Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Saw a guy at the train station doing tai chi while balancing a vase on his head. Felt momentarily awed.... Ate a Belgian waffle today that someone actually brought from Belgium. Felt cosmopolitan.... Still reading this weird, funny book, All About H. Hatterr. Feel disappointed that the author didn't write any other novels. (I'm into weird and funny.).... Lots of people out sunning themselves this afternoon, and I saw a guy wearing a winter coat and what looked like bermuda shorts. He said he was "coming from the gym." Felt like spring is finally here....

Monday, March 30, 2009

Word of the Day: anfractuosity

anfractuosity (n)

The quality of having many twists and turns.

"There are chance anfractuosities of ruin in the upper portions of the Coliseum which offer a very fair imitation of the rugged face of an Alpine cliff."
--Henry James, Italian Hours

Well, well! This is certainly an appropriate Word of the Day for my little blog cabin....

Speaking of Henry James, he's a pretty anfractuous writer, in my experience. Even the title of his most famous work, "The Turn of the Screw," is twisty. And here's a typically anfractuous Jamesian sentence:

"He fairly caught himself shooting rueful glances, shy looks of pursuit, toward the embodied influence, the definite adversary, who had, by a stroke of her own, failed him, and on a fond theory of whose palpable presence he had, under Mrs. Newsome's inspiration, altogether proceeded."

If you can parse that, you're a better ex-English major than I am.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weekend Netflix Report: 'Persepolis' and 'To Live'

Two impressive films about revolution and its affects on "ordinary" people:

Persepolis, based on a graphic novel and a true story, is animated, but there's no Disney saccharine. The heroine, who survives, not unscathed, the Iranian revolution, is plucky but not perky. She endures her mostly black-and-white (literally) world for a time, but ends up an exile, living ambiguously ever after. The Oscar-nominated film is in French with subtitles.

To Live explores similar narrative territory in Mao's China. Over three decades, a couple experiences repeated disasters and tragedies, all related to Maoist idiocies, except for the initial loss of their bourgeous home due to a gambling addiction -- though that turns out to be a blessing in disguise under Communism. There was plenty of opportunity for melodrama in the script, but the director avoids it and gets completely convincing performances from the actors. Palm d'Or nominee, in Chinese with subtitles.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 6 small

More clip-art philosophy by me (and Thales of Miletus). The original (large) size is here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Stay True

Finger-wiggling film director David Lynch explains how to make a good movie. (And no, it doesn't involve meditating.)

Lynch Hands 80

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Much Ado about NOTHING

Sometimes I wonder what exactly it is I'm eating. Case in point: my peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich today. In a moment of arrant boredom, I began to read the label on the back of a jar of reduced-fat, super-chunk peanut butter. The fine print reveals that a serving of this "25% less fat" PB contains 180 calories, of which 110 are from...fat. Now I know why this stuff is called "butter."

Almost as alarming is another ingredient: rapeseed. (No, not grapeseed. Rapeseed.) A little Googling reveals that rapeseed "contains high levels of erucic acid (which makes oils go rancid quickly, is toxic in large doses, and may cause cancer) and glucosinolate (which tastes so bitter and unpleasant that it's undesirable even in animal feed)." Lovely. Apparently, I have more refined taste than...livestock.

Then there are the minerals: magnesium oxide, ferric orthophosphate, copper sulfate and zinc oxide. Everything but the kitchen sink? No, I'm eating the kitchen sink.

Still, I like PB & J on my 12-grain bread, and I'll probably keep eating it occasionally, until and unless the FDA (now trustworthy under Obama?) warns me not too. But now I'm afraid to look too closely at the jelly jar.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

All the Lonely People

Looking for companionship? Here's a unique way to meet people:

Craig Needs a Friend

Sad? Funny? You decide.

