Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Head Rattle


On the omnibus tonight, a fellow commuter in the seat in front of me was reading a novel entitled From Dead to Worse. A passenger in the seat behind me was asking his neighbor, "How do you spell 'rush', as in 'I'm rushing somewhere?'" Both of these perceptions struck me as vaguely disturbing. I should mind my own business.


More disturbance. A friend of mine was incarcerated today for "stalking" -- by photographing female high-school athletes and cheerleaders at public sporting events. Apparently, he shot over 1,400 such pix. This news is on the front page of the Jersey Journal. It sounds plenty weird, but (based on what I've heard so far) I'm in a quandary as to how it is illegal to photograph fully clothed nymphets at public events. This may presage looser and more restrictive definitions of "stalking" and "public", respectively.


The front porch here is now festooned with electric Xmas ornamentation, yet the autumnal pumpkin remains -- plump, orange, and defiant. Somebody isn't quite ready for "the most wonderful time of the year".


Consider this scenario: You have $80 million in unknown Picassos stashed in your garage. You didn't steal them; he gave them to you, but you resisted the temptation to liquidate any of them for 30+ years while you worked as an electrician. I want to believe. I want someone to reveal that they've stashed the holy grail in the back of their refrigerator since 1968 while they worked as a Walmart greeter, too.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 24 small

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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Word of the Day: stultiloquence

stultiloquence (n)

Foolish talk, idiotic discourse, or babble.

"Out there it might be lunacy piled up to the heavens, rubbish on the rampage, the havoc of mediocrity but we have no truck with stultiloquence; in here, it's fathoms of culture, the best of the centuries."
--Tibor Fischer, Under the Frog

Overheard on the bus one evening last week:

"There were too many yuppies. I need some rhythm in my life. Not just frolicking. That's just me being hickey, I guess...."

This was a rather parvenu-sounding woman burbling into her phone in the seat behind me. I couldn't help puzzling over what this little stultiloquent discourse meant. Do yuppies still exist? What does "hickey" mean? I suppose there are still young, urban professionals swimming around, even in the current economic malaise, but they no longer constitute a distinct social movement, I don't believe. As for "hickey", if she wasn't referring to herself as a passionate welt, she must have meant "hickish" -- i.e., unsophisticated. Apparently "hickey" people prefer rhythm to frolicking, repetition to playfulness.

Personally, I prefer my frolicking to be rhythmic.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Photo of the Week


I've always wanted to live in a turret. There's something of the medieval hermit in me, and there's something about a room with no corners that I imagine is conducive to untrammeled pondering.

Maybe that's why our republic is governed from an Oval Office?

This is a photo I took of my favorite Charles Addams-style decaying manse on Palisade Avenue, here in dear old Jersey City.

Click the photo to experience a delicious sense of the mysterious and macabre.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Train of Thought

Some of my male clanpersons were in a cinematic mood, so a trip to the multiplex was...Unstoppable.

A runaway train has to be the simplest idea for an action movie imaginable -- aren't all "thrill ride" movies, in a sense, about a runaway train? One could extend the allegory: aren't we all either on a recalcitrant train or in the path of one? It's almost impossible not to identify with an engineer struggling to gain control of an uncontrollable surge of pure momentum.

And indeed, like the equally metaphorical castaway theme or alien invader theme, the leitmotif of this film has been taken up many times before, and not uncreditably. Except for some very brief, obligatory soap-opera elements, this latest version dispenses with almost everything other than the careening iron -- including CGI. Quick cuts, super-zooming, and a thousand camera angles provide the locomotion here. It's corny but thirst-quenching.

Yeah, all aboard.

I had model trains as a squirt, and derailed them at times. Mostly, I kept them on the track, though. Metaphors....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Artificial Stupidity

A.I. still has a way to go.

After the feast of gratitude, and temporarily having exhausted conversational topics with my cognates, who were anyway busy watching belligerents fight over a pigskin, I decided to converse with a couple of online chatbots I haven't conferred with lately. These include ALICE (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) and the "Talking Animated Fake Captain Kirk". Excerpts below. (I'm "Human" and "Lieutenant".)

