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.

Here in the dark,
Handwritten excuses for everything
Replace my first sensations.

Look into the mirror and say hello
Until you enjoy it.

Forever, my love.
I feel as if time has stopped.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Quote of the Day

"In the house of honesty every door is open" --Anonymous
Are you listening, corporate America?

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

It's hot and humid here in the Northeastern US today--real steam-bath weather. What better time, therefore, to contemplate a mannequin that sweats. Just what the world's been waiting for . . . . I suppose that when you go clothes shopping someday soon, you'll be able to see what that new shirt will look like with perspiration stains.
Martha Stewart again. Marthamania. I'm really not that interested in her, but I couldn't resist watching the segment about her on CNN's NewsNight last night. They showed a clip from Martha's regular morning cooking segment on CBS's "This Morning" show, which she does once a week. Surprisingly, she showed up to do it this week, although she must have known that the hosts would want to ask her about her insider-trading troubles, not her recipes. Jane Clayson, the female host, introduced Martha with a capsule summary of her financial woes and (alleged) shenanigans. While Clayson was speaking, an odd sound could be heard off camera--a sort of pounding, chopping sound. Turned out it was Martha attacking a cabbage, chopping it up in prepartation for her cooking segment. The more Clayson droned on about insider trading and the arrest of Martha's ImClone pal, the louder the chopping sound became. The effect was hilarious.

During the cooking segment, Clayson asked a couple of ImClone related questions, which clearly annoyed Martha--she wanted to talk about cabbages. She said she "couldn't talk about it" but that it reminded her of when she used to work as a model and wanted to be on the covers of all the magazines. "Now, I don't want to be on the cover of anything," Martha declared. She waved off any further probing with a breezy "this will all blow over." She also said something about being the CEO of a major corporation (Martha Stewart Omnimedia) in a way that implied--to me at least--that she believes she should be above any of those silly insider-trading laws.

I don't think Martha quite "gets" it yet.

On the radio this morning, one of the newscasters pounted out that if she had just held the stock, she would only have lost $43,000 (loose change to her). But she sold, and now, because of the scandal, the value of the stock she holds in her own company has declined by over $100 million. The price of arrogance?

Sunday, June 23, 2002

Random Poetry

Here's a poem I "generated" with a random poetry program,
then fixed up a bit with a few of my own touches. Not bad,
for what it is, hmm?

Our World

Go ahead, hurt me if you can, old friend--
without questioning the need,
because it seems like a good idea,
even as we promise never to do it again.
Distant dreams
are just part of the hallucination.
Our world!
We stand at the edge of a cliff.
We have nothing but this sad passion.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Southwest Airlines now requires "passengers of size" who can't stuff themselves into one airline seat to buy two seats. Good for them, I say, having had the experience of "sharing" my seat with someone who's obviously eating for two or three (and I don't mean pregnant).

But "passengers of size"? That's as silly as "people of color" or "the differently abled." I hate euphemisms. Say they're too fat to fit in the seat or, if all those 300-pounders are too sensitive to the "F" word, say they're too "large." "Passengers of size" is just beyond parody.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

So a Forest Service worker started the immense wildfires in Colorado when she decided to burn a letter from her "estranged husband" in the middle of a tinder-dry forest. Smart! Couldn't she just tear up the jerk's letter at home and flush it down the toilet? It might have caused her sewer pipe to back up, but at least that would be a slightly more manageable problem.

There is a ceremonial aspect to burning a letter, though, I suppose. Sylvia Plath wrote a poem on that theme, entitled "Burning the Letters," about--yep!--burning her estranged husband's missives. Here are a few lines:

"I made a fire; being tired
Of the white fists of old
Letters and their death rattle
When I came too close to the wastebasket.
What did they know that I didn't?
This fire may lick and fawn, but it is merciless . . . ."

Hatrid is a fire that is hard to put out.

Could Martha Stewart go to jail? She sold her ImClone stock one day before the FDA shot down the company's new cancer drug, but no, no, it wasn't insider trading, Martha says, despite her close relationship with ImClone CEO Sam Waksal--who has been arrested for dumping his stock just before the FDA announcement. They share the same stockbroker and, according to phone records, she spoke to him before selling her shares. Not a "good thing," hmm? I can almost picture her in a pair of orange cover-alls at the Womens' House of Detention, making salad bowls out of popsicle sticks and wondering where it all went wrong . . . . Assuming she wiggles out of this one, I still think she should buy (bankrupt) K-mart, and rename it MarthaMart.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

As a kid, I always thought it would be cool to live in a flying saucer, just like Will Robinson. Today, I'd settle for a decent tract house, but it is possible to live like a space traveller, if you really want to. Check out some real (but Earth-bound) flying-saucer houses by clicking here.


