Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Word of the Day: flexuous

flexuous (adj)

Sinuous; winding or bending; serpentine.

"Meanwhile Clare was meditating, verily. His thought had been unsuspended; he was becoming ill with thinking; eaten out with thinking, withered by thinking; scouraged out of all his former pulsating, flexuous domesticity. He walked about saying to himself, 'What's to be done - what's to be done?'...."
Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles

The Long and Flexuous Road -- that might be a good alternate name for this blahg.

The most flexuous highway I've ever been on was Route 1 in California several years ago. A rough ride. It's a twisty cliff-side thoroughfare with scary drop-offs -- the ocean on one side and a sheer rock wall on the other, like something out of a Road Runner cartoon. The constant curves made me a bit carsick, but at least the drive up the coast was never boring: I feared we were about to plummet over the edge almost every minute, like that opening scene in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The views of the Pacific were inspiring, though, so I recommend the route. Just don't eat first.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Random Sequence: 'Indecorous Stultification'

[random phrases worked into a story]

Lloyd, a 30-something high-school mathematics teacher, was the victim of a larcenous shellacking by the common cold, which had hijacked his Saturday thus far. Not wanting to sacrifice the blind date he'd scheduled for the evening, he dragged himself to the local pharmacy and purchased the most aggressive over-the-counter medication he could find -- a nonprescription tyrannosaurus that he hoped would eviscerate the indecorous stultification of his normally sparkling personality.

Alas, the decongestant arduousness of this elixir failed to provide the resurgent perspicacity he was seeking. By the time he met his Internet-dating acquaintance, the marginally attractive Katarina, at the local caffeine emporium, his energy level was at low ebb, and the repartee devolved into nonverbal lousiness. Lloyd tried to cover the awkward silence by evacuating his sinuses into a well-worn handkerchief, but his prolonged and cacophonous nasal honking repelled Katarina, who was reminded of a terrified goose being strangled. She had neglected to mention her hypochondriacal fear of cold viruses in her online autobiography, and by the time Lloyd looked up from his hankie, she had vanished. "What a snot," Lloyd grumbled.

[not to be continued]

Monday, February 27, 2012

Random Acts of Poetry

white roses


The soft-focus roses arrive.
White clapboards flourish
in green, indefinite suburbs.

Smiling in driveways,
with a hint of guitar,
model citizens emote,

almost kissing their phones.
Mouths coo blurred words,
children tumble and scream--

so happy it's frightening.
Even the dog is euphoric.
Under a blue-blank sky,

you say distance is nothing
to your white-haired,
cable-knit grandparents,

far off in their golden cameo.
As the commercial fades to black,
where do you, where do they go?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 33 small

Agree? More clip-art philosophy by me (and J. Paul Getty). You can catch the BIG fish here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Word of the Day: canorous

canorous (adj)

Melodious; musical.

"The dull life at Oxford was varied by the occasional visit of a mesmeric lecturer; and one youth caused peals of canorous laughter by walking round in a pretended mesmeric sleep and kissing the pretty daughters of the dons."
--Thomas Wright, The Life of Sir Richard Burton

I'm tired tonight, so here's one from the archives. I wrote this (somewhat trite) bit of tripe back in 2002, when I was full-time freelancing -- and new to blogging:

"While I'm editing, I like to listen to music. Not just any music. I usually listen to film scores, "ambient" music or jazz--music without lyrics, because it allows me to concentrate. I can choose to listen, or let the music function as white noise, depending on what I'm doing at the moment. I suppose that's the purpose behind Muzak, too, but elevator music has always annoyed me. It's "calming influence" is just too damn manipulative. I think they play it in stores because it encourages people to buy more stuff--it tranquilizes any concern about spending too much. Or maybe I'm just paranoid.

