Monday, December 31, 2012

Word of the Day: sardoodledum

What's "the word I'm thinking of" this New Year's Eve? It's....

sardoodledum (noun)

Dramatic works with exaggerated, contrived, trivial, or deplorable plots; soap opera; melodrama.

"As for Sudermann, he chose to temper the rigors of the Schalf-Holz formula (by Ibsen out of Zola) with sardoodledum. The result was this "Heimat," in which naturalism was wedded to a mellow sentimentality, caressing to audiences bred upon the drama of perfumed adultery."
—H. L. Mencken, "Hermann Sudermann," Prejudices: First Series (1919)

Sometimes life imitates daytime drama. The New Year's party we attended was given by a woman who divorced, then decided to have a child with a married man who now lives in another country, but whom she manages to visit there periodically, along with their two-year-old. Meanwhile, as she was planning this party (with a very animated two-year-old "monkey" underfoot), her mother lay dying in a nursing home, and she was expecting a number of relatives from elsewhere around the nation to arrive within a day or so (to say their farewells to Mother); they would all be staying in her tiny apartment. Also meanwhile, she's been constructing a labyrinthine website showcase for her creative endeavors.

I was mightily impressed. Under similar circumstances, I can't imagine summoning the enterprise to mount a New Year's party (or even to get out of bed), but some people manage to survive and even thrive while living in a melodrama, a soap opera, a true-life...sardoodledum.

By the way, when you search for "sardoodledum" in Google Images (click the link above), for some reason, many depictions of the Beatles, and specifically the "cute one", result. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Flix Picks Pix Mix

Check out my favorite pics (by other shutterbugs) on Flickr here.

This gallery is a mind-bending visual extravaganza virtually guaranteed to vibrate your synapses and tickle your optic nerves. It will probably also tell you something (maybe more than I wish) about what rattles around in this coconut of mine.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Random Acts of Poetry

Late December

The sticks are broken, the coals have faded.
Smoke offers speculation. Your mirror shivers,

and the moon squanders its silver.
A tilted house is sleeping.

You rehearse the passions of Thursday.
The sharp lines of glass--

instants, appetites, lessons
revolve in the cobalt. Everything

fragments to jazz, futile words,
a pack of dogs chasing their tails.

An onion unpeeling its burdens.
You remember

blurred photos, three siblings, the old Chevrolet.
Lost books, days of inertia.

Now pencil light sketches an horizon.
Pigeons complain

on the frosted sill. The stale roar of traffic
builds its illusion of normalcy,

the radiators tick and exhale
a warm assertion of morning.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Head Rattle

When the bulb burns out on your car's headlight, why is it so onerous to replace it? It requires removing and disassembling the entire headlight... pod, I guess you would call it. I was forced to drive home from upstate New York tonight in near blizzard conditions with only one headlight.

Skyping with people in Brazil over the holidays made me realize that the time zone for Sao Paulo is three hours ahead of the eastern United States. London is five hours ahead, so it's as if Brazil is in the middle of the Atlantic, relative to New York. Odd.

I won't miss 2012 much. Here's hoping 2013 is a better year. Rearrange the numerals and you get 0123. A year of progress?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Word of the Day: clinquant

What's "the word I'm thinking of"? Today, it's....

clinquant (adj)

Glittering, but usually in a false or cheap way, like tinsel

"No, there are too many of these fine sparks you talk of who perhaps may be very clinquant, slight, and bright and make a very pretty show at first, but the tinsel-gentlemen do so tarnish in the wearing, there's no enduring them."
--Thomas Shadwell, The Virtuoso (1676)

I once had a cat that liked to eat the tinsel (of the "icicle" type) off the Christmas tree. Maybe he had an iron deficiency. Anyway, he always threw it up later, in a sort of shiny hairball, which was both pretty from a distance and disgusting close up -- like many things, I guess.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Quote of the Day


"It was the night before Christmas. The house was very quiet. No creatures were stirring in the house. There weren't even any mice stirring. The stockings had been hung carefully by the chimney. The children hoped that Saint Nicholas would come and fill them."
--"The Night Before Christmas" by James Thurber "in the Hemingway manner" (from The New Yorker)

More here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Random Acts of Poetry: Saturnalia Sentiments

Exactly 10 years ago (give or take a day or so) I posted this poem I wrote, probably when I was feeling a bit stressed out by it all. I'm not always so "bah, humbug", but I think this expresses one aspect of the holiday.

Fa la la

Red, green, red, green--
your lights nictitate like
arrogant cop cars,

making my eyes throb
as your garlands drip
Yule-shine onto the crust

of this decomposing snow.
All night you're dreaming of
the right Christmas--

gilded Styrofoam,
tinsel and trash beneath a tree
of wires strung like nerves.

Let's admit that you're dying
to get it over with,
the frozen fa-la-la

for that suckling in the cow trough,
who will someday wander
the tepid Israeli hills

in dusty sandals,
knowing nothing
of such nonsense.

(Originally published by Melic Review)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Photo of the Week

Santa door

This is where Santa lives when he's visiting Jersey City, which he does quite often, since this is about the last place you'd expect to find him. Sometimes he just wants to get away from the paparazzi. And the elves. But really, this is where local weirdo Santos Hernandez lives. He's an older man, a bit overfed, and he has a white beard. He enjoys letting the younger children of the neighborhood think that he really is Santa Claus. "What do you want for Christmas, little boy?" It's creepy if you ask me.

Actually, I just made that up. This is simply a rather lame attempt at Xmas decoration on a building a block from where I live. I like the bold, colorful wrought-iron work combined with the pathetic Santa face. It says something poignant, I think, but I'm not sure what. Click on the pic for a closer view and maybe you can figure it out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

Ten years ago today, I blogged this:

Requiem for a Pencil

"I do all of my writing with either a ball-point pen or a keyboard. I've never been particularly fussy about what I write with, as long as it gets the words on paper (or screen) and doesn't leak all over my fingers. Some writers are fussy about their instruments, though, and quite a few through modern history have preferred to use the Blackwing 602. Alas, this pencil is no longer being manufactured, though you can still find them on eBay--for about $20 a piece."

Good news -- sort of. Reproduction Blackwings are now being made, though some cultists feel they don't compare to the originals. Read all about this feverish controversy here. It seems kind of pointless to me.



The 25 Funniest iPhone Autocorrects of 2012. Amusing if true.

Twin Peaks 20th Anniversary Exhibition in London. See you in the trees. For real.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Search Party

Here's another collection of recent search queries that brought seekers to this temple of scribomania, featuring the usual mix of obscure enthusiasms, weird obsessions, and trivial pursuits. Fish, water, bathtubs... this is a wet one.

surreal water

That's when you drink your Perrier from a spike-heeled shoe. Or something.

fish gazing proces

Sic. I have no idea what that is. The process of fish gazing? I do that a lot with my aquarium. That's the point of an aquarium, actually.

random metaphor generator

I AM a random metaphor generator, but I'm too tired to spout any right now. I'm running out of steam.

fishface clipart

Try this.

mary in a bathtub

I live in a working-class neighborhood, and you see bathtub Mary shrines all over. I've even photographed some. Pretty good for an unwed mother (with delusions of grandeur?) who was kicked out of her hometown.

gnome with bowler hat

You have to wonder why someone would be searching for that. Boredom? Free-association at the keyboard with Google on the screen? Anyway, good luck finding it. You may need it. A bowler hat is rather bourgeois for your garden-variety gnome, don't you think?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Word of the Day: deliriant

What's the word I'm thinking of? Today it's....

deliriant (noun or adjective)

1. A poison which causes a persistent delirium, or mental aberration (noun)
2. Frenzied, delirious (adjective)

"The altered values of perceptive, elaborative, and active factors in these deliriant and intoxicant states thus run the gamut of excess and defect, combining in versatile permutations the several characteristics of the waking and the dreaming self."
--Joseph Jastrow, The Subconscious (1906)

Did you know that antihistamines are deliriants? My seasonal allergies were acting up one day, so I took some over-the-counter Loratadine (Rite Aid's antihistamine knock-off of Claritin). No hallucinations, no rabbits with pocket watches, but, thanks to cable news, I did see a square watermelon and a three-armed baby on TV.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quote of the Day

Ten years ago today, I posted this:

"Shadows are harshest when there is only one lamp."
--James Richardson

"I think this aphorism refers to our tendency to look at issues from only one point of view ('lamp'). When we open ourselves to other points of view -- even if we end up not agreeing with them -- the shadows may multiply but they also fade. We've let in more 'light.'"

