Friday, April 29, 2011

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 28 small

More clip-art philosophy by me (and Albert Einstein). Click here for the BIG fish.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Head Rattle


Now that the winter has ended (fingers crossed), I've been walking more, to and fro from the train station in the morning and evening, listening to iPod mp3s that are both... strange and familiar. It's odd to be traipsing through the grittiness of the real world while my brain is off in other realms of space and time.... Oh, wait. Is it?


Why did someone ask me for a pencil sharpener? Why assume that I, of all people, would have one? I don't do my work on paper, and I don't use pencils; no one does in this day and age. Or almost no one. I suppose it's because I'm an editor, and people imagine they see a pencil behind my ear. Okay. I'll wear an eyeshade, too, and keep a bottle of bourbon in my desk.


I've been drinking a type of Kuerig coffee that includes ginseng and guarana, so the label says. I know what ginseng is, and what it's supposed to do for you, but I was not familiar with guarana, which sounds like an STD. Now I've found out (here) that it's a Brazilan plant that, when extracted and mixed into a beverage, "quickens perceptions", "helps with endurance-based activities", and (ought oh) will "lead to more frequent visits to the toilet". Sounds a lot like caffeine. The ingredients include tiny amounts of saponin (?) and "amorphous substances". Some people call it a "smart drug". I call it rocket fuel.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Random Sequence

[scenario 144a]


Howard suffered from purgatorial sleeplessness. All night, he wandered the city's streets, a perambulating peripatetic. He would occasionally stop for a "godforsaken demitasse" at an all-night cafe, reasoning that a little more caffeine could not make the tiniest difference. Or he would haunt the midnight taverns, seaching for soporific desenitization in heavy spirits and the hardheaded melodiousness of an antiquated jukebox. Eventually, as the sky lightened, he would circle back, zombie-like, to his wretched apartment, and the invidious mockery of his anti-somnolent boudoir.

[not to be continued]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Word of the Day: carriwitchet

carriwitchet (n)

An absurd question, a pun, a quibble, a conundrum; a jocular or facetious comment.

"Without desiring to indulge in a mere carriwitchet, I suggest a preliminary pruning followed by a grafting operation. Cut out the words "as with peas" and in their place insert "as with Broad Beans and Runner Beans...."
--Gardeners' Chronicle

So this hydrogen atom walks into a bar. He goes up to the bartender and orders a beer. He says to the bartender, "I think I’ve lost an electron." The bartender says, "Are you sure?" The electron says, "Yes, I’m positive."

So this carton of yogurt walks into a bar. He goes up to the bartender and orders a beer. The bartender says, "Hey, buddy, we don't serve yogurt in here." The yogurt says, "Why not? I’m a cultured individual."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Photo of the Week: Swamp Thing

swamp 1

Here is a photo of the swampy area near a river behind my mother's house in Upstate New York, where I spent the holiday weekend (at her house, not in the swamp). My nephew escorted me to this godforsaken spot so we could snap a glamorously lachrymose picture. This is a lonely, eerie place where hideous monsters live and unspeakable crimes occur -- or at least that's what I imagined as a child. Actually, its inhabitants are woodchucks, leeches, reeds, deformed trees, and skunk cabbages, the latter of which you can see in the foreground. These plants are named for the odor they give off at close range in the summer, though they give off no such foul emanations at this time of year.

Click the photo to experience an overwhelming feeling of dread and melancholy, worthy of an ode by Edgar Allan Poe.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

(or felt)

Disturbed: I'm sitting here looking at an elaborate print advertisement for a Broadway show, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and one of the show-girl models in the ad has only three fingers on her hand. Or appears to. I smell Photoshop.... In addition: Someone told me today that they saw Kate Middleton's face on a jellybean. That's disturbing too -- either because someone is so obsessed with the royal wedding that they're seeing Kate on everything, even jellybeans, or because the wedding tchotchke hucksters have actually gone that far.

Claustrophobic: For the first time in centuries, I spent some time in Midtown Manhattan yesterday during rush hour. I had forgotten what it was like to swim through schools of tourists as I made my way up Fifth Avenue. And I had forgotten what it felt like to be a sardine as I packed myself into a shiny, silvery Number 6 train, deep below Grand Central Station.

