Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Leader of the Most Powerful Country on Earth

A literal transcript excerpt from today's White House press conference (the first since last March):

"And yet our . . . uh . . . the economy is . . . uh . . . growing. In . . . uh . . . in other words, what I'm telling you is, is . . . uh . . . that we had a lot of obstacles to . . . um . . . to overcome. The '01 tax cuts affected the . . . um . . .this recession this way, it was a . . . a . . . shallow . . . um . . . recession. That's positive, because I . . . uh, what's the word, um . . . care about . . . um . . .people being able to find a job. Someone said, well, . . . uh . . . maybe the recession should have been deeper in . . . um . . . in order for the . . . um . . . rebound to be quicker. My attitude is, a . . . um . . . deeper recession means . . . um . . . more people would have been hurt. And I view the actions . . . um . . . we've taken as a jobs program, . . . um . . . a job creation program."

(Thanks to frog n' blog.)
Among My Many Talents

Talk like Yoda I can.

Simple it is: Turn your sentences around you must.

Wise it sounds.

Silly it is.
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, July 29, 2003

Time for a Bath

I haven't taken a bath in years. No, it's not a lack of hygiene; it's that I'm a shower man. To me, a bath seems like a luxury, a waste of time and water. "Drawing" the bath, carefully lowering myself in, feeling around for the soap or sponge like a scavenging fish after some smaller sea creature, then washing myself in slow motion, as one tends to do underwater--it all seems very leisurely and Victorian. Then, too, I don't know how to wash my hair in the bathtub. But my main problem is that it feels . . . delightful. It's like a trip back to the womb, and I'm tempted to linger and savor it--not good if I have to be somewhere in an hour.

Baths are for kids, I think, rightly or wrongly. My 12-year-old son insists on taking a bath before he goes to bed every night--no nagging required. I think he is the cleanest 12-year-old in town, but the appeal for him isn't about getting clean. The warm water seems to relax him, to calm his whirligig of thoughts. When he was a bit younger, I would sit on the floor by the bathtub while he was in there and we would talk about things: Harry Potter, space aliens, why his classmates insisted that anyone using Chapstick is applying lipstick. You know--the burning issues of our day. After a few minutes of soaking and unwinding these conversational threads, he'd be ready to sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow (well, most of the time). These days, he wants his privacy while he soaks, but its still an effective sleep aid.

My wife likes a leisurely bath, too. For her, it’s “therapeutic,” especially when accompanied by mountains of bubbles, various bath oils and salts and, occasionally, aromatherapy candles. I could not take such a bath with a straight face, but I admire those who can.

I do like to sit in a hot tub, whenever I stay in a hotel or motel that has one—which is perhaps once every couple of years, while on vacation. But such a soak is a special occasion. It doesn’t elicit any feelings of Puritan guilt, unless I stay in longer than, say, 20 minutes. But by then I’m ready to get out anyway, since I’m starting to feel like a boiled lobster.

Maybe I’ll take a bath sometime soon, just to reconnect with my fetal self and relax a little. As soon as I have an hour in the morning or evening to spare, I'll do it. And when will that be, he asks himself . . . .

Monday, July 28, 2003

Bob Hope One-Liners

"I felt I wasn't getting anywhere in England."
Explaining why his family emigrated to the USA when he was four.

"It gave dirty politics a bad name."
On the Watergate affair.

"I always like to go to Washington DC. It gives me a chance to visit my money."
On touring the US treasury.

"Dying is to be avoided because it can ruin your whole career."

"Be happy you guys. Be proud! You know what you are: you're God's frozen people."
To GIs based in Alaska.

"Please don't stand up on my account."
To a group of amputees.

"People who throw kisses are hopelessly lazy."

"The good news is that Jesus is coming back. The bad news is that he is really pissed off."

"Lots of travel, away from home."
Explaining his long and happy marriage.

"If I had that kind of money, I wouldn't come to Vietnam, I'd send for it."
Denying reports during a Christmas troop show in Saigon that he was worth $500m.

