Monday, January 30, 2006

Street Scene: Iron Works

Iron Works

Street scene, 3:10 PM:

The dark-haired man with the welding arc is making a black grille. His face is inscrutable behind dark goggles. Yellow sparks shoot across the sidewalk, like angry fireflies, as salsa music blasts from a radio near his feet. Behind him, the shop doors stand open. Inside is a miscellany of iron railings, mirrors with metallic frames, architectural details and convoluted gates and gratings. By the door, a rusty metal "tin" man, made of discarded metal parts, stands guard, like an Oz refugee, like a seven-foot, junkyard god.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry


My arms are limp
as seaweed.

My collar encircles
the base of a beehive.

My front opens,
then closes,

admitting a trunk
full of ropes and pulleys,

pipes and an odd
timpani drum.

I hide in a closet,
I hang on a hook

when I'm not
touring the town.

I'm like the peel
of a plantain,

the hurricane globe
that shelters

a slow-burning flame.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Word of the Day: Fanfaronade

Word of the Day

fanfaronade (n)

Empty boasting, arrogant bluster

"In the 'thirties, however, he found the Nazi fanfaronade most inspirating theater."
--Frank Gado, The Passion of Ingmar Bergman

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Prayer

A Prayer

"Lord, please bless the State Security Apparatus, that it might conduct it's wiretaps to the best of its abilities. Provide Our Leader with the ability to look into our bedrooms, so that He might catch French politicians putting their little soldiers in ladies' mouths and watch celebrities doing it. And Lord, let him share those videos with godly men like myself, who may then rail against these evils from our pulpits.

"And bless our interrogators and their glowsticks and electrified nipple clamps of freedom. Provide them with the ability to induce pain as close as possible to that experienced during organ failure without quite equaling it.

"And give us the ability to kill brown people more efficiently, so that our contractors may garner more fruit from their labor."
--Gen. J.C. Christian, Patriot

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: 'C-Students from Yale.'

"George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, a.k.a. 'Christians,' and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences."
--Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


I love you too

You get healthcare from a veterinarian, you imbecilic, hairball slurping, armadillo buggering, gene-spliced production of a pox-ridden fishwife.

There's something about over-the-top, G-rated insults (which you hardly ever hear in real life) that I find perversely humorous. I'm just weird that way. If you are too, you'll find lots of such sticks and stones at the Abuse-a-tron.

Pony Express -- Help Wanted

Help Wanted

Anorexic? Foolhardy? Go west, young man.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Writing a screenplay in simple steps

Screenplays for Dummies

The writer of the screenplay for the film Sylvia offers some simple steps for generating a screenplay plot. It's all about beginning, middle and end--you know, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back, but with a lot of elaboration. ("You keep doing the beginning/middle/end thing over and over again.") He makes it all sound very easy.

I saw Sylvia, the Plath biopic, on DVD. Hmm. Girl poet meets boy poet. Girl loses boy. Girl puts head in...oh, never mind.

(via Maud Newton)

Word of the Day

Word of the Day

eyot (n)

A small island (pronounced like "eight")

"That night they camped on a small eyot close to the western bank."
--J.R.R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings

Sometimes spelled "ait"

"Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls deified among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city."
--Charles Dickens, Bleak House

No man is an island, but on a scale of one to ten, I've often felt like an ait.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Treasure Island

As a boy, confined
to his infinite bedroom,

he was kidnapped by pirates--
wrinkled maps, lost keys,

charming amputees.
They whispered ghost stories

with plots inevitable
as arithmetic,

while his heart ticked
like a cricket,

and UFOs disguised
as houseflies

landed on his forehead,
teasing him awake.

The ceiling was a blank screen,
and anything could happen.

Everything did.
He's still there, watching

the second reel unspool:
his own unwinding

yarn of dreams.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Online "Victorian" tattoo parlor

Indelible Inc.

I'm not a big fan of tattoos, but the Java-intensive Everlasting Tattoo site is a graphically impressive showcase for several tat artists -- and not just because of the colorful skin on display. If the Internet had existed, say, 120 years ago, this is how the Victorian web might have looked.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Word of the Day: gongoozler

Word of the Day

gongoozler (n)

An inquisitive bystander or busybody, often found by locks and other places where boats gather; a person who stares idly or curiously at something

"Could Anita from Daventry really be a gongoozler, distracting us by offering to take photographs of the 'crew' as we tackle our final three locks?"
--Daniel Scott, "Cruising the Grand Union Canal"

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Elevator Talk

Elevated Discourse

I rushed into an elevator today, just before the doors closed. Right behind me, a woman, unknown to me, whacked the doors and slipped in. "The elevators in this building won't cut your arm off if you use it to hold the doors open," she said, sounding out of breath. "Some buildings, if you use your arm, the doors will close right on it!"

