Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Much Ado about Nothing

Hmm. My friend Bill was watching Season 1, Episode 3, of The Twilight Zone and detected a certain similarity between the main character, played by actor Dan Duryea, and me. A physical similarity (I guess I can see it), but "His role in the show is not like you at all though," Bill says. Good thing. This is how Dan Duryea is described by

"His sniveling, deliberately taunting demeanor and snarling flat, nasal tones set him apart from other slimeball villains of the 40s and 50s. From his very first picture, the highly-acclaimed The Little Foxes, wherein he played the snotty, avaricious nephew Leo who would easily sell his own mother down the river for spare change...."

Maybe that's me -- in the Twilight Zone? I don't remember that particular episode. I'll have to find it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Random Acts of Poetry


My cool eye never lies; it only leaves things out.
I will freeze and preserve whatever you show me,
untainted by brushstrokes or bias.

And my memory is infinite, though fixed in a square.

People must like me; they smile and smile,
though I sometimes record what they don't want to see:
wattles and wrinkles, wars and atrocities.

I can even retain the faces of the dead---
all glossy and flat and just out of reach.

The sad ones revere my rectangular moments.
They search the trapped shadows
for what really happened or what they want to believe.
But I only offer a world of dots,
suspect emotions caught in a flash,
and no amount of staring can bring back a day or a wife.

Still, everyone keeps me pointing and clicking,
trying to catch the Grand Canyon, perhaps,
or a baby's smile before it fades, birthday by birthday,
into an old man's grimace in a silver frame.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Word of the Day: misodoctakleidist

misodoctakleidist (n)

Someone who hates practicing the piano.

"Unable to progress past 'Chop Sticks', Tatiana finally had to admit to being a misodoctakleidist. 'That's it,' she thought, 'I'm selling this baby grand and buying a player piano.'"
--Leahcim Setag, Strange Loops

I took piano lessons from a neighbor for a short time as a kid, but hated practicing and gave it up, which I sometimes regret. I was too immature at the time to commit to it, but part of it was also that my family's piano was in the gloomy, dusty basement of our house, which wasn't conducive to long sessions of tickling the ivories. Another problem was that it was an upright player piano, and I was always tempted to stop practicing scales, insert a piano roll, and start pedaling. It played a jaunty version of "Melancholy Baby", I remember.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Head Rattle


Good night, Irene.... This hurricane was not quite the cataclysm predicted. A good thing, so why am I slightly disappointed? Maybe because I spent some time preparing for the worst, with flashlights and batteries and candles and bottled water, bringing in all movable objects from the yard, etc. Now I feel like a fool. It's not nice to fool Mother Nature, but clearly the opposite is just fine with her. So the hurricane was kind of lame. So was the earthquake a few days ago, though you wouldn't know it from the media hysteria. What is this longing for an apocalypse in the air? Well, there's always 2012 to look forward to.


Finished The Pale King, the posthumous "unfinished novel" by David Foster Wallace, which I thought was more like a collection of short stories that shared some of the same characters, setting, and theme. Nothing wrong with that, and many of them were brilliantly written, especially considering the difficulty of the subject matter ("life" in the IRS). Still, I hesitate to call it a novel, even an unfinished one. It might be a new type of literary genre, one that has yet to be named. A "concatenation"?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Photo of the Week

waddesdon manor fountain sculpture 2

Here's a pic of a sculpture at the Playboy Mansion. My cousin Bill sent it to me after he was invited there to be interviewed for the magazine.

Actually, I just made that up. This is one of the sculptures I photographed at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, England, last month when I was on vacation. The Manor is the former country home of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, who was apparently a bit of a Victorian Hugh Hefner.

Click for a closer view. (May not be safe for work.)

You can see the whole thing, equestrian nymphs and all, here. And the over-the-top Manor (now owned by the National Trust) here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The T&T List

Rick Perry
Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea
Harry Whittington
Iris Apfel
The Trivial Pursuits of Arthur Banks
Sijunzi Tang Wan
super-Poulet number
Upland Chorus Frog

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Word of the Day: wallydrag

wallydrag (n)

A useless person.