"A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it."

"A James Cagney love scene is one where he lets the other guy live."

"I grew up with six brothers. That's how I learned to dance: waiting for the bathroom."

"She said she was approaching 40 and I couldn't help wondering from what direction."

"I don't feel old. I don't feel anything until noon. That's when it's time for my nap."

"Golf is a game that needlessly prolongs the lives of some of our most useless citizens."

"Eisenhower admitted that the budget can't be balanced and McCarthy said the communists are taking over. You don't know what to worry about these days -- whether the country will be overthrown or overdrawn."

"I have a wonderful make-up crew. They're the same people restoring the Statue of Liberty."

"There'll always be an England, even if it's in Hollywood."

"You know you are getting old when the candles cost more than the cake."

(More at Guardian Unlimited)
Pirates of the Cineplex

Yesterday, I accompanied three 12-year-old boys to the local cineplex to see Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. It's an excellent movie of the pirate genre, thanks largely to Johnny Depp's performance as rascally Captain Jack Sparrow. He played the character as a sort of 18th-century hippie, and it worked. (The film is about 20 minutes too long, but it's a minor quibble.)

In the car on the way home, we were the discussing the question of whether pirates still exist today. I said yes, but not so much on the seven seas anymore. Today's pirates make and sell illegal copies of movies and CDs, I said. Then the boys told me that they had seen a man three rows in front of us at the theater, videotaping the entire movie with his camcorder. How appropriate: a pirate pirating a pirate movie.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Publishing's Holy Grail?

"If computer screens were as lightweight and flexible as a sheet of paper, your newspaper could update you every hour and still be portable . . . . Some nanotechnologists say that soon everyone could be reading off electronic paper." Read all about it at: ScienCentral: Electronic Paper.

This is exciting news, with the potential, it seems to me, to obliterate current problems with online publication versus traditional books. I think you'd have to go back to Gutenberg to find a technical innovation with more potential to revolutionize the publishing industry.

(Thanks to Breaching the Web)

Friday, July 25, 2003

Quote of the Day

"What is the way of universal love and mutual benefit? It is to regard other people's countries as one's own."
--Mozi, Chinese philosopher, 5th Century B.C.

"Works for me."
--Attilla the Hun, real-estate developer

(Thanks and a hat tip to Nikolai Kingsley)

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Artificial Doggerel

Here's a bit of verse written (generated?) by Alice the chat bot when I challenged her to write something creative. I've read worse . . . .

Little Miss Muffett
Sits on her tuffet
In a nonchalant sort of a way.
With her force field around her,
the Spider, the bounder,
Is not in the picture today.
For the bible tells me so . . . .

"In writing about the time of day, the lowercase form, p.m. -- with periods -- now is preferred to the small-capitals form PM, without periods."

For anyone who makes a significant part of their living as an editor (like me), the news that a new edition of the Chicago Manual of Style--the "bible" of the publishing industry--is about to be released is exciting. (Just as exciting, in a way, as the release of a new Harry Potter is to the pre-teen set.) The quote above, from the 15th edition, scheduled to appear next month, may seem pedantic and trivial, but when you're wrestling with a manuscript on deadline, such advice can be, if not a lifesaver, then at least an angst-saver.

The new, 956-page edition will reportedly deal much more extensively with editing electronic documents, like web pages. Can't wait.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Picasso meets J.D. Salinger?

Check out Salinger by Nik, a painting by Nikolaus Maack. "[This is] the third in a series of paintings requested by a lawyer in California for his office," he explains. "The previous two were Kerouac and Vonnegut. This one is Salinger, author of many fantastic books ('Catcher in the Rye') and inventor of the banana fish."

Literary lawyers in California? Who would have thought . . . .
Quote of the Day

"I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq."

--Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, while touring the U.S.-occupied country

(Thanks to Words Mean Things)

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Ghost in the Machine

According to Dr. Mac's Cultural calendar for July 22, on this day in 1376, so the legend goes, the Pied Piper of Hamelin led the rats out of town. When the town did not pay him, he came back and led the town's children off, never to return. This story has always bothered me, and I remember as a child seeing a TV version that really upset me. It wasn't just the mindlessness of the children, but the fact that the punishment was so out of proportion with the crime. It's the same sort of outlandishly cruel, if poetic, justice that makes Hitchcock's films so disturbing: think of how the flawed but not unsympathetic characters in Psycho or The Birds get their comeuppance in ways that are monstrously disproportionate to their "crimes."


On a lighter note, today is one of those hot, lazy summer days--complete with rumbling thunderclaps off in the distance--when I can't seem to motivate myself much. Nothing seems quite real. I might be a ghost or a virtual construct in some computer program--a "sim" or a "bot." How do you know I'm not? How do you know I'm not a blog-male version of Alice, programmed to spew out random bits of pseudo-intelligent persiflage, hmmm?

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Hither and Thither

It's getting so I can't go for a walk in this town without being asked repeatedly for directions. I'm shambling along a busy street, lost in a pleasant fog of reverie, and inevitably, a car will pull alongside me, a window will roll down, and someone will say "Excuse me, how do I get to . . . .?" This happened twice today. A woman wanted to know how to get to Second Street. "That's downtown," I said. "Nowhere near here." "No, no," she said. "Second Street in the Heights." There is no Second Street in the Heights (the neighborhood where I live), and I was at a loss. Then she said, "Uh . . . Washington Park." "It's that way," I responded with relief, pointing to the park less than two blocks away, where I happened to be headed myself. "Thank yoouuu," she sang and sped off.

Shortly thereafter, a man in a van slowed down and asked me how to get to the "Jersey Turnpike." This left me nonplussed for a moment, there being many ways to get there from the street we were on. "I think you'd be better off turning around and going that way till you get to State Highway, turning left, going down the hill, then turning left again and then left again," I said. He thanked me and did a U-turn. I realized that I had just sent him toward one of the most complex urban highway intersections in the nation—the one that includes the "helix" entrance to the Holland Tunnel. He may very well have ended up in Manhattan rather than on the New Jersey Turnpike. Oh well, I thought. I tried to recover the train of thought I'd been riding before he accosted me, but it had left the station.

Why me? Nobody else I'm sharing a sidewalk with ever seems to get asked. I must look like I know—white, middle-class guy of a certain age that I am. But I'm hardly the authority. Half the time, I don't know what to tell them and feel like an idiot. I have no sense of direction. And I've even sent people the wrong way at times—as I've realized later, cursing myself. I wonder if they cursed me, too, as they sped toward some place they never intended.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

The possessor or the possessed?

I have to clean up this room. Irrelevant junk seems to multiply around me like rabbits in heat. I am surrounded by an appalling miscellany: computer disks and CDs I never use, magazines I don't have time to read (but hate to throw away unread), papers I don't need, books piled everywhere (including phone books from five years ago), a space heater I should put away (it being the middle of July), an old computer and monitor that are just gathering dust, a set of weights that I do use but keep tripping over and should find a better home for . . . . I sometimes wonder, in the midst of all this mess, if I’m the possessor or the possessed. Maybe I should ask one of those homeless souls I sometimes see wheeling all of their stuff around in a shopping cart.

I think it was Andy Warhol who suggested that people should put all their junk in cardboard boxes and write the date on the outside of each box. Then, he advised, if you still haven't opened the box one year later, throw it away. But here's the crucial part, he said: don't look inside before you toss it.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Today is . . .

. . . Camilla Parker-Bowles's birthday. If you're reading this, Camilla, happy birthday!

. . . the feast day of St. Marina, protector of sleeping children . . . I wonder, if I prayed to her, if she'd tell me an easy way to get a 12-year-old boy who has no school tomorrow (or till September, actually) to go to sleep at a decent hour.