"And you see a lot of amputees walking around," I said.

She smiled a little and agreed. End of conversation. (We were descending from the second to the first floor.)

I'm not sure why she wanted to impart this silly bit of pseudo-wisdom to me, a complete stranger. At the time, I assumed it was an attempt at humor. Later, I wondered if she was complaining, in a roundabout way, that I hadn't held the door open for her. I hadn't seen her behind me, though, or I would have held it.

It could also be that she just wanted some brief contact--a moment of humanity in a sterile office setting. Why do people talk to strangers in elevators?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

"Hyperspace" drive being investigated

Meet me at Alpha Centauri

The US government is expressing interest in a "hyperspace" drive concept, developed by an obscure German physicist, that would allow for relatively (ahem!) quick interstellar travel. I hope it works, because the way things are going, I may want to leave this planet at some point.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Today's big excitement (not)

Today's Big Excitement

I spent two hours at Pep Boys waiting for a tire to be replaced. Sat in the "Customer Waiting" section on a plastic seat and read The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion (which won the National Book Award for nonfiction last year). It's a book by a woman so grief-stricken she can't think straight, but still, somehow, writes pitch-perfect, deadpan prose of diamond-like perfection. It made the time pass while the other customers slept, stared into space or watched What I Like About You on TV.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Word of the Day

Word of the Day

hircine (adj)

Of or characteristic of a goat, especially in strong odor.

"Gomel, who established himself as being hircine before anything else, was as stocky as an opera hat, with a bullet head and stainless-steel false teeth."
--Richard Condon, The Manchurian Candidate

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Inside meteorites: strange images

They came from outer space

Alien microchips? These microscopic crystalline formations, found inside meteorites, look both strangely organic and oddly artificial.

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Dirt Road (Dream 49)

Walking through the noon heat,
trying to hush up the dead,

I saw a lonely soul trudging
up a hill of dry grass.

I said, "Hey, mister, human,
can you tell me the way

to the clear, rushing water,
that busy river to the sea?

I'm all turned around,
trying to catch a cloud

with a butterfly net in the breeze."
He drew a circle in the air,

said, "It runs everywhere,"
and disappeared over the hill.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Daze of Our Lives: 19th Century Humor

What will they think of next?

Faux Victorian-era humor, complete with authentic engravings: Daze of Our Lives. A well-done site that's mildly amusing, not LOL. But I generally like being mildly amused.

Create an e-annoyance, go to jail | Perspectives | CNET

Better not tick me off

It is now a federal crime to "annoy" someone via the Internet:

Create an e-annoyance, go to jail

Friday, January 06, 2006

Observed on a long walk today

Talk of the Town

Observed on a long walk today:

Cluck U Chicken

The name of a fast-food place. Something tells me it isn't a chain. What kind of mind goes into business and names their restaurant this? My kind of mind, alas. Or at least I'd be tempted.

"Never Forget!"

Emblazoned on a poster depicting--you guessed it--the Twin Towers. Why are people in the New York area constantly exhorted to remember the one event (in recent history) that no one can ever forget? "September 11th? I dunno, is that somebody's birthday?"

Venus on the Half Shell

A concrete sculpture, bare breast and all, on someone's front lawn. Unusual subject around here, where you most often see Mary in the Bath Tub. A pagan household? Someone's ironic statement?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Restroom faucets: It's magic


Modern technology has created a world without borders, but not without confusion. Even when it comes to washing your hands.

I was in the restroom of a New York City bookstore the other day. I had just finished washing up and was drying my digits with a paper towel. I noticed a youngish guy standing at the sinks, looking down at the faucets with a puzzled expression. He turned to me and said, "Excuse me. How do you turn these on?"

He had a British accent. "How do you turn them on?" I repeated. For a second, I thought he must be joking.

"Just put your hands under it," I said, trying to keep a straight face. "It has an electric eye, or something."

"Oh." He stuck his hand under the faucet and the water gushed out. He looked surprised, mumbled "thanks" and chuckled a bit. "Crazy Americans," I imagined he must be thinking.

Those magical restroom faucets ARE a bit much. I think I understand the motivation behind them--you avoid germs by not touching any grimy handles turned by who knows how many filthy hands. It's the same with the supernatural paper-towel dispensers, I suppose: don't contaminate your pristine fingers by touching some dirty old lever. I still feel silly using them, though--like a bush-league Harry Potter or Jedi, just waving my hand to make something stupid happen. I guess I'm just not that worried about germs.

After all, once the hand washing is over, you still have to touch that grubby door handle to leave the loo.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Country Life

I look at the straw
and ask why

won't you be spun into gold?
What was his name?

Are you so satisfied

with your life on the farm,
in the guts of the scarecrow?

No reply.
Hats, baskets.

With such aspirations
the world is a small acre.