Sunday, July 31, 2005

Animated "Maxwell Silver Hammer"

Bang Bang

Watch an animated version of The Beatles' bizarrely jaunty little ditty about a serial killer here.

(via The Presurfer)

HOT AIR: Postal Experiments

Time on Their Hands

Made me laugh: Postal Experiments, from the Annals of Improbable Research.

David Shrigley List Of Photographs

Words and Pictures

David Shrigley does a rare thing: humorous art photography. Irony, yes, but no sledge hammers.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry


On a steeped night
that sticks to the skin,

he peels off seven layers
of wallpaper

as jingles and voices
waft by like smoke.

The poet scribbles and scribbles
about a ticking suitcase,

then shuts
the moon in a drawer,

bored as a caged monkey.
His thoughts rise

in word balloons
that appear to say:

You are a soft, pink dildo,
dishwasher safe.

You are a hard steel chisel.
But useless. No use.

The chakras won't open,
he's blind from the klieg lights.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Close Encounters

Close Encounters

Took a long walk today. Observed the following:

A young girl carrying pink flowers and singing "Happy Birthday."

An old man wearing a black baseball cap that said "USS Clifton Sprague."

A man loading a gold-painted statue of a naked woman in an obscene posture onto the back of a pick-up truck. Immediately followed by:

A white Virgin Mary statue in a blue "bath tub" style shrine.

A man wearing a gas mask, standing in the doorway of a dilapidated house.

I saw all of these things on the first half of the walk, but nothing notable on the way back. That may be because I was tired and no longer so perceptive. I seem to see more unusual things when I set my mind to it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"The thing that makes reading and writing suspect in the eyes of the market economy is that it's not corrupted. It's a threat to the GNP, to the gene engineer. It's an invisible, sedate, almost inert process. Reading is the last act of secular prayer. Even if you're reading in an airport, you're making a womb unto yourself--you're blocking the end results of information and communication long enough to be in a kind of stationary, meditative aspect. A book is a done deal and nothing you do is going to alter the content, and that's antithetical to the idea that drives our society right now, which is about changing the future, being an agent, getting and taking charge of your destiny and altering it. The destiny of a written narrative is outside the realm of the time. For so long as you are reading, you are also outside the realm of the time."
--Richard Powers

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

How to Fold a Shirt

Practical Advice

How to Fold a Shirt, just like a clerk in a clothing store.

Virtual bubble paper!

Pop Culture

Toil and trouble? Burst a bubble.

More bubble fun. Kind of sick when you think about it, but technically impressive.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Do you have any grey poupon?

Do you have any grey poupon?

Asked for mustard today in my son's preferred fast-food restaurant and they had none. (The restaurant shall be nameless; let's just say it aspires to a "regal" reputation.) What is mustard, anyway? I thought as I ate my naked chicken sandwich. A plant, a weed. More specifically, the dictionary tells me it is "a pungent yellow powder of the seeds of any of several common mustards (Brassica hirta, B. nigra, or B. juncea) used as a condiment or in medicine as a stimulant and diuretic, an emetic, or a counterirritant." A stimulant and diuretic? Who knew? That's actually the last thing I need, drinking as much coffee as I do ... When I think of mustard, I think of the brown or yellow stuff that I spread on sandwiches, that I sometimes would eat by itself on a piece of bread as a kid. Or the sayings: If I had faith as big as a mustard seed (a very tiny seed), I could say to a mountain "move," and it would move. I'm not sure that would be a nice thing to do, actually ... "Mean Mister Mustard sleeps in the park/Shaves in the dark tryin' to save paper/Sleeps in a hole in the road/Saving up to buy him some clothes/Keeps a ten bob note up his nose/Such a mean old man." Mr. Mustard was the radio handle I used at one time. Not that I was mean. Just somebody who could "cut the mustard," or, at least, that's the image I wanted to project. But where does that phrase come from? No one seems to know for sure. ... And mustard gas? It is not made from mustard, I'm told, though it smells like it is ... As a condiment, mustard dates back thousands of years, apparently. According to the Mustard Museum, it is "America's favorite condiment." Hmm. A restaurant without mustard should be ashamed of itself. "Have it your way" indeed.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Word of the Day: labeorphily

Word of the Day

labeorphily (n)

Collection and study of beer-bottle labels

Confronted with the huge number of empties by the back door, Wilbert blamed his obsessive labeorphily.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Behind Shut Lids

I see her old
low hills running,
snake river's
silvered pools,
deep maple shade
under blue blazes.

Sunday in the car,
their plowed furrows
patches of cows,
a stick barn's tilt.

Then that house,
charcoal mist
of booming clouds;
I can almost
hear the rain hiss,
eaves drip.

I'm safe, dry
among her heavy
glass globules,
tiny worlds,
memory's paperweights.
Then as now.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Spooky photos of children

Wise Beyond Their Years

Portrait photographer Loretta Lux creates spooky but beautiful photos of grave-looking children who seem to know or see something adults have forgotten about or don't perceive. That's my interpretation, anyway.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Play that tabla...

