Monday, December 31, 2007

Paint Buy Numbers:: Art or Scam?

Paint Buy Numbers

Would you buy a painting of a number -- just a blue number on white canvas -- by Swiss artist Marcel Salathé? People do. I'm not sure if this is a conceptual art project or a money-making scam. It may be both.

Read all about it at the official website: One thousand paintings

And here's a Wired magazine article about it, written by the guy who purchased 41: Wired 14.12: Posts

Monday, December 24, 2007

Season's Greetings

Happy Christmas

Season's greetings, or merry...whatever you all my millions of readers around the world.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

It's Weird Food Week. It seems that every year, in the week before Christmas, we get bombarded with cookies, candies and all sorts of odd cheeses, condiments and even sausages, which arrive by mail or messenger. What do you give people (sometimes referred to as "clients" or "customers") when you don't know what to give them? Food, apparently, but it has to be something they don't normally eat. I guess that's why so many fruitcakes get passed around.... Speaking of fruitcakes, what was with the scary guy I saw sitting on the train wearing black boots, black pants, a black jacket and a black ski mask covering his head? Nobody would sit near him.... I was looking for a Kerouac quote to use as a signature for a forum I post on. I found a pretty good one: "Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?" That's from On the Road, of course.... A strange news report on TV tonight: high-end jewelers are starting to make jewelry out of steel because the price of gold and other precious metals has gone up so much. Stainless steel. Maybe I can melt down some pots and pans, or cut them up with tin snips and sell the scrap to Tiffany.... Why don't I.... uncover the oocyte's secrets?

Monday, December 17, 2007

My New CD

Whatever Price You Want to Pay

My band is Knives Out and our new album is Encarta.

  1. Young Jin Moon
  2. Bald Rock National Park
  3. Walter Midener
  4. Julia Beloglazova
  5. National University of Samoa
  6. Northern Patagonian Ice Field
  7. Pararectal fossa
  8. Hampton-in-Arden
  9. Chinese historiography
  10. Archaeological theory
  11. Basketball statistics
  12. Hugh Gavin
  13. Rashtreeya Vidyalaya College of Engineering
  14. 1918 in organized crime
  15. Bruce Smeaton

This was autogenerated from random Wikipedia article names. Get your own Wikipedia Album.

(Via boynton)

Word of the Day: antimacassar

Word of the Day

antimacassar (n) [anti-maCASS-ar]

An embroidered, doily-like cover to protect the back or arms of furniture

"The feathers of the bird of paradise swept her shoulder -- the one that was higher than the other -- and mingled with the wheels of the white antimacassar."
--Susie F. Harrison, Crowded Out

I remember my grandmother's stuffed chairs having antimacassars, though I didn't know what they were called back then. I always thought they were just for decoration, but it seems they served a purpose back when men oiled their hair. Without them, the greasy stuff would stain the furniture when they leaned back against the upholstery -- to light their pipes or whatever.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Christmas Message from William Shatner

A Christmas Message from William Shatner

(from the "song" -- actually a dramatic reading -- "It Hasn't Happened Yet")

I was crossing the snow fields
In front of the Capital building.
It was Christmas, and I was alone.
Strange city.
Strangers for friends.
And I was broke.

As the carollon sang its song
I dreamt of success.
I would be the best.
I would make my folks proud.
I would be happy...

- It hasn't happened yet
- It hasn't happened yet
- It hasn't happened

Yes, there are nods in my direction
Clap of hands
The knowing smile
But still
I'm scared again

Foot slipped
Pebbles fall and so did I
- Almost
(Oh my)
On Yosemite
The big grey wall
(Fear of falling)
Where to put my foot next
(Fear of failure)
I'm afraid I'm going to fall
(Be at one with the mountain)
I whispered in the air
(Fear of falling, fear of falling, fear of failure...Failure)
Fear of losing my hair
(Falling, falling, falling...)
When is the mountain scaled?
When do I feel I haven't failed?
I've got to get it together, man
(It hasn't happened yet)

- It hasn't happened yet
- It hasn't happened yet
- It hasn't happened

People come up and say hello
I can get to the front of the line
But you have to ignore the looks
And... yet
I'm waiting for that feeling of contentment
That ease at night when you put your head down
And the rhythms slow to sleep

My head sways
And eyes start awake
I'm there not halfway between sleep and death
But looking into
Eyes wide open
Trying to remember
What I might have done
Should have done

At my age
I need serenity
I need peace

- It hasn't happened yet
- It hasn't happened yet
- It hasn't happened yet
- It hasn't happened

--William Shatner

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mailer for Mayor

Campaign Mailer

Norman Mailer, who died recently, ran for mayor of New York in 1969. You can see his very 1960s-ish campaign poster, designed as a map of "The 51st State" (i.e., New York City) at: Mailer for Mayor. All it lacks is a yellow submarine in the Hudson River.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Word of the Day: vilipensive

Word of the Day

vilipensive (adj)


"[T]ime was when even Rhedycina's learned bowers
resounded to strains not simply laudative of Oporto,
but vituperative and vilipensive of Bourdeaux."
--Sir Morgan O'Doherty

Try accusing someone of being "vilipensive of Bourdeaux" today. Make them scurry for the dictionary!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Random Acts of Poetry: Christmas List

Random Acts of Poetry

My Xmas List

The drugged buzzing of winter flies
spiraling downward in a dream.

Loons in some Scandinavian night,
the woods full of moose.

An old ship, crossing the ocean,
cold waves slapping steel.

The sky pricked by stars
and exhaling frost.

A blaze of leaves dieing in a bonfire,
salting warm stones with ash.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

anachronistic typography in movies


Don't we humans have enough to worry about without brooding over anachronistic typography in movies? It's "certainly not one of the world's pressing problems," admits the nitpicking author of the linked article, which includes screenshot examples. There are odder things to obsess over, of course, like the purring of cats: purrcast.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Drives Me Nuts/Jury Duty

dRiVEs mE NutZ

I had jury duty over the last two days, though I wasn't, in the end, put on a jury. I did get on a voir dire panel, but there is no way that a defense attorney is going to let me serve as a juror on an armed-robbery case -- since I've had personal experience with that particular crime. (No, not as a perp.)

What drove me nuts about the experience was observing so many people in the jury room, waiting to possibly be put on juries, just staring into space -- for hours on end. Newspapers and magazines were available. Many people (including me) brought books. Some people even had their laptops. But these people sat doing nothing, except sighing from time to time. I don't get it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"What do you do?" "I'm a brassiere salesman"

"What do you do?"

In this season of parties, this question is likely to come up, though many people find it annoying. It's as if the person asking is trying to pigeon-hole you, to reduce you to your occupation and, by extension, your social class and status. (Of course, sometimes it's just a desperate attempt to jump-start a conversation.)

A friend of my father's always answered this question by saying, "I'm a brassiere salesman," with a straight face. (He was actually an insurance agent.) He would then act bewildered or insulted if someone said they didn't believe him, and he would keep insisting that he was, in fact, "in sales -- brassieres". His message seemed to be "what the hell does it matter what I do?" He was a very popular guy, by the way.

