Thursday, February 26, 2009

Much Ado about NOTHING

A lot of people around me have been sneezing lately. Inevitably, whenever someone sneezes, someone will say -- or several people will say -- "bless you." I even say it myself sometimes, following a strange compulsion that's based on... what? Superstition? Manners? Herd mentality?

Apparently, the tradition of saying "bless you" whenever someone sneezes dates back to the (idiotic medieval) idea that one's soul escapes in the sneeze, or is, at the very least, in danger of doing so. And somehow saying "bless you" prevents that from happening in some paranormal way.

But we're living in the 21st century. My new year's resolution is not to mechanically say "bless you" several times a day. If I feel irresistibly tempted to do so, I'll say an old-fashioned gesundheit instead. (I think that means "bless you" or "good health" in German, but at least it's different and sounds retro cool.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Time on Your Hands?

Tag Galaxy allows you to input a word, from which it then creates a very appealing 3D animated solar system of related words, based on flickr tags. Inputting "Beatles," for example, creates a sun with the band name, surrounded by planets "John," "George", "Paul", etc. Interestingly, it generates a Saturn-like planet for "Ringo" -- complete with rings.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Cops examined my briefcase at the train station. (A random check.) My peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and umbrella did not raise any alarms. Felt exposed as an...ordinary citizen.... A local restaurant advertises wireless Internet access, but none of the employees there knew what the password is to get connected. Felt frustated.... There's a "film noir" festival at the Loew's this weekend. Looking forward to seeing Chinatown.... It's recycling night. Exciting? Not really. But ennobling, maybe...a little....

Monday, February 23, 2009

Word of the Day: somniculous

somniculous (adj)

Sleepy or drowsy.

"She soon went to sleep, but dreamt of distresses and vexations, of exertions demanded, and powers not to be excited; of falling from precipices, of painful adieus, and of boats foundering in shoreless waters, and was haunted by all the train of somniculous misery, which the superstitious resolve into causes, and less weak into effects."
--Laetitia Matilda Hawkins, Modes of Discipline

I sometimes get that falling feeling when I'm about to go to sleep. (I suppose that's where the phrase "falling asleep" comes from.) It probably has to do with some lizard part of my brain suddenly realizing that my body is horizontal instead of vertical.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Micro Fiction: Chicken of the Sea

or a Freudian Nightmare

"Where the hell is that bus?" Ivan wondered. It was five minutes late, and he had to meet his friend at the city aquarium at one o'clock -- his neurotic friend who would freak like a fish out of water if he wasn't at the shark tank by one.

At least the spring weather was decent -- 60s and sunny, a bit windy -- and he had the bus stop to himself. When the bus finally arrived, he'd be able to clamber aboard quickly without waiting behind someone with five kids or a crone with a cane.

He began to pace back and forth from one end of the bus stop to the other. Looking down the sidewalk, he still didn't see the bus, but something else was coming: a kid on a bicycle. It was a teenager, pedaling fast, with one hand on the handlebars and the other swinging a plastic bag full of groceries.

The wind began to pick up as the bike got closer, and the biker began to fishtail back and forth from one side of the sidewalk to the other. Ivan stepped aside, but the bike suddenly swerved as it reached his spot on the sidewalk.

There was a sharp impact. For a moment, Ivan's mind went black.

Then he found himself resting on the sandy bottom of a deep pool. All around him were fluorescent fish and waving plants, and three semi-transparent mermaids sitting on coral thrones: a blue mermaid, a pink one, and a yellow one. They were topless, and their breasts bobbed up and down like multi-colored jellyfish. And they were all laughing at him.

"Are you okay? What's your name?" the blue one asked, between snickers, in a sing-song voice.

Ivan opened his mouth to answer, but only bubbles came out and a strangled, gurgling sound.

The blue mermaid giggled. "I'" she said. "You've got a what?"

"He's got a clam sticker," the pink one said.

"He's let loose his trouser trout," added the yellow maid.

"Yes, he's okay. That's quite a fishing rod he's got there," the blue mermaid said.

Ivan suddenly realized that he was naked, and that they were discussing his anatomy.

He covered his privates with his hands as the mermaids continued to chuckle. Just as he did so, an enormous shark swam up and gobbled the blue mermaid. The pink mermaid then screamed, "help us!" and dissolved into a cloud of bubbles. The yellow one squealed, "You coward. Why don't you help us?" She quickly shrank and shape-shifted into a tiny angel fish and swam away.

The shark turned and began to swim toward Ivan. But he couldn't move; he was glued to the bottom of the ocean. The shark opened its jaws, and a long tentacle shot out. It grabbed Ivan around the ankle and yanked him into the gaping mouth.

He was sucked through a long, dark tunnel, at the end of which was the laughing blue mermaid, glowing in the dark. She opened her mouth wide, like a jawless snake, revealing rows of pointed teeth.

Just as she was about to bite his head off, a brilliant flash of light nearly blinded Ivan. He was lying on the sidewalk, looking up at the cloudless blue sky. And he was covered with groceries. "Are you okay?" someone asked.

There was something on his chest: a can of tuna fish with a fish-woman on the label. "Ask any mermaid you happen to see," Ivan mumbled. Already he could tell: It was going to be another one of those days.


(Based on a real incident and a dream.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Much Ado about NOTHING


Sorry, Coop. I always prefer a black coffee mug. I drink my joe black, no sugar, and a dark mug makes it look richer, darker. (Sorry to sound like a commercial.) When I drink coffee from a light-colored mug, it looks weak to me - not like coffee...more like tea.