"Where's straightforward rational thought these days, eh? Where's Logos? I'll tell you where! Eaten. They're all in the stomachs of wallydrags and mollycoddles. That's where. Ignominiously digesting and becoming great moronic turds."
--Andrée Connors, Amateur People

I don't know anyone who is truly useless, although I can think of several "You get paid for this?" type jobs that I regularly observe. For example, the four or five robust cops who are always "on duty" at the train station at rush hour. All they do is eyeball the throngs descending from the escalators. Looking for terrorists, I presume. Occasionally, they will invite (forcefully) someone over to a table and ask the person to open his backpack or briefcase. Then they quickly peruse the lunch bag, laptop, or whatnot within before politely informing the guy that he can be on his merry way. It seems to be random -- perhaps every hundredth commuter or so, usually males, it seems, but otherwise there is no disernable profiling going on. I've been through it myself -- though of course I DO look extremely iniquitous. It's dull police work, so often they are simply standing around gabbing with each other while they surveil. Sometimes there are more cops present, sometimes less, depending on the threat level, I suppose. Leading up to "the day", I expect to see a larger and larger blue-man group.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brain Dump

cheshire cat

A little girl -- let's call her Alice -- dreams of a mixture of kingdoms, both real and waxen. But poisoning the dream is a false sense of clarity without a subject or activity. She remains suspended between willful imagination and unconscious capacity, conjuring a slumberland of shifting montage. As a sleepwalker, she struggles to keep her head from rolling off her shoulders.

Her drowse deepens, enabling her to see the unseeable as she becomes more and more lost within her fusion of archetypes and phantasms. The dream is one-way, spiraling faster and faster through contradiction after contradiction, until confusion approaches totality and all movement stops. All length is distended. Small, colorful moths hover like elements of a Calder mobile around her head. Alice struggles to recall the single word that would shatter this mirror. Could it be... applesauce?

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Silly: Pressed the wrong elevator button this morning out of habit (my desk has migrated to a new floor), and I think the other person on the elevator, who works on the same new floor, noticed. He gave me a funny look. I need to practice mindfulness.

French and pooped: Copy-edited/proofread a 96-page report about banking regs and economic conditions in France over the weekend, as a freelance project. Le travail loigne de nous trois grands maux: l'ennui, le vice et le besoin. (Voltaire)

Amused: But perhaps I shouldn't be. About his new solo album, Crazy Clown Time, to be released in November, David Lynch has this to say here: "There were so many accidents.... This album should be in the hospital."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Photo of the Week: London Spire

london spire

Sometimes, I just like to post one of the pretty ones. This is a random spire I spied, I think on our last day in London, when the sky, clouds, and light were all just right. Click it for a larger view and be... inspired?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Word of the Day: embuggerance

embuggerance (n)

A small, annoying problem.

"Wes couldn't stop thinking of poor Vikki. Where was she... was she ok... was she even alive? He didn't even know how he would go about finding her. To add to all this, he had the embuggerance of assisting the police with their enquiries, which would inevitably hold up his own search. Nevertheless he climbed into the waiting squad car, which took him down to the station."
--Steve Harman, 2 Slice Toaster

