Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Scrambled. I attended the opening for an art show called Exquisite Corpse tonight. It's part of the Jersey City Studio Arts tour this weekend, which is when you get to walk around downtown and poke your nose into various artists' warrens. (Often, seeing how they live is more interesting than the art.) Anyway, if you don't know what  exquisite corpse means, it's a game in which a group of people combine various unrelated words, phrases, sentences, or images to generate something new, something surreal, or at least something off the wall. The point is that the assemblage is more or less unconsciously produced, since it's a group effort, not the result of a single person thinking about how the pieces "should" fit together. This art show, which is staged in a large industrial space, borrows the concept visually -- each "piece" was actually two or three pieces combined: a "head", a "torso", and "legs", with each part sometimes being a realistic depiction of a human or animal body, and sometimes an abstract one.

All of the pieces came from different artists working in different mediums. Some of it was quite stunning, some of it truly seemed random, and all of it made me feel a bit... fragmented. Juxtaposed. Cobbled together. I like genuine randomness, but this was curated randomness by a single person... I guess you could call it faked randomness, if you wanted to be blunt about it. Not that such is necessarily a bad thing -- like I said, much of it was stunning and most of the individual pieces could certainly stand as works of art on their own. But it didn't quite work for me.

They had some amputated parts of stuffed animals in a big bowl there that visitors could recombine (thanks to the miracle of Velcro) in amusing ways, but I wasn't in the mood.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The T&T List

british museum

Canadian Ice Service
Katy Perry
Isabel Coixet
The Narrative of John Smith
Kindle Fire
Idris Elba
Hellenic Ornithological Society
Fan Tan Alley

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

It's recycling night again. I love recycling night. I enjoy crushing plastic soda bottles beneath my feet and then dropping them into ye olde recycling bin. Love the sound of the recycling truck slowly rumbling down my street and consuming my castoffs in its huge metallic maw like some prehistoric monster. The sound of metal cans banging together and glass jars clinking and breaking as they fall into that ravenous mouth is the sound of creative destruction. Off they'll go to the recycling center, where they will be born again as containers of Campbell's Pork & Beans or jars of Vaseline or some other goo. And the paper! My junk mail may end up as a book of poetry or an issue of Weird N.J. or a roll of toilet tissue. It's a kind of immortality when you think about it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Word of the Day: banjax

banjax (v or n)

To break or smash. Also: a mess. (When capitalized, this is apparently also the name, or part of the name, of some hipster band.)

"If any of the boys sounded the alarm, you could have forty or fifty little horrors milling around the stairs and the passages or running to banjax the getaway car. They are like a hornets' nest when they have got it in for someone -- and absolutely fearless."
--Andrew Nugent, Soul Murder

I'm tired of seeing all these banjaxed old pre-digital TV sets on the curbside, their cathode-ray tubes exposed and their circuit wires hanging out like the disembowled intestines of some slaughtered creature. Don't people know that you can't just throw away a TV set? The sanitation department will not pick them up, since they're practically hazmat with all the poisonous chemicals used in their manufacture. You have to take them somewhere, like the Incinerator Authority (in our fair city) or whatever the equivalent place is that accepts old appliances, paint and aerosol cans, and your dead batteries. Then they probably get shipped off to a Chinese landfill (thanks 60 Minutes). But at least we wouldn't have to look at these sad, broken relics of a bygone era and stumble over them for weeks on end while their ignorant owners wait for a trash pick-up that will never come.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

Mantle Piece

The contents of the mantlepiece in my living room (left to right):

A fishbowl containing a piece of coral and a porcelain fish, and no water; a stack of small, 1960s-era souvenir glass ashtrays from Los Angeles and Las Vegas (once owned by my wyfe's late aunt); a pine nut; a Michael Jackson doll (from the Thriller days) wearing a red uniform jacket and a white glove and lying flat on his back; a 3D wooden snowflake; a photograph of our fireplace (yes--on top of the fireplace); a small metal replica of the Eiffel Tower; a tiny metal replica of the Space Needle; a tin Lucky Strikes cigarette case containing various ID and membership cards from the 1940s through 1960s that belonged to my wyfe's late aunt and her ex-husband; another stack of souvenir glass ashtrays (we don't smoke) from various California and Nevada motels and casinos; a painted seashell; a small Hello Kitty candle; and two glass paperweights, one containing a yellowed photograph of a fancy hotel and the other a photo of an unknown, sad-faced woman (1920s era?) with a curlicue of hair in the middle of her forehead.

Sometimes I think a semiotician could have a field day with this place.



