Monday, February 28, 2005


Quote of the Day

"Change is one of the great things about snow. It has the same effect as Mardi Gras or Carnival. It is time-out from the ordinary. Like dressing up and dancing in the street, the snowed-on world is not simply the regular world with a covering over it, it is somewhere newly made and unknown, all familiarity erased into whiteness. And none of the every day rules apply. There are special dispensations -- you may not be able to go to school or work; if you do, there's nothing regular about it, everything is late, teachers don't arrive, appointments aren't kept, the ineluctable timetable of the day is suddenly eluctable."
--Jenny Diski

More here: The world made new

February decided, at the last minute, not to let us off easy. It's snowing furiously here right now. Nothing I can do about it, except shovel it away from the front steps and try to appreciate the altered landscape. Maybe I'll take some pictures to marvel at during some August heatwave.

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Instructions for Monday

Today you are upside down,
in the dead place,
the sky gray as basalt.

Houses kneel near the edge of the street,
all the doors barred,
windows blank as eyelids.

Grass grows tall and perverse
in the tiny yards,
like your morning hair, unruly scalps.

You follow the sleepwalkers.
They seem to know the way
better than you, underground,

across the river to the factory,
where a black dog
dozes on the threshold.

He has three heads,
three slobbering mouths
full of teeth vicious as knives.

Step over. Take the seat saved for you
in the center of the egg crate.
Close your eyes, palms turned up.

Think about a golden ball
wandering an endless pool table.
Think about a poppy red like fire.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Oblique Strategies

Breathe more deeply

Try some Oblique Strategies, courtesy of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt.

(via whiskey river)

Deep Thoughts

Deep Thoughts

Living in an apartment building means being obsessed with locks and keys -- especially if you own one of the units. Who has an "emergency" key to my door? Who should? Whose keys do I have? Did I get a key to the basement door when the locks were changed? Do I have the key to the roof? I have ten keys on my key ring, and I don't remember what some of them are for . . . Most of the time I'm very good at parallel parking. But I've noticed that this really depends on the mood I'm in. If I'm feeling calm and collected, I can slide into a tight space on the first try -- after many years of practice. If I'm feeling stressed or just generally cranky, I inevitably make the angle too deep or shallow, and I have to start all over again -- meanwhile holding up the traffic behind me, which just adds to the pressure -- or I end up doing the "full spin" with the steering wheel in opposite directions six or seven times to fit in . . . Overheard: "If I was good at leaving it's because you held the door." . . . The end is never what frightens me. What frightens me is seeing it coming . . .

Friday, February 25, 2005

Who's Who of Victorian Cinema

No Talking

Speaking of oddball cinema . . . Tonight was silent film night at a local venue, and I saw some classic "shorts" dating from as far back as 1894. I was most impressed by the dream-like works -- in hand-tinted color! -- of the French film pioneer Georges Méliès, which employed some amazing (for the time) special effects. Movie realism wasn't so important in those days -- a train could leave the tracks, go sailing through the sky and even crash-land on the Sun, without injuring its passengers. Actors hadn't yet discovered the Method, and unnaturally exaggerated movements and facial expressions were standard. Apparently, the novelty of seeing pictures move was so strong that the medium hadn't yet become "transparent." Maybe that's why the contemporary works these films reminded me of most were children's cartoons. SpongeBob would have been right at home in one of Méliès fantasies.

Who's Who of Victorian Cinema: Georges Méliès

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Sasquatch Mountain (Flash movie)

Stop Making Sense

At the wonderful world of Larry Carlson, a Flash movie site, you can discover what Timothy Leary was on about, without the need for chemicals. The current feature is The Legend of Sasquatch Mountain, or something like that.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

May Pang's Lost Weekend

May loved John but unlike May, Yoko used John. John loved Yoko, but May, Yoko used; unlike May, John used Yoko. May loved Yoko, but May, Yoko used, but unlike May, Yoko used John. Yoko loved John, used May. But John, Yoko used, unlike May. John used May, Yoko used John, unlike May, who loved John but used John. Yoko, unlike May, loved John, but used May; Yoko used John and May. May used Yoko, but Yoko, unlike May, loved John and used John. May loved Yoko but used John, but unlike May, Yoko loved John and May.

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"I first met him in 1970, at the Kentucky Derby. The editor of Scanlan magazine, which was named after a little-known Nottingham pig farmer, had seen my first book, Still Life With Raspberry, and concluded I was the guy to do this story with Hunter S Thompson, an ex-Hell's Angel who'd just shaved his head. On the way to the airport I lost my pens, pencils and inks. Luckily the editor's wife was a Revlon representative and she gave me a pack of lipsticks and rouges and whatnot. And that's what I used for the story, 'The Kentucky Derby is Depraved and Decadent.' "
--Ralph Steadman

More at Guardian Unlimited

I'm not a huge Hunter Thompson fan, but I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when I was in college and remember laughing for hours. RIP.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Word of the Day

Word of the Day

coriaceous (adj)

Having the appearance of leather

After so many decades at sea, Captain Smyth's coriaseous face told a salty story, punctuated by two oceanic eyes.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Sandy Hook (August 2004)

The air is vacuumed clean,
and all misgivings drain

from an uneasy day.
At the end of the street,

past the wild grass’s
endless deference to the wind,

waves are polishing
three primal rocks

with ceaseless caresses.
Time might as well stop.

