Thursday, June 30, 2011

Word of the Day: cumberground

cumberground (n)

Something that is utterly worthless -- an object or a person.

"What a lot of cumbergrounds!" exclaimed Mrs. Woonsocket as she perused the antique shop's displays. But as her roving eye alighted on each gewgaw and gimcrack, it was obvious that this practiced derision was simply a prelude to another one of her expert haggling sessions.
--Leahcim Setag, Strange Loops

Worthless people, taking up space? A number of reality-show "celebrities" come to mind. As for objects, they are almost too numerous to mention, right here in this very room. Almost but not quite. In one corner, we have an antique wheelchair containing a number of mismatched mannequin parts. On the mantlepiece, we have small replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the Space Needle, a Michael Jackson doll, and a fishbowl containing a single porcelain fish. The sideboard is covered with retrieved bagatelles from my wyfe's deceased aunt's hoard, mostly very odd costume jewelry. On the floor next to the fireplace, we have a teddy bear astride a miniature gargoyle.... I could go on. But you get the point. I'm living in the Museum of Cumbergrounds.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Random Sequence

Ivan Dreams

The postmodern cowboy/bandit holds an asymmetric handgun in Ivan's dream. "Give me some of your energizing wampum!" the cowboy yells. Ivan realizes that the firearm is only a squirt-gun and smiles with infatuate jolliness. "I don't think so," he drawls with reedy affability. The cowboy scowls and then shrinks into a small cactus with prehensile spines.

Ivan wakes up and begins to write down what he remembers of the dream in the journal he keeps on his bedside table. More crumby eclecticism, he writes, but with some psychogenic particularity. It's the ninth dream he's remembered well enough to record in the last two weeks. A few of them amuse him when he reads about them later in the day. But others disgust him with their overripe absurdity. Still, he's determined to record all of his dreams for the month, as he promised the painter, the "mental portraitist", the dream aficionado....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

When my wyfe's elderly aunt was in a nursing home a couple of summers ago (she died last year), we flew to California and helped to clean up her house in Pacific Palisades. She was a charming, witty woman, but unfortunately a world-class hoarder, so it was quite a labor for all involved. As a sort of reward for pitching in, I was given one of her books that I fancied (she had thousands of books), a tome entitled N by E by the 20th-century artist Rockwell Kent. The book is a true-life memoir of Kent's summer 1929 voyage to (and shipwreck on the rocks of) Greenland. The prose is poetic though not terribly interesting -- I've skipped around in it -- but the many, many Art Deco-style wood-block print illustrations are stunning. They have a numinous quality that doesn't have much specifically to do with a sea trip to Greenland. You can see some examples of his style here.

When I got home from California, I put the book on a shelf and only looked at it sporadically when I was in an introspective mood. I didn't know if it was worth much, although I noted that it's a first edition, published in 1930. Today, on a whim, and wondering if maybe I should sell it, I did some online research and found out that it's worth about $50. Meh. If it was signed by the author/artist, it would be worth a little over $200. The ebook sells for about $10 on [a river in Brazil]. The illustrations are affecting, though -- far more on aging book paper than on a computer screen. I would even call them meditative. It's hard to put a price on that, though I think it would be more than $50 and definitely more than $10. Oh, and it smells good, as old books sometimes do. I'll keep it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Or felt....

Confused: I keep getting "friend" requests from people I don't know, but know people I know. You know? Or appear to. I can't tell if they really know people I know, or if people I know just accepted the request without knowing if the person actually knows who they appear to know. Who knows?

Literary: I sent another waggish article off to If they put it up, I'll link to it here, and you may get a chuckle or a feeling of deja vu or both.

Tropical: On Friday night, I attended the "Summer Blowout" party sponsored by Art House Productions, an annual event at which attendees are encouraged to show up in beachwear. Nobody ever wears an actual bathing suit, just the type of clothing you might wear to the beach over your bathing suit, or alternatively, what you might wear to a luau. So I wore a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, sandals, a lei, and sunglasses (prescription). I looked ridiculous, but it was okay, since everyone looked more or less ridiculous. They had a karaoke machine set up, but I could not bring myself to sing "Twist and Shout", like one unlikely (?) person did. Maybe next year, maybe as a duet? Aloha.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Word of the Day: wahala

wahala (n)

Trouble, hassle (Nigerian pidgin English).

