Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Now it's dark"

Remembering Dennis Hopper and Blue Velvet

"None of them, even Easy Rider, can top his performance in Blue Velvet. It was the right role for the right actor at the right time. Only David Lynch has been able to really tap into what Hopper was capable of, the level of twisted cruelty and sexuality of Frank Booth. And probably no other actor could have gone there. There still hasn’t been a more memorable character in a Lynch film, and that's saying a lot."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Random Sequence

easter eggs

Scenario 14 (excerpt 1)

At the Dunghill & Oddments Ad Agency

All the career eggs sat at their pathetic desks in over-air-conditioned semi-vexation. One, Adrian Hammerson, wore an Indian derby with a turkey feather protruding from the hatband. He had to amuse himself in some way. Always. He had to move around, too, or his feet would fall asleep. He got up to use the unisex water closet, but there was a conga line at that door -- a bunch of hard-boileds giggling and referring to themselves as the "flush mates". He decided to hold it (not literally). "Clever horrors", he muttered to himself as he returned to his icy cube. He added another line to the ad he was writing for "Lawn Chairs for Less". It mentioned "reinforced grosgrain plastic bands". This reminded him of the Dynamite Cannibal concert from the previous Thursday. He attached his trash cans and clicked to some videos on There it was: the penultimate rap-star fusion moment, when Higgy MoneyRhyme had screamed, "No more guitars!!" Ectasy. Extasy! Time had seemed to stop. "But life went on," Adrian thought. "And fannies do need lawn chairs...."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's kugat, ginchy, krunkaliscious, hoopy, bomb diggity, and...bangerang!

The History of Cool is a list of words that have meant, well, "cool" around the world and through the ages.

I've come to dislike the word "cool" when it's used to mean..."fab", as the Beatles used to say, though I admit it's a useful adjective. It's just overused. And really, it means the same thing as the Parisian "that's hot", doesn't it, which is absurd. So now, inspired by this list, whenever I want to express my appreciation for some cultural gewgaw, I will use the Bondian "splendid" or the Lynchian "peachy keen".

Won't I?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Photo of the Week


I like to photograph doors. There's always something mysterious about a closed door, this one more than most. I pass it every day on my way to the Journal Square PATH station, and I always think, What's the big secret?

I had a dream about this door once, in which I opened it and discovered a large, dark, empty room. There was a dead cat in the middle of the floor that looked like it had been disemboweled in a Santeria ceremony. It had a collar with an ID tag, and I remember thinking that I should try to find the owner...but I woke up at that point. It's just as well. I'm sure it would have turned into some sort of Freudian nightmare.

Maybe someday I'll work up the courage to turn that knob.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Word of the Day: distichous

distichous (adj)

Divided into two parts or two rows.

"His eyes? Nor pen nor camera can present them. Imagine a black pearl imprisoning a diamond; imagine a dewdrop trembling on polished jet; add to these beauties life, and you will have the dormouse eye. His tail? Distichous, say the books. Feathers are mostly distichous, hair-partings are distichous, the moustache is distichous. So is the dormouse tail; but the hairs along it do more than merely part. They curl, upwards from the root, downwards to the point, and form a plume."
--Douglas English, Wee Tim'rous Beasties

Do you remember what the dormouse said? (It wasn't "feed your head".) In Alice in Wonderland, he said, among a few other things, "You might just as well say that 'I breathe when I sleep' is the same thing as 'I sleep when I breathe'!" He also told a story about three sisters who lived at the bottom of a treacle well and were learning to draw anything that began with the letter M. This confused Alice, of course, who took everything literally, with comic effect. It's still one of my favorite books.

(Distichous, by the way, is one of the words that the late David Foster Wallace circled in his dictionary.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves."
--Henry David Thoreau

L O S T Finale Recap: Case Closed. Tracie explains it all....

And by the way, what is "dog" spelled backwards?

alternate ending

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Saw Taxi Driver tonight at the Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre. Terrific film, but now I remember why I hate taking cabs.... Someone served me french fries today and asked if I needed a spoon for them. Uh, no...felt confused. Talked to a guy yesterday who used to be an EMT and ambulance driver. He described horrific traffic accidents he witnessed -- people, including children, "messed up", killed, thrown from cars, etc. He also delivered a breach baby on the highway. Felt impressed, somewhat nauseous.... Went to Google today and was forced to listen to Pac-Man sound effects. I hate that....

