Sunday, July 31, 2011

Photo of the Week: dragon

dragon 1

This is just too over the top (literally) to make up a story about. I shot this dragon from the upper deck of an open-air tour bus in London while on vacation earlier this month. ("I shot a dragon...." Never thought I'd be able to say that.) I think I'll make it the cover image for the Flickr folder of over 100 pictures I snapped in London and England. I just finished cropping, 'shopping, and compiling them on my laptop, but I haven't had time to upload more than a couple so far.

Is there anything more boring than looking at other people's vacation pix? Maybe not, but I'm hoping this album will prove an exception. There are some stunning images in the mix -- not because I'm a great photographer but because it's a very photogenic place.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Word of the Day: luciferous

luciferous (adj)

1. bringing or providing light
2. providing insight or enlightenment

"But few beaches in the world are as splendid, few populations as accomplished and photogenic. Its luciferous late-afternoon light can otherwise be found only in the Greek islands. Of course, getting to and from Crete might be easier."
--"The Hamptons", New York magazine

One of the most essential things I brought with me on vacation was a flashlight -- a rechargeable flashlight with a bulb luciferous enough to illuminate an entire room. It proved handy on the night we blew a fuse at the hotel (more like a B&B) in London by trying to plug in a power strip with our US outlet adapter. (The electrical system is different in England.) The hotel was completely flummoxed by this turn of events; the doltish French desk clerk said they had to call in an electrician (just to replace a fuse or flip a circuit-breaker switch?). So we spent a night without power, except that my powerful flashlight enabled us to find our PJs, brush our teeth, and get into bed without bumping into the furniture.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

'Room' for Improvement

Parody and camp can fail, but they lack the air of innocent tragedy that makes truly vile films so compelling. Case in point: The Room. My article about this unintentionally hilarious cult-film stinker is up now on

A few memorable dialog quotations from The Room:

Lisa: She's a stupid bitch. She wants to control my life. I'm not going to put up with that. I'm going to do what I want to do, and that's it. What do you think I should do?

Mike: Chocolate is a symbol of love.

Mark: You don't understand anything, man. Leave your stupid comments in your pocket!

Johnny: I'm tired, I'm wasted, I love you darling.

Steven: I feel like I'm sitting on an atomic bomb waiting for it to go off.
Michelle: ...Me too.

Peter: People are people. Sometimes they just can't see their own faults.

more here

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Head Rattle


A local theater group has asked me to do a public reading of a short story (not one of mine, story to be determined) at an event in September called "Guys Night Out -- celebrating all that it means to be a man!" Like I know? Sure, I'll do it. Maybe I'll find out what it means.


Between "regular" work and freelance megaprojects, I've had hardly a waking moment "free" since the day I got back from London. Tonight I'm "off" though, having completed the two back-to-back freelance jobs. Why do I feel indolent, like I should still be laboring? I'm still in rev mode. I need a drink... except it would just put me to sleep.


Today's surreality: Walking along Kennedy Boulevard while listening to a David Foster Wallace novel through headphones, seeing a shorts-and-tee-shirt clad young Asian (?) man with stick-like legs and arms and a patchy bald head drinking from a hose spouting a small geyser of water outside a gas station that is, for some unfathomable reason, watering, not grass or flowers, but a macadam driveway.


Which reminds me... the results of the latest Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest are in! It's an annual literary contest to compose "the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels". (No, I've never entered.) Here's this year's winner:

"Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories."
--Sue Fondrie

Monday, July 25, 2011

Word of the Day: doolally

doolally (adj)

Insane, mad, or eccentric.

"Going doolally In the days of the Raj, soldiers who cracked under the stresses and strains of military life in British India were packed off to recuperate at a psychiatric hospital in the small Maharashtran cantonment town of Deolali."
--David Abram, The Rough Guide to India

Much could be said about the doolally quality of the current machinations in Washington, D.C. An "absurd pantomime" was the The Economist's admirable phrase for it in a recent essay. But there's plenty of doolally puttering going on closer to home.... that is to say, in my home, thanks to a transient occupant into, shall we say, puffery. Enough said, cough, cough.....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Photo of the Week

window 1

Here's a shot of my bedroom window, from which I greet the rising sun each morning....