"'So, why the wahala?' Jimoh was persuasive, and Chester was already halfway convinced, when Jimoh made his next suggestion. 'To make things easy for you in Nigeria, I will lend you my passport. That way, no-one can make wahala for you. You go be Jimoh omo Garuba, proper Nigerian man. And me, I go be Chester Arlington. With your papers, I can work at McDonald's and make more money. I'll do three jobs at once. Then I can go back to my wife and pickin'."
--Buchi Emecheta, The New Tribe

Today's hassle? The heavy-duty cord to my electric lawnmower -- 300 feet of kinked up, knotted up wahala. We have a tiny backyard that needs mowing about once a week. It's a simple enough task, except for the damn extension cord, which twists itself into a convoluted tangle of pure frustration. I keep unplugging myself because the cord won't stretch far enough with all it's snags and snarls.

Why can't someone genetically engineer grass to only grow to an inch and a half in length, anyway? We can put a man on the moon....

Yeah, first-world problems. Do they have lawns in Nigeria?



White Whine - A Collection of First-World Problems

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Photo of the Week: lichens


Yeah, I like lichens.

Do lichens like Mike? I like to think so. If I was a tree, I would like to have some lichens, and would perhaps feel like I was naked without them.

What can I liken a patch to lichens to? They are like a likable little colony of fungal tykes, all alike, as they slowly hike up their tree bark or boulder reich.

Do you like lichens? Click my pic for a close up, if you too like.

(Apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Search Party

Here are a few recent search queries that brought seekers to this temple of scribomania. They are especially surreal this time around.

last act of secular prayer

Hmm. What would a "secular prayer" be like? Here's one.

scifi plot ideas

Okay, how about this: "A genetically enhanced warlord is mourning in a high-tech brothel. In a flashback, his mutant daughter is set up by a feral robot and sold as meat to a man-eating plant. With the help of a mentally unstable neural implant, the warlord must make the ultimate sacrifice in order to avenge his daughter, avert disaster, save his home world, and preserve his alternate reality." Let's split the royalties, okay?

beatles rejected artwork

You mean the dismembered baby dolls and slabs of raw meat on one of their "butchered" (get it?) US-only albums? They didn't really reject that; it was censored by the record company and replaced with one showing them grim-faced around an open steamer trunk. They looked SO much happier holding the amputated infants. Or did you mean the Animal Album?

sunset over Jersey

City? Here you go. I'm good.

alfred hitchcock doll laughter

Were you thinking of "Talky Tina"? That was Rod Serling's doll, not a Hitchcock cupie. Or were you searching for Hitch's own laugh, perhaps an mp3 of some suspenseful chuckling? I don't remember ever seeing or hearing "the Master" laugh. If he ever did, I'm sure it was a deep, obese guffaw, not a doll-sized giggle.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Head Rattle


My new passport came in the mail the other day, so I am now free (free at last!) to leave the country. It's quite a little book of hidden gadgets and gizmos, including an embedded microchip -- so I can be scanned, like a can of creamed corn at the supermarket. I could do without all the patriotic uber-American pictures on the pages -- though I suppose that has something to do with preventing counterfeiting. I'd like to think I'm more of a citizen of the world when I'm outside the U.S. I'd like to have an Planet Earth passport....


To indulge some relations, I saw a performance of Psycho Beach Party by a local theatrical group last weekend -- a high-camp Charles Busch period piece about early 60s surfing culture and multi-personality disorder. It's a comedy/farce of course, but I keep thinking that it could also be played "straight" (in all senses of the word), and that it might be even funnier like that, but in a different way. I prefer my camp to be unintentional.


There's so much previously unreleased Twin Peaks music available now on I'm listening to "Laura's Dark Boogie" as I type this. Those creepy, nervous cellos (or whatever they are) and that demented sax over great waves of synthesizer anxiety -- it's hypnotic. I'm going to have to break down and download all the tracks (the ones I don't already have on CD) soon. Badalamenti (the composer) should compose a symphony based on it all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Word of the Day: glaikery

glaikery (n)

Foolish behavior.

