more:


Monday, September 30, 2002

When Time Stopped

"The 20th century ended on September 11th, 2001. On that day, the implications of the theory of spectacle came home to roost. On that day, the world was presented with a spectacle of monumental proportions – an act of total negation so extreme that it was almost beyond conception."

Read more at:

The Long Kiss Goodbye to the 20th Century


Quote of the Day

"Windows XP is a 64-bit remake of a 32-bit extension for a 16-bit patch to an 8-bit operating system originally coded for a 4-bit microprocessor by a 2-bit company that can't stand 1-bit of competition."
--Jim Coil

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Them hos be frontin', and I ain't down wit dat

Who has time to write their own rap lyrics anymore? Here's a site that will do it for ya:

Amanda's w0wz3rz.com's RAPGEN


There's no place like home

On Friday night, the family and I went to see a showing of The Wizard of Oz at the Loews Jersey. I had never seen Oz in a movie theater before—and what a theater! The (partially) restored Loews, built in 1929, is a faux Renaissance palace, complete with Corinthian columns, red plush carpeting, grand stairways and enormous chandeliers. It has boxes and balaconies, seating for 1,000, and a huge stage with a curtain. It's everything that cineplexes aren’t today and was a perfect setting to watch a classic film.

There are many aspects of Oz that are dated by today's standards: painted flats and mattes used as backdrops, for example. To me, it doesn't matter, though--it's a dream, after all, and the relatively primitive stagecraft just makes it seem more dreamlike. And many of the special effects hold up quite well--especially the tornado scene.

I must have seen this movie a hundred times on TV, but only as an adult have I come to understand that it has a deeper, underlying meaning—and that even though this is considered the quintessential American film, it’s meaning is actually almost . . . Buddhist. “Brains” (wisdom), “heart” (compassion), “courage” and “a home” are all found inside you—they’re not something that can be found “out there.” You must find them within you. And you won’t find them by just being informed that they are there (“she wouldn’t have believed me”), but only by finding out for yourself. That’s what everyone’s life journey (“follow the yellow brick road”) is all about. Each of those yellow bricks is an experience, a tiny, golden opportunity to learn.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Why Osama bin Laden wants the US to invade Iraq

TOMPAINE.com - Op Ads

(Thanks to The Presurfer)


Haiku 247

A scrap of parchment
On the wind that passes by.
Still writers seek fame.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

He's so predictable . . .

I read a book once entitled King, Warrior, Magician, Lover about the four compass points of the male psyche. Here's a pop version of the concept, based on contemporary "types" that many will recognize, I suspect:

The Field Guide to North American Males

Are you artsy, athletic, work-obsessed or "casual"?

Monday, September 23, 2002

More Poetry Outtakes

We Blend Into the Sky

While we agree on nothing,
Flavors from childhood
Haunt us both in sleep.
Pretend you aren't the killer, you said.
I will if you will--
But it changes nothing.
We blend into the sky.
All of us. Eventually.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?

At a time in which more and more books are being published while fewer people read them--and fewer media outlets review them--what's an author to do? The frustrating business of book promotion is explored in Bribes, threats and naked readings.

I think I'll stick to web writing for now, thank you.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Quote of the Day

"When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane."
--Steven Wright

Friday, September 20, 2002

On Foot

I took the car in to be fixed today. It's having electrical problems--first the turn signal began to blink erratically, then one of the break lights went out. Then two of the four interior speakers fell silent and the driver's-side power window died. It's as if the car is having a slow-motion nervous breakdown.

The dealer's service shop is on the other side of town, so the problem became "How do I get home after I drop the car off?" It's a long walk to a convenient bus route from there, and I hate to waste money on cab fare. The weather is clear today, if a bit muggy, so I decided to walk. It's probably three miles in all, by the circuitous route I had to follow, but I have a good pair of walking shoes.

Interesting the encounters you have on an urban hike. At least four people asked me what time it was. This often happens to me when I'm walking about. I wonder if they really don't know what time it is, or if they're just trying to make some momentary connection with another human being. In a small town, you could say "hello" or "nice day," and get a nod or smile or "hi" in return, but that sort of greeting makes people suspicious in the city. It's often a prelude to "Can you spare a quarter?" or even a mugging, so people ignore it or move away quickly. You have to have a reason to talk to someone on a city street. So, 'Could you tell me what time it is?' someone leaning against the side of a building asks. "Almost 12:30," I say, glancing at my wrist. Sometimes I'm tempted to ask them why they don't wear a watch. They aren't expensive, after all--Burger King gives them away with a Kid's Meal. Sometimes I'm tempted to say, "It's later than you think."

I'm often asked for directions, too, which is ironic, because I have a terrible sense of direction. But I look harmless yet authoritative in my middle-class white-guy way, I suppose, so I'm the one they pick. They pull up alongside me in their cars, roll down their windows, and ask, "Could you tell me how to get to . . . ." I try to help, but I wonder how many times I've steered someone in the wrong direction. I wonder how many people have cursed me as they traveled deeper and deeper into the gritty labyrinth of Jersey City.

