Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Weird Jerseyania

I've lived in New Jersey since 1989, and I've heard a lot of stories about strange goings on in this unusual state. Case in point: The Gatherers, a spiritual sect, naturalist commune and survivalist group located in the Pine Barrens, a forested area in the southern part of the state (which is also home to the legendary Jersey Devil). Here is their mission statement:

"We take human beings, born in captivity, re-educate them, and re-release them into the wild. In this way, we strive to teach people to become caretakers of the planet. Our efforts will allow the Great North American forest to be restored to 60% of its original size within the next 100 years."

Ambitious, no?

Part of what's interesting about this group is that they've created their own unique language. As detailed in a recent article in Weird N.J. magazine, they call a plantain a "910nagzmih" and refer to the land underneath their thatched huts as the "qckinz9zc." The numbers in their words have assigned sounds; for example, the number 4 "sounds like tl, a click Donald Duck would make using the tongue blowing air through the cheek." Uh huh.

"Mediocrity is the enemy," it says on the Gatherer Institute's home page. No doubt.
Word of the Day

lagniappe (n)

A small gift presented to a customer with a purchase.

Sid: "Welcome to Burger World. May I take your order?"

Nigel: "Yes, my child would like one of those children's meals that includes a lagniappe, please.

Sid: "I'm sorry, we don't serve Italian food here."
More Poetry Outtakes

2 A.M.

A mouse gnaws inside the wall--
or the ghosts of old lovers
whisper from the corners.

Take your pick.

'Snuff out the candle,'
old demons hiss,
even though they don't exist.

Somewhere music is playing,
and you can't remember
what the question was.

This way lies
the slinking blankness,
the surrender.

Monday, September 29, 2003

A Friend Writes . . .

Dear Mike,

Consider reading this as your penalty for all those lovely new "word of the day" entries on your blog:

For all you lexiophiles (lovers of words)

1. A bicycle can't stand alone because it is two-tired.

2. What's the definition of a will? It's a dead giveaway.

3. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

4. A backward poet writes inverse.

5. In democracy it's your vote that counts; In feudalism it's your count that votes.

6. She had a boyfriend with a wooden leg, but broke it off.

7. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

8. If you don't pay your exorcist you get repossessed.

9. With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.

10. Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you A-flat minor.

11. When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

12. The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.

13. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

14. You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

15. Local Area Network in Australia: the LAN down under.

16. He often broke into song because he couldn't find the key.

17. Every calendar's days are numbered.

18. A lot of money is tainted. 'Taint yours and 'taint mine.

19. A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.

20. He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

21. A plateau is a high form of flattery.

22. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

23. Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

24. When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.

25. Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.

26. When an actress saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.

27. Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.

28. Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.

29. Acupuncture is a jab well done.

30. Marathon runners with bad footwear suffer the agony of defeat.

Hydrophobic ally,


Saturday, September 27, 2003

A Generation Lost in Space

Interested in an out-of-this world pad? If you have enough squandros--and space--you can live on the Jupiter 2. The Lost in Space Forever set is now for sale.
Word of the Day

relume (tr. v.)

To make bright or clear again; illuminate again.

"Open the blinds and relume this domicile," the pretentious Mr. Wexfordcromby commanded. "It might help if you removed your sunglasses," Millicent retorted.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Lying and Dying

"You lied, they died," US parents tell Bush. Perhaps they have a point? Where are those imminently threatening WMDs, anyway?
Word of the Day

volitant (adj)

1. Flying, or capable of flying. 2. Moving about rapidly.

When Mother gets violent, frying pans get volitant.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Word of the Day

misoneist (n)

Someone who hates change or innovation.

We suspected that poor Grandpa had been reading the dictionary again. "Call me a misoneist," he said, "but let me keep my Victrola!"
Would you, could you, in Latin?