"Richard seems to be bent on trumping prior inanities with yet new Dawkinisms -- as evidence of committed glaikery one presumes."
--"Richard Dawkins, raving incoherently", in Anglican Samizdat

"Only a fool writes for anything other than money," said Dr. Johnson. (That's Samuel Johnson [1709 - 1784], "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history", according the the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which I keep by my bedside in case of insomnia -- or should.) The good doctor's quotation has been used over the years to discourage anyone from putting pen to paper without being paid, though of course it's absurd on the face of it. Sam wrote plenty of letters for free, and he published plenty of pamphlets -- more or less the blogs of the 18th century.

What's foolish is to write without compensation, which doesn't have to be monetary. Another post down. I feel so adroit right now....

Monday, June 20, 2011

Quotes of the Day

The poetry of invective. Writers (naturally enough) compose the best insults.

Elizabeth Bishop on J.D. Salinger

"I HATED [Catcher in the Rye]. It took me days to go through it, gingerly, a page at a time, and blushing with embarrassment for him every ridiculous sentence of the way. How can they let him do it?"

Evelyn Waugh on Marcel Proust (1948)

"I am reading Proust for the first time. Very poor stuff. I think he was mentally defective."

Mark Twain on Jane Austen (1898)

"I haven't any right to criticize books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice,' I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone."

Virginia Woolf on James Joyce

"[Ulysses is] the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples."

William Faulkner on Mark Twain (1922)

"A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy."

D.H. Lawrence on James Joyce (1928)

"My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness."

Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac

"That's not writing, that's typing."

More of these adoring accolades are here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Photo of the Week

spiritual gallery 2

His Holiness Sri Swami Satchikrishnanandadananda has set up shop in our neighborhood, at what he calls his Spiritual Gallery. Here you will find ebooks and articles as well as audios and videos on yoga-mat selection, mental and physical levitation, and generating rainbow auras, as well as full-color Kama Sutra manuals and floral mandalas. The pearls of His Holiness's wisdom, which are beyond price (though a small donation is expected), are elasticized to the needs of each aspiring seeker and are brought to us by one of India's renowned spiritual teachers and florists.

Actually, I just made that up. This is the window of an astrologer's palmistry shop that recently opened up a few blocks from where I live. You can see the full storefront here. Jersey City is a schizo place, both on the way up (i.e., gentrifying) and on the way down (i.e., succumbing to urban decay), sometimes on the same block. It's been that way at least since the 1980s, and is part of what keeps it persistently interesting. That a storefront on a busy avenue is affordable for such an operation is not a good sign, but at least it adds to the local color.

Click the pic for a closer look and some instant karma.



Kyle MacLachlan’s Pursued By Bear 2007 is here

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Exposed (bad): I sat across from a row of six Japanese tourists on the PATH train this evening, men and women of various ages -- a family, apparently -- and one of them had a video camera. He was shooting everything in sight, including me. They were all talking in Japanese and laughing. I just hope I don't end up on NHK TV as part of some kind of "Japan's Funniest Home Videos" ichiban. By the way, I don't think it's legal to use a camera on the PATH train without permission. No terrorist training films allowed, you know.

Exposed (good): ViewsHound has published my article about typographical errors: "Would you make a good 'manger'?" Perhaps this site will be a new venue for my literary persiflage, now that the local arts paper no longer solicits submissions from... local artists. I certainly have a lot of well-written crap I could send ViewsHound. I just wish they had a better name for their site. It sounds a bit like an e-commerce site for dog breeders.

Postscript: I received this week's "Bronze Award" (i.e., third prize) from ViewsHound's editors for my article -- twenty bucks via PayPal. I would rather have an actual bronze medal to wear around my neck, but I'll take it!

Post postscript: I just realized that I can now call myself an "award winning writer". Cool.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The T&T List

Project Spartan
Aequorea victoria
Zach Hammerson
equine herpes
stereo blindness
Strawberry Fool
Time Turns Elastic
Øystein Runde
Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Word of the Day: nullibicity

nullibicity (n)

The state of being nowhere (the opposite of ubiquity); nonexistence.

