Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Word of the Day: widdendream

widdendream (n)

A state of confusion or mental disturbance.

"Lucinda, already dizzy from the medication, experienced total widdendream when the escalator suddenly changed direction."
--Leahcim Setag, Strange Loops

Someone close to me, who shall be nameless, experienced widdendream recently, while... under the influence, shall we say. This fellow suddenly imagined he was being chased around the inside of an enormous cereal bowl by a gigantic spoon. Some passersby apparently entered widdendream while trying to figure out what his excited babbling was about.

"You don't hear about it anymore, but people are still visiting the cosmos."
--John Lennon

Monday, May 30, 2011

Random Sequence: Rococo Clamor (fiction)

[random phrases worked into a story]

Once again, Ivan was cursing the terribly thin walls of his apartment. His neighbor, a female acoustical reveler, was engaged in yet another paroxysm of rococo clamor -- a wrongheaded morass of unwelcome piping. She was an amplified flautist who alternated her mawkish compositions and airheaded orchestrations with earsplitting vocalizations. Tonight, the lyrics of her self-composed song -- a gabby quacking about a "star-crossed dove" or a "long lost love" or some such vapidity -- had sent Ivan into a pissed simmer. He'd already tried complaining to her, as well as to his useless landlord (a hairsplitting countess type who only wanted to know how he defined "loud" as opposed to "discernable"). His complaints were ignored, or met with lectures on the difference between discordant and consonant harmonics.

Ivan's only alternative was a technological one: he'd purchased a white-noise machine, whose sonorous whir drowned out most of the cacophony. But it still left him feeling helpless, like a pusillanimous surrender monkey. Fortuitously, though, it also gave him the mental space to plot his revenge, which would also be technological. Already, he was planning to turn his robust stereo speakers to face the wall he shared with his obstreperous neighbor. And he happened to have in his possession several albums by the dissonant Stravinsky, the metallic Rammstein, and the inimitable Yoko Ono....

[not to be continued]

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Photo of the Week: Catching the Big Fish


A nice composition, if I do say so myself. I snapped this one while on a hike around Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca, New York, a couple of weeks ago. I didn't stick around to see if he caught anything. I'm not even sure that the point of fishing in such a spot would be to catch something, necessarily, except a sense of "flow". The experience itself would be meditative, I would think.

Click the pic for a closer look. You know you want to.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The T&T List

Koh Samui
Gnawa music
The Tree of Life
Kris Humphries
Darbhanga – Bangalore Express
Andrew Fairfoul
Otherness of childhood
Litoria sanguinolenta
Perfect Disaster
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer
506 Marion

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Word of the Day: autoschediastic

autoschediastic (adj)

Extemporaneous or improvised.

"In my perplexity in meeting this danger, I was also aware of the vagaries and diverse and conradictory conjectures of this Bible-wrecking cult and of its many autoschediastic asseverations. I recalled some of the answers already given by history."
--Howard A. Kelly, A Scientific Man and the Bible

Here's something I wrote once in a moment of autoschediastic scribomania:

"While standing in line at the bank today, I saw a woman wearing a (faux) leopard-skin hat. It reminded me of Bob Dylan's song, "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat," on the album Blonde on Blonde. When I think of a blonde (with an "e" on the end), I think of Marilyn Monroe, who sang "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" in one of her films and, speaking of diamonds, was married to a baseball player, Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio, after his baseball career ended, became a TV pitchman for Mr. Coffee, a machine for making . . . coffee. And I love coffee. I like to grind the beans myself, and drink it black. "Black as midnight on a moonless night," as FBI agent Dale Cooper said when asked how he liked his coffee. Cooper was a character on a TV show, one of my all-time favorites, called Twin Peaks. The peaks referred to in the show's title were two mountains, although the phrase "twin peaks" is supposedly also a juvenile euphemism, referring to a woman's breasts. There are many euphemisms for parts of the body, both male and female, most of them "vulgar slang," as the dictionary says. One of them is "pussy." A pussy is also a cat, a feline, and leopards are members of the cat family. Before leopards became endangered, their spotted skin was highly prized for use in women's coats and, at one time, "pillbox"-style hats. You can see a leopard-skin pillbox hat, which has been made into a lamp, here."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Brain Dump

Whether Report


Mostly runny. Sighs in the lower Hades. Beast winds 10 to 15 mph.

Thursday Night

Smartly dowdy in the relieve inning...then becalming rowdy. Patchy frog after midnight. Glows in the mid 60s. Blessed winds 10 to 15 mph.