Oh, well. I'm home at last. My legs are tired as I sit here sipping a cup of coffee. It's a good feeling.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Surf's Up

Back in the early days of the WWW, aimless web-surfing was a popular activity. People would just follow links to see where they'd end up. Sooner or later, you'd always turn up something interesting or useful, or a least something weird. Then the web became immense and commercial, and people began to feel overwhelmed by its size and variety. They turned to search engines and began to look only for specifics.

But it's still possible to web-surf. Here's a site that makes it simple:

Random Website Surfing with the Magic Lighthouse

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Flow-charting the future

An interesting projection of future outcomes if the U.S. goes to war with Iraq:

Exploring the possibilities

Monday, September 16, 2002

Saddam Hussein: Music Video Star

Yes, it's true. PBS says it's true, so it must be true, but I find it hard to believe. Nevertheless, here's the proof:

frontline: the survival of saddam: video

Did you know that he's also a novelist? An Iraqi publisher has released several of his novels. A wise business decision, no doubt. And I bet they are best sellers.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Grecian Formula

I usually don't like "cute" movies, but My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which my wife convinced me to see last night) managed to transcend its romance-novel formula with some sharp character acting and a palpable sense of being based on someone's (exagerated) real-life experience. There was no Hollywood gloss or slickness, which was refreshing. And I did laugh at times, which I can't say about most so-called comedies. B+

Friday, September 13, 2002

We're watching you with our spy satellite

Ever wonder what your place looks like from space? Go to the TerraServer V5.0 Homepage and type in your address, using "advanced search." You may get a different perspective on things. (It made me feel like a very tiny insect.)

Thursday, September 12, 2002

All we are saying . . .

A free MP3 download from the one and only Yoko Ono:

Mind Train Records - Give Peace a Chance 2002

Try it -- it is mega-cool.

3,000 people died and all I got was this lousy T-shirt

A somewhat tasteless satire of 9/11 hoopla and commercialism:

The Twin Towers over Ground Zero Theme Park

Be sure to click on Abe Lincoln!

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Quote of the Day

"The danger is not that you'll think you're a genius when you aren't; it's that you'll think it matters."
--David Bradley

Monday, September 09, 2002

Live Long and Prosper

Here's a Guide To Living Forever.

If you can call it living.

While waiting in line at the bank today, I heard a man who said he was 70 years old (he looked older) complaining about his mother. He said she was 96 and couldn't endorse her government checks, because "she doesn't know what's going on anymore." He laughed and then said, "When I get old I think I'll shoot myself."

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Keychain emotions

In the selling of 9/11, a Salon.com writer laments the commercialization of September 11--the commemorative plates, medallions, sweatshirts, caps, crystal replicas of the WTC towers, etc. I must admit that I find all the trinkets and trash pretty distasteful myself. (The manufacturers of this stuff claim they donate some percentage of the proceeds to charity, but you have to wonder if anyone's actually monitoring that.)

There's something about us Americans--probably our extreme materialism--that makes (some of) us want to crystalize our emotions in the form of merchandise. It's crass, trite, childish and rather sad--as if we had no other means of communicating what we feel. What will be even sadder, though, will be seeing all of this stuff in flea markets and yard sales a few years from now. So much for "remembrance."

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Who's your daddy?

In the "life is unfair" department, ever notice that just about every successful Hollyweird actor, writer or director is related to someone "in the business"? Shameless nepotism has a long and hallowed tradition in film and TV. Here's a page that lists only some of the most obvious examples:

The Hollywood Nepotism Page

And here's a link to "Hollywood's First Annual Nepotism Award."

Thursday, September 05, 2002

The Twists & Turns List

Hamid Karzai
Kelly Clarkson
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Lance Bass
Charlton Heston
Britney Spears
Andrew Cuomo
Eva Braun
Quentin Tarantino

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Extra Credit

What should schools teach children about Sept. 11? A "psychobabbly, America-is-to-blame-because-of-its-own-racism approach" or a "moralizing, absolutist approach that emphasizes America's virtue above all else"? Here's an article that suggests another alternative:

Sept. 11 Goes to School

In Memoriam

A friend who works as a librarian in a prison writes:

"What are you doing Sept. 11? The prison is having memorial services all morning. This is a good thing. All the books I've bought on Taliban, Terrorism, Jihad, Sept. 11 are moving off the shelves (and surprisingly they are coming back to be re-circulated!)."

I can't remember a time of so much collective memorial as we're about to experience next week. The only thing I can compare it to is JFK's funeral in 1963. (I was a wee tot, but I vaguely recall the black-and-white TV images.) But that was a localized event in Washington, DC, that the rest of the nation could only experience vicariously. The Sept. 11 memorials are different, not least because it seems they will occur all over the country--even in prisons--and just about anyone who wants to participate in one will be able to do so (though obviously the most central events will be in New York).

