Thursday, September 30, 2010

Random Acts of Poetry / Photo of the Week


After Hard Rain

A puddle
makes a sad mirror,

another plane
of shadows.

Here a sky,
there a darkling

any fool can say

what's true.
At peace,

your thoughts paint

a slow river.


Click my pic, Rick...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Word of the Day: tergiversate

tergiversate (v)

To be evasive or ambiguous; equivocate; shilly shally.

"When I confronted Arbogast with my disenchantment over cost overruns that were challenging the German inflation of the 1920s, he laid it off to my 'psychotic demand for change orders.'
"Relax, cousin," he said. "If you'll stop your tergiversating, Arbogast and Company will be history in four weeks. My hand to God."
--Woody Allen, "On a Bad Day You Can See Forever"

I'm not a "foodie". When confronted by a menu in a restaurant, my tendency is to tergiversate until the waiter starts hovering, and then order the chicken. I'd really prefer that someone order for me. When I was in Morocco on a business trip years ago (long, dull story), someone did order for me. And I ended up eating pigeon and rice. With my hands. And it tasted just like... chicken.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Amused: I became aware today of a kids book called The Disgusting Adventures of Fleabag Monkeyface. I don't really know what it's about, but I'm thinking of adapting the title for my autobiography. The Perplexing Vicissitudes of Blogdude Scribbleface?.... Perplexed: Why did he-who-can't-be-named set fire to the bridge? Pride? Ego? These are not attributes of enlightenment. Bridges can be rebuilt, of course. And one can resort to a helicopter.... Weird: A strange (meaning unknown) woman fell asleep on my shoulder on the train this evening. Why is it that moving conveyances or vehicles put people to sleep? It must be for the same reason that rocking a baby induces slumber.... Curious: The house across the street, the one where the transvestite lives, which is a humble abode indeed (not that I live in a mansion), suddenly sports a white marble (faux marble?) statue out front of an angelic child holding a globe-like object. Not sure what this presages, if anything....


"Isabella Rossellini" by David Lynch (poem)

Monday, September 27, 2010

The T&T List

Themos Kalafatis
The Irrawaddy
Bristlecone pines
agave nectar
Clarence Seedorf
13 Japanese Birds
Matali Crasset
The Cherokee Hotshots
Fun World

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weekend Movie Report: Without a Hitch?

Was Hitchcock the only classic director who could craft an effective thriller? Well, no, not based on the evidence presented this weekend at Jersey City's Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre, which presented three films from three other directors who could clearly create pleasurable jitters. I think only one of them worried Hitchcock much, however.

Peeping Tom (1960), directed by Michael Powell (who actually worked for Hitchcock at one time), is often compared to Psycho and Rear Window. That may be true thematically -- it's about a voyeur who gets off on murdering women -- but I wouldn't say it's in the same league with those two films. The actor who plays the main character has an incongruous and unexplained European accent (the film is set in London) and seems miscast to me. And all of the acting has a very British "theatrical" quality that seems artificial, especially for a film made in 1960. Still, the movie never drags, includes some innovative visual techniques that I think were ahead of their time for a mainstream film, and induces real tension. Hitchcock just shrugged his shoulders, though, I imagine.

The Stranger (1946) is minor Orson Welles film noir (Welles himself reportedly said something like that), but it works as entertainment by combining suspense with touches of humor (which was Hitchcock's formula), as long as you don't think too hard about it. Two problems: Welles himself plays the villain, and it's very hard (for me at least) to see him as a secret post-war Nazi hiding out in small-town Connecticut, where he indulges an obsession for fixing clocks. (And didn't all the Blue Meanies end up in Argentina? Why would they head for the U.S. and marry the daughters of Supreme Court justices? You'd think that would draw some unwanted attention.) The film also has a very silly ending that I won't give away, but talk about being stuck for time. The usual Welles mastery of camera angles, composition, editing etc., are on display, but Hitchcock just snickered, I think.