"Today, I've been listening to a beautiful, classic film score by the great Alex North: The Long, Hot Summer. It's from an old (1958) Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward movie based on some of William Faulkner's short stories. Very lyrical and literary--just the thing to listen to while editing a long treatise on financial conditions in Thailand!"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The T&T List

digible tiles

General Aladeen
Walkington Wold
Anne Perry
Gretsch Duo Jet
Friar Park
tannis root
Prayer of Quiet



My favorites

How to make friends by telephone



"How big a problem is Android fragmentation?"
"My dreaming is getting out of hand."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Head Rattle


There's an acronym that people have been bandying about at a place I frequent: PTTM. What it really stands for isn't relevant here; what's interesting to me is that people are starting to give it other meanings; to whit, "Ping the Tall Man". Somebody used that alternate explanation for PTTM today, but I misheard it as "Pay the Toll Man". I was mystified as to what that meant, until it was later clarified for me. "Ping the Tall Man" does make sense, in the context of the place I frequent. But I still like "Pay the Toll Man". It sounds a bit Dylanesque, don't you think? Pay the toll, man, to cross the River Styx.


Anagrams for Whitney Houston (with punctuation added): "Nonwhite Youths"; "Honesty, Thou Win"; "Honey -- Oh Untwist"; "Soothe Whiny Nut"; "Eh, Hi, Swoon -- Nutty"; "Eh, Shitty Nun -- Woo"; "Eh, Showy Unit -- Not"; "Nonwhite Tush, Yo". Make of them what you will.


Apocalypse now: Snooki, she of Jersey Shore fame and recently banned from Hoboken, has moved to Jersey City. She's living in a converted firehouse downtown (where I attended a party a few years ago), and has already arranged to video her antics at several local bars. Mayor McCheese says there's no such thing as bad publicity, but I'm afraid the JC is about to become the laughingstock of the world. ("It already is," a friend comments.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

or felt....

Pooped, because I did eight hours of freelance work over the weekend. That's a full day, though it was spread out over two. But even when I wasn't working, I was thinking and worrying about it, which means I didn't really have a weekend at all.

Strangely entertained. My wyfe somehow got discount tickets to a performance in NYC last weekend called Gazillian Bubble Show, in which a fellow of Chinese extraction, who said he was born in Serbia, but had a thoroughly American accent, blew huge soap bubbles on stage using enormous bubble wands. And I mean gigantic bubbles -- he invited children onstage and encased four of them at once inside a bubble. Strobe lights, a fog machine, lasers, and a pounding disco soundtrack added to the entire effect. I hadn't wanted to go, thinking it was some kiddie show (exclusively), but I ended up impressed by the showmanship. And the bubbles. I also wondered how someone could have discovered such a talent and entered into such a peculiar line of work.

Ambivalent about the crocuses that are already blooming in our backyard. Already. In February. What does this very warm winter presage about the summer ahead? Venusian temperatures, I fear....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Word of the Day: vinculation

vinculation (n)

The act of tying or binding. (verb form: vinculate)

"Varis was too pale to blanch, but his lips thinned and a muscle worked in his jaw. He had always been the most vocal of the Arcanostoi against vinculation--the binding of spirits. He had seen firsthand what it was to have choices stolen, to be trapped in service. Kiril didn't think he was hypocrite enough to condemn the practice against spirits and condone it for humans."
--Amanda Downum, The Bone Palace

I prefer loafers, just so I don't have to vinculate my shoelaces, which always seem to come untied eventually, even when I double knot them. My brother-in-law avoids this problem -- he never ties his shoes; he walks around with them untied. I don't think I could do that without tripping.


Speaking of tripping, check this out, java imbibers:

signature cup

And this, fashionistas:

The 50 Most Ridiculous Outfits from New York Fashion Week

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Search Party

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

writing a book, hippie?

I'm no hippie, but I am writing a book -- despite myself, it seems....

computer nerd kid

These days, is there such a thing as a nerd kid who isn't a computer nerd kid?

weird alice paintings

My grandmother's name was Alice -- one reason why I've always liked in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass so much. There are some appealingly weird Alice paintings out there, but none top the original Tenniel illustrations, I think.

cheshire cat

mental ray prism

That would come in handy.

pic of a wolf with one big tooth

"My, what big tooth you have"... never mind.

elvis museum car

Find a picture of just about any 1950s Cadillac. I visited Graceland, and he had lots. Oh, all right....