I'm not planning to do anything special on the 11th. I may or may not watch the TV coverage. I'm still not sure I'm ready to relive it all. I do think things might start to feel different on Sept. 12, however, as, with the perspective of a full year, "that day" begins to slip into history.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Somebody finally said it . . . .

Psychopaths rule at work

After reading this article, a friend and former co-worker wrote:

"I'd like to know what it cost them to do that study ... we could have told them that for nothing!"

Heads for Sale

I've now added some of my, ahem, "artistic" photography to my main site. Here's a sample:

Fifteen heads are better than one, right?

Friday, August 30, 2002

Prove it

President Kennedy did a wise thing during the Cuban missile crisis. He made public the U2 spy photographs that proved conclusively that the Soviets were installing nuclear missiles in Cuba. And many countries around the world supported the US in that conflict (at least rhetorically, I think). We need something similar now, I believe. Before we go to war with Iraq, I want to see evidence--photographs or some other kind of hard proof--that Sadam Hussein is truly building "weapons of mass destruction" that he can soon use against other countries. I want to see proof that this isn't just a Bush family vendetta against the biggest thorn in Bush Senior's side. Otherwise, it seems that the US would have to go into this war alone, with no support from allies in the Arab world or even in Europe. And I don't think the US can win that way.

Nice work (for exhibitionists) if you can get it

Couple Bed Down in Shop Window. The John and Yoko of the new millennium? Nah.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Such a beautiful disease . . .

A picture of a virus, blown up to wall size, can be pretty, as illustrated in this Wired article: Behold: 'Ebola Is Beautiful'. But are we really seeing what we think we're seeing? This isn't just another gee-whiz puff piece, but rather a thought-provoking meditation on the relationships between art, truth, illusion and reality.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Some Like It Hot

Yesterday was "beach day." My wife and son and I piled into the car and drove down to Sandy Hook, which has several nice beaches. My wife wanted to try Gunnison Beach, which sounded vaguely familiar to us, but we couldn't remember why. After parking the car, we walked for what seemed a mile across a short boardwalk and lots and lots of hot sand to reach the ocean, only to discover that this was a nude beach. Yes, New Jersey actually has a legal nude beach, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, complete with life guards (who wear bathing suits). Your tax dollars at work! Rather than turn back--or doff our swimsuits--we decided to use the "clothed" part of the beach. Oddly, our 11-year-old son never seemed to notice that the other half of the beach was nude (although many people on that side actually did have their suits on--maybe they were voyeurs?). He was entirely focused on the waves and having fun. Just as well. We left after a while and drove to North Beach (a "prude" beach, you might say--no nudity), had lunch there and frolicked some more in the waves.

It was all quite the eye-opening experience. Believe me, though, most of the people on Gunnison Beach you would not care to see naked.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Remember September

My essay about my September 11 experience and my "relationship" with the Twin Towers has been published by Biff's Online. Check it out at:

The Towers

There are several other essays, poems and stories about "that day" there, too.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Quote of the Day

"It's a shame the French don't have a word for 'entrepreneur.' "
--George W. Bush

Sunday, August 25, 2002

More Poetry Outtakes

Falling Asleep in the Sun

Soft sirens
From another era
Call to you in your sleep.
They pretend to recognize you,
Each offering a sweet, narcotic kiss.

A cloud of mosquitoes hovers above your head.
And in the end, it seems
Your life was always theirs.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Microsoft Outlook Distress

Once again, Microsoft discloses 'critical' security flaws. I'm getting tired of all these warnings about security holes in Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, etc. Can't Cousin Bill protect his code a little better? Maybe devote one of his many billions to that? Of course, when you think about it, a significant reason why Microsoft's wares are so vulnerable to attack is that they dominate the browser and software market--so it's their products that the hackers and virus creators aim their insidious efforts at. (If Netscape was the dominant web browser/e-mail client, you can bet that most of the viruses would be designed for that product.) The price of monopolizing the software biz is constant vigilence, it seems.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Dog Days

God, I hate August. Summer camp is over, school hasn't started yet, and while I attempt to get some work done, my 11-year-old wants to use the computer every five minutes. For some reason, I always seem to have a tremendous work load this month, too--people are on vacation and need freelancers to cover for them, and everybody is trying to ready their projects for the fall. I even had to take the laptop with me so I could keep up while we visited my parents in upstate New York last weekend. I shouldn't complain, though--I love working at home, and having a lot of work is a blessing. It's just hard to juggle it all, sometimes, especially when the temperature is 105 outside and I feel like a soggy towel every time I step out of my home/office. Bitch, bitch, bitch . . . . Time for a lemonade.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

English: The World Tour

1. In a Tokyo Hotel:
Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not a person to
do such thing is please not to read notis.

2. In a Bucharest hotel lobby:
The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret
that you will be unbearable.

3. In a Leipzig elevator:
Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.

4. In a Belgrade hotel elevator:
To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should
enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor.
Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.

