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.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING


I thought I was on my way home from a simple errand. We were in the car when my wyfe got a text from a friend, a young woman who was moving from one apartment in our neighborhood to another, via U-Haul. "I'm all packed and ready to go," the text said. "Can you help unload?"

My wyfe read the text to me and gave me "the look." What was I supposed to say? No?

A few minutes later I found myself standing inside a truck staring at a small mountain of cardboard and plastic boxes, and various pieces of mismatched furniture. Just when I thought I was going to be emptying this truck myself, several more of the woman's friends showed up. Salvation.

When it comes to moving stuff, gender roles revert, more or less of necessity, to stereotype: The males started unloading boxes, bureaus and bookcases, and lugging them up the stairs to the second-floor walk-up apartment; the females supervised and arranged the "chowder" at the top of the stairs. (I discovered during my own move several years ago that professional movers refer to boxes and such as "chowder".) They also ordered pizza for when this ordeal was over -- yes, moving someone's home, no matter how small, is always an ordeal.

So, I got a slice of pizza, a beer, some party talk, and a sore back out of this little episode.

That how my Labor Day weekend went -- my manual Labor Day weekend.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Search Party

Once again, here are a few recent search queries that brought seekers to this temple of scribomania. More surreal inquiries, more attempts at interpretation.

sweating and shivering clip art

Sweating and shivering in the same clip art? That's sick. You must be writing a newsletter about flu season. Or are you looking for two clip arts, hot and cold: one for sweating and one for shivering? Is your class studying about the weather, kid?

chevrolet elvis presley

As far as I know, he never drove a Chevy; he drove Cadillacs, as I found out when I visited Graceland several years ago. I took a picture of one:

Blue Cadillac front, Elvis Presley Auto Museum

Chicken without skin line art

Nude chickens are hard to draw. Not that I've spent a lot of time trying....

shattering roses

Interesting phrase. Clearly you don't mean real roses? They wilt; they don't shatter. Oh, unless you dip them in liquid nitrogen and then drop them. Is that what you're into? That's... special.

world nightmare incarnate

Dubya, in other words, according to Google. Bad as he was, that might be a bit over the top. Hitler? Stalin? Lindsay Lohan?