"In order to insist on the nullibicity of universal standards of behavior, a would-be consistent relativist would have to maintain that murder, torture, the killing of infants, mass rape, pickpocketing, lying, slavery, cruelty, insulting one's hosts, and other forms of hurtful behavior are not necessarily wrong or even morally problematic."
--Sabrina P. Ramet, The Liberal Project and the Transformation of Democracy: The Case of East Central Europe

The Holy Grail, the Fountain of Youth, a perpetual-motion machine, cold fusion -- many "things" are nonexistent or nowhere to be found, but people keep searching for them. Could it be that the search or the wanting is the point, that the seekers really wouldn't know what to do with themselves if they actually reached the goal one day?

A writer and "monologist" (spoken-word artist) I liked, the late Spalding Gray, used to talk about his search for "the perfect moment", an elusive point in time when nothing else exists, one is just "in the moment". Apparently, he found his once, on a beach in Thailand (read or listen to his book Swimming to Cambodia). I'm still searching, and not really expecting to find, but more and more, I think it doesn't matter. The possibility of coming close or closer is enough to keep me going, and the peregrination has a lot of interesting side trips.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 29 small

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

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

I'm done with "mom and pop" hardware stores. Yesterday, I wanted to buy a certain item (an industrial-strength cleaning product) that I know is sold in some hardware stores but not in others. So I walked into the local nuts-and-bolts shop, which is walking distance from my house. There were no other customers in the store -- just two elderly men leaning on the counter and staring at me like I had just descended from Alpha Centauri. The floor creaked as I walked toward them. It was very Lynchian. I inquired about the product and even showed them an advertisement for it that I had ripped from a magazine. One of them took it and spent about a minute squinting at it before he said, in a sarcastic tone, "nope!" and handed it back. He didn't ask me if I needed anything else. I got the impression that they wanted me to apologize for disturbing them, but I just mumbled "thanks anyway" and left. I wonder how this place stays in business -- or if it is a business at all. Come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing any customers in there when I've passed by before. Maybe it's a front for a high-stakes pinochle game.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Photo of the Week

barn disaster 1

This is not my house.

This a former meth lab that exploded, not because the chemicals used to "cook" the meth were combined incorrectly, but because Death to Meth, a group of redneck vigilantes who go around blowing up labs, discovered they had a "gin and chronic" in their neighborhood.

Actually, I just made that up. This is one of many, many abandoned and decomposing barns you can see all over rural Upstate New York. A physical manifestation of the anemic economy of the region, they often look as if a stiff breeze would knock them over. It's poignant to see them in such disrepair, but they do make for dramatic photo subjects, which is why I snapped this on a recent trip up there.

Click the pic to get a better fix on the sticks.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Word of the Day: curwhibble

curwhibble (n)

A thingamajig or whatchmacallit.

"Faustus ran up the hill, nimble as a puck goat, and stretched out his hand for a bunch of red berries, bright as the curwhibbles in the Book of Kells."
--Michael Mullen, Kelly: A Novel

There are many objects around here that one might call thingamajigs, whatchmacallits, or even curwhibbles. For example, something I found in a Chinese junk shop that hangs from a floor-lamp's...thing you turn to turn the lamp on. (What do they call those?). This whatsit from the shop has a little metal fan on top, from which is suspended an oddly shaped brass (?) bell with some inscrutable writing engraved on it. And from that hangs a coin of some sort, with a square hole in the middle. There are bas-relief dragons curled around the hole, as if guarding it. And there are also red tassels hanging from various parts of this thing. I guess you could call it a bell, but it's much more than that. Altogether, when suspended, it's about 10 inches (25 cm) long. It is completely useless. And that's what I like about it.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Head Rattle


I was poked and prodded and drained today at the doctor's office. She didn't quite remember me from last month's appointment at first, until I mentioned earwax, which made her smile. I'm Mr. Earwax.


This is rather amusing, but I'm not sure the "parody" excuse is going to fly, long term.


I voted in the primary yesterday. I haven't heard who won. The old ladies at the sign-in table remembered me by name and one of them called me "Sweetheart". So the doctor who Roto-Rootered my head last month didn't remember me, but poll workers recall me from last November? It's a strange world.


Bad Grapefruit: Every time someone says "excuse me" to you, say "I'll consider it."