5. In a Paris hotel elevator:
Please leave your values at the front desk.

6. In a hotel in Athens:
Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of
9 and 11 A.M. daily.

7. In a Yugoslavian hotel:
The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the

8. In a Japanese hotel:
You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

9. In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers:
Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots
of ascension.

10. On the menu of a Swiss restaurant:
Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

11. On the menu of a Polish hotel:
Salad a firm's own make; limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings
in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten
up in the country people's fashion.

12. Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop:
Ladies may have a fit upstairs.

13. Outside a Paris dress shop:
Dresses for street walking.

14. In a Rhodes tailor shop:
Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will execute
customers in strict rotation.

15. Similarly, from the Soviet Weekly:
There will be a Moscow Exhibition of Arts by 15,000 Soviet Republic
painters and sculptors. These were executed over the past two years.

16. A sign posted in Germany's Black forest:
It is strictly forbidden on our black forest camping site that people
of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one
tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.

17. In a Zurich hotel:
Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex
in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this

18. In a Rome laundry:
Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good

19. In a Swiss mountain inn:
Special today -- no ice cream.

20. In a Tokyo bar:
Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts.

21. In a Copenhagen airline ticket office:
We take your bags and send them in all directions.

22. On the door of a Moscow hotel room:
If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.

23. In a Norwegian cocktail lounge:
Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

24. In a Budapest zoo:
Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give
it to the guard on duty.

25. In the office of a Roman doctor:
Specialist in women and other diseases.

26. In an Acapulco hotel:
The manager has personally passed all the water served here.

27. From a Japanese information booklet about using a hotel air
Cooles and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room,
please control yourself.

28. From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo:
When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him
melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then
tootle him with vigor.

29. Two signs from a Majorcan shop entrance:
- English well talking.
- Here speeching American.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Quote of the Day

Some people live in a continual state of skepticism and annoyance that they cultivate as a kind of worldly wisdom and are always recruiting for. Let the sun come up and they will roll their eyes, Wouldn't you know it? Profess to be content and they will be disappointed that you have sold your soul for trifles. They wait, hurt and righteous, for the world to prove it really loves them.
--James Richardson

Monday, August 12, 2002

A true horror show

And like most true horror stories, it's as sad as it is scary . . . .

The history of Michael Jackson's face

(thanks to The Presurfer)

Sunday, August 11, 2002

From white collar to orange collar

A lot of "white collar" criminals will soon be on their way to prison, it seems. Think they'll end up in country-club-style lock-ups? Think again: Packing Lightly for Prison [requires registration, but it's free].

Friday, August 09, 2002


I recently got an mp3 recording program, and I've been having fun making music files. My latest project has been to create my own version of the Beatles' Let It Be/Get Back mess. For those of you who aren't Beatle fanatics, the fab four's Let It Be album has long been considered their worst, though some of the individual tracks--culled from their abortive Get Back "live" album project in 1969--are among their best. The commercially available album was produced by Phil Spector, who imposed his "wall of sound" production style on some of the songs, with distasteful results (many feel). Anyway, using various sources, including mp3s I downloaded from the web and some of my own Beatle CDs, I put together what I think is the ultimate Get Back, which I call Get Back--Expanded. Here's the track list, with some explanatory notes:

[Tracks without explanatory notes are the Let It Be versions.]

Get Back (the single version, from the "1" album)

One After 909

Save The Last Dance For Me (a bootleg mp3, found on the web. It make's a good intro to "Don't Let Me Down," because it includes a bit of that song at the end.)

Don't Let Me Down (one of Lennon's best songs. Why this one was left off the official Let It Be album, I can't fathom.)

Dig A Pony (from the Beatles' Anthology 3 album. Better than the official version, I think.)

I've Got A Feeling (ditto)

Medley: Rip It Up/Shake, Rattle and Roll/Blue Suede Shoes (from Anthology 3)

She Came in Through the Bathroom Window (ditto. Although this song eventually showed up on Abbey Road, this longer, slower version was recorded during the Get Back sessions.)

Mean Mr. Mustard (from Anthology 3. This is actually Lennon's demo version from the "White Album" period, but it fits right in, I think, because it has that "unplugged" sound. And the Beatles's actually did work on it during the Get Back sessions.)

Polythene Pam (ditto)

Dig It

Let It Be (the non-Spectorized single version, from "1")

For You Blue

Two Of Us

Maggie Mae

Across The Universe (from Anthology 2. I like this simple version better than the Spectorized track.)

I Me Mine (from Anthology 3)

The Long And Winding Road (ditto. Again, I like it much better without Spector's strings-and-choir glop.)

Get Back (reprise)

Teddy Boy (from Anthology 3. This makes a nice "bonus track" coda, I think, sort of like "Her Majesty" on Abbey Road).

Now I just need to burn this onto a CD . . . . Maybe I'll start my own Rotten Apple label (just kidding, lawyers).

Thursday, August 08, 2002

More Poetry Outtakes

Dream 27

Crazy ladies
Whirl overhead in the form of seagulls.
They want you, want you, want you,
But drift away on the wind.