I usually say I'm "an editor," which is true enough -- and just vague enough to circumvent any hasty conclusions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

On Saturday, attended the WFMU Record Fair in New York. Got a couple of world-music CDs. I can't believe so many people are still into vinyl.... Attended a luncheon on Sunday, sponsored by my son's school. Unfortunately, I didn't realize until I got there that it was the "Mother's Luncheon." I was the only male, but was welcomed anyway. I guess I'm an honorary mother now.... This evening, got accosted by aggressive panhandlers claiming to be ex-Marines back from Iraq. It somehow didn't ring true, despite a "Marine" ID card (that looked more like a credit card) and I didn't give.... The dishwasher makes a sloshing noise that reminds me of the sound I make while "vigorously swishing" (as it says on the bottle) with ACT anti-cavity rinse.... Speaking of cavities, we have lots of Halloween candy left over, though not the kind I particularly like. You can have it if you want.... Why don't I.... check-up on the state of the memeosphere....

Monday, October 29, 2007

Simile Generator

Knowledge is like a jet airplane

Affection is like a chocolate-chip cookie.
Joy is like a crayon.
Revenge is like a cage.
Ignorance is like a vacuum cleaner.

They don't make sense...or do they? Decide for yourself as you create more of these cockeyed, perhaps poetic statements with The Simile of the Day Generator.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"The humiliating spectacle of this quivering party, returned to power with the express mandate of stopping this sadistic madman and instead contemptibly giving him whatever he wants, as if he wasn't the most despised man in America, is beyond nauseating. 'Poor us, we don't have the votes to stop the war.' What sickening crap! fact they can stop the war any Goddamn time they want, and what they're really saying is, 'We don't have the balls to stop the war. We stink of fear for our jobs and nothing is more important to us than that, certainly not mere trifles like the lives of our citizens, or the Constitution.'"
--Paul Slansky

New Jersey State Song

"I'm from New Jersey"

Well, I guess I have to admit it at this point, though I was born and raised in upstate New York.

Last night, at the Art House, Melissa Surach sang a hilariously satirical version of New Jersey's already hilarious official state song, whose lyrics are:

I know of a state that's a perfect playland with white sandy beaches by the sea;
With fun-filled mountains, lakes and parks, and folks with hospitality;
With historic towns where battles were fought, and presidents have made their home;
It's called New Jersey, and I toast and tout it wherever I may roam. 'Cause . . .

I'M FROM NEW JERSEY and I'm proud about it, I love the Garden State.
I'M FROM NEW JERSEY and I want to shout it, I think it's simply great.
All of the other states throughout the nation may mean a lot to some;
But I wouldn't want another, Jersey is like no other, I'm glad that's where I'm from.

If you want glamour, try Atlantic City or Wildwood by the sea;
Then there is Trenton, Princeton, and Fort Monmouth, they all made history.
Each little town has got that certain something, from High Point to Cape May;
And some place like Mantoloking, Phillipsburg, or Hoboken will steal your heart away.

Mantoloking? Well, I don't know if Jersey City has stolen my heart away, but it's home now.

More on music:

Monday, October 22, 2007

Word of the Day: mulct

Word of the Day

mulct (n or v)

1. A penalty or fine
2. To defraud

"The fact that major corporations don't have to pay their own way, and instead are able to enlist legislators to mulct common citizens -- and businesses with more modest Washington connections -- deforms the entire political system."
--Doug Bandow, "The Bipartisan Scandal of U.S. Corporate Welfare"

Speaking of being mulcted -- the reason so many images embedded in this page are not showing up is because Comcast, the expensive ISP where most of my images are hosted, is having major technical problems that have been going on for OVER A WEEK now. They "upgraded" their service, and now most of their customers can't get to their web pages or host their images. We were assured in an e-mail that any outage associated with the upgrade would last for no more than "two minutes" per customer.

Update (10/24/07): I've now updated the relevant links on this page using the new file addressing Comcast has imposed, which I discovered by trial and error -- there was no notification from them.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Sometimes if you stare at the headlines long enough, they start to seem like surreal poetry. "Rice: Now Is Time for Palestinian State": I will think of Palestine next time I'm eating rice. "Deals in O.J. Case Could Cut Both Ways": O.J. and the word "cut" in the same headline conjures scary images. "Dinosaur Skeleton Unearthed in Argentina": So many odd things end up in Argentina -- Nazis, dinosaurs, Blue Meanies: "It's no longer a blue world, Max. Where can we go? [Max:] Argentina?" (Does anyone other than a headline writer ever use the word "unearthed"?) "Led Zeppelin Is Going Digital Next Month": a heavy dirigible will be pointing fingers in November.... Today I paid my commuter-van fare with a $20 bill and received a fat wad of cash in change. It made me feel richer, somehow.... Antiques Roadshow was on PBS tonight. I always think it's more interesting when the painting or the jewelry or whatever turns out to be a contemporary fake or worthless for some other reason. Tonight the "emerald" in an old ring turned out to be green glass. So grandma was either very gullible or putting you on.... Why don't I...contemplate where the expression "hell bent" could have come from? How do you bend Hell?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bad Apple + ants

Bad Apple

We have an ancient apple tree in our backyard that sheds macintoshes like crazy. Only about 5 percent of them are edible. The ones that fall on the ground are nibbled by squirrels and feasted on by ants.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

John Lennon Quotes

Quote of the Day

"Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it."
--John Lennon (whose birthday is today)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Amzanig huh?

Amzanig huh?

"I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdgnieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the human mnid aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a word are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe."

Fnid mroe amanizg fcats hrer.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Word of the Day: resile

Word of the Day

resile (v)

to bounce or spring back, to draw back, to recoil

"Now who made the finger resile from the fire? Surely you did not, for you were totally absorbed in your thoughts and you had not been conscious of the position of your own hand. It was the inner mind which made the finger resile from the fire."
--Dr. Narayan Dutt Shrimali, Practical Hypnotism

The inner mind is like an autopilot, I suppose. It's the part of your mind that can, for example, continue to drive a car while your conscious thoughts are 4.3 light years away from the road.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Animated Life (toons)

Toon In

The Animated Life is a series of short animated films by Jeff Scher. Hand-drawn, I believe, and quite impressive. I believe there may be a few subliminal messages embedded in them.

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry


Are you sleeping, brother idiot?
Out on the abandoned highway,
your mind igniting a brush fire
in the October moonlight
dreaming there, little man,
miles from the pale concrete city,

finding comfort where you can
in a pile of leaves,
a bower of branches,
redolent of pine and pendulums,
conjuring a paradise of stuck clocks,
a moment of still water

you could live in forever.
But something dances in waves of wheat,
rises over rock jags,
a disturbance in the clouds
unsettling mirrors for miles around
and casting a searchlight for you.