Not really. This is a window I saw on one of the walking tours we went on in London. It's an example of the incredible amount of Victorian architectural frou-frou on display almost everywhere one looks, in the central city at least. I couldn't resist snapping a picture. And you shouldn't resist clicking on it to see a closer view.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The T&T List

Jean-Claude Trichet
Perry Videx
Ion Torrent
Sharmaine Lovegrove
Cowboys & Aliens
Bar Refaeli
Sponge tax

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Random Sequence

Scene from a New York Marriage

In an attempt to avoid any squishier wastefulness, Adrian eschewed another unwitting enchilada, much to the disappointment of the inebriated Philipe, his suborbital sycophant, whose face portrayed a flabbergasted adagio. Philipe then attempted some boozy abracadabra, by offering Adrian the alternative of some caesarean albacore, but to no avail. Proud of his cookery, he attempted some lighthearted conviviality, which at least salvaged the fate of the piteous enchilada, which was then split between them on a tectonic plate of halcyon consensus.


The first lines of Haruki Murakami's hotly anticipated 1Q84.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Jet-lagged: Is it 9:30 PM or 4:30 AM? Since I time-traveled back from London, my brain has been somewhat confused about such questions. I find that I can fall asleep pretty much spontaneously if I close my eyes for more than a few seconds. Good thing I don't need to drive every day.

Amused: Even before he received a pie in the face, naughty billionaire Rupert Murdoch said it was "the most humble day" of his life when he was testifying before a committee in Parliament about hacking phones for fun and profit. He should have said "humbled", not "humble". As it stands, his statement could be taken two ways....

Overwhelmed: I've got SO many photos from the vacation trip to crop, 'shop, upload, and label. I don't think I'll get to it before the weekend. But watch for some future Photos of the Week snapped in Old Blighty.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Word of the Day: sarnie

sarnie (n)

A sandwich (chiefly British).

"'I'll make myself a sarnie.' She searched in the fridge, though Sheila knew she would find nothing more than some old cheddar and a few tomatoes. Eugenia rattled the bottom of the stove and turned around, flourishing the frying pan. 'An egg and bacon sarnie, that's what I'll have. I won't be making you one, though, not with you pigging out on peanut biscuits.' Sheila hid a smile. Mum's favorite food was fat and she knew she would pour the bacon fat over the plate. Who knew how hard her arteries were by this time? Probably clogged."
--Jo-Anne Southern, Keeping Mum

When we (me and the wyfe) had "high tea" at the British Museum, they served us sarnies -- little finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Watercress or something. So twee. Then they served us tea from tea bags, which I thought was a bit odd, given that everything else about the menu and setting was posh. But what do I know? Maybe HM the Queen dunks a bag in her cup these days. The quality of tea time is not strained....

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mind the Gap 9 (London & England Trip)

Back in the U ess of Ayy.

Hung out at Heathrow for most of the day, because we had to check out at Reading University by 9:30 AM, our flight was booked for 8:30 PM, and we couldn't get on standby for an earlier flight without paying a lot more. And it wasn't practical to go back into London. So... did a lot of doodling in my notebook, some last-minute shopping, and "read" (listened to) The Pale King.

Noted more strange (to American eyes) signs, especially all the names and euphemisms for what we call (illogically) "the bathroom":

toilet (by far the most frequent)
W.C. (i.e., the "water closet")
loo (informal)
washroom -- this is what Virgin Atlantic flight attendants call it on the plane, though the doors say "lavatory". By the way, do ALL female Virgin Atlantic flight attendants have to have blonde hair, pulled back in a bun? That seems to be one of Branson's requirements.

Never saw a sign for "bathroom" or "restroom" in England. Don't recall seeing signs for simply "Men" and "Women", which we often see here, either -- though the international graphic symbols for the two genders were frequent, as in the US.

On the flight, watched The Fighter, which was nominated for best picture. Good movie.

So we're back, the house still stands (thanks Phil), and now we know what sarnies are.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mind the Gap 8 (London & England Trip)

Today: Winchester Cathedral, which is in Hampshire, England, and is one of the largest (and I think oldest) cathedrals in the world. Attended the Sunday service there, or as much as we could stand; we left during the communion. The Cathedral is very goth and pretty interesting architecturally, and is where Jane Austen is buried. There's a nice plaque and window dedicated to her. The Cathedral is in the town of Winchester, which also contains The Great Hall, a medieval structure that is home to The Round Table of King Arthur, a hoax perpetrated by Henry VIII, apparently, but impressive nonetheless. It contains the names of all the knights of the round table in mostly unreadable gothic script and a nicely imagined portrait of Arthur (see link). Periodic drizzle while we toured the town.

