Thursday, June 28, 2012

Word of the Day: pilgarlic

pilgarlic (n)

A bald head; someone regarded with slight or mock pity.

"Belayed almost immediately by a ludicrous duo in arms (one long, lean, and hirsute, the other a short, stout pilgarlic), Darcy and Georgiana had only moments to concoct a story. The best they could do was throw the blanket across Fitzwilliam's face and innocently claim they were carrying off the dead for burial...."
--Linda Berdoll, Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues

I saw a completely bald-headed, couture-clad woman walking on Fifth Avenue yesterday. Typically for New York City, no one seemed to take much notice. (I did, but I'm an enthusiastic people-watcher.) You have to wonder what the motivation is for a seemingly healthy young woman to shave her head. Men, who go bald naturally, often go to great lengths, and great expense, to avoid the chrome-dome look. And women spend huge amounts of time and money on their manes.

According to this, the best reason for a woman to shave her head is "to prove that she is beautiful." So, no more distracting locks taking attention away from a pretty face -- and no more hiding a plain one behind a gorgeous mop. It's brave and honest, I guess. But somehow I don't think the Rogaine company has anything to worry about.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

I was editing some children's book descriptions today, and came across this gem:

"Ping craves adventure and excitement but unfortunately he is a panda… and pandas do pretty much nothing except eat bamboo for around 14 hours a day and poo up to 40 times a day."

I always thought of pandas as cute bears (though there's some debate about whether they are actually bears or just bear-like), and I wanted one as a kid. It doesn't sound like they make great pets, though. An animal that eats for 14 hours a day and defecates up to 40 times a day is a food-processing machine. There also isn't a lot of bamboo in upstate New York, where I was spawned, so it would have been hard to keep one happily fed. And I suspect they are difficult to house-train. Who wants to walk their panda 40 times a day? It would have been... wait for it... pandamonium.

Then there's the eternal quesion: Is this creature a white bear with black bits or a black bear with white bits?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 36 small Agree? More clip-art philosophy by me (and André Gide). You can catch the BIG fish here.



A free white noise, brown noise, and pink noise generator, complete with an oscillator and a sleep timer. BlisssSSSsssSSSsss....

Monday, June 25, 2012

The T&T List

chess skyline
FibrSep GX
André Téchiné
Aerial Angels
Victor Spinetti
twisted light
Outside Lands
Wafels & Dinges
Corn Pops

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Word of the Day: oscitate

oscitate (v)

To yawn or gape.

"There are persons whose physical constitutions are so delicate that mere thoughts of taking snuff (and medicines generally) produce the same effect as inhaling the powder itself: now, if the imagination of the reader has a similar influence over his system, he can have no disposition to oscitate while finishing the chapter; on the contrary, the greatest obstacle to his progress will arise from a disposition to sneeze."
--Thomas Ewbank, The Spoon, 1844

Perhaps you felt an uncontrollable desire to oscitate while reading the above. Believe me, that's the most entertaining use of the word I could find, and one of the few I could find outside of a dictionary.

I remember a rather traumatic experience I had with oscitation when I was in third grade. We used to have reading circle, during which the teacher would sit with seven or eight students while we took turns reading aloud. Apparently, the book we were reading that day was a dull one, and I kept stifling a yawn. The teacher noticed this, and after the fifth or sixth stifle, she reached over, grabbed my nose and my chin, and forced my mouth open. "Now, yawn!" she commanded. The other kids thought this was hilarious. To this day, I feel embarrassed whenever I yawn in public. That teacher would probably be fired for child abuse today.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Head Rattle


Dallas is back on TV, with new episodes. A pristine rear-engine VW passed me on the street today, and the new Cadillacs are sporting fins again. The Beach Boys, including Brian Wilson, are not only back together but on tour. Nostalgia? Retro chic? Time warp?


The temperature ascends to the high 90s (Fahrenheit), and everybody at work dresses like they're going to a barbecue -- though the place is actually a bit over-air-conditioned. Dotcom culture....


Holy crap without the holy: I like living in the city, except when certain precincts occasionally smell like garbage, as they tend to do during heat waves. What's cooking? I don't want to know.


Our new AC system is installed and working admirably during this hellish heat. But I still need to get my ducts blown out. Why does that sentence sound lascivious?


I'm reading the late David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster, a collection of essays. Quite amusing, and he has an agreeable prose style, but I can't help looking for a suicide note between the lines. His essay on why he finds Franz Kafka funny ("Laughing with Kafka") is telling, I think. "It's not that students don't 'get' Kafka's humor but that we've taught them to see humor as something you get -- the same way we've taught them that a self is something you just have. No wonder they cannot appreciate the really central Kafka joke -- that the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Relieved. We had our new central AC installed last weekend. Just in time: today is the first day of summer for us Northern Hemispherians, and it reached a decalescent 91 degrees (33 C) here today. "Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines..." (William Shakespeare)

Wondering. If maybe I could turn all the "Word of the Day" postings here (I have more than 300) into a little ebook. Hmmm....