The gigantic iris of the bay
gazes at the hot, absolute sky

with perfect attention,
a hypnotized witness.

Now my footprints disappear
at the edge of the surf,

no more enduring than foam.
I bend and realize

the shell is broken.
Inhale, exhale.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Gates at The Gates


Gates at The Gates

I visited The Gates in Central Park today, along with some long-time friends, including some I hadn't seen in 20 years -- it was a reunion of sorts. I had mixed feelings as we walked through the temporary installation by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. From certain angles and vantage points, especially when the sun is shining directly on the saffron-colored fabric and it's flapping in the breeze, the effect is beautiful. At other times, the Gates appear a bit . . . utilitarian. (Some editorial writer thought the orange fabric and metal brought to mind a construction zone.) I'm glad I went, though, and the crowds in the park were certainly enjoying the spectacle, despite the chilly weather. (photos by me)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"Perhaps a man really dies when his brain stops, when he loses the power to take in a new idea. There are a lot of people like that. Dead minds, stopped inside. Just keep moving backwards and forwards on the same little track, growing fainter all the time, like ghosts."
--George Orwell, Coming up For Air

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Weird 'Alice' Paintings

Down the Rabbit Hole

This series of paintings based on Lewis Carroll's Alice books has a certain medieval tapestry quality. Medieval surrealism -- it just might be the perfect artistic mode for this mad moment in history. (Tenniel is still my favorite Carroll illustrator, though. By far.)

(via A Wasp in a Wig)

Obligatory cat pic (every blog needs one, right?):


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Word of the Day: Doxastic

Word of the Day

doxastic (adj)

of or relating to opinion

"Please, no doxastic outbursts!" Professor Wisenhyme exclaimed as the chemistry students began to protest the experiment's sulfurous fumes. He took a deep breath. "It smells like pure science to me."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Strange Days Indeed

Strange Days Indeed

One of those days. I was on my way out of the condo to go buy a valentine for my valentine. I opened the front door and a flock of birds flew up in my face. (Someone had left the building's door to the roof open, and the hall was full of pigeons.) I screamed -- a sort of a manly, pirate scream, like "arrrgh!" -- and slammed the door. I probably wouldn't have been so scared if I hadn't seen a revival of Hitchcock's The Birds not so long ago at a local theater. Later on, I finally got in to see the dentist at 5:30 PM after showing up early for my 4:00 PM appointment. My Valentine's Day gift was a "Sparkle Magic Night Light," which "adds color to any room" -- and I actually sort of like it. Tonight, my valentine and I watched Wonderfalls on DVD -- one of the most weirdly entertaining comedies (if that's what it is -- it makes me laugh but it's sardonic laughter) ever made. Oh, and it was windy and wet all day, and I had to chase my hat down the street. No talking tchotchkes, though (see link). Viva la vida loca!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Musical Hamlet 4-minute mp3

Don't hesitate . . .

. . . to listen to this four-minute musical version of Hamlet (mp3). And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

(via Pratie Place)

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Crazy Horoscopes

Time to cut loose?

Crazy offers "alternative" astrological advice. In the coming week, I am advised to:

"Do something outrageous. Attach a 200 horse-power engine to your lawnmower and ride around naked on it while spray painting any people with blue paint, as you pass them by. When the police chase you and put a stop to you, just hit them over the head with a pompom and tell them you want directions to the nearest peanut refinery. If all goes well they should give you a grape. If not, then they will probably beat you with a nightstick."

More likely, if I took this literally, I'd end up in a mental ward. But as a thought experiment, it may have merit. I am sometimes accused of being too uptight, cautious and risk-averse. (What can I say? I'm a Capricorn -- though I don't really believe in astrology, except as a sort of Jungian mind game that may prompt some useful insights.) "Fear is the mind killer," as a character in Dune says. It freezes thought. The time I spend thinking about the things I'm scared of -- like dying poor and alone -- could be put to better use, I'm sure. And that's equally true of thinking about what other people are thinking about.

When I lived in the country, I used to mow lawns, usually with a push mower, but sometimes with a riding mower. It didn't occur to me at the time, but looking back at it, it seems like such a wasteful activity -- wasteful of time and gasoline and clean air. A lawn is such an unnecessary luxury (a field of grass is something else). Now I wonder why I didn't just set off cross country on the thing, until I had some kind of adventure. If nothing else, it would have given me something to write about.