Green Eggs and Ham, the Dr. Seuss classic, has now been translated into Latin, under the title Virent Ova! Viret Perna!! Rather than literally translating the classic, Latin scholars Jennifer and Terence Tunberg rewrote the book in the style (ad modum?) that Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) might have if he were fluent in neo-Latin. Sounds cool, if a bit kooky -- who would buy such a book? The target audience is Seuss fans (are we not legion?) "who took Latin in school and have a fond remembrance of it," according to the publisher. Two previous Seuss-into-Latin translations, of The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, have sold a combined 60,000 copies. De gustibus non est disputandum.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The Future Was Then

Everything had a point in the 1950s -- or at least came to one. You can explore the visual trappings of this transitional era at the Tack-O-Rama Home Page. Included are advertising images, fonts, decor, design, pin-ups, stock photos--and more! (as they used to say). Yes, it is possible to feel nostalgia for a time you never knew.
Word of the Day

Omphalos (n)

Anatomy. (1.) The navel. (2.) A center.

"You have the cutest little omphalos, surfer dude," she said coquettishly. He cocked his blond head, grinned and said, "How do you know?"

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Word of the Day

Syllabub (n) (Also spelled sillabub)

A drink or, with gelatin added, a dessert, consisting of wine or liquor mixed with sweetened milk or cream.

"Hey, Bub, I'll have some more of that delicious syllabub if you wouldn't mind passin it over this way. No, the syllabub. Syllabub! Don't you know English?"
More Poetry Outtakes


He is always somewhere else,
but he keeps it a secret.

He’s like a man
reeling in a big fish

when he has a new idea.
A marble saint springing to life,

egged on by a whipping wind,
by an inexhaustible tide,

till it all falls in on itself,
scattering the cards,

opening an absence.
There is no cure for the sadness.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Word of the Day

Ambry (n)

A storeroom or cupboard; pantry; closet.

"Stuff it in your ambry," she advised. I felt mystified and vaguely insulted.
A Man Around the House

According to Reuters, a Russian entrepreneur has started a rent-a-husband business. No, it's not an escort service; it's all about meeting the demand for Mr. Fixits. A soaring divorce rate in Russia has left many single women feeling they need someone, if just for an hour or two, to fix leaky faucets and electrical outlets, hang wallpaper and shelves, etc. In Russia, even more than in the West, it seems, these types of tasks are considered "men's work."

Two months after Nina Rakhmanina opened for business, she has 10 "husbands," ranging in age from 27 to 45, on call. The service has become so popular that bookings have to be made at least a day in advance. Sometimes men rent "husbands," too, Rakhmanina says, because they're tired of hearing their wives complain that they are "good for nothing."

Can "rent-a-wife" be far behind?

Sunday, September 21, 2003

What If

H. G. Wells was born on this day in 1866. He wrote The Time Machine, the best science-fiction novel (and one of the best novels period) ever written, in my opinion. The War of the Worlds is pretty stunning, too. These were called "scientific romances" when first published, since the SF label hadn't been invented yet.

The Time Machine ends with this remarkable sentence: "And I have by me, for my comfort, two strange white flowers--shrivelled now, and brown and flat and brittle--to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man."
Word of the Day

Empery (n)

Meaning absolute dominion, sovereignty, empire.

This may look like a crummy apartment to you, but it's my empery.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Word of the Day

Scandent (adj)

Botany. Meaning climbing, as with a vine.

Scandent tendrils of ivy seemed to have consumed the old house.
Weather Report

Hurricanes have a way of clearing the air. Since Isabel blew though (we only got the edge of her here), the atmosphere has felt cleaner and somehow thinner. I think the storm sucked all the pollutants and humidity out of the New York/New Jersey skies, at least temporarily. She also brought us some beautiful cloud formations, like something dreamed up by an English landscape painter: billowing piles of ephemeral, mashed-potato castles. They blow past quickly, as if in a hurry to get to some utopia over the horizon.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Word of the Day

affictitious (adj)

Meaning feigned; counterfeit: The forger was caught despite his masterfully-crafted affictitious signatures.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

If . . . you become . . . naked . . .