Rooted. After three visits to the dentist -- excuse me, endodontist -- I'm finally done with my root canal. It wasn't really painful, just uncomfortable. Now I need to be crowned....

American. I found out today that French people like to give hugs when greeting. And people from the Mediterranean really do like to kiss cheeks when you meet them, even the men, though apparently a Hollywood-style air kiss is acceptable. I really prefer a handshake.

Amused. I'm reading David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster (on an e-reader purchased from... a tall warrior woman... and I'm finding his nonfiction prose (and attitude) most entertaining. Ebooks are not ideal for displaying footnotes, however. And Wallace, may he rest in peace, was very fond of footnotes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Link Mania: Phone Home

staples by Raemy Do

The Hyperdimensional Oscillator (tm) corrects and filters the cosmic energies flowing into the human body to bring increased harmony and balance to the body’s electrical system.

The Hyperdimensional Oscillator (tm) is specially prepared to emit cosmic resonant energy frequencies that synchronize and promote a healthy human bioenergy field.

The Hyperdimensional Oscillator (tm) facilitates communication with higher dimensions including entities commonly termed "Extraterrestials" or "ETs"... [It] is based on the famed Teslascope, the device that Nikola Tesla invented to communicate with other planets.

Yes, this is a real product, and you can buy one at the bargain price of only $199.95 here. You think that's a lot to spend on extraterrestrial communication? Think of the millions that have been spent on radio telescopes, and for what? Static and a few ambiguous bleeps.

I might have a few questions for the ETs.... but I think I'll stick with my Ouija board for now. Do let me know how you like this thingy if you get one, though.



David Foster Wallace's 1,079-page novel Infinite Jest was recently staged as a 24-hour theatrical event and test of audience endurance in Berlin. Details here. "Berliners have a high threshold for weirdness."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Word of the Day: tushery

tushery (n)

The use of affectedly archaic language.

"Ay, friend, a whole tale of tushery. And every tusher tushes me so free, that may I be tushed if the whole thing is worth tush."
--Robert Louis Stevenson, in a letter to his editor, W. E. Henley.

We have to wonder how this word (which Stevenson coined and which became popular enough, at least for a while, to be included in dictionaries) relates to "tush", a word that refers to, well, "the hinder", as we kids used to say. Where did the word come from? Not "your butt", as a young relative of mine would suggest. More likely, it derives from the interjection "tush", more a sound than a word, which is used to signal disapproval, as in "That blog is tush."

I find tushery rather amusing. Using archaic words, in a context that gives the listener at least some inkling of what you're blathering about, can trick people into thinking you're more educated that you really are. So memorize some Shakespeare quotations from and impress your friends and enemies with your tushery erudition. Of course, not everything Shakespeare said sounds archaic today. To wit:

"A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Photo of the Week

bar restaurant

Shhhh! This may look like the an abandoned storefront, or the diveiest rathskeller you've ever averted your eyes from, but it is actually the disguised entrance to Club Lambin, the secret, members-only salon and nightclub around the corner from me here in swanky Jersey City Heights. Inside, one finds smoked-glass walls, Buddhist-inspired cocktail stations surrounded by gilded mandalas, silent films projected on papyrus screens, and a red-curtained stage from which bluesy jazz musicians (and, perhaps, a Japanese chanteuse dressed as a cowgirl) emote and entertain. The 1950s-era banquettes are all equipped with stylish oxygen masks that dispense a flavored stream of pure "O", for a different kind of high. (No smoking allowed.)

Actually, I just made that up. This is my photo of an abandoned building that I pass on my way to the train station every morning. It's actually nothing more than a facade at this point, almost like a stage or film set, and looks like it might blow over in the next storm. I thought I would photograph it before it disappears forever, another victim of time's wrecking ball.

Click the photo for a closer look. Beauty is boring.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Much Ado about NOTHING

I can't make up my mind. Or I can. Or maybe not.

At work, we use logical punctuation. What is that, you may well ask. That is when you put the comma or period outside of the quotation marks, instead of inside them. The latter is the traditional American method, and like many American things, it's utterly illogical. (This is a country that still hasn't adopted the metric system and still expects people to pay for their health care.) Except when you're quoting something that actually contains the punctuation within the quote, there's no reason to put the comma or period inside.

Now you might be thinking of a word like "pedantic", he wrote. That's logical (the punctuation, I mean).

In most professionally edited American publications, you would see that sentence punctuated like so:

Now you might be thinking of a word like "pedantic," he wrote.

We Americans are gradually adopting the logical style, especially on the web, and it's only a matter of time, I think, before we're conquered by the British.

That's because the "logical" way to punctuate is also the standard British way, and as far as I'm concerned, the Brits are right. They invented the language, after all. The problem is that I was raised with American punctuation, and I find it hard to give it up, especially here. You may have noticed that sometimes I'm logical, and sometimes I'm not. So sue me, Mr. Spock.

I guess you could say the style here is ambiguous punctuation.