Heat and a Beat

Last night: It was hot, the windows were open and my next-door neighbor was playing his tabla, a percussion instrument used in classical Indian music. (He's not Indian, by the way.) I didn't mind. It made me think of my college days, when I used to listen, occasionally, to Ravi Shankar albums, which made me feel sultry and international—never mind any subzero temperatures outside. This despite the fact that I had (and have) no real understanding of this type of music. It was just a sound to me, useful for changing the mood of a room or a situation. Perhaps this was a form of passive imperialism, an exploitation of another culture's musical heritage to create a faux-sophisticated aural wallpaper. (Although I'm sure Shankar appreciates his Western album sales, however clueless his fans are about what they're listening to.) Last night it was too hot to bother with such qualms. My mind was empty--a blank, a tabula rasa. Or a tabla rasa.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Creepy Dolls

What a Doll

Creepy dolls. "All of these dolls have been sold," the site says. You have to wonder who would buy them, and for what purpose. To scare the kiddies?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Freud on Seuss

The Cat on the Couch

Break out the cigars! At Freud on Seuss, we finally learn what The Cat in the Hat was really all about, thanks to the trenchant insights of psychoanalysis. A sample:

The children, unable to control the Id, Ego, and Superego allow these creatures to run free and mess up the house, or more symbolically, control their lives. This rampage continues until the fish, or Christ symbol, warns that the mother is returning to reinstate the Oedipal triangle that existed before her abandonment of the children. At this point, Seuss introduces a many-armed cleaning device which represents the psychoanalytic couch, which proceeds to put the two youngsters' lives back in order.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry


You felt the same mindless
wind of that country,

a landscape unrolling
in every direction.

I look straight up
at the same white sky,

one pin on the map,
while the stones mumble.

You grew things, you
"kept house" for the census.

Everything goes but that.
Still I knot old strings together

though there is only now
and a dead tree ---

a tangle of branches,
selves that would never

conceive of me.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Word of the Day: Pridian

Word of the Day

pridian (adj)

Relating to yesterday

"Thrice a-week, at least, does Gann breakfast in bed -- sure sign of pridian intoxication."
--William Makepeace Thackeray, A Shabby Genteel Story

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Guy Named Ethel

A Guy Named Ethel

I've been doing some genealogical research, trying to trace back one line of my family (the Gates line) back through several generations. Some interesting male names were apparently popular in the 1800s. A lot of them start with the letter E: Elias, Elisha and, surprisingly, Ethel. Yes, Ethel, which means "noble," was once a male moniker. Now I'm wondering if the reason why no one in my family seems to know the name of my grandfather's grandfather is that Grandpa never talked about him, at least by name -- possibly because his name was Ethel and he didn't want to have to explain that, or listen to the snickering. A Google search for "Mr. Ethel" reveals that it was a fairly common male first name before the 20th century, and still is in some places, like Nigeria. It also reveals that Ernest Borgnine was once known as "Mr. Ethel Merman."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Shakespeare Insult Kit

Thou artless, beetle-headed boar-pig . . .

Thou gleeking, flap-mouthed foot-licker . . .

That Shakespeare had quite the vocabulary. With the Shakespeare Insult Kit, you can choose a single nasty adjective from Column 1, a hypenated combo from Column 2, and a colorful noun from Column 3 to create a taunt your enemy won't soon forget.

Niagara Falls from Space


A vertiginous view of Niagara Falls State Park, apparently photographed by a satellite.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Haiku madness

Haiku Madness

Laughter haiku

Seek the giggle cure
Prozac without prescription
Stupid jokes cure blues

Salad haiku

Lettuce tomato
Diced green pepper in a toss
Here comes Paul Newman

Vitamin haiku

A, B, C, D, E
Should I buy all these tablets?
Real food has plenty

Writer haiku

A scrap of parchment
On the wind that passes by
Still writers seek fame

Saturday, July 09, 2005



"A bomb outrage to have any influence on public opinion now must go beyond the intention of vengeance or terrorism. It must be purely destructive. It must be that, and only that, beyond the faintest suspicion of any other object. . . . But what is one to say to an act of destructive ferocity so absurd as to be incomprehensible, inexplicable, almost unthinkable; in fact, mad? Madness alone is truly terrifying, inasmuch as you cannot placate it either by threats, persuasion, or bribes."
--Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent

"A journalist is someone who cannot distinguish between a bicycle accident and the end of civilization."
--George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Something Happened

Something Happened

Just outside the wrought-iron fence surrounding a house down the block, neighbors have erected a small shrine. A framed photo of a young man wearing a football jersey is attached to the fence, with a semicircle of flowers and tall, flickering votive candles on the sidewalk beneath. I have no idea who the fellow in the picture is, or what happened to him. Due to an electrical power failure downtown, the local newspaper hasn't been published for the last two days. Yesterday, while I was walking on the opposite side of the street, I saw a man holding a professional-looking video camera standing next to the shrine, while a TV reporter explained that "he never returned from a trip to see the fireworks on July fourth." Or something like that. The reporter, dressed in a dark business suit on a 90-degree day, kept repeating the sentence over and over, never quite getting it out perfectly, at least while I was within earshot. I kept walking, as I don't like such scenes. And I think I prefer the mystery to knowing what happened, anyway.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Word of the Day: hypnoetic

Word of the Day

hypnoetic (adj)

Pertaining to logical but unconscious mental processes

When Horace said he would "sleep on it," we knew the problem was about to be solved, thanks to his hypnoetic talents.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Picture This

Picture This

Me sitting in my parent's sunny backyard, surrounded by green hills and gardens buzzing with life. I'm eating a turkey sandwich. A few inches away, Fred, a large, white, well-fed dog (a Turkish Akbash) stands watching me, wagging his tail and whining. He is tied to a heavy iron chair, and his leash is stretched taut. He stares at me with sad brown eyes as I slowly eat the sandwich, feeling absurdly guilty.

Just another holiday weekend in the country.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry


A rip opens in the fabric
of morning,

and now the laundry
drips tears.

Joy or sadness?
The shaving mirror is silent.

A gray horse gallops
toward a hungry horizon.

What does it mean
to dream of black swans?