Saturday, April 30, 2005

How Coffee Works

Still Learning

I drink a lot of coffee but knew very little about how it is made until I read the article below. It all has to do with "cherries," "exocarp," "mesocarp," "parenchyma," "endocarp" and "spermoderm." "Everyday alchemy" the article calls it. And here I thought I was just grinding beans.

"How Coffee Works"

(via Frozen Truth)

Friday, April 29, 2005



Check out 10-year-old artist prodigy Akiane. Incredible technical skills in service to a thoroughly kitsch aesthetic. But then, she's only 10. Impressive, to be sure -- but kind of creepy, too. Why do I keep thinking about Village of the Damned?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Rain or Shine

Rain or Shine

Strange weather today: rain and sunshine at the same time. I always find that disconcerting, as if parallel universes were suddenly overlapping, and I had one foot in each. Wearing sunglasses while holding an umbrella is an odd feeling. It could be a metaphor for confusion from a negative point of view, or for a time of transition if I wanted to interpret it more positively--which brings to mind a Beatles lyric: "Can you hear me, that when it rains and shines, it's just a state of mind?" And that reminds me of a Shakespeare line: "Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so." The meaning of any event, even something as mundane as the weather, is neutral (for me) until I make a judgment about it. And who am I, with my necessarily limited mind and point of view, to judge? I think I'm much more comfortable with the idea of "discernment" rather than "judgment." Discernment, according to the dictionary, is the "power to see what is not evident." That's a skill worth developing, I think. So while I might judge today's weather confusing, what's "evident," is that it's actually just a symptom of the season's contradictory nature. Yeah, I actually think about things like that while squinting in a rain shower.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Surreal images

Get Surreal

I stumbled across this site full of award-winning computer-generated images, all of them dreamlike as hell. The image above, called "Pov Planet," was generated using a random technique over a six-hour period. It reminds me a bit of the Unisphere, one of my favorite NYC landmarks.

Speaking of hell, I wonder why, from an artistic standpoint at least, it's almost always much more interesting than heaven (see below)? Maybe because, as the Talking Heads once said, "heaven is a place where nothing ever happens."


Monday, April 25, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Sunday Morning

The witch tree's limber fingers
sheltered the fluttering birds

as the sky howled;
I sat beneath a table of stone.

The devouring maw
of wilderness desired me:

I saw a cloud disguised
as a lion's head,

crawling vines encircled
my wrists and ankles,

and the sun seared
till I drowned in moonlight.

I woke up nerve numb,
crushed by sleep.

All morning
my mind was an empty plate.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Slightly Imperfect

Slightly Imperfect

Today I bought a $2 T-shirt. "Slightly Imperfect" it said on the label, though I can't see anything wrong with it. It's been a slightly imperfect day, overall. The weather, after several days of sun and calm, has turned windy and gray--though still warm. Instead of sleeping in, I had to get up early today--not a perfect Saturday in that respect, but still a day off. Several potential buyers stopped by to see our apartment, which made me self-conscious about all of its imperfections: too much clutter and not enough paint. Nothing is perfect, nobody's perfect, but "we" search for perfection anyway: the perfect candidate, the perfect vacation, the perfect gift, even the perfect shave. And, as Voltaire said, the perfect is the enemy of the good. I really didn't want to end this with a cliche, you know. Maybe I should put my T-shirt on now . . .

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Quote of the Day

"When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries of life disappear and life stands explained."
--Mark Twain

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Short Films: Elevator Moods

Vertically Challenged

Fiction writers are often advised to set the action of their stories within a confined space (a "crucible"). You'll find an extreme example of this technique at the Mood Elevator site. Press a button for your choice of 13 (or is it 14?) short Flash films, all set in an elevator.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Word of the Day

Word of the Day

vaniloquence (n)

foolish talk

Philomena was unsure of how to respond when the partisans asked her opinion of Mr. Leuney's ridiculous speech. Noting that there was no dictionary in sight, she finally said, "I was so impressed by his vaniloquence."

