Friday, January 30, 2004


Time Warp: There's something a little unsettling about these color photographs from Tsarist Russia. Color photography from that time period is rare, to say the least, and these images look simultaneously modern and archaic. (via things magazine)


Monikers: Optiphyta . . . Anacorpe . . . Loolen . . . Aerozap . . . Antibeamah. They sound like insect sprays, pharmaceuticals or maybe post-punk rock bands. The Noemata Random Name Generator produces these appellations in millions of combinations, for use by "bands, companies, products, internet domains, cyber identites, art projects, computer games, roleplaying"--or "pets." "Here Introon, come here boy . . ." The site allows you to check each name via Google if you want to make sure that nobody beat you to it. (via geekman)


You rock: Have you always wanted to play the tanbura? How about the cymbalum, the ud or the ampongabe -- or even just an ordinary guitar, harmonica or kettle drum? Now's your chance.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Last Night's Adventure

I am lost in an unknown city, wandering unfamiliar streets. I ask for directions at various shops and businesses, but no one can give me directions to where I want to go. (Where do I want to go? I don't know.)

I wander into a suburban section of the city and see an old couple sitting on the porch of a house. I ask them if there is a bus route nearby, where I could catch a bus to "somewhere." "No, there are no busses near here," they say.

I decide I should find a taxi and start wandering again. There's a main highway in the distance, and I decide to take a shortcut to it through an abandoned warehouse. (Smart, huh?)

It's dark inside, and there are many small rooms along a hallway. I realize that there are people lying in the rooms. It's a crack den.

I scramble out of there and begin to walk down a street lined with white, Victorian houses set back on green lawns. (It's summer.) For some reason, I decide to enter one of the houses, which is sitting atop a low hill. (Is it my destination? I'm not sure.) There's no furniture inside, but the house is immaculately clean. The walls are painted white. It's a very old house, and the floorboards creak. I go upstairs to look around. The ceilings are very low up there--I can hardly stand up.

There's a young girl around somewhere, but no other people in the house. She is walking around from room to room, and doesn't seem surprised or frightened by my presence. She tells me to go outside and look in the yard.

I go out to the side yard and see a small wooden house there, like a very large doll house or a child's playhouse. It's white, with a black roof and huge windows; it almost looks like a display case. It's taller than it is wide.

I can see that there is someone standing in the house, behind the windows. It's someone who looks just like me. I wonder if he's trapped inside, or if he wants to be there. And there the dream ends.

What does it mean, Dr. Jung?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Word of the Day

rusticate (v)

To go to or live in the country. To send to the country.

"Live in the city and rusticate on weekends?" said Malcolm. "How bourgeois."

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The time has come, the Walrus said

Today is Lewis Carroll's birthday.

"There's glory for you!"

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "

"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument,' " Alice objected.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."

Monday, January 26, 2004

Ring Thing

What if The Lord of the Rings had been written by someone else? Contributors to this site answer that question by mimicking everyone from Seuss to Shakespeare.

Here's a contribution by someone channeling J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield:

When Gandalf told me that Gollum used to be a hobbit, I just got so depressed all of a sudden. I really did. I mean, if he's supposed to be a hobbit, why can't he just BE one? People should just stay what they are and not go changing into goddamn slimy reptile creatures. To be honest, this whole ring thing was really making me depressed as hell. The quest was giving me a big pain in the ass. If anyone ever tries to give you an all powerful ring, don't take it, it will only make you more depressed, I swear to God.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Random Acts of Poetry


The house is quiet. Just
footsteps on the ceiling,

something dropped,
the dryer spinning its characters.

The sounds of nothing,
of missing days:

scraped knees and running noses
and a darting goldfish in a dirty bowl.

A sun that lingers
like an unwakable dream,

cycling a blind man's recollections,
clear as a mirror.

Sounds drawing pictures--
a heart beats.

The ocean swells in a teacup.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Do you really want to hurt me?