Charade (1963) is the only one of these three films that gave Hitchcock any professional jitters, I imagine. It's exactly the kind of glossy thriller that he made himself in the late 1950s, reminding me especially of North by Northwest -- and not just because it stars Cary Grant. Audrey Hepburn is an American in Paris whose recently murdered husband should have left $250,000 behind (real money in 1963), but where is it? Several shady characters are willing to kill to find out, and Hepburn is in big trouble. But the man she thinks she can trust (Grant) turns out to be a serial liar. A lot of paranoia, running around through glamorous Parisian locations, and comic touches ensue. The dialogue and acting are sharp and witty, and director Stanley Donan handles all of this like "the Master" at his peak. Hitchcock would never have cast a brunette -- in 1963, he would have used Tippi Hedren -- but Hepburn is perfect, both sympathetic and funny. Grant plays it serious but not humorless -- just right. Hitchcock once said that he didn't make slices of life, he made pieces of cake. Charade is a piece of cake.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Word of the Day: ecdysiast

ecdysiast (n) [ek-ˈdi-zē-ast]

(The link may not be safe for work, unless you work in a strip club.)

A stripper.

"H. L. Mencken, who coined the term Bible Belt, also brought us the word ecdysiast.... [He] came up with ecdysiast based on the zoological term ecdysis, which refers to the molting of arthropods' (such as crabs') outer coverings."
--Jo Weldon, The Burlesque Handbook

"There was no shortage of psychic advice either, from sources such as the 'spiritual intuitive' who double-checks her insights with 'a consortium of angels named Consortium Seven,' or a babe ecdysiastically christened Saleena, who offers to 'balance your energy, awaken your DNA and attract abundance.' Naturally, at the end of all these field trips to the center of the soul, a small emolument to cover stamps and any other expenses the guru may have incurred in another life is in order."
--Woody Allen, "To Err Is Human -- to Float, Divine"

I've never seen a live striptease act, but this word does bring to mind an odd experience I had several years ago, while walking down Eighth Avenue in Manhattan on a sunny afternoon. I saw a nude young woman walking on the opposite side of the avenue. She was not unattractive in shape, but her face wore a blank, zombie-like expression, as if she'd been hypnotized into naked perambulation. Astonished, I stopped to watch as she sauntered slowly down the block and then entered a brownstone. This event elicited some snickers from the other pedestrians, but not any commotion other than that. New York.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Photo of the Week


The big tooth -- click it to see it even bigger.

This thing was on display at the Bouckville Antiques Fair, and I couldn't resist taking its picture. I'm not sure if it was actually for sale; I didn't see a price tag. And who would buy such a thing? I'm guessing it was originally an advertisement for a dentist's office and served as an attention-grabber at the fair. My own tooth has been grabbing my attention lately whenever I put something too hot or too cold in my mouth, though the Sensodyne helps. (You're welcome GlaxoSmithKline.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Random Sequence

Scenario 14 (excerpt 5)

"The idea is mantra pillows," said Henry.

"What?" Marsha said distactedly. She bit into another chicken leg.

"We install tiny, battery-powered speakers in pillows..."

"I GET it!" Marsha snapped, licking her fingers. "Another stoopid...."

"Oh, SHUT it!" Henry said.

"You and your limp buddies can't come up with a decent...."

"What about you? Huh? What was your genius idea? That idiotic singing dolly? That...that screaming little midget?"

"That was better that your tee-shirt idea," said Marsha. "What the hell were those dumb slogans? 'Soft-boiled Eggs'? 'Recovering Nudist'? What the...."

"You had to think about them!"


"Wait a minute, shut up a minute," said Henry. "I got an idea. What about movie-quote ringtones?"

"Frankly, my dear..."

(not to be continued)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Amused: I've been reading some odd little... I hesitate to call them books. They're more like pamphlets, containing stories (true or "almost true") about 19th-century and early 20th-century Jersey City -- the Frank Hague era. Weird, legendary stuff about walking corpses and apocryphal tales about charming criminals. I received them as a gift. Sometimes the most interesting things I read come to me by accident.... Annoyed: There's a new, mostly unfunny sitcom on TV right now (my wife is controlling the remote) that has a terribly phony-sounding laugh track. It seems so retro, and not in a good way.... Grateful: A guy at work gave me a cucumber and a green pepper from his garden. Tomorrow he's bringing me tomatoes. Real ones, not digital.... Paranoid: Consider... today, someone starts talking to me as if he's met me -- acts like he knows me -- but I know he hasn't/doesn't. This makes me think people are talking about me....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Beat-itudes

"Here's the stone bible for you to collar that apple trickeration that will truly get your boots on! Say all you cats and chicks, don't be icky. Bust your conk on this mess and you'll be wailin' with the mellows."