(via The Presurfer)

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry


Coffee stains testify
to the age
of my work shirts.
I found another hole
in this shoe.
And where do my pencils go?
is breaking down--
dissolving, melting
into a pool
of estranged molecules
that leaks, gradually,
out into space
where the little spinners,
of dark matter,
strange attractors,
and embrace
like sticky lovers
by some obsessed
to generate
a love child again.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Arthur Miller 1916-2005

Arthur Miller 1915-2005

What a wonderful writer Arthur Miller was. I still vividly remember reading (aloud) The Crucible, his play about the Salem witch trials (but actually about the McCarthy era), in seventh grade. I read the part of John Proctor, and it had a great impact on me. Death of a Salesman could well be the great American play, and he wrote other classics as well. He wrote film scripts (The Misfits), essays and short stories. He won the Pulitzer Prize. All that, and married to a suicidal "sex symbol" -- I think he was once called "the hardest working husband in America."

"Reminiscing about Monroe in his 1987 autobiography, Timebends: A Life, Miller lamented that she was rarely taken seriously as anything but a sex symbol. 'To have survived, she would have had to be either more cynical or even further from reality than she was,' he wrote. 'Instead, she was a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes.' "

He will be missed.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

J. D. Salinger. Uncollected Writings

The Cacher of the Wry

J.D. Salinger, one of my favorite authors, published quite a few stories in magazines in the 1940s that have never been republished in book form. Some brave soul has placed a slew of them on the Web here: Uncollected Writings. Better read them while you can, if you're a J.D. fan. The copyright police will be along soon, I expect.

(via Maud Newton)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Quote of the Day (Johnny Carson)

Quote of the Day

"Democracy is buying a big house you can't afford with money you don't have to impress people you wish were dead. And, unlike communism, democracy does not mean having just one ineffective political party; it means having two ineffective political parties. ...Democracy is welcoming people from other lands, and giving them something to hold onto -- usually a mop or a leaf blower. It means that with proper timing and scrupulous bookkeeping, anyone can die owing the government a huge amount of money. ... Democracy means free television, not good television, but free. ... And finally, democracy is the eagle on the back of a dollar bill, with 13 arrows in one claw, 13 leaves on a branch, 13 tail feathers, and 13 stars over its head -- this signifies that when the white man came to this country, it was bad luck for the Indians, bad luck for the trees, bad luck for the wildlife, and lights out for the American eagle."
--Johnny Carson

Monday, February 07, 2005

Color photography from the early 1900s

In Living Color

We're used to thinking of people in the early 1900s as living in a black-and-white world. But color photography, though experimental and rare, did exist then, and some fine examples are exhibited in The Empire That Was Russia: The Prokudin-Gorskii Photographic Record Recreated (A Library of Congress Exhibition). The addition of color makes these turn-of-the-century folks seem less stiff and iconic--more human--than the monochrome photography of the time would have rendered them, I think. And the photos have the odd effect of seeming both modern and archaic. (I think I've linked to this site before, but more photos have been added now.)

See also Color photos from World War I -- apparently made using a different process. (Long load time.) More here.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Organic HTML

Les Fleurs du Mal

Organic HTML is a site that creates a graphic rendering of any website in the form of a plant. Above is the vegetable version of Twists & Turns. Quite a turd blossom, eh?

(via The Presurfer)

Friday, February 04, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

The Map

Your destination is the white blank,
the zero, the empty canvas
at the top of the world
to which every terminus points.

Your map is a mirror,
your own face in a photograph, a self-portrait
in pen and ink, a poem that rattles
stubbornly, for now, inside your skull.

Where you are going
there is no tea-stained map of paper,
no longitudinal grid,
or compass rose for reference.

No black cross to mark the treasure,
or dot or pinhole at the spot.
If it were that easy,
wouldn't everyone be a traveler?

You have heard about other routes,
marked with breadcrumbs, stones,
or yellow bricks -- paths that led to nowhere.
You read your map with intuition

and scrawl directions,
hoping that somewhere, behind you,
some sagacious voyager
traces the arc of your footprints.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 percent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong. A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam."
--Peter Grose, in a page 2 New York Times article entitled "U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote," September 4, 1967.

(via Watermark)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Word of the Day: Mattoid

Word of the Day

mattoid (n)

Person on the verge of insanity; an idiot

As she wandered through the exhibit's agglomeration of twisted metal forms, Edwina found herself wondering if the artist was a genius or a mattoid.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Deep Thoughts

Deep Thoughts

I find it slightly annoying when I see the word "ambulance" spelled backward on the front of an ambulance. The person who thought this up was too clever by half. Think about it. You're driving along and you see an ambulance in your rear-view mirror. Either it has its siren wailing and its lights flashing, in which case you know it's an ambulance without reading about it, or it doesn't, in which case, there is no emergency -- and it doesn't matter whether it's an ambulance or a Mr. Softee truck . . . Those people you see several times a day, but who aren't really friends or relations -- why do you have to say "hi" to them or at least smile and make eye contact every time you see them? It doesn't matter if you're in an office, your apartment building or walking down the street. You always have to pretend you're seeing them for the first time that day . . . What do pharmacists have to hide? Why do they always fill prescriptions behind a screen or a wall or a high counter you can't see over? What's the big secret? . . .