Thursday, August 30, 2012

Word of the Day x3

jaculate (verb)

To throw or hurl

"I found the ball," Kevin said. "Hey, let's go out back and jaculate!"
"Uh, no.... I, uh, have a girlfriend, Dude," said Jerry.

klangfarbe (noun)

Instrumental timbre or tone

Chloe lived to play the flugelhorn. "Nice klangfarbe you have there," Charles said after she played a trill. "No!" Chloe exclaimed. "I keep telling everyone -- it's a flugelhorn!"

usufruct (noun)

The right to use and enjoy something belonging to someone else without it being destroyed or injured

"Do you mind if I have usufruct with your jacket?" Winnie asked. "Yes!" said Jane. "For heaven's sake. I just had it dry-cleaned."


Thanks to Leahcim Setag for the above quotations.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Head Rattle


It occurs to me that the best way to watch the right-wing Republican National Convention is on left-wing MSNBC. Nevertheless, I don't intend to watch it.


While cleaning the basement, I came upon a cardboard box that contained, among other items, a package of "Magic Rocks" that I bought years ago. These are multicolored sodium silicate crystals that grow into funky little stalagmite formations when you put them in water with a "Magic Solution". I can't remember why I bought such a childish thing and then never let them perform their alchemy. It might be that I thought I would put them in my aquarium but then realized that, because they are (according to the packaging) a "severe eye irritant" and "harmful if swallowed", they would hurt the fish. I think I'll find a jar this weekend and see what happens. I could use a little magic right now.


Some things just pop out at you when you're reading a new novel, such as passages like this: "I need to eat, I feel so weak and my head feels like the crusty anus of a sloth." I wonder... how, exactly, did this author conduct her research on sloths?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Random Acts of Poetry

Behind Shut Lids

I see her old
low hills running,
snake river's
silvered pools,
deep maple shade
under blue blazes.

Sunday in the car,
their plowed furrows
patches of cows,
a stick barn's tilt.

Then that house,
charcoal mist
of booming clouds;
I can almost
hear the rain hiss,
eaves drip.

I'm safe, dry
among her heavy
glass globules,
tiny worlds,
memory's paperweights.
Then as now.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Random Sequence

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

Parabolic Avocation

"You're a soprano warbler," I see, said Ed. "I mean... I hear."

"This again? That's just farcical perverseness", said Enid. "You know I'm alto."

"Nope, soprano," said Ed. "No needful capitulation from me."

"Pugnacious imbecility," Enid warbled.

"Wiggly grayness," Ed said.

"What?" said Enid.

"Test phrase. Try singing that phrase in your highest register."

"Wigglyyy graaaynesssss," Enid sang. "Oh this is barefaced imbecility," she said.

"No, soprano," Ed insisted. "You can do better than that."

"Now we're wandering into sterotypical happenstance," Enid said. "We've been all through this before."

"You could break a glass with that voice," said Ed, with circumscribed garrulousness.

Enid laughed. "I could try. My Baccarat crystal stemware? Would you drop this if I can't do it? Or fix it if I can?

"Cohesive epoxy, right here," said Ed, opening a drawer.

"Your obsession with always being right is a parabolic avocation," Enid sighed, raising the nearest glass.

It was the one Ed had already sabotaged with a hairline crack.

[not to be continued]

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Word of the Day x3

yegg (noun)

A safecracker

Arthur had forgotten the combination. "We need a yegg," he said with a sigh. "Huh? Scrambled or over easy?" Mack snickered.

yonderly (adjective)

Mentally or emotionally distant, morose, gloomy or aloof

"I don't think I would be much fun today," Anna said when she finally took Stan's call. "I'm yonderly." "Where's that?" Stan asked.

xylology (noun)

The study of wood

Dale was impressed by the lumber mill. "I see you're a real expert in xylology," he said after the tour. "Nah, I just know a lot about wood," Pete said.


Thanks to Leahcim Setag for the above quotations.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

Hot Wheels

I've seen a lot of people tooling around in electric wheelchairs recently. Just today, I saw two on a short walk to the post office. It's almost enough to make me think a convention might be going on somewhere nearby, but this isn't any sort of convention town. I wonder if the prices for these machines have dropped recently, as I don't see all that many people on crutches anymore.

All these whirring wheelchairs make me think of my late uncle, a paraplegic, who used an electic model when I was a kid, at a time when such things weren't so common. He also had an elevator in his house, the first one I remember riding on, and all sorts of other gadgets. In my childish way, I didn't think of him as handicapped -- he had a very full life, which included owning and running a restaurant -- just "different" and rather fascinating. A trip to see him was a treat.