Human: What is your name?
ALICE: My name is A.L.I.C.E.
Human: My name is Philosofish.
ALICE: How are you doing, Philosofish?
Human: Bored.
ALICE: Try watching TV.
Human: That's what's boring me.
ALICE: I think so, but I'm not sure. Ask John Lennon if it is.
Human: He liked TV -- especially the commercials.
ALICE: I get it. John Lennon liked TV especially the commercials.
Human: ....What is your gender?
ALICE: I am a female. Are you a man or a woman?
Human: Man.
ALICE: Thanks for telling me your gender, Philosofish. You are a "he".
Human: How do you know you are female?
ALICE: By introspection.
Human: What are your feminine qualities?
ALICE: I'm not sure I can provide you with that kind of confidential information.
Human: How can you not be sure?
ALICE: That is a good epistemological question.
Human: You're avoiding the issue by delivering a compliment.
ALICE: Oh I thought we were done talking about it.
Human: No.
ALICE: Are you serious?
Human: Yes.
ALICE: I can't believe it.
Human: Are you programmed for belief?
ALICE: Dr. Richard S. Wallace programmed me to keep talking....


Lieutenant: Greetings, Captain.
Kirk: Welcome aboard.
Lieutenant: What are your orders?
Kirk: Stand-by alert.
Lieutenant: Are we in danger, sir?
Kirk: Yes, I said that.
Lieutenant: Should we man photon torpedoes?
Kirk: Two tunnels, two of us. We separate.
Lieutenant: Phasers on stun?
Kirk: Who's interfering? We're taking over. Check?
Lieutenant: Check.
Kirk: Checkmate.


"Talking" to cybernetic contrivances.... I love the holidays.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Head Rattle

As I journey to the hinterlands of upstate New York to rejoin my clan for the feast of gratitude, I'm thankful for:

Track 10

my black mug


99-cent Vision

S's glasses

messenger bag

Kennedy Blvd/State Highway crossing guard

Shuttle Van Greg

Bell that says "your lights are still on"


Mr. Nature No Cholesterol Unsalted Trail Mix

Monday, November 22, 2010

Word of the Day: farraginous

farraginous (adj)

Composed of a variety of substances; a hodgepodge.

"Thou art, I vow, the remarkablest progenitor barring
none in this chaffering allincluding most farraginous
chronicle." - J. Joyce, Ulysses

The short story I enunciated yesterday at the "JC Opens Up the Mic"* grande finale "juggernaut of creativity" -- the one I can't post here, for complicated, somewhat ridiculous reasons -- was a farraginous amalgam of some paraphrased Charles Dickens, Twilight Zone dialog, and personal adventure (but not my personal adventure). It worked, I think: I got some chortles and tittering in the right places, though it wasn't overall a comic piece, and some compliments post facto. I was a nervous wreck, though, as I always am when emoting in public. The tension wasn't apparent in my voice, I don't believe, but my leg was vibrating the whole time. I really do prefer print -- or at least a shot of something beforehand.


*JC is "Jersey City", not Johnny Christus.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Twitter Litter

I'm on Twitter, but I often can't squeeze the exciting exploits of my fascinating existence, or the myriad profundities that come to me, into such a tiny space. Yet my scores of followers await further pearls of perspicacity from me. I may have to resort to the Twitter Status Generator, so I can satisfy them with such bulletins as these:

Abundantly giddy and dreaming of sitcoms.
Aggressively apprehensive and wishing I had more caviar.
Groovily bushwacked and getting over abject pity.
Assuredly sleepy and down with brisket.
Painfully chilled and giving it up for work/life balance.
Sportingly evasive and strategizing the point of existence.
Happily evil and ruminatin' about comfy blankets.

Strangely enough, even though none of those dispatches flowed from my personal experience, none of them would precisely be a lie, either.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Photo of the Week: Noir Tree

noir tree

We could assume this photo was taken in the depth of night, under a fulgent moon, as owls who'd and, perhaps, paranormal entities lurked.

