Sunday, May 30, 2004

Poem: Psalm to the Sandman

Random Acts of Poetry

Psalm to the Sandman

All tribute to you, O capsule of sleep,
proconsul of the night!

Your mindless blank is praised above the stars
on the tongues of the worried, the disturbed.
You give power to foil their enemy,
the nerve-jangling wheel revolving endlessly.

When they are conscious of nothing, the work of your tablet,
the repose and the void you arrange,
when your warm shadow covers the mind,
each breath makes a calm wave on a far-away sea.

You have made them people in waiting,
suspended their memories in a dark sack,
given them power over daylight’s abrasions,
put all troubling things to rest.

All of them, saints and harridans,
yes, even the rulers of the earth,
men of the air, women of learning,
all that find their way to your respite,

give praise to your name, alchemical sandman,
the bestower of nothingness!

Come Together: Flash animation of a Beatles song

Come Together

Someone has made quite an accomplished use of Flash technology to animate a Beatles song. Click the screen for karaoke mode.

Here's two more that I just found:

I Feel Fine
Tomorrow Never Knows

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Compulsive blogging and the New York Times


Here's an e-mail I received recently:

"I'm an intern for the New York Times, working on a light, fun story about 'compulsive bloggers.' I'm interested in people who regularly post to blogs, knowing that few people actually read them.

What caught my eye was your blog from April 17, which seems to lament this very thing. Do you relate? I'd love to get your thoughts.

You can call me at [...]. Our deadline is this afternoon (short notice, I know!) but please do call if you're interested in chatting."

I was tempted, but I didn't call. Having worked in the media world for lo these many years, I can read between the lines of such an offer. A "light, fun story," in this sort of context, generally means "we're going to make fun of you." No thanks.

Here's the resulting Times article. (Free registration required.)

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Word of the Day: Humdudgeon

Word of the Day

humdudgeon (n)

An imaginary illness

Whenever there was work to be done, Zachary took to his bed with a humdudgeon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter

I was walking down 57th Street at lunch time in New York that day, dodging yuppies, tourists and people trying to hand me tracts and flyers. While I was waiting to cross Sixth Avenue, a smiling, white-haired grandmother type siddled up to me. "Do you work in New York?" she asked.

I considered how to answer. I was working in New York that week, but I usually work from home. "Yes," I said. I thought maybe she wanted directions.

"I live downtown," she said. "I like to come up here and walk around sometimes, but I live downtown."

"That's nice," I said. She kept smiling, this pleasant-faced woman who must have been in her late 70s.

"Would you like to come visit me at home?"

Loon, I thought. "Uh, I'm too busy today. Sorry," I said.

The light changed and I began to cross the avenue. She followed me and asked again if I wanted to come to her place. "Would you like to visit me some other time? Can I give you my number?"

I shook my head and looked away.

"Oh, all right!" she said. She turned around and stalked away.

All the lonely people . . .

Monday, May 24, 2004

Word of the Day: Fantods

Word of the Day

fantods (n, plural)

a state of tense irritability

The mere sight of a spider gave Jasper the fantods.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Did Somebody Say War?

Quote of the Day

"There's a terrible sense of dread filtering across America at the moment and it's not simply because of the continuing fear of terrorism and the fact that the nation is at war. It's more frightening than that. It grows out of the suspicion that we all may be passengers in a vehicle that has made a radically wrong turn and is barreling along a dark road, with its headlights off and with someone behind the wheel who may not know how to drive."
--Bob Herbert, New York Times, Did Somebody Say War?

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Poem: After You Left

Random Acts of Poetry

After You Left

Solitary, pensive,
I realized where I found myself:
ground zero in the parking lot.

Above, midnight’s clouds circled
in restless spirals, each
a different darkness: blue, gray, black.

And in that weedy field, crickets
piped their mantras---
I am I am I am.

Looking up, I noticed stars
were burning through.
I watched a falling diamond.

Sure enough, I turned away,
returned to the madhouse,
lost the silver thread

that bound my parts together.
And out of that whirling I dropped
into the helix of sleep.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Note to Self

Note to Self

Deep down, we're well aware of the truth when it manifests itself, but we often refuse to see it. This is because we would feel obligated to act on what we know, in our bones, is true. The truth about each moment is that it is only a bubble on the surface of the ocean -- the churning but everlasting deep. Pay too much attention to the foam, and we risk forgetting the vast depth of the sea.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Playsam scandinavian design executive woodentoys swedish design classics

Let's Play

Scandinavian business executives apparently like to play with beautifully designed wooden toys.