Speaking of weird obsessions . . . . I'm crazy about film music, especially scores composed by the late, great Alex North. Some of the movies he scored include A Streetcar Named Desire, Spartacus, Cleopatra, The Agony and the Ecstasy, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Willard, Prizzi's Honor, and on and on. He even composed a fantastic sci-fi score for 2001, which wasn't used but was later released on CD. More information about him is at the Alex North Fan Club.

Monday, June 17, 2002

Quote of the Day

"It is by now proverbial that every proverb has its opposite. For every 'Time is money' there is a 'Stop and smell the roses.' When someone says 'You never stand in the same river twice' someone else has already replied 'There is nothing new under the sun.' In the mind's arithmetic, 1 plus –1 equals 2. Truths are not quantities but scripts: Become for a moment the mind in which this is true."
--James Richardson

Friday, June 14, 2002

Today's Drivel


You say this way is loaded with dangers, and I notice the word "loaded." However, while they are implicitly deeper than the result, they cling like black stickers pasted to the sky. Up to this point, the echo, down the corridors, passages and domestic interiors, has been both connected and freely moving, and I'm surprised by the places that are far from everywhere, which move automatically to the outside. Can't you see? Tomorrow is the end. Don't try to start the car or stop the wrinkling of the sky. Don't try to block the cataract of tears.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Do milkmen still exist?

I was watching some CNN coverage of the Elizabeth Smart abduction in Utah, and they mentioned that someone they want to question was seen by "the milkman." Then they interviewed this "regular joe" type in a baseball cap who was identified at the bottom of the screen as "Charlie Miller, Milkman."

I thought milk delivery disappeared about the time Leave It to Beaver was cancelled.

Monday, June 10, 2002

Sometimes, everything seems to go haywire at once. One of our two phone lines has died, which means we can't do the Internet and talk on the phone at the same time for now. I've lost the car registration and insurance cards, because my wife insists that we not keep them in the glove compartment (in case the car's stolen), but rather in a plastic envelope that we grab whenever we go for a drive. The other day I dropped the envelope in the street (I think . . . ) and couldn't find it later. So now we have to go to Motor Vehicles and pray we don't get stopped in the meantime. (You must have them with you in the car, the law here says.) One of our air conditioners has conked out and it's supposed to be in the 90s tomorrow. As far as work goes, I'm currently mired in a never-ending-project-from-hell . . . .

What is it, sun spots?

Sunday, June 09, 2002

I had an odd dream last night. I dreamt I was riding on one of those "Segway" machines, the two-wheeled, gyroscope-controlled contraptions that were supposed to be the invention of the century. I was riding all over the Liberty Science Center, the local science museum, on one. I think I was testing it for them. I remember riding it into an elevator to get to another floor, and I was having a good time on it. Not my typical dream--usually they're much more absurd or revolve around some kind of anxiety I'm experiencing. I can usually figure out the symbolism, too, if I think about it long enough. But with this one, I'm stumped.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

Dribble Haiku

dribble, dribble but
good night's sleep achieved at last--
thanks adult diapers!

(No, I don't wear diapers. I'm just in the mood to write silly haikus.)

Friday, June 07, 2002

Honeymoon Haiku

dizzy, sheepish bride
snores noisily, moonlighting
groom eyes chambermaid
Found the cell phone. I didn't leave it in the jury room--it was in the "secret" compartment of my backpack. Completely forgot that I put it there. (Not that YOU care, eh?)

Well, I'm not the only one that forgets things. I went out to dinner with some folks I do freelance work for, and when I got back, I found my wife and son in the hallway outside our condo--my wife had forgotten to take her keys with her. They were sitting on the (carpeted) stair landing, reading the paper and playing a game with some sunflower seeds, waiting for me to get home--and having a grand time. Who needs TV and computer games?

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Today's Thrilling Adventure: Jury Duty

What fun. I spent most of the day waiting in various limbo-like (see post below) jury and court rooms, waiting to be "called" (along with a group of other bored and/or grumpy people) and then, when called, waiting while the judges conducted their "voir dire" interviews with each potential juror--one by one. It's such an inefficient process. Since they essentially ask each person the same questions, why not have everyone fill out a questionnaire, then look through the questionnaires, ask a few additional questions if necessary, and then check off who's on the jury and who isn't? Luckily, I wasn't selected for any juries, due to my self-employment. ("Yes, serving on a five-week trial would be a bit of an economic hardship, your honor . . .") They could have asked me if I was self-employed ahead of time, of course, and saved everyone some inconvenience, but that wouldn't be nonsensical enough.