The scent of money here is overpowering,
And there's no real chance of escape.
Wake me when it’s over.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Modern Jeanetics

While wandering through a department store the other day, I paused to look at what appeared to be a rack of used, bell-bottom jeans. The pants were badly frayed and torn at the bottom, and they had the type of fade patterns you might expect to see if someone had worn them out in the sun every day for years. Are department stores now selling used clothing, I wondered? Did some ancient hippie con the store into buying his glad rags? No, these were new jeans--pre-faded, pre-stressed or whatever they call it, but not "pre-worn." They were made that way. On purpose. And they weren't cheap.

All of which lead me to wonder about the factory workers in China who make nearly all "American" jeans. What must be going through their minds as they deliberately discolor and tear up these garments?

They must think that we are utterly insane.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Great Movie Quotes

"To be afraid of the people. To waste time on the people....Won't you understand? Kings are not elected! Gods are not elected!"
Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra

I wonder if that's what Laura whispers to George at night.

"How do you shave in there?"
Audrey Hepburn in Charade, upon regarding Cary Grant's cleft chin.

Very carefully, mah deeer.

GI Joe tries to foil airport security

Just when you thought the security situation at airports couldn't get any sillier:

Soldier toy disarmed at airport

When will we have real security at airports? They still aren't screening checked baggage and cargo, but they are confiscating miniature plastic replicas of guns . . . .

Sunday, August 04, 2002

What hath PayPal wrought?

I have no comment on this one! I'm "speechless."

Buy Me A Hooker.com

Saturday, August 03, 2002

Dude . . .

I can't decide if the Dell TV commercials starring slacker dude "Steve" are incredibly annoying or extremely entertaining--it all depends on my mood at the time. I have to admit that the actor who plays Steve, Ben Curtis, is pretty funny, though. Either he really is Steve or he's incredibly good at mimicing teenage/slacker mannerisms and speech patterns. I wouldn't be surprised if someone in Hollyweird is planning a "Steve" movie right now (complete with Dell product placements). Here's a website I stumbled across devoted to the commercials and Curtis: Hey it's him.

Thursday, August 01, 2002


Beyond the old wall
The wind bends the ragged weeds.
A moment of truth.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Nothing Succeeds Like Failure

The Financial Times (of London) has published a table showing how much money the "barons of bankruptcy" made while their companies were sinking. It's quite an eye opener. The CEO of Global Crossing "earned" $512 million (mostly on stock options) while the company lost $25.5 billion in assets and eliminated over 5,000 jobs. I guess the captain doesn't go down with the ship anymore.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Must what goes up come down?

Strange but true: The BBC reports that the Boeing Company, NASA and the British military are all working on anti-gravity technology. A scientist involved says that in experiments "objects above a superconducting ceramic disc rotating over powerful electromagnets lost weight." Sounds like flying saucers to me.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Visit Exciting Afghanistan!

I was joking with my wife last night that what Afghanistan really needs is tourism. Now I find that it's not such a joke. Travel agencies are actually offering "adventure" tours of the war-torn country. Here's one: Afghanistan Tours. According to their website, they offer "bicycling" and "ballooning" tours of Afghanistan--in theory at least. (I'm not sure anyone could pay me enough to take a balloon tour of Afghanistan right now.)

I wonder what sorts of people are paying to visit Afghanistan these days, anyway (other than journalists and others who have to go there). My guess: wealthy thrill seekers who want to come back and brag to their friends. In other words, assholes.

Sunday, July 28, 2002


A fat, yellow wasp
Hovers just above the lake
Vibrating with life

A rare bird appears
Inside the forbidden wall
No one understands

Just before nightfall
Someone is chasing a dwarf
As daylight fades

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Where are my toys, Mom?

I visited an historical toy exhibit at the Liberty Science Center last night--it was Member Night, and we took my son--and was amazed to see many of the toys I played with as a kid on display. Matchbox cars, Silly Putty, Slinky, Frisbee, Mr. Potato Head, GI Joe in his space capsule--all now considered antiques, I suppose. And what does that make me? Oh well, a lot of those toys are still sold today . . . . I don't know what happened to all my toys. A lot of them would probably be worth a fortune now.

We also saw an IMAX film there about all the unusual critters that live in Australia. It's a dome theater, so the picture surrounds you, producing an amazing effect of "being there." It's funny how the eye can fool you into feeling like you're flying above the Australian outback, even while you're sitting still in a comfy chair.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Fat? Sue!

It had to happen, I suppose. An obese man is now suing McDonald's and other purveyors of fat, greasy "food" for causing his health problems. Read about it here. Apparently, he believes (if we take him at his word) that fast food is equivalent to killer tobacco. But burgers and fries, eaten in moderation, won't kill anyone. "Moderate" smoking will. I don't know . . . Where will it all end? Why not sue the TV networks for addicting people to sitting on the couch instead of exercising?
More Poetry Outtakes

Pretend You're Still Yourself

Pretend you're still yourself.
Do it forever,
As if you were being graded.