Cadillac rear detail

lots of jellyfish under the sea

You've heard the old saying that there are "lots of fish in the sea", right? Well, a lot of them are jellyfish. Don't get stung.

brother had an outie

My brother did have an outie when we were kids. I used to press his belly button, pretending it was a doorbell. "Ding Dong!" It made him giggle.

coffee pot meth lab

With the amount of java I drink, you could probably describe my stomach this way.

packing a weapon

You better hope I'm not the next time we meet!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Photo of the Week

Newark -- Passaic River

I snapped this photo from the window of the plane, a single-engine Piper Saratoga, while I was taking my second flying lesson last Saturday. The instructor chastised me -- and got a bit hysterical -- when I took my hands off the control stick to focus the camera. But, hey, when a photo opportunity arises you have to take it, as all dedicated hobbyist photographers know. And anyway, I pulled us out of that nose-dive with no problem at all.

Actually, I just made that up. I have no desire to fly in anything other than an airliner -- as a first-class passenger. This is the view from my office window, high above the fair city of Newark, New Jersey, and the scenic Passaic River. (Click on it for a more detailed view. You know you want to.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Word of the Day: epizeuxis

epizeuxis (n)

Repeating words in succession; emphatic repetition.

"'That's an epizeuxis,' I said to a young actress one day in rehearsal. 'A what?' she sputtered, taken aback. 'An epizeuxis,' I reiterated quietly. 'Gesundheit,' she replied, deftly mocking me."
--Scott Kaiser, Shakespeare's Wordcraft

Edgar Allan Poe was the master of this, as in "The Bells":

....To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells --
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

Have you ever noticed that if you repeat a word enough, either aloud or just in your head, it ceases to have any meaning and just becomes a sound, or it starts to mean something other than you thought it did? This happens with names, too. As a child, when I was bored, I would sometimes repeat my name to myself until it became something else: my call, mic all, my kull, my colgates, my call: eights....

I was a strange kid.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

Kinda Blue

So I ordered a blue V-neck sweater (all the rage this season) from an online catalog -- but was appalled when I opened the package. The shade of blue they'd sent did not match what I'd seen on their online clothes-rack. It was a vibrant electric blue instead of the dull, nondescript blue I usually favor, at least in apparel. (My sartorial tendency is always to try to blend in, tastefully, rather than to stand out like some foppish peacock.) I was tempted to return the sweater from whence it came, but tried it on, with a black T-shirt underneath, and decided I should wear it as a kind of social-science experiment to see if anyone noticed that I was glowing in the dark. To my surprise, several women complimented me on it, saying "I like your sweater", "That's a nice color on you," "That color really suits you," etc.

I'm weird about compliments. I always half suspect that they are intended ironically or facetiously or simply to express shock... or to disguise pity. I said that I thought the color was too bright and that I should return the sweater. "Oh no," they all protested, and I started to believe them. But then I began to wonder if their enthusiasm reflected a gender preference. Maybe they liked this shade of blue because it was one they would wear themselves? Did that mean it was feminine? No males had commented on the garment, but then, males rarely do comment on each others clothing unless it is truly ridiculous.

In the end, I decided I might as well hold on to the sweater, if for no other reason than to keep the ladies happy. I wore it for the third time today. Queue soundtrack: "For You Blue".

