Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Word of the Day: jacal

jacal (n)

A thatched-roof hut.

"Crawling on hands and knees where the brush was low, they at last came within range of the crazy-looking jacal, that, in the whiteness of the moonlight, made a black spot on the side of the hill. A dark figure crouched within the hut. His face was pressed against the rotten saplings already giving way on one side of the ruin. Suddenly, he fell, with his ear to the ground, a malignant smile on his features."
--Louise Wasson, "On the Divide" (1899)

Those crazy Victorians, with their knee-jerk fear of, ahem, "dark figures"....

We actually have a little thatched roof here, over our internal kitchen window. My wyfe made it from thatch and bamboo sticks for a party we had with a beach theme (long story) last winter. Kind of weird that it's still up. Kind of appealing, too.

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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You Kiss Like a Thirsty Gerbil

"For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss - a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil."

That's this year's winner of the annual bad writing contest known as the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

The content is absurd, but the syntax is elegant. So this is "bad writing" but it isn't amateurish or incompetent writing. I untangle worse sentences every day -- sentences that seem to have been written by gerbils.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The T&T List

Bang on a Can
AquAdvantage Salmon
Kim Clijsters
batPhone 4
Kabak Valley
The Panic of 1873
Voice of Russia

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Got the house's A.C. repaired last week just before the current sweat-wave hit. Feel prescient.... Edited an obituary recently that ended up in the Los Angeles Times, then re-edited it, adding more details, yesterday for the memorial-service booklet. No charge, since it was for a member of the extended family. Felt a little nostalgic.... Keep seeing a commercial for a woman who was the CEO of a professional-wrestling circus/soap opera and is now running for the U.S. Senate. "Okay, so it wasn’t a regular job," she says. Struck by the absurdity at first, but then by the oddly appropriate nature of her work experience.... I like waking up early on a Sunday morning...except for the part about being awake.... You gave me something. I understand....

Friday, June 25, 2010

Brain Dump


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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Photo of the Week


This is not my face.

This is part of a sculpture that we have mounted in the backyard. It looks like stone here, but it's actually resin, I think. It was originally part of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade float. We know an artist who used to design all sorts of doo-dads for the floats, and he gave it to us when he was cleaning out his studio -- apparently not realizing it would be priceless someday. It's supposed to be one of those thingees (figureheads?) on the front of an old-fashioned sailing ship.

Some day, thousands of years hence, when some futuristic archaeologist is digging up bottlecaps and chicken bones in what used to be New Jersey, he or she will find this and put it on display in a museum, I imagine. Maybe they'll call it a goddess. Click it for a closer view if you wish to genuflect.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Word of the Day: invidious

invidious (adj)

Offensive, causing ill will or resentment.

"It takes -- that is, different abilities are required. You're making the invidious comparison, not I."
"Doctor, you have admitted Commander Queeg is sick, which is more than Dr. Lundeen did. The only remaining question is, how sick."
--Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny

Invidious? Me? Perhaps. The jukebox in my head is playing "Jealous Guy".

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

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Much Ado about...Something

corruption (negative)

"Ye shall know them by their fruits."

The ancient, gnarled apple tree in our backyard is at it again -- dropping little green apples all over the lawn. By fall, it will be shedding red macintoshes -- lumpy, cancerous looking machitoshes with suspicious little holes. So I don't think I'm ready to go into the orchard business. They're ugly things, only appetizing to squirrels and ants. I don't really mind, though. Someone once asked me why we don't cut down the apple tree. It would make our smallish urban backyard more spacious, and the neighbors' huge evergreen would still supply some shade. But I said no. I like the idea of living with an apple tree. Apples are such loaded symbols: sin and temptation, but also love and life. Immortality. Health, luck, generosity. Desire and corruption. Cool computers. The Beatles. Sourness and sweetness. Rotten apples. Golden apples of the sun. Perfection and imperfection. Contradictions. They're a lot like every person I know, including myself. So I'm determined to keep that tree.

Monday, June 21, 2010

8 Myths About Twists and Turns that Hollywood Wants You to Believe

The LinkBait generator creates headlines designed to attract googlers to your website. How does it work? "We have a cloud-based neural network algorithm that scans the internet to discover what people want to read about" they say. Whatever. Some of the resulting topics are a bit amusing:

7 things sororities have in common with unicorns
8 reasons to fear white people
8 ways marijuana can help you survive a plane crash
How to act like Sarah Palin
9 ways liberals can help a total sissy survive in prison
5 reasons MTV is the new Afghanistan
6 shockingly evil things about the solar system
8 reasons to fear hipsters
Why Avatar should scare you more than Osama Bin Laden
5 of the most horrible Tiger Woods quotes of all time
8 outrageous frauds involving Twists and Turns

Sunday, June 20, 2010

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.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mental Map

Get L O S T again with this high-res map of the island. (Keep clicking it.) It reminds me a little of the Treasure Island map, except upside down.

Word of the Day: gravid

gravid (adj)

Pregnant, or full of eggs.

