Thursday, December 29, 2011

Random Sequence: Diastolic Boisterousness

[random phrases worked into a story]

It was time for another holiday dinner at the Brinkerhoff manse. Young Spencer, the black sheep of the family, was not looking forward to it. His father was a fishing boat captain and had no respect at all for Spencer's profession -- that of dictionary editor.

As the family sat down to a repast of brazed sailfish and checkered chitlings, the patriarch began to deliver his traditional rodomontade, which, as usual, was filled with imbecilic windiness. No one paid much attention, though. Spencer's comely sister, Adelia, exhibited her usual luminescent lassitude, with her chin planted firmly on her palm. His long-suffering mother, Philida, simply stared into the tureen of mashed potatoes.

Spencer, who fancied himself the Brinkerhoff's closest approximation to an upscale cutup, decided he'd had enough of his father's complaints about the fluctuating price of flounder. "I dig a sorrel pintaloosa!" he suddenly shouted, though he wasn't sure why. They were words he had been working on for the new edition of the dictionary, and they had simply come to him. His father halted in mid sentence and glared menacingly. Spencer was sure he had sounded like an adenoidal landlubber engaging in undignified ebullition to everyone at the table.

"What? What kind of fish is that?" Captain Brinkerhoff demanded. "It's not a fish!" replied Spencer. "Look it uuuupppp!" he bellowed, pounding the table with what he intended to be a raffish drub.

His diastolic boisterousness had the intended effect. His mother and sister began to giggle, nervously at first, then uncontrollably. And Captain Brinkerhoff was uncharacteristically silent for the duration of the feast.

[not to be continued]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Word of the Day: umop-episdn

umop-episdn (adj)

Topsy-turvy, inverted.

"There were a lot of people dressed as demireps and acting like corybants on the Grammy Awards that year. Music and singing seemed less important to the proceedings than flash and spectacle. There was even a circus act. I'd rather see and hear Susan Boyle than some pop tart lip-syncing while dressed like a Vegas hooker and hanging umop-episdn."
--Leahcim Setag, Strange Loops

This week between Xmas and the new year always seems topsy-turvy. I usually burn off my remaining "use it or lose it" vacation time during this period, which means I don't have a set schedule to follow, which creates it's own brand of anxiety. I should clean the aquarium, rearrange the basement, reduce my pile of personal paperwork, perform maintenance on the computer, do laundry, wash the car.... There are any number of "shoulds". My wyfe would be happy to make a list for me. Instead, I'm slumped here on the couch, blogging, and listening to barmy music on the radio. In the middle of the day! And I seem to have a few Puritans tsk-tsking at me from some Office of Moral Persuasion inside my head. I think I'll go for a walk.



How to Deal with Slow Walkers

(Thanks, Carolyn)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING: Xmas Edition

Charlie Brown tree

And so this is Xmas.

I only got one thing I asked for on my list. There's no snow here in Upstate New York; it's a green Xmas. The gift I wanted to give my wyfe didn't arrive in time. We couldn't find the Yule Log on the TV here. And I ate something that doesn't agree with me.

This might sound like a bad Christmas, but it's not. Santa brought me some other gifts that I wouldn't have thought of, but I liked. I gave my wyfe some other presents that she appreciated. We finally found the Yule Log on an obscure channel.

And last night, my nephew set up his telescope in the backyard. It was a moonless night, a "midnight clear" with a temperature of 12 degrees (-11 C). We saw Jupiter, the Andromeda galaxy, and many stars, including a bright one that seemed to pulsate. It was... transmundane. Even transcendental, in a way.

"The sign of Christmas is a star, a light in darkness. See it not outside of yourself, but shining in the Heaven within...."
--A Course in Miracles


(Above you see one of two Xmas trees we have here. I thought the "Charlie Brown" one made a more interesting picture. The star is a lighting fixture/sculpture that an artist friend made. Click the pics for close-ups. Maybe they'll make you feel a bit transmundane.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Head Rattle


A stunning development: McDonald's apparently no longer sells hamburgers. Instead, they now sell something called a "Cheeseburger No Cheese".


A rolling disco? A commuter van I rode in this evening had a laser light projector mounted over the dashboard that cast roving multi-colored light spots over the confused passengers. Rather annoying, but creativity kudos to the driver for decorating his control panel with something other that the usual plastic Jesus.