We had a lot of early winter weather that year, if I recall, and I must have been in a philosophical mood. I also composed and posted this haiku:

Winter's leafless trees
Whisper gnarled philosophy
As evening grows near

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

(or felt)

Puzzled. I recently called my credit-card issuer to see if I could add a PIN number to my card, so I could use it at ATMs if necessary. They said they had to snail-mail me a form to fill out first. But before they could send me the form, I had to answer a whole host of their "security" questions, including very specific queries about my identity and banking info. So if they're going to ask me all of these questions over the phone, what exactly are they going to ask me on this form they're going to send?

Bipolar. It's that time of year when gifts of candy arrive at the office from various business "partners". So there's the sugar high, followed by the crash, after which I feel I have to drink some coffee, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth, which leads to more candy consumption....

Retro. Even though I have an e-reader, I've been reading an old-fashioned print-and-paper book lately on the train during my commutes. Often I'm sitting near or next to someone with an e-reader, and I'm feeling vaguely embarassed. I want to say "I have one too." I'm not a paper-snob. Or a Luddite. Really.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Photo of the Week: DNA


My cousin Jon is a lab technician at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, and, as such, has access to one of the most powerful electron microscopes in the world. When I visited him last August, he swabbed my tongue with a Q-tip and took this photo with his 'scope, showing the strands of DNA that make me... me. It's kind of scary. If one of those strands was broken or configured in a different way, I might be a completely different person -- an albino hermaphrodite, perhaps, or a seven-foot elephant man.

Actually, I just made that up. This is a pile of beads I photographed at the antiques fair last summer, just for the sake of creating a colorful, complex, semi-abstract image. If this was an oil painting, I might be able to exhibit it in a gallery. Or at least in a bus-station waiting room. Click the pic for a close-up and prepare to be dazzled.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Word of the Day: frigorific

What's the word I'm thinking of?

frigorific (adjective)

Causing cold, chilling

"The reading public did not approve of it -- the thermometer of popular opinion was down at 32, under its frigorific influence, so that we were abundantly justified in stuffing no more of Mr. Twitch's sonnets down the regurgitating throats of the literary multitude."
―Anonymous, "Treason," in Blackwood's Magazine, Volume 10 (1821)

Hmm. Say "What a frigorific day," and people will probably think you're ecstatic about something.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Head Rattle

I'm proofing my book -- and making some changes. There's no deadline, but I want to finish it before the end of the year. If the world ends this December (when that Mayan calendar runs out), as some people fear, I don't want to leave anything half finished.

Overheard on the train: "I wonder what it's like to be a tree and fall on somebody." Must admit, I've never thought about that.

A colleague writes: "There is such a thing as Sasquatch erotica. I quit humanity." There is such a thing as audio (only) erotica, too, which seems almost as absurd to me.

"I have a question about the subjunctive," someone says. "Ought oh," I say.

My wyfe has purchased a collapsible "travel" hula hoop. (Don't ask.) Wish I'd known she wanted that and had waited. My Xmas shopping would be done.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

Ten years ago today, I blogged this (as part of a larger post):

"Unfortunately, I used my bare hand to reach into the bag and grab the salt pellets, not realizing what this might do to my skin. I ended up with something resembling a mild sunburn on my right hand. When I was finished, I ran upstairs, washed up, and sprayed lots of Solarcaine (left over from last summer) onto my burnt digits."

The context is that we were having a blizzard at the time, and I was spreading salt on the front stoop to melt the ice. A "sunburn" in a snowstorm. How do I get into these weird predicaments?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Random Acts of Poetry

Xmas looms, but I'm "slouching toward Bethlehem". I have no gift ideas. My extended family has decided not to exchange gifts this year. Nobody around here seems too anxious to put the tree up or festoon the front porch. There's too much going on -- on at least three separate tracks -- to even think about egg nog. Not that I'm a Scooge, even if I am tempted to say "bah humbug" under my breath. I still have a list for Santa.

My Xmas List

The drugged buzzing of winter flies
spiraling downward in a dream.

Loons in some Scandinavian night,
the woods full of moose.

An old ship, crossing the ocean,
cold waves slapping steel.

The sky pricked by stars
and exhaling frost.

A blaze of leaves dieing in a bonfire,
salting warm stones with ash.



Ten years ago today I blogged about The Metaverse Excuse-O-Mat, which is still going strong. Because things happen.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Word of the Day

My magnum opus is almost complete. A proof copy of my book will be arriving soon. Here's a little excerpt:

ghoti (noun)

Alternate spelling of "fish".

"Perhaps try eating more ghoti – it's meant to be brain food."
--Catie Holdridge,

"ghoti" can be pronounced "fish":

* gh, pronounced like "f" as in tough;
* o, pronounced like "i" as in women; and
* ti, pronounced like "sh" as in nation

I have eight ghoti at the moment, in a 10-gallon tank. Room for a couple more, I think....



Ten years ago today, I blogged this: "Britain's least-coveted literary accolade [is] the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Prize.... Read about this year's winner, Wendy Perriam, whose novel, Tread Softly, is about "bunions, panic attacks and abuses in old people's homes." I included this excerpt:

"The jargon he'd used at the consultation had become bewitching love-talk: ... dislocation of the second MTPJ ... titanium hemi-implant .... 'Yes!' she whispered back. Dorsal subluxation ... flexion deformity of the first metatarsal ...'"

Monday, December 03, 2012

The T&T List


The Talking Book Program
Duvall Hecht
Audie Awards
J.P. Harrington
Book at Bedtime
standard attack

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Random Sequence


The monotonous squawking of seagulls rose and fell on the beach, in between the metronomic swooshing of the waves, and interrupting Mandy's attempt to meditate. She sat cross-legged on the sand, eyes closed, repeating her mantra: wigwam, wigwam, wigwam.... But it was no use; the gulls seemed to be fighting over some dead thing along the shoreline, and they wouldn't shut up.

But it wasn't only that. The beach was becoming more crowded as the afternoon wore on, and she was keenly aware of people -- men especially -- staring at her, an attractive young woman in a bikini, sitting in the lotus position on a Sponge Bob beach towel. A sand-covered child came up to her and asked, "Do you have a baby?" She was forced to open her eyes. "No," she said coldly, as the kid's mother pulled him away.

Mandy reached into her beach bag and pulled a huge Snoopy towel around her shoulders and legs. In her floppy hat and sunglasses, and completely covered with the towel, she ceased to draw attention from any gawkers. Wigwam, wigwam, wigwam she repeated to herself, as the hours slipped away and the beach gradually became almost deserted.

The mantra helped. She could almost forget about the horrible accident back at the house. A tiny, disturbing apprehension crept into her mind though: she wondered if anyone had called the police yet, and if they were looking for her. Wigwam.... but then the birds started in with their infernal cawing again, and she couldn't let her thoughts go.

Mandy sighed, reached into her beach bag, and pulled out the gun. She squinted as she aimed at the fattest gull, which was pecking at a dead fish the waves had washed up. She fired, but missed this time. At least all the gulls flew away though. She put the gun back in the bag and closed her eyes. Wigwam, wigwam, wigwam....

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Search Party

Here's another collection of recent search queries that brought seekers to this temple of scribomania, featuring the usual mix of obscure enthusiasms, weird obsessions, and trivial pursuits.

gargoyle faces

I get this one a lot. They're fascinating, aren't they? Feast your eyes:

gargoyle monster waddesdon manor gargoyle

(Click 'em for close-ups. You know you want to.)

rabbit's rotting teeth

My advice: stop feeding candy and junk to your bunny. Lettuce and carrots do not rot human or bunny teeth.

herd of jellyfish

Do jellyfish travel in a "herd"? I picture a cowboy on a seahorse, rounding 'em up. Yee-haw... glub glub... no?

drip drop water into a cup

You're searching for that on Google? Not porn? You really are bored, aren't you?

O proud left foot

Proud of your left foot, huh? Don't make your right foot jealous.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Word of the Day: legatee

Maybe I should collect these bon mots in a book?

legatee (noun)

A person who receives a legacy (a bequest, an inheritance) in a will.