Later, returned to Reading for some downtime, then went by "coach" (bus) to Henley-on-Thames for a dinner cruise with the Reading U. group, the final event of the reunion. This was the part of the Thames where the Henley Regatta is held. Lots of impressive river-front cottages and houses along the way, and the boat went through some river locks. Nice, although it rained off and on. Back to the US tomorrow.

By the way, there was a hit song (!) about Winchester Cathedral in the 1960s, which was recorded by Petula Clark, Frank Sinatra, and Rudy Vallee, among others. Here are the lyrics.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mind the Gap 7 (London & England Trip)

Today was Shakespeare Saturday -- sort of. Took the "coach" from Reading back to London to attend the Globe Theatre's production of Anne Boleyn, a contemporary play (with many Shakespearean features) set in the time of Henry VIII. Sat on the second tier of the replica Globe, which is almost like Shakespeare's, and in almost exactly the same place, but slightly smaller and with an extension out from the main stage into the "groundlings" (standing room only) area to allow for more flexibility with actor's entrances and exits. The play, although not strictly historically accurate, was excellent, as was the acting. No matter where you sit (or stand) in this theater-in-the-round setting, you're never far from the stage, and the actors could be heard fine without any micing. There was live 16th-century-style musical accompaniment from a small band, too. Unfortunately, it was raining, but the main stage is covered and the sky cleared about half-way through the play. This experience was kind of a dream come true for a certain blogging English major....

Afterward, walked through the nearby Boroughs Market, a farmer's market type thing, which was closing, but there were still food samples out to try at many of the stalls. Then, ate at a pub with a downstairs eating area arranged as brick "cells" (alcoves) with bars on the windows between each "cell". Excellent fish and chips, and a pint.

Then, took a short walk to the Tate Modern and toured the third-floor art galleries devoted to the Surrealists. Being crazy about the Surrealists, this was another peak experience for your correspondent.

After, walked over the Millennium Bridge towards St. Paul's Cathedral and the tube station, snapping many pictures along the way. Took the tube to Paddington and the train back to Reading. Feet: tired.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mind the Gap 6 (London & England Trip)

Now in Reading for my wyfe's reunion, staying on the university campus. In the morning, went by bus ("coach") to visit Waddeson Manor, "a country house in the village of Waddesdon, in Buckinghamshire, England. The house was built in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French château between 1874 and 1889 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839–1898)", sayeth Wikipedia, source of all wisdom. Except to call this place a "house" is like calling a Rolls Royce a car. It puts, say, the White House to shame when it comes to priceless art objects, historic furniture, a bazillion rooms, and formal lawns and gardens. And all so the Baron could throw lavish weekend parties for the cream of society. A little overwhelming. Not what I would build for myself if I was a zillionaire. Give me a Manhattan pied-à-terre and an island cottage.

In the afternoon, stopped at Oxford. Visited the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology. Lots of naked Greek statues and Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Took a bus tour of all the colleges ("Oxford is many colleges, not just one") and Gothic facades. Then ate dinner at the Eagle & Child pub, which is apparently where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien hung out back in the day. Nice place to visit, Oxford, but I only feel a little bit smarter now.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mind the Gap 5 (London Trip)

Keeping it short, because I need to go to bed. Today, met with some friendly colleagues at the UK offices of the company I work for, which I've never seen before. They're in a beautiful Victorian building and have a bright, cheerful, modern office with some (non-working?) antique fireplaces. Took photos. Then we took the Tube to Spitalfields (weird name) Market, to look over vendors of lots of interesting crafts and antique whatnot. Saw some stuffed foxes with bared teeth that cost 150 pounds each, for example. Then off to Paddington Station to catch a train to the suburb of Reading (pronounced Redding) for my wyfe's reunion -- she did a year abroad at the University of Reading while in college. Met many of her friends at the reception. Reading is an English town that, judging from the architecture, gives new meaning to the word "quaint". [By the way, it's actually midnight here as I'm writing this -- these posts have US time stamps.]