Someone gave me a bottle of red "Monsanto" wine for Xmas. Hmm. I thought Monsanto was a company that made industrial chemicals.


Surreal moment of the day: I ate lunch today with four guys who were all playing with the "Stupid Zombies" app simultaneously on their cell phones. Four adult guys....


Lalaloopsy -- the season's hottest toy, so they say, but this evening is the first time I've heard of it... uh, her. She's kind of gross, I think, with her Medusa-like locks, but I do like her name, which is hard to say with a straight face. Try it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Random Acts of Poetry


The house is quiet. Just
footsteps on the ceiling,

something dropped,
the dryer spinning its characters.

The sounds of nothing,
of missing days:

scraped knees and running noses
and a darting goldfish in a filmy bowl.

A sun that lingers
like an unwakable dream,

cycling a blind man's recollections,
clear as a mirror.

Sounds drawing pictures--
a heart beats.

The ocean swells in a teacup.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Word of the Day: munted

munted (adj)

Peculiar, abnormal, or drunk.

"We were doing fine, totally munted, dancing around with roses between our teeth, winking at flowergirls. Sister spots us -- making a spectacle of ourselves, she reckoned. I dropped the roses. But Sonny Boy dances up to his sister. Teases her. Puts an arm around her and she rips the roses right out of his mouth. Thorns sliced his lips up. Blood pissing all over the place."
--David Geary, A Man of the People

"Blood pissing all over the place." As a kid, I used to get spontaneous nosebleeds. I would wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, wondering why my pillow was wet. I would turn on the light and discover that I had been lying in a puddle of my own blood. Icky -- and munted in a way, in the sense of peculiar. I would sometimes get them during the day, at school, too, and would have to go to the nurse's office and lie down for a while, squeezing my nose with a tissue. It was very inconvenient and extremely embarrassing.

To this day, I don't know what caused them, but they were more frequent in the winter, so it may have had something to do with my nasal passages drying out too much in the cold, desiccated air. I haven't had a nosebleed in years, but every time I experience some post nasal drip I still half expect to look down and see a red blotch. (I know, I know: "Thank you for sharing, Michael.")

Monday, December 19, 2011

The T&T List

staples by Raemy Do

Perry Mason
Sagittarius A* (sucks)
The Spielberg Face / The Kubrick Stare
Lana Del Rey
The Secret Life of Pronouns
Waris Ahluwalia
Red Egg
Lake Buddha



I, Me, Mine: The Beatles and their pronouns

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Photo of the Week

gates tour 2

This is my twin brother, the dangerous (haha) Mitchell Gates, pointing to the silly sign he posted as a jest outside the entrance to the Gizmeau Museum, where he works as a curator for Victorian automatons and other steampunk contraptions. He spends so much time winding up the "Automatic Man" that he's starting to feel robotically "automated" himself.

Actually, I just made that up. This is me, on vacation ("holiday") in London last July, outside the elaborate iron gates to ... I forget. There are many, many elaborate iron gates in London. (I was wearing the hat because of the bad haircut that an eccentric Brazilian hairstylist gave me last summer. I was wearing the jacket because it's actually quite cool in London in July, which reminded me of San Francisco weather.)

For some reason, my wyfe has chosen to include this picture (among others) with her annual Xmas letter, distributed to an always riveted readership of hundreds of friends and followers.

Click the pic NOW for a larger view. I'm ready for my close-up!



Moves Like Orson

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Tense. Someone, a long-distance yet close relative, wants a specific Xmas gift that is only available from [a river in Brazil], where it is listed as "temporarily out of stock". No alternate selection has been indicated. The elves had better get assiduous.

Relieved. The stupid war in Iraq is officially over. War is over, if you want it.... But it can take a tragically long time.

Amused. At the Xmas party I attended today, a confrere showed up with his pet ferret. It was a cacophonous party, complete with pounding DJ drumbeats, but the crepuscular little mammal kept his eyes closed, apparently asleep. When I rubbed its forehead, however, he stretched and revived a bit, clearly enjoying the brow massage.

Here are words I never thought I would say: "May I rub your ferret?"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Search Party

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

example of wallydrag

When I get up at 6:30 AM every weekday, I'm Mr. Wally Drag.

