Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

After months and months of listening to audiobooks and perusing novels on an e-reader, I'm actually reading a genuine ink, paper and glue book now. That's mostly because I picked it up for free from the give-away table at work. (I'm employed by a company in the publishing biz). The title is The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006, so it's a bit dated but amusing nonetheless.

One of the brief essays near the beginning argues that there is no such thing as free will, that our sense of conscious self-hood is an illusion, and that we're all essentially automatons responding to stimuli, like ants or robots. So I only think that I decided to read a conventional book because it looked interesting; that's just a story I tell myself. Actually, my preprogramed personality quirks, combined with a conducive environment, made it inevitable that I would pick up this book and begin to read it -- that "I" had a choice in the matter is just a delusion. Similarly, I don't blog here because I choose to. I'm conditioned to think I do, but actually I have no choice, any more than an ant has a choice about taking a crumb back to its ant hill.

And you? You have no choice but to read this and keep coming back for more, despite the story you're telling yourself about my always enjoyable way with words. Looks like we're stuck with each other.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Photo of the Week

weenie wagon

burger box

These jaunty vehicles are not what they seem. They appear to be vendors of unhealthy food, but I haven't seen them vend a single "weenie" or burger.

I know a stake-out when I see one. These are mobile police stations, parked at the local pot park, ready to bust neighborhood inhalers suffering from the munchies.

Actually, I just made that up. These are two rolling lunch buckets, parked down the street from my place of business, where they cater to foraging cubicle jockeys. I have not indulged.

Click the pics for close-up views, but only after lunch.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Head Rattle


Three people I know (two of them are a couple) have been featured on reality TV in the last week. The couple was on an Animal Planet show that starred their cat -- a cat burglar who keeps stealing the filter out of their Britta pitcher, of all things. The third was the owner of a local bakery who was teaching a cooking class to Jwoww (among others) of Snooki and Jwoww, which was filmed here in Jersey City. I don't think a reality show could be built around me. All I do is walk back and forth to a train station. Other than that, I mostly stare at a screen all day.


Speaking of animals, I recently became Facebook "friends" with a pug dog named Apricot Schnood Raphael. I didn't know that animals could have Facebook accounts, but it doesn't say anything about being human in the Terms of Service; just that you have to use your real name (which is a joke, in my observation). I guess "Apricot" didn't raise any red flags. It will be interesting to see what kind of targeted advertising FB aims at Apricot. Doggie treats? I doubt it. Fruit drinks, perhaps.


The opening ceremony of the Olympics was delightfully bizarre. But I find most of the sporting events to be either too nerve-wracking to watch or too boring. I'm always afraid those gymnasts are going to fall (and sometimes they do), and I end up wondering why some of them shave and some don't. I have better things to ponder. The volleyball tournaments just seem endless and little too trivial to be an Olympic sport. What's next, badminton? Oh wait....

Did you know that Olympic medals used to be awarded for literature, architecture, and painting? It's true.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Word of the Day: yare

yare (adj) [yair]

Speedy, agile, nimble.

"The juice of Egypt's grape shall moist this lip. Yare, yare, good Iras, quick -- methinks I hear Antony call; I see him rouse himself To praise my noble act; I hear him mock the luck of Caesar, which the gods give men To excuse their after wrath."
--William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, Act V, Scene ii.

My escalator-riding technique is so yare.

There are two types of people you encounter on a escalator: passive riders who stand still and ride up (or down), like plaster saints on a conveyor belt, and those who treat the escalator as a moving staircase to be climbed or descended actively. The latter requires sprightly zigging and zagging, not unlike the jogging of a running-back on a football field, to avoid the obstructionists, who will often stand two-abreast, blocking the forward momentum of the climber (me) as he attempts to catch his train or just relieve his impatience with this odd form of travel. And it is odd, when you think about it -- a moving staircase. People don't stand still on conventional stairs; why do they feel they can do so on these rolling steps? Be yare or be square, I say.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The T&T List

Ouch! Hot sauce.

USS Queenfish
Aman Ali
The Gaslight Anthem
Turquoise Coast
Jawbone Jambox
"Insane Lullaby"
Ryoji Ikeda
Utricularia tricolor

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Random Sequence

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

Inexpedient Frippery

Hallucinogenic faker or godforsaken messiah? Dennis -- bearded, bony, age indefinite -- seemed to alternate between the two with svelte plasticity. Known to thousands as His Holiness Sri Swami Satchikrishnanandadananda, he lived in a yurt deep in the Adirondacks. "No inexpedient frippery for me," he said, explaining his lack of incense and yoga mats to Magda, an insectivorous chambermaid and inveterate spiritual seeker. "Only a true ascetic can offer enlightenment." "I seek halcyon perspicacity, oh master," Magda said, repeating a phrase she'd memorized from a meditation CD. Dennis felt a sudden, shamefully materialistic desire: he wanted a dictionary.