The 3 Rs by David Lynch

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Search Party

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

 sell his own mother down the river

You have to wonder why someone would be searching for this phrase. And what the going rate is for a mom in wherever "down the river" is. New Orleans? I guess I could find out on Craigslist....

inside of white album

I believe there are secret, back-masked messages inside the White Album. They are telling me to hold my head up, free my mind, and come out and play in the road.

michael gates new jersey

Google reveals that I am number-one for this search phrase, even though there are seven people with that name in the Garden State. I wonder how often the others search for their own names and then land on my page -- and then want to change their names.

prism sun glass door

= Rainbows!

watermelon armed

Watermelons, dropped from a height, can indeed be deadly weapons in the hands of frat boys. Bombs away!

drawing body parts

Drawing people is so hard. I wish I could draw my proximal phalanges....

humerous tombstone suggestions

Try this one, carved on a tombstone in Wiltshire, England:

Blown upward
out of sight:
He sought the leak
by candlelight

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Random Sequence

Sylvia was both an apprehensive daydreamer and grumpy snoop. Her elderly and wealthy new neighbors -- she called them the "shriveled aristocracy" -- kept a glamorous menagerie in their backyard. There were caged cockatoos and a Capuchin monkey; fenced-in, free-range emus; and a boa constrictor behind glass. Sylvia suspected cruelty or illegal ownership, or possibly both. After dark, she snuck into the neighbors' yard with a flashlight and examined the monkey's spacious cage. She saw that the creature had doll furniture to use -- including an armoire, a roll-top desk, and a miniature sofa on which it was lounging. "What a luxurious rig," thought Sylvia. "My own living room isn't so--" The monkey gave her a raspberry. "Oh, you temperamental knave!" Sylvia whispered. Then she thought that perhaps the flashlight's bright beam had annoyed the little simian. "Sorry," she murmured. The anthropoid bared it's teeth and made a hissing noise. Sylvia opened her mouth in surprise and the monkey threw a peanut into it. She swallowed involuntarily. Sylvia was terribly allergic to peanuts and died shortly thereafter. A few months later, the boa constrictor escaped from its terrarium and strangled the monkey. The emus, who had observed it all, made guttural sounds that sounded like "okay sir ahhh, sir ahhhh."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Word of the Day: imbroglio

imbroglio (n)

A confusing, complex, or embarrassing situation, a painful misunderstanding, or a scandal.

"He wanted to be an Untouchable, Paul did. That was his idea of a contemporary career. But then a girl walked up and touched him (slapped him, actually; it's a complicated story). And he joined us, here in the imbroglio."
--Donald Barthelme, "See the Moon?"

Oh, this is a pretty easy word, compared to most of the ones I foist upon you. I more or less knew what it meant without looking it up. But it's a word I like (I like the sound of it), and I came across it in the book I'm currently reading (with my eyes, not my ears): Sixty Stories, by the late Mr. Barthelme. It's a very amusing collection of off-the-wall literary pieces, most of which don't seem like stories at all, at least not in the sense of having a beginning, a middle, and nice little New Yorker-type wrap-it-up-with-a-tasteful-bow epiphany at the end. That's okay. I've laughed out loud more than once while reading this witty tome -- a rare pleasure.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Brain Dump

Of the lessons that dreams teach, among the most important is that you must sleep with your ethereal eyes open. This is so that chimerical wisdom can find its path to your intrinsic psyche. Dreams are constructed from the artifacts of hidden meanings, their aspects fixed within the psychogenic fusion of the subliminal archetypes. The often volcanic outpourings of visionary dream images experienced during the trance-like torpidity of somnolence is the epitome of salubrious intoxication, the desirable mental respite from circadian quandaries and torment. This is a necessary psychic transition from spiraling diurnal vexation toward the untroubled consonance of a requited heart. The road to serenity is found in habitual cultivation of a habit of surprising the slumbering mind during its extended nocturnal exile from quotidian disharmony by creating a "whirligig" of phantasmagorical imagery to soothe the apprehensive intellect via the ministrations of the proverbial catnap -- that is, forty winks.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Photo of the Week

waddesdon manor bird topiary

This is a Green-breasted Spotted Nuthatch, one of the rarest birds in North America, which I managed to photograph when it alighted briefly atop a floral mound in our local park. It's song is a tirelessly repeated musical trill: foo lee uuu, foo lee uuu....

Sorry to ruffle your feathers, but actually, I just made that up -- not that I really expected you to swallow it. This is a shrubbery, an impressive example of topiary that I encountered when we toured the gardens of Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, England, last July. Click on the pic for a close-up view -- unless you don't give a hoot.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Random Acts of Poetry


Electricity lost,
that little redhead
exploded for us,
igniting a tiny
scratch dazzle
in the big, dark place.