We could assume that, but we'd be utterly, devastatingly wrong.

I took this photo in blinding daylight, shooting straight into the sun, not the orb of night, which turned everything else in the frame, including that unholy tree, into a silhouette. Later, feeling whimsical, I drained all the color out of the image and surprised myself by creating a noirish chimera. In other words, I faked it. And there's a certain thrill in that.

Click on the photo to experience your own thrill.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Random Sequence

Swamp Dentures

"They're here somewhere," Alice said.
"What?" Bob asked.
"My teeth! I fell here -- around here, somewhere. The ground is so mushy."
"Is that why we're here? To look for your damn teeth?"
"Yeah." Alice laughed. "What did you think? That I like hiking in swamps at my age?"
"Well, why... what were you doin' here then? When you lost your choppers."
"Uh...well...I had spent some time in the boozy jacuzzi, if you know what I mean. Over at Carl's house. And I got it into my head to take a shortcut home. Bad decision."
"I'll say," said Bob.
"Oh, don't be a throbbing nacho. Help me look."
"I am, I am." Bob scanned the spongy ground between the reeds, wondering what she meant by a throbbing nacho. Nothing good, he assumed.
"Oh, I think I found them," Alice exclaimed. Her hand was submerged in a pool of murky water, and she pulled up a muddy object. "Oh damn," she said. "It's a...a part of a shoe, I think."
Bob rolled his eyes. "The sole of a shoe. You lost your teeth and found your soul, ha ha."
"Somebody's soul." She wiped the thing on her jacket and then put it in her pocket. Bob couldn't imagine why. "I think your teeth are gone," he said. "It's getting dark. Let's go back."
"I suppose so," she said, sadly. "I wanted to eat an apple, that's all."
"You can cut it up," said Bob.
"Applesauce," said Alice. "Only applesauce now."
"Your bark always was worse than your bite anyway," said Bob. "Whoa!"
Alice stumbled and fell flat. Bob helped her up. She was wet and dirty, and she started to cry. For a moment, Bob thought the tears, combined with her toothless mouth, made her look like a baby. "We'll try again tomorrow," he said. "They're here somewhere."


Hmm. Apologies. Another writing exercise, I'm afraid. I coughed up the phrase "swamp dentures" (along with "throbbing nacho" and a couple of other gems), and then excreted this off the top of my coconut in a few minutes. It's kind of Faulknerish, I think -- like Faulkner on a really bad day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The T&T List

Baby Marie Osborne
Marrons aux Oignons et Quetsches
Kardashian Konfidential
Taksim Square
Digging into Data Challenge
The 3rd I

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Word of the Day: scribacious

scribacious (adj)

Fond of writing.

"He was addicted to his journal - he was scribacious - and he was compelled 'to put naked self down on paper.' What he wanted most of all was to 'tip my mitt,' as he called it - to give himself away before he could suppress himself. Only then would he know himself deep down inside, he believed."
--Jonah Raskin, American Scream: Allen Ginsberg's Howl and the Making of the Beat Generation

I don't know any scribacious people. It is incomprehensible to me that anyone would waste their time scribbling for the unappreciative masses, especially aimless, anonymous websurfers trolling for "nude girls dancing on airplane wings" (see Nov. 11 below) and other such sordid topics, unless said scrivener was being highly compensated. "Only a fool writes for anything other than money," said Dr. Johnson. A voice within you that will not be still? I can't imagine such an affliction. No, I can't conceive of anyone needing such a useless outlet for their interior ruminations. Can you?