My wife is a fan of Boy George -- or of his 80s music with Culture Club, anyway -- and so dragged me to the Broadway show/disaster Taboo last night. She wanted to go before it closes next month. I could see why the critics hated it. It has a lot of structural problems, including a subplot that takes over the story, and, despite the subject matter, the approach is way too old-fashioned. Each character gets a corny "show stopping" song to sing. The best bits were the outrageous costumes and make-up, and the effective recreations of Culture Club hits, like "Church of the Poisoned Mind." The lead actor looks and sounds exactly like BG's 80s incarnation. It was more or less enjoyable if you didn't think too much.

Funniest moment: The real Boy George, dressed in a glittery frock, comes out on stage to deliver some ad libs and addresses the audience as "My fellow Republicans . . ."

When we got home, we tried to play some of my wife's Culture Club records, but discovered that our dusty old turntable needs a new stylus. I guess the 80s really are over.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Word of the Day

gasconade (n or v)

Boastfulness, bravado, swagger; to boast.

Donald's incessant gasconade made Herbert feel two feet tall.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

A Lengthy Scroll

Spalding Gray's disappearance has once again raised the question of madness and genius. Do writers suffer from depression more than other people? "No one ever hears about melancholic farmers; they don't publish their stories." The Globe & Mail examines the issue here.

Vanishing Act New York magazine cover story

(via Maud Newton)

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Mind Games

All the political chin-wagging lately--which is only going to get worse as the year progresses--has me ready to pack up my mental baggage and move to Nutopia. I'm already an ambassador of this conceptual country, which has no land or boundaries, only people (and an International Anthem). Now you're an ambassador, too.

And we're not the only ones:

Nutopia A media art space and "chill-out zone" in London
Nutopia Productions A model
Nutopia Productions A band
Newtopia Magazine Online publication
Nutopia QuickTime movie
Nutopian International Anthem Audio sample
Nutopian International Anthem Guitar instructions
Ten Pernicious 'Ouchies'

"He wanted to know but couldn't understand what she had to say, so he waited until she was ready to tell him before asking what she meant."

If you don't find anything wrong with that sentence, maybe you should read Ten Mistakes Writers Don't See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do).

(via things magazine)

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Frigid temperatures and a crust of ice covering the immediate world have me thinking about summers past. I remember the August I was 13 and fell asleep in the sun. I was lying on my stomach, and the backs of my legs got severely burned -- nothing else, just the backs of my legs. They were bright red and painful, and I could hardly walk. I toddled around bow-legged, like some ancient cowboy, every step a punishment. My mother sprayed some stuff on me that took much of the pain away, but my skin still felt too tight, as if it had shrunk somehow.

We were on vacation at the time, and temporarily staying in a place that had a swimming pool. The water was cool and gave me my first relief in days. After sundown, I sat in the pool for hours, bending and stretching my legs, amazed that they still functioned, that my skin still flexed in all the right places. When I got out, my red legs had turned purple, but I felt infinitely better.

All in all, I think I'd rather be walking down the street shivering and exhaling clouds of steam than hobbling around with sunburned legs.
Quote of the Day

"Sometimes a single recollected moment lights up the sky of memory and brings it all back. The mind's eye fills with broken sunlight and soiled rain. Pieces of time assemble, counting off, strung along the pulse, in breaths in heartbeats. It's all burned in; the dream's inseparable from the dreamer."

--Robert Stone, from the introduction to Bruce Weigl's Song of Napalm

Monday, January 19, 2004

Word of the Day

rampageous (adj)

Raging, frenzied.