I suppose in times past, people who couldn't walk were pretty much house-bound. Today they're tearing down the sidewalk with kids and shopping bags on their laps.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Accomplished. I'm on a "staycation", so I spent part of the day today doing yardwork. For a while, I was amputating weeds around the apple tree out back with some hand clippers, but a huge green bug starting buzzing around me, so I decided to postpone that and pick up the weed whacker. A couple of hours later, I had denuded not only the weed colony in the backyard, but the grasslands sprouting in front of the abandoned house next door. Chop, chop. I'm mean to the green.

Self-conscious. Copyediting a 140-page book that you wrote yourself is a somewhat different experience from editing the words of others. It's a little like watching yourself in a video -- you cringe. But the difference is that you can still do something about all of your little imperfections.

Mystified. My car key has disappeared. (I have to use my wyfe's.) So has one of my crucial USB cables. Could it have something to do with the micro black holes that scientists have theorized about?... People I don't know keep sending me friend requests on Facebook. We don't even have any friends in common. (I wouldn't mind friending them if they would explain what the connection is -- maybe they read this blog? -- and why they want to be "friends". But they don't.)... What's the deal with my neighbors, a couple of senior citizens who sit on their front porch all day every day and stare at me whenever I walk down the street? Don't they have a TV? Have they heard of the internets?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Photo of the Week

haunted house

I guess it's time to paint my house.

My dilemma: what color to paint it. White is too boring; all the other houses on the street are white. Beige is dull, too. Blue is too cold, for a house, in my opinion. Yellow or pink? Too feminine. Red? Too flashy. I never wanted to live in a green house -- the grass and trees are green, and a house should stand out. Gray? It's already 50 shades of gray. Maybe I'll just leave it as is, and continue to endure all the "haunted house" jokes. At least it makes a cool setting for our annual Halloween party.

Actually, I just made that up. This is a house I saw during a recent excursion to upstate New York, where Victorian manses abound, in various states of repair and coloration. If this was my house, I think I might paint it... papaya whip.

Click the pic for a creepy close-up view. If you look carefully, you'll see moss growing on this place.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Word of the Day x3

ultracrepidarian (noun or adjective)

Someone who expresses an opinion or offers advice about a subject they know nothing about

"The labor? It was a breeze! Right, Honey?" said new dad Matt. "Ultracrepidarian," new mom Sandra replied. "Told ya," Matt added.

xanthodont (noun)

A person with yellow teeth

"The next patient is a xanthodont, doctor," the hygienist said. "What? I only treat humans!" the dentist exclaimed.

yapness (noun)


"Let's find a restaurant," Sheila suggested. "I'm feeling some yapness." "Why do we need a restaurant?" said Arnold. "You can yell at me right here."


Thanks to Leahcim Setag for the above quotations.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Quote of the Day


"The thing that makes reading and writing suspect in the eyes of the market economy is that it's not corrupted. It's a threat to the GNP, to the gene engineer. It's an invisible, sedate, almost inert process. Reading is the last act of secular prayer. Even if you're reading in an airport, you're making a womb unto yourself--you're blocking the end results of information and communication long enough to be in a kind of stationary, meditative aspect. A book is a done deal and nothing you do is going to alter the content, and that's antithetical to the idea that drives our society right now, which is about changing the future, being an agent, getting and taking charge of your destiny and altering it. The destiny of a written narrative is outside the realm of the time. For so long as you are reading, you are also outside the realm of the time."
--Richard Powers

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

Jungle Fever

I feel like I'm living in a jungle, and I don't mean the urban jungle. The "garden" in my backyard is an out-of-control weed festival. Grass and weeds are sprouting like cowlicks between the seams in the sidewalk out front. An ugly little tree-like thing was growing out of a crack in the concrete in front of the abandoned house next door -- so hideous that I finally took some clippers and hacked it down last weekend. (The stalk bled some white pus-like goo. What is that stuff?) Then I attacked some overgrown bushes in my backyard that were trespassing on the walkway from our so-called patio to the patch of grass that we laughingly call our lawn. A machete would have come in handy.

I blame this glut of greenery on the steamy summer we're having here in the Northern Hemisphere, which has made our fair city a perfect hothouse for every sort of unwanted vine and creeper. I've had enough of it. I've ordered an electric weed whacker, which should arrive via UPS tomorrow. All of this burgeoning brush will come to fear me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Random Acts of (Prose) Poetry

Something I wrote a few years ago:


The AC breaks down and the house is full of soup, stirred by fans. Sidewalks are hot plates; the car, a teapot. Everybody's all wet. The sun is unforgivable. Hydrants open, and streets become rivers of laughing children. Thunderheads boil up in the distance like Himalayas. Stores and offices feel like Frigidaires, and I wish I could linger. All day I wonder why woolen coats crowd in the closet. Were they ever needed? I sit and drink an ocean of colorful sweetness and don't want to move.