Just when you think it's safe,
Images of birds in flight
Become really annoying.

We are bored with the dream,
But the sky goes on forever.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child

An acting troup put on Shakespeare's King Lear in the local park tonight. I have to admire them for even attempting this play--probably Will's finest. Just learning the lines is hard enough, let alone acting it out. I should know: I played the character Edgar in a scene for acting class in college. Only about 20 people were watching tonight, and I'm not sure how many even knew what they were seeing (or hearing), but it was a worthy performance under difficult circumstances, complete with periodic sirens, noisy teenagers and boom-box music for accompaniment.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002


What do I write about if I have nothing (at the moment) to say? How 'bout some haiku . . . .

Dimly, the old moon
Seems to brush against the trees
As I run away

Sunday, July 21, 2002

Too Much Talent

If you've ever been employed by a large organization where superstar managers made your job impossible, you should read The Talent Myth, an article currently on The New Yorker's website. Here's a sampling:

"The broader failing of [consulting firm] McKinsey and its acolytes at Enron is their assumption that an organization's intelligence is simply a function of the intelligence of its employees. They believe in stars, because they don't believe in systems. In a way, that's understandable, because our lives are so obviously enriched by individual brilliance. Groups don't write great novels, and a committee didn't come up with the theory of relativity. But companies work by different rules. They don't just create; they execute and compete and coördinate the efforts of many different people, and the organizations that are most successful at that task are the ones where the system is the star." [emphasis added]

As someone who used to work for a large organization (which shall be nameless) under a "superstar" manager (who shall be nameless) with a Wharton MBA--but no people skills--I can say that the author of this article is saying something that needs to be said. The organization I worked for (at least in my department) had no logical system for getting the work done--or even adequate resources. They just hired "talented" people and expected them to wave their magic wands. This led to chaos, fear, paranoia and low productivity. Top management's answer to the problems was to fire people and hire more "talented" replacements--which did nothing more than start the whole cycle over again.

And that, dear readers, is one big reason why I work for myself today.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

Is It Done Yet?

The hardest part of being a writer, for me, is knowing when something is truly finished. I read a short story that I think I completed days ago, and I find all sorts of problems to fix. I make the changes, and put it aside for a few days. Then I look at it again, and find still more that I want to change--but this time they're smaller things. Then the process starts all over again, until the changes become tiny alterations: a comma here, a different word there. I might go through this more than a dozen times, until I find nothing I want to change. Then I send it out and, usually, it comes back with a rejection note. So I read it over again and--yes--find stuff I want to change. Even in stories that I've published, I find passages that I would write differently if I had it to do over again. How do you know when it's done? I wish it was like cooking a turkey, and you could just stick a thermometer in it and yell "come and get it!"
More Poetry Outtakes

Taste My Pain

As solemnly as possible
Be a witness to my work
In the shadow of the eclipse.
Consider it your reward.

All the promises you've made
Fill me with sorrow.
I have never been lost enough to forget you.
Taste my pain and you will become me.

Friday, July 19, 2002

Corporate Scandal All-Stars to Trade and Collect

With another business scandal emerging seemingly every day, it's getting hard to keep the perps straight. But now you can keep track of all the cookbook CEOs with the corporate scandal trading cards. Collect 'em, trade 'em with your friends--they're guaranteed not to lose value. Unlike your stock certificates.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Have another cup of joe . . .

Finally, a justification for my coffee addiction! According to a recent study (as they say on TV), three cups of coffee a day keeps dementia at bay. Apparently, all that caffeine staves off alzheimers. Now I don't have to feel guilty about drinking hot coffee when it's 95 degrees (F) outside--a real symptom of java junkiehood. (Thanks to the presurfer for pointing to this important research.)
Plutocracy, anyone?

Here's an interesting take on corporate corruption: The Cycles of Financial Scandal. (You have to register with The New York Times to read the article, but it's free.)

More and more commentators are pointing out that the last two decades have been a second "Gilded Age," an age like that of the industrial robber barons that led to reforms brought about by Teddy Roosevelt in the early 20th century. It's possible to carry historical analogies too far, of course, but it's interesting that the income distribution in the U.S. is now quite similar to that time, with the top 2 percent owning about half the country's wealth.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

More Poetry Outtakes

Movie Palace

Close your eyes and speak in tongues
Silhouetted against a Technicolor sunset,
While you wait for the bullet
In the palace of pleasure.

An old movie script
Can be more than entertainment.

Happiness has made us blind to faults.
If only we could be here forever.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

An Excess of Caution, A Failure of Imagination

Well, I have to say I'm underwhelmed by the six site plans unveiled today for Ground Zero. In terms of architecture, they are all bland and uninspired. Of the six, the ones I like the best include the "Promenade" plan. It preserves some of the "twoness" of the old WTC, with two 1,500 foot "architectural elements"--broadcast towers, I assume. That's important, because New York needs to replace the broadcast tower that was lost on 9/11--the Empire State Building mast, which most TV stations are using now, just isn't tall enough. I also like some elements of the Memorial Garden plan, because it's tall (again, though use of a broadcast tower) and would enhance the skyline. All of the plans include memorials and museums, and most of them avoid building on the footprints of the Twin Towers, which I (and most people, I think) support. Someday I want to stand where they stood and remember.