(I'm not sure what kind of person would show up after reading one of these invitations, but I imagine Craig tends to be a freak magnet.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quote of the Day

"He raised his eyes as men against the West once raised their eyes against the shinning ramparts of the mountains. And there before him, at the edges of the marsh, rose the proud heights of Jersey City -- the heights of Jersey City blazing forever to the traveler the smoldering welcome of their garbage dumps - the heights of Jersey City, raised proudly against the desolation of those lonely marshes as a token of man's fortitude, a symbol of his power, a sign of his indomitable spirit that flames forever like a great torch in the wilderness, that lifts against the darkness and blind nature the story of its progress - the heights of Jersey, lighted for an eternal feast."
--Thomas Wolfe, The Web & the Rock (1925)

Wow, I'm living in a flaming token of man's fortitude, complete with "garbage dumps." Who knew?

Brain Dump

When all is said and done with mirrors on the wall of sound waves of grain of sand in my shoe bomber. Six of one, half a dozen of the other things being equal opportunity knocks on the door is open book by its cover your butt of jokes. Love conquers all the time out of mind over matter of life and death warmed over to my house and home sweet home of the brave front or back to where you once belonged.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Just when I was feeling a little trippy anyway this evening, I found myself sitting across from a dwarf on the PATH train -- a happy dwarf, chatting with a young woman who looked like a 1960s Joan Baez. Felt like I was lucid dreaming.... Received several wrong-number calls on my cell today. Some guy kept calling me "John" and wanted to know if I was a "citizen of Canada." There was talking and laughter in the background. I finally stopped answering. When I looked at the "missed call" number on my phone, I decided to Google it. Turns out it was from someone at Smith Barney, a division of Citigroup. Yeah, they've got a lot to laugh about these days. Felt annoyed, vaguely.... I guess I'm supposed to be angry at mega-insurance breakerage AIG, which has now changed its name to AIU (which kind of sounds like IOU). Can't manage it, though. Too cynical....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Zombie Alert

The undead are on the loose, according to roadsigns in Austin and Omaha:

'Zombies ahead' on Harrison Street

You Can Quote That

Maybe only an editor would find this amusing, but to me the photos at The "Blog" of "Unecessary" Quotation Marks are hilarious. In Case of "Fire" Use Stairways. You can use the stairs if it's a fake fire, too....

Friday, March 20, 2009

Word of the Day: poltroon

poltroon (n)

A coward.

"Every educated man of the nineteenth century is, and must always be, a poltroon and a slave; it is his normal condition."
--Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Letters from the Underworld and Other Tales

My normal condition, as an educated man of the twenty-first century, is as a fragmented simulacrum of a purveyor of pastiche. So say the post-modernists, anyway. How's Annie?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

You Foment Graciously!

Everyone needs a compliment now and then, but it's hard to come up with something original. You might try some of the novel extolations below on your friends and rivals. If you deliver them fast enough, they might not even notice the 100 percent inanity content.

"You foment graciously, as ever any dying monster did rot."

"Woe is me, for I must forever more huddle, unminded, in the dark shadow of your undeserved engine of procreation."

"Come, let me gnaw your fingernails that I may absorb and lose myself in the wise and gritty detritus that is you."

"I find your eye sockets to be a wondrous amusement park filled with neo-plastic pleasures and oncogenic delights."

"Your sweet voice is like the snap of a bra strap upon a sunburnt back."

"The sand runes crossing your divided consciousness do speak of contemptuous cardinals setting a Spanish village ablaze."

"You turn the atmosphere wild with currents of vitriol when you smile at the passing insects."

You can generate more of these at the Surrealist Compliment Generator.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Much Ado about NOTHING

ants apple

I have a strange affliction, left over from childhood. It is not life-threatening, or even painful, but it often prevents me from relaxing and keeps me awake at night.

I refer, of course, to ants in the pants.

Symptoms: inability to sit still for long periods, frequent pacing, racing thoughts, sudden bursts of energy when it should be bed-time.

The cause? An overly stimulating yet curiously enigmatic environment and too much caffeine.

Yes, I'm over-caffeinated, and I should probably drink less coffee. Five mugs a day may be too much. But it does give me a frequent excuse to get up and micturate (look that one up), which alleviates some of the sitting-still problem.