The hottest news in Pepperland is that the Beatles--those who remain--will soon release a new version of their problematic swan song, the Let It Be album from 1970. See:

Beatles Strip and Clean 'Let It Be'

Phil Spector's "wall of sound" overproduction of the album will be removed, allowing what was originally intended as a "live" set to sound, well, livelier.

I've always liked the individual songs on LIB, though I never felt it worked as an album. The combination of live recordings overdubbed with an orchestra and a celestial choir (though some songs were left "raw") just seemed bizarrely incongruous. It will be interesting to hear the fabs "as nature intended," which is what the old album claimed to offer but didn't.

The tentative title for the CD is Let It Be Naked.

Monday, September 15, 2003

More Poetry Outtakes

Dream 9,000

You float over the edge,
and someone who doesn't exist
falls in love with a memory.

She turns to dust before your eyes,
while, dimly, the radium moon
paints a landscape of silver.

The wind, or something,
is calling your name.
Moaning, sighing.

This is only the intermission.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Quote of the Day

"Only in America could a guy who struts in an action-hero's Hollywood costume and barks macho lines from a script pass for a plausible political leader. But if George W. Bush can get away with it, why should Arnold Schwarzenegger be pilloried for the same antics?"
--Frank Rich

G.I. George: A new doll (excuse me--action figure) based on W's visit to an aircraft carrier last May to celebrate victory in Iraq.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

More Poetry Outtakes


We keep company with blood.
Come back from the dead,
With an iron fist,
To the rhythm of a tango.

During the applause,
Some rather old belief systems
Get tangled in my hair.

Now the music has stopped.
There's a trembling beneath our feet.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Why Americans Can't Think

Here's a review of a "pseudo-novel" about the American "Middle Mind." Sounds like a bad novel that nevertheless contains some interesting insights.

Sample quote:

"The [American] Middle Mind is platitudinous, afraid to make distinctions and poor in imagination. Thus, it is helpless before the corporate entertainment industry, our techno-rationalized' economy and the sleepwalk-into-disaster of our foreign policy."
Eye of the Storm

An artist visits Baghdad and keeps a journal.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

His World and Welcome to It

There's a wonderful profile by Robert Gottlieb of the late James Thurber (ostensibly a review of a collection of his letters) at the New Yorker website. I'm not that familiar with Thurber--I read some of his humorous short stories and enjoyed some of his cartoons when I was in high school, but I don't think I've read a word of his since then. Maybe I will now.

Whenever I hear the name "James Thurber" I think of a short-lived TV sitcom from the 1970s that I loved, called My World and Welcome to It, which was loosely based on Thurber's life as a writer and cartoonist. I wish one of the nostalgia channels (TV Land?) would show it again some time.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

PC Whines and Spirits

Here's an explanation from a coven of witches on why your computer keeps crashing. And here I've been blaming Cousin Bill for that dreaded blue screen. Turns out "vaettir"--nature spirits--are the problem. What can be done? Among other magical strategies, "Do what you can to make the computer feel welcome in your home. This includes talking to it, naming it and even offering words of encouragement." Maybe I should try that. Lately, all I do is swear at it.

(Thanks to lies.com)

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Hope Springs Eternal

Have you ever wondered who actually buys the outrageously dubious-sounding wares that spammers hawk?

According to a Wired News article, a lot of them are people who should know better.

A spammer called Amazing Internet Products accidently left its order log exposed on one of its websites. The customers named there included the manager of a $6 billion mutual fund; a restaurateur in Boulder, Colorado; the president of a California firm that sells airplane parts; the coach of an elementary-school lacrosse club; the head of a credit-repair firm; a chiropractor; a veterinarian; a landscaper; and several military officers.

The product these upstanding citizens purchased? Pinacle herbal supplements--generically known as penis-enlargement pills.

About 6,000 people, including "numerous women," responded to the spam ("Make your penis HUGE" was the subject line); most ordered two bottles of Pinacle at $50 per bottle.

What was that P.T. Barnum quote?