I was hoping for something more sweeping and audacious from these plans--something like an Eiffel Tower for New York!

Luckily, these plans are just starting points for public debate--which I predict will be lengthy and heated.
Later, I'll have something to say about these plans for six options to rebuild Ground Zero, which were unveiled to the public today by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

My primary desire for the site is that it include a memorial and that something tall be built there (not necessarily a building!). I would like to see New York's skyline at least partially restored.

I'm very interested in all this, having seen the towers collapse with my own eyes. (Read my essay about it here.)

Sunday, July 14, 2002

Quote of the Day

When childhood dies, its corpses are called adults and they enter
society, one of the politer names of hell.
-- Brian Aldiss

Isn't that a cheery thought?
Google! DayPop! This is my blogchalk: English, United States, Jersey City, the Heights, Michael, Male!
More Poetry Outtakes

Come Back From the Dead

Come back from the dead.
Do it as I cannot--
Out of gratitude.
As kids frolic in the meadow,
Warm raindrops
Are part of the ambience.
We can let the sky be our home.
We are walking in our sleep.

Saturday, July 13, 2002

"For restrooms, go back toward your behind."

Here are some amusing examples of fractured Japanese "Engrish."


In the empty park
The old hot dog vendor sighs
As the clouds pile up

Friday, July 12, 2002

The quick, brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

The "qwerty" layout of computer keyboards was first invented for manual typewriters--it helped to keep the keys from jamming. Today, it serves no purpose whatsoever. It's slow, awkward and illogical, and for people who type a lot, it causes repetitive motion injuries. It's also the root cause of a lot of typos. So why are we still using it? Inertia--it's how everybody learned to type, and most people are too lazy (probably me included) to switch to the much more sensible Dvorak keyboard layout (which most computers will easily allow you to do). More information about this is at:

Friends Don't Let Friends Type Qwerty

I'm tempted to switch myself, but hesitant because it supposedly takes about a month to both get used to Dvorak and to get your typing speed back up. After that, though, you can supposedly type much faster. Something to think about . . . .
Poor, sick little puppet . . .

The producers of Sesame Street are planning to introduce an HIV-positive muppet, first to viewers in South Africa and then, possibly, in the U.S. I object! An HIV-positive child or even adult would be a fine, even admirable, addition to the SS cast, but why can't fantasy characters stay in the realm of fantasy? Why drag them down into our messy, complicated world? Sometimes adults just can't let kids dream --anything imaginative has to "teach" them something "valuable." Sheesh!
Shop Til You Drop

According to today's business news, consumer sentiment is at an 8-month low (no surprise there, given what's happening on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms). Yet consumer spending was up for June. Can anyone make sense of this data? We're all scared . . . so let's go shopping?

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Found at Am i there yet? - anne's bitch 'n bytes:

Sure to become a classic quote:
When asked if he thought there was room for forgiveness for those who abetted the terrorists of 9/11, General Norman Schwartzkof recently replied: "I believe that forgiving them is God's function. Our job is simply to arrange the meeting."

CEOs on the Run

The corporate crime wave continues: REMAINING U.S. CEOs MAKE A BREAK FOR IT

Monday, July 08, 2002

On Ice

This has to be the most bizarre sports story of recent times. The Boston Globe reports that Ted Williams's son is having his father's body cryogenically frozen. You have to wonder if Mr. Williams senior agreed to this. Somehow I doubt it. From what I've heard about him in all the recent eulogies, he doesn't sound like the type.

Cryogenics is a scam in my opinion. Even if the body could be reanimated somehow, someday, through some unknown technology, would the mind still function? Would it be the "same" person, or more like a clone? I just find the whole thing morbid and nauseating.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

I'm sure that knee-jerk leftists will reject it out of hand, but here's a report that confirms economic "globalization" as, over all, a good thing for world's poor:

Globalization has Helped Poor, Study Says

Report on Minority Report

Saw Minority Report last night and enjoyed it, but the more I think about it, the more plot holes and (shall we say) improbable events I recall. (The chase through a robotic automobile factory--in suburban Washington, DC?--is really over the top, for example.) The way Spielberg filmed it tends to hide a lot of the story problems while watching the movie, though. He used an impressionistic style, including blue filters and slightly overexposed film stock, which gives the whole story a dream-like quality, as if it was all someone's fantasy--or "pre-cognitive" reverie. Some excellent acting helps, too. There's a standard Hollywood/Spielberg happy ending, but it's worth seeing, I think, as are most movies based on Philip K. Dick stories (e.g., Total Recall). It will stay with you and make you think.

Friday, July 05, 2002

"Nobody has a worse opinion of the US public than Hollywood."