My "first world" embuggerances:

~~~Went out for lunch today with workmates and had to wait 30 minutes to be served.
~~~Opossums living in my backyard shed.
~~~My backyard apple tree is shedding wormy, inedible apples that must be collected before I can mow what I laughingly call my lawn.
~~~One of my zebras died. (That's a type of tropical fish.)
~~~Our bathroom door sticks and has to be physically assaulted to close properly.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

The office where I work has one of those Keurig coffee machines, the kind you insert a little plastic thimble (a "K-cup") full of gourmet bean mulch into and then let dribble some steamy brew into your mug. There are several different types of java on offer, including "regular", "bold" and speed "extra bold", many with amusing names on the cup labels: Jet Fuel, Wake-Up Call, Donut Shop (my favorite), and (yikes) Black Tiger.

I plan my day around these monikers. When I get in around 9:00, I drink some Wake-Up Call, which boots up my cerebral cortex enough to bird-dog the improper use of past participles and semi-colons. (I'm an copy editor.) A little later, when my mood tends to sag, I'll have some Donut Shop, which goes down smooth and makes me a bit giddy with the keyboard. Mid-day calls for Jet Fuel, to keep me churning through the post-lunch slump. And then, just about any time is the right time for a jolt of Black Tiger, an XXX-bold pick-me-up that gets me to 5:00 (or 6 or 7?) with it's Ninja-inspired label and appellation that sounds a little like a street name for heroin. Caffeine is a drug, you know.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Search Party

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

computer generated imagery heaven

Heaven, if it exists, is a state, not a place, so how could there be an image of it, 'puter-generated or otherwise? Still, our limited brains conjure up images, whether we want them to or not, whenever something is named. It probably looks like a fractal then, if you insist. Okay, with angels.

kristin baybars ostrobogulous

I do hope this is someone's actual name. I want to live in an amusing world that contains a Kristin Baybars Ostrobogulous, whom I picture as someone like that conceptual artist played by Julianne Moore in The Big Lebowski, who famously said, "Don't be fatuous, Jeffrey." I wish I had the guts to go around saying "don't be fatuous" to people.

eyelids twisting

This sounds painful. It also sounds like something you would do when your eyes or your contacts dry out but you don't have any drops and you want to make yourself cry a little.

rather hell with ourselves than heaven without

What's all this heaven and hell pursual? Heaven without what? "Ourselves"? That would imply a loss (or transcendence) of the ego, which is nirvana, equivalent to heaven in the West, is it not? You'd rather live in hell with yourself (or rather, your pathetic little self) than to lose self and become ONE with the cosmic bliss cloud? What is wrong with you?


This is a psychological disorder in which a human being believes himself/herself to be a bovine -- that is, a cow (or maybe a bull, if you're a dude). I've never met anyone who suffers from this affliction, but if I did, I'd invite, uh, Elsie over and serve her a hamburger and a milkshake, just to see what would happen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Microfiction: 'The Wild Umbrella'


Marcus stepped outside his house and stared up at a sky gray as pigeon's feathers. "Rain" he thought, though the streets were still dry. Miles away, thunder was grousing. As he walked toward the train station, a few icy drops fell on his scalp and down the back of his neck.

With a sigh, he reached into his nylon briefcase, rummaged around among the paperbacks and wrinkled photocopies, and pulled out a black, compact umbrella. Pressing a button on the handle made it blossom, with a pleasing "twack," like a black flower. One of its points had come loose, and a portion of the fabric flapped back and forth like a broken wing.

A sudden gust turned the umbrella inside out. Marcus pivoted and aimed it into the wind, which pushed it back into its proper shape with another "twack."

As Marcus trudged along, the shifting wind forced him to do a little dance, aiming the umbrella in different directions to keep it from deforming again.

While he was doing this, he bumped into a trench-coated stranger walking in the opposite direction, who was also fighting to keep his umbrella under control. The umbrellas brushed against each other with a swishing sound. Marcus caught a glimpse of the man's face: thin, wrinkled, with a whitish beard, and momentarily startled.

"Watch where you're going, knucklehead," the man barked. Just as he said this, another gust filched the umbrella from the his grip, and the man went scuttling down the shiny sidewalk after it. It blew into traffic and was crushed by a passing van. "Shit!" the man yelled, not so much at Marcus as at a malicious world.

Marcus turned away and resumed his march toward the train station. It was raining harder now, and the bottoms of his pant legs were getting soaked. He stopped at an intersection, waiting for cars to pass. The umbrella tugged at his hand as if it wanted to escape. The station was in sight, less than a block away, and, despite the downpour, a tiny aperture of blue had appeared in the sky.