"The gravest problems of obstetrics and forensic medicine were examined with as much animation as the most popular beliefs on the state of pregnancy such as the forbidding to a gravid woman to step over a country stile lest, by her movement, the navelcord should strangle her creature."
--James Joyce, Ulysses

"The minute she'd settled into the seat next to him, her billowing widow's rig had got redisposed to reveal her neatly gravid waistline, at which, now, he nodded."
--Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

"One slender hand was raised in a graceful gesture, gravid with meaning."
--David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

I don't have a beer belly (yet), but if I did, I think I'd call it my grain-grown gavidity gut.

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Photo of the Week


This is the portrait of me that was recently installed at the Metropolitan Museum.


Click it for the large-scale masterpiece effect. If you would like to be thus immortalized, hasten here, and you too can find eternal frame...I mean fame.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Saw a wee gray rodent darting along the counter in the kitchen last night, something that I've only seen before during the witchtit of winter, when they come inside. Felt queasy.... One of our friends is moving to Baltimore, and a lot of her bric-a-brac and knick-knacks (and mice??) is currently lining our hallway, creating an obstacle course when I stumble from the bathroom toward the stairway at night before joining the arms of morpheus. Supposedly, a yard sale is going to happen at some unspecified point, and all of these castoffs will be snapped up by passing bargain hunters. Feel skeptical.... Did some drawings last weekend, of Radiolari (marine amoeboid protozoa), which exist in fantastic profusion and are, to me, beautiful. It was calming.... Beautiful day. I sat on a bench on the Rutgers campus at midday today, stared up at the sky through the leaves, and thought about writing this. Felt pensive.... This just in: "Monroe, Ohio (AP) - A six-story statue of Jesus Christ was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, leaving only a blackened steel skeleton and pieces of foam that were scooped up by curious onlookers Tuesday." This strikes me as humorous....

Monday, June 14, 2010

Random Sequence

Scenario 22 (excerpt 4)

Conrad thought it was a stupid idea: Smash Studios' parody of a 1960s beach movie that also had something to do with Mexican mobsters and zombies. (He hadn't even been able to slog through the entire script.) Still, he hadn't worked in months, and an out-of-work actor "is like an unstrung puppet" he always said -- to himself, anyway.

He hated having to portray a California surfer dude, though. So did the other rent boys, who had started referring to themselves as the "wig amigos" for the blonde hairpieces they all had to wear. "This halitosis won't even be released in theaters," he speculated with his fellow thespians when they gathered at the food tent between shots at what they called Career Kamikaze Beach. (Even the food was terrible. They had started referring to the food tent as the "Enema Pavilion".) "It'll be on at 3 A.M. on the Dickwads Network, if that. Or it will be a digital frisbie."

The director, a prissy doofus with a Romanian accent, kept shouting at them -- things like "take waves! take waves!" whenever he wanted them to run into the ocean and jump on their Styrofoam surfboards. He had shot several close-ups of Conrad (because he was the best-looking of the bunch, Conrad thought; he had, after all, won a national porn award). But in the rushes, he thought he looked like a Aryan maniac, slavering lasciviously over silicone-injected bikini tarts.

Sand in his board shorts. A sunburn on his shoulder blades. Was it all worth it? For scale? "Whisper words of wisdom, IMDB," he sang softly, under his breath, as he slathered on Fake Bake in the dressing trailer.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Brain Dump

Important Safety Information about QUALMIZONE

QUALMIZONE is not right for everyone, including introverts, who have reported uncontrollable karaoke and moonwalking impulses when taking QUALMIZONE, as well as anyone with delusions of grandeur, or women who are crabby, cranky, or who may become cranky. Your doctor should do sanity tests before and during treatment with QUALMIZONE to monitor the associated intermittent hysteria. Unexplained satyriasis or nymphomania could be a sign of a rare but popular side effect and should be reported to your friends, acquaintances and coworkers right away. Elevated sleaze levels have been reported with QUALMIZONE; be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking any resulting crap. Side effects: The most common side effects are anal hiccups, incompetence, silliness, and compulsive blogging.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sorry to Disappoint

Below are recent search-engine terms that have brought people (I'm tempted to say "weirdos") to this benighted blahg. So sorry to disappoint these folks. I doubt they found what they were looking for, but I hope they found diversion anyway.

luminescent olfactory organ

I've heard of strange fetishes, but a glow-in-the-dark nose? Well, I suppose it might be useful to have one if it was bright enough. You wouldn't need a flashlight.... Oh, wait! You meant Rudolph?