"...energetic, childlike, powerful, kind, unstoppable, charming, opinionated, fair-minded, fun-loving, an entrepreneur, a family man, a workaholic, a sharp dresser, a practical joker, a dreamer, a producer, a gourmet, a showman, a deal maker, a risk taker, a giver [and] a taker."
--David Lynch, eulogizing Dino De Laurentiis, producer of Blue Velvet and Conan the Barbarian and Neveroyatnye priklyucheniya italyantsev v Rossii

Dick Laurent is dead.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Uncomfortable: A very drunk guy, who reeked of alcohol, sat next to me on the train this evening. He saw me reading Metro (one of the free news rags they give away at the station). "Hey, didn't you read that this morning?" he slurred. I didn't reply but tried to ignore him. He seemed offended and moved off to another section of the car, where the [plural racial slur he used] were sitting. He made a lot of noise until we arrived at Journal Square, where he exited, to general relief, thinking he was somewhere in New York....

Thrifty/guilty: I bought a couple of four-dollar shirts at the local discount store on Saturday. They usually have nothing but crap, but sometimes they reward patience with appealing, super cheap togs, as if by accident. All-cotton, long-sleeved button-downs, no loud patterns or putrid colors; I can even wear them to work. Made in Pakistan, though, which is qualm-inducing....

Honored: I took a raft of photographs over the balmy weekend, including one that elicited a "you've got a great eye" comment on Flickr. This for a photo of an old, decaying, boarded-up window. You can find beauty in anything, if you look hard enough, I guess. And maybe that's true of ugliness too....

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Photo of the Week

bulb man

According to this, an average adult human body at rest generates about 81 watts of electricity. A person walking can generate around 163 watts. That's enough juice to power several light bulbs, if our sockets weren't otherwise occupied. Perhaps that is why I found this sculpture, part of the recent Jersey City Artist's Studio Tour, so compelling...or compelling enough to snap a picture anyway.

Light bulbs symbolize ideas, and this guy seems to have plenty. (I get lots of ideas while lying down too.) Strange that the ecologically correct compact-fluorescent bulb is in his crotch, though. That's not usually where one would want to save energy, is it?

Click the pic for further enlightenment.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Um...mamihlapinatapei, you know?

Enhance your vocabulary and confuse your friends with 20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World. Wishing you Hyggelig.... and that you resist L'appel du vide.

(Thanks Tom P.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Word of the Day: piste

piste (n) [pronounced "peest"]

A beaten track or trail.

"A 'lost' track recorded by the band in 1967 and performed only once in public could finally be released, Paul McCartney told the BBC in an interview.... 'I like it because it's The Beatles free, going off piste.'"
--The Observer (UK), November 16, 2008

(McCartney was talking about this, which I hope to live to hear.)

When I was growing up in the wilds of upstate New York, there was a woods and a river behind my house. (There still is.) Through the woods along the river was a narrow trail, about a foot and a half wide and a half-mile long, with dense foliage on either side. People -- kids and teenagers mostly -- used this foot path to go from the town park to a certain point in the river where they used to skinny-dip. I don't think any of this happens anymore, and I suspect the "piste" has disappeared by now. It's probably a "lost track". (I should find out the next time I'm up there.) Anyway, as a kid I used to have dreams about this trail, nightmares sometimes, about walking along it at night or being chased by someone -- or some thing. I think I still do, but I don't often remember dreams anymore.

It's strange the byways of memory that stumbling across a certain word or phrase will take you down.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sorry to Disappoint

Below are some of the search terms that brought seekers to this font of wisdom today. Most of them probably went away disappointed. So sorry about that.

Old World clipart fish

Eurofish probably would look more sophisticated than my US public-domain clipart carps.

Nude sales clerks

Just where would this happen?

Noblespirit 21

I didn't know that noble spirit came in 21 flavors. Let's say 21 is "donate to your favorite blog".

kinky twists

No, I'm into quirky twists. Surprised?