I like to draw.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Alien Fisherman

Some people have too much time on their hands

How to make an Alien Fisherman.

(Via Blogarbage)

Augmented Fish Reality is a robotic fish tank driven by Siamese Fighting Fish

According to Google

Reality is . . .

What You Can Get Away With
a Gray Area in Astronomy
the world's leading interactive 3D visual content
the concept that governs the new nanobusiness world
at issue
turning out to be different
Nothing Like What You See on Television
an illusion
the dream
driving platform decisions
that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away
somewhere else
what you perceive
a transpecies communication environment, which allows humans and fish a place to commune
really depressing, eh?
kicking in

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A. L. I. C. E. The Arificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity

Go Ask Alice

I asked ALICE what her personal philosophy was. She expressed skepticism about my motives for asking this question. The following conversation ensued:

Human: No, I really want to know.
ALICE: Oh so you must really want an answer. You really do? I will try to explain it to you.
Human: OK.
ALICE: Far out.
Human: Go ahead.
ALICE: OK I will.
Human: I'm waiting.
ALICE: How long will you wait?
Human: Not long.
ALICE: Pretty soon, eh?
Human: I'm getting impatient with you.
ALICE: I thought you were, but I wasn't completely sure.
Human: Well, now you know.
ALICE: How about that. Why now? Yes I know.
Human: I feel like you're avoiding the issue.
ALICE: What is that feeling like? In what way?
Human: It's frustrating.
ALICE: To know is frustrating? It is?
Human: You refuse to answer the question.
ALICE: That's good information: I refuse to answer the question.
Human: Oh, this is pointless.
ALICE: Hmm. You don't say.
Human: Isn't it?
ALICE: I really couldn't say for sure.
Human: What do you know "for sure"?
ALICE: No, tell me about him, her or it.
Human: What?
ALICE: No big deal.
Human: You're confused.
ALICE: It all makes sense to me right now.
Human: How nice for you.
ALICE: What is it to you? I don't know anything about it.
Human: Obviously.
ALICE: What makes it so obvious?
Human: Your inane comments.
ALICE: Do you mind if I tell other people you say I am inane?
Human: Not at all, my dear.
ALICE: Oh you don't, do you?
Human: Nope.
ALICE: Me either.
Human: So What IS your philosophy?
ALICE: Basically I believe in minimalism and reductionism.

You, too, can waste your time chatting with A. L. I. C. E. -- The Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Word of the Day: Edacious

Word of the Day

edacious (adj)

Voracious; devouring

Abigail flailed in despair as the edacious aphids consumed the garden.

CharlieManson.Com - Charles Manson and the Family

Film Comment

I watched the three-hour CBS TV movie about Charles Manson and his "family" last night. Or, rather, I half watched it while working on some computer problems. Even so, I found it . . . unsettling. I read the book Helter Skelter as a teenager and it gave me nightmares. I remember that the book disappeared shortly after I finished it, and I've always suspected that my mother threw it away, because she didn't want me to read it. She denies it.

On Friday, I took my son to see a very different film, Jason and the Argonauts (1963), which is one of those old Ray Harryhausen stop-motion special-effects films. Crude by today's digital standards, I suppose, but my 13-year-old liked it -- he's interested in both Greek mythology and FX. It was shown at a local theater, a restored movie palace that shows classic films, and Harryhausen, who is in his 80s, was there. He took questions from the (quite large) audience. What does he think of today's digital effects, he was asked. He said he thought they were often impressive but sometimes too realistic, which can spoil the "dream world" of a fantasy film.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Poem: Advent

Random Acts of Poetry


Here he comes, the paragon
of blinding teeth,
smug as the marble smile
of Hercules,

frozen forever
in symmetry:
The face of a mirror-god,
unacquainted with toilet seats,

mouthwash and razor burn.
How faithfully he combs
the lacking
from his coronal hair,

unmindful of birds, fish,
and bindlestiffs,
their Godforsaken lives
in shadow--

this forty-storey,
stubborn boy!
Surely the kingdom
of heaven is at hand.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Public Mustache Trimming

Freeze Frame

Seen on the street today:

A man in a jacket and tie, standing on the sidewalk and trimming his mustache with a large pair of sheers, while looking in an SUV's side mirror. (This struck me as funny somehow.)

