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....