Friday, May 31, 2002

Advice for dotcoms:

1. morph cross-platform relationships
2. integrate cutting-edge experiences
3. incubate real-time markets
4. expedite efficient functionalities
5. target front-end e-markets
6. e-enable strategic solutions
7. implement back-end channels
8. scale frictionless schemas
9. disintermediate granular content
10. strategize holistic e-tailers
11. incentivize cutting-edge mindshare
12. leverage global synergies

Quite a list, huh? I compiled it with a little help from the Web Economy Bullshit Generator.

Thursday, May 30, 2002

I watched several minutes of the Ground Zero ceremony on TV today. The workers were removing the last steel beam, one that had remained standing when the towers fell. They had draped it like a casket with a black shroud, an American flag and flowers, and then solemnly layed it on a flatbed truck. An empty stretcher was also placed in an ambulance. They saluted and played taps, then all the assembled dignataries applauded while the truck and ambulance pulled away.

At first, I thought this was all very odd. These people were saluting and mourning an empty ambulance and a hunk of steel! But then I realized that even quite abstract symbolism has tremendous power in this context. So does ceremony. It wasn't a piece of steel they were honoring--that was just a prop. It stood in for what--and who--was missing.

If you'd like to read my recollections of September 11 and the towers (I live across the river from where they stood), they're here. Photos, too.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Bad Haiku

hungry, fervent eyes
searching, amusing prune found,
chewy lunch looms large

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

I bought a hat yesterday while visiting my favorite clothing store--Dee & Dee, which sells factory reject clothing at incredible discounts. (I sound like a commercial, but it's true.) It's an off-white baseball cap with a subtle logo on the front: the letters "CJ" in a small blue circle, with the words "CJ Systems Aviation Group" underneath in small letters. It looked like a great hat to wear to the beach or outside on a hot, sunny day, and it didn't have any flaws that I could see. Price: $1.78. People will think I'm a pilot. I was curious about the company, so I went to the website--the URL is on the back of the hat: Here's how the company describes itself:

"A multi-faceted private aviation company with market-leading operations in air medical services."

How cool. I don't think I'll mind wearing their hat and giving them some free publicity.

Monday, May 27, 2002

Here's a perceptive article about the family photographs so many of us (me included) display on our desks--and the subtle messages they send.

Cubicle With a View (
Memorial Day:

A day to remember the fallen, or a day to remember the barbecue sauce?

These days it's mostly the latter, I'm afraid. I remember as a kid going to the cemetary with my parents each Memorial Day. We would clip the grass around the gravestones and plant geraniums. I always felt an odd sensation of timelessness. One time, my father stood in front of grandpa's headstone and cried.

Sunday, May 26, 2002

I saw the film Insomnia last night. It's a good thriller, made more than good by Al Pacino's performance, with an excellent assist from Robin Williams. (Williams should play more psycho-killers--as he does here--and lay off the goodie-two-shoes roles for a while.) The movie starts out like a Xerox of Twin Peaks: A big-city detective travels to a small logging town to solve the murder of a teen-age girl, who has left behind a diary and a punk boyfriend. After a while, a twist is introduced that takes the story in a direction of its own, however. I give it an "A." It's cleverly done, though with a lesser actor in the lead role, I might have given it a "B."

Saturday, May 25, 2002

I watched Caroline Kennedy on Charlie Rose (PBS) last night. She's edited a book entitled Profiles in Courage for Our Time, a sort of update of her father's famous book. I admire her for working up the "courage" to go on TV to shill for this worthy book, something she's clearly not comfortable with. People inevitably make comparisons, and who would want to be compared to JFK and Jackie O? Even if you have their DNA in every cell of your body, it's impossible to live up to people of mythic stature. (I suppose. How the hell would I know?)

I saw Jackie in Central Park once. She was renting a rowboat to take one of her granddaughters out on the lake. She did not look at all glamorous, dressed as she was: all in black, with the usual big sunglasses and a headscarf that looked like something a third-world peasant would wear. It was an odd, touching moment, one that made me realize she was as "real" as any of us.


Friday, May 24, 2002

Today's Drivel

Ambiguous Moment

Does it have to mean something? The truth is, neither I nor the others can really believe this has arrived: the half-remembered self, the glance of the light on every acute aspect of this long-forgotten memory. This is our untied knot: the pale, dying brightness that dilutes the afternoon landscape into a monochromatic, ambiguous photo. Neither the gray hills nor the blue sky relieve it, neither the blue nor the gray.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Part of my journalistic work involves transcribing tapes of interviews I've conducted. It hate it--it's laborious, boring, and incredibly time consuming. With all the necessary stops and starts, each tape takes at least twice as long to transcribe and it would to simply listen to. My fantasy is that someone will develop an artificial-intelligence program that converts spoken words into type--sort of like a voice-recognition program but advanced enough to recognize anyone's voice. I have a feeling that technology is a long way off, though--some of the people I interview speak so softly or mumble so much that even I can barely make out what they're saying.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Hump Day

Wednesday is the cruelest day--so much still to do this week, so little accomplished. I'm in the middle of everything, and the beginnings and the ends are so much more fun. Usually.