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mind the Gap 4 (London Trip)

More traipsing and Tubing: visited additional "Bentley" sites (including an antique shop with a nice talkative proprietor), did a little more of the bus tour, visited the Victoria and Albert museum briefly, went on a Beatles walking tour that took us to 3 Savile Row (again), Carnaby Street (which isn't what it used to be), and Abbey Road -- where I crossed the road right where "they" did, while stopping traffic. The studio there, which does not give tours, was covered with scaffolding and blue tarps. Lots of graffiti on the wall outside. We had high tea at the British Museum (it's not just broken-nosed statues there...), and finished up by attending the rock musical We Will Rock You tonight, based on the music of the group Queen. It was loud, flashy, and the audience was wildly enthusiastic. What happened to British reserve? Got back to the hotel and promptly blew a fuse in our room. Now waiting for the electrician as I type this on battery power. Cheers.....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mind the Gap 3 (London Trip)

Set my watch by Big Ben on this tourism day. Saw a lot: Buckingham Palace, Parliament, St. Paul's Cathedral, walked on Tower Bridge, went for a cruise on the Thames while eating take-out fish and chips. In and around Piccadilly Circus, visited shops, restaurants, and dealerships with the Bentley name, which is my wyfe's surname, for photo ops. Various shop assistants, waiters, etc., found this quite amusing and were accommodating. Accordingly, sat in a Bentley automobile for the first time.

Sat on the front steps, briefly, of 3 Savile Row, former home of the Beatles and Apple Corps, where the 1969 Let It Be rooftop concert occurred. Not sure what's going on in the building now -- saw Beatles-related graffiti ("Strawberry Fields Forever!") around the doorway.

We went on the Jack the Ripper walking tour, an hour-and-a-half of ambulatory education about a series of stomach-churning murders from a very knowledgeable guide with an interesting theory about whodunit. I stood on the exact cobblestones where one of the victims was found, as the guide pointed out. "What an honor," I said. Parts of Victorian London, as we also learned yesterday, was not a nice place for many people, although I suspect Victorian New York wasn't better. Still, architecturally, central London was and is a Victorian wonderland.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mind the Gap 2 (London Trip)

Spent some time in "The Clink" today -- literally; it's the name of a centuries-old London prison where people were manacled, beaten and tortured in various inventive ways. Went on a walking tour during which we heard much about the horrors of Victorian/Dickensian London -- knew about that already, but interesting to see the sites. Tour guide was terrific, a classic Brit type in her 70s (?) who did voices and walked very fast. Climbed many narrow, winding stairs to see the Operations Museum -- how they used to operate on people without anesthesia or sanitation, sawing off limbs, etc. Shivers. Lunched at Swiggins sandwich emporium. Visited the Southwark Cathedral and The Monument. More Tubing. Visited Starbucks and attempted to get online, but my wyfe can't remember her Starbucks password [eye roll]. The wi-fi doesn't work here at the hotel, despite what they promised, but luckily there is a (slow) public access connection. Had dinner at the famous Troubadour this evening, where there was a poetry reading going on. Loving the street and Tube signs: "Look Left", "Give Way" (i.e. "Yield"), "Mind Your Head", "60 Yards of Humps Ahead", and of course, "Way Out".

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mind the Gap 1 (London Trip)

Arrived safely in London via Virgin Atlantic. Finally figured out how to get online. Watched True Grit on the plane and listened to Rome (Danger Mouse). Severely jet-lagged. Lugged luggage up and down stairs at various Tube stations -- they don't believe in handicapped access here? "Way Out" -- indeed. Cars and highways are mirror images of home. Ate pub food and had some Brit beer -- good; not as fizzy as US beer. Visited the Tower of London. Hotel (more like a B and B) has a tub but no shower and no A.C., although it's pretty cool here. Wore a jacket outside tonight. The queen (my wyfe) has retired for the evening. Me too, soon. Still getting used to the time difference.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Random Acts of Poetry

As the President Spoke (2007)

Someone hung dolls from the chandelier and
a nun fingered an abacus in her mind.

Prisoners giggled in their cells, watching
a pederast pass cigarettes between the bars.

Grandpa wiped his glasses with a dishrag while
a sophomore solved equations with a cheese-slicer.

An amputee said he "didn't see it coming," and
a mother of three said, "Who uses a car as a weapon?"

An estimated two million illegals flushed toilets while
an emergency-room janitor mopped up blood.