Scratchy dog in the mourning. Mostly funny. Cries in the mid 80s. Mouth winds 10 to 15 mph.

Fryday Night

Partly rowdy in the evening...then becalming loudly. A blight trance of blunderstorms in the leavening...then a trite chance of flowers. Blows in the mid 60s. Greased winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of drain 20 percent.


Partly money. A chance of flowers in the laughter-spoon. Lies in the lower shadies. Chance of sprain 30 percent.

SatyrDay Night

Mostly shrouds. Ohs in the upper 60s.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Worried: I got a strange wrong-number cell phone call today: a guy asking for "Gina". "There's no Gina here," I said. "You've got the wrong number." He called back a minute later and asked for Gina again. I asked him what number he was calling, and he recited my number. "Where did you get my number?" I asked. "From a flyer," he said. "What is it a flyer for?" I asked. "Swedish massage," he said. So there's a flyer for a Swedish masseuse named Gina out there with my number on it. I may just keep my phone off for a while.

Surreptitious: As a captive audience of one, I couldn't help overhearing a group of people discussing their future plans today. They lamented a lack of information. It was unclear how soon some things could happen, they said. There was an undertone of desperation. They weren't even sure they knew enough to be able to talk about what they were talking about. The discussion became circular and somewhat abstract, with much verbal hand-wringing. It occurred to me that such discussions are much more productive when held in a hot tub. Or after everyone has had a good massage.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

Things seen while walking to the train station today and almost every day:

A little boy walking a big, ugly bulldog/mongrel that growls at me. I pass them several times a week, and I always hope that kid can keep a tight grip on the leash.

A grinning Asian guy pedaling furiously a small, folding-type bicycle along the sidewalk. I almost get run over by him each and every morning.

A middle-aged, well-dressed lady in sunglasses on a lady-like bike with a wicker basket on the front, trimmed with artificial daisies. She's also on the sidewalk, but moving slow and with a serious, very determined expression. She'd run over me too, I think, if I didn't get out of her way.

Gas stations: $3.89/gallon at one, $3.99/gallon at another. This is why I walk everywhere I can, or one reason.

Jehovah's Witnesses dressed in Sunday best and carrying stacks of magazines. They wish me a good morning. "No thanks," I say, then think: So now I won't have a good morning?

A billboard for a home-improvement store with the figure of a giant lumberjack (?) smiling down at me. Or laughing at me?

A very white statue of Mary smiling beatifically and with out-stretched arms in front of a rectory. Let it be.

An abandoned Volkswagen dealership with enormous broken-glass walls, which might make a good set for a post-apocalyptic film.

Three crossing guards, employed by the school system but happy to "cross" adults too. One is a young, black guy on a busy corner who blows his whistle and then curses at speeding drivers who ignore him. Another is an old lady with orange gloves and intense stop-and-go hand movements. And one is a young giantess who always says "good morning" to me sweetly, then says "go ahead!" impatiently if I show even the slightest hesitation when the light changes.

A morning line of down-at-the-heels people waiting for a Social Security office on Kennedy Boulevard to open -- old, young, white, black, but all with tired eyes that track me as I pass by. Thinking what?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Photo of the Week: Dinosaur

dinosaur 2

Who says they're extinct?

I sighted this dinosaur (apparently an immature Ianthasaurus or a close relative), atop a ledge outside the Ithaca Coffee Company emporium during a recent trip to that Upstate New York town. It was very still, as if frightened by the presence of caffeine-powered humans. In fact, by the time I left, it remained in exactly the same position -- no doubt stunned by the many changes to the landscape wrought by the passage of so many eons since its ancestors ruled the earth.

Click the photo for a closer examination of this antediluvian visitor from the Carboniferous period.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Word of the Day: godwottery

godwottery (n)

(1) Elaborate gardening, or (2) the use of archaic language.

"Not to mince words, I thought it was a unique combination of getwithery and godwottery. Or to put it another way, an exquisite blend of dogma and digma. In fact I thought it was the most stimulating and revealing bit of devotional prose...."
--Michael Frayn, On the Outskirts

Verily, I say, 'tis most vexing to issue forth in antique jottings, as if from the honeyed pen of Shakespeare. One feels like an artless fly-bitten coxcomb! Or a lumpish doghearted wagtail! Or even an impertinent flap-mouthed dewberry! Fie on it! Methinks I must leave off with this gleeking, sheep-biting mumble-news! Art thou in agreement?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

I thought I had lost my "little black book" -- my Moleskine notebook. I was sure it must have fallen out of my backpack during the ear excavation when I was at the doctor's office yesterday. I even called the clinic at lunch time today and asked the receptionist if anyone had turned it in. "No." But then I realized that I had taken my "home" backpack, not my "work" backpack yesterday. And there it was, the black book in a little cul de sac within my black backpack. (Say that sentence 10 times fast, please.)