Your face bloomed,
orange and guileless
in the match-light:
a flicker
out of childhood,
out of a sulfurous dream.

Fade to black.
So it is with our kind.
I endured it,
not despairing.
I let drop
that little cinder bone,
the dead stick.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Head Rattle


A couple of people I know are in a local band, and that band is about to release a self-produced (but studio-recorded) album. No big deal, right? Except it won't be on CD or vinyl (though they'd certainly like it to be the latter). And no, it's not going to be a download, though it may be that as well, eventually. It's going to be on cassette. That's almost unbelievably retro, but is it... cool? I can't remember the last time I listened to anything on cassette. I still have a boom box that can play them, so I'll be able to listen to the album, but I'm not sure if most people have retained the, uh, technology. Some people like the pops and clicks on vinyl records (not to mention the "warmer" sound), which seem to add an air of authenticity. Will they feel the same way about tape hiss? I guess we'll find out.


I discovered that I still have a 20-pound note in my wallet from my trip to England. I had exchanged my Brit bills at the airport just before leaving for home, but this one, all folded up, escaped my notice somehow. Maybe I'll take it to an American Express office next time I'm in Manhattan and trade it for greenbacks. Or maybe not. It's a souvenir of sorts, with HM the Queen's smirking mug on one side and some kind of graphic depicting "the division of labour in pin manufacturing" (huh?) on the other. It bears the signature of Andrew Bailey, the "chief cashier" of the Bank of England, which conjures on odd image in my mind: Andy standing behind a shop counter and working a cash register, like one of the check-out clerks at Stop & Shop.



Hipster central has unveiled David Lynch's cover art for his upcoming album. I like.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Word of the Day: battologize

To repeat oneself excessively.

"But his meaning is buried beneath layers of imperspicuity where he battologizes with novel conceits and becomes pleonastic and periphrastic. To him 'law is pragmatic and philosophic, not vapid beating of juristic wings in the void.'"
--India Quarterly

It can be annoying when someone repeats himself constantly, but it can be amusing, too. Whenever you hear the word or catchphrase elsewhere, you think of that person. The verbal tic becomes symbolic of him or her, like an sonic monogram or an aural coat of arms. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Here are some words and phrases I hear from people (who shall be nameless) all the time:
circle back
close the loop
have a conversation about....
pretty much
exactly! [I'm guilty of this one myself]
what's interesting is....
can I ask you a question?
over to you
okay, okay, okay
here's the thing...
watcha got?
Reminder to my readers around the world: I expect you to help rescue these "words of the day" from oblivion by using them in daily conversation and reporting back to me the reactions you receive.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The T&T List

Perry Como
This Train
Guy Maddin
San Feliu de Guixols
Ohne Titel
Elmgreen and Dragset
Tesla Dynamo
Nightmare and the Cat
Lime cordial
Evolution (Megaplex)
NFC tags

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Much Ado about Something

Hmm, 10 years since "that day". My wyfe was in Building 7 of the World Trade Center on "that day". I was across the river, watching events unfold from the panoramic skyline views of Riverview Park in Jersey City, which was next to where I was living at the time. I don't feel like saying or writing much about it now, but I did back then, as many people did. Everybody has a story. You can read my nonfiction account, written in October 2001, here at the 9/11 Digital Archive.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Photo of the Week

roundtable detail - great hall (winchester)

This is a portrait of King Arthur on the very Round Table around which such knights as Lancelot and Galahad sat drinking coffee or mead or whatever they imbibed in those apocryphal times. This piece of legendary furniture is housed in the "Great Hall" of Winchester Castle in Hampshire, England.

I didn't make this up! Henry VIII did. The table is a hoax, painted at Henry's command for Holy Roman Emperor Charles V's 1522 state visit. The table itself is considerably older than that, according to dendrochronology -- but the wood it's made of does not date back to Arthur's time. Fake, fake, fake.

Still, it's a fascinating artifact, so I took this picture of it when we visited Winchester in July. You may want to climb down from your beanstalk and click on the pic for a close-up look at old Art, holding his sword Excaliber. And you can see the entire tabletop here.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Disgusted. The very wet and (until recently) very warm weather seems to have encouraged every type of vermin and pest -- save rats, praise the Cosmic Muffin -- to encroach upon my domicile. In the five years we've lived here, we've never had roaches until this summer. And until last winter, we didn't have much of a mouse problem either. At the time, I thought the mice were coming inside to escape the cold, but we seem to have more than ever now, here, at the tail end of summer. I wonder if mice are gradually evolving toward intelligence. They seem to be smart enough to evade every sort of trap we've set for them. The ultimate solution would be to get a cat, I suppose, but someone in my family is allergic to animal fur, especially feline fluff. Maybe we could get one of those hairless cats, but they're so damn ugly and as creepy, in their own way, as mice.