It's a bad umbrella, Marcus thought. He released it to the wind, and it flew off into the sky, like a wild bird.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Word of the Day: vecordious

vecordious (adj)

Mad, crazy, senseless.

"He is frustrated, so he strikes out at me. He persists in thinking I'm some vecordious husband with no wife to his name sitting here alone at the top of the city in the midst of music...."
--James David Landis, Lying in Bed

Much could be said about the vecordious Congressional machinations recently displayed in Washington, DC, but I prefer to comment on events closer to home.

I was in a fast-food restaurant the other day (yes, I do patronize such places at times, especially if in a hurry) when an elderly crazy lady walked in and started yelling at another woman, who was sitting, alone, at a table enjoying her lunch. They seemed to know each other. The crazy lady wasn't angry; she was just talking much too loud for a public place. And she was full of advice, telling the other woman to be sure to bring her own toilet paper when using a public restroom, to do background checks on her neighbors, to always be sure to carry enough money for bus fare, and so on.

The other woman replied minimally, in a soft voice, I suppose to encourage the crazy lady to pipe down, and tried to continue eating her lunch. The whole restaurant was staring. But the harangue continued, until the other woman finally got up and hurried out of the restaurant. I felt sorry for her, and worried that the crazy lady would turn to me next. But instead she went into the restroom and stayed there until someone started banging on the door. "I'll be out in a minute!" she screamed, adding that everyone should bring their own toilet paper. She didn't sound angry, just LOUD. And vecordious. And that's my pointless story for today.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Photo of the Week

dirty dicks

Dirty Dick's is a noir specialty store for all your private-dick (private-eye) paraphernalia: magnifying glasses, deer-stalker caps, fingerprinting powder, evidence containers, disguises, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler novels, wrinkled trench coats, gun moll pin-ups, snub-nosed revolvers, etc.

Actually, I just made that up. This is a pub I passed by in London while on one of the walking tours. I didn't go inside (I did patronize a few other pubs), but I couldn't resist photographing this facade, which has so much character and such a charmingly alliterative name. Click it for a close up. It'll make you want a pint.



Danger! High Voltage!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

Among the cast of characters I encounter while wandering around the neighborhood, there's a guy I think of as "the bum". I don't think he's actually homeless, but he could be, with his long gray hair, ZZ Topp beard, and ratty clothes, including his omnipresent cut-off jeans (even in cold weather), which are so short you might well call them, in a different era and on a different gender, hot pants. The reason I don't think he's actually homeless is that I occasionally see him coming out of a store with a bag, having obviously purchased something. So he has an income, though it's hard to imagine where he would be employed.

The other reason I don't think he's homeless is that most homeless folk are in pretty bad shape, physically as well as mentally. And this guy has a pair of the most muscular, tanned, toned male legs I've ever seen walking down the streets of Real Life. So no long pants for him! He clearly takes care of himself, which requires the wherewithal to do so and implies the absence of excessive booze, drugs, or dementia -- and, most likely, a roof over one's head. Still, he looks like a bum (or maybe a superannuated hippie?) from the waist up. I once was able to snap a picture of him, though unfortunately from behind and at a distance -- he walks very fast. You can see it here. It was a cold, rainy day in October, but that didn't put the cut-offs back in the bureau.



Brilliantly smart-ass responses to completely well-meaning signs

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The T&T List

Sifteo cubes
Heijiao Valley
coconut water
Emaciated Siddhartha
Perry Resources
Hyderabad Heroes
The Ghost Writer
Kyrgyzstan Airlines
Black Mask
The Bad Samaritans
Spy or Hipster?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Head Rattle


Somebody today made me promise to be a Philadelphia Phillies fan, which apparently involves signing up at some website, if they win the next... Superbowl? I agreed, just to be amiable, because I really don't care. At first I thought he was asking me to sign up for the team, and I was, like, "huh?"


I don't like those men's rooms where you never touch anything except.... What I mean is, I don't like all the hand waving you have to do to make the soap squirter and faucet and paper-tower dispenser work, as if you have magic telekinetic powers. And that hurricane-force "air blade" hand dryer that sounds like a jet engine at full throtle is just disconcerting. It's all about avoiding germs, I suppose, but you still have to pull the door handle when you leave, right?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Word of the Day: oikofugic