I'm not sure why I was so concerned. This notebook is mostly filled with doodles, shopping lists, and surreal non sequiturs. Consider the following jottings from just a few pages:

"cultivating mums and detachment"
"booking a flight to catatonia"
"turning another page in the Tumbleweed Times"
"Would rather hit a pothole than a landmine"
"He's knocked out and has a fish dream"
"He takes the dead cat to the woman's house"

Except for the second-to-last note (a seed that later blossomed into a short story), I don't know what any of these random brainwaves I scribbled down refers to, or what I was thinking when I scrawled them. But maybe that's what endears me to this little journal of banality alternating with absurdity. I can always open it up and surprise myself -- with my self.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quote of the Day

Oh, dear! Oh, dear!
I can not hear.
Will you please
come over near?
Will you please look in my ear?
There must be something there, I fear.

Say, look!
A bird was in your ear.
But he is out. So have no fear.
Again your ear can hear, my dear.

--Dr. Seuss, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

My trip to the doctor went well today -- if you consider having a fire hose and a Roto-Rooter stuck into your left ear to be a salubrious experience. Actually, it was, in the end, since afterwards I felt much better, and I can now hear everything in stereo again. What the doctor removed from my head was not a bird.... I won't burden you with the icky details, but what came out was almost enough to make a birthday candle.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Random Sequence: The Illuminato (fiction)

The Illuminato was a big man, athletic but listless -- a sort of torpid panther, Ivan thought. Lifting one of his elephantine sneakers, the Illuminato deposited it on his kitschy footstool, an imitation tree stump. "You seem like an apt gent," he said, with a honeyed tone. "Not like that dotty hamster I hired last time."

"What, exactly, do you want proofed?" Ivan asked. "I assume there is a manuscript."

"Indeed there is," said the Illuminato. "It is autobiographical..."

Ought oh, Ivan thought.

"...a sort of isotopic expounding combined with frazzled reminiscence," the Illuminato continued. "The story of a jerkwater disloyalty that dilated into a...a sort of a....let's say, a sort of elegiac factorization."

"Hmmm?" Ivan murmured.

The Illuminato looked suddenly suspicious. "A... salubrious orthogonality," he said, raising a skeptical eyebrow.

It was then that Ivan realized that this assignment was going to be a pickle. A big, fat, green dill pickle.

[not to be continued]

Monday, May 16, 2011

Word of the Day: jargogle

jargogle (v)

To confuse or mix up.

"Congratulations, dearest; I wouldn't have thought it possible, but you've found something else to jargogle."
--Peter Bowler, Ron Bell, The Superior Person's Second Book of Weird and Wondrous Words

Things that confuse or puzzle me:

--I'm looking for something, and my wyfe tells me it's "in the closet". We have eight closets here. "Which closet?" I ask. "The Closet!" she yells.
--Kids playing in the street when there are two huge parks a couple of blocks away in either direction
--A relative who has changed her first name to something completely different -- but not legally; trying to remember and use it
--High fructose corn syrup
--Weekend train schedules
--vesting (financial, not sartorial)
--PPOs vs. HMOs
--zebroids, zorses, zebrules, zonies, zonkies, donkras and zebra hinnies

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Photo of the Week: Star Car

spaceshipcar 1

This is not my car.

This is a prototype for a vehicle intended to beat the land speed record of 415.896 mph (669.319 km/h) at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah later this year.

Actually, I just made that up....

Ahh, the flying cars we were promised by the 21st century. It hasn't happened, but the dream dies hard.

This is an automobile -- or "spaceship" -- I sighted on a recent trip to Ithaca, New York. Rocket-ship styling was de rigeur on many finny American cars in the 1950s and early '60s, but none ever went this far, I don't think (though '59 Cadillacs came close). I suspect the industrial vacuum-cleaner tubes on the top of this conveyance are not functional. What do you think? As for the rocket exhausts.... It looks like there IS something flammable in that central tube. A fuse, perhaps, or just a candle? Better step back when this thing takes off, in any case.