Retro: The other day, I found a fancy classic Parker ballpoint pen (you can see what it looks like here) that someone gave me years ago. I decided to clip it to my shirt pocket with the little gold arrow-clip thingy showing on the outside of the pocket. Nobody does that anymore. It was a bit amusing. Or lame. That such things amuse me is itself disturbing.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Random Acts of Poetry

Moving Day

With the rooms empty
and every door ajar
and the boxes down the stairs,
a potent stillness,
the outrider of change,
drifts in,

brushes the baseboards,
maunders and swirls,
finding no one in the livingroom
nothing in the kitchen
to stop or delay it,
only faded shades,

floors that creak,
dustballs in corners,
blank spaces on walls.
Forgotten objects--
a missing shoe, a broken toy,
magazines and coat hangers,

a glass by the sink,
old newspapers,
last year's calendar--
alone testify
to someone's life,
this interrupted story.

Once, fingers wandered
over guitar strings;
the bathroom mirror
held tired faces,
a day began and ended
that mattered somehow,

footsteps were heard,
a door opened,
babies screamed, children left.
Now, only the light changes,
like the sky relected in water,
a vague and broken image.

At night, the lights of cars
rushing up the street
animate the walls
and make shadows dance
like dogged memories
across the bedroom floor.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Word of the Day: oggannition (ogganition)

oggannition (n)

(Also spelled ogganition.)

Snarling or growling.

"She snored so loudly that her roommates mistook the cacophony for oggannition."
--Leahcim Setag, Strange Loops

Almost every time I walk past a neighbor's house, a tiny, ugly dog -- some kind of pug -- on a sill behind the front window goes into a paroxysm of ogganition, snarling and yapping at me while running back and forth and jumping up against the glass. I believe this little monster would tear me apart if it could only get at me. The poor creature is bored, I suspect, and wishes I would try to break in, so it could chomp on my leg. I just smile at Pugsley (my imagined name for him/her), which only accelerates the frenzy. Long after I've passed on by, I can still hear the conniption, with what I detect is an edge of disappointment in each yip and yap.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The T&T List

the Salton Sea
Jesus Henry Christ
Kenya Robinson
Koh Samui
The poetry of Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili
Lagrangian points
Boar's Head Feast
18449 Rikwouters

Monday, April 18, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

Things observed on a long walk yesterday, rendered here in present tense for literary effect:

A large animal bone -- much larger than a chicken bone -- lying in the street. More evidence of local Santeria?

A shabbily dressed man stands on the sidewalk smoking a cigarette. He has a large port-wine stain covering much of the left side of his face. He turns away as I approach, even though I'm careful not to stare.

"Moe's Bait & Tackle Shop". The letters of the sign (which you can see here) are painted on a small window. The shade is drawn behind the window, and in the bright sunlight the letters form shadows against it, creating a three-dimensional effect. An elderly man (I guess it's Moe) sits on a lawn chair on a driveway nearby, in front of a large, open garage, which I suppose is the "shop". He appears to be whittling.

I can see the partially constructed One World Trade Center (the so-called "Freedom Tower") from Riverview Park. It does not look like a building yet -- more like an ugly, deformed finger pointing skyward.

A young woman carrying what appears to be a bag of laundry and pushing a stroller. There's a baby in the stroller and a dog, a small terrier, tethered by its leash to the handle. A small child toddles along in front of the stroller. The dog tries to sniff my leg as I speed-walk past this group. "Benjamin, come here!" the woman commands. I realize she is addressing the dog, not the child in front. The dog's name is Benjamin. She's seen the movie Benji I'm guessing.

As I approach my house at the end of this ramble, I notice that in front of the door is a small, gray cat. I don't own a cat. It (he? she?) is lounging on the welcome mat with its legs curled up underneath its body. When it sees me, the cat looks startled for a second, then jumps up and leaps over the side of the porch and disappears up the alley. I'm a scary figure. To a small, gray cat.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Photo of the Week


I like to snap pictures of gates.... I know not why.

Well, maybe I do. The name "Gates", by the way, goes all the way back to Merry Olde England, apparently to some peasant who opened and closed the portcullis of the lord's manor. Who knew that his descendents would include a mega-billionaire computer nerd and a recondite blogger.