"You don't," said Mr. Pecksniff, with a melancholy pressure of his hand, "quite understand my nature yet, I find. No, Sir, I am not a legatee. I am proud to say I am not a legatee. I am proud to say that neither of my children is a legatee. And yet, Sir, I was with him at his own request. He understood me somewhat better, Sir. He wrote and said, 'I am sick. I am sinking. Come to me!' I went to him. I sat beside his bed, Sir, and I stood beside his grave. Yes, at the risk of offending even you, I did it, Sir. Though the avowal should lead to our instant separation, and to the severing of those tender ties between us which have recently been formed, I make it. But I am not a legatee," said Mr. Pecksniff, smiling dispassionately; "and I never expected to be a legatee. I knew better!"
--Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit

Dickens was a genius at making up odd, rather comical Anglo-Saxon names: Martin Chuzzlewit, Mr. Pecksniff, Mr. Pickwick, Alfred Jingle, Augustus Snodgrass, Mr. Bumble, Vincent Crummles, Wackford Squeers, Dick Swiveller, Mr. Toots, Betsey Trotwood, Uriah Heep, Honoria Dedlock, William Guppy, Joshua Smallweed, Mrs. Jellyby, Herbert Pocket, Nicodemus Boffin, and of course, Ebenezer Scrooge.

How would you like to go through life with a name like Wackford Squeers or, heavens, Dick Swiveller? Imagine the playground teasing.... I wouldn't mind having a distinctive name like Nicodemus Boffin, though, instead of the common one I share with thousands across the nation, some unsavory.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

Snow today. We've had two snowstorms here already since early November, and it's not even officially winter yet.

I like winter -- but only when it's 95 degrees outside.

I said that today in a public forum, and a friend responded with "You're a man of subtle complexity". I guess that can be my epitaph. It's an interesting combo: subtlety and complexity. They're concepts you don't usually think of together -- like "sophisticated simplicity" or "quiet riot". They seem like contradictions on first hearing, but if you think about them, they're not.

But back to the weather. I also like summer when it's below freezing outside. I like fall in the spring and spring in the fall -- although those more subtle seasons don't often make me wish for the Earth to tilt a different way. Call me contrary. Call me perverse. Call me complex.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Photo of the Week


I just can't bring myself to eat these left-over Halloween candies, which they handed out to everyone at the Samhain party I attended. Supposedly, the flavors are licorice, chocolate and almond. It all sounds good, but I can't get past the, um, macabre factor. Munching on tiny skulls would make me feel like a Jurassic Park monster or, worse, a Brobdingnagian cannibal into some kind of weird voodoo.

Actually, I just made that up. I snapped this picture at an antiques fair last August. Apparently, this used to be someone's jolly little collection of stone boneheads. Feeling morbid? Click the pic for a closer view.



Ten years ago today, I blogged this:

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a famous king from history:

Spades - King David
Hearts - Charlemagne
Clubs - Alexander the Great
Diamonds - Julius Caesar

But now I'm wondering: what about the queens?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

(or felt)

Awed: My nephew brought his sizable telescope to my mother's house, in the wilds of upstate New York, for the holiday weekend. There's no "light pollution" there, so even without a telescope, the cold, clear night sky is spectacular. We looked at the moon's craters, Jupiter bands, and the Orion nebula's gauzy wisps.

Tired: Formatting your own DIY book in Word is, especially when it has a lot of text blocks, quite a chore. Headers, footers, line breaks, paragraph breaks, section breaks.... I need a break.

Scrooged: My extended family has decided not to exchange Xmas gifts this year. Just as well. We end up getting things that we would buy for ourselves anyway (and sooner), thanks to online "wish lists". Humbug!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Word of the Day: runcible

Happy Thanksgiving! (Note to international readers: It's a US holiday devoted to gluttony and, ideally, gratitude.) If you celebrate, you'll undoubtedly be using a spoon at some point, so here's a semi-relevant excerpt from my upcoming book of wacky words.

runcible (adj)

A nonsense word with no particular meaning; sometimes referring to a spoon with fork tines.

"'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon."
--Edward Lear, "The Owl and the Pussycat"

Since this word, invented by Lear, has no precise or standard original meaning (spoon manufacturers simply glommed onto it), we can, I think, use it to mean whatever we want it to mean. (Isn't it interesting that the word "mean" can mean both "malicious" and "what you have in mind"? This indicates a jaundiced attitude toward human nature, I think.)

I have a runcible mannequin sitting in an antique wheelchair in my living room.
I have 166 runcible friends on the Book of Faces.
The tofu burger I had last night at LITM was runcible indeed.
Is Eraserhead or Inland Empire the most runcible David Lynch film?
"I Want You (She's So Runcible)"
I drink my coffee runcible.

Let's all try to slip this word into conversation around the Thanksgiving dinner table and see what kinds of reactions we get.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Head Rattle

Myanmar has been in the news recently, thanks to a US presidential visit. I prefer to call it Burma, not Myanmar. Myanmar sounds like an antidepressant or a type of acrylic.... Every time I hear the word "Burma", I think of the classic advertising campaign for Burma Shave shaving cream. It was a bit before my time, but it's legendary. The Burma Shave company erected roadside signs all over mid-20th-century America with humorous, rhyming, punning slogans, such as:

Keep well / To the right / Of the oncoming car / Get your close shaves / From the half pound jar / Burma-Shave

Thinking about that today, I had a sudden inspiration for a different type of product:

Reading while steering / Will not get you very far / So listen to a book / While driving your car

Audiobooks, get it?

Also in the news: Israel. It's the 21st century; where is all the sci-fi technology we were promised in a million books, TV shows and movies? Israel needs a force field.

Oh, and Washington, DC's "fiscal cliff"? That's probably an overly dramatic metaphor. It's more like a fiscal sinkhole or a downward slope. Words matter.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Photo of the Week

marilyn bookshelf

Yes, I keep a poster-size photo of Marilyn Monroe on top of my bookcase. This is so I am reminded of "MM", the Roman numerals for the number 2,000, which reminds me of $2,000, which is how much I need to save up to buy a serious camera, so I can shoot artistic close-up portraits, like that iconic one of Marilyn Monroe.

Actually, I just made that up -- although I do need a new camera. My SLR was stolen recently, so I've been using my iPhone camera, which is okay for routine shots, but not for art photography -- although I'm not particularly interested in creating close-up portraits. If someone of Monroe's pulchritude came along, though, I'd want to be prepared.

Anyway, that's not my bookcase. I shot this pic while visiting an artist's atelier during this fall's Jersey City Artists Studio Tour. Click the pic for a sexy close-up view... of the book titles on the spines, of course.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Random Acts of Poetry


My arms are limp
as seaweed.

My collar encircles
the base of a beehive.

My front opens,
then closes,

admitting a trunk
full of ropes and pulleys,

pipes and an odd
timpani drum.

I hide in a closet,
I hang on a hook

when I'm not
touring the town.

I'm like the peel
of a plantain,

the hurricane globe
that shelters

a slow-burning flame.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Word of the Day: piste

Yay, a holiday week is coming up. I'll be visiting my erstwhile haunts in the upper reaches of the Empire State, where I'll have time to work on -- and maybe finish -- my loony lexicon. Meanwhile, here's a little excerpt.

piste (noun) [pronounced "peest"]

A beaten track or trail

"A 'lost' track recorded by the band in 1967 and performed only once in public could finally be released, Paul McCartney told the BBC in an interview.... 'I like it because it's The Beatles free, going off piste.'"
--The Observer (UK), November 16, 2008

(McCartney was talking about this, which I hope to live to hear.)

When I was growing up in the wilds of upstate New York, there was a woods and a river behind my house. (There still is.) Through the woods along the river was a narrow trail, about a foot and a half wide and a half-mile long, with dense foliage on either side. People -- kids and teenagers mostly -- used this foot path to go from the town park to a certain point in the river where they used to skinny-dip. I don't think any of this happens anymore, and I suspect the "piste" has disappeared by now. It's probably a "lost track". (I should find out the next time I'm up there.) Anyway, as a kid I used to have dreams about this trail, nightmares sometimes, about walking along it at night or being chased by someone -- or some thing. I think I still do, but I don't often remember dreams anymore.

It's strange the byways of memory that stumbling across a certain word or phrase will take you down.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Head Rattle

Past tense, past perfect tense, present tense, future tense.... things are tense when you're trying to transform a screenplay into a book. Screenplays are written in present tense, as are many literary "MFA" narratives. Someone has been asking me about how to turn his sci-fi/horror script into a genre novel. Put it all in past tense, I advised. It works for Stephen King. Agree?

The glossy "handbook" has been printed (see November 7 post below), and there it is, my smiling, bespectacled visage, one among many in a sea of diverse faces: black, white, Asian, male, female.... It almost looks like one of those old United Colors of Benneton ads. This is actually my third modeling gig. A couple of years ago, the back of my head was featured in an online ad promoting Newark, New Jersey, as a place for businesses to set up shop. And back when I was twentysomething, I posed for the cover of a book about... teenage alcoholism. Modeling is glamorous alright. Yep.