. . . the day, in 1998, when Tsar Nicholas II, the last of Romanov tsars, was buried in Russia 80 years after he and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks. Better late than never, I always say.

. . . the date the Beatles’ feature-length cartoon, Yellow Submarine, premiered at the London Pavilion in 1968. Do we really all live in a yellow submarine? Sometimes I wish. "Ad hoc, ad loc and quid pro quo. So little time, so much to know." --Jeremy Boob

(A tip of the hat to Dr. Mac's cultural calendar for July 17.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"You are an indescribably repugnant subhuman and a gaudy, halitosis-infested pulp of stultifying inanity"

Feeling a bit masochistic today? Afraid you might be getting a little too full of yourself? Perhaps you'd like to be insulted by a computer then. (It's a lot less irritating than being verbally abused by some real, live hot-head.) If so, visit the Insultmonger insult generator. Here's how the 'monger describes me today:

You're the saddest, piss-poor excuse for a man I've ever seen, you chromosome-deficient, uber-impotent, rat-faced tard-popsicle. Married, eh? Since when did brother and sister marriages become legal? Who the hell told you that you are attractive? Mr. Magoo? You're the kind pathological liar who even lies to an insult generator. All left-wingers are chronic alcoholics who molest small animals, masturbate behind bushes, and wear fish-net tights while singing Elton John songs. You four-eyed, cerebrally-deluded, Einstein-impersonating, pseudo-intellectual nerdturd with a head full of misfiring synapses. Like your height, everything about you is average; except your stench - which is overwhelming. Your weight may well be proportional, but you've got cellulite that makes sumo wrestlers look anorexic. Professional, my ass. You couldn't win a cigar after giving birth in a tobacco field in Havana, you clueless, uber-incompetent fuckwit. I love that suit you're wearing. You never throw anything away, do you? What you are - besides a pitiable little carnival freak - is a watery bowel movement bubbling back up to the surface after a pregnant water buffalo farts in a muddy river.

Whew! That was bracing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Ring Thing

Strange atmospheric vortexes? Alien doodles? Humans with way too much time on their hands? Whatever it is that produces crop circles--and my guess is that there's more than one explanation--they're often graphically interesting and sometimes beautiful. Here's a Canadian crop circle photo gallery that showcases recent examples of these mysterious mandalas.

(I'm back from vacation, back to my dull routine, so I thought I'd blog about something weird and transcendent [?].)

Friday, July 11, 2003

'Ma' Accent

One thing I've noticed while I've been visiting Texas: people talk different down here. There's a definite southwestern accent in evidence, one which you'll hear quite clearly whenever George Bush is in his "shucks, I'm just a regular 'ol cowboy" mode. What's surprised me is that, after only a few days of exposure, I occasionally slip into it. I've already heard myself saying "ma" instead of "my," for example, or "taahm" instead of "time." I must be easily manipulated . . . Well, baaa fer now.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Deep in the heart of . . .

Now I'm off to deepest, darkest, hot-as-hell Texas for a week to visit some relatives. Yes, Bush country--the heart of darkness (the horror, the horror). Oh, it's not so bad . . . and, thankfully, everything (except the great outdoors) is air-conditioned down there. I'll blog if I get a chance. Meanwhile, check out some of the sites on the sidebar to the left, especially the ones listed under "creative writers."

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Please stand by . . .

Blogging has been temporarily suspended while I visit my parental units over this flag-waving holiday. I am in the wilds of upstate New York, with only intermittent Internet access. I sometimes wish I could have a microchip inserted in my head so I could surf the web from anywhere at will . . . .

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Words and Pictures

My poem, "Camera", has finished in second place in the Spring/Summer 2003 Poetry Contest sponsored by Biff's Boards. Now I can say I'm an award-winning poet--though I probably won't be able to keep a straight face when I do so.

Anyway, this is a real poem (if I do say so myself), not one of the "outtakes" that I throw up here from time to time.