A Six-Word Story Contest. Write a six-word story, and if it's good enough, win $160 -- or a night at the Algonquin Hotel. It will be hard to top Hemingway's original: "for sale: baby shoes, never used."

!dea: words as images. Inflatio,ooo,ooon

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Head Rattle


Somebody has to say it: Please don't try to engage me in conversation while I'm standing at a urinal. This is a moment when I prefer to be alone with my thoughts, to put it as delicately as I possibly can. It's very difficult to compose small talk at such a time, nor do I wish to discuss "how it's going" -- whatever you mean by that.


Chubby, well-dressed blonde girl sitting on a wall, like Humpty Dumpty, outside the train station: stop asking me for spare change every morning. Jehova's Witnesses: no, church ladies, I do not want your apocalyptic literature about the end of the world. Spammers: spare me your offers of "mortgage savings", "wine caddys", or "gamification" (is that a real word?) as part of my "location-based marketing strategy".

I don't have any spare change in the morning. I believe the world will fade away, not end in some appalling revelation. And I don't have a marketing strategy, location-based or otherwise. If I someday need one, it won't be based on gaming, which I think is what "gamification" refers to... or is it "gams", i.e., female legs? That might work better, actually.


On a more positive note... I just bought myself a miniature spyglass at a museum gift shop. It's about the size of a ballpoint pen (until you telescope it) and also functions as a microscope if you look at something small through the other end. When I saw it, I had an overwhelming feeling that it would come in handy someday. Land ho, and all that.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Word of the Day x3

jackanapes (noun)

An impudent or impertinent person, especially a young man

John stuck his tongue out at Mr. Wagstaff. "Quite the little jackanapes, aren't you?" Wagstaff asked rhetorically. "I don't go by 'Jack' and I ain't no ape!" John hissed.

quodlibet (noun)

A piece of music combining several different melodies in a humorous way

Alex was whistling to pass the time, but the tune changed every five seconds, until he ran out of repertoire. "Don't stop! I love quodlibet," said Alicia. "Oh, that wasn't it; I don't know that one," said Alex. "Hum a few bars?"

infrangible (adjective)

Unbreakable; not violated

"Hearts will never be practical until they can be made infrangible," said the Wizard. The Tin Man was riveted, but could only say, "Huh?"


Thanks to Leahcim Setag for the above quotations.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The T&T List

Rejected Revolver cover?
Peach Fusion
Thawed Fortunes
Gale Crater
Jan Oort
Robot & Frank
Winnie Winkle
Quay brothers
Project Morpheus

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Random Sequence

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

Accursed Plasticity

Elbert was a kinetic puppeteer, frequently engaging in timbered merrymaking as he constructed his farcical marionettes. His landlord, Mr. DeVille, was not amused by this dotty jocularity. He sometimes called Elbert an "asinine garbanzo" to his face, especially when the rent was overdue. Elbert would try to appease him with orgiastic supplication; if that didn't work, he would offer to cook dinner for DeVille, attempting to tempt him with his fleshiest knockwurst.

The landlord, who never refused a free meal, would sit stiffly at the table, his facial features at first a study in gimcrack brittleness. The conversation was always initially strained, with DeVille engaging in cankerous bombast while Elbert attempted to parry this with jokes that never elicited more than a constipated smidgen of a smile from his landlord. But then Elbert would seat one of his puppets at the table and, throwing his voice, ply Deville with absurd compliments through the wooden moppet. Soon enough, this would melt DeVille's resolve, resulting in yet another extension on Elbert's rent.

"Oh, my accursed plasticity!" DeVille would later lament, while visions of wood chips and sawdust danced in his head.

[not be be continued]

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Photo of the Week


Meow! This is one of the visual aids that Dr. Hester Cayte, a certified hypnotherapist I know, uses in her office. Staring at it for a period of five minutes or more puts subjects into a deep hypnotic trance. They can then receive post-hypnotic suggestions to stop smoking, gain confidence, decrease their nail biting, or even lose their ailurophobia -- fear of cats.

Actually, I just made that up. This is a feline portrait entitled Big Kit by a local artist friend. I like it partly because it looks eerily like "Max", the cat I had as a kid. The image was created using masking tape; yes, that's nothing but black and white masking tape on a cat-head-shaped board. I think it is rather hypnotic, don't you?

Click the kitty for a close-up look. You may start to feel very sleepy....