I was born on a Wednesday. "Wednesday's child is full of woe," goes the nursery rhyme. Not really. Tomorrow is a clean slate. What will I write on it?

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Talk like Yoda I can.

Simple it is: Turn your sentences around you must.

Wise it sounds.

Silly it is.
Bad Haiku

alcohol consumes
slowly; golden, unstrung harp
diminishes, charred

Monday, May 20, 2002

I have a little tracking program attached to my websites, though which I can see what search terms people have used to find me on Google, or whatever (Hi everybody at PC Palace in Minneapolis!). Some of them are very odd. For example, on my "Dream House" creative-writing site, someone used "dead animal in the wall" to find me. I guess all those words are used on the home page, though certainly not in that order! For some reason, I keep getting hits on this site from people searching for ways to "fix a black leather couch" or "buy a cheap leather couch." I hate to disappoint people. Maybe I should write something here on those topics . . . except I don't know anything about either one.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

Cool: A Character Sketch

There's something weird about Bobby, the scary 30-something guy behind the register at the local hardware store. This is a guy who always has a two-day beard and wears a T-shirt two sizes too small--the better to show off his pec muscles, I guess. But the oddest thing is that he's always got an unlit cigarette in his mouth. "What's up with that?" I finally asked him today, while he was ringing up my nuts and bolts.

"I stopped smoking years ago. But, man, I never stopped wanting to look good," he said. "A guy just looks cooler with a cigarette, don't ya think?"

"Yeah, I guess so," I said, wondering if he was saying that I, a non-smoker, was a bit of a dork. "But where does that idea come from?" I asked, trying to elevate the conversation a little.

"Hollywood!" he said, "the HQ of all things sexy, right? Think about it--in a million movies there's nothing sexier than those guys who take a drag and then let loose with a cloud of drop-dead, cowboy cool. Bogie, Dean, Brando, McQueen, Pacino--they all puffed. Know what I'm saying?"

"OK, so why'd you quit?" I asked.

"Cuz I didn't want to drop dead for real," he said. "So I gave up the cancer sticks--or, I should say, I quit smoking 'em. But I still have a pack of cigs with me at all times, and I'm usually dangling one from my mouth. But smoke 'em? No."

"So it's for effect," I said. "But wouldn't it work better if you lit it and just didn't inhale?"

"Hell no. That's wasteful. And I ain't Bill Clinton," he said.

Apparently, he detected a skeptical look on my face.

"OK, I'll explain it for ya," he said, addressing me as he might a small child. "Sure, hanging out with an unlit cigarette in your mouth may not seem as cool as puffing, and it isn't--quite. But it does look cooler than chewing gum or sucking on a Tic Tac. You can always pretend you're looking for a light, and lots of people--chicks included--will offer you one. You can always say, ‘No thanks, I have a Zippo around here somewhere, I'll find it in a minute'--if you want them to bug off. Or, if she's hot, you can accept it, then put the thing down in an ashtray and forget it. You've already got her attention. You might want to pick it up once in a while, though, and pretend you're about to smoke it, then 'remember' something you wanted to say and put it down again. Cool, cool, cool."

"Well, if it works for you . . ." I began.

"The only problem is when some smart-ass catches on and asks you why you're always walking around with that unlit cigarette in your mouth," he said, giving me an evil grin.

"Oh," I said, nervously.

"Well, my man, I have an answer to that. You just walk right up to 'em, stare 'em in the eye, wiggle that Winston around a bit," he said, leaning over the counter and sticking his cigarette in my face, "and you say, ‘BECAUSE I STOPPED SMOKING!'"

Friday, May 17, 2002

Quote of the Day

Most people refuse to see this world for what it really is: a fragile piece of cooling debris, inhabitable for a fraction of a cosmic second. --"JP"

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Today's Drivel

Artist's Lament

His painting finished, he bathes in turpentine until the blues dissolve. Is it good or bad or nothing at all? Outside, he walks in a fog, where the trees resemble a smudged pencil sketch. Not knowing anyone here, hating or loving no one, he calls to the trees for advice. Are they not full of wisdom, full of history coiled in their many rings? The doves coo in the leaves, but reveal nothing.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Not one of my better days. I went to the dentist today to have a cavity filled, which meant that half my face was numb for most of the afternoon. Then I tripped and fell over some fork-lift blades that were sticking out over the sidewalk. Skinned my knee and tore the knee of my pants, but I seem to be otherwise unharmed. I don't think I'll sue.

On the rare occasions when I fall down like that, I always wonder if it's a "wake up" nudge from Mother Nature or the Cosmic Muffin or whatever. Now I just have to figure out what it is I'm supposed to wake up about . . . .