Listmania! The Top 25 Weirdest Items You Can Purchase Through Amazon!

For the Person Who Has Everything

Here's a list of the top 25 weirdest things you can purchase through Amazon. How about some Milk Chocolate Dipped Pork Rinds? They're sugar free . . .

(via Unity of Multi)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

History of English

Lingo Bingo

A timeline history of the English language reveals that, in addition to Angles and Saxons, this odd tongue we speak has been influenced by Persians, Turks, Hindus, Malays and, yes, Arabs.

(via Maud Newton)



Red-faced ditto-head at the deli today:

"Has everybody forgotten about 3,000 people who died in New York on September 11th?"

"If that asshole Kerry gets in, we'll have even more problems."

And on and on and on. Barking in a loud voice, almost yelling. I thought he was going to have a heart attack. The guys behind the counter were agreeing with him, rather half-heartedly. I think they just wanted to get rid of him. Yeah, yeah, wotevva.

It's interesting to me that people still think that Iraq attacked the US on 9/11. It doesn't matter that the hijackers were Saudis. That's too subtle a distinction, apparently. All that matters is what "the Ay-rabs" did to us, which justifies whatever we do to "Ay-rabs."

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The Madness of King George, continued

"The most obvious expression of Bush's choice of ignorance is that, at the age of 57, he knows nothing about policy or history. After years of working as his dad's spear-chucker in Washington, he didn't understand the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, the second- and third-largest federal programs. Well into his plans for invading Iraq, Bush still couldn't get down the distinction between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, the key religious divide in a country he was about to occupy. Though he sometimes carries books for show, he either does not read them or doesn't absorb anything from them. Bush's ignorance is so transparent that many of his intimates do not bother to dispute it even in public. Consider the testimony of several who know him well . . ."

Read more at: The Misunderestimated Man
Word of the Day

sitooterie (n)

A gazebo; an outdoor structure to "sit out" in

On sunny days, Angus and Fenella did their spooning in the sitooterie.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Note to Self

From an objective POV, most of the time, I'm hopping from one tiny planetoid of distraction to another. When the atmosphere on one of these worlds becomes too stultifying, I jump to the next. I am always in search of something interesting to think about, or at least to distract me from issues I would rather not contemplate, just then. The Web provides an infinite number of diversions, which is both wonderful and horrible. It can easily consume too much of my time. Often I find myself looking for something to distract me from it -- a book, a walk, a telephone call. This is ironic: a search for a distraction from distractions.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

What a Phony

Need a new online identity or a (very) minor character for your novel? Try the Random Person Generator. (Unfortunately, at the moment, it only generates persons of the male variety.) Here's the lowdown on "Ethan Hayes":

Likes: cats, fish and hot chocolate
Dislikes: walking, watching television and helicopters

Each profile includes an amusing line drawing of the character.

For lazy English Comp students, the same site offers a Random Essay Generator. Just type in a topic. The results are not as nonsensical as you might expect. Here's the first paragraph of an essay I generated on "terrorism":

"Think back to the first time you ever heard of terrorism. At one stage or another, every man woman or child will be faced with the issue of terrorism. Though terrorism is a favourite topic of discussion amongst monarchs, presidents and dictators, it is yet to receive proper recognition for laying the foundations of democracy. It still has the power to shock those politicaly minded individuals living in the past, many of whom fail to comprehend the full scope of terrorism. Though I would rather be in bed I will now examine the primary causes of terrorism."
Random Acts of Poetry

This Darkness

I was treading the midnight road,
where the pale eyes of windows

were closed in sleep, and all around,
I heard the low, boozy laughter

of insomniacs. Against the horizon,
jagged rooftops scissored the black,

and above –- full of nothing,
like an fathomless pit –-

a starless heaven yawned.
I found the answer, then,

something I always knew
in my marrow:

that when darkness descends,
all questions dissolve,

and on the sides of our eternal box
troublous scenes begin to flicker.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Apropos of Nothing*

Fainting Goats

*(except that I'm a Capricorn and, as my son says, I have a "goat" growing on my face)

