Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

I discovered today that someone I know has a secret nickname, and, in fact, a whole other life in which he is known by this name. What's rather odd is that the nickname isn't a name I've ever heard before or even a real word, at least in English. Googling it brings up a video in which this person is engaging in an activity I already knew about -- nothing controversial. But I wasn't aware that this fellow had constructed a whole other persona under this alternate moniker. It's a curious feeling when you find out that someone you thought you knew has another side to his personality. It's doubly peculiar when you realize this other side has its own name, under which he associates with people who probably have no knowledge of his "real" legal name. It's enough to make your head spin.

I never really had a nickname. Someone in college called me "Salamander" a few times (why? and why do I remember such things?), but it didn't stick. My mother used to call me "Pumpkin" for some reason. (I wasn't orange or spherical, and I didn't have a stem on top.) When I see her, I never remember to ask her why. She probably doesn't know, anyway.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Word of the Day: pandiculate

pandiculate (v)

To stretch and yawn simultaneously.

"Rick shifts in his seat. 'If I don't eat soon I may have to pandiculate,' he says. 'Not while company is here,' Grub answers."
--Steven Sherrill, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

I pandiculate, you pandiculate, we all pandiculate.

I try to avoid doing this at work, or in awkward situations... like when someone thinks he/she is relating a fascinating narrative full of riveting details. Or when watching one of the cable movies from the LifeMark (?) channel that some significant other invited onto our flatscreen. Or, most recently, during an obligatory decorating-the-Xmas-tree session.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Convaht English text t'enny of sevahal comic dialecks

The Dialectizer convahts English text t'enny of sevahal comic dialecks, includin' Red Neck, Jive, Cockney, Elmer Fudd, Swedish Chef, Moron, Pig Latin or Hacker.

Th' Dialeckizer takes text o' other web pages an' instantly creates parodies of them! Fry mah hide! Try it out by seleckin' a dialeck, then interin' a URL o' English text. Eff'n yo' haf quesshuns about whut The Dialeckizer does o' how it does it, please see th' "Info'mashun" seckshun toward th' bottom of thar page.



True or False?

The less you know about someone, the more normal they seem.

What people think you said is usually sillier than what you actually said.

Truth tellers should wear running shoes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

(or felt...)

Stuffed. It's not so much that I ate a lot on Thanksgiving, but rather the type of comestibles I ingested. Turkey, yes indeed, but also stuffing, mashed potatoes, various types of casserole, specialty breads and rolls, and pie -- all heavy stuff I never or rarely eat. It was good, but I couldn't help feeling bloated afterward, like one of those Macy's parade balloons, except considerably heavier than air. I know why they call it stuffing.

Suspicious. Forced to listen to Xmas music while driving home from upstate New York after the holiday, I began to ponder the lyrics to "Winter Wonderland":

Later on, we'll conspire,
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid,
The plans that we've made....

Hmm. The plans? That sounds suspiciously... conspiratorial. The song was composed in the 1930s, an era of radical political movements of right and left, as well as spies and counterspies. Was the composer, Felix Bernard, sending a hidden message to someone via a treacly holiday ditty?

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say: Are you married?
We'll say: No man,
But you can do the job
When you're in town.
...We'll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman,
Until the other kids knock him down.

These are very odd lyrics, when you think about it. "Are you married"? (A code phrase used by spies to recognize each other.) "Do the job"? "Mister Snowman"? (Clearly a code name.) "Until the other kids knock him down"? The world was on the verge of universal war. What operative was receiving instructions when he heard Perry Como and the Andrews Sisters warbling this tune on the radio?