Monday, April 18, 2005



Today I saw a guy wearing a necktie with the Twin Towers on it, against a red, white and blue background. I suppose those vanished buildings have become icons now, like the American Flag, the cross, Jesus, Elvis, and Marilyn. I see the towers on T-shirts, too. Can black velvet paintings be next? It may be tacky, it may be exploitative, but there is apparently some deep human need for touchstones of this sort. As if we might forget about these people or buildings or objects without constant visual reminders. Or perhaps people feel a need to advertise who they are through the icons they choose to display. I'm tempted to say this indicates a deep sense of insecurity, but I'm not sure how the Twin Towers fit that theory. "Never forget" seems to be the message there. As if we could. There may be other messages, too. Wear the World Trade Center on your flag-like necktie and you're saying . . . what? That the tragedy of the towers justifies certain actions? It's an ambiguous symbol, at least for me -- just as the magnetic yellow ribbons I see on cars are ambiguous. "Support the Troops," yes, but is that the only message? Does that equal support for the war? How exactly do these magnetic ribbons, which reportedly will damage a car's paint job, support people in the armed forces? If I buy one, does the money go to the USO or some other troop-supporting charity? (If it does, it's being kept very quiet.) If I was a cynical person, I might be tempted to say that these ribbons are just a cheap way to "support" the troops without having to endure any of the hardships usually associated with wartime -- like higher taxes or a draft or a shortage of gasoline. Of course, if I was the cynical type, I might sell neckties and towels and key chains with the Twin Towers on them, too.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

The Waiting Place

Every duplicate afternoon,
he, unnoticed,
passes beneath
the bridges of salesmen,
difference makers,
those who adore
both the sheep and the snake.
He of the carefully blank face.

Slowly, the temperature rises,
warm rains come,
the world sweats,
soaking empty factories
and detested creatures.
They have a certain peace,
hidden in rusty pivots,
in dropped feathers.

Water falls at night,
a monsoon, or God's mouth
strangely salivating
over so much grinding
and brick dust.
Torrents pool and drain,
washing years away
but bringing nothing.

Friday, April 15, 2005

My Friend, Mr. Nobody

My Friend, Mr. Nobody

Observed on the street today: (1) an impossibly blonde woman with an impossibly wrinkled face leaning against a car, smoking a cigarette and having an animated conversation with no one at all; (2) a tall, doughy young man ambling down the sidewalk, pointing a finger in various random directions and quietly mouthing sentences. I suppose we all mutter to ourselves sometimes, at least internally. I know I do. But I don't talk to imaginary pals or adversaries "out there." Adults who do this are "crazy" by society's standards. Children can have invisible friends to play with or comfort them, but grown-ups can't (or shouldn't). And it's a shame, in a way. Think of how convenient it would be to have a companion who would pop up or disappear as needed, listen patiently to any sort of nonsense you care to spout and let you win all the arguments. We all need someone to talk to; otherwise our thoughts can only reverberate inside our own skulls--and that must be like living in a mirror-lined echo chamber. I suspect you would begin to wonder, after a while, if you really existed at all: an intolerable feeling. And so, those who are a bit "off" and have no one to talk to--or, at least, no one who will listen--conjure up an invisible confidant. That's my armchair speculation. And something else I wonder about: how therapeutic would it be to supply such people with blogs? Imagine a webring of schizophrenic bloggers, all ranting and responding and maybe even flaming each other. No, on second thought, I suppose that's just too far out a notion.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"Desire's most seductive promise is not pleasure but change, not that you might possess your object but that you might become the one who belongs with it."
--James Richardson

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

37 short experimental films


UbuWeb offers 37 short films (in .MPG format) from the experimental (and venerable) New York art group Fluxus. Included are three by Yoko Ono, the most interesting of which is perhaps Four, an excerpt from her famous/notorious "Bottoms" project. The end . . .

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Scene from Dragnet

A Scene from Dragnet

The State Police banged on my door today: two plain-clothes guys straight from central casting. They said that someone from this address had sent them a letter, signed only "H.R.," stating that there was criminal activity going on in the building. They wanted to know if I knew who "H.R." might be. I told them I didn't; there's someone who lives here whose last name begins with "R," but the first name doesn't start with "H." They wrote down everything I said and left. Hmm. I haven't seen any "criminal activity" going on, except for my bicycle being stolen from the basement last December. But they seemed to be looking for something more serious than that. Having endured urban apartment life for many years, I've shared a roof, at various times, with thieves, drug dealers and wife/girlfriend beaters, but things have been quiet around here lately. I wonder if this presages some new malefaction. Good thing I'll probably be moving this summer.