It began to pour, and
citizens ran for shelter.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Head Rattle


So that British birdcage liner is closing. (Oh sorry 200 journalists who had nothing to do with the scandal!) I'm thinking I might, therefore, rename this blog The News of the World. Who's going to stop me? Rupert Murdoch? I don't think so. All of this persiflage is about a world, after all: my world -- or a least the more absurd, solipsistic aspects of it.


I bought a classic 1963 Corvette today. It's about five inches long, made of die-cast metal, and was on sale at Duane Reade. It has a little flexible radio aerial on the back.


The Harriet Carter catalog has arrived in my mailbox! Interesting items on offer: a water dish for dogs in the shape of a toilet, a personalized (submit your initials) leather Bible case, and a praying teddy bear that recites the Lord's Prayer. Animals and religion are a frequent theme of these must-haves. Another one is various pneumatic and magnetic devices for relieving aches and pains (quack, quack).


I need something to "read" (listen to?) again. It will probably be The Pale King by David Forster Wallace. Long, lumpy, weird, wonderful, boring, brilliant.... I've heard a lot about it. Sounds like it might be worth a try while I wait for the new Murakami.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Word of the Day: philocomal

philocomal (adj)

Characterized by excessive concern with one's hair.

"There were ladies present too; and after some pleasant little discourse, all tending to the glorification of hair-dressing, an eminent professor of the philocomal art there present proceeded to a series of practical and illustrative experiments on the heads of some of the young ladies...."
--George Augustus Sala, Twice 'Round the Clock

I got my hair cut yesterday -- and cut and cut. My (ahem) stylist decided that, since "it's summer now", I needed a short cut. I agreed, thinking he meant "a little shorter than usual". Instead, I got shorn like a sheep. I almost look like I'm ready for boot camp. But it's growing on me -- literally and figuratively. And it's going to look pretty terrific in a couple of weeks. Or so. Meanwhile, at least I won't have to worry about attending to my locks during my upcoming sojourn in the Mother Country.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The T&T List

the Sangamonian interglacial
Cy Twombly
Guadalajara Sour
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
Hoa Hakananai'a
Upper Dart
American Horticultural Therapy Association

Monday, July 04, 2011

Photo of the Week: July 4th Edition

flags 2

It's Independence Day, which means my super-patriotic neighbors will be flying their 14 Stars and Stripes from every flagstaff and finial. Apparently, all of their flags are machine-washable and drip-dry, so here's a shot of their freshly laundered Old Glories drying on a rack in their backyard yesterday.

Actually, I just made that up. This is a photo I snapped at the Bouckville Antiques Fair last August. Somebody was selling flags, though not superannuated ones by the looks of them. Stay tuned; I'll be attending Bouckville again next month and undoubtedly finding more wiggy whatnot to shutterbug.

Enjoy your barbecue, or however you celebrate our severance from the Mother Country.

(Click the pic for a close-up view and to pledge your allegiance.)

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Excited/nervous: I'm going to be traveling to London in about a week. This will be the first time I've been outside the US in several years -- not since I worked for a travel trade magazine that sent me on a European trip with a group of seed farmers who had won some seed-company contest. It wasn't fun. I had to take notes about everything for an article I was to write, and I had to hang out the whole time with, uh, seed farmers. This will be a pleasure trip with my wyfe, but there's a lot to think about and prepare for, such as the fact that our phones won't work there (we're getting global loaner phones from the big, bad V) and that the electricity is different, so we need adapters.... I don't think HM the Queen will be in town -- she spends her summers at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, I believe -- which is just as well, since my wyfe is convinced that she is a queen, and it might be like matter and antimatter colliding if they were to bump into each other. Then there's the little matter of this blog. I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep up with my (almost) daily posting, and I don't have a guest blogger, but I'll do what I can to be your London correspondent for a while. Cheers.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 30 small

Agree? More clip-art philosophy by me (and Kurt Vonnegut). Catch the BIG fish here.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Head Rattle


Is it possible to feel too tired to go to bed? That's about where your host is right now. Propitiously, a three-day weekend is coming up, which I'm extending into a four-day mini furlough.


My biting article about a trip to the dentist/oral inquisition, "The Ongoing Saga of My Denticles", is up on Chew on it for amusement.


"Yes. That's a human ear alright." Here is a enlightening article about an iconic prop from one the best films of all time. (It's also human hair alright, and guess whose?)