"The hot rampageous horses of my will" (W.H. Auden)

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Strange Magic

I don't know why I've succumbed to magical thinking lately. I find I can't turn off the radio in the car unless the person speaking or singing is on a "positive" word or phrase. ("TrimSpa really works!--click.) I can't turn off the TV, which is usually tuned to CNN, if they're talking about another bomb going off, or some disease or natural calamity. That can't be the last thing I hear about. (I can turn it off if they're yakking about Michael Jackson or Martha Stewart, though.) I can't leave home without making sure I've left the light over the stove on, because I don't want to walk into a dark house. (You know what always happens in the movies when someone walks into a dark house.) At the store, I can't buy the first item on the shelf -- it's contaminated somehow. I have to reach behind it and take the second one, or maybe the third or fourth. I trot across the street instead of walking, even when there's no traffic coming.

This is all just nonsense, of course. It's the same twaddle as thinking that coincidences mean something or that "if you step on a crack, you break your mother's back." It's like when you're idly thinking about how afraid of dying you are, and then you suddenly hear about the latest celebrity to kick it, or you open a book and the first word that strikes your eye is "dead," and you think: Is the universe trying to tell me something?

I don't think so. This kind of magical thinking comes and goes with me. It usually means that things are too good to be true at the moment, or that I need to make a change that I'm afraid to make. The problem now is that I don't think it's the former, and if it's the latter, I don't know what it is.
I'm glad someone is keeping track

The George W. Bush Scorecard of Evil

(via Words Mean Things)
Random Acts of Poetry


If I come back as a monkey,
let my busy fingers
play with your hair.

If I come back as a dog,
ignore my growling.
Brush my fur and let me sniff
your bedclothes.

If I come back as a blackbird,
don't be alarmed.
Let me roost in your branches.

If I come back as a frog,
give me a kiss,
then leave me to my pond water.

If I come back as a fish,
throw me back.
Don't listen to my promises.

If I come back as a worm,
at least I'll be good for your garden.

If I come back as an insect,
don't be surprised if I buzz around your head.
And don't bother to slap me.

I'll only come back.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Just a Moment, Please

Spalding Gray has been missing since Saturday, which doesn't look good for the writer-actor-performance artist. He is best known for his wryly funny, neurotic monologues, which go on at book length and always seem to revolve around his search for "the perfect moment." Some of them have been filmed, such as Swimming to Cambodia, and I have two of them in book form. In recent years, he has suffered from depression and flirted with suicide. I do hope he turns up -- alive. In the meantime, here are a few of his bon mots:

"I knew I couldn't live in America and I wasn't ready to move to Europe so I moved to an island off the coast of America -- New York City . . . It was tolerant. It was a place that tolerated differences and could incorporate them and embrace them, which was what America was supposed to be about and wasn't. So it was the melting pot that was a puree rather than individual vegetables. I think of New York as a puree and the rest of the United States as vegetable soup."

"Now Athol Fugard seemed to like hearing my stories, and also, he had just given up drinking so he was buying me drinks and kind of living vicariously through me. 'Spalding! I am going to have an orange and you will have yourself some beer. Now. What's been going on? Tell me all about your day.' And I told him. I told him about the Perfect Moment in the Indian Ocean and he said, 'Spalding. The sea's a lovely lady when you play in her, but if you play with her she's a bitch.' "

"I think of myself as a collage artist. I'm cutting and pasting memories of my life. And I say, I have to live a life in order to tell a life. I would prefer to tell it because telling you're always in control, you're like God."

A friend of Gray's comments on his disappearance.
Word of the Day

quondam (adj)

That once was; former.

The quondam addict was now perfectly abstemious.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

According to Google

What does it take to be happy? An insomniac's Google search reveals some surprising answers. Happiness is . . .

being owned by cats
a Choice
Miniature Porcelain Dolls and Fine Furniture
a Serious Problem
a Rectilinear Kitten
a Dream of Fisher-Price
Dean Martin!
an equation
a warm gun
a hug from a friend when you're feeling low
a warm computer
submission to God
embracing your imperfections
just a thought away but at times it sure doesn't seem that way
another Charlie Brown site!
a boss that gives you a combination cooler/cup holder/AM/FM radio with wheels and extendable handle
free and it's easier than you ever thought possible
being sad
a 7-11 within a block of your house and no office politics

Not much of a consensus, though cats, "warm" things, consumer products and an appreciation for platitudes all seem to be keys to the kingdom.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Spinning your wheels?