HR . . .

Honest Reporter?
Highly Reliable?
Hot Resentment?
Hoodlum Realty?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Word of the Day

Word of the Day

cosmotellurian (adj)

pertaining to both heaven and earth

"So, feet on the ground, head in the stars, eh?" said Mr. Dolty. The astronomer smiled patiently and said, "I prefer to think of myself as a cosmotellurian investigator."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Mr. Spungarn's Complaint

For a long time,
each ensuing day
held something of the same loss,
that slow burning

of wreckage better buried.
He doesn't do well in extremes,
armed with his useless bludgeons,
his razed expectations.

He still keeps the bones in a box,
grudges that can't be dissolved,
not in the acetic acid
of each half-final night.

It's spring now: such mockery.
The fragrance of cut grass
and a tree's sawed limbs
offends him.

"This is your legacy," says he.
"I keep thinking,
while holding a breath,
of those adamant blades."

Friday, April 08, 2005

A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods

Get away from it all: Forests Forever is a beautifully designed Flash site featuring lush photography of forests around the world, set to ethereal (but not too annoying) mood music. See you in the trees.

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."
--e.e. cummings


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Connections: Smoking a Joint


Yesterday I saw two teenage boys walking down the street, talking, laughing and smoking a joint. They passed the joint back and forth, not trying to hide it. They were very casual. Lawbreakers, I thought, but I didn't care; I was just a little surprised that they were so open about it. In a million little ways, people break the law--or at least the rules--all the time, of course. I also saw a woman sitting in a parked car open her door and dump some trash before driving away. Another car almost ran me over while I was crossing the street (legally). And people don't clean up after their dogs in our local park--Poop Park, as I call it. Law or rule breakers, all of them. Breaking rules can be good or bad, certainly; it has been called the essence of creativity. And we worship creativity, at least in theory. In practice, policies like the so-called "No Child Left Behind" act (another set of rules), which imposes a mania for standardized testing on the schools, squeeze all the creativity out of the classroom, many teachers say. I suppose if I was a student now, I'd think of every free moment outside of school as a sort of prison break. Maybe I'd even want to smoke a joint on my way home from school to relieve the pressure. I'd pass it to my friend and perhaps wonder, for a moment, what it is that they're smoking down in Washington.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Word of the Day

Word of the Day

floccinaucinihilipilification (n)

setting at little or no value

The world's floccinaucinihilipilification of Malachi's mad scribblings turned him into a bitter pamphleteer.

Monday, April 04, 2005


Radio Free Byrne

Bored with FM's programmed niches and commercials? Me too, but relief may be at hand, online. Heads are talking about David Byrne's new ad-free "radio station" at Radio Give a listen if your pop musical tastes are, shall we say, eclectic. (This ain't no disco.) "The artists played here are respectful of one another and gunplay is forbidden," says Byrne. (Requires a broadband connection.)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry


His solar system
of possessions, people, obligations

never tires, never leaves him
to his iron sepulcher.

"Shove my food in on a tray,"
he'll say.

But the hot breeze of summer
makes the pines weep.

A child holds a mirror up,
the wind bangs open a door,

and his mind inclines
to another space.

That small hut of his

and begins to seem
a splendid cathedral.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"I'm given to write poems. I cannot anticipate their occasion. I have used all the intelligence that I can muster to follow the possibilities that the poem 'under hand,' as Olson would say, is declaring, but I cannot anticipate the necessary conclusions of the activity, nor can I judge in any sense, in moments of writing, the significance of that writing more than to recognize that it is being permitted to continue. I'm trying to say that, in writing, at least as I have experienced it, one is in the activity, and that fact itself is what I feel so deeply the significance of anything that we call poetry."
--Robert Creeley, 1926 - 2005

(via wood s lot)