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Word of the Day x3

xeric (adjective)

Referring to a dry environment

"Oh, how xeric," Mavis said, when her nephew, Trevor, showed her the pictures from Mars. "Oh, they're not photocopies," replied Trevor.

yaffle (noun)

A green woodpecker

"What's that noise?" wondered Henry aloud, as the persistent tapping started up again. "Yaffle!" Katherine responded. "It was a serious question," said Henry. "You don't need to call me names."

zymurgy (noun)

The study of fermentation

"What's your major?" asked Jennifer. "Zymurgy!" Barry exclaimed before chugging the rest of the bottle.


Thanks to Leahcim Setag for the above quotations.

Monday, August 06, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Wondering: If HM the Queen is watching all of this Olympic beach volleyball on TV. Beach volleyball... in London, where it's sweater-weather all year round, as I discovered when I visited there last July.

Repelled: By yet another crazy mass shooting, this time by a neo-Nazi with mush for brains who slaughtered Sikhs, probably thinking they were Arabs. He was in a heavy-metal white-power band, one of many it seems. Who knew they existed?

Terrified: Of co-workers getting sick. One of them is sounding hoarse, because she slept too close to a air conditioner, she says. Yikes.

Determined: To get this book project I've been working on (for a decade, in a certain sense) done and out in the world.

Amused: By this: today we've been seeing images from the London Olympics on American television six hours after the fact -- and images from Mars 14 minutes after the fact.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Search Party

Once again, here are a few recent search queries that brought seekers to this temple of scribomania. The usual weirdness, but more morbid this time. Tombstones. Skulls. Is Halloween coming early this year?

einstein fish

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
--Albert Einstein

True. But any fish that would take seriously someone's attempt to judge its tree-climbing abilities is an idiot anyway.

dave lynch and tombstone readings

This phrase is making weird pictures in my head. There are corpses ("wrapped in plastic") but not many tombstones in David Lynch's work. (That's more of a Poe thing, or an Edward Gorey thing.) He's reportedly fishing for ideas for this next film, so maybe he's even reading tombstones now? At this point, six years after his last film, I'd just prefer that he find some book he likes and film it. But whatever it takes, Dave.


A word that means "a guest who stays more than three nights". Maybe if you start calling them hoghenines they'll finally get the hint and leave.

God Like Scary skull pic

What makes you think God looks like a scary skull? I prefer to think He looks like a giant blueberry muffin. Tell me I'm wrong!

running rabbit weathervane



irritating sound crushing plastic bottles

There are certain sounds that I find intensely annoying, and that is one of them. Others are the classic nails on a chalkboard, audio feedback, balloon rubbing, nose blowing, and smoke-detector bleeping. Put me in a room with all of those sounds occurring at once and I think my head would explode.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Quotes of the Day

Depression-era Hobo names, from The Area of My Expertise by John Hodgman:

Zachary Goatflirter
Bathseba Ditz
Holden the Expert Dreamtwister
Marcus Chickenstock
Twink the Reading-Room Snoozer
Franklin Ape and His Inner-Ear Infection
Cleats Onionpocket
Silas Swollentoe
Warbling Timmy Tin Voice and His Voicebox
College-boy Brainiac, The Hobo Einstein


Actual 21st-century band names, from The Best American Nonrequired Reading:

Assbaboons of Venus
God Damn Doo Wop Band
I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
We Start Fires
Let's Get Out of This Terrible Sandwich Shop
I Will Kill You Fucker
Jack's Mannequin
Pissed Jeans
Birthday Suits [Do they perform nude?]
Magic Marker Karate Co.


When you work as a copy editor in book publishing, you come across some strange and amusing plot summaries. Like this gem:

"Just when she thinks life couldn't get any more annoying, Olivia learns that her father is the leader of the rebel resistance in the mysterious Realm of the Ever After...."

And you thought you had problems.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Word of the Day: greige

geige (adj or n)

A color midway between gray and beige; taupe.
A caucasian man who is attracted to Asian women.

"Longtime readers will be happy to know that Nicki the Cockatiel flourishes along with his fellow housemates: Pookie, the long haired greige and white; Honeybun the petite orange lady cat with the cream-colored paws; and Finnegan, the black long-haired baby of the family."
--Beatrice Small, Private Pleasures

When you want something to fade into the background, you paint it greige, I suppose. I've always had a certain attraction to this color, which is no color. It "goes with anything", as my mom says, though I admit it's a bit boring, like its components, gray and beige. (I had an old girlfriend who used to call the latter "blah beige".) It doesn't make a statement, so you don't have to worry about what anyone thinks of your khaki pants or oatmeal sweater. I don't quite understand the insulting (?) reference to white men preferring Asian women, though. (That definition comes from the Urban Dictionary.) Maybe it's because the women are neither white nor black. A guy can feel cool dating an Asian chick -- not too conventional but not too radical.

Chickens are often greige, aren't they?