Amused. I'm about one-third of the way through 1Q84, Haruki Murakami's massive (900+ pages) new novel, a fascinating tale of alternate universes, literary deception, and assassination. As much as I'm enjoying it, it does seem padded in places. Whenever a character stops to eat, the author describes the meal in complete detail, and if the protagonist is cooking it himself, the description is so detailed it could be followed as a recipe. 1Q84 is many things, but one could almost call it a postmodern cookbook.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Photo of the Week


I've solved my Xmas shopping problem this Black Friday. Everyone on my list will receive one of these exquisite turtle sculptures from Tiffany, depicting the mating habits of Trachemys scripta elegans. Who wouldn't want to display one of these romantic and whimsical objets d'art on their mantlepiece... or bedside table?

Actually, I just made that up. This is one of the many jaw-droppingly tawdry bibelots, bagatelles, and white elephants displayed in a local Jersey City department store's window. I didn't see a price tag on this item, but Tiffany the place is not. It might be worth a Hamilton, though, to buy this as a obligation gift for that least favorite biped on your Xmas list.

(Don't be shy. Come out of your shell and click the pic for a closer view. You know you want to.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Random Sequence


As Jonas and Melody, two middle-aged professors of linguistics, were walking aimlessly about in the city center on a gray, empty Saturday, they came to an unsuspected esplanade. Across the plaza was a small art-house movie theater with a glowing marquee. In block letters, it said "Spurs and Saddles".

"What's 'Spurs and Saddles'"? Melody asked in a musing tone, as if she didn't really expect an answer.

"A film," said Jonas, in a flat voice.

"I know that!" Melody hissed. "I mean, I've never heard of it."

"It's an old silent, I think," Jonas replied. "From the 20s. Let's go see it!"

"Ahh, no!" said Melody. "I am not in the mood for manful atrociousness manifested in shoot-'em-ups, or achromatic rowdyism in the Old West. Even in silence."

"Apparently you are in the mood for improvident syntactics, however," Jonas sneered.

"Oh, please," said Melody. "Let's find an eatery instead. I'm ready for some light repast, some amusing crumpet, perhaps chased down by a glass of some pretentious vintage."

"I'm agreeable," Jonas said. "As long as we act out our little chow-down as if we were thespians masticating in a silent movie."

[not to be continued]

Monday, November 21, 2011

Random Acts of Poetry

Late November

Almost over:
The paper drops
like a wizened leaf
from a tree in winter.

The sun kindles a landscape,
spreading elegies of fire.
White fingers
appear at the windows.

I open a book, I write notes
like a prisoner
at the bottom of a well,
a dark place.

The house is full of ticking,
wind runs the city.
Twilight comes early, lamps
lit against the shriveling day.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Word of the Day: pertinacious

pertinacious (adj)

Stubborn or persistent.

"He behaved like some tricksy elf, uttering his most pertinacious screeches in time of family prayer, and distorting his visage at poor Mr. Little into such curiously ugly shapes as daunted the feeble divine from any caressing approaches whatever."
--Rose Terry Cooke, "Aceldama Sparks"

I am stubbornly persistent in my determination to.... what? Not a lot I can think of. To correct grammar and infelicities of expression, I suppose, but that's part of my job. There are the usual things that most everyone is persistent about, like brushing my teeth. I eat the same thing for breakfast every day, but that's more about being a creature of habit than "stubborn". I've known pertinacious people in my time, though, who shall be nameless, because they could very well be reading this. Some of the most interesting, otherwise likable people I've met are extremely stubborn about the most ridiculous things -- like not ever getting on an airplane or neglecting to see a doctor or just refusing to compromise with the nexus of imbroglios we call life in the 21st century. Yes, stupidly stubborn and unwilling to compromise.... Maybe they should run for Congress?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Head Rattle


A skillful, in-depth analysis of Kubrick's film The Shining is here. It's (ahem) pretty amazing. (Thanks, Scott)


Sitting here listening to the dishwasher do it's thing.... The rhythmic, undulating swishing of the water jets is like the sound of a hyperactive seashore. Too fast to be white noise, yet meditative nonetheless.