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The T&T List

Willy Wonka
St. Regis
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Deepwater Horizon
Sergei Sergeyev
Cold Springs National Wildlife Refuge
Helmeted Pygmy Tyrant
Queen's Gambit
Ana Lucia
White Noise

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Photo of the Week

hungry tree

What is with these trees in my neighborhood that are swallowing up street signs? How does this happen? I sent a similar photo of another tree to Weird NJ magazine a couple of years ago, and they published it -- so this is officially weird. Do trees have mineral deficiencies? Do they feel hunger? It makes me wonder. And it gives me the creeps.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Word of the Day: tohubohu

tohubohu (n)

Chaos, confusion. (This is Wordnik's word of the day.)

"For how long now have we been asleep, drugged by noise and music, unable to see, unable to think? Hermes has taken power over the entire world. Our technological world exists only as an integral of the tohubohu. You can no longer find anything on earth -- not the ground, not a furrow, not a small insect, not the slightest hollow -- that is not covered by the diluvian waters of racket."
--Thomas M. Kavanagh, The Limits of Theory

Depends on what you consider racket, I guess. I'd say there are limits to this theory.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why do you exist?

tangle negative

Maybe because sub-atomic particles called neutral B-mesons, which oscillate trillions of times per second between being matter and antimatter, go faster from antimatter to matter than they do from matter to antimatter, which creates a little more matter than antimatter. Does it matter? It might have mattered enough to create our universe. So says Fermilab in a new report. Details

Sunday, May 16, 2010


David Lynch's new long-form commercial (it hardly seems like one) for Dior, "Lady Blue Shanghai", is here. It stars Marion Cotillard as yet another "woman in trouble" and features a number of Lynchian tropes, including red curtains, a scratchy phonograph, and...something inside a Dior purse. I won't spoil the surprise. Is Lynch running out of ideas, holding back his new ones for his next feature, or merely winking at his fans? Whatever, as an atmospheric short film, I think this works -- though I'm not sure it would make anyone want to buy a purse.

Microfiction: 'Side Effects'

Whenever Ivan couldn't sleep--and that was often--he'd lie on his back, staring up at a ceiling blank and white as a sheet of paper. He'd try to imagine the ink-dark sky above the house, with its spattering of stars, inconceivably distant. But thinking about the sky didn't help. The pillow beneath his head, the mattress beneath his body, never felt quite comfortable as he would toss and turn. They'd irritate him, in fact, as if loose grains of sand littered the sheets.

So he'd lie wide awake in bed, his head feeling like a hall of mirrors, reflecting an unceasing cavalcade of the previous day's predicaments. They would flash through his memory like over-exposed snapshots. And he'd think: "I should have done this; I should have done that."

He would tell himself to stop thinking so much.

But then he'd become much too aware of the night sounds around him. Down the street, a cat would yowl in the alley like an angry baby. An ambulance would howl urgently, as if in great pain, on its way to the hospital. And somewhere, miles away, a train would be lumbering its lugubrious way down the moon-silver rails. Click, clack, click clack....

Eventually, Ivan sought professional help. But the side effects of the medication the doctor prescribed, Baniem, were worse than he could have anticipated -- worse, in some ways, than the dull plague of sleeplessness. The doctor had warned him about a "scramble brain" feeling, and possible speech "abnormalities," but the things that were spilling out of his mouth were more disconcerting than that. "We are the oven-ready wood-chips," he found himself saying, involuntarily, to the woman behind the counter at Starbucks. "We are here to protect you from the vegetarian psychiatrist Bugs Bunny." All he had wanted was a Tall. The woman rolled her eyes. "Go gyre and gimble in the wabe," she said.

"Have you got my disgusting Chinese meal's hippie wig?" Ivan asked his mother over the phone. He had wanted to ask about a book he thought he had left at her house. "Your what? Um...It might be in the basement," she said. "I can't keep track of all your stuff."

At work, Ivan suddenly said to his supervisor, "I wish you wouldn't wolf-whistle at those spaghetti hoops." "What?" the man said. "It's...a song lyric," Ivan lied. "Have you heard that one?" His supervisor shook his head and sighed. "No," he said. "I wish you wouldn't memorize all that brain spam." "A dog collar in the wine cask is worth two in the laser printer," Ivan replied. "I'd rather not work for a cream cake."

This was getting serious.

Ivan called his doctor to complain, but as usual, the doctor was not in. The answering service asked if he wanted to leave a message. "If you want to smear mustard on salt cellars, you'll need to barbecue a carpet tile," Ivan said. "I am a level 5 Frankenstein mask, in parsnip-world!" The operator was not amused and hung up on him. "Belligerent magpie," he muttered.

Ivan's friend, Marcus, had an idea about how to reduce the verbal chaos. "What is it?" Ivan asked. "I'm desperate. Engorge apples like a serendipitous peanut."