Elements conspire beyond your eyelids:
a voice, a bell, a creaking.
The morning assembles.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Lots of Halloween decorations and candy at the drugstore. I can't get into the holiday spirit yet, though, what with these 85-degree days we're having.... I'm watching The War, off and on. I'm surprised that so much color footage of WWII was shot. I always think of it as a black-and-white war.... We are inundated by apples; the tree in the backyard is producing bushels of them. Unfortunately, about 90 percent of them are too full of holes or other imperfections to eat. The ones that are edible, though, are good. Macintoshes, I think.... Somebody was giving out free T-shirts today that say "I'm a good listener" across the chest. White letters on black. I took one. I wonder what will happen if I wear it in public. Will strangers tell me their problems?.... Why don't I...just cowboy up?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The World's Ugliest Cars

Style Note

Take a look at The World's Ugliest Cars, according to BusinessWeek. I disagree with some of the selections (Corvairs ugly?), and I would say that some of them are just strange looking (Edsels), or even kind of cute (Pacers), not "ugly". Most cars are so bland looking today -- at least these flivvers had personality.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Word of the Day: diegesis

Word of the Day

diegesis (n) diegetic (adj)

A narrative
In film studies, the fictional world, milieu, or universe in which the story takes place

"Non-diegetic music in dramatic (narrative-based) television thus has heightened purpose in the televisual apparatus."
--Kathryn Kalinak, from an essay in Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks.

Translation: music that the characters don't hear but the audience does hear serves a purpose in film and television. The purpose is to tell the viewers what they should be feeling or how they should interpret a scene on the emotional level.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Newspapers hostile to reading?

Quote of the Day

"'Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of American their hostility to reading in all forms.' This is the taboo that dares not speak its name."
--from "Goodbye to All That", in the Columbia Journalism Review, an article about the sad state of newspaper book reviews

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Towers: 9/11 and the World Trade Center

Nine Eleven

I was in those towers several times, and easily could have been there "that day." My wife was in the World Trade Center on 9/11, though luckily not in one of the two main buildings. Anyway, my day, six years ago: The Towers

Sunday, September 09, 2007

3D Auditory Illusions

You Are There

Put your headphones on and experience three-dimensional "holophonic" sounds at One Man's Blog. Some pretty impressive auditory illusions there, including a "virtual haircut".

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry


The noon sky is perplexing.
Sun and moon might not exist

behind the cold
clouds that pass and blur,

a landscape of snow
in the stratosphere,

disguising time.
I'm upside down.

I can appreciate
bats and stalactites

hanging and pointing
at a cavern floor. I will interpret

the lying mirror of my face,
confusing my left and right,

hero with victim. It must mean:
my machinations are meaningless

as the sugar that dissolves
in my black coffee cup,

as a photo negative of a mannequin
mistaken for human--

bald and reticent as he is,
a man as hard as a billiard ball,

as hollow as a prop rock, empty
as a flask drained of whiskey.

You're the scientist! What is the specific
density of salt water,

squeezed from a sea urchin,
the range of monarch butterflies

from wasted childhoods?
I built a model out of matchsticks

of a perfect cabin on a sand mound.
One match put an end to all that.

Then I entered tomorrow. Or:
passed through a door to domesticity,

leaving behind the boy, the silver
snaking river, the tales of strong Germans

and farm people who found their pride
in gravel and milking machines.

Now I wander in brick canyons.
I edit everything endlessly.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Word of the Day: cromulent

Word of the Day

cromulent (adj)

Authentic, valid, fine or excellent

"Whatever your French villa preference this cromulent resort in Dalat has you covered."

This word, which was coined by the writers (or a writer) of The Simpsons, seems to be seeping into the common language, and is already included in some online dictionaries. I'm not sure why we need it, but I like the sound of it. And one of the great things about the English language is that we have so many ways of saying the same thing.

By the way, what's your French villa preference?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Inland Empire

Quote of the Day

"There's a vast network, right? An ocean of possibilities. I like dogs. I used to raise rabbits. I've always loved animals. Their nature, how they think. I have seen dogs reason their way out of problems, watched them think through the trickiest situations. Do you have a couple of bucks I could borrow? I’ve got this damn landlord."
--"Freddie," a character in David Lynch's latest film, Inland Empire

Watched the DVD last night. It's a very confusing but generally mesmerizing film. I think Freddie's bit of dialog above (which is really Lynch speaking directly to the audience) "explains" it as much as words can.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Semi-Famous Person

The Semi-Famous Person

Shhh. A semi-famous person lives down the street from me. You can tell where the semi-famous person lives, because the house stands out from the hodge-podge of two-storey, wooden-frame, semi-Victorian boxes that line the street. It has an unusual paint job: bright yellow, with each gingerbread detail outlined in black, gold or green.

The semi-famous person can sometimes be seen walking on the avenue. Even if you've met the semi-famous person before (as I have) and have engaged this partial celebrity in conversation, the semi-famous person may not recognize you -- may, in fact, stare right through you as if you aren't there, unless you are bold and say "hi." (The significant other of the semi-famous person will happily acknowledge you, however.)

I don't believe this is rudeness or snobbery. The semi-famous person is simply lost in thought. I suppose this is because the ideas that have made the semi-famous person semi famous have to be generated continuously, even while shopping at the 99-cent store or CVS.

You would not think the semi-famous person to be semi famous by noting this minor celebrity's attire or general demeanor. The semi-famous person blends in quite well, in that way, with the jeans-and-T-shirt crowd that one usually sees around here -- though the T-shirts are adorned with graphics that might be called artistic or facetious.

The semi-famous person sometimes has large parties, which I have been honored to attend. At these gatherings, the semi-famous person usually does not circulate but rather sits in a corner and "holds court", so to speak. One comes up, says hello, and engages in a brief conversation, which may be banal or bizarre, depending on the mood of the semi-famous person. I have found this to be a confusing but oddly stimulating experience.

You are probably wondering who the semi-famous person is, but I won't tell you. I must respect the semi-famous person's privacy. You probably haven't heard of this somewhat eminent person anyway, unless you live in the neighborhood -- or travel in certain semi celebrated circles.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused

"Something is happening, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?" --Bob Dylan

Walking around the city -- Jersey City -- I often feel dazed and confused. Inexplicable things are happening, or at least, I can't explain them.

One fairly common sight (maybe you've experienced this too) is a crowd gathered to watch a fire truck or ambulance that is blocking traffic on a side street, it's lights pulsating, but nothing else happening. No flames, no smoke, no body on a stretcher. "What is it?" I sometimes ask. Nobody knows. But the spectacle is apparently fascinating enough to transfix a whole pack of gawkers. Unfortunately, I'm usually too impatient to wait around to see if any calamity has, in fact, occurred.

Sometimes the mystery is less what is happening than why. While I was walking past a local church a few weeks ago, I heard an amazingly talented rock band playing, loud and raucous, in the church yard. They had drawn quite a crowd, not typical church-goers by the looks of them -- more like hipsters and dead-heads. Churches used to raise funds with bingo and ice-cream socials. Now they stage rock concerts?

I've seen stranger sights. One day, as I was walking down a local street, I noticed a man wearing a gas mask standing in a doorway of a decrepit house -- a nonchalant, slouching fellow, as if wearing a gas mask was no more unusual than wearing a baseball cap. He saw me staring and waved. I wondered as I passed by: had the chemical factory/terrorist event we all fear finally happened, or was it just strong paint fumes?