"When you get stuck, look at everything sideways."

It's an interesting idea for dealing with creative cul-de-sacs, if you can find a way to apply it to what you're doing.

Brian Eno has a ton of these oblique strategies, which are conveniently served up by this random generator.

Try some of these on for size:

"Allow an easement (the abandonment of a stricture)."
"Don't be afraid of things because they're easy to do."
"Are there sections? Consider transitions."
"Discover the recipes you are using and abandon them."
"Turn it upside down."

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Drawing Inspiration

One thing I want to do more of this year is drawing. I used to draw constantly as a kid, and found it very . . . centering. I'm hoping that Everyday Matters, a fine, informal illustrator's blog with lots of samples, will fill me with inspiration. I just need to get one of those moleskin sketchbooks. If I can get my scanner working, I might even put some scribblings up here. (You are hereby forewarned.)
Random Acts of Poetry


On this island the frost glitters,
pure, opalescent,
but also a bit cryptic,

hiding details, several fixations.
Wolves have no appetites here,
no woodsmen to drop,

no bones to lick clean.
There is only waiting,
eternal waiting for an old man

or mystical child
to stir, to eclipse
this powdered sugar roof,

this evergreen
of twists, ribboned
with careless adoration,

and the ruddy bells
that announce, in silence,
some castaway's delight.

Friday, January 09, 2004


Shatner's "Lucy"

First time I've heard this rendition. It's just a sample, thankfully.
Time Well Wasted

I could spend the day at Nobody Here.

It's not really describable. I would make something like it if I knew how.

(Thanks, Under a bell)

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Sorry to Disappoint

Recent search engine queries that brought seekers here:

devils, imps and demons
michael jackson sidewalk steps to learn
it doesn't matter if your lying in the gutter
hitler surname phone
didion gap ads

I want to take Joan Didion on a nude beach vacation where we'll learn Michael Jackson sidewalk steps, pose for Gap ads (guess we'll have to put our clothes back on) and look up "Hitler" in the phone book. If we meet up with a lot of devils, imps and demons, though, we may end up lying in the gutter. But it doesn't matter.
Word of the Day

rodomontade (n)

Bragging or bluster, or a rant.

I put down the phone long before Ron finished his rodomontade.

"English borrowed the word via French in the seventeenth century. At first it meant a single boastful act, so that one could speak in the plural of rodomontades, but then it became both an adjective and a verb. These days we use it as a mass noun to refer to the whole business of making your point by laying it on rather too thick."
--Michael Quinion, World Wide Words

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Another World

I have a hard time getting excited about pictures of rocks in a flat desert beneath a beige sky, even if they are from Mars. Back in 1920, the usually staid New York Tribune had much more exciting news about the red planet: "Scientists, Agreeing Martians Are Super-Race, Believe That Planet May Be Signaling to Us." I bet that headline sold a few papers.

Martians weren't just hypothetical bacteria back then. They had "very large noses and ears and immense lung development,
because of the rarefied atmosphere," which gave some of them an odd resemblance to caricatures of Lyndon Johnson, as shown in the Trib's illustration here.

(via boing boing)
Word of the Day

rutilant (adj)

Bright red in color.

Though Prudence pretended to be unaffected by off-color jokes, her rutilant face gave her away.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Code Orange

This high-security stuff is starting to get on my nerves, especially at the micro, day-to-day level.

Every day I pick up my son from his after-school program, which is located in a large building filled with hundreds of children, from kindergarteners to high-schoolers. I have to pass a security desk in the lobby when I enter, which has never been a problem before. Today I was stopped, and a woman who has watched me pick up my son every weekday for over two years suddenly started speaking to me as if she'd never seen me before in her life: "Can I help you, sir?"