Monday, May 13, 2002

Attack of the Clowns

I keep seeing "Star Wars" fans on TV dressed up in home-made costumes based on the characters in the movies. It's harmless fun for them, I suppose, but it makes me wonder about the (perhaps unconcious) motivations behind it. Is our world and time so unbearable that some people feel compelled to pretend they're living "long ago in a galaxy far, far away"? (Or whatever the line is.) Costume parties and Halloween I can understand, but these people (and their "Star Trek" brethren) seem to take it all much more seriously than that. It's funny but also sad that people feel so alienated from the here and now . . . . Meanwhile, my 11-year-old son can't wait for the movie to open. The critics haven't been kind to it so far, though it seems to me they've forgotten that it's supposed to be like an old-fashioned Saturday-afternoon serial--not a Bergman film. Wooden acting? Well, it's not an actor's type of movie, is it? In a different way from the costumed fans, the critics seem to be taking it far too seriously.

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Every morning I read through the short story I recently finished (or thought I finished) to see if there is somthing I want to revise. Inevitably, there is. It's very odd how the writing process works. You think you've finished something, made it as smooth and streamlined as it can be, but then you go back to it after a few hours or a day and find some godawful passage of clunky prose. I know I'm getting close to really finishing the story now, because the awkward passages are getting fewer and smaller every day. I've heard that when you get to the point where you're changing individual words and then thinking better of it and changing them back again, then you're finally finished with a story. I'm about at that point now. Soon I can send it off and not have to think about it for a few months (which is the amount of time most literary magazines/websites take to consider a piece). Then I can start on the next one, which will be much shorter and lighter, I think. Yes, it's all madness . . . .

Friday, May 10, 2002

Bad Haiku

furious winds suck
hungrily, ethereal
poltergeists howling

Creepy, huh?

Thursday, May 09, 2002

Today's Drivel

Dwarves paddle the boat as memories fly up into the dark sky. The river weeps into the sea. I have left our accumulated wars and fights. Now I swallow the river, distance, time. We are past the hour of the attack and the kiss, that moment that burned with a strange light. We are no more to each other than memories of meat. Our last embrace took place in a cemetery. Now, at last, the black birds can emigrate from our hearts.

I took some kava kava, and I feel better now.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Over the last few days, I've had a general sense of unease about nothing in particular. I get these periods, spells, whatever you want to call them, periodically--they come and go like the weather. I'm not sure what triggers it. Maybe it's the short story I'm working on, which is very personal--even autobiographical--and is dredging up unpleasant memories. Maybe it's that I feel swamped with "real" work right now. Or maybe it's the change in the weather, which is always a bit unsettling. I find myself getting angry about trivial things and sometimes talking to myself, or sighing loudly for no descernable reason. But everything is really all right. Really. Isn't it?

The novel I've been reading, Knut Hamsun's Hunger, probably doesn't help, though it's a thoroughly enjoyable book. It was originally published in 1890 but is written in a modern, stream-of-consciousness style. Apparently, it's the first novel of that sort. It's all about a young man, literally a starving writer, who seems to teeter on the edge of insanity. He walks around the city, following people at random and often haranguing them, while he struggles with writer's block and the rent coming due. The back cover blurb calls it "one of the most disturbing novels in existence" and says that "The whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from Hamsun." Great stuff.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

My 11-year-old son wants to know: Can someone get an infection from playing connect-the-dots with their chicken pox? If you know the answer, please tell us.

Monday, May 06, 2002

Bored? You must be if you're visiting this site. Anyway, check out The Automatic Sentence Generator for a few moments of idle amusement. I just generated the following:

A putrid student cooks a white boss.
A snorting teacher strokes a cruel vagina.
The drunken cat tickles the happy family.

Silly, but it does create little pictures in your mind. Or my mind, anyway.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

Automatic Writing

Ambivalent Island

There is a certain island in the sea, the sea of HERE. Sea of what? Here. Of the seven seas, this is the meanest. This sea is always overflowing. Its waves lap at the shore of this island, as if saying Yes, then No, then Yes, then No. The spray that results when the waves strike the rocks is like a blue mist or a white aerosol. Poor fishermen fish off this island. Their newspapers speak of the many fish that they will wrap.

Saturday, May 04, 2002

Quote of the day:

"Of all the ways to avoid living, perfect discipline is the most admired." (James Richardson)

Thursday, May 02, 2002

I'm copyediting a book manuscript about Edward, Duke of Windsor, who supposedly abdicated the British throne because he wanted to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee--which was a no-no at the time. Actually, according to the book, there was a lot more to it than that. The British government forced him to abdicate not because Wallis but because of his fascist sympathies--he was allegedly a fan of Adolph Hitler and thought Britain should go fascist in order to ward off the communist threat. All very interesting, but what strikes me is how isolated, mentally, Edward was. It seems that when you grow up with that much privilege--with everyone "yesing" you and obeying your every whim--it's difficult to live in the real world. Instead you live in a kind of dream or alternate universe in which everything apparently revolves around you--until you finally go too far and bump into the brick wall of reality. At least I'll never have that problem . . . .