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Random Acts of Poetry


Talk Radio

When they see executions as an essential aspect of their movement, the clear ones mentally excavate the channels of their clocks and bookshelves, and distribute chrism among a series of comedians supplied by numerous abusive childhoods and directorates. These methods were perfected by factory workers. Oil paintings of their labors abound in each house, where the lights polish the dark windows like sunbeams on opaque ponds, and the sounds of creaking attic floorboards lend poignancy to the spiraling psychodramas that disturb all moralizing trumpet players -- those that beat the walls with their electric agitation. The siblings, who sit looking sullen in the dim light, drink from jam jars, contemplating violence and longing for public recognition of their great endeavors and the bouquets of the city. The roar of the pistons, the precipitation of steam, and the sweat of heavy men is recorded as hard music, songs derived from righteous masturbation and a riotous fate.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Random Sequence: 'Stereophonic Metastasis'

[random phrases worked into a story]

Aaron, a middle-aged bachelor and crossword-puzzle aficionado, couldn't decide who to vote for in the upcoming mayoral slugfest.The scabrous economic voodooism of the frog-visaged right-wing candidate, Charles Gnarley, did not appeal. Neither did the hyperactive mudslinging of the left-wing challenger, Vidalia Humberson, whom Aaron thought of as an "energizing floozie" due to her plunging necklines.

Aaron's older brother, Darren, who lived in Stuttgart for business reasons, was, like many older siblings abroad, something of a transoceanic castigator: "Make up your damn mind," he said, when Aaron called him on election day to lament his indecision. "Deliver your bucktoothed conferment on one or the other and live with the consequences," he said. (Aaron had some dental problems that he refused to ameliorate, much to the consternation of Darren, who consulted for a German dental-retainer manufacturer.)

Aaron, somewhat miffed, hung up and turned on both the television and the radio. He wanted to review the latest attack ads, hoping that they might help him to opt. But the cacophony of listening to both aspirants simultaneously berate and impugn each other inspired a ping-ponging series of this-one, that-one "decisions" that just made him dizzy. He could only describe his mental confusion as a state of stereophonic metastasis. It induced balloting paralysis in the voting booth -- so much so that he hesitated over both candidates' buttons, ultimately pressing neither. "I'll write a missive to the editor instead," he thought, "lamenting the lack of options."

He went home and opened the newspaper, looking for the address for submitting letters. But he was distracted by the crossword puzzle and forgot all about it as he searched for a nine-letter word for politics.

[not to be continued]

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Word of the Day: flâneur

flâneur (n)

An idler, a dawdler or loafer; an idle man-about-town; a person who strolls about idly. (Originally French)

"But does the flâneur still exist? What is he or she today: a shopper, a denizen of the streets, a surfer of virtual worlds on the Internet? Or, perhaps, a user of the mobile phone, who lives his/her life on the streets and in traffic?"
--Timo Kopomaa, The City in Your Pocket: Birth of the Mobile Information Society

There are times when I'd like to think I could be the person in the dictionary's definition: the idle, peripatetic stroller, appreciating everything around the city in a sort of moving meditation. But when I'm out walking around, I can't help speed-walking -- even if I'm not in a hurry to get somewhere. People who walk slowly two or three abreast down the sidewalk ahead of me drive me crazy, until the concrete widens out enough for me to pass them. Then I feel a bit silly, wondering if they think I'm trying to race them.

I suppose some suburbanites have the same experiences in cars -- slow drivers ahead, so honk, honk, honk. Where's the fire?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Head Rattle


I get that a lot: "Are you related to Bill?" "Did anyone ever tell you that you look like William Macy?" "Have you written anything?" "Is that like 'Books on Tape'?" "Can you tell me how to get to ______ Street?"


The empty, boarded-up apartment building next door is apparently being gut-rehabbed, which means someone has finally purchased it. (So maybe my house will be worth something again!) There's been a huge dumpster in front of the building for several days now, repeatedly filled with broken furniture, old toys, pre-digital TV sets, miscellaneous lumber, plumbing fixtures, and other detritus -- the sad castoffs of temporary lives abandoned.


Someone reminded me today that this warm, snowless winter we've been having means that many more blood-sucking insect offspring than usual will survive and hatch this coming summer. Since I live about a block away from what the local townsfolk call (informally) Mosquito Park, this could be a real botheration come June and July. Just thinking about it makes me itch.