Confused. Someone, a person I see almost every weekday, asked me if I had just received a haircut today. Now, I haven't had a haircut since late June, when I was almost buzzed bald by an eccentric Brazilian hairstylist who apparently has trouble following simple directions. So I said, no, I haven't had a haircut. "Oh, have you been wearing a hat then?" this person asked. "It looks matted down." I didn't know how to respond to that. I hadn't been wearing a hat, and a recent glance in the loo's mirror hadn't revealed anything out of the ordinary about my still rather short coif. So I ran my fingers through my hair and fluffed it up a bit in a mocking way, and everyone laughed. I guess you can see someone every day for years, but not really see him at all, until a random moment of undistracted clarity strikes and you suddenly picture the guy as he is in the moment, instead of your mentally prepackaged image from months ago.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Search Party

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

archaism in Shakepeare

I guess there is some, isn't there? I don't lose sleep over it, though. "Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch!" (Henry IV, part I) Who knows what a "tallow-catch" is anymore? I get the clear impression it isn't a good thing, though, and that's what matters.

surrealism room

That might be a good name for this blog. As far as I'm concerned, there is always room for surrealism.

science fiction plot ideas

How about this:

A light-fingered human-reptile hybrid man is scraping a living on a stormy planet. His homeworld was destroyed by a rogue virus. With the help of a lonely A.I. program, he must travel through time in order to save his unhatched egg.

find free mannequin parts

I don't even want to think about why you're googling for them....

why did I dare to turn down the hot water

I too sometimes scald or chill myself in the shower when I get a little too imprudent with the faucet handle. It's never occurred to me to google guilty questions about it, though.

nobody likes me because I'm different

Tell me about it.... Adult life is amazingly like high school, isn't it?

blonde bombshell and crazy cat lady

Interesting combination. That reminds me, for some reason, of Marilyn Monroe and her beloved dog, a Maltese named "Maf" -- short for "Mafia". The dog was a gift to her from Frank Sinatra, which raises all sorts of questions and speculative connections that have given birth to a thousand conspiracy theories. That way madness lies (more Shakespearean archaism).

simile of revenge

At first, I read that as "smile of revenge". A simile? Revenge is like a lollipop. Discuss.

japanese claritin

What? How it it different? (Or is this a euphemism for saké?)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Word of the Day: scripturient

scripturient (adj)

Having a violent desire to write.

"And as for the 'lady novelist,' who supplies the circulating libraries with endless small reading, one feels that she is a curious product of this scripturient age. No doubt she fills some useful, or necessary, purpose in the subtle economy of this mysterious universe; but what it is, besides making a little money for herself, and providing a stimulus to the trades of paper-making, printer, and binding, one must wait to know until the 'great day' when all secrets will be revealed."
--G.W. Foote, "The Mighty Atom", in Freethinker, May 17, 1896

My, how sexist. It should be noted, however, that Foote was comparing the "lady novelists" of his own day to Charlotte Bronte ("a Titaness") and (Ms.) George Elliot ("full of intellect and power"), whom he called "mighty predecessors".

I can't say I've ever experienced a "violent" desire to write -- though judging from the frequency of posts here, I think you could say I have a strong urge, bordering on obsession. But violence? Let's say you were some kind of busybody censor who somehow inserted yourself into my circle of acquaintance. Would I hit you over the head with my thesaurus if you tried to prevent me from pounding the keys? Maybe, if you were insistent and persistent about it. And it might not be such a terrible thing. Hell, it would give me something exciting to write about.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Photo of the Week

piano player london

These are the other members of the singing group I belong to, The Ring Tones. That's Barney at the piano, with Loretta and Hans. We were crooning one of our original songs, "Why Can't I Check My Rifle with the Luggage?" when I stepped away to snap this picture. We do pretty well as street performers, often raking in as much as $7.26 a day in coinage.

Actually, I just made that up. This is a busker and some random tourists (I guess) that I just happened upon while wandering around in London in July. Quaint!

(Click the pic for a closer look. They're apparently harmonizing to a song called "Play Me, I'm Yours".)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Brain Dump

Between an explosion of painful awareness and the softness of an undecipherable dream lies the opaque blindness of the unthinkable. Certain cogitations are too vexatious to be entertained in conscious daylight; they lie half glimpsed in the caliginous oblivion of repression, forever threatening to interrupt our happy delusions. But this incertitude evaporates when a sudden inspiration obliterates the impenetrable blockage and reveals the maleable foundations of reality. The dream-self never sleeps and never wakens.