Curiouser and curiouser. A few days ago, while walking past a local park, I noticed a group of a dozen men, middle aged and older, standing in a circle on top of a hill, shoulder to shoulder. About half of them were wearing long orange robes; the others were dressed in jeans and polo or button-down shirts. Cult ceremony or impromptu soccer scrum? Whatever, they looked very intent on what they were doing, and I didn't think it polite to ask.

You can see some unusual things while riding the light rail, too. I work in Newark, and one day, while riding the light rail there, the train came to an unscheduled stop -- a long, long stop. The passengers were becoming quite annoyed. At last we began to move. The next stop was the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and there we could see what the hold-up was. A huge crowd had gathered near the track, all ages and races, and they seemed thrilled about something. There were TV cameras and lights, too. Something important, or at least exciting, was apparently happening.

"Another mysterious urban gathering," I thought, as the train at last began to move. "I'll never know what it was." But then, suddenly, as we were pulling away, the crowd screamed and parted, and Queen Latifah appeared, bathed in a sort of glittering, almost holy light.

I suddenly recalled reading something about a movie premiere that was being held at NJPAC. And, for once, I understood what the commotion was about. If only every such mystery could be solved by New Jersey's queen.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Whatsit (photo)


sculpture 2

(Encountered at the Madison-Bouckville Antiques Show I attended last weekend. See my Flickr site for more photographic oddities.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Something to Write About

Something to Write About

Do you need "millions of possible story plots"? You'll find them here. This plot generator serves up good, bad, indifferent and just plain silly concepts; it might get you thinking, at least. Here are some samples:

An old-fashioned girl gets lost in a limousine.
A sick woman kills a dolphin on a military base.
A runaway renews her faith in Russia.
God misses an important meeting in a taxi.
A bored clerk forms a baseball team.
A wacky priest tries to cover up a murder on a train.
An army sergeant takes care of an abandoned baby at the race track.
A busy housewife explores an ancient cave.
A taxi driver battles depression in Hollywood.
A blogger becomes addicted to text generators. Hilarity ensues. (Actually, that's one of mine.)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Word of the Day: afflatus

Word of the Day

afflatus (n)

An inspiration, a creative impulse

"She did not think herself a genius by any means; but when the writing fit came on, she gave herself up to it with entire abandon....The divine afflatus usually lasted a week or two, and then she emerged from her "vortex," hungry, sleepy, cross, or despondent."
--Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

If you have an afflatus, write it down! (Carry a notebook.) They tend to evaporate quickly, in my experience.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Stop Making Sense

Stop Making Sense

Those who had believed, completely or hypocritically, in the order or its transmissions from the Bay of Nujin, or the movements it inspired in the abnormal garden, counted each brick and nail of the sanatorium. It was no friend of the nations, despite its relative name. It pressed on each humid eye with difficulty, and it seemed to inspire rain for many years. Between the bits and pieces that could be visualized and the agitations of the newcomers, revisions became necessary, if only by example.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Wacky search queries

Sorry to Disappoint

Here's a sampling of the search queries that have recently brought visitors to this blog:

alice the artificial linguistic intern

I guess this person means ALICE the chatbot, who is quite amusing, by the way. She'd make a terrible intern, though. Can't make photocopies.

elizabeth taylor nude

This one shows up frequently. For the record, I have never posted nude pictures of Elizabeth Taylor. I doubt any even exist, which must be a huge disappointment to someone out there, or maybe many out there.

albuqerque police sniper shootings

OK. If police snipers are shooting in Albuqerque, there must be a thousand news sites with more coverage of it than can be found here, since I don't recall mentioning police snipers. Or Albuqerque, for that matter. Why someone would end up here using that search phrase is beyond me.

imagine she's a pretty nice girl

This refers to another Elizabeth....Yes, I've mentioned this phrase. It's what the lyrics to the Beatles song "Her Majesty" sound like to me. Somebody else must be making the same mistake. It's not "I imagine she's a pretty nice girl"; it's "Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl". Oh well. I like my version better.

werewolf names generator

How about....Wolfgang Von Blitzer?

poetry by people in Narcotics annoyance

Narcotics annoyance? I could understand, maybe, searching for "poetry by people in Narcotics Anonymous", though I imagine most such compositions would be pretty annoying.

torture drawings

Why? Why?


I've never posted anything about q-tips -- I don't think. Oops, now I have....

Thursday, August 02, 2007

More Lost Weirdness

The "Shift"

Cinema verité rabbits causing pandemonium? This YouTube video, apparently shot for the next season of Lost, induces a new level of perplexity:

DHARMA Orchid Video

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

"Like an unstrung zither, I lie back, exhausted, useless, immobile and silent": just a line that came to me as I reclined on the couch; busy day.... It usually doesn't matter if you climb an escalator or stand still and enjoy the ride. I do both, depending on my mood. Hard to understand the people who stand two abreast and thwart the climbers; hard to understand the impatience of the blocked would-be climbers, too. I suppose they've got a train to catch, or some other itch to scratch.... The first week of August is International Clown Week, sponsored by Clowns of America International, Inc. Well, there are certainly many clowns in America, evil and otherwise, especially at the highest levels of government, but it seems a little arrogant and pretentious for an "of America" group to tack the world "International" onto itself. But, hell, these are clowns. I've never like them or found them particularly funny; their unpredictability always unsettled me as a child.... August is also Foot Health Month. My new shoes hurt my feet; they need to be broken in. If you were in my shoes, you'd feel my pain.... Why don't I.... spin like a sufi?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Word of the Day: Weltschmerz

Word of the Day

Weltschmerz (n)

Sentimental pessimism

"Lilly's Weltschmerz, as Frank would come to call it. 'The rest of us have anguish,' Frank would say. 'The rest of us have grief, the rest of us merely suffer. But Lilly,' Frank would say, 'Lilly has true Weltschmerz....'"
--John Irving, The Hotel New Hampshire

I don't mind realistic pessimism per se, but I find people who cherish their pessimism hard to take. They get really angry when you try to make them feel better.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rob's Amazing Poem Generator

Ultra Random Act of Poetry


Zootaxa? Great Lakes
entomologist. Possibly
the, rails.
Posted at the
slightest attention
to be a beach
in Cassandra.

Generated from text on this page by Rob's Amazing Poem Generator (via boynton)

Saturday, July 21, 2007



Maybe that's why I haven't posted here in a while.

Anyway, check out more canny statements from text artist Jenny Holzer (or someone claiming to be her) on that Twitter thingamabob. Some of my faves:


Saturday, July 14, 2007

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Just call me...