There's a sweet little article about all this, which includes Conan O'Brien's opinion on the subject, here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Win, Lose, or Draw


Yeah, I like to draw, when I can find the time. I often can't think of anything to sketch though, so sometimes I just choose any old mundane thing, like this nerdy shirt of mine. I immortalized this garment a few years ago; to date, it's received 217 views on I don't know where the actual shirt is now, but it lives on as a work of art. Or at least a doodle.

Click on it for a closer view. Deep down, you want to.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Search Party

Here are a few recent search queries that brought seekers to this temple of scribomania. This week, my visitors have been searching for bathroom fixtures, body modifications, joke novelties (?), and tawdry plot lines. You're a classy bunch!

surrealism toilet seat fur

All I want for Xmas is a mink-lined toilet seat. That'll show 'em!

rococo style lady faces

What kind of face would a rococo lady have? Heavy pancake make-up, fake beauty marks, rouge, lipstick.... That Dangerous Liaisons look. Ro-cuckoo.

victorian tattoo

I hate tattoos, but if I was going to get one, I think I would have this Victorian gentleman tattooed on my shoulder blade:

falling man

strange bikes

Yes. Strange Bikes.... Thank you! You have just named my dream-pop conceptual chillwave band.

cheesy plot lines generator

Who needs a generator? Here you go:

A man suffering from impotency (Nick Cassavetes) enters into a deadly affair while attempting to commit his wife to a mental institution. Hiding her own history, the mysterious Brenda (Deborah Shelton) can't say no. Edward Albert confuses as a palmist and soothsayer.

chewing gum works like laxative

Are you seriously proposing this and searching to see if it has already been patented -- or are you also searching for a hand buzzer, a squirting lapel flower, a rubber chicken, and a whoopee cushion?

stop tergiversating

I will if you will, unless I change my mind. Minds are quite changeable, you know.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Word of the Day: Pooterish

Pooterish (adj)

Pompous, self-important, bourgeois.

"Over the next ten years Ferndown grew rapidly, filling with bungalows and villas christened with Pooterish names like The Bungalow, The Retreat, The Gables, Tanglewood, The Firs, Pine Grange, Forest Glen and Heathery Edge."
--Diane Atkinson, Elsie and Mairi Go to War

"The vegetative eugenics practiced in mild-mannered cul-de-sacs, the extreme prejudice of poisoning some blameless green thing while feeding another, are symptoms of a Pooterish yearning for a Fascist order. Gardens are model train sets...."
--A.A. Gill, The Angry Island

"Pooterish" comes from Charles Pooter, the hero of a 19th-century novel called Diary of a Nobody.

(Yes, I'm thinking of adding that to my list of potential new titles for this blog.)

Pooterish things I did last weekend: pulled weeds (which apparently means I'm yearning for a Fascist order), ate chicken pot pie at a local diner (peasant food!), met with a sales rep from Sears about replacing our ancient AC system (how bourgeois!), got talked into watching a DVD of The Chappelle Show (poor taste!), did laundry (drudgery!), interacted with an ATM (how conventional!), and blogged (self-important! pompous!). You might think me incurably conventional, but I do have a wheelchair full of manikin parts in my living room.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Random Sequence

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

Snafu Flamenco

Bartholomew Billingsworth, an actor of some repute, was sitting in his dressing room, dressed in what he considered the limiest waistcoat and the droopiest periwig ever constructed for an 18th century period drama -- or comedy/fantasy. He still wasn't quite sure what this play was. "Why, or why, did I accept this part?" he thought. The "postmodern" script (written in wobbly blank verse -- a sort of iambic whoosh) was terrible, and the nearly bankrupt theater had insisted that he accept a percentage of the proceeds, rather than a salary, for however long this little theatrical event lasted. Which wouldn't be long, he suspected. But he had rent to pay and no TV assignments had come along recently.

The character he was playing was absurd: a lower-court judge with ESP, an extrasensory ancillary to the justice system who had to keep his abilities a secret for fear of being accused of witchcraft. He was required to alternately express ditsy uncertainty in his "suspicions" about the criminals on trial and freakish sapience about the real perpetrators of the crimes to the lawyers involved. Transmissible prognostication, combined with eccentric flightiness, was hard to pull off. It was a difficult dance that was likely to result in a snafu flamenco, he feared.

Opening night was at hand. The stage manager informed him that Caleb Crotchley, the misanthropic theatre critic for the Herald, was in the front row. Yikes, he thought. But at least Crotchley owed him one -- or more than one. He'd ghost-written several columns on deadline for Crotchley when the critic was too intoxicated or hung-over to type. No matter how bad the play was, his performance would probably get praised or at least a pass.

As he stepped out onto the stage and began to recite his first lines, he couldn't help looking at Crotchley, who smiled crookedly, looking utterly inebriated. With any luck, Bartholomew realized, he'd be writing the review himself that evening. 

[not to be continued]

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The T&T List

Phase Separator Elements
Daniel Deronda
Hakalau Forest
Sir Rocco Forte
Highclere Castle
Dark Horse
Basel III
Jiffy Lube
Valérie Trierweiler
Patthar Ke Sanam
Gradient pattern analysis
Ninja 1000R

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Tired. I'