Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Curious George

Midwives love secrets:
why an hourglass turns,
how the sun melds many into one.
You are light and grace notes today,
and a mystery for that.

A rumble beneath my feet
spirits me away.
A TV screen fills with mute faces.
My reflection in plate glass
could be anyone.

These apes are always on time,
their little hands spinning on dials
or numbers flickering fast.
Monday dissolves into Tuesday,
much strangeness is left unsaid.

Yeah, if only.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dreamlines art generator

Dream Weaver

Dreamlines creates a painting-like image based on the words you enter, using Google's Image search. The results are abstract or semi-representational, depending (apparently) on how concrete your terms are. Above is what the site produced when I typed in "blue house."

(via Blue Tea)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Cliche popularity contest

You can say that again

Is there anything so popular as a cliche? The Cliche Challenge tracks the voguishness of overused words and phrases, based on the number of references to them found by Google over a three-month period. Bottom line? At the end of the day, visiting this state-of-the-art site could be an historic opportunity, if you're monitoring the situation.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Kerouac, bit by bit


I've decided that I like episodic books -- books I can put down and then pick up again, sometimes months later, without feeling that I need to start over again from page 1. One such is Kerouac's On the Road, a picaresque freight-train of jazz-prose chapters that I started reading last summer, figuring it was about time. (I had read some of Kerouac's other novels before, but never, for some reason, his magnum opus.) About halfway through, I became entangled in a life-changing event -- I moved -- and actually couldn't find the book for a while. Now I'm reading it again, bit by bit, between work and various holiday jaunts and obligations. The starting and stopping doesn't seem to matter . . . I miss the days when I could just sit and read a book all day, though. That kind of sustained attention seems harder and harder to achieve, and not just because I'm constantly interrupted by the slings and arrows of adult life. I think my attention span is actually getting shorter -- maybe from spending too much time online.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Zen story generator

Koan Zone

Zen again and again: a random Zen story generator. (Just keep reloading the page.)

Computer-generated webpage design

"Just Another Website"

Strange Banana is an online program that creates a random webpage design that you can save and use if you want. They're better than some human-generated designs I've seen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Time Magazine's All-Time 100 Best Novels


In its infinite wisdom (or arrogance, depending on how you look at it), Time magazine has revealed its All-TIME 100 [Best] Novels list. I'm happy/relieved to see that I've read quite a few of them, and it reminded me of a favorite of mine that I haven't thought about in a while: Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust. (I seem to be drawn to satirical novels. Wonder what that says about me.)

The list only includes English-language novels from 1923 to the present, which seems arbitrary. Maybe they plan to compile foreign-language and pre-1923 lists in the future.

They have this to say about another fave of mine, 1984, which seems, sadly (and ironically), not to have become dated: "It is Orwell's triumph, and the century's misfortune, that 1984 is as prescient as it is pessimistic."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry


Template of a planet
painted on a billiard ball,

caroming a zigzag--
bone-hard egg, polished stone,

tissue and sinew
barely hanging on.


On a dry plain,
a setting sun, sets free.

The absence of an ache
releases a bird, red feathers--

flying south.
A flame in the sky.


Later the heavenly
game, connect the dots,

begins. I see fish,
gods, dishes,

the old faces, hear a murmuring --
something about a garden.

Friday, November 18, 2005

New York Underground: hidden world

Sub Conscious

Thanks to its skyscrapers, New York is usually thought of as a "tall" city, but it's also a deep one. A cool graphic.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The books famous people loved in college.

Book Crush

The books famous people loved in college

My favorite book from college reading days was probably The Catcher in the Rye. Somehow I missed reading it in high school. (I also liked its female analogue, The Bell Jar.) Another favorite: Twain's The Mysterious Stranger. I enjoyed reading a lot of Shakespeare and Dickens then, too--something I wish I had time for today. Yeah, I was an English major. Do they even exist anymore?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Well Said

Well Said

Saw this online today:

"Hysteria is good for catapulting the chaos."

Jimmy Carter: 'This isn't the real America'

Quote of the Day

"In recent years, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican. These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights. Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility...

"Another disturbing realization is that, unlike during other times of national crisis, the burden of conflict is now concentrated exclusively on the few heroic men and women sent back repeatedly to fight in the quagmire of Iraq. The rest of our nation has not been asked to make any sacrifice, and every effort has been made to conceal or minimize public awareness of casualties...

"Of even greater concern is that the U.S. has repudiated the Geneva accords and espoused the use of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, and secretly through proxy regimes elsewhere with the so-called extraordinary rendition program. It is embarrassing to see the president and vice president insisting that the CIA should be free to perpetrate 'cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment' on people in U.S. custody..."
--Jimmy Carter, from "This Isn't the Real America"

Read more here.