Rattling in head when walk

That's me, for sure – lost in thought. I can walk for entire city blocks without remembering anything about what I've passed. It's a wonder I haven't been run over.

Blue Cadillacs

Hmm. If it was Pink Cadillacs it would sound like one of those faux-1950s doo-wop groups. Blue Cadillacs? A jazz trio? Junkyard El Dorados?

Poet name generator

My poet name is Lucius Cornelius Swanswaddle, according to the poet name generator. (If I was a "lady poet," it would be Forsythia Swanswaddle.)

just kick it magazyn

A magazine called Just Kick It? The journal of professional field-goal kickers -- or maybe the newsletter of the clinically depressed.

Head box

That would be a good name for this blog.

Amazingly awesome ramses ii statue

I don't recall ever writing here about a Ramses II statue, amazingly awesome or otherwise. I'd like to visit Egypt, see some ancient statues, and feel some awe.

Mannequin male art

What?? Some twisted people land here....

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Word of the Day: kelemenopy


kelemenopy (n)

A straight-line sequence through the middle of everything, leading nowhere.

"Gesturingly overjoyed – yaaeeaa – motherfriend cockblasting wwhheeeee – resurrect the mayhem – Sodomy said I never switch off the mind but instead follow your kelemenopy...."
--Jason Earls, Red Zen: A Novel of Extreme and Bizarre Adventure in Which a Mystical Book on Buddhism Changes the Hero's Life

A straight line to nowhere. Things seem to be going swimmingly sometimes, and then they get suddenly interrupted. Derailed. Cut off. Somebody dies, a job ends unexpectedly, people vanish, your favorite TV show gets cancelled before all the threads unspool. The ship hits an iceberg.

Like the time my old Mustang broke down in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. Like the time I got "laid off" from my magazine editing job. Like the novel I abandoned because I couldn't figure out how to end it. But sometimes you have to reach nowhere ("now here") in order to figure out how to start over again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Much Ado about NOTHING

This is what happens when you stop to shop at Stop N Shop at 11 PM. You give the checkout lassie a Jackson and a penny to pay for your $19.91 purchase of a few comestibles. She hands you a $10 bill in change, while giggling and conversing with the bag wrangler at the other end of the conveyer belt, who is stuffing your milk, Grape Nuts, yogurt, and mini-bagels into your reusable grocery tote.

There arrives a moment of total confusion. "Didn't I just hand her a twenty?" you think. "Um, wait," you say. "Is my change ten dollars -- or ten cents?"

At this, the giggling ceases, and she finds it necessary to grab your receipt out of the tote. She studies it for a second, then exclaims "Oh, thank you, thank you!" and snatches back the Hamilton, replacing it in your palm with a dime. An "I'm SO sorry" and more "thank yous" are received, along with more giggling.

Apparently, pointing out her mistake is humorous, but is nevertheless a conscientious act worthy of honest Abe. Or maybe not.

"It's okay. It's late," you mumble, as you start to wonder if you've been foolish. Should you have just shut up and pocketed the sawbuck? Is that what any normal person would do? Is she giggling at herself -- or at you?

You pick up your bag and leave, feeling both self-righteous and asinine -- a not unfamiliar mental mix.



Apple does Apple: the Beatles' album covers -- animated.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rudolph the Nasally Empowered Reindeer

"It's true that from birth Rudolph was a unique individual, that his luminescent olfactory organ made him different from (but not inferior to) the other reindeer in his age category, and that they often maliciously taunted him about his supra-nasal capabilities. Some reindeer caregivers, concerned that his nose had resulted from radioactive fallout or was somehow contagious, warned their fawns not to play with him."
--from Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner

Someone gave me Garner's book one Christmas, and it's a hoot. It also contains such stories as "'Twas the Night before Solstice" and "Frosty the Person of Snow," as well as PC versions of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol.

Poor Rudolph. I always identified with him, especially when I was a spotted teenager with braces on my teeth.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Random Acts of Poetry


Her psychiatrist sits
with hands folded
in the all-white room.

"For a lifetime or two,
a couple of my mad selves
wore a suffocating iron
mask of tranquility."

A cello player draws back his bow.



Compare your life to the script
until you stop crying,
until you change your mind.

bits of seed pollen waft
from your brain, on the wind.

One day these words will take root.



You lopped it off,
that intricate braid
rooted in the day we met.