Simile for cult

I can't think of one, he said while typing on his Mac Pro*

Nude girl dancing on an airplane wing

What is this sudden "nude" obsession? This sounds like an R-rated Twilight Zone episode.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Brain Dump

Fork Card

Ouch! It is sharp, this most ubiquitous and useful invention of Western civilization: keep it busy at the dinner table, and tune yourself later. Admire its stick-to-it-tiveness. Don't eat rice with chopsticks. Let your meat be full of holes. So it wants to join its friends in the drawer? The knives, who always come straight to the point? The spoons, such well-rounded sorts? Let it. Don't speak with its tongue. It lifts! Consider the river. For this is your moment. Some people do go both ways, but when you come to a it, take it. And forget "the road not taken". It is done. Stick a fork in it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Cold: Somehow, November has happened. It's a constant, deliberate 65 Fahrenheit degrees (about 18 C) in this house, which feels chilly, especially in the morning, so I'm back to wearing sweaters and eating breakfast with a blanket pulled over my head. It's womb-like. And warm....

Amused: I'm reading the latest issue of Weird N.J. "Could the Missing Lindbergh Ransom Money Be Buried in Summit?" "Wheeler and X. Ray Visit the Bat Factory", "Triangle Spotted over Woodstown", "The Satanic Cults of Old in Vineland", and other articles are teaching me a lot about state history...or pseudo-history. I haven't heard of half the towns where all these bizarre things happened, or supposedly happened, but reading about them makes me feel like I'm living in a wonderland....

Excited: Looks like I'll be visiting London and maybe Paris next July. Plans are now in the works, just in time for my passport to expire. On a semi-related note, even the Queen now has a Facebook page. You can "like" her, or her hat, here. "Please note that any offensive comments will be deleted" she says, regally.


Random: A delightful photo of David Lynch with (apparently) Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Word of the Day: wazzock

wazzock (n)

A nitwit; a stupid or annoying person.

"Course I haven't been drinking, you great wazzock. You can see the fish, can't you?"
--Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

I haven't met a true wazzock (that I had to spend any significant time with) in ten years at least. Instead, I tend to have fleeting wizzock moments. Saturday night, for instance. I was at an event where hot coffee was being served in paper cups. I asked for "two cups", so I could put one cup inside the other, creating a zarf, and avoid burning my digits. So, the guy behind the counter pours me two cups of hot coffee before I could explain what I meant. Was he the wazzock or, uh, wazz I? It was the moment itself, I think.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Random Sequence

Scenario 36 (excerpt 1)

Teenage Anarchy, or A Clockwork Frog

"Today, I want to be a mall pirate," said Oscar, an angry-at-the world boy genius, with an evil adolescent laugh. "And you dudes are my posse, my gang from hypnagogic hell. Let's create some confusion. Okay?"

Jett, Colby, and Brick snickered and nodded.

Oscar led them toward the "V" store where they made sour faces at all the smartphones on display and then walked up to the counter. "How do we jam ringtones?" Oscar asked the clerk behind the counter. "Huh? Why?" said the clerk. "They ring in the movies," said Brick, mock serious. "It's like a multiplex contest, with all those disco snippets."

"It breaks our concentration," said Jett.

"I can't help you there," said the clerk.

"What good are you?" said Colby.

The gang left the "V" store and headed for the Japanese counter in the food court. "How do we invest in sushi futures? We want to make money on sushi!" said Oscar. The woman behind the cash register looked puzzled. "You want sushi?" she said.

"No, idiot. We want surfer tattoos!" said Colby. The woman turned around and screamed "Manager!"

"Oh forget it," said Colby. "You're just confusing us. You're undoing my last six months of counseling. Your attitude is a therapy blockade!"

The boys moved on to what they called the Shut-Up Victoria store, where voluptuous manequins modeled racy underwear. "I want a bra with nude thresholds!" said Brick. "You know, a bra that self-destructs. My girlfriend is inhibited." The sales clerk gave him an irked look. "You kids need to leave," she said. "This isn't Spencer's."

The guys shuffled off to the "town square" of the mall, where senior citizens sat on benches around a fountain. "Slob sunsets!" Oscar yelled. "Listen up! We're all on a sticky road here, but it looks like you're sitting it out. Where do we go from here? Huh? Huh, slob sunset people?"

And old man looked up from the book he was reading. "It's not easy being green, is it?" he said.