They just don't make 'em like they used to. Here's why:

Is Hollywood capable of 'thinking' movies? | csmonitor.com

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Breaking news: I'm afraid there may be some inefficiency within the U.S. postal service.

I went to the local post office today to mail a letter, and the line to buy stamps was almost out the door, as it usually is when postal rates go up. Of course, all the stamp-vending machines were out of order. Of course. At least their air-conditioning was working.

It's my own damn fault really. I should have stocked up on three-cent stamps before the rush.

I ended up walking to the newstand up the street, where they sell 3-cent stamps for 5 cents--a real bargain, considering.
Here in the New York metro area, the temperature is somewhere in the high 90s today, and the humidity index is at about 70 percent. Every time I step outside, I feel like I've moved to Venus.

I'm nervous about the holiday. According to CNN, there will be Air Force fighter jets patrolling the skies again, just as there were after "that day." I was hoping to get out of town for the holiday, but instead I'll be here, hugging my air conditioner and staying away from the crowds. Here's hoping the only fireworks will be of the Grucci kind.

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Hold Still While I Focus

Hold still while I focus,
And I will be forever grateful.
Play out this scene with me now.

Out of the ether,
Images from radiant days
roll like tumbleweeds through my mind,

And I wish we were friends again.

Monday, July 01, 2002

Quote of the Day

"The public education system in America is one of the most important foundations of our democracy. After all, it is where children from all over America learn to be responsible citizens, and learn to have the skills necessary to take advantage of our fantastic opportunistic society."—President George Bush, Santa Clara, Calif., May 1, 2002

Find more unintentional hilarity at The Complete Bushisms.

Sunday, June 30, 2002

In Ceremonial Deism We Trust

I just can't get too worked up over the whole "under God" thing. It will obviously be overturned and soon forgotten. What I don't understand is some of the hot air from the spinmeisters and talking heads. They say it's important to refer to God in the pledge, on our money, etc., because we're a faithfull, God-fearin' nation. But out of the other sides of their mouths, they say that atheists (and Hindus and pagans) shouldn't be offended, because it's just meaningless "ceremonial deism." They can't have it both ways. Why not just say, "We want it, and if you don't like it, you can shove it"?

I'm for keeping it, but I found the spectacle of politicians falling over themselves to recite the pledge on the Capitol steps truly stomach-churning.

Saturday, June 29, 2002

Walk Into the Sky And Find Your Heart

Walk into the sky and find your heart--
Do it without caution,
As a gift to yourself.

You may think about staying there forever,
But the priests of hate
Have their own agenda.

If the earth is dying,
It is only because
We are bored with the dream.
Revealing Interviews with Dave Morse

Speaking of (partial) nudity (see previous post) . . . .

Some men are proud of their beer guts. Apparently, Dave Morse Sr., father-in-law of Richard Ricci (the guy that Utah police investigating Elizabeth Smart's abduction find "interesting") is one of them. Over the last few days, he's been seen frequently on national TV, wandering around shirtless outside his trailer home. See:

Morse's gut

If I had a big, fat belly like that--my stomach is flat, thank you--I sure wouldn't parade it in front of CNN's cameras. But that's just shy, reticent me, I guess.

I really think the media is exploiting this guy's sad, uh, lack of decorum. They don't dare call him (them) white trash, so they just let the cameras roll, knowing that the audience will draw its own conclusions.

When TV reporters interview shirtless athletes in the locker room, they rarely show anything below the shoulders. That's called good taste and respecting people's privacy. Apparently, Morse isn't deserving of such respectful treatment. Why? Because he lives in a trailer and doesn't know any better?

Friday, June 28, 2002

Office Casual

Perhaps you've heard about the "Women of Enron"--the former Enron females who agreed to pose for Playboy to supplement their unemployment checks. What you may not have heard about is the male equivalent, sponsored by (naturally) Playgirl:

BBC News | BUSINESS | Men of Enron bare their assets

That's what I call equal opportunity. Too bad I wasn't offered the chance to pose when I lost my job a few years ago. Alas, I didn't work for a scandalously infamous company. IMHO, I've got the bod for it though!
Phone Follies

My wife bought a new cordless phone for the kitchen recently--one of those cheap, drug-store models. It never worked right, so I finally disconnected it and put it in the closet. I couldn't quite bring myself to throw it away, since it's brand new, so it's now joined our graveyard of obsolete and disfunctional electronics. (I wish I had saved the packaging and receipt, so we could return it.)

Since we need a phone in the kitchen, I hooked up an old rotary model. It worked great, but we missed the convenience of touch-tone dialing. So I rigged up a keypad--from another old phone I had stored away--on the same line, by using one of those two-line adapter doo-dads in the jack. Kind of a Rube Goldberg solution, but it works for now. I may even keep this set-up: the rotary phone has a retro-chic charm, I think. My 11-year-old son says it's "vintage."

I had to show him how the rotary dial works, since he's never used one before. To him, a rotary phone seems as ancient as those hand-cranked and candlestick phones seemed to us as kids.