Hundreds of thousands of humans share this name, some unsavory, and I've often wished for a more unique moniker. Even my first name is among the most popular. There are four Michaels within earshot in my office, which leads to not-always-hilarious confusion. It's too late now, but maybe I should have rechristened myself for online consumption, or just translated my nom de plume into some other language. "Miguel Puertas" has a ring to it.

Click to pic to have a religious experience. That's the Baptist Church gate on Broad Street in Newark, New Jersey.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Word of the Day: escritoire

escritoire (n)

A writing desk.

"Facing away from him, she pressed her lips tightly together for a second--to suppress the words soaring temper set on her tongue--then evenly stated, 'My aunt Edith's diary. I left it in the escritoire, but now it's gone.' Something close to despair colored her tone."
--Stephanie Laurens, The Taste of Innocence

Perhaps you are seated at an escritoire at this very moment. For myself, I prefer to curl up on the couch (also: sofa; grandma called it a "davenport") with my laptop as I tap my way along the information superhighway to my literary destiny.

Not that I don't have a desk. In fact, I have a few. My favorite is an antique roll-top desk with many shelves and cubby holes and secret compartments. If I had a traditional diary or a controversial will or some terrible secret committed to paper, I suppose that is where you would find it -- if I happened to live in a Victorian novel. As it is, I mostly use my escritoire as a repository for junk mail and miscellaneous missives from official sources: those scraps of paper everyone receives that are almost too dull to peruse but too important to recycle. The phrase "Save for tax purposes" has prevented many a tedious form from being reconstituted as bathroom tissue. Yes, if my roll-top could talk it would have many a soporific story to tell.

"Why is a raven like a writing desk?" you ask.

Because they both have quills? But I only have Bics.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Head Rattle


Hallelujah? We are only a week away from the opening of Barcade in Jersey City! OMG; praise the Lord. This event is being greeted with rapturous anticipation by several denizens I know, as if the combination of Doppelbock and Donkey Kong was a cultural orgasm on a level with the second coming. Craft beer and vintage arcade video games sound like fun, sure, but steady on the joystick there.


It's quite unusual to see and overhear expensively dressed white people speaking French in a fast-food emporium in Newark, New Jersey. (Yes, I occasionally frequent such establishments when both hungry and in a hurry.) But it happened today. I don't understand French well enough to know what they were cooing about, but I like to think they were discussing Camus and existentialism over their... french fries.


Someone (I know not who) named, ahem, "hotFudgeOnTop" sent me an unsolicited IM today: "Hey!" this personage said. "Hey yourself," I replied. "I was just sitting here wondering if you'd like to chat," she (?) responded, coquettishly. "Nope," I said, suddenly suspicious, and then X'd the exchange. Now I'm wondering what sort of ribald filth (on the part of "hotFudgeOnTop", of course) and/or sales pitch this chat would have devolved into. Could have been diverting.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Search Party

Here are some recent search queries that brought seekers to this temple of scribomania.


Chamomile cranium, English breakfast brain, Earl Grey matter.... Wouldn't these be good brand names for a "tea makes you smarter" scam?

planet hell

If Hell was a planet, it might be something like this. Odd, isn't it, that Hell always looks a lot more interesting than Heaven.

paradox of self amendment

I used to worry a lot about changing. Would I still be "me" if I changed? But then I realized that the only people who don't change are dead. And I certainly wouldn't feel like me if I was dead.

archaism in shakespeare

Shakespeare... archaic? What would he say to such an accusation?
Thou roguish full-gorged death-token!
Thou froward fly-bitten bag of guts!
Thou viperous flap-mouthed hag-seed!
Thou ruttish shag-haired ratsbane!

More here.

another word for q-tips

Not a word, but a phrase: cotton swabs? Too obvious. How about "orifice probes"?

chesire cat

Here you go. My favorite character in the story.

cheshire cat

"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "otherwise you wouldn't have come here."

take this brother may it serve you well

The next words are "Maybe it's nothing". Or maybe it's a cup of tea.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

#9 Dreamy: It was actually balmy today, and sudden changes in the weather always make me feel woolly headed. I walked home from the train station earlier -- uphill most of the way -- observing sudden tulips and idling stoop-sitters and feeling like I was floating along in a cinematic reverie.