Have a ball with this jelly.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Word of the Day: witenagemot

witenagemot (n) [wit-n-uh-guh-moht]

The assembly of the witan; the national council attended by the king, aldermen, bishops, and nobles.

"What did the new mayor discuss with his predecessor? 'The Anglo-Saxon Witenagemot, a session of the counselors (the witan) of a king in Anglo-Saxon England. Such a body existed in each of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms,' quipped Johnson, a reference to the tribal assembly of wise men who kept the king in check before the Norman conquest.
Weak rulers were dependent on the Witenagemot. Boris, it appeared, was happy to pick up tips from Ken on how to shake off the shackles of the London assembly."
--Patrick Barkham, "So, Ken, how does one run this Saxon Witenagemot?" The Guardian, Saturday 10 May 2008

I'm part Anglo-Saxon (English), part Celtic (Welsh), part a few other things. Ancestry doesn't mean much to me, but I love the English language and have devoted myself to it, for better or worse. For better AND worse.

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

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Photo of the Week


I don't know why this thing appealed to me enough to take its picture. I wonder what its purpose is (or was; it was on sale at an antiques fair I attended). It's like a giant atom, or bundle of nerves, or some kind of 3D mandala. Or maybe somebody just had a lot of heavy-gauge wire (and a lot of time) on hand.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yassas... Shalom... Ahlan... Guten Tag.... Namaste... Hola! saludo... Здравствуйте!

Hello to my international readers! I do wonder how much of what you see here is even comprehensible to you. In just the last 24 hours, I've had visitors from:

Athens, Attiki, Greece
Palembang, Sumatera Selatan, Indonesia
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
London, United Kingdom
Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, Israel
Cardiff, United Kingdom
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Lekemba, New South Wales, Australia
Erlangen, Bayern, Germany
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Ecatepec, Mexico [City?], Mexico
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon, Mexico
Cebu, Cebu City, Philippines
Warsaw, Mazowieckie, Poland
Berlin, Germany
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Bogota, Cundinamarca, Columbia
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
Saint Petersburg, Saint Petersburg City, Russian Federation

Peace, lurkers of the world.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Random Acts of Poetry


For a moment,
the shining street was lost.
Fog curtain,

Heliopolis behind a scrim.
The day found definition
in a ghost aperture.

I passed blunt corners
where stoics stood implacable
as kings on playing cards.

At Riverview's promenade
the gray birds were massing--
rock dove, living stone.

On the spiral walk
a figure beckoned
between ash and sycamore.

I stepped forward;
someone said, "Here you are."
Was I sorry I had come?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Train of Thought

You know who you are you lonesome tonight the minutes seem like hours of fun for the whole family matters to me first and last words can never hurt me and my monkey around the world of good going for gold rush hour glass of water wheel of fortune teller window screen capture and kill people who need people of the book store clerk's office of management and budget rent a car wash my face the facts of life in hell of it makes sense of touch tone and pitch perfect storm warning label it free sample our menu items of interest rate of change the subject.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Excited: I'm looking forward to the reactivated Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre on Sept. 24-25. They'll be showing these films: Peeping Tom, directed by Michael Powell; The Stranger, directed by Orson Welles, and Charade, directed by Stanley Donen. I've only seen the Hitchockian Charade before, but I'd see it again. I want to see ALL of these.... Disgusted: Another mouse sighting this evening, on the kitchen counter. I need to borrow a cat.... Sleepy: I had to get up an hour earlier this morning in order to get to my dentist's office (in Manhattan) by 8 A.M. He wanted to check one of my teeth that's been painfully sensitive to hot and cold, though not so much lately, since I've started brushing with Sensodyne [product placement!]. It was a painless visit -- no charge.... Amused: I'm now following "alqaeda" on twitter, and whoever he/she/it really is, the stream is most entertaining.....