Not sure why I (we're) reluctant to put Halloween away. I still have an obese pumpkin sitting in the middle of my dining room table and an emaciated, anatomically correct plastic skeleton sitting across from me in the living room. Thanksgiving is coming too fast. And Christmas? Looming ominously on the horizon. I have no idea what I want for Xmas or what anybody else wants. Maybe a gift certificate for cha-cha lessons?


Could there be such a thing as a thinking zombie? Someone was telling me today about a book he read about an intellectual zombie. I thought all zombies were mindless -- in fact, that the very definition of a zombie is mindlessness (in addition to the whole flesh-eating thing). Zombies are insanely popular in the publishing world right now (nota bene: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), almost like vampires were a year ago. The question is why. Zombies could be a metaphor for current social conditions. Like vampires, they're both dead and alive -- the living dead. Kind of like our economy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Search Party

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

wooden leg in sock

Hard to imagine someone sitting down at a computer and searching for this. Some strange fetish? On the other hand, I suppose it's hard to imagine someone taking a picture of something like this too.

catie uptown on Ridiclousness

Huh? Learn to spell, learn to type…. Or google sober.

Monroe robot

A Marilyn Monrobot? If there isn't one already, I'm sure there will be one soon. How about it, Japanese readers?

how to wear a bowler hat

Confidently, or else forget it.

Klaus voorman

The not-Paul.

what's a rastafarian proctologist

A Pokemon?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Amused. I was reading a description of a book called Shark Wars #2: The Battle of Riptide today, which contained the following passage: "Now Gray must train with Takiza Jaelynn Betta vam Delacrest Waveland ka Boom Boom, a wise and mysterious fighting fish who has promised to teach his young apprentice the ways of the ocean and the secret of what it means to be a great warrior." Takiza Jaelynn Betta vam Delacrest Waveland ka Boom Boom…. That's the best, or at least the most creative, character name I've heard in a long, long time. I shared it with someone who then claimed that it was his nickname in high school, but I'm skeptical. Anyway, I can't wait for the movie.

Intimidated. We've got a new washing machine and dryer! The old ones came with the house when we bought it five years ago, and the old dryer, at least, looked like it dated from the Kennedy Administration. It worked fine until about a week and a half ago, when it exhaled its last. This encouraged me to go underwear shopping while my wyfe researched the latest spin and dry options. A couple of days ago, two large silvery laundry computers (it seems inadequate to describe them as a washer and dryer) were delivered. I had to figure out how to program them before I could wash my delicates. Lots of dials, buttons, LEDs…. Apparently, I haven't been keeping up with advances in mechanical lavation.

Amazed. Is anything more out of fashion than the TV Batman of the 1960s? Camp and economic prostration don't really color coordinate. But, what the hell, they were showing the Batman movie from 1966 at the Landmark Loews Jersey Theater last weekend and I didn't have anything better to do. I thought the attendance would be sparse, but instead I found a line around the block waiting to get in. People from eight to eighty. Well. It's both a terrible movie but quite funny despite itself (and not always in the ways it intends to be), so it doesn't really matter, I suppose. It holds up as a time capsule and a goof. Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Word of the Day: pareidolia

pareidolia (n)

An imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where none exists.

"....I was scared that the alien code would scramble my mind. And it turned out that I was right, because pretty soon it started to go bad for Jules and all the other clever people who did code for shits and giggles, because the temporary synesthesia and pareidolia became permanent, burned into their brains.... Jules began to see ugly patterns everywhere...."
--Paul J. McCauley, "Crimes and Glory"

When I was a kid I was "imaginative" and used to see miniature worlds in wallpaper patterns, faces in wood grain and cloud banks, and a demon's head and shoulders in a painting my grandmother had of... Snoqaulmie Falls. I mostly lost this ability as I grew up, though I still occasionally see things that aren't there out of the corner of my eye. Lately, it's mice in moving shadows. Except sometimes it really is mice.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Photo of the Week: Fish Tale

fish mural

The Jersey City Municipal Aquarium is home to some of the largest koi carp in the world. These super-sized "goldfish" attract thousands of visitors every year who marvel at these finny behemoths as they glide around their brobdingnagian fishbowl -- often pausing to surprise passers-by as they give them the "fisheye" from the aquarium's street-side portholes.