oikofugic (adj)

Marked by the urge to wander or travel away from home.

"Genevieve's employment as an air hostess for Oceanic Airlines enabled her to indulge her most oikofugic fantasies, but an emergency landing in Uzbekistan was not one of them."
--Leahcim Setag, Strange Loops

I've always liked the Beatles lyric "show me that I'm everywhere and get me home for tea". That's how I feel about wandering -- whatever its pleasures, after a while it makes you appreciate your little hovel on Familiarity Street again. I enjoyed being in London last month, but I wouldn't want to be there now -- and not just because of the current riots (which I wouldn't be surprised to see on this side of the Atlantic soon). Ultimately, I need a routine, which you can't establish while traveling, to feel grounded. Although... too much routine leads to complacency and boredom. That's when it's time to pack up and perambulate again. Breathe in, breathe out.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Brain Dump

Be the narcotic. Gently, play your games with fire. Each lying area, whether a field of fallen ruins or an impassable jungle, emerges as wakefulness when sleep reverses -- like an endlessly spiral stairway. Consider: an old city of shadows still keeps track of its citizens, even when they have disappeared, subsumed by exhaustive construction, or obliterated by implacable, yet patient, nature. Time's sand reinforces all. A dreamer's fractured mirror, in which the river of desire frees the mind from reality, generates carousels of birds, even as the dreamer loses himself within their spectral penumbra. Internal acacias thrive in the synaptic breeze off the conceptual sea, as mental clouds flee in formation, weeping joyful water from the sky. Such things are possible if you will but relax, assume a mask of light and accept these directions. Illusions melt in the beauty of intention, the shaping of the third eye, of the many faceted soul.

Don't worry about it.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Photo of the Week

waddesdon manor gargoyle

Not as real as it looks, this is a computer-generated 3D representation of my tortured inner psyche that I created by answering 25 multiple-choice questions on

Actually, I just made that up. This is a gargoyle (or a gargoyle face) that we saw when we visited Waddesdon Manor in England last month. Click it for a profoundly disturbing close-up.

You can see more of my London and England pics, including plenty of the ultra posh Waddesdon (constructed for one of the Rothschilds as a summer weekend getaway "house" and now owned by the National Trust), here. Trust me, they will make you want to board the next plane for Heathrow.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Word of the Day: erinaceous

erinaceous (adj)

Like a hedgehog.

"Anomie and abulia began creeping into my skull, and my moods began sloughing erinaceous exfoliations. This was a tropical fatigue, perhaps, or perhaps it was the ineluctable avoidance of the still part of one's own mind...."
--Dale Peterson, Chimpanzee Travels

The one time I grew a little beard, I couldn't stop stroking my erinaceous chin like some evil mastermind plotting a global takeover.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Random Sequence

Ivan always looked where he was going. When walking down stairs, he would watch his feet as they descended each step, and when walking along the sidewalk, he would scan the concrete ahead, watching for cracks, curbs, and dog poop. It saved him from a lot of stumbles, he reasoned. And sometimes he found things things that people had dropped as they hurried along, yacking on their cell phones, gazing distractedly at passersby or store windows, or lost in a daydream. One time he found a $20 dollar bill, and another time a good, unbroken umbrella. But today he had found someone's drivers license.

It was in the middle of a busy street....

[story to be continued in your imagination]

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Icky: We've discovered a family of opossums living rent-free in our backyard shed. I contacted Jersey City Animal Control, but they're stonewalling me. Not sure what to do. Maybe nothing? I've always thought of 'possums as a sort of hillbilly delicacy, not a varmint that lives in the city. It could be worse, I suppose. It could be rats.

Puzzled: More animal weirdness. While traveling on mass transit today, I observed several seemingly unrelated fellow travelers with animal carriers -- those boxy plastic crates with the wire mesh on the front -- containing cats. Kitties. Pussies. What's going on? Is there a feline-owners convention occurring in the area?

Strangely entertained: This book I'm "reading" (actually listening to), The Pale King, is all about people who work for the IRS, and the narrators (I mean the characters in the book, not the voice talent reading the text) go on and on about how they came to be involved in the "Service" (i.e., the Internal Revenue Service) and, yes, about taxes. But it isn't boring. How can a book about such a seemingly dull subject -- a book largely about, in fact, tedium itself -- be interesting? The author, the late David Foster Wallace, somehow pulled that rabbit out of his hat. Talented guy he was.