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The T&T List

green chilaquiles
Carla Sarkozy
Novak Djokovic
Tortoise General Store
Inca Trail
The Salkantay Trek
Chock Full o' Nuts
From Prada to Nada
Avenging Angels


Attention fellow bloggers: You may have noticed that I have a "right nav" over there called Blog-o-Mat. I'm always interested in exchanging links (and traffic) so let me know if you'd like to join the list.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Word of the Day: valgus

valgus (n or adj)

Bone deformity; the state of being bowlegged or knock-kneed.

"Oh, I see you have valgus," Dr. Sapirstein said.
"Huh?" said Billy-Bob.
"Your legs."
"What about 'em?"
"They're, uh, perfect for riding your horse I guess, hmmm?"
"Well...yup. I reckon they are good for that. But it doesn't matter now. I lost my job on the ranch, dag burnit."
"Really? Why?"
"I couldn't keep my calves together."
--Leahcim Setag, Strange Loops

My bone deformity is in my left little finger, which I broke in gym class in junior high school. The school nurse thought it was sprained, but it was broken, and I never got it set. When it healed, it was slightly crooked. It still is. It's my one imperfection (other than a weakness for puns).

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

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Much Ado about NOTHING

Sometimes I get obsessed with certain obscure subjects or objects. Currently, I'm obsessed with those diecast toy cars you can buy at Rite Aid and, I think, other drugstores.

They are quite accurate and detailed -- with doors and hoods that open, engines, and finished interiors -- and relatively cheap, so I've purchased several. I like the ones with the wilder styling, so I've concentrated on models from the 1950s and '60s -- the golden age of auto styling, in my opinion. The "oldest" one I have is a 1949 Ford Woody and the "newest" is a '68 Corvette. The most outrageous is a red 1959 Cadillac Eldorado convertible -- you know, the one with sky-high tailfins and rocket-tube tailights -- fully six-inches long.

I must be entering my second childhood.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Photo of the Week


My photo of a 9/11 memorial skyline sculpture at the Meadowlands Environment Center in New Jersey, showing the pre-September 11, 2001, New York skyline as it would have appeared from that spot. Click it, the better to see it with.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

I love talking to people who are a little bit crazy. Not a lot crazy, just a little bit.... Media company websites that don't have any search function drive ME crazy.... Local schools are back in session starting today, which means I'm walking to Journal Square every morning with a bunch of kids dressed in hoodies and wearing Hannah Montana backpacks. Makes me feel immature...or ancient...somehow both at the same time.... People who use video, for political purposes, of burning skyscrapers make me ill.... "I am a falafel cognoscenti with a Lebanese wife." Saw that sentence on Twitter -- the most splendid sentence I've seen this week, and it made me laugh....

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Word of the Day: uxorious

uxorious (adj)

Excessively dependent on, attached to, or doting on one's wife.

"The queen asked her false husband whether it were possible to make her parrot talk, and he, in a moment of uxorious weakness, promised to make it speak. He laid his body aside, and sent his soul into the parrot. Immediately, the true king jumped out of his Brahmin body and resumed that which was legitimately his own, and then proceeded, with the queen, to wring the neck of the parrot."
--Sabine Baring Gould, The Book of Were-Wolves

Uxorious? I am married; let's not go there.

Instead, what's interesting to me about this strange passage is the whole notion of tricking one's bad self (evil doppelganger, you might say) into some neutral being or object (a parrot, in this case) and then killing it by destroying the object. Metaphorically, this is a form of catharsis. One splits off one aspect of one's personality into a work of art or, say, a blog. The rejected, repressed, or socially unacceptable part of oneself is "killed" by enclosing it in this container, where it can take on a life of its own, freeing the other aspects of the personality to go about their more mundane daily business. Or something. Once I had multiple personalities, but now we're feeling well....

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

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Random Sequence

Scenario 26 (excerpt 12)

"I need a sadness treatment," thought Katrina, as she bit into her satin pillow. "All these inappropriate vitamins just aren't working!" Katrina now considered her expensive "witch doctors" to be nothing more than elegant idiots. "Maybe I'll try a faith healer," she thought. "One with warm hands, though...." But then she rejected that notion. Faith healers, it occured to her, were usually religious fanantics, into "fetus heroes," and she wanted nothing to do with that mind set.