What if tormented poet Sylvia Plath, said by several biographers to have enjoyed whipping up a culinary masterpiece now and then, had written a cook book? Here are some of "her" holiday cooking tips. "Turkey: Make sure you tender the meat. / Care for it as you would a child. / Sadness tastes bitter on anxious lips." (No "head in the oven" jokes...)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Random Sequence

[random phrases (from here) worked into a story]

Maximal Hooey: A Love Story

"That's just maximal hooey," said hunky Dr. Quentin Kraft, who, in addition to being a corporate scientist, was sort of a semantic nabob. "Supernatural flimflam," he added, addressing his new laboratory assistant, the lovely Melinda Beaker. They were hard at work testing a new type of mouthwash, or at least Melinda was.

"Concerning polymerization..." Melinda began.

"Subatomic nefariousness," Quentin interrupted.

"Meaning what?" Melinda asked. "The projected dysfunction did not not occur. Therefore..."

"Supernatural flimflam!" Quentin repeated.

"I am trying to convey experimental results, Dr. Kraft," said Melinda. "I'm not engaging in metaphysical speculation."

"I'll be the judge of that," Quentin said. Then he did a cartwheel. "Look at me! I'm a centrifuge!" he exclaimed.

"Doctor! What is the matter with you?" Melinda gasped.

"I think it's the nitrogenous carbonation," he replied while staggering back to his feet. "It's doing strange things to me. I feel giddy!"

"Oh, you didn't gargle with it?" Melinda asked. "Why would you do such a dangerous, unprofessional thing?"

"I accidentally swallowed some, I'm afraid. I had sauteed garlic and onions for lunch and didn't want to offend you, my dear." Quentin gave the stunned Melinda a sloppy kiss on the lips.

"Weeee," he squealed. "I think it may contain too much alcohol."

The mouthwash never made it to market, but it proved to be a potent ice-breaker, as Quentin and Melinda were married the following June.

[not to be continued]

Monday, November 12, 2012

The T&T List

White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer
fairywren mothers
Xenoceratops foremostensis
"The Word"
Oliver Luckett
The Corn Islands
Rap Genius
North American Quilling Guild
Orhan Pamuk
Thunderbird Mountain
Sounds That Can't Be Made

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Word of the Day: williwaw

Readers: Post-hurricane life is slowly returning to what passes for normal around here, so I'm back to working on my demented dictionary. Here's a little excerpt that seems oddly appropriate:

williwaw (n)

A sudden gust of wind or a violent commotion.

"The parting of a staysail-sheet in a williwaw, when the sea was turbulent and she was plunging into the storm, brought me forward to see instantly a dark cliff ahead and breakers so close under the bows that I felt surely lost, and in my thoughts cried, 'Is the hand of fate against me, after all, leading me in the end to this dark spot?'"
--Joshua Slocum, Sailing Alone Around the World

I often feel that the "hand of fate is against me." Don't you? But sooner or later (often much later), some williwaw comes along, and the perspective changes, and I think, "That's the way it had to be, so boo hoo hoo...." Well, I don't usually cry.

Sometimes I feel like I'm "sailing alone around the world" too, but that's a different bottle of whine.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Photo of the Week: TV R.I.P.


The picture tube era is over. Eventually, I believe, today's digital television and the Internet will merge. Already, you can watch TV on your computer and surf the web on your flat-screen. The death of the TV cabinet, especially, is at hand. So, when I came across this forlorn relic while out rambling one day, I decided to make a point. I went home for some paint, and then returned to elevate this sad carcass to symbolic status as a emblem of a bygone analog era. Television, R.I.P.

Actually, I just made that up. I had nothing to do with this display -- if that's what it is -- other than photographing it. I assume some graffiti artist was trying to make a point by turning this idiot box into the headstone for a dead technology. But who knows? It could have been labeled as part of an ESL program or by trash collectors so that it could be sorted and sent on its way to a Chinese landfill -- which is where a lot of old TV sets end up, I hear.

What do you think? Try a closer view. Be nimble, be quick, and click on the pic.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

(or felt)

Bushed from working 10-hour days at home, which is just as exhausting as working 10-hour days in an office, I've discovered. What has the Internet wrought?

Disgusted by the whole year's worth of different types of weather we've had here over the last 10 days.

Elated by the election results. Now everybody in D.C. can go back to bickering and prevaricating. Oh wait... they never stopped.

Panicky because I ran out of coffee this morning. I had to head out into the snowstorm to score some more.

Handsome, since somebody has asked me if they can use a picture of me in a "handbook". "Your name will not be associated with the photo", they say. Hmm. Maybe it's just that I look nice and generic?



David Lynch analyzes this year's presidential-campaign commercials

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Mr. President

He got my vote!

Here are some things you might not know about Barack Obama:

  • He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics.
  • He was known as "O'Bomber" in high school for his skill at basketball.
  • His name means "one who is blessed" in Swahili.
  • His favorite meal is his wyfe Michelle's shrimp linguini.
  • He won a Grammy Award in 2006 for the audiobook edition of Dreams from My Father.
  • He ate dog meat, snake meat, and roasted grasshopper while living in Indonesia.
  • He had a pet ape named Tata while in Indonesia.
  • He repaid his student loan only [eight] years ago after signing his book deal.
  • He uses an Apple Mac laptop.

More here.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Word of the Day: kthxbye

Working 10-hour days from home is interfering with my blog schedule. I didn't blog yesterday, and I'm too fricasseed to blog today. So here's something mildly appropriate for this confusing, frustrating time, a little excerpt from my little book-in-progress.

kthxbye (adjective, adverb, interjection, noun, verb)

Okay, thanks, good-bye.

"'Kayso, now I must fix my makeup and pick an ensem and then wander the lonely night, searching for the Countess and the vampyre Flood, and maybe drop by the love lair to totally overwhelm Foo with my haunting and eternal but still small-chested beauty. Kthxbye. Being immortal rocks! I can type like demon speed. Fear me! L8z."
--Christopher Moore, Bite Me: A Love Story

"Kthxbye" is a sort of mash-up of those auto-phrases we all tend to use so cavalierly. It's used a lot when leaving a voicemail, I've noticed. Why do humans think they need to cut off the message abruptly at the end with "kthxbye", enunciated at hyper speed before (metaphorically at least) slamming down the phone? It's not like the tape is going to run out on the answering machine anymore. Say good-bye to this...word(?)...okay? Thanks.

Seriously, you never know when it's going to be the last time.

All correct. Thank you. God be with you.


Thursday, November 01, 2012

Search Party

Here are a few recent search queries that brought seekers to this temple of scribomania. It's amazing what you people will type into Google. Time on your hands?

cat with wooden leg

I know a couple who have a three-legged cat (no lie) named, of course, Thumper. The cat does not have a wooden leg, and he walks very slowly. But he can run as fast as a four-legged feline. Strange.

dental root canal clip art

Just look for a picture of a guy with his mouth open, looking terrified.

grey insect chrysalis on curtain

That's a lovely decorating idea -- especially if the chrysalis hatches a butterfly. Of course if it hatches a moth that won't be good for the curtain.

metal haunted house to color

Something for the kiddies at Halloween, I guess, by why metal? That sounds more like a haunted bunker.

koi carp desk

For the goldfish who has everything....

front door color for beige house

Flaming red. Has to be.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

Well, I'm losing it; this has been a loooong day. Who says working from home is such a pleasure?

Instructions for a Bad Day

(1.) If the sun screen you erect in a tortured garden radiates a whorl of shadows, teardrop audits are in order. If balls of despair explode, a glass beaker will measure the outflow. Each milliliter equals one (personal) catastrophe.

(2.) You must sit far away from anyone who produces irritation fields, as these may induce sobbing and/or violent reactions. The mind should not be allowed to wander, due to its high sensitivity.

(3.) Place your thoughts at a distance from present surroundings, except in the following places: on steep hills, in dark tunnels, underground, or near sources of well-meaning interference.
Damp cellars must be avoided.

(4.) You will not experience ideal results under conditions of excessive antagonism, disgust, psychic vibration or emotional impact.


Ambiguous Moment

Does it have to mean something? The truth is, neither I nor
the others can really believe this has arrived: the half-remembered
self, the glance of light on every acute aspect of this
long-forgotten memory. This is our untied knot: the pale,
dying brightness that dilutes the afternoon landscape into a
monochromatic, ambiguous photo. Neither the gray hills nor
the blue sky relieve it, neither the blue nor the gray.