I spent last Christmas with a group of Brazilians -- long story -- and they do know coffee. (They may even know Juan Valdez, but I forgot to ask.) According to them, American coffee is "brown water." When I drink coffee from a pastel mug, and can actually see the bottom of the cup, I always think of that description. And my good-morning-America brew just doesn't taste right.

Worst of all is drinking coffee from a paper cup. (They are usually white, at least on the inside.) If the coffee is hot -- and I do like it either very hot or, in the summer, ice cold -- the cup is usually too toasty for my fingers. I have to set it down for a while. And then, if I'm at all absent minded, it gets "cold," meaning room temperature. And drinking room-temperature coffee is like drinking swill.

No, it must be a black, or at least dark, ceramic mug or cup. I have several.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shirt Tales

XXL Blues

"More People Have Read This Shirt Than Your Blog"

Feeling glum? Tell the world with Despair Wear. Or just read the prickly slogans.

(Actually, about 73,000 people have read this blog -- or at least that's how many total hits it has accumulated.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Brain Dump

The rain in Spain falls down pillow fight club soda pop art history book store credit card shark. I need it like a hole in the head for the hills are alive with the sound of music man, woman or child care what you think for yourself. Needless to say something or other than that matters to me or you only live once or twice the price of oil can what? There are two sides to every question authority figure eight days a week day or night falls hard to know where you're going, going, gone.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Surreal Love

A bit late for Valentine's Day, but here are three surrealist love poems.

"....Consumed by ecstatic mad inertia
Stretched out on your shadow
Hammered by your tongue
To die in a rabbit's rotting teeth
--Joyce Mansour


(via Conversational Reading)

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 4 small

More clip-art philosophy by me (and some ancient Greek).

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Shared an elevator today with two people talking about a book. "What's it about?" one asked. "It's a science-fiction book about...about...America," the other one said. I couldn't resist making a comment. "That's a good subject for a sci-fi book," I said. "Especially these days." Felt clever. At first.... Still windy as hell around here. Feel like a spinnaker whenever I'm outside.... Read through some old e-mails today from a year or two ago, from someone I haven't heard from in a while. Felt nostalgic.... Saw someone walking a Saint Bernard and a little terrier at the same time. Felt some cognitive dissonance.....

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A pod of pelicans...

A shiver of sharks...

An unction of undertakers...

A worship of writers... (yeah!)

A malapertness of pedlars?

I love collective nouns.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Word of the Day: rannygazoo

rannygazoo (n)

A joke or prank.

"As a matter of fact, that point happened to come up, and she stated specifically that if there was any rannygazoo -- if, in other words, it should prove that you had been pulling her leg and trying to make her the plaything of an idle moment -- she would know what to do about it."
--P.G. Wodehouse, Fore!

An idle moment... it seems people either don't have enough of those these days, or they have far too many.

Monday, February 09, 2009

What's a Seven-Letter Word for a Rastafarian Proctologist?

The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words. The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3 Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that , when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Last Night's Adventure

I was in Morocco, in Marrakesh, staying in a four-star hotel. I was traveling with a group, but I couldn't find any of them or remember what time we were supposed to leave or where we were supposed to meet. I started running down the main street from hotel to hotel, looking for someone I knew. No one I encountered spoke English. I went into a hotel and rushed through the public rooms, looking for anyone familiar. Eventually, I came upon two teenage boys in a lounge, members of our group, who told me not to worry, we weren't leaving for quite a while yet. Then I woke up.

That's what I get for watching Casablanca on TCM last night. Ingrid Bergman was not in my dream, though. (I have been to Morocco, in real life, BTW, years ago.)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Much Ado about NOTHING

I seem to be collecting rubber bands. It wasn't a conscious decision -- I don't even have much use for rubber bands. But I keep seeing perfectly good ones on the sidewalk and picking them up and putting them in my pockets.

I don't know where they come from. I suppose mail deliverers drop them. I've seen that they bundle letters and catalogs and flyers with them and then take them off before they deposit the junk in your box.

Anyway, I put the rubber bands in a jar under the kitchen sink. And once in a while, I take one out and snap it around something. And I think, "I just saved 2 cents... and maybe a rubber tree will thank me someday."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Shorter Short Stories

Pithy: true stories told in one sentence. There's really nothing else to say.


I like short experimental films, and here's an intriguing one starring, but not directed by, my favorite director: The Soul Detective. Boom!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Word of the Day: lucubrations

lucubrations (n)

A serious piece of literary writing that is the product of laborious cogitation (i.e., what this blog is not).

"These and similar performances were half-hearted, because [he] was finding his true level in the alleged lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff."
--Richard Steele, the Tatler

Love that name: Isaac Bickerstaff. I've often wished to have a more distinctive name, rather than this one, which I must share with thousands of others, some unsavory, across the nation.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

People keep asking me how it's going when they know perfectly well how it's going. What's up with that?.... It was "warm" today, up to 40 degrees (about 5 Celsius), but there's still lots of ice around -- dirty, black ice. Makes me feel tired.... tired of winter.... Just had a cup of Starbucks coffee. Feeling a nice jolt. My fantasy: to be served some Starbucks by Michael Gates Gill, author of How Starbucks Saved My Life.... Department stores are sending birthday cards to my wife. That's a little disturbing....