She turned on her TV, a 64-inch 3D plasma screen. "Electronic mirages," she thought. "That's what I need." It was a wrestling program. A brute as big as a gorilla was beating a little bespectacled man, dressed in a red cape, with a metal folding chair while the crowd roared. "Ughhh!" Katrina moaned. She sank onto the carpet in front of the set and began to weep.

Suddenly, there was another earthquake. The TV careened off its pedestal and onto Katrina's head. She blacked out for a few seconds, then felt dizzy -- but not sad; rather, she felt refreshingly angry. "Bash blobs," she muttered. "Bash blobs...." It occurred to her that she had several scores to settle with a number of irritating so-called paragons.

(Not to be continued.)

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Photo of the Week

doll 1

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have NOTHING?

Well, Tabitha doesn't have to wonder.

Her family in Africa struggles to survive on barely anything at all. Her parents are dead. Grandma has incurable diabetes and needs injections every hour or she will die. Tabitha, who only has a dirty rag to wear, just wants to know what life is like when horseflies aren't biting her starving baby brother's open, infected wounds throughout the day.

Each night, the family divides a grain of rice to eat. Then they sleep on the cold, hard, concrete floor of their dilapidated hut. (Their sleeping mats were stolen by bandits.) In the morning, another struggle for subsistence begins. Tabitha must walk five miles to draw dirty water from the same mudhole where lions and hippos drink. (Speaking of lions, you may notice that her left arm is missing.)

Stop and contemplate that the next time you're complaining that there's too much air-conditioning or that you can't get a signal on your iPhone or the service is too slow at Fat Burger.

For just as little as 1/8th of a penny per day, you could sponsor Tabitha and save her from a life of slow death by intestinal parasites. But you won't, will you, you selfish, selfish monster.

(Click the photo for a closer view.)

Friday, September 03, 2010

Word of the Day: talion

talion (n)

Punishment that fits the crime, as in "an eye for an eye".

"The first question, then, is what is the suitable method of instituting a process on behalf of the faith against witches. In answer to this it must be said that there are three methods allowed by Canon Law. The first is when someone accuses a person before a judge of the crime of heresy, or of protecting heretics, offering to prove it, and to submit himself to the penalty of talion if he fails to prove it. The second method is when someone denounces a person, but does not offer to prove it and is not willing to embroil himself in the matter...."
--Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, Malleus Maleficarum, 1487

Heretics and witches. I guess I am the former (by the standards of the time when Malleus Maleficarum was written), and I know someone who calls herself the latter. "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?" It's not always that simple. The witch I know is one of those crazy cat ladies and is pretty benign, though -- except when she makes someone spontaneously combust.

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

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Brain Dump (film noir edition)

Buy monsters; they're cheap these days. If you're a studio king or queen, beware of monster rate pile ups. Otherwise, you may end up on the Saloons Network, if you know what I mean. Cocaine weekends? Not for you, budget boys and girls. Words to the wise: be a minds pro. But ignore crappy mental tourism. Normal modules are the key. Oh, and two words for you: booby ultimatum!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Hooray, hooray, it's the first of September. Something starts today, but I can't remember.... Reading a book -- actually some bound page proofs -- called You Are Not a Gadget. Indeed. Sometimes I feel like one, though, even when I post here. How do you know I'm not just an A.I. program equipped with a wicked thesaurus? "I'm sorry, Dave...." Jerry, the guy who has been cutting my hair for several years running, has vanished from the face of the earth. "He no longer works here," they tell me. So recently, I let an African-American woman with long, dark hair edit my scalp. And guess what? I actually like the haircut she gave me.... AIM, which I now have to use via Google Gmail's website, keeps failing me throughout the day, so I have to turn to Meebo to chat. Then AIM "comes back" and I'm suddenly sending and receiving in two different places simultaneously, both of which want me to log out of the other. Befuddling, in stereo. Life is SUCH as roller coaster. Do you even know what I'm going on about here? IM me (AIM me?) if you do....