Madonna's Satanic ritual disguised in the NFL Half Time Show

Monday, February 06, 2012

Brain Dump

Once all talk of generality is exhausted, it may open up new vistas of discourse, perhaps even of the poetic or oracular variety. A set of rules for producing kaleidoscopic analogies and automatic writing methods may emerge spontaneously and/or serendipitously. Everything begins to tend that way of its own accord, and this we call our individual culture. It is important to do everything possible to escape the trap of simply generating reams of balderdash, in order to fill pages or boxes or "walls". I do not believe in pure idiocy; nothing is pure in this world. Clearly the desire to be "perfectly" clear is a temptation for every speaker or writer, but inevitably, we fall into the idiomatic (not to say the idiotic). Every word that escapes one's lips becomes "intellectual" property, no matter how mundane or moronic, provided it is recorded in some form. Don't for a moment think that there is no political implication to this, however threatening that may seem. Your utterance or scripting may be utterly bizarre but still of some pecuniary value to someone somewhere somehow. And then there's this: nobody excoriates a mathematician or physicist whose discourse is incomprehensible, nor an imbecile as long as he speaks in a foreign tongue, but someone who dares to alter our own language, the vernacular, the colloquialisms of the hoi polloi? Bring on the crossbeam and the nails!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Photo of the Week

storefront, "Lifestyle"

Habla Español? This is the little shop around the corner, a mysterious place that may not be what it seems. You never know what you'll find in there: a cabinet of curios, dusty antiques, the flotsam and jetsam of another time. That door is a gateway. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. I've been through it a few times, but I have only vague memories of what transpired: people talking backwards and strange music, I think. But beyond that, I don't recall. I don't even remember how long I lingered at Estilo de Vida, or how precisely I found my way out again. Have I found my way out again?

Actually, I just made that up. I have no idea what this place is, other than a colorful subject for a photo I snapped. It might be a shabby little dress shop, or a "social club", or a bookie joint. So give the pic a click for a closer view. Maybe you can figure out what the deal is.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Word of the Day: scapegrace

scapegrace (n)

A mischief maker, a scoundrel.

"Alaeddin continued in his former ill courses and, when his mother saw that her spouse had deceased, and that her son was a scapegrace and good for nothing at all, she sold the shop and whatso was to found therein and fell to spinning cotton yarn."
--Sir Richard Burton, The Arabian Nights

When I was a kid, my sister had a doll, a huge and life-like baby doll, which we christened "Big Bertha". She resembled a two-year-old child, especially at a distance. In one of my infrequent but not insignificant episodes as a scapegrace, I decided to place Bertha outside in a sitting position right next to the fairly busy road that passed our house. Scores of cars slowed down as the drivers thought they needed to avoid hitting a child -- and perhaps thinking they should stop and help a poor little waif who was about to wander into traffic. They sped off as soon as they realized they'd been fooled by a simulacrum. A school bus passed by, but some of the scapegraces inside were not fooled by Big Bertha -- one of them spit on her from an open window.

My siblings thought all this was hilarious, and even my mother tittered a bit before she made me bring Bertha back inside, so she wouldn't "cause an accident". To this day, decades later, the kinfolk still mention this incident whenever we get together. Meanwhile, Big Bertha, who we thought we'd stored away in a closet or the basement of my mother's house, is nowhere to be found. I like to imagine that she escaped one day and hitched a ride to somewhere she feels safe and better appreciated.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Confused by all the hoopla over NASA's new pictures of the "dark" side of the Moon. The far side of the Moon was photographed and mapped by space probes in the 1960s.... Wasn't it?

Puzzled by the neighbor down the block who has parked a very expensive sports car in his driveway for weeks now -- with two flat tires on the front.

Surprised to discover that someone high up I used to work with/(kind of) for is now running a "money services kiosk" inside a laundromat.

Mystified by January temperatures in the 60s Fahrenheit today. (In the teens for all you believers in Celsius.) It is winter here in the Northern hemisphere. Isn't it? Even the trees are befuddled. Someone told me they saw buds today.