Actually, I just made that up. Jersey City doesn't have an aquarium. (I do, but my zebra-fish and neon tetras only attract a handful of visitors per year.) This is a photo I snapped of a mural entitled "Koi Too" by local artist Ed Harris on Hutton Street near Central Avenue. Go fish: click the pic for a closer view.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's the word...?

The Random Word Generator (Plus) will supply you with nouns, verbs, adjectives, interjections, etc., at various levels of complexity, from very common to obscure. Just what is a "scutcheon", anyway?

A companion "Creativity Tool", the Random Sentence Generator, spits out a simple, random sentence that almost seems to make a peculiar kind of sense. Examples: "How can the insidious ozone bubble?" You've got me there, but ozone bubbles do sound insidious. "The dropping trace reports a breach throughout the ingenious cleaner." Really? How then will I clean my ingenious?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Head Rattle


Who is the mysterious "Rob da Bank" who receives "Special Thanks" on the album Crazy Clown Time? Ah, a little googling reveals a British disc jockey on BBC Radio 1. That makes sense. Sort of. He was one of the presenters on a show called Blue Room (hmmm), which featured a "unique blend of quirky chillout tunes." How very… Lynchian. (Uncredited on "Crazy Clown Time" [the song]: Yoko Ono, or someone who moans very much like her.)


People who sigh when they're sad, people who sigh when they're happy, people who sigh when they're angry, people who sigh when they're frustrated, people who sigh when they're feeling sorry for themselves, people who sigh when they're contented, people who sigh when they're tired -- there are so many meanings that can be conveyed with a sigh. Sighing is the universal language. But sometimes I still need an interpreter.


Every time I watch or read news reports about all these debates and campaigns, I think, "the circus has come to town."

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Random Sequence

--"I'm ready for a sybaritic tallyho!" Victor said.
--"Yeah? Where are you going to find any freewill reciprocation?" asked Clive.
--"Mmm. Maybe down at the B and G. I'm hungry anyway. I could go for some more of their functionary cheddar."
--"Ugh! We ordered that thing last time. I almost threw up later. I was ready to do the weepiest shimmy in the lavatory."
--"Well, try something different. Have some watercress salad. Stretch those taste buds a little. Telescopic asceticism."
--"Is that on the menu? Can you even read a menu when you're in your 'tallyho' head? Or do you just look at the pictures? I think they have a fetishistic ideogram for that cheesy thing. A big gooey hubcap of golden ooze."

Monday, November 07, 2011

Word of the Day: zugzwang

zugzwang (n)

In chess, a position in which one player can move only with loss or severe disadvantage. Metaphorically, a situation in which there are no good options.

"Gregor sighed. 'There's no such thing as fate. Just likelihoods, and situations where there's no right move, only moves of varying degrees of wrongness. It's a case of zugswang.'
'Zugzwang? Is that a dirty word for something interesting?'"
--T. A. Pratt, Poison Sleep

I haven't played chess in quite a while. I think I like the idea of chess, and the romantically medieval imagery of the pieces, more than the game itself, which I usually find protracted and frustrating, even if I'm winning. Too much like life. There have been times when I've felt like a pawn or a knight; never really like a king, a bishop, a rook, or a queen. And I rarely find that situations are black and white.



A recently unearthed deleted scene from Blue Velvet. Interesting scene; worth releasing as an extra; totally unnecessary to the film.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

Electronic Weekend

This is my electronic weekend. I'm getting used to my new Eye Phone Four Ess, transferring my contacts (and it's amazing the number of people who are my "contacts" that I haven't heard from in several millennia) and trying to converse with Siri, the talking, voice-recognizing A.I. app included. So far, she doesn't seem to understand a word I say. "I didn't quite get that," she says when I ask a mundane question about the weather in my most stentorian voice. I was hoping for a HAL 9000 and instead I got a bubble-headed girl with a hearing problem. Oh, well – supposedly Siri gets better as more and more people talk to her. Can Siri jokes be far behind? I wonder what she says if you pose a more philosophical question to her -- or ask her to open the pod bay doors? "I'm sorry, Dave. I didn't quite get that."

