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?