Blowing in from the West

You say this way is loaded with dangers, and I notice
the word "loaded." However, while they are implicitly
deeper than the result, they cling like black stickers
pasted to the sky. Up to this point, the echo, down
the corridors, passages and domestic interiors, has
been both connected and freely moving, and I'm
surprised by the places that are far from everywhere,
which move automatically to the outside. Can't you see?
Tomorrow is the time. Don't try to start the car or stop the
wrinkling of the sky. Don't try to block the cataract of tears.

Photo of the Week


Happy Halloween! This was how my front porch looked before Hurricane Sandy decided to rip away my eyeballs. (Perhaps Sandy's "eye" felt mocked by our little display.) Anyway, they ended up down the street in odd places -- under cars, up in trees, and scattered along the sidewalk, where pigeons pecked at them and they scared little children.

Actually, I just made that up. My wyfe took down the eyes before the hurricane hit, as a precaution. "Don't let it hurt your eyes," I told her.

Click the pic to get a closer eyeful. Don't linger, though. It's not polite to stare.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Word of the Day: diluvial

Here's a little excerpt from my upcoming book -- if I ever get a free weekend to finish it up.

diluvial (adjective)

Pertaining to floods; brought about by a flood

"Moreover the Indian Ocean lies within the region of typhoons; and if, at the height of an inundation, a hurricane from the south-east swept up the Persian Gulf, driving its shallow waters upon the delta and damming back the outflow, perhaps for hundreds of miles up-stream, a diluvial catastrophe, fairly up to the mark of Hasisadra's, might easily result."
--Thomas Henry Huxley, "Hasisadra's Adventure"

Thank heavens I've never had to deal with the consequences of an actual flood. The toilet backing up is enough of a diluvial disaster for me. I live in the "Heights" of Jersey City -- essentially atop a cliff -- and it never really floods here, despite the occasional hurricane that blows through, like today's "frankenstorm". Meanwhile, the more upscale downtown section of the city is waterlogged. Time to bail, yuppies and hipsters.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Random Acts of Poetry

Apropos of something (Sandy, Sandy, Sandy....), I've decided to foist this bit of verse I wrote (several years ago) upon you. Things are different now.

Sandy Hook (August 2004)

The air is vacuumed clean,
and all misgivings drain

from an uneasy day.
At the end of the street,

past the wild grass's
endless deference to the wind,

waves are polishing
three primal rocks

with ceaseless caresses.
Time might as well stop.

The gigantic iris of the bay
gazes at the hot, absolute sky

with perfect attention,
a hypnotized witness.

Now my footprints disappear,
at the edge of the surf,

no more enduring than foam.
I bend and realize

the shell is broken.
Inhale, exhale.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Guilty with an Explanation

Excuses, excuses. The The Metaverse Excuse-O-Mat generates 3.6 million different ready-made excuses designed to fit almost any type of personal foul-up. The justifications and explanations come in six categories: distraction, medical, insulting, moral failure and self-loathing. Most of them seem to include an element of apology as well. Here's an example of a self-loathing plea for those with a literary bent:

I am completely pathetic. You've reminded me -- oh, it gnaws at me in every waking moment -- that I have behaved once more like the brute I am. It would be more than just for you to never speak to me again. Say the word, and I will write an epic poem in apology.

I kind of like this "distraction" excuse, which sounds like it could cover a multitude of sins:

I got so caught up in tracking down the sinister forces that control our lives that I could hardly think -- and then my bank statement got screwed up. I am so ditzy sometimes! Anyway, I hope the weather cooperates this week.



Click! (Clack)

Download this free (and scary) audio short story by Neil Gaiman as part of your Halloween revelry. When you do, my employer will donate $1 to the education charity, through October 31.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Certain that people who insist on spelling it "Hallowe'en" (instead of Halloween) are either British, Wiccans, or unbearably pretentious, n'est-ce pas?

Shaggy because I need a haircut soon, or I'm going to have to go as the Scooby Do character for Halloween.

Slow when people keep passing me on the sidewalk in the morning as I'm trudging to the train station. (It might have something to do with the 10-pound retro laptop computer I have to lug on my back.)

Amused by this game of electronic hide and seek.

Impressed by the prose stylings of Michael Chabon is this book I'm reading, Telegraph Avenue: "Daylight was taking its sweet time fading into dusk, and the street at suppertime seemed to be holding its breath, torn into patches of deep shadow and sunshine, motionless but for the little white moths stitching their loopy crewelwork in the honeysuckle."

Mystified by why the barrel full of paper recycling I put out on the street last night wasn't picked up. The neighbor's was. Now I want to have a bonfire to get rid of it.

Retro because I'm reading page proofs for my book on actual paper.

Confused by having to wake up in the dark in the morning.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Word of the Day: gormless

Here's another excerpt from my much-anticipated (by me anyway) book, The Word I'm Thinking Of.

gormless (adjective)

Stupid, naïve, foolish, bone-headed

"'Come real, Jakob.' 'Get real is what you mean. Another gormless phrase.' 'Gormless?' Tom said. 'I dunno,' Jacob said irritably. 'Stupid, naff, silly."
--Aidan Chambers, Postcards from No Man's Land

I am very gormless sometimes, usually when I'm distracted. For example, I once drank some cleaning fluid that was kept in a water bottle that someone had put in the refrigerator because.... I don't remember why; I guess it had to be kept cool. Now, it might seem stupid in itself to put such stuff in a water bottle and keep it in the fridge. But the bottle was clearly labeled as cleaning fluid and the label said "DON'T DRINK". As usual, though, I was thinking about work or some errand I needed to run, or a cult TV show or film, or some song was playing in my head. I just reached in, pulled out the bottle and took a swig -- and spit it out, though I swallowed a little. Luckily it wasn't caustic, just terrible tasting. I didn't get sick, but I did make the further gormless mistake of telling someone what I had just done. I was called "absent-minded Michael" for about a week after that.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Photo of the Week


Last weekend, when I went to visit my crazy Aunt Helen at the Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital, I encountered an escaped mental patient in the parking lot. She was wearing a dress that appeared to be stitched together from latex gloves and a plastic bucket on her head as she slowly crawled toward me like some kind of human tarantula. As she drew closer, and as I pulled out my cell phone camera, I heard her singing inside her makeshift space helmet. The song was the Burt Bacharach classic "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" -- or something that sounded very much like it. It was hard to make out the lyrics, because her voice echoed so much inside the bucket. The whole thing gave me the creeps! When I reported her at the hospital's front desk, the receptionist said "not again" with an exasperated tone. I later saw some guys chasing the escapee around the parking lot with what looked like an enormous butterfly net.

Actually, I just made all that up. This is a photo I snapped at an art/performance event -- "Environment Investigation" -- by Shua Group, an avant-garde dance troop based in Jersey City. There were several female performers involved, all dressed similarly in latex-glove dresses. They did several things with buckets besides wearing them on their heads as they slowly moved in unison, picking up and dropping pieces of trash around a concrete skate-boarding pad on the edge of the city. The total effect was quite hypnotic. Click the pic (and another one from this event here) for a closer view and to be gob-smacked by the boundary-breaking cultural innovation of it all.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Twitter Litter

So... why aren't you following me on Twitter?

You're missing out on my epigrammatic bird calls, such as:

Overheard at the 4th Street Art & Music Festival today: "Why aren't there more shootings at Target?"


Overheard at the train station today: "But he can't be ass dialing you from a land line!"


Someone sent me a compliment about my writing: "i like it plrease righted more!" Alas, it didn't make my day.


Dream: I was walking all over the city at night trying to remember where I parked the car. But it was in the garage. Meaning?


I am not making this up: There is a novel called "Apocalypse Cow" about an epidemic of zombie animals.


The original name for August was Sextillus. Imagine all the bad jokes we'd have to endure if the Romans had kept that name.


Bizarre day, and here's the topper: I'm now "friends" with a dog named Apricot Schnood Raphael.


Google Calendar wants to know: Would I like to compile a guest list for my next dental check-up? I think not.


About 95 degrees today. (33 C) "Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines..." (William Shakespeare)


Best book title I saw today: "The Mormonization of America".


"Empty the K-cup dispenser." I hear and obey.


I changed my windshield wiper blades today. [insert applause track here]


I frown upon the recent phenomenon I've observed in public restrooms of men who talk on the phone while peeing.


Follow me here. You know you want to.

You also want to read this blog on your Kindle.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Random Sequence

[random phrases (from here) worked into a story]

Pianissimo Famine

"I'm a little tired of this macrobiotic library of comestibles," Nat said cautiously as he poured Serena a glass of Gewurztraminer wine. He was famished after a week of seemingly nothing but her kitchen repertoire of quinoa and lentils. "Can't we have some real food?"