Someone is chasing a dwarf

Why? So he/she can catch one and toss it? It's not a good idea to chase any kind of person who figures prominently and repeatedly in Grimm's fairy tales. Instant karma's going to get you. Bad instant karma.

ostrobogulous toys

Such a fancy word. You mean sex toys, Naughty. Why beat around the bush?

hypocorism mania

Crazy for pet names, are we? See the above.

a is for amy who fell down the stairs

B is for Basil assaulted by bears.... Yeah, The Gastly Crumb Tinies. Edward Gorey. We're not too twisted.

conversational grunts

Uuuhhh....mmmm. Ffffft!

define twists and turns

No! Pigeons have holes, I do not.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Word of the Day: fraktur

fraktur (n)


A style of type: German black-letter text, or "stylized, highly decorative watercolor or watercolor-and-ink painting in the Pennsylvania-German tradition, often bearing elaborate calligraphy and standardized motifs, as birds, tulips, mermaids, and unicorns, and typically appearing on a book page, baptismal certificate or other family record, or merchant's advertisement." (

"He himself dismissed such praise: 'All I do is try to rescue the fine traditions of our people — and touch them up a bit with my own fraktur.'"
--James Albert Michener, The Novel

Fraktur is that creepy Germanic type often seen in the names of newspapers, most notably The New York Times. Somehow, whenever I see it outside of the newspaper logo context, it always reminds me of Hitler. And I don't like being reminded of him. I used to wonder if there is anyone in the world today whose last name is Hitler. Amazingly enough, if you search for that name, there are quite a few, both male and female, some of whom even sport the first name "Adolph". Life must be...interesting...for them.

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

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Photo of the Week

bricked up

Just another brick in the wall. That's the way I feel sometimes.

When you click this photo (and you will, you will...), and then maybe click "All Sizes" at the top of it, you'll perhaps get an idea of the peculiar combination of fascination and unease that led me to snap this pic. Each brick is like one of the "little people", as they used to say in Hollyweird -- stuck in place, both supporting and dependent on all the others. Those bricked up windows are like the closed eyes of a closed mind, which reminds me of the willful ignorance that seems so prevalent in the body politic today. And the whole thing brings to mind the difficulty of communicating with certain brick walls I know.

A curator asked me today to submit this photo to the Art Pix group on Flickr. Sure. I guess it's art. But it's also journalism and a diary entry.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The T&T List

The Cow in the Parking Lot
Cape Town
Fu-Hung Hsieh
Silly Bandz
Stockholm Syndrome
Shit My Dad Says
The Iron Monkey
Audrey Zapp Drive
The Boiardos

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

My next-door neighbor sits out in front of his house all day in his electric wheelchair, sometimes cruising up and down the block. Feel like I'm under surveillance.... My latest Philosofish whatever-it-is has been "hit" over 13,000 times on Flickr. Some of the others have amassed over 100,000 hits -- each. Feel mystified, and maybe like I should have T-shirts and coffee mugs made up. And try for a book deal? I wish I could animate them.... Not enough sleep last night, but was served some weird coffee mixed with Ginseng ("revv pulse" haha) this morning. Tasted okay. Felt a bit more mentally vigorous than with the usual java... or maybe it was my imagination.... Saw Zen-garden-like landscaping in an acquaintance's backyard over the weekend, including a slightly sunken area that was originally the foundation of a 19th-century privy, he said. Felt envious....

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 19 small

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

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Word of the Day: exergue

exergue (n)


A space on the backside of a coin that shows the date of engraving.

"The romantic fragment, far from bringing the dispersion or the shattering of the work into play, inscribes its plurality as the exergue of the total, infinite work."
--Robert K.C. Forman, Mysticism, Mind, Consciousness

Obviously from the above, this word can be used metaphorically as well as literally. Someone once accused me of using too many metaphors while speaking. (It wasn't Jack Nicholson, who, in As Good As It Gets, says, "People who speak in metaphors should shampoo my crotch." Ouch.) I do like a good metaphor, I must admit. Metaphors are, uh...useful tools.

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

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Photo of the Week

blue rose

A simple picture of a couple of Mother's Day roses becomes something a bit more disturbing when viewed negatively. (You must click it to see the full bloom effect.)

I've known a few Roses in my life.... There's the character on L O S T, of course, supposedly endearing but something of a curmudgeon. My wyfe's former boss is named Rose, and we like her -- and not only because she invited us to stay at her house in the Hamptons that time. When I was a kid, there was an old lady named Miss Daisy Rose (no kidding) who lived next door to my friend and whose whole house was in a time warp -- all the appliances seemed to date from the 1930s or '40s, and I don't recall that she had a TV. She did things like canning peaches and crocheting. Then there's the blue rose in Fire Walk With Me, which, so the Lynch Mob speculates, is a symbol of the impossible or the supernatural, since blue roses don't occur in nature. Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose is a book I enjoyed. Gertrude Stein said "rose is a rose is a rose", and who can argue?

They do smell nice. Too bad about the thorns.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Random Acts of Poetry: Cemetery

I had a non-celebratory holiday weekend. Someone I was fond of in the extended family died, and, unrelated to that, I visited an historic cemetery here in the JC to take some pics. Call me morbid....


A baby cries
beneath each rock,

in this strange film
dedicated to the wet salt

and roses of memory,
with its meandering

soundtrack of soprano ahhs
and harp songs.

My part is to walk
a thousand pathways,

evading the maintenance men,
who pick up hearts with spikes

and coo in the language of birds:
We must

arrange our exits patiently,
as the script winds

to its climax,
long-awaited and carved in stone.