The cure? Deep breaths. A glass of wine (but not too often). Meditation. Weed, I suppose, if I was that sort; no offense.

Really, it would help if I could stop thinking so much and be more of vegetable. Writing here helps, too. My blog. My mental enema.

(Above is a picture I took of an apple that fell off our tree in the backyard and got nibbled by squirrels and ants. Click for a larger version. You know you want to.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Consciousness Streaming

Sometimes I can't help thinking that I'm sitting on a big ball of dirt spinning at thousands of miles per hour and revolving even faster around a gigantic mass of flaming gas.

I can't stop thinking about the thousands -- hundreds of thousands -- of people tapping on keyboards at the same time I am, composing millions of words that only a few people will ever read, if that.

I just can't keep myself from thinking that every minute there are scores of cars swishing by out there on Kennedy Boulevard ("Somebody going somewhere to see somebody about something," as my grandmother used to say), and that every one has real people inside. And that each person has a story to tell that might be one of the most amazing things I've ever heard.

Then I think about what Carl Sandburg said: "There is only one man in the world, and his name is All Men. There is only one woman in the world, and her name is All Women. There is only one child in the world, and the child's name is All Children."

And then I think, I really don't exist, at least not in the way that I think I do. And that you think you're reading somebody else's words, but you're really not, because you made me up for some unfathomable reason. So there.

Monday, March 16, 2009

How Unfortunate....

The latest Google time-waster sweeping the nation: plug the word "Unfortunately" and your name into a search engine and compile the resulting hilarity.

Unfortunately, Michael discovers Nellie's hands-on approach is more than he bargained for.
Woah, Nellie...

Unfortunately, Michael is quite right. One could wish it were not so, but that won't change the fact.
Told you so.

Unfortunately Michael didn't sing after the show last night.
This is unfortunate?

Unfortunately Michael was a woman who lied to himself.
Disturbing news, to say the least.

Unfortunately, Michael was killed in a mining accident at the Hunt decline in Kambalda.
Remind me to stop mining.

Unfortunately, Michael is also well known for his many public improprieties.
You've sure got me pegged.

Unfortunately, Michael never did anything that wasn't necessary.
Why should I?

Unfortunately, Michael cannot respond to readers' individual family issues shared through email.
Sorry folks!

Unfortunately, Michael doesn't have an idealistic mental image of a family and, in fact, isn't quite sure what a family really is.
Not true. I've seen almost every episode of The Brady Bunch.

Unfortunately, Michael's life soon became complicated when he was abducted by Omnira and others from Androgynia.
Believe me, I have enough complications without this.

Unfortunately, Michael is currently in a federal prison on felony charges and isn't scheduled to be released until July.
It seems I've been a bad boy.

Unfortunately Michael has suffered a chronic psychiatric incident which has left him unable to pen his usual piece about motor cars for you today.
Don't you wish.

Unfortunately, Michael often drops the "quarta di" from his directions, keeping only the "al."

Unfortunately, Michael never learned how to swim. Instead, he just walks on the wet stuff.
That's me. I walk on water.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

How to Be an Artist

There's more wisdom in the newspaper than you might think -- especially if you ignore 99.9 percent of it and have a big, black magic marker handy.

Check out Austin Kleon's blackout poems: Part 1 and Part 2. Good advice?

He'll tell you how to be cool, too.

A collection of his newspaper blackout poems is forthcoming from HarperCollins in February 2010.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Word of the Day: absquatulate

absquatulate (v)

To leave in a hurry; vamoose.