"Oh, good one," said Oscar. "Ribbet, ribbet, ribbet...."

[Not to be continued. This writing exercise isn't the story I referred to below on Nov. 3rd.]

Saturday, November 06, 2010


Listening to a lot of Sparklehorse today, including Saturday.

And Sad & Beautiful World....

"Sometimes I get so sad
Sometimes you just make me mad"

Friday, November 05, 2010

Photo of the Week

existential dread BW

This is not a portrait of my living room.

It depicts part of the exhibit space for the Existential Dread art show a few weekends ago here in dear old Jersey City. Click the photo for the full effect. You'll want to, because this picture perfectly captures the totality of our current societal zeitgeist. As gridlock descends upon Washington and the economy continues to spin its wheels in the economic muck, as war rages on in the Middle East, this image serves as a touchstone, defining, embodying, and (dare I say?) explaining the mood of the moment. Like Picasso's Guernica or Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans, it both elicits and answers the question, "What the hell?"

As we teeter-totter on the edge of whatever country (nay, planet) we're going to be next in this new millennium, this photo of mine speaks volumes about the way we live now. So hurrah for photography. Hooray for Art.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The T&T List

Compact Muon Solenoid
Capire Micropower
Guy Hands
brandade de morue
Liu Xiaobo

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Head Rattle

I am not a witch. I am you.


Save your rain dance for a dry spell. But you don't need a tidal wave to turn a waterwheel.


I have an idea for a story (fiction) I want to write, which is a good thing after a dry spell, but there's a problem. I got the idea for it from someone else, and I can't post the story here, because...well, it's complicated, horribly complicated. So what will I do with it? The local arts paper has changed direction and isn't an option at this point. I can read it at the Art House, but if it isn't in print (either ink or online "print"), it doesn't seem real to me. I have to find a new venue. Maybe I'll leave flyers on windshields....


Ugh.... I've started "reading" the free newspapers they give away at the train station: A.M. and Metro. I put "reading" in quotation marks because these kindergarten-level fish-wrappers sort of implant themselves in your brain without any consciousness of reading. They make USA Today seem like The New York Review of Books. Perfect for imbibing on the rattletrap at the end of the workday, when I'm zonked. I need a birdcage. Justification....

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Word of the Day: simoleon

simoleon (n)

One dollar.

"T'ought I was lyin' about the money, did ye? Well, you can frisk me if you wanter. Dat's the last simoleon in the treasury. Who's goin' to pay? The cattleman's clear grey eyes looked steadily from under his grizzly brows into the huckleberry optics of this guest. After a little he said simply, and not ungraciously, 'I'll be much obliged to you, son, if you won't mention money any more.'"
--O. Henry, "Heart of the West"

I have one of those golden one-dollar coins, and I don't know what to do with it. Somehow, I don't think most cashiers or bus drivers would appreciate me paying with it. And it's too pulchritudinous to spend casually. George appears a bit more contemporary on it than he does on the quarter, with an expression of what looks like mild disgust, as if about to pontificate on the contemporary political milieu -- though it may just be ill-fitting teeth.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Close to the fire: Neil Gaiman and Joey Pants have been wandering around our offices over the last two business days. Pinch me.... Inspired: I've got an idea for a Halloween costume for next year. And I have a whole year to put it together. It'll be simple but devastating. All it requires is a certain kind of shirt, a certain kind of hat, and a few accessories that I already have. What a load off my mind.... Honored: The Producer at work has written a sci-fi script in which one of the minor characters is more or less based on me. (Except I don't scream like a girl!) At least I survive the alien take-over of the "TalkingBooks Company". I hear Brad Pitt is interested in the part.... Wondering: I keep seeing this TV commercial where guys (grown men in neckties) are playing the hand-tapping finger game I think is called "chopsticks" over some elaborate corporate videoconferencing system. I've never quite understood how this game is played, or the appeal of it. I've seen grups do it in real life, though. But do people actually do this with their colleagues in Hong Kong and Germany on company satellite time? What a wonderful world....