I always hate that pseudo-respectful "sir" business and insincere offer of "help."

Turns out I now have to get a pass from the main office (an orange pass) in order to enter the building.

Yesterday, I delivered a package of page proofs to a client of mine in Manhattan. Everywhere I went, it seems, from the station to street corners, I was stared at by guys wearing orange vests – because of the package, I presume.

I suppose it's all necessary, but it's still . . . disconcerting.


Quote of the Day

"There's sort of this constant assumption in America -- never spoken, but omnipresent, visible in almost every public space, if you pay attention -- that somebody, somewhere, is about to commit a crime, right this minute, and it might even be you." (from Bob's Travel Journal)
Get Your Goat

Astrologically, I'm a Capricorn, born in this gelid month of January. (I share a birthday with the late Richard Nixon and Joan Baez--how's that for a combination?) That means my "sign" is the goat, which can be a symbol of evil (Satan is often depicted as a goat or as having goat-like features) or martyrdom (the "scapegoat").

Given those alternatives, I prefer to think of goats as symbols for beer. According to Cult of the Goat: Bock Beer Labels and a Homonym Gone Awry, the name of the German strong ale Bockbier, or "Bock" as it is more commonly known, is the same as the German word for billy goat. Thus American beers produced by German immigrants in the early 20th century often featured a goat on their labels.

The huge collection of these graphically sophisticated old beer labels at No -- Really Cool Visual Junk made me feel a lot better about my . . . er . . . goatdom. There's a lot of other fine "junk" there, too.

"Would you, could you, with a goat? Would you, could you, on a boat?"

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Random Acts of Poetry


Such is memory: sticky
lessons gilt-framed and recited,

or clinging and flaunted,
a stale perfume.

Who knew what you'd pursue,
with such feeble devotion?

Your words didn't serve
to fill a book;

there's never enough for a mad play.
No talking like a cellophane cat

or English chimpanzee

White squares on a raw wall:
they slip away like scared fish.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Hangover Haiku

A silver season
lingers in trinket-strewn rooms.
All questions unwrapped.
"I didn't go up in flames while attending a rock concert"

I guess 2003 wasn't SO bad: Reflecting on this...

Friday, January 02, 2004

Time Well Wasted

Absorbing and amusing: tinygrow.

(via geekman)

Do you know this man?

I hope not. This is the face of someone who never existed. I generated this picture at Morphases, a site that offers "revolutionary" software for facial image manipulation. The process is fun, but a bit frustrating: the controls and user interface are awkward, and the source material seems to consist entirely of geeky young males. There's no way, as yet, to generate an old woman or even a 30-something man. You can make lots of monsters, though, just by changing the size and position of the head and facial features.

I tried to make this character look as much as possible like me in my salad days, though I didn't have a scruffy beard or brown eyes.

(via The Presurfer)

Thursday, January 01, 2004


For 2004, you can peruse a collection of adult, amusing, creepy, cute, dynamic, friendly, geeky, guilty, helpful, hopeless, interactive, international, mean, often-imitated, philosophical, sexy, shocking, silly, strange, swanky or unexpected 404 pages at Area 404.

Search for "2004" on Google, and the first pages offered are "Athens 2004," "2004 International CES" (the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas), and "The Official Re-election Site for President George W. Bush." I'm sure many of us will be thoroughly sick of those topics by by the end of the year, if we aren't already . . . especially that last one . . .

Check out the New Year Applet Countdown to see exactly how far we are into the year, then reset your watch. Shouldn't they call it a "count up" now?


My exciting New Year's Eve: We drank sparkling cider from champagne glasses -- my son calls it "grog" (he's a fan of pirate stories) -- and watched "Dick's ball drop" on TV, as one of the revelers in Times Square described it during a live interview on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. Then we went outside to see the fireworks and fighter jets over Manhattan.


"Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go."
--Brooks Atkinson

"Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true."
--Lord Tennyson