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? |

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.