Confused: I woke up this morning to the sound of someone yammering in Japanese (or perhaps Chinese or Korean -- I'm not terribly familiar with Asian languages). I thought maybe I was still dreaming, since I've been thinking about Japan a lot recently, like everyone. Then I realized that the clock radio was on the wrong station. It was better, actually, than waking up to news about car accidents stalling traffic on the Triboro Bridge.

Magnetic: I think I project a kind of electromagnetic field that attracts any sort of ball that kids are playing with when I'm close by -- and I've got a slightly chipped tooth (from when I was a kid) to prove it. This personal magnetism entangled me, unwillingly, in a a sidewalk game of soccer over the weekend, bringing back memories of junior-high gym classes. Bad memories.



I want a Petite Lap Giraffe.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Word of the Day: runcible

runcible (adj)

A nonsense word with no particular meaning; referring to a spoon with fork tines.

"'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon."
--Edward Lear, "The Owl and the Pussycat"

Since this word, invented by Lear, has no precise or standard original meaning (spoon manufacturers simply glommed onto it), we can, I think, use it to mean whatever we want it to mean. (Isn't it interesting that the word "mean" can mean both "malicious" and "what you have in mind"? This indicates a jaundiced attitude toward human nature, I think.)

I have a runcible mannequin sitting in an antique wheelchair in my living room.
I have 166 runcible friends on the Book of Faces.
The tofu burger I had last night at LITM was runcible indeed.
Is Eraserhead or Inland Empire the most runcible David Lynch film?
"I Want You (She's So Runcible)"
I drink my coffee runcible.

Let's all try to slip this word into conversation during the coming week and see what kinds of reactions we get.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Photo of the Week: Cadillac Vortex

Cadillac Funnel

Here's another picture of Elvis's Cadillac, snapped by me a few years ago in Memphis and then "all shook up" in my jpeg-o-matic, resulting in this abstract vortex.

For the full hypnotic effect, jump over your candlestick and give it a click.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Get to Know Me Better

Things I Like:

The Chicago Manual of Style, Weird NJ, David Foster Wallace, The Shakespeare Society, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 35 Years of David Lynch,, Art House Productions,, ZBS Foundation, GalleyCat, Martini 494 Bistro, Three-Minute Fiction, weekends on NPR's All Things Considered, Edward Gorey, Uptown Crew, Jersey City Magazine, Ken Bastard, Sarcasm Society, Ravi Shankar, Hudson Reporter, LITM, Stanley Kubrick, Haruki Murakami, Wordnik: adoxography, The Hidden Body Part The Artists at Disney Didnt Want You To See, The correct usage of "You're", "Your", "There", "Their" and "They're", I don't know, google it., jersey city review, Fish with Braids, Ed's Salvage Co., TriBeCaStan, Park Slope United Methodist Church, The Beatles Never Broke Up, JC Studios, Chase Community Giving, Colin McFin, Wordnik, Jersey City Artists' Studio Tour, Central Avenue S.I.D. Management Corporation, I don't sleep enough because I stay up late for no reason, Learning Community Charter School, Adventures of, The Jersey City Independent, Jersey City Craft Mafia, Free Tibet!, Flo the Progressive Girl, Apples to Apples, David Lynch, Free, WFMU, Fig Newtons, Dunkin Donuts Coffee, The Historic Jersey City and Harsimus Cemetery, Hudson Shakespeare Company, Jersey City, New Jersey, Fortune Cookies, Scrambled Eggs, Jersey City Museum, The Quarterly Conversation, David Lynch's Dune (Definitive Cut) Petition, Parlay Studios, J CITY Theater, Moleskine, Space Needle, Barrow Mansion.

Pictures I Like (my "favorites" on Flickr)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Word of the Day: nudiustertian

nudiustertian (adj)

Of or relating to the day before yesterday.

"What a nudiustertian getup might have been is not known, but one cannot be blamed for gentle musings that, even after 333 years, put one into a framistasian quidditude."
--Richard Merrifield, Monadnock Journal

The day before yesterday was...Sunday. I used to go to church on Sunday, but I'm too much of a heretic now. Sunday feels like the last day of the week, even though it is technically the first day. Sunday, traditionally, was a "day of rest", but that's actually Saturday for me -- the day I sort of collapse. On Sunday, I do my errands, my shopping, my scheming for the week ahead. I abhor Sunday, if only because of that horrible, intensifying feeling that the weekend to rapidly draining away. Oddly, I don't mind Mondays nearly as much.