"We'll start acting out some of the things you say, at least the easier ones, and see what happens," said Marcus. It seemed like a plan, or at least Ivan couldn't think of a better idea. "Come, let me detest thee," he said. "I don't mean that.... Um, I'd rather paint the Union Jack on a lactose-intolerant boulder than debug a sparkly blender."

Marcus wrote that down. "As good as any," he said. They went for a hike in the woods on Saturday and found a large, dark rock that looked like it might be as lactose-intolerant as any rock could be. They had brought some poster paints and painted a close approximation of the British flag on it. When they were done, Ivan felt slightly relieved. He didn't say anything bizarre for an entire hour.

Over the next week, Ivan and Marcus managed to tie-dye a trench coat, enclose an alarm clock in a cocoon of bubble-wrap, and secretly feed marzipan to a gazelle at the zoo. They poured hot soup over a dictionary, threw clam shells at taxi-cab, and drop-kicked a wastepaper basket full of lemons. Each time, Ivan was able to control his utterances for a longer period. He was sleeping better too, and stopped taking the Baniem.

He felt cured and rested, but also curiously empty as all the nonsense talk at last faded away. And though the insomnia was gone, he couldn't help lying awake some nights, thinking about oven-ready wood chips, a hippie wig, and the Union Jack still on a rock in the forest.

This story is based on the side effects of a real insomnia drug (whose name is an anagram of Baniem) that I heard about. It is NOT autobiographical. Really!

Point of Contention

A great, funny story from friend Joe D.

The Arrow.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Brain Dump

It was a stuffed-shirt geek attending Porkers International as a spices pro equipped with printout bitmaps packed in the same suitcase as his nasty cleansers, the ones he purchased at the 99-cent store along the cheap highway. There were egg explosions at the convention when the hyperactive monkey with the "Vote Sex Bomb" sign turned up the heat on an incubator. The Styrofoam blimps suspended from the ceiling fell onto one of the serial kiosks displaying temporary pantyhose and adult diapers suitable for home-run dunces or spa entrepreneurs. It was all explained via tension memos distributed among the munchkins, sad tourists, petroleum swingers, and murder experts, expressing viewpoints from beyond and efforts from heaven. Even the top 20 psychos were thus inspired to take amusing holidays with the full blessing of the king of excuses.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Photo of the Week

saint somebody

My neighborhood (mostly working class, with some yuppie and hipster infestation) is full of these little shrines, or tabernàcoli as they are sometimes called. Lots of my neighbors have installed these tiny structures in their front yards, with various religious figures sheltered inside -- Jesus, miscellaneous saints, or most often, as I call her, Bathtub Mary:

Bathtub Mary

Some of these devotional dioramas are quite elaborate, with real or plastic floral adornments, nighttime lighting, and even architectural flair:

Jesus Box

Not a religious sort myself (though I'm not an atheist or agnostic), I nevertheless have to admit that many of these icons have a certain power, a sincerity of intention that can transcend kitsch. Not that they don't sometimes participate in humorous juxtapositions:

watch your step

Click on any of the photos above for a closer view -- if the spirit moves you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Random Sequence

Scenario 13 (excerpt 2)

The side effects were worse than he had imagined. Neal's doctor had warned him about the "scramble brain" feeling, but the things that were spilling out of his mouth were more disconcerting than that. "We are the oven-ready wood-chips," he found himself saying, involuntarily, to the woman behind the counter at Starbucks. "We are here to protect you from the vegetarian psychiatrist Bugs Bunny." All he had wanted was a Tall. The woman rolled her eyes. "Go gyre and gimble in the wabe," she said.

At work, Neal suddenly said to his supervisor, "I wish you wouldn't wolf-whistle at those spaghetti hoops." "What?" the man said. "It's...a song lyric," Neal lied. "Have you heard that one?" His supervisor shook his head and sighed. "No," he said. "I wish you wouldn't memorize all that brain spam."

"Have you got my disgusting Chinese meal's hippy-wig?" Neal asked his mother over the phone. He had wanted to ask about a book he thought he had left at her house. "Your what? Um...It might be in the basement," she said. "I can't keep track of all your stuff."

To be continued.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Word of the Day: cete

cete (n)


A number of badgers together.

"Answer me now, lad, how would you say if you saw ten badgers together in the forest?"
"A cete of badgers, fair sir.
"Good, Nigel--good, by my faith! And if you walk in Woolmer Forest and see a swarm of foxes, how would you call it?"
--Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Nigel

Of course, "badger" doesn't just refer to a burrowing mammal. It can also be a verb, meaning "to harass or annoy persistently" -- as does my neighbor's fat mutt, which lately barks at me from behind a fence the whole time I'm out in the backyard. I think I'll get a squirt gun and shoot the cur in the face one of these days.