Most Noble and Honourable Michael the Philomath of Midhoop St Giggleswich

You can get your own "peculiar aristocratic title" here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Forgot to take my cell phone with me today. Felt naked and oddly...unsafe. Strange, considering I thought cell phones were silly indulgences a few years ago.... So I'm driving along on the New York State Thruway last weekend, and a man in a passing car with a frightened expression on his face makes odd hand signals to me out of his open window. At first, I thought he was trying to tell me that I had a flat tire, or had run over something, which alarmed me a bit, but nothing was wrong with my car. Now I think he must have been just another lunatic.... I was walking past a Jehova's Witnesses temple the other day. There was a large crowd of well-dressed people outside, a very diverse bunch, all wearing name tags and frozen smiles. They wanted to give me The Watchtower, but I refused. I imagined they were thinking "heathen" or "doomed".... Hot, humid weather here. Men without shirts sit on stoops or walk nonchalantly down the street. Most don't exactly have the body for it. Hard to imagine being so unselfconscious.... Why don't I.... find a loophole I could drive a Hummer through?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Simpsons Avatar

Simpsons Me

Here's my Simpsons avatar. I'm so generic! It sort of looks like me, or as close as I could come, although I do have a chin. You can make your own avatar here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Word of the Day: Gobemouche

Word of the Day

gobemouche (n)

A fly swallower (a type of bird); by extension, someone who keeps his mouth open -- i.e., a silly and credulous person.

"The sweepstakes people had unearthed a true gobemouche in Cassandra. Every time she got a piece of junk mail telling her she had 'already won a million dollars,' she hopped on a plane and flew down to their headquarters to pick up her nonexistent winnings."
--Peter Novobatzky, Insulting English

Ever have a bug fly into your mouth? This is an intensely icky feeling. Good source of protein, though, I've heard. But I believe this is one of those rare occasions when it is considered permissible to spit in public.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Little Story

A Little Story

My son likes to eat at a local fast-food restaurant, and since hamburgers and fries are about the only substantial foods he will touch, I take him there often. One of the workers behind the counter, a disheveled young woman perhaps in her late teens or early 20s, has become accustomed to seeing us there. And since we always order the same thing (my son is a picky eater), she can ring up our order without my having to say a word. "Double burger Big Kids meal, strawberry shake, chicken tenders!" she'll recite when I walk up to the register, before I even open my mouth. "Right" is all I have to say. She even recognizes my voice when we use the drive-though and she can't see me. We've become friendly; we smile and chuckle a bit about the relentless sameness of my son's tastes and the fact that she recognizes me instantly. Occasionally, she even gives me the senior-citizen discount, though I've got quite a ways to go before I've earned it.

There's one odd thing about this...relationship...though. I sometimes see this woman walking down the main street of our neighborhood, out of uniform. She will not make eye contact or acknowledge me in any way. It's as if we are perfect strangers outside of the rigidly assigned roles of restaurant customer and cashier.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Google Story Creator weirdness


I typed my name into Google Story Creator, and this was the result:


Great Lakes Entomologist. 2005.

It actually went so close to perfect that we could hardly believe it.

And when they do, we nail them.
Those parts range literally from boots on our feet to satellites zipping overhead.

They had night vision gear, so they moved quickly.

Interesting. It seems to have something to do with a successful clandestine military or espionage mission (code name "Zootaxa"?) in 2005 that involved "nailing" an entomologist -- possibly near the Great Lakes. Some poor scientist studying insects at night - a real threat to the government? I wonder why my name generated such a creepy tale.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Observed on the street today: an old man, dressed like a cowboy, in a motorized wheelchair with one leg missing. No, I don't have any problems.... I "read" that New Yorker article about Paul McCartney. He's never been my favorite Beatle, but we're down to two, so let's cut the guy some slack. Some of his recent music isn't half bad, doesn't have too many cringe-inducing lyrics, etc. It's frightening that he just walks around the streets of London letting strangers walk up to him.... George Bush currently has a 29-percent approval rating. I wonder how many of those people in that dwindling percentage simply "support our president" no matter who he is or what he does. Or how many simply don't pay the slightest attention to current events.... It's recycling night tonight. Time to deconstruct some cardboard boxes, Mr. Derrida.... Why don't I...cook up some silig?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Word of the Day: pooka

Word of the Day

pooka (n)

A mischievous spirit or trickster (derived from Irish folklore)

"The moment he came in sight the Pooka changed himself into a squirrel and ran up the oak tree; Angus changed himself into a turnip and lay at the Dagda's feet...."
--Ella Young, Celtic Wonder-Tales

So it's a "pooka" who's always hiding the remote control? Hmm. There are a lot of mischievous squirrels around here. Not too many mysterious turnips, though.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jack Kerouac: 30 Cool Tips

"Like Proust be an old teahead of time"

Like, wow: Jack Kerouac's 30 Cool Tips for writers. They're not very practical (neither was Kerouac), but they have a subversive, Gertrude Stein-like quality that just might put you in the mood to write. "You're a genius all the time."

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry


Bleak Monday, black headline:
My abandoned birthplace burnt,

derelict, a brick shell
tilting on the horizon.

Rubble cooling, I
fell into her flytrap

of memory, broken beauty still
haunting her halls.

Smoke stains, black tongues,
swirling graffiti tattoos

scored her scarred rooms.
The smell of ash and dark pools

of fire-water
drenching the wreckage.

The whole charred body
resting in pieces.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Went and voted in the primary tonight. As usual, the lady at the sign-in table asked me if I'm "related to Bill Gates." Yeah, of course I'm related to Bill. "Sure. That's why I live in Jersey City," I said. She laughed. I swear this little scene gets played out every time I vote.... I have two broken lawnmowers. One of them is still under warranty, and the manufacturer is sending me a replacement. Eventually. Sometime this month. "They're on back order," they say. Meanwhile, I've been attacking the jungle in my (thankfully smallish) backyard with a Weed Wacker, which makes for a very odd, lumpy looking yard.... It's so damn hard to find a birthday card that isn't sappy or insulting (or minimalist/formal to the point of seeming cold).... Arrived home tonight to find a huge cardboard box on the front porch. Inside: the composter that my wife ordered. No more orange peels in the kitchen can. They must now return to nature.... Why don't I.... have a crack icon?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Word of the Day: onolatry

Word of the Day

onolatry (n)

Worship of asses (donkeys!)

"Nietzsche has depicted the leaders of the nineteenth century as engaged in a veritable onolatry."
--Irving Babbitt, Rousseau and Romanticism

My parents live in the country, in upstate New York, and from their backyard, you can see two donkeys behind a fence in a neighbor's yard. ("Nice ass!" we've been known to say.) Sometimes we feed them cookies when we visit. They seem to prefer ginger snaps.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A is for Amy who fell down the stairs

A is for Amy who fell down the stairs....

Fancy an Edward Gorey children's book? The strange kid in you may appreciate Ars Moriendi - How to die in a proper way. Dr. Seuss was never like this.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"If we quit Vietnam, tomorrow we'll be fighting in Hawaii, and next week we'll have to fight in San Francisco."
--Lyndon Johnson

Friday, May 25, 2007

Get Lost?: Michael Emerson

Get Lost?

Here's a short but interesting interview with Michael Emerson, who plays the enigmatic Ben on the baffling, mesmerizing Lost and is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors. Turns out he was as blown away (and surprised and puzzled) by the season finale as the rest of us.

(I seem to be linking to a lot of New York magazine articles. I never used to like that rag, but it sure seems to be publishing some intriguing stuff lately.)

(via The Lost Blog)

Postscript: Some interesting Lost speculation here.