[not to be continued]



Honey or apiphobia?

The new album by two of my work colleagues, plus others, is here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Word of the Day: xanthochroi

xanthochroi (n)

Fair-skinned white people.

"The Xanthochroi (fair whites) and the Melanochroi (dark whites) of Britain are, speaking broadly, distributed, at present, as they were in the time of Tacitus; and their representatives on the Continent of Europe have the same general distribution as at the earliest period of which we have any record."
--William Gregory Wood-Martin, Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland: A Folklore Sketch (1902)

I've always wondered why the "aliens" in science-fiction films and TV shows are most often portrayed as, well, xanthochroi -- if they're not green. Real aliens, if you believe they exist and are visiting us, are said to be "greys". But Vulcans and Kryptonians and even E.T. are, it seems, white folks. I'm sure it has more to do with employment practices in Hollywood than with exobiology. Why do we accept that white actors, or even white puppets, can portray aliens but black actors would be unbelievable? Because we generally think of "aliens" as mirrors of ourselves, and we still live (here in the US) in a majority xanthochroi culture. That's my sociology lecture for today.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Random Acts of Poetry


Machines speak to apparitions.
The clerks are all mechanical,
their equations glistening.

Above a portrait of inertia
the messages load endlessly.
A search stirs a mad question.

The motion of a bug
tempts the man mercilessly.
He eats a peanut.

His hand studies his forehead.
His office disappears.
And calm waves tap the silken sand.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Quote of the Day

Why did the writer cross the road?

"Because on that dark and fateful night, a night filled with tempestuous moaning winds of gloom and despair, where the siren scream of direst proportions would be muted by the fiendish howl forced past earth's vocal cords of echoing canyons and weird eyries (for it is in Zion National Park that our story takes place), the writer, dread-laden, weary, piteous, forlorn, did with eyes weighted from murky memories and days fraught with hideous care look out across the fell expanse of blackened tarmac and intoned dolorously, 'Mickey D's? Is that ALL there is that's open at this hour? Fuck!' "
--Edward George Earle Gekko-Lytton, Lizard

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Search Party

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

exploding basketball clipart

slam dunk... BLAM dunk!

charles addams the swamp

I suppose if you wanted to name a swamp after someone, Charles Addams (creator of the Addams Family) would be a good choice. Did you know that the Addams Family lived (lives?) in Westfield, New Jersey, Charles's home town?

body parts drawing of a boy

Sick, sick, sick....

bizarrerie hunting fuck

I can only assume you're playing "first word that comes to mind" with google.

chicken on a toilet clip art

Huh? Good luck finding that....

use honeyfuggle in sentence

Here's one:

"I won't honeyfuggle you about how tight things are."
--Gregory Benford, Furious Gulf

coffee cup drawing

You've given me an excuse to post this drawing of mine:


Maybe next I'll draw a chicken on a toilet. Or not.

scribomania support

You have my blessing, scribomaniacs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Word of the Day: hodiernal

hodiernal (adj) [HO-dee-URN-ul]

Of the present day.

"Credit me, fairest lady," said the knight, "that such is the cunning of our English courtiers of the hodiernal strain, that, as they have infinitely refined upon the plain and rusticial discourse of our fathers, which, as I may say, more beseemed the mouths of country roisterers in a May-game than that of courtly gallants in a galliad, so I hold it ineffably and unutterably improbable, that those who may succeed us in that garden of wit and courtesy shall alter or amend it."
--Sir Walter Scott, The Monastery: a Romance, 1820

The hodiernal era -- what shall we call it? The latter half of the 20th century was called the "post-war era", referring to World War II. We're a bit beyond that now, aren't we? I've heard it said that we are in a "post 9/11 era", but as earthshaking as that event was, I don't think it can define us for decade after decade. I suppose you could say we're in a second Elizabethan era, but that may be too specifically British a reference. Whatever we call the current times we're living through, they're obviously profoundly transitional. Call it the Age of Confusion. Strange daze indeed.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

Secondhand Smoke

No one in my household smokes. But when my wyfe's aunt died, we acquired all of her smoking paraphernalia. Included in the inheritance is a collection of mid-20th-century souvenir ashtrays from places like "Reno's Horseshoe Club", the Sahara and Aladdin Hotels in Las Vegas, and the La Sierra Motel in Tijuana. Yes, Aunt Betty lived out West and apparently made some pilgrimages to Sin City. She also left us a collection of matchbooks from the Stockyard Steak House, the Safeway Driving School, a place called Small World in Hollywood that sold both sandwiches and "color coordinated home accessories", and the Hotel Dupont Plaza in Washington, DC. It's not clear what she was doing in Washington, but she did get around. We've displayed most of this smoking impedimenta in our living room, so a casual visitor might think we smoke like chimneys. Not so. We just like to pretend it's 1965 and life is a little simpler sometimes.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Link Mania

Bored? You must be if you're visiting this site. Anyway, check out The Automatic Sentence Generator for a few moments of idle amusement. I generated the following:

A putrid student cooks a white boss.
A snorting teacher strokes a cruel vagina.
The drunken cat tickles the happy family.