"Real food? Stop nagging. We can take a break from our pianissimo famine, if that's how you think of it. It was only an experiment," said Serena. He could see she was disappointed in him.

"I have an unexplored urge for a seaboard repast," suggested Nat -- though what he really craved was a Big Mac infused with cheese. "With a contemporaneous herring," he added.

"And maybe some portentous sauce to go with it?" Serena said, sarcastically.

"Yes! And a vinaigrette opportunity."

"Fish and a salad..." Serena mused. "You do realize that both can be prepared and consumed without straying from our macrobiotic meal plan?"

"Whatever. Just please include some dessert, honey," said Nat.

"Honey for dessert? I just happen to have a delicious jar of unimaginable local honey," Serena said. "But we'll have to think of something to spread it on."

"Toast?" Nat suggested.

"To us!" Serena said, smiling superciliously as she raised her glass.

Nat realized it was going to be a long and ravenous evening.

[Not to be continued]

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Word of the Day: cromulent

Here's a little excerpt from a book I wrote by accident....

cromulent (adjective)

Authentic, valid, fine or excellent

"Whatever your French villa preference this cromulent resort in Dalat has you covered."

This word, which was coined by the writers (or a writer) of The Simpsons, seems to be seeping into the common language, and is already included in some online dictionaries. I'm not sure why we need it, but I like the sound of it. And one of the great things about the English language is that we have so many ways of saying the same thing.

By the way, what's your French villa preference?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

key hole

The key has been found!

For months, I've been looking all over the house for my car key. It's a bulky little thing, with an electronic gizmo inside that locks and unlocks car doors like magic. Since I don't drive every day, I don't have it in my pocket most of the time. I used to keep it on top of my dresser, which is inside my closet, and one day it just seemed to vanish. I almost tore my closet apart looking for it, thinking that it had fallen down among the old Converses and dust bunnies. No luck. When I did need to drive, I had to use my wyfe's key, while wondering if I had somehow dropped mine in the street and would never see it again.

The other day, my wyfe was retrieving some blankets from an ottoman that doubles as a storage unit. Inside, under some blankets, she found the key. Neither of us knows how it got in there.

I'm beginning to wonder if my house is haunted.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Link Mania: Neutron-Emission Loofa?

Hey, we're 12 years into the 21st century, George Jetson. So why hasn't anyone invented a....

neutron uni-radiation transformer shield
infini-particle compound
Kirlian flux energy bomb
space particle focus beam
full-spectrum force-field generator
space dust reflector magnet
anti-matter emission antiperspirant
atomic hyper-transporter network
reverse-polarity prismator
neutron nega-reflector gun
Kirlian transmitter
Kirlian alloy negator
Gaussian aero-pulse dental floss
incini-force sphere
mu-particle flux spectralyzer
incini-ray armor
reverse microwave flash freezer
electro-wave sonic bidet
dark matter spectralyzer probe
electron flux emitter bomb
neutron-emission loofa
full-spectrum cryo-vestor emitter array
polarity cryo-converter
microwave neutralizer suit
ultrasonic back scratcher

Need more?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Photo of the Week

letter S

Here we see the iconic sign for the Church of Satan in Tannisville, New Jersey. The "church" is famous for its spectacular Halloween parties, at which revelers engage in wild orgies involving goats, chocolate, and Astroglide.

Actually, I just made that up. This is part of the marquee of the old Stanley Theater, in the Journal Square area of Jersey City. These days, it's used as the local Assembly Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. That's kind of sad -- I'd much rather see it used as an entertainment complex, like the nearby Landmark Loews Jersey Theater, which hosts everything from classic films to rock concerts. But at least the Witnesses have restored the Stanley to its former elegance and are keeping it well-maintained. Click my pic for a close-up view and prepare to be stirred and staggered.


Meditation on the Letter S

Shhhh! Sometimes swans seek serenity, sailing slowly seaword so silently. See? Subtle sorcery still smothers slugging sentiments. Sadly, sundown sinks solar safaris, sending suckers southward. Sin surrounds sex, so simpletons say. Sick! Such santimoniuous seasons seem senseless, sequestered sans syrup. Since September, seven Samurai shiver simultaneously, shaking swords supurbly. Snakes sound silly, swishing sangria; some swill Singapore Slings! Symbolic smooching? Simulated sympathy? Sucks!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Word of the Day: perspicacious

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Word I'm Thinking Of: A Devilish Dictionary of Difficult Words, which will be out later this fall from Zabriskie Street Press. Yes, my own demented dictionary.

perspicacious (adjective)

Having keen understanding, mental perception or discernment.

"This world where she had lived for eleven years was magical, too, in so many ways, if a person was perspicacious enough to notice the numerous wonders of it. Perspicacious was her new favorite word. It meant 'having keen insight,' an almost uncanny ability to see through -- and to comprehend -- what is dark and obscure. Unfortunately, there was a terrible shortage of perspicacity these days but veritable oceans of dark and obscure."
--Dean Koontz, What the Night Knows

Sometimes I think I'm really good at seeing through people -- at perspicacity -- but then I find out they have as many layers as an onion, and I've only penetrated the top layer. You find out the quiet guy is writing horror scripts in his spare time. The corporate executive is teaching guitar lessons on the side. And the checkout lady of a certain age at the supermarket wows everybody with a jaw-dropping dance routine on American Idol. (All true.) It's a good thing I like people who are full of surprises. Otherwise, I would spend a lot of time being... disconcerted.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Search Party

Here are some recent search queries that brought seekers to this temple of scribomania. I'm popular with the surrealists lately....

agent cooper woods

If I had a forest, I would name it after him, Twin Peaks fan that I am. All I have, though, is a gnarled apple tree and a miniature Japanese maple in my backyard. No Douglas firs (*sigh*). (This is New Jersey.)

twin artists with schizophrenia cracked egg painting

Intriguing image. It reminds me of an old, stupid joke: What do you get if you cross a painter with a boxer? Muhammad Dali.

animated spin wheel wrestle match

Hmm. I picture two sumos on a lazy susan.

laxative forced

I'm trying to imagine why you're googling for this. You must be extremely angry at someone or planning a college fraternity initiation.

what are q tips for

You use them to probe your... orifices.

20 guage wire ball



Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 38 small

Agree? More clip-art philosophy by me (and Bob Marley). You can catch the BIG fish here. And more Philosofish here.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Head Rattle


I said recently on a public forum (the Book of Faces) that I see "little spinning circles" when I close my eyes. I was referring to the digital spinners one sees when a certain program in Windows is having one of its frequent, maddening pauses -- it seems to take a little siesta every so often -- but some people assumed I was referencing the current political situation. I thought that was hilarious, but the more I think about it, the more apt it seems. Up, down, and around and around. I wish it was over.


Halloween came a little early this year at my house. (Though not as early as Xmas at the drugstore.) My spouse has apparently caught the spirit. Our front porch is festooned with incandescent eye balls, and inside we have skulls, bats, a stuffed faux rat, variations on the jack-o'-lantern theme, and some plastic blood spatters on the windows. I hope nobody thinks there was a mass murder in here.


I saw it. I liked it. The Master, big-budget art film, is a movie with "Best Picture" potential, and Joaquin Phoenix is a superb actor, maybe the "Best Actor". Maybe P.T. Anderson is the "Best Director". I don't know. Hollywood prefers a happy ending, and this is not a feel-good movie. Cults give me the creeps, much more than stuffed rats. I used to know some people involved in a cult-like organization. The human capacity to simultaneously believe something while knowing deep down that it's all crap is truly frightening -- and not necessarily confined to the members of a cult.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Word of the Day

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Word I'm Thinking Of: A Devilish Dictionary of Difficult Words, which will be out later this fall from Zabriskie Street Press.

zarf (noun)

A holder for a hot coffee cup

"The coffee, as thick as chocalate and sweetened with honey, reminded her of home and the odor of boiling sugarcane.... With a flourish, she removed her thumb, and balanced the zarf on the tip of her index finger...."
--Barbara Chase-Riboud, Valide

Those little cardboard thingamabobs they put around your coffee cup at Starbucks are technically called "zarfs", although they'll try to tell you they're called cup sleeves (boring!). Whenever I forget my ceramic coffee mug at work, I have to use a paper cup, and they're too damn hot to hold -- life is tough. There are no zarfs there, so I make my own, putting one (hot) paper cup inside another (cool) one. Resourceful! It does make it a bit harder to sip, though. Like I said, life is tough.