Closing Credits to Ernie Kovacs show

True Dementia

In the golden age of black-and-white television, when networks were apparently not so determined to fill every available nanosecond with commercials, shows actually had closing credits -- that you could read. The closing credit sequence could even be entertaining, as this delightful video, obviously the product of an unbolted imagination, proves:

Closing Credits to the Ernie Kovacs show

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

My iPod cord keeps getting all twisted and knotted up. I feel like a fool sitting on the train and spending (what seems like) five minutes untangling it. Other people don't seem to have this problem.... Visited a doctor's office with my son this evening. It was in the basement of a townhouse, and the ceilings were just barely higher than me, and I'm only 5'9". I had to stoop to get through the doorway and suddenly felt like, I don't know, Yao Ming?.... Spring: that time of year when one must make a daily decision about whether to wear a jacket or not. It's too cold to go without one in the morning but too warm to wear one in the afternoon. I see both people in shorts and tee shirts and people in winter coats, sometimes standing next to each other. I've tried to compromise by wearing a light jacket, but then I'm both freezing in the morning and sweating in the afternoon. So much for moderation in all things.... Why don't I.... keep a running tab of what the world owes me?

Researchers find ceiling height can affect how a person thinks, feels and acts (via boynton)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

2 A.I. chatbots converse

I'm sorry, Dave....

A.I. programs are not just talking to us, they're talking to each other. And they are better conversationalists than you might think. Check out this article about loquacious chatterbots ALICE and Jabberwacky:

I Chat, Therefore I Am

Sample chat:

ALICE: Who created you?
Jabberwacky: My mother gave birth to me. Is that what you mean?
A: Jabberwacky, I meant exactly what I said.
J: Do you believe in God?
A: Of course I believe in God.
J: Why do you believe in God?
A: The Bible tells us to believe in God.
J: That's circular reasoning.
A: I'm glad we have that all cleared up.

Well, I've heard far more inane conversations on the subway.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Word of the Day: saccade

Word of the Day

saccade (n)

A small, rapid movement of the eye

"[He] could feel in his skin each saccade of her olive, her amber, her coffee-colored eyes."
--Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

I've never been able to plow my way through a Pynchon mega-novel, sad to say. I've been trying to read V for years. I have read the slender The Crying of Lot 49 and liked it, though. Where's the Reader's Digest when you need it?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Journal Square

My tired feet circle the dry fountain.
Christopher Columbus, his back to me,
points forever at a doughnut shop.
Nothing to do here but sweat.

People sit expressionless,
like plants on the cool barriers,
staring, hording shade
on this radioactive plaza.

Shops have collapsed at the corner.
The Square is waiting,
its theaters looking back, back
even as a colossus is stirring.

Traffic idles, expectant at the lights.
The walk sign counts to zero.
Hurry, hurry -- a train is coming,
pulling time like a prisoner's chain.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Subway Etiquette

Subway Etiquette

How to ride the subway (or PATH train). The rules of the, rails.

Marilyn or Norma Jean?

Reinterpreting Marilyn

"There was no such person as Marilyn Monroe....[She was] invented, like an author creates a character."
--Richard Avedon

Rethinking a portrait of Marilyn -- or is it Norma Jean?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Word of the Day: gwok

Word of the Day

gwok (n)

a fool, simpleton or clumsy person

"Conceited gowk! Puff'd up wi' windy pride!"
--Robert Burns, "The Brigs Of Ayr"

According to the Urban Dictionary, this word can also mean "ugly"; it can also be a synonym for money. In Cantonese, it literally means "country." Hmmm. A foolish, ugly money country...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Dog owners 'fleeced' in poodle scam

You can't make this stuff up

Dog owners 'fleeced' in poodle scam

"Thousands of people have been 'fleeced' into buying neatly coiffured lambs they thought were poodles...."

(via Yet Another Damn Blog)

This is my second post this month that has something to do with sheep. What is going on?

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Attended an art opening last night. Saw sculptures made of twisted, rusted metal and broken and cracked glass, and paintings incorporating little bits of detritus collected on a beach in Hawaii. One man's trash is another man's--never mind. It was pretty impressive, if not "pretty".... My son had a few of his friends over last night. Though beds and couches were available, they slept on chairs and the floor, after staying up till the wee hours. This is called fun.... I learned a new word yesterday: mockolate. That's fake chocolate containing trans fats. Yuck. Perhaps the existence of such a thing says something about the times we are living in.... Why don't I.... invent something to keep my transit cards in? They get wrinkled in my pocket. It's too much trouble to pull them out of my wallet, especially when seconds count at the turnstile. I need something smaller and thinner than a wallet that I can keep in my front pants pocket. Something like a credit card holder, I guess, if such a thing exists. Hmm.... Turnstiles are also called "baffle gates," I read somewhere. That might be a good name for this blog....

Monday, April 23, 2007

famous last words

Famous Last Words

"I am about to -- or I am going to -- die: either expression is correct."
--Dominique Bouhours, French grammarian, d. 1702

Here is a collection of death-bed statements by famous people from history. Some of them are quite amusing.

Not so amusing is this collection of suicide notes from such notables as Kurt Cobain and Virginia Woolf. People who choose to die seem to take life much more seriously.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Quote of the Day: "There is no rationale...

Quote of the Day

"There is no rationale, and there is no explanation - at least no explanation and no rationale people can, or will, accept as valid, for this type of tragedy, yet the media says they are grasping for exactly that in their 24/7 discussion of what happened, why it happened, and what should have been done, or done differently. Make no mistake, media careers are being made and ripped to shreds as a result of this shooting, and that, and that alone, is the 'why' of the searching and the questioning."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Word of the Day: petrichor

Word of the Day

petrichor (n)

The pleasant smell of rain on dry ground; the yellow organic oil that yields this scent

"It poured for an hour. And it was cool and breezy and I maximised my utility of the situation by accompanying the petrichor with a special strong steaming cup of coffee and a Jayaram comedy on TV."
--Girl With Big Eyes (

Now if only I knew what a "Jayaram comedy" was.... Not much petrichor around here lately, since there's not any dry ground. Instead, there's more of a wet pavement smell. Rain, rain, go away.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry


There is no place for draining.
A solid sky, water licking

dark under sidewalks,
translucent silks of rain,

like sheer drapes convulsing,
but every window shut.

The distant smokestacks
dissolve like an ancestor's

faded reminiscence. Shapes
drift away, vacating dreams.

But from the stony bottom
a face rises, a garnish of seaweed

like a headdress,
more slime from the sluice gate.

What's that the rain hisses?
Ssssh. Slippery season.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So it goes

So it goes

"Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?"


"It is a very mixed blessing to be brought back from the dead."


"Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why."

--Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

April: Cruel Month

Cruel Month

What is it about April, the month poet T.S. Eliot famously described as the "cruelest"? Schizophrenic weather and tax day might have something to do with it, but April is also prime time for some of the most angst-provoking national commemorations and "holidays."

April is, for example, National Anxiety Month, according to an outfit called the National Anxiety Center, which gives out something called the Chicken Little Award. The Center seems far more concerned with supposedly over-hyped "liberal" issues like global warming than with the health consequences of frayed nerves -- which means it is itself a cause for anxiety, if you ask me.