Click the pic for a closer look at this whimsical vehicle.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Deaf: Still nearly deaf in one ear, due to some kind of obstruction. Ear drops are not working. Paging Dr. Cochlea.... I'm reminded of a line from one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books: "Again your ear can hear my dear." That's what I want to hear. I don't think it's a bird in my ear, though....

Almost nauseous: Just went on a long car trip with my wyfe. We share the driving, with the driver picking the music. And while she was at the wheel, she only wanted to listen to The Carpenters' greatest hits two-CD set. It was like drowning in a vat of honey. Karen Carpenter, may she rest in peace, had an amazing pop voice, but she seems to have sung nothing but ultra-commercial pap with Hollywood orchestrations. Why DO birds suddenly appear?

Silly: I wore that fedora again, while out walking the other day -- I don't know why. Strangers smiled at me. Were they laughing, or did they like the retro look?



So you want to be an audiobook author, publisher, narrator....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Search Party

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

george bush gnome

Better by far than george bush president.

kant comic

Kant wasn't much of a comedian. He did say "To be is to do", which led to Sinatra's "do be do be do", which I've always found humorous.


This is an obsolete word for "hedgehog". I'm trying to figure out how I can rescue this word from oblivion by casually dropping it into conversation. Spiny mammals don't come up much at the office.

daze of our lives

Good name for a blog. Maybe even this one.

quirk of the day

Hmmm. A new blog category perhaps. Quirks are everywhere if you look for them.

no one likes me because geek

Let's form a club....

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Head Rattle


My ear is clogged up with something, so I can't hear in stereo at the moment. It's an odd feeling that puts me "in my head" even more than usual. I've lost any desire to listen to music and I have to keep asking people to repeat themselves. "Wut? Wut?"


Bad Grapefruit:
When you get a wrong number, try to keep the caller talking for as long as possible. Ask what number they are calling and pretend to mishear the last digit. Ask them if they can spell it for you. If they ask to speak to someone specific, say, "Hold on. He'll [she'll] be with you in a minute. I just have to unlock the handcuffs. If they hang up, call them back if your phone will do that. Ask to speak to Bob. If the person says there's not Bob there, ask what they have done with Bob.


I’m reading the new issue of Weird N.J., which this time has a lot of scary articles about people exploring underground tunnels and old, abandoned houses. Sometimes I think that sort of expedition would be fun, but then I realize I get the creeps just by going down into my own basement.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Word of the Day: hoghenhine

hoghenhine (n)

A member of one's family; a guest who stays more than three nights.

"As to guests, we will that every one uncouth, answer for his guest that he shall have harboured for more... than two nights together, so that the first night he shall be deemed a stranger and uncouth, the second night a guest, and the third night a hoghenhine."
--Francis Morgan Nichols, Britton

I suggest that you NOT refer to your family members or long-term guests using this word, at least not in their presence, unless you are extremely angry with them. They might take it the wrong way.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Photo of the Week: Stone Face


This is a photo I snapped a few years ago in Newark, New Jersey, but I recently came across it again. I like that enigmatic face -- probably a woman's face, since it's on the facade of a very old Baptist Church (which I suspect was once a Catholic church), and most male religious figures are depicted with beards. It isn't obvious that she's supposed to be any biblical gal in particular, however, and it's hard to ascertain what she's cogitating on. She doesn't look particularly happy or sad. Perhaps she's bored with watching the passing traffic on Broad Street, though I'd like to think she's feeling serene or possibly, like the Mona Lisa, slightly amused by the whole thing.

I'll try to take a better version of this picture sometime. I have a better camera now. But there's no hurry, right? She's not going anywhere.

Click the pic for a more intimate encounter with lady stone face.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Brain Dump

If it doesn't feel right, don't do it never rains in California dreaming of revenge against the wall of sound financial strategy session player piano solo mission of mercy is not strained to hear God's voice lessons in math wasn't my favorite subject yourself to such nonsense about climate change is the only constant criticism can be destructive power of attorney client privilege to serve you can't be serious damage to my reputation for being shy of the goal setting sun burn the flag waving goodbye to all that matters is that you get it right eventually.