I've also downloaded my first e-book to the e-reader I recently purchased from [a tall warrior woman]: Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. It's about 900 pages long, so I'm not going to have to purchase another e-book for several millennia. At least I won't have to lug a book the size of a dictionary or a bible along with me wherever I wander. By the way, how does one pronounce 1Q84? "One queue eighty-four", I suppose. ("Q" in Japanese is pronounced like "nine" in English, thus the Orwellian reference.) For some reason, I like to think of the title as "IQ 84" – which, according to the Wechsler Intelligence Scale, is classified as "dull normal intelligence" and "borderline mental retardation". That would be a generous description of Siri's present IQ, I imagine.


Postscript: I was too hasty in my judgment of Siri. It seems she was simply having a moment, a mental hiccup. I just asked her to "open the pod bay doors", and she snapped back with "I'm going to report you to the Intelligence Agent for harassment." So she's no dummy. She's a smart ass.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The T&T List

waddesdon manor flowers ampersand

The Aurignacian
Recess Lav
Ubehebe Crater
Panamint Mountains
Hans Schäufelein
Matthew Perry
The Gentle Barn
Terminal 5
Faery Wicca
Atheist Rap

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Paranoid. I overheard someone I don't know mention my name today, though not, apparently, in any negative context. Still, I wonder if this is how celebrities feel about strangers discussing their personal peccadilloes.

Cold. I wore a sweater today, for the first time in many moons. That's when I know the season has changed -- when I get out the sweaters. Who needs a solstice?

Itchy. Another sign of changing weather, I guess -- dryer air, dryer skin, and I feel an urge to scratch in a particular spot. Unfortunately, I can't do it in public. And I spend most of the day in public. Tiny tortures take their toll.

Centered. I must have had a good dream last night, though I can't remember what it was. I woke up feeling like nothing the world could throw at me today, would... throw me. And it hasn't. A nice feeling. Too bad I can't bottle it.

Pensive. The "intersection of humanities and science" is a busy intersection, I find. Look both ways.


Meanwhile.... It's Crazy Clown Time! Interesting article about David Lynch's new album (which I've only heard bits and pieces of so far).

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Word of the Day: vicambulate

vicambulate (v)

To walk about in the streets.

"Then he took to vicambulation, and lo! over the most maginificent shop in Riverdale -- a shop brilliant with gold and silver plate, and blazing with superb gems -- he perceived the name of Boss." --Mortimer Collins, The Vivian Romance

I haven't driven a car since.... I don't remember. The pleasing distinction about living in a metropolis is that one can walk to find just about any necessity. And I do. I also vicambulate, more or less aimlessly, as a form of moving meditation. When I have to travel to some vicinity outside my usual orbit, though, I patronize mass transit, as I've often mentioned here.

For example, I board the "light rail" (that's what they call trolleys these days) in Newark, New Jersey (where I carry on), to convey myself from the train station to my actual place of employment. Unfortunately, however, later this week, a Hollywood production will be filming in the vicinity, which means the light rail will be unavailable for two days running, or, you might say, two days not running. (Apparently, Newark is a stand in for "Gotham City" in this particular film; I heard the director was looking for a noirish municipality that has had it's heyday, to put it politely.)

Anyway, I will be forced to either wend my way on foot or take advantage of a shuttle service that is both infrequent and usually egregiously congregated with commuters, like the proverbial sardine can. It will be especially so on those two bat days, I suspect. So I may just leave early and hoof it at the other end of the PATH line. Just a typical Gothamite pedestrian, dodging the fiendish cataclysms of some celluloid supervillain.