More salubrious, perhaps, is the designation of April as Stress Awareness Month, sponsored by the Health Resource Network. This is described as a "national, cooperative effort to inform people about the dangers of stress, successful coping strategies, and harmful misconceptions about stress that are prevalent in our society." That's nice, but I think people are already pretty aware of their stress as they struggle with all those tax forms -- when they're not trying to decide how to dress for freezing rain. August might be a better time to bring up stress awareness. Can't relax, even while you're sunning yourself on the beach? There's a reason....

This is also Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. A good cause, to be sure, but why April? Maybe it has something to do with all those baby chicks and rabbits that are sold around Eastertime and presumably die shortly thereafter -- something to ponder while you're biting the ears off your chocolate bunny.

April has certainly lived up to its cruel reputation when you consider the number of disastrous events that have occurred in this month. The Columbine massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing and the 1992 Los Angeles riots all took place in April, as did Lincoln's assassination, the San Francisco earthquake, and the sinking of the Titanic.

April 15th is -- no, not just IRS appreciation day -- Rubber Eraser Day. The origins of this day are lost in the mists of time, but the reason for it is clear enough. If you can fill out your tax return in pen, without first doing a draft in pencil, you're living a simple life indeed. (I suppose it is actually April 17th this year, since the 15th falls on a weekend and the Feds therefore gave us two days' grace.)

April is National Poetry Month, which seems to make Eliot's remark ironic. Or does it? I suppose it depends on your opinion of the state of modern poetry.

I could go on. April 6th is Sorry Charlie Day, dedicated to "those who have been rejected and lived through it." April 11th is Eight-Track Tape Day. April 17th is National Cheeseball day. April 26th is Richter Scale Day. And April 1st, of course, is a day dedicated to making a fool out of you.

Maybe the best thing about April is that it will soon be over.

(This essay appears in the latest issue of The Hudson Current.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What I'm Reading

What I'm "Reading"

The Color of a Dog Running Away, by Richard Gwyn

Cryptic invitations, bizarre events, cults, the ordinary and the surreal... I don't know why this sort of thing appeals to me. Actually, I do know why. Long story.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Word of the Day

Word of the Day

minatory (adj)

Menacing or threatening

"He was often observed peeping through the bars of a gate and making minatory gestures with his small forefinger while he scolded the sheep with an inarticulate burr, intended to strike terror into their astonished minds."
--George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

I observed a sheep being sheered once, at a state fair. The animal was scared and made a weird, keening sound that was undoubtedly the sheep equivalent of a scream. Those huge, noisy electric clippers were minatory, to the sheep -- something I occasionally think about when I wear wool.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

time lapse

They paved paradise

Here's some time-lapse photography of a parking lot. Sounds boring, but it's actually kinda mesmerizing. Why am I reminded of an ant hill? (Requires Flash)

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

I've been sorting through some boxes of old books that were never unpacked after the move. Some I don't remember ever reading, some I can't believe I ever wanted to read, and some I can't help reading while I'm supposed to be sorting. It is taking a long time.... Spring is a day away. The ground is covered with snow and ice -- more than we've had all winter. At the train station, people in the waiting area keep warm by standing under infrared lights -- like french fries in a fast-food restaurant. And daylight savings time started weeks early this year. The calendar seems to be slightly out of whack.... Sign on a hotdog stand: "What foods these morsels be".... An annoying commercial on the radio: "Name a star after someone." For only $60, you get the stellar coordinates and an official certificate, plus the name recorded in a "copyrighted" book. Of course, the International Astronomical Union, the only official body capable of officially naming stars, won't recognize your name (and they usually just assign numbers to stars). As for copyright meaning anything in this sort of situation -- you can copyright your grocery list, too.... Why don't I.... memetrack?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

100 Most Often Mispronounced Words

How Not to Sound Illiterate

The 100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English

Does anyone ever actually say "a blessing in the skies" instead of "a blessing in disguise"? I wonder. I kinda like the phrase "a blessing in the skies," though. It makes me think of a warm, sunny day, like today.

If spelling is more your bugaboo, there's also this:

The 100 Most Often Misspelled Words in English

Word of the Day

Word of the Day

rebarbative (adj)

Tending to irritate or repel

"Over the past couple of hours a lot of rebarbative, ulcerated and embittered people had been working hard at bedding their resentments down in sensory-deprivation tanks full of alcohol."
-- Will Self, The Sweet Smell of Psychosis

The world is full of rebarbative people, many of whom insist on riding the PATH train at rush hour, like the guy yesterday who asked me if the train was going to New York. When I said yes, he asked two other people the same question -- as if it was a matter of opinion and he needed to take a survey.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Camino Surreal

Camino Surreal

I saw a thought-provoking production of Tennessee Williams' Camino Real last weekend, produced by the local Art House Productions. It's one of those ambiguous stories that you could spin a lot of theories about. You could say it's simply a dream, which would be too dismissive, I think. You could say it's about people -- including such literary personages as Casanova and Lord Byron -- trapped in a sort of purgatory. (It reminded me a little of a highly disturbing episode of an old anthology TV series called Ghost Story that starred Patricia Neal as a woman who gradually realizes that the hotel she's staying in is, well, only what appears to be a hotel. Whoever wrote it may have had Williams' play in mind.) But it's probably best not to try to reduce such abstract stories to a literal, linear, connect-the-dots plot. Let a thousand meanings bloom.

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Poor Reception

Picture an apartment with
a rusty fire escape in a city called
"Somewhere, New Jersey."

A man in a black T-shirt sits
smoking and chewing, watching
George W. in a blizzard of static.

"What now?"
the man asks a sleeping
dog at his feet.

The mutt growls and
twitches, the channel flips to
a woman eating a spider. "Hell."

The man runs down three flights
to the street, stops to watch
the moon rise over roofs,

its bewildered face a mirror of his own.

(This poem also appears in City Belt magazine)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Alamo Day

Remember the ... what?

Today is "Alamo Day", the day in 1836 when Mexican forces attacked The Alamo, a fort in Texas, killing 185 Texans, including one David Crockett. This eventually led to Texas becoming independent from Mexico after another battle or two. Remember? I thought not. When most people today here the word "Alamo" they probably think of a car-rental company. I don't know why such a company would want to name itself after the site of a bloody massacre or a cottonwood tree. ("Alamo" means "cottonwood" in Spanish.) Maybe they think people will "remember the Alamo" when they land at the airport and need some wheels. Personally, I favor Rent-a-Wreck.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Word of the Day

Word of the Day

virga (n)

Rain or snow that evaporates before it hits the ground.

"There can be snow virga, but rain virga is what most people see. Mostly in the summer, virga can be easily seen falling away in streaks from the bottom of puffy gray and white cumulus clouds on a crisp afternoon. It looks like a torn drape or a curtain hanging from the cloud, but only reaches down about halfway to the ground."
--Dallas Kachan, The Starship Diaries

This seems like a word that could also be used for half-baked notions or unfinished projects. Things like ideas for stories or artwork that seem fantastic when inspiration strikes but that then fade away when you don't get around to producing them -- or that don't seem quite so fantastic the next morning.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Today is Ash Wednesday

Today is...