(Wasn't there some cartoon alien named Zarf?)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Photo of the Week


You probably think my name really is "Gates". Ha! Actually, my last name is Crankshawtapper. I chose "Gates" as a pseudonym in honor of this lovely wrought-iron portcullis outside my ancestral home, the Crankshawtapper compound deep in the picturesque Adirondacks of Upstate New York.

Actually, I just made that up. My name is Gates*, thanks to a forebear back in medieval England who was a keeper. This gate exists in one of the tonier areas of Jersey City Heights, a couple of blocks from my more downscale abode. Click the pic for a closer view -- and to be transported to a more genteel time when intruders were barred with a bouquet of metallic flowers.

*No relation to Bill (or too distantly related for it to do me any good). I usually tell people that he is my cousin, though, if they ask.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Random Acts of Poetry


Slippery Season

There is no place for draining.
A solid sky, water licking

dark under sidewalks,
translucent silks of rain,

like sheer drapes convulsing,
but every window shut.

The distant smokestacks
dissolve like an ancestor's

faded reminiscence. Shapes
drift away, vacating dreams.

But from the stony bottom
a face rises, a garnish of seaweed

like a headdress,
more slime from the sluice gate.

What's that the rain hisses?
Ssssh. A slippery season.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Random Sequence

[random phrases (from here) worked into a story]

The Gladiatorial Solicitor

After the contretemps with a seemingly moribund stranger at the cocktail lounge, when Malcolm lost his temper over yet another stupid lawyer joke, he had to admit it: He was a pugilistic failure, complete with a blackened eye. Consequently, he signed up at the downtown gym with one request for the personal trainer: "Teach me to fight!" When he told his friend Bob about this new obsession, he was greeted with an unappreciative gasp. "What are you, the gladiatorial solicitor?" Bob asked. "indubitably," said Malcolm as he proceeded to shadow box with the ficus plant in the corner. He looks like the swirliest wombat, Bob thought. "Buy a gun, Mal," he advised. "Just don't buy any bullets."

[not to be continued]

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Surprised. I took a relative with me to the Landmark Loews Jersey Theater last weekend to see two movies: Alfred Hitchcock's psychological thriller about a female kleptomaniac Marnie and the first James Bond film, the somewhat comic-bookish Dr. No. I expected him to dislike the former and favor the latter. Just the opposite. (I like both, for different reasons.) Maybe I shouldn't make assumptions.

Queasy. Transferring an old family video from VHS to DVD recently was not a foray into sweet nostalgia. Some of the people, including my father, are no longer with us. And watching myself from decades ago made me worried for, uh, him, knowing what was coming, both good and BAD.

Damned with faint praise. Don't bother.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Word of the Day: ostrobogulous

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Word I'm Thinking Of: A Devilish Dictionary of Difficult Words, which will be out later this fall from Zabriskie Street Press. (It's currently in the proofreading stage.) Once the print edition is published, I hope to also create an audiobook version, if I can find someone to narrate it -- preferably someone who has narrated a similar book.

ostrobogulous (adjective)

Something weird, bizarre, unusual or pornographic

“Kristin Baybars' ostrobogulous toys -- the even more famous owl, the bird, the hedgehog and the goose... have established her as our leading creative toy designer.”
--Corin Hughes-Stanton, Design Journal, "A Shop with High Standards"

I’m going to try to use this word at Thanksgiving dinner sometime. There’s a certain ostrobogulous casserole dish my mom makes that may provide the opportunity.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The T&T List


Pete Williams
the C57BL/6NTac mouse
Hamamatsu City
Popigai Astroblem
White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer
Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
Tune Drop



Create a jellyfish aquarium

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

Strangers on a Train

On the train, heading home, I sit across from a middle-aged Asian woman wearing some kind of blue pantsuit. She's speaking emphatically, in a foreign language, into her phone and seems mildly upset. She watches me winding the cord on my headphones, but i sense she isn't really seeing me at all. In her mind's eye, she's seeing whomever she's talking to.

To her left, two seats away (the seats between are empty because the train isn't very crowded) sits a blandly handsome twentysomething man with a head of fluffy brown hair, dressed in a navy-blue business suit. He stares unsmilingly at his phone and keeps snapping a blue rubber wrist band, as if restless. There's some kind of white symbol on the band that I can't make out -- crossed hockey sticks? He occasionally looks up and glances at me, but it's as if he's looking through me.

To my left, two seats away, sits a middle-aged guy with a crew cut, dressed in a polo shirt and jeans, both blue. His arms are folded and he stares out the train window with an angry expression. He looks ex-military. I take it he's thinking about something that bothers him. He ignores me as I sit there in my blue jeans and blue stripped shirt.

I glance back and forth between these three traveling companions, feeling like the invisible man, as I listen to my sad book through my headphones. I often think I look odd, or at least out of place, but none of these people seem to think so. I'm part of the scenery to them, like a background extra on a movie set. I know they won't remember me five seconds after I step off the train, but for some reason I've remembered them here. We had something in common, though they didn't realize it. We were all wearing blue. And probably feeling that way too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Photo of the Week

doll 2

What happened, dollface?

The last time I was at Newark Liberty International Airport, I snapped this picture of a china doll the TSA confiscated from the luggage of -- what turned out to be -- a guy in a burka. They cracked her open (the doll, I mean) and out fell street-value $1 million worth of (irony alert) pure China White. I felt sorry for the sad-faced little moppet, an innocent pawn in a nefarious plot.

Actually, I just made that up. This is a photo I took of an antique doll at the Bouckeville Antiques Festival in August. The cracks in her wistful face give her character, I think. She kind of looks the way I feel after a 10-hour workday.

Don't be shy. Click the pic for a close up -- she won't bite.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Search Party

Here are a few recent search queries that brought seekers to this temple of scribomania. I seem to be a magnet for bored surfers engaging in weird, random, creepy googling when they should be working.

stone rolling down hill

Rolling stones UP hill is my thing.... They don't roll down again, but new ones keep appearing down below.

flash gordon conquers the universe

We would probably be better off if that happened.

meditation on the letter e

Easy eggs equal excellent eats on the edge of the equinox. Every essential edict evades erasure, even if egalitarian. Estimates evince evolutionary erudition, ever erratically. Endurance elicits equestrian effects, evidently. Earth entered elliptical error in the early enchantment era. Email eases enveloped, eclectic evenings like an enigmatic enema, eh? Exactly!

antique wooden leg

This is my photo -- but not my leg:

wooden leg

disturbing digital images erotic

Unless you're partial to wooden legs, this isn't that kind of site -- sorry to disappoint you. Why are you seeking to be disturbed, sir?

alabaster freak

Weird fetish? Odd sculpture? Excessive paleness? I'm not sure what you're looking for, but maybe this is it?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Word of the Day x3

callithump (noun)

A riotous, noisy disturbance or parade

As a Broadway connoiseur, Helena thought of her apartment above 42nd Street as the realization of a dream -- though she dreaded the annual New Year's Eve callithump.

popinjay (noun)

A vain or conceited person

When Victoria discovered that Friedrich had a whole album of photographic self portraits, she began to think of him as a bit of a popinjay.

pinchbeck (noun or adjective)

Something cheap or counterfeit; an alloy of zinc and copper used to imitate gold

Magdalen was counting on the sale of Aunt Philomena's wedding band to finance her trip to the Azores. It was Mr. Dash's sad duty to inform her that it was nothing but a pinchbeck curtain ring.


Thanks to Leahcim Setag for the above quotations.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

"Tastes Just Like Chicken"

Someone asked me recently what the strangest food was that I had ever eaten. I didn't have to think for long. Back in the days when I used to travel for work, I once tried sautéed bull testicles in Mexico; on another trip I had baked pigeon in Morocco. (I ate the latter, served with rice, with my fingers, which is how they eat dinner in Morocco.) I don't recall that either had a particularly sharp taste. I wouldn't have guessed that I was eating anything out of the ordinary from the taste alone. I'm not sure which of the two was the "strangest" -- probably the testicles, for the shock value. I'm more often reminded of eating the pigeon, though, since I don't often see bulls outside my window.