Silly, but it does create little pictures in your mind. Or my mind, anyway.


I usually don't like web quizzes, but here's a mildly interesting one: What is your Shakespearean Tragic Flaw?

It seems I'm a "Hamlet", to wit:

"You have a hard time dealing with tough situations, and with growing up. You also have a tendency to fly off the handle at the smallest thing, but let major problems be."

I'm not sure I agree with that, as the multiple choice answers are rather limited in scope. A lot of them have to do with killing people and baking them into pies. (I guess the site's creator is a Titus Andronicus fan.)


You, too, can be an cubist at Mr. PicassoHead.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Photo of the Week

street book

My cousin Natalie decided that the textbook for the art-appreciation course she was taking was so disturbing that she tossed it out the window, where it landed in the street with a bookish thwack. She then photographed it and sent this picture to her "creepy" professor, who seems to have a special affinity for showing the class slides of artistic nudes.

It wasn't any salacious content that sent Natalie, or rather her book, over the edge, however. It was the page shown in the photo, which depicts an obscure work by Edvard Munch, who is most famous for his pricey painting (or actually, series of paintings) called The Scream. The vacant stares of the haunted, zombie-like figures, who seem to be marching toward their doom, were just too much for Natalie, especially at a time of the month when she's feeling "extra crabby".

Actually, I just made all that up (although the page does illustrate a work by Munch). I almost literally stumbled across this book on my way to work and thought its plight affecting enough to pull out my eye-phone and snap the photo. I thought I might see it again on my way home, but it was gone. Some art maven must have made off with it, or maybe it's adding a bit of refinement to the local landfill. Anyway, it is preserved here for your inspection. Click on it for a close-up view -- if you dare.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Word of the Day: embrangle

embrangle (v)

To involve in difficulty, conflict, disorder, or confusion.

"Then there was poor Jacob Dodson, the half-witted boy, who ambled about cheerfully, undertaking messages and little helpful odds and ends, for every one, which, however, poor Jacob managed always hopelessly to embrangle.... They nicknamed him Jacob Doodle-calf."
--Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown at Rugby, 1889

A long time ago, my ambition was to be a magazine editor, and a certain non-profit organization offered me a job editing their quarterly magazine. I accepted, but it soon became clear that I had embrangled myself in a no-win situation. The organization turned out to be intensely bureaucratic, to the point that I couldn't make a single decision without the approval of several people, some of whom were not much interested in cooperating. It was a classic "responsibility without authority" situation, and eventually I was forcibly, uh, disembrangled from that gig. Just as well. Print periodicals are an endangered species, and cajoling pencil-pushers into making decisions they're afraid to be held accountable for is not my forte.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Head Rattle


Quote I like: "Dreams are the Sea-Monkeys of consciousness; in the back pages of sleep they promise us teeming submarine palaces but leave us, on waking, with a hermetic residue of freeze-dried dust. At the breakfast table in my house, an inflexible law compels all recountings of dreams to be compressed into a sentence or, better still, half a sentence, like the paraphrasing of epic films listed in TV Guide: 'Rogue samurai saves peasant village.'"
--Michael Chabon

Is that really how TV Guide describes The Seven Samurai? The Guide's website actually has a two-paragraph review. I haven't perused the actual magazine in years, but I used to love the hyper-compressed, and sometimes witty, blurbs they had to squeeze into tiny squares.


I've been filling up my new Google Calendar, impregnating little boxes with appointment and reminder data. I'm reminded again that life is very rectangular -- or at least we seem mentally predisposed to put a grid on it.

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

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Annoyed. It irritates me that I keep seeing dates written as (for example) "635 A.D." Don't people know what "A.D." stands for? It's an abbeviation for anno domini, Latin for "in the year of our Lord". So of course it should be "A.D. 635". Just because a bunch of ignoramuses persist in treating it like "B.C." doesn't mean that it should be allowed into "common usage". I'm talking to you, Wikipedia. As for me, I prefer the secular designations CE (common era) and BCE (before the common era). Let's leave Jeebus Holy Crisco out of it.