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

Orchids have to be one of weirdest flowers. I keep one on the windowsill over the kitchen sink. It's a concatenation of roots and snaky, meandering stems in a pot of wood chips, topped by a few blade-like leaves. It's not one of those plants that loves dirt. It's not particularly thirsty, either -- I've been watering it when I think of it, about once a week. I did not have high hopes for it ever flowering again. So it was quite a surprise when it burst into bloom recently, flaunting pink petals and what look like herbaceous claws. It's beautiful (see here and here) but a little sinister looking. I could almost believe it's carnivorous, like a Venus flytrap -- an omnivorous orchid that might bite my finger. The name orchid "comes from the Greek órkhis, literally meaning 'testicle', because of the shape of the root," claims Wikipedia, source of all wisdom. Some people see sex in everything. I haven't noticed that the roots resemble genitalia, but those ancient Greeks were a lascivious lot.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Weird/amused: I'm not sure what to do about this tall, bald dude who takes the same train I do every morning and keeps giving me the eye on the sly. So does his female friend, but I think only because he does. I ignore it, but I have enough, um, radar, to be aware of it. This has been going on for weeks now. Who knows what I'm doing in other people's fantasies....

Spoiled: My wyfe came back from a recent business trip to Seattle with two things for me: a tiny copper replica of the Space Needle and some Pike Place Special Reserve coffee from the original Starbucks, which one can only obtain from that specific emporium (and maybe online). It's probably the best coffee I've had. It's all gone now, and it's hard to go back to Eight O'Clock bean or whatever. (First-world problems....) The Keurig coffee at work isn't too bad, though, especially the Revv brand, which is like rocket fuel in the morning.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Word of the Day: nephelococcygia

nephelococcygia (n) [nef-el-o-kok-sij'-ia]

Cloud gazing; the act of looking for and finding shapes in clouds. Also, when capitalized, the name of "Cloud-Cuckoo-Land" in Aristophanes' The Birds.

"Terrence spent Saturday prostrate in the yard and in nephelococcygia, finding inspiration in the thunderheads."
--Leahcim Setag, Strange Loops

I remember seeing a lot of things in clouds as a kid: faces, cities, fabulous beasts. I can't really do that anymore, which is sad. Now I just see water vapor, though I still can't quite believe, sometimes, that I couldn't sit on one of those diaphanous thrones if I could just get up there.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Photo of the Week

fountain negative 3

This is some fooling around I did with my photo of the Hamilton Park (Jersey City) fountain. Obviously, I used the wrong crayons, so to speak, but someone on called this "simply beautiful". It kind of surprised me, since most Flickroids are into "pure" photography, not manipulated images.

Click it for a closer inspection of my cockeyed coloring book -- unless you're one of those stay-inside-the-lines types.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Random Acts of Poetry


You felt the same mindless
wind of that country,

a landscape unrolling
in every direction.

I look straight up
at the same white sky,

one pin on the map,
while the stones mumble.

You grew things, you
"kept house" for the census.

Everything goes but that.
Still I knot old strings together

though there is only now
and a dead tree ---

a tangle of branches,
selves that would never

conceive of me.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Head Rattle


I'm like a human barometer. While I was out walking today, in the hot wind, the air felt electric and huge thunderheads were on the horizon. I was sure there was going to be a tornado...and there was, several hundred miles away. I didn't say I was a good barometer.


I received another wrong number today asking for "Gina" or "Regina" -- another caller wanting a Swedish massage. This time it was a woman, though, so it seemed a bit less sordid. Once she realized that I wasn't Gina's pimp/receptionist, I got her to promise that when she does reach this Gina, she'll ask her to correct her damn flier. But the damage is done.


Sarah Palin's Magical Mystery Tour temporarily stopped here in Jersey City last night -- she stayed at one of the waterfront hotels, I hear. Maybe she could see France from there. She had pizza with the Donald in NYC today.... Never trust a politician who eats pizza with a fork, I say. And in other political news of epochal significance, Anthony Weiner wears boxer briefs -- even if that isn't a photo of him, since he isn't sure if it is or isn't. If he didn't wear boxer briefs, he'd be pretty sure, right? (Bill Clinton was once asked if he wore boxers or briefs, if I recall, and never answered. Some things are best left mysterious.)