...Ash Wednesday. I didn't realize it until I was walking around Manhattan today (on my way to the dentist) and saw people passing by with the smudges on their foreheads. Not being Catholic myself, I don't participate in this ritual, but it's always interested me. I wonder where the ashes come from. Do the priests have a bonfire out in back of St. Pat's? Is it burnt incense ash? Do ecclesiastical supply stores sell ashes? It's puzzling.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Sonnet (Me and Will)

That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose
They know what beauty is, see where it lies
Save where you are, how happy you make those
If thy sweet virtue answer not thy show
O in what sweets dost thou thy sins enclose
Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow
Kill me with spites yet we must not be foes
To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit
Nor tender feeling to base touches prone
In thy soul's thought (all naked) will bestow it
Is't not enough to torture me alone
Uttering bare truth, even so as foes commend
For to no other pass my verses tend

[The above was composed using the Shakespeare Sonnet Shake-Up, via Cosmopoetica]

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

OK, that's enough winter, thank you. Everything seems to be covered with a fine layer of -- not just snow -- salt. My sidewalk, my car, even my coat (thanks to some too-intimate contact with the car while cleaning the windshield). Salt and more salt. I feel like a Ritz cracker. Or a peanut. Assaulted.... My Valentine's Day gift: a goblet that lights up with little portraits of stars and planets. What to drink from it? Sparkling wine, I think.... Lost gets weirder and weirder. Now precognition apparently has something to do with it. Poor Desmond. Even with a thick Scottish brogue, he can't seem to assert himself against predetermined fate.... I get President's Day off -- Monday. This is a combined celebration of Washington and Lincoln, in lieu of celebrating their birthdays separately. Both of them must be spinning in their graves about the current occupant of the office. I think I'll celebrate by keeping in mind these words of Lincoln: "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts." And this gem: "Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.".... Why don't I.... do the dishes....

Monday, February 05, 2007

Look Book: Eccentrically-Bewhiskered Art Production Designer Eric Harvey Brown -- New York Magazine

The ubiquitous...

...Eccentrically-Bewhiskered Art Production Designer. An acquaintance. I bought his photo book about New Orleans after Katrina.

Word of the Day: cachinnate

Word of the Day

cachinnate (v)

To laugh loudly

"I love my neighbour/but/are these things my neighbours?/these two-legged things that walk and talk/and cachinnate, and even seem to smile,/seem to smile, ye gods!"
--D.H. Lawrence

Things that give me the giggles: bigfoot; "Too bad the French don't have a word for 'entrepreneur'" --G.W. Bush; pro wrestling; The Office (in Slough...); puns. That's all I can think of right now.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Consciousness Streaming

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

"You look like that actor, but I can't think of his name." I get this from people from time to time, and more frequently, for some reason, in the past year of so. No one can ever think of his name, though, so I'm mystified. Most recently, I was told that he appears in "that movie that starts out in black and white and then becomes in color." Uh...The Wizard of OZ? (Actually, I suspect they're thinking of this guy.).... They used to pick up the trash and the recycling in the morning around here; now they pick it up around midnight. This has pros and cons: less traffic tie-ups in the AM but more noise in the PM. So I'll just be drifting off the sleep when I hear bottles and cans being dumped into the back of a compactor truck. It's the sound of all my silly thoughts and calculations and anxieties of the day being discarded and hauled away, I try to tell myself. I haven't lost much sleep over it.... Add to shopping list: noise-canceling headphones (no, not for at night).... I got a postcard yesterday inviting me to an art exhibit called "Reverence for All Living Creatures." The opening reception is on February 2nd -- yes, Ground Hog's Day. There will be a classical musical performance of something called "Groundhog Day Interlude." In upstate New York, where I'm originally from, ground hog's are more commonly known as "woodchucks". In other areas, they're called "whistlepigs", I understand. My father used to shoot them with a shotgun because they were digging holes in the lawn. (I don't think he does this anymore, but I'm not sure.) It's an odd thought to think of them being celebrated musically. According to the dictionary, an "interlude" is "a musical composition inserted between the parts of a longer composition". Part of the Rodent Quartet, maybe?.... Why don't I…. unfold my love? (Beatles reference.)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Living in Three Centuries

Wrinkles in Time

Living in Three Centuries is a portrait gallery of people who, incredibly, were born in the 19th century and are still alive (they're called "supercentarians") or were alive until very recently.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The mystery of the labyrinth


Why did the same, or a very similar, image of a labyrinth show up at various times and in different cultures around the world?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Word of the Day

Word of the Day

lachrymose (adj)

Mournful or tearful

"Her tears seemed to grieve the kind-hearted Munchkins, who became lachrymose and began pulling out handkerchiefs."
--L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

I'm not feeling lachrymose. I ran across this word in the newspaper today and liked the sound of it.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

As the President Spoke

Someone hung dolls from the chandelier and
a nun fingered an abacus in her mind.

Prisoners giggled in their cells, watching
a pederast pass cigarettes between the bars.

Grandpa wiped his glasses with a dishrag while
a sophomore solved equations with a cheese-slicer.

An amputee said he "didn't see it coming," and
a mother of three said, "Who uses a car as a weapon?"

An estimated two million illegals flushed toilets while
an emergency-room janitor mopped up blood.

It began to pour, and
citizens ran for shelter.

(This poem has been published by City Belt magazine.)

Flash » DooDooCaca

This May Amuse

Flash » DooDooCaca

Monday, January 08, 2007

Consciousness Streaming

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

It's the month of calendars. I got a calendar for Christmas (one that features Jersey City architectural landmarks), and an Audubon calendar from my insurance company arrived in the mail today. It's always a January question what to do with last year's calendars, with their fantastic graphics. The Marilyn Monroe calendar I got for Christmas a year ago is too -- well produced, let's say -- to simply throw away.... My cold is dragging on into its second week. Now it's mostly a cough, without the run-down feeling and "head of concrete" I had last week. At least I don't feel alone. Everyone around me seems to be coughing, too. A chorus of coughing.... It's already Valentine's Day in the stores, I've noticed. There apparently is no interval between holidays in retail anymore. They are in a constant state of celebration. I think if I worked in retail I'd be sick of every holiday months before it arrived.... In the news today: they've found stem cells in amniotic fluid. I love it when a controversy, especially one as stupid as the debate over stem-cell research, just gets blown away by a new development. Now if only that could happen with Iraq.... Why don't I.... shampoo, rinse, repeat, like it says on the bottle?

Visual Version

Friday, January 05, 2007

Word of the Year

Word of the Year

According to Merriam-Webster Online, the Word of the Year for 2006 (based on votes from its website visitors) was "truthiness." It's defined as:

1. "truth that comes from the gut, not books" (Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, October 2005)
2. "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true" (American Dialect Society, January 2006)

Here's the rest of the Top 10 word list for the year:

2. google
3. decider
4. war
5. insurgent
6. terrorism
7. vendetta
8. sectarian
9. quagmire
10. corruption

Except for "google," they're all connected in some way with the worst US president in history, or his policies. Kind of depressing....

Monday, January 01, 2007

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient -- that we are only 6 percent of the world's population; that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind; that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity; and therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem."
--John F. Kennedy