"It's a piece of garbage."
--Donald Trump

Monday, April 04, 2011

Head Rattle


I watched The Killing on AMC last night, the new TV mystery based on the hit Danish series. What was it like? Imagine if Twin Peaks had been created by Ingmar Bergman instead of David Lynch. It was extremely well done, retained a certain Scandinavian feel, and was also extremely derivative, in terms of general plot line, of the Lynch/Frost series pilot. A high-school girl has been murdered, her parents are distraught with grief, her best friend and ex-boyfriend are questioned by the lead detective (who is obsessed with the case), a local community leader is apparently involved.... Oh, and it is set in the Pacific Northwest. If an identical cousin, a dwarf, or a Log Lady shows up, I will stop watching.


The best author's name I've encountered in a while popped up today: Essemoh Teepee, apparently a purveyor of erotica. Someone pointed out that the name is a spell-out of SMOTP. Not sure what that signifies. Something nasty? Sado-Masochistic Oxymorons and Terrible Pain?


This book I'm reading, Cosmicomics, is a cornucopia of sexy, obscure words: plurimillenial, anchorites, menhirs, technetium, aleatory, valuta, Pantotheres. I don't know what any of those mean. But I will.


Watched a guy maneuvering a huge acoustic bass guitar on and off the light-rail train today, with great adroitness. Felt somehow envious.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Microfiction: 'In the Fullness of Morning'

It was Saturday, early in the A.M., the only morning all week when Ivan could doze ad infinitum. The sun was up and streaming through the bedroom window, but he pulled the covers over his drowsy head and continued to dream.

The dream involved his pursuit of a golden, jewel-encrusted box, about the size of a shoe box, that kept receding from him, faster and faster, as he chased it on some kind of pedal-powered vehicle, which seemed to be a cross between a bicycle and a kayak.

Gradually, a dreaded feeling began to invade his reverie: a liquid fullness in his lower extremities. His dream-self stopped chasing the glittering box and began searching instead for a restroom as he floated through his ambrosial dreamscape. The fullness was also bringing him, gradually, to consciousness, and inserting a vexatious question into his groggy brain: Should he interrupt his well-earned languor, rise, and use the facilities? Alas, the answer was, "mmmuhhh....okay."

Ivan threw back the comforter, cursing the huge mug of coffee he had imbibed the night before, and leveraged himself off the mattress. The room was a blur, and he felt befuddled. He collided with several pieces of malevolent furniture, including a hostile dresser drawer he'd left open and a vindictive laundry hamper, as he stumbled toward the bathroom. There, standing before the commode, he lowered the bottom half of his slumber attire and at last found blissful relief. With eyes closed, he imagined himself as a fireman, using his hose to put out a terrible conflagration as crowds of onlookers cheered.

"I have to stop drinking coffee at night," he mumbled to himself as he finished, flushed, and then returned to bed with the intention of once again embracing the Arms of Morpheus.

But it was another hour, an hour of trying to find just the right position that would enable him to lose consciousness, before he finally slipped into his dream -- the same dream. Once again, he found himself pedaling toward the dazzling golden box, and this time, slowly gaining on it. Finally, he reached it, where it sat, glistening, on a glass table. He unlatched the cover and peered inside.

There was a cup in there, a plain ceramic mug with something written on the side in a jagged font. It said: "I have too much blood in my caffeine system". He picked it up and took a long, delightful sip. It was the most delicious cup of coffee he had ever tasted.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Um, yeah, well, um....

I enjoyed listening to (and got a giggle from) an online collection of audio clips "illustrating the uses of non-lexical utterances in casual English dialog," also known as Conversational Grunts in English. It, uhh, made me realize how much of our daily conversation actually consists of sounds, not words.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Photo of the Week

mermaid 2

More useless junk that nobody purchased at the antiques fair. I thought it an interesting composition, though. I saw this statuette and attendant flotsam on the back of a truck at the fair's closing, ready to be carted away to an uncertain fate. I felt a little sorry for the mermaid, truly a fish out of water, which is a state I can identify with, based on personal experience. She doesn't look too concerned, though.

Click the photo for a larger-scale view.