Now you show a different face,
a silly moon under the bob,
a shopping-mall attractive


to paint a smile on.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Word of the Day: scobberlotcher

waddesdon manor 5

scobberlotcher (n)

An idle person.

"Now then, y'little scobberlotcher," said the soldier, grasping Smeatt by the nape of his neck and shaking him violently, "stop all that squirmin' an' spek up. D'you know where they be?"
--Patrice Kindl, Goose Chase

I'm rarely idle (rather an understatement, but we won't go there), however, I will be at loose ends in the last week of this swiftly shriveling 2011. I don't have anything special planned for that week, except maybe to do some scribbling and shutterbugging. I like the idea of having a few serendipitous days. Something might actually happen. I might actually see something out of the ordinary. I might meet someone or go somewhere. I might stay up all night and sleep all day. I might have an adventure, or just hibernate. I might find something to write about. If I do, I'll be sure to let you know.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011


I typed my name into Google Story Creator, and this was the result:


Great Lakes Entomologist. 2005.

It actually went so close to perfect that we could hardly believe it.

And when they do, we nail them.
Those parts range literally from boots on our feet to satellites zipping overhead.

They had night vision gear, so they moved quickly.

Interesting. It seems to have something to do with a successful clandestine military or espionage mission (code name "Zootaxa"?) in 2005 that involved "nailing" an entomologist -- possibly near the Great Lakes. Some poor scientist studying insects at night - a real threat to the government? I wonder why my name generated such a creepy tale. Try it; see if you have better luck.



Gosh, wouldn't it be cool to have this just reissued novel as an audiobook, recorded by Sheryl Lee?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Head Rattle


I like to walk around the house in my stocking feet, but there's a problem. Inevitably, I find myself wandering into the kitchen at some point, and frequently there is a tiny, almost invisible puddle of cold water on the floor in there, just waiting for me to step in it. The feeling of walking around in a clammy wet sock is nearly ineffable, but I'll try: it's similar to that sensation you get when you're outside and it starts to rain, and single drop of frigid water drips into the space between your collar and your neck and proceeds to meander down your spine inside your shirt. You know the feeling won't last, but while it does, it's like a form of low-grade torture.


It's fascinating how so many patrons of the supermarket I generally shop at, which has narrower aisles than the ones in the suburbs, will suddenly stop, blocking the right-of-way, while they stare at, not the shelves, but nothing at all. It's as if they are having a Zen moment. Maybe they're just mentally reviewing their shopping lists, but I like to think it's a more profound occasion that that. It could be an existential realization: "Here I am, in this well-lighted place, surrounded by thousands and thousands of garishly packaged consumer products, and I can't decide what to buy. I'm struck by the triviality of it all, and I'll just stop and be alive here for a little, perfect moment." And then you say "excuse me" and they move reluctantly -- as they sink back into their quotidian consumer daze.


Speaking of shopping (what is it about this time of year that brings it to mind?), I still pay cash for certain things, and when I'm given change, I now return any pennies to the cashier. They never refuse them. Pennies are worthless to me – I don't even stop to pick them up off the street – but quite valuable to any sort of commercial emporium, since they can be used to make change. Some (most) customers still accept them, though I'm sure they mostly end up out of circulation in that jar on the dresser in the closet in the bedroom.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Photo of the Week


Here's a picture I took on the movie set for Blast Radius, which I visited recently while working on an article for Insanity Fair. It's a Hitchcockian thriller about an opera star who travels the world working uncover for Britain's supersecret spy agency MI7. In the scene filmed here (in a converted warehouse space -- the ornamentation is all gilded Styrofoam) the superspy/tenor stops an assassination plot against the Arch Premier of Carpathia by using a modified electrolarynx to sing a subsonic note that demolecularizes the assassin's plastic explosives....

Actually, I just made that up. This is my photo of the chandelier and lobby of the Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre, which is walking distance, more or less, from my castle. It's a restored 1920s movie palace where they show classic films once a month and only charge $1 for popcorn.

Click the pic to examine the fine detail of this paint-and-plaster Versailles.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The T&T List

Higgs boson
The Nest Learning Thermostat
Archie Panjabi
Immaculate Infatuation
Tyler Perry
Cardamom fritters
Shut Up and Play the Hits
Zanskari girls
Hipstamatic app
Inagua Airport
Aviv Maayan



I'm James Franco