This Germ of an Idea Calls for an Antibiotic

Very funny, Mr. Allen.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel / Much Ado about NOTHING

Reluctant: I'm supposed to attend a Kentucky Derby Party tomorrow, of all things. I care nothing for horse racing, but I suppose it may be interesting to see how enthusiasts and displaced Southerners celebrate this two-minute event. I'm guessing that mint juleps will be involved. However, I am told I should wear a hat to this soiree. I thought derby-day hats were a female thing. I'm reluctant to wear one -- the only hat I normally wear is a ski cap in the winter, when gelid temperatures make it more or less essential. I always think that, in this day and age, a man can't wear a hat without making some kind of statement. ("I'm a baseball fan." "I think I'm cool." "I'm a cop/fireman." etc.) The only statement I wish to make via head covering is that I know it's cold outside. My wyfe is much more enthusiastic about this party requirement and is working on a creative concoction to wear atop her head. It will incorporate artificial fronds, I believe. She says I can wear the old bowler hat she purchased long ago in England, which may be just barely acceptable -- they are called "derbies" after all. I don't think they wear them in Kentucky, though.

Postscript: I found a vintage fedora with a feather in the hatband to wear instead. It looks like something a tacky guy would wear to Aqueduct. Perfect.

Postscript postscript (Saturday): Well, here's a surprise. I won the prize for "Most Dapper Man" at this big Derby party -- a bottle of Maker's Mark Kentucky bourbon, which they tell me goes for a lot of money on eBay. I wore a spring sports jacket, white chinos and a madras tie (nothing all that special, I didn't think) and the fedora, which made it, I guess. And there was a guy in tails there, too, who would have fit in at Ascot. But I guess I looked more like somebody you might actually see at the Kentucky Derby. My wyfe won for having the most creative hat. Strange days indeed....

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Quote of the Day

"A butterfly flaps its wings in India and we feel the breeze on our cheeks in New York. A throat is cleared somewhere in Africa and in California there's an answering cough. Everything that happens affects something else. Books come into the world and the world is not what it was before those books came into it. The same can be said of babies or diseases."
--Salman Rushdie

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The T&T List

39 milliarcseconds
A Simple Noodle Story
Zydeco Trail
Belgian Malinois
Is There A Single Right Interpretation?
Krishnan Sasikiran
Lava Mountains
Felix Frump

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Word of the Day: pellucid

pellucid (adj)

Transparent or translucent, extremely clear.

"Any writer who has read even a little will know what is meant by word intelligible. It is not sufficient that there be a meaning that may be hammered out of the sentence, but that the language should be so pellucid that the meaning should be rendered without an effort of the reader -- and not only some proposition of meaning, but the very sense, no more and no less, which the writer has intended to put into his words."
--Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography

The pellucid water of my aquarium... isn't so pellucid at the moment. How can a few tiny zebra fish and some miniscule neon tetras create such murk? Time to change the filter. And maybe feed them less. If I was a fish, I wouldn't want to live in dirty water. After all.... A fish can't take a bath. That's my ecological slogan. Put it on a button or a tee shirt, people of the Gulf.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Photo of the Week

Michael's Outpost

I guess if I have an outpost, it's right here. I used to have a non-blog website where I posted my short stories (longer ones than I post here), sort of like a faux literary mag. But I got bored with it after a while. It was too static. For a time, I had thought of this blog as just an appendage to that site, something to give it some variability and attract visitors. Then it all reversed -- the static site started to feel like an appendage to this one, and then I dropped the other site altogether. Still awake? I suppose there's little that's more tiresome than meta-talk about the Internets.

So... my outpost. Thanks for dropping by. I appreciate it every day.

That's a picture I snapped on Route 28 in Upstate New York. Click it, take the bait, and redeem yourself.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Head Rattle


John Carpenter's classic sci-fi/horror ick-fest The Thing (1983) was showing at the Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre last night. I attended that screening, with quite a large, predictably geeky crowd, but not the 1950s version the Theatre showed earlier in the day, which I saw on TV a long time ago. (Yes, it was one Thing after another, haha.) It isn't the gooey, pre-CGI aliens that are scary in this movie, it seems to me, as well done as those were, but the notion of one's identity being hijacked or suddenly not knowing who the people standing next to you really are. That had obvious political resonance during the Red-scare 1950s, but it's still a creepy thought. "What are they really thinking?" I ask myself that several times a day.


I watched some of the post-event footage of "THE wedding" and was amused by the bizarre female headgear and male comic-opera "military" get-ups on display. Even HM the Queen wore a surreal chapeau, though a sedate one compared to the antlers and flying saucers sported by other guests. The whole thing was indeed affecting. For about five minutes, I wanted to be British in reality, not just ancestry. Cable TV news coverage of it here in the ex-colonies was schizophrenic, alternating between the royalties and the horrendous and tragic tornado damage in the U.S. South. Happy, sad, strange world.




I can't decide if these are beautiful or hideous, but they're certainly impressive. If I didn't know better, I might think they were Photoshopped.

(Thanks, Ray)