It is quite extraordinary for an ex-president to make a statement like this about a current administration.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Word of the Day: Incalescence

Word of the Day

incalescence (n)

The action or process of heating or becoming hot

Though we could hear the teapot's incalescence, there was no one in the kitchen.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Stuff and Nonsense

Stuff and Nonsense

Who knew that shopping for a couch could be so complicated? Furniture stores today--at least the ones out in the 'burbs--are the size of aircraft hangers. Visiting one is like being trapped in a fever dream in which, no matter how far you walk, you can never find your way out of the living room.

These luxurious warehouses are full of every imaginable variation on the theme of chair, sofa, bed and table, but it's hard to find anything basic and simple. I saw enormous beds that looked like something Napoleon would have slept in, complete with Corinthian columns for bedposts and carved headboards. I saw tasseled divans suitable for a reclining Cleopatra and gilded coffee tables that might have held Louis XIV's chips-and-dip. Lots of leather, too: imposing, brass-studded chairs and couches that would look appropriate--where? The offices of superstar attorneys or insecure power brokers? You have to wonder who buys all this vainglory. Delusions of grandeur must be epidemic. "People want to look rich," my wife says, "even if they aren't."

Oddly, many of the lamps and accessories that surrounded these items looked like things you would see in the home of a neurotic art dealer or aboard a flying saucer. Weird metal sculptures, zebra-patterned lamp shades and improbable ashtrays--the people who set up the displays in these mega stores at least have a sense of humor. Could it be us they're snickering at?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

ET phone home: the Hyperdimensional Oscillator

Phone Home

The Hyperdimensional Oscillator (tm) corrects and filters the cosmic energies flowing into the human body to bring increased harmony and balance to the body’s electrical system.

The Hyperdimensional Oscillator (tm) is specially prepared to emit cosmic resonant energy frequencies that synchronize and promote a healthy human bioenergy field.

The Hyperdimensional Oscillator (tm) facilitates communication with higher dimensions including entities commonly termed 'Extraterrestials' or 'ETs'.

Yes, this is a real product, and you can buy one at the "special introductory price" of only $89.95 here. I think I'll pass, but let me know how you like it if you get one.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Carpenter's Lament

Moments seem to collapse.
Everything outside disappears,
fading into shades,

as I wince at a nail jab
from the scrap in my hand. There is a sense
of injustice, work unrewarded,

as the hammer crashes--bang--
to the floor. I'm sent back to the body;
no more fantasy of competence.

What is this building but the temporary
attraction of sawdust,
a rickety box of sticks?

Even the smallest blood drop
screams of self-awareness.
Voices intrude from the world--

"You OK?"
Salt, I am salty. And my tongue
pierces the dusty air.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Friday, November 04, 2005


Word of the Day

bafflegab (n)

Pretentious jargon or unintelligible language

[Bafflegab is] "multiloquence characterized by consummate interfusion of circumlocution or periphrasis, inscrutability, and other familiar manifestations of abstruse expatiation commonly utilized for promulgations implementing Procrustean determinations by governmental bodies." --Milton Smith


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bound for Glory: America in Color, 1939-1943

Colorful Depression

Thanks to photos and films I've seen, I usually think of the Great Depression as a black-and-white or sepia period, sort of like Kansas in the celluloid Wizard of Oz. But color film, though relatively rare, existed back then, and the Library of Congress has produced an eye-opening online exhibition of color Depression-era photos. See if you don't agree that the people and locales in these pix seem much more lifelike--and contemporary--without the distancing effect of monochrome photography.

(via 2blowhards)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005



There's no stoplight at the intersection near my house. If I counted all the minutes I've spent standing on the corner there, waiting for a break in the traffic so I could cross, I'm sure it would depress me profoundly. Or maybe it would make me insanely angry, crazy enough to run into the street, playing chicken with the cars like some demented matador.

It's a feeling of total futility as I stand there, watching 20 or 30 cars swish by. I often have an existential moment. I feel like a trivial blob of protoplasm, aware of the world's indifference and my own impatience and anxiety. Should I make a run for it? To be or not to be?

Occasionally, the drivers take pity. They slow to a crawl and flash their lights, or make odd hand gestures--usually an impatient swatting motion, as if I was an insect buzzing along the windshield. I'm obviously supposed to be grateful, so I smile and wave as I trot across, feeling like the town nuisance, he who must be indulged.

Sometimes I wish there were crossing guards for adults.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

360-degree Panoramas

You Are There offers 360-degree views from the top of the Matterhorn, U2's Vertigo concert, Live 8, various protest events and festivals, Christos's "The Gates," Easter in Corfu, the Sydney Opera House, Yokohama by night, Niagara Falls, etc, etc. Vertigo indeed. Requires Quicktime; probably helps to have a large monitor, too.