"The Kiss-curl has absquatulated. C'est la guerre! She has left me, Banerjji."
--G.V. Desani, All About H. Hatterr

I was playing with a three-legged cat tonight at a friend's house. I offered him a catnip toy, but it seemed to startle him. He absquatulated. I was a little miffed, but then he came back and sniffed it. Nice kitty. It's amazing how fast a three-legged cat can move.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

It was misty this morning. My glasses fogged up as I walked to the train station. Felt like the whole world needed more contrast.... Lost was a rerun tonight -- a good thing, since I missed that episode. So I was watching an episode from a week ago about people traveling back in time. Felt oddly appropriate.... The land-line phone rang tonight, but I didn't answer it. Only fund-raisers and my mom call on that line. (I mostly use my cell phone now.) Not answering doesen't help, though, because they'll just call again every night until I answer. But I wasn't in the mood to pick up and listen to a spiel. Not tonight.... I'm reading a very funny book entitled All About H. Hatterr, which is set in India and is written in dialect. Takes some getting used to, but it's most amusing, except for the pink cover (why?), which makes me feel a bit girly while reading it in public. People must think I'm reading chick lit.... I was thinking today about getting some coffee mugs printed up that say "Stimulus Plan" on them -- a money-making scheme to leverage current events. Thought some more about it and felt silly....

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brain Dump

When hell freezes over and done with all due respect yourself in a hole in my pocket full of baloney sandwich. Half a loaf is better than none of your business like show business as usual suspects at large or small world of difference. Between the devil and the deep blue sea shell of his former self service with a smile though your heart is breaking bread board of directors cut to the quick as a flash in the pan. An apple doesn't fall far from the tree of knowledge is power plant a garden state of mind over matter of fact check your coat of paint brush fire and ice storm warning sign up to give peace a chance of a snowball in hell.

Monday, March 09, 2009

"An Oasis of Strangeness in a Desert of Normalcy"

Haven't you wished, while twirling the dial, that you could find a radio station with surprising, non-programmed, free-form music and no commercials or chopper-one traffic-jam reports? It exists, gentle listeners, right here in Joisy City. But freedom isn't free, as some old cliche-monger said. And so, you should give this station all your money. This week please.

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 5 small

More clip-art philosophy by me (and Jacques Derrida).

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Watchmen: It Could Be Worse

What if Woody Allen had directed Watchmen? Or Judd Apatow? Sofia Coppola? Pedro Almodóvar?? Explore these alternate unrealities here.

(via Yet Another Damn Blog)

Much Ado about NOTHING

When my father died last spring, almost a year ago now, I inherited a closet full of his clothes. Unlike my two brothers, my father and I were the same size, so I got the wardrobe -- or what I wanted from it. Much of it I didn't want: shirts with cigarette burn holes in them (my father smoked, one of the reasons he isn't with us today); polyester ties; corduroy pants; sweatshirts with team logos (not my style); etc. There was some nice stuff, too, including some shirts I can wear to work, well-made sportcoats and shoes that fit.

And then there's the black leather jacket. That surprised me -- I never saw my father wear it, and I can't picture him dressed in black leather. It's hard for me to picture myself in black leather, too, though now that the weather has warmed up a bit, I've been wearing it. It makes me feel different somehow. More beat, like some cool jazz dude. Or something. I wonder if that's why he bought it -- to feel different. If so, that's okay by me. Better than cigarettes and booze, any day.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Lost Highway

Here's a thrill-a-minute (actually two minutes and 44 seconds) ride across New Jersey's Pulaski Skyway, one of the most terrifying stretches of highway in America. (I hate driving across it.) I just finished reading Steven Hart's excellent book about the Skyway, The Last Three Miles. Watch out for those pot holes....

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Strange Things


Alien life forms? No, weird images of extinct corals. Nature is an artist sometimes -- a very strange one.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Word of the Day: gallimaufry

gallimaufry (n)

A hodgepodge, a jumble, or a confusing medley.

"Must your hot itch and plurisy of lust,
The heyday of your luxury, be fed
Up to a surfeit, and could none but I
Be picked out to be cloak to your close tricks,
Your belly-sports? Now I must be the dad
To all that gallimaufry that's stuffed
In thy corrupted bastard-bearing womb?
Why must I?"
--John Ford, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore

That might be a good name for this blog (gallimaufry, not "corrupted bastard-bearing womb").

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Are You Ready for This?

spring is here

I am. We have a "winter storm warning" for tonight, with snow accumulation of up to six to 10 inches expected. Ugh....

(That's a photo I took last April. Click for larger version.)