Street Mandalas

A collection of manhole covers from around the globe reminds us that there is a hidden world beneath our feet. They're varied and sometimes artistic, especially the covers from Ireland ("Gaelic") and Morocco.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Democracy is buying a big house you can't afford with money you don't have to impress people you wish were dead. And, unlike communism, democracy does not mean having just one ineffective political party; it means having two ineffective political parties. ...Democracy is welcoming people from other lands, and giving them something to hold onto -- usually a mop or a leaf blower. It means that with proper timing and scrupulous bookkeeping, anyone can die owing the government a huge amount of money. ... Democracy means free television, not good television, but free. ... And finally, democracy is the eagle on the back of a dollar bill, with 13 arrows in one claw, 13 leaves on a branch, 13 tail feathers, and 13 stars over its head -- this signifies that when the white man came to this country, it was bad luck for the Indians, bad luck for the trees, bad luck for the wildlife, and lights out for the American eagle."
--Johnny Carson

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Head Rattle

This book I'm "reading" (A Hologram for the King) contains a joke. I think I should try to memorize jokes -- for cocktail parties or whatever (haha). It goes like this: There was a man whose last name was "Odd". Yes, he was Mr. Odd. He hated his name! When he was near the end of his life and was making out his will, he specified that under no circumstances was he to be buried under a headstone that was engraved with his name. And so it was. To this day, whenever people walk past his grave, they point to it and say, "That's odd!" [cue laugh track]

Nerds, rejoice! Scientists say a "warp drive" may actually be possible here. Essentially, it would contract space in front of the -- uh, why not -- Enterprise (alas, it would have to be a football-shaped Enterprise) and expand space behind it. Whoosh -- faster than light. Or actually not faster than light? It would just be faster from the point of view of those outside the "warp bubble", but inside the bubble, the same light barrier would apply. Or something. I guess it's all relative, as Einstein might say. Thinking about this gives me a headache. But one of these eons the Sun is going to bloat and fry the Earth crispy, so this may come in handy.

We had torrential rain and even tornado warnings today. I would have battened, but I don't have any hatches.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Word of the Day x3

xilinous (adj)

Of or pertaining to cotton

"A xilinous swab is what I need!" Captain Morgan shouted. The first mate thought he was referring to a nefarious deck hand, but actually he only wanted to clean his ears.

odalian (adj)

Relating to an ordeal

Owing to his "delicate" back, Zachary considered any task requiring physical labor to be an ordalian imposition.

caballine (adj)

Suitable for a horse

"How do you expect me to swallow such a caballine tablet?" Mr. Hargreaves asked the bewildered pharmacist.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Link Mania

Are your claws sharp? Focus your audio! Start interviewing your brains so you can know your groceries and noodle it out as you learn some old Beat slang. It's kinda off the cob....

26 Beatnik Slang Words and Phrases We Should All Start Using


Did you know John Lennon kept a diary? Here it is: The Lennon Diary 1969. It seems his life in the late 60s was not quite as exciting as people thought.


Perhaps we've all had our fill of the Plath/Hughes literary soap opera, but this eloquent letter from Ted Hughes to his son, Nick, has some wisdom for us all.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Surprised. Some instant coffee isn't all that bad. They must have improved the technology. Still, I prefer to grind my own. I need to buy some beans this weekend.

Interested. In seeing Paul Thomas Anderson's new film The Master, thanks to everything I hear and read and see about it. Gosh, I wonder what Tom Cruise will think of it. Kudos to any reporter who asks him.

Accomplished. I'm up to page 170 of this book of mine that I'm formatting, and I'm not at the end yet. I didn't think it would stretch out to such a length. I may be using a too large font, although it's the one that KreateSpase recommends. Formatting is a tedious bitch, by the way. You have to kill those widows. (No, I don't mean women whose husbands have died. It's a printing term.)

Sneezy. My nose knows: there must be a lot of invisible ragweed floating around now. This is the time of year, almost jacket weather, when the sternutation starts.

Fecund. The grass seeds I planted out back in the bare spots of our patch (I hesitate to call it a yard) have sprouted. I now have a slightly larger savanna to watch over. And mow. Someday I want to have a picture taken of myself mowing, dressed like this:

angelo badalamenti 2

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Random Sequence

[random phrases (from here) worked into a story]

Connubial Yin Yang

"What do you call that color? It's awful," said Everett when Mandy showed him how she'd painted their bedroom.

"I call it 'Mocha,'" said Mandy. "That's what it says on the can, too."

"I call it 'Squishy Wormwood,'" said Everett.

"That's just artless persiflage," Mandy replied. "It's better than it was. Much better. Warmer. Before, it was...'Droopy Milkiness.' That's the name for it. It was all milky. And droopy."

"Oh, it was better than that," Everett insisted. "It was lighter. Not depressing. It was the logical color for a bedroom. It had a certain... a certain 'Funky Syllogism' to it. That's what I would call it: 'Funky Syllogism.'"

"Whatever," Mandy averred with unquestioning imperturbability as she rolled her eyes.

"Tell you what," Everett suggested. "Let's paint two walls Squishy Wormwood and the other two Funky Syllogism."

"A compromise? Mocha and Milky Droopiness?" Mandy said. "What will we call that combo?"

"Connubial Yin Yang," Everett said as they collapsed into bed.

[not to be continued]

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Word of the Day: pecksniffian

pecksniffian (adj)

Pretending to be benevolent or to have high moral principles, like the Charles Dickens character Mr. Pecksniff

"....there is something quite pestilently Pecksniffian about shrinking from a hard task on the plea that it is not hard enough. If a man will really try talking to the ten beggars who come to his door he will soon find out whether it is really so much easier than the labour of writing a cheque for a hospital."
--G. K. Chesterton, Chesterton Day by Day

I live in a city with a large population of Jehovah's Witnesses. These are religious fanatics who believe the end of the world is near and publish a magazine on the subject, The Watchtower, which they persistently try to give away. They're always standing around at the train station, dressed like they're going to Sunday chapel and smiling enigmatically. I often pass them on the street, too, and they'll invariably say, very politely, "Something to read this morning, sir?" as they hold out their rag. "No thank you," I say. "Have a nice day," they say in a pecksniffian way. I know what they're thinking: "You'll burn in eternal hell fire, you damn foolish sinner."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Much Ado about Nothing

Book description of the day:

"...unlike the 'subject' (who comes into existence as a result of symbolic prohibition) or the 'person' (who is aligned with the narcissistic conceits of the imaginary), the singular self emerges in response to a galvanizing directive arising from the real. This directive carries the force of an obligation that cannot be resisted and that summons the individual to a 'character' beyond his or her social investments."

Can I get an "Amen"?

While copy-editing this description as part of my job today, I had to ask myself: Am I a "person" (in quotation marks)? Or a "character"? What are my imaginary, narcissistic conceits? My social investments? Then it came to me. It's this blog, my self-involved attempt to socialize my mental preoccupations in a vainglorious bid to become a "subject", complete with symbolic prohibitions, in the voyeuristic eyes of my mesmerized readers. My singular self, as viewed through the lens of this weblog, is simply a projection, a figment of your collective imagination manipulated by me like a puppet. And admit it -- you love it.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

The T&T List

twin peaks

Gideon Sunday
The Tempest
Slavoj Zizek
Brokeland Records
Sion Sono
Thrillist Media Group
Cenk Uygur
Chalice Well
Kettle Falls

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Photo of the Week


I type all of my posts here on my grandfather's antique Corona typewriter, then scan the pages into electronic files, then upload them. Somehow the tactility of the mechanical keys; the staccato clickety-clack of the typewriter; and the aroma of paper, correction fluid, and ink inspires me. I feel like Ernest Hemingway as I compose lists of head-rattling fixations, catalogs of my feelings, and meandering essays about insignificant trivia. My only dilemma is that, as you can see, one of the keys sticks. Try writing without that letter sometime. It's a itch.

Actually, I just made that up. This is a photo I snapped at the Madison Bouckville Antiques Show in upstate New York last month. My female relations like to shop there for dusty relics; I mostly attend to take pictures of bizarre old doodads, gizmos and thingamabobs.

Click the pic for a closer look and try to appreciate the distant ancestor of your computer keyword. Qwerty forever!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Word of the Day x3

janizary (noun)

A follower or supporter

"Will you be my janizary?" Mayor Sprague asked Millicent at the rally. "Sir, I'm a married woman!" she replied, turning several shades of red.

killcow (noun)

An arrogant or bullying person

"Don't be such a killcow," Helen said when Karl kept interrupting her. "What do you mean?" he said. "I'm a vegetarian!"

loganamnosis (noun)[LAHG an um NOH sis]

A mania for trying to recall forgotten words

The password continued to escape him. "I just can't shake my loganamnosis," Chet said with a sigh. "Have you seen a doctor?" Sam asked worriedly.


Thanks to Leahcim Setag for the above quotations.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 37 small

More clip-art philosophy by me (and Lawrence Durrell). Click here for the BIG fish.