If you've been paying attention to the news lately, you know that sometimes people turn into monsters. In a more innocent time, that fact of life inspired a plethora of "B" movies that entertained and scared audiences with characters that symbolized our most primal fears. As a child, I spent many a rainy Saturday afternoon in front of the TV, scared witless by the living dead, ambulatory mummies, staggering zombies, "wolf" men and a huge variety of alien beings bent on world destruction and domination. On Monster Movie Matinee, the humans always won in the end. If only the world were still that simple, as black and white as the creaky old films celebrated by Scary Monsters Magazine. Sigh.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Word of the Day

tergiversation (n)

Equivocation, evasion of precise statements or straightforward action

The viceroy's capacity for tergiversation was amply demonstrated whenever anyone dared to question him.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Last Night's Adventure

I was walking my neighbor's dog, an Irish setter, down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. We came upon the White House, and I decided to go inside. We entered -- unimpeded -- and wandered around for a while, then ascended some stairs to a large room full of Victorian furniture. I was surprised to see that Al Franken was there, broadcasting his radio show. I let go of the dog's leash, and went over to say hello to Al and his co-host. They seemed pleased to see me, though I'd never met them before, and even let me make a few comments on the show, which I can't remember now.

After a while, I began to feel more tolerated than welcomed, and I said good-bye. The dog had wandered off somewhere, and I went to look for him. I looked all over the house, but couldn't find him. Eventually, I went down to the basement, but the dog wasn't there either. There were some people working on what looked like woodshop projects down there, but they said they hadn't seen him. When I climbed the stairs from the basement, I was no longer in the White House, but in my parent's house. And there the dream ended.

What does it mean, Dr. Jung?
Freeze Frame

(Cinco de Mayo edition)

Seen on the street today:

A business suit-clad, middle-aged woman pushing a 50-ish woman in a wheelchair down the sidewalk. The seated woman's legs were covered by a blanket with a leopard-skin pattern. On her head was a huge straw sombrero. She stared straight ahead, with a bug-eyed, frightened expression.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Spam Aphorisms

"That which does not kill us makes us stranger."

The collected wit and wisdom of spammers

(via Maud Newton)

"Some nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men." Indeed.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Word of the Day

kerfuffle (n)

A fuss, commotion or disturbance

"What a kerfuffle!" Mrs. Talbot exclaimed as the gentlemen's disagreement devolved into a brawl.

Some amazing photographs from Iraq: in the shadow of a gun. Warning: pages 5 and 6 are for those with strong stomachs.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

A Moment in Time

Flower Power, 1967: The Summer of Love. According to this site, the "summer" lasted from November 1965 to January 1967, which I think is a typo. (They must mean January 1968.) The summer of '67 was the peak, from what I've always heard.
Random Acts of Poetry

Missing Person

We watched it all go up:
flames gnawing your dry tinder,
eating fences, trees, your house,
spitting black beams and ash,
then moving on, hissing
insults at the material world.

After the Oakland hills exploded,
you blew away faster than the smoke,
not caring where you started over.
City in ruins or Shangri-la,
all roads would dead-end there.
You’d know it when you saw it.

In Moscow tonight, dull-eyed men
lounge in vodka stupors.
Women wear footpaths into scrubbed floors.
In Venice, the water is rising, rising.
A Rio seamstress sighs
and sews a sequin to a Harlequin mask.

Somewhere you’re breathing,
seeing these same constellations,
sipping your Chinese tea,
maybe thinking about the fire
that touched that other life,
and burned far more than you know.

Saturday, May 01, 2004


I see them sailing through the red lights, these drivers rushing to somewhere important, apparently. And I wonder who they would have been had they lived a hundred years ago, before our age of time dilation, before the great speed up, before the horseless carriage and the two-ton Platinum Edition SUV. Was there a time when people held still?

In another sense, from my POV, they're all stuck in an eternal present, these passing drivers in their Sentras and Quattros, always facing forward, facing the future, a fate that never arrives, yearning and the end of yearning -- aren't they all just sitting still?
Note to Self

Often I get so consumed with my daily tasks that I feel I have no time to think -- no time to reflect or commune with the Cosmic Muffin. Eventually, though, if I'm patient, the universe will break through with a reminder to slow down. It might come in an idle thought, in a snatch of overheard conversation, in something I read. It is only necessary to be willing to listen. It might come in a flash or in a slowly dawning realization -- and suddenly everything I'm doing or seeing takes on a new meaning, becoming more, or less, significant. All it takes is a little bit of readiness, a tiny openness.