(Cete, by the way, is one of the words that the late David Foster Wallace circled in his dictionary.)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Quote of the Day

"I'd love to go fishing with David Lynch. We'd set out on a rickety old pirate ship, he'd be eating a banana and whistling the theme song to The Love Boat. I'd only be able to speak backwards yet he would somehow be able to understand. Small goats would wander around the boat and every so often one would do a cannonball into the black sea on which we sail. Then I would catch a little fish. The little fish would open his mouth and a stream of fireworks would shoot into the air. David and I would embrace, and I would know that all is right in this strange, strange world."
--Amber Hunt

Happy Mothers Day

bad mommy

The thing I like most about this image is that it is from a laxative ad.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Japanese food for lunch today was surprisingly filling.... Read two stories at Uptown Jam, including the lava-lamp one. Someone asked if I ever saw "the genie again". Always feel amazed that people think these things, no matter how absurd and fantastical, are autobiographical.... Saw TV talking head and author Jonathan Alter in person today. Felt....nothing really, other than that suddenly seeing someone in 3D that you've only seen before in 2D is a bit disconcerting.... Noticed a new restaurant in the neighborhood: the Cleopatra Cafe, with a hookah in the window. Felt curious....

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Photo of the Week


This is my nephew and his girlfriend. I wanted to photograph them in a cemetery for the contrast, an illustration of "life and death" or, maybe, "love and death". (Wasn't that a mooovie?) They are standing in front of my father's grave. He died two years ago this week. Click for a close-up.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Word of the Day: benthos

benthos (n)

The biogeographic region that includes the bottom of an ocean, lake, or sea, and littoral and supralittoral shore zones.

"When the brief starred poems return to the volume, they are colored by this 'hydra' knowledge, and benthos becomes a model for art and for community, for existence as a kind of communal self submerged in the sea of experience: "Epipelagic movement enfolds/ one thousand giant clams/ thriving on the ocean floor./ 'the field.' its reciprocity."
--Philip Jenks, "My first painting will be 'The Accuser'"

(Benthos, by the way, is one of the words that the late David Foster Wallace circled in his dictionary.)

I cleaned the aquarium last weekend, as its benthos was getting a bit grubby. This brought on thoughts of the ocean and the beach and summer approaching...and an old poem I wrote:

Beach Day

It resembles a limeade spritz:
this crashing of the sea.

The rock pool pumps
like a heart.

Foam suggests
mounds of dirty meringue

or nothing in particular.
I've run out of metaphors.

Up on the highway,
a rumble machine

wavers in the heat and rolls
its belt of black tar.

Stones will be sand
one of these millennia.

I lie down, thinking of magma
spreading its ooze of fire,

and the whole day dissolves.
They will find me fossilized

like a Mesozoic fish
in a stone that falls out of a wall.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The T&T List

Clwyd West
The Unfinished Revolution
Jackson Street Ferry
Richard Spendlove
Mi Gente Cafe Sandwich Cubano
The Constant Never
A vivarium
Neon tetras
Formula One
Monome Grayscale

Monday, May 03, 2010

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 18 small

Agree? More clip-art philosophy by me (and Oscar Wilde). Click here for the BIG fish.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Men World

"Peas: Give Them a Chance"
"Bipartisanship: Between love and madness lies concession."

Those are my fake advertising slogans that got highlighted in the latest New York Times Schott's Vocab contest. ("NY Times editors aim to highlight the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views." So if you get highlighted you "win".) Now eat your peas and play nice, Congresspeople.

Brain Dump

dream car

Drive One Today!

You'll feel a special kind of stereoscopic shame and amnesia the day you park a new Chaffmobile in your junkyard. It's the "faith blimp" with something for every poncho-clad gangsta and comely fiddler! Shattered, shagged lines make it smart as a crenelated condom or fish syringe. And unique performance characteristics are yours to command. Touch a summon zippered hustle which feels like an inebriated whirligig. Turn the wheel...your car handles with electrifying futility, an experience at once disjointed and impenitent. The sponge-tracker suspension system holds you supremely in the kamikaze zone and serenely apathetic as you glide over any pedestrian or pothole. See the incessant, jaundice-tinged line-up of nine new models, all available with Chaffmobile's new deluxe lust inundation and digital shitcans. Know the homicidal feeling of owning the nation's most macho hysteria generator -- the abominable Chaffmobile!