The best part of the day was being sent over to the "old" courthouse for one of the voir dires. The building is beautiful--one of those Roman temple wedding cakes with marble columns. The interior had lots of stained glass--including an incredibly intricate skylight--dramatic staircases, murals depicting historic scenes, and lots of woodwork and marble. No fluorescent lights. I really felt like I was in court there. The "new" (early 1960s?) courthouse is one of those featureless steel-and-glass boxes. The interior of the jury room looked like a welfare office, except for the church-like wooden pews everyone sat on.

The good news is that I don't have to report tomorrow--my service is complete, according the message on the courthouse phone. (What a sense of civic satisfaction that gives me!) The bad news is that I think I left my cell phone in the jury room, and I'll have to go down there again anyway to pick it up (if they found it). Sigh.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002


I went to the bank today to deposit some checks. I don't like their drive-through, so I went inside and stood in line, waiting for a teller. While looking around I was struck by the blandness and featurelessness of the decor. It's the kind of generic public space that is more and more common today: a dropped ceiling with fluorescent lights, gray walls, beige carpeting, dull blue Formica counters and gray chairs. Except for the steel vault door, there was nothing there that said "this is a bank." It might just as well have been rather upscale post office or a very tasteful car-rental agency.

There was an interesting article in The Atlantic Monthly recently that argued that this type of generic interior "anyplace" is the modern equivalent of a medieval concept: limbo. The dictionary defines limbo as "a region or condition of oblivion or neglect" or "the abode of souls kept from Heaven." That's how I felt standing in line--not like I was in Hell, but certainly not like I was in Heaven. Half a century ago, there would at least have been plenty to look at: the tellers would have stood behind fancy grillwork, and there would have been lots of marble and maybe Roman columns to give the bank an air of solidity and a sense of place. Now it's just cheap sheetrock, wall-to-wall beige and bullet-proof (I assume) Pexiglas. Oh, and lots of Orwellian video cameras watching everyone and everything. Souless. A limbo.

You might think the design of this blog is pretty bland and generic, too. But that's intentional: I don't want it to distract from the writing (now doesn't that sound pretentious). It's the frame, not the picture, to use an art metaphor.

Oh, and speaking of limbo--I have jury duty starting tomorrow. Or is that more like purgatory?

Monday, June 03, 2002

Surreal Instructions for a Bad Day

If the sun screen you erect in a tortured garden radiates a whorl of shadows, teardrop audits are in order. If balls of despair explode, a glass beaker will measure the outflow. Each milliliter equals one (personal) catastrophe.

You must sit far away from anyone who produces irritation fields, as these may induce sobbing and/or violent reactions. The mind should not be allowed to wander, due to its high sensitivity.

Place your thoughts at a distance from present surroundings, except in the following places: on steep hills, in dark tunnels, underground, or near sources of well-meaning interference. Damp cellars must be avoided.

You will not experience ideal results under conditions of excessive antagonism, disgust, psychic vibration or emotional impact.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

I stopped in at Dunkin Donuts this morning to get an iced coffee (black, no sugar). The place was crowded, and I'd say that 90 percent of the people there were overweight. A lot of them were downright fat. Most of them were orderering donuts and drinks like "light, sweet" coffee. Some of these people were so heavy they waddled. It's very disturbing to see people "digging their grave with a spoon" so to speak. I wonder if they could see themselves, if they'd still be patronizing DDs.

The girl behind the register looked at me strangely when I ordered my calorie-free coffee. "Is that all?" she asked. She probably thought I was some kind of kook . . .

Saturday, June 01, 2002

Walking through the local flea market in Riverview Park today, I saw lots of things you'd have to pay me to take away: computer equipment from the 1980s, toys from Burger King and McDonald's, ugly dishes, VHS tapes of movies I've never heard of, kitschy knick-knacks, Reader's Digest condensed books, T-shirts with immense "NYC" logos. But to someone, somewhere, each of things is or was a treasure--after all, someone bought them in the first place (with the exception of the "free" fast-food toys, I suppose). Their intrinsic value may be nil, but their personal value was real at one time. But then it faded. There was something a bit poignant about all those well-used items. Each one holds a secret, a story that may never be told.

I ended up buying two used CDs ($3 each): Jurassic Park by John Williams and The Indespensable Count Basie. You could say my musical tastes are eclectic!