Stretched. Writing a book is both satisfying and time consuming -- even if the "writing" is mostly a matter of assembling a lot of previously composed material. I want to work on it all the time, but life keeps getting in the way. So I work on it little by little. Accretion. Exactly the way it was all written. It's the same with the book I'm reading now: Macbeth, the recent highly praised novelization, not Shakespeare's spooky tragedy (also highly praised and previously read). I'd just as soon read it straight through, but I am forced to ingest it in fits and starts -- 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there, often in some sort of conveyance. It will all happen, though. Fate.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Random Sequence

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

Effervescent Kleptomania

Composer Elias Auchenshuggle was hard at work on "Tangier Bongo", his latest commercial jingle, intended to make snackers hanker after some kind of "psychopathic" (he thought) pre-packaged fondue. The balky synthesizer was giving him trouble, though, as it occasionally spit out random wheezes and burps, like a drunken calliope. Finally, however, the soaring crescendo he was after emerged with kingliest intensification. "Ahh", he whispered. "All I need now is a sample from some old disco diva's middle eight." After much consideration and fiddling with his M-Audio Torq MixLab Digital DJ System, it turned out to be a bouncy quote from "Get Dancin'," by Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes. Elias spliced it in, proud of his effervescent kleptomania, which latterly helped to increase fondue sales by 500 percent -- pleasing his corporate overlords no end.

[not to be continued]

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Word of the Day: quidam

quidam (n)

A someone; a person unknown.

"A quidam called me this afternoon and asked to speak with me by name. 'No one here by that name,' I informed the caller, who was very apologetic before hanging up. I'm always tempted to play along when this sort of thing happens...."
--Leahcim Setag, Strange Loops

New-age gymnastic troupe and spectacle purveyor Cirque du Soleil has mounted a show called Quidam. They define the word as "...a nameless passer-by, a solitary figure lingering on a street corner, a person rushing past.... One who cries out, sings and dreams within us all."

The quidams I encounter every day are a lot less phantasmagoric. I see the same people daily during my work commute, but I have no idea who they are. There's the Hassid, the weirdo, the suburban soccer-mom in training, the librarian, etc. At least that's how I think of them, based on whatever stereotype they conform most closely to. I see these people more often than members of my extended family, but I don't know their names. I've never spoken to them. There's a recognition, though -- something fleeting in the eyes when we see each other. We'll never speak unless the train breaks down, I suppose. Sometimes I fantasize about inviting them all to a party, though: RSVP.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Photo of the Week: Happy 4th

Happy 4th

My super-patriotic neighbor is a flag-waving fanatic. (I call him Uncle Sam.) Every July he launders his stars-and-stripes and then hangs them out in the backyard to dry. Betsy Ross would be proud or appalled, I'm not sure which....

Actually, I just made that up. This is a photo I snapped at the Bouckeville Antiques Fair a couple of years ago and just recently laundered through Instagram. Click the pic for a closer view... and salute or genuflect or sigh with frustration or whatever you do when you see Old Glory.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Random Acts of Poetry

12 Hours

Afternoon, and my hand plows
the grass tops

that wave like delirious crowds
along the melting blacktop.

I scrawl ridiculous scenarios
across my chalkboard mind.

At sunset, a madman might see
stage-flat horizons of burning copper,

a sugar-cube city dissolving
in some dark liquid.

Tonight, the sky is a bowl of black fish.
The wind spins seeds

across a clamshell moon,
and the wires above us

vibrate with questions
that will fizzle like sparklers by dawn.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Search Party

Here are a few recent search queries that brought seekers to this temple of scribomania. Lately, my visitors have been in a humorous and musical mood; others have sought inspiration from the visual arts. Some undoubtedly went away disappointed. So sorry about that....

ultra pencil sketches

As I revealed here recently, I like to draw. And my pencil sketches are indeed "ultra". Here's one:


Click on it for a close up, or regret it for the rest of your life.

bowler hat on a stick

That is kind of how I looked as a teenager, before I started working out. Now I'm built like a brick shithouse. People call me Clark Kent.

redneck beach house

This is when you turn yer rowboat over so the rain don't get in.

moor eeffoc

I.e., "coffee room" spelled backwards. Clever, but I think Charles Dickens thought of it first. Great name for a coffee shop... where you have to bring your own coffee.

funny quotes about wheelchairs

What do you call a nun in a wheelchair? Virgin Mobile.

Who can resist pan flute

Indeed! Elysian fields forever....

obey Beatles

Yes, obey them! Take a sad song and make it better, turn off your mind, and get back to where you once belonged. Become a happy retarded child.

Village Idiot Clipart

There are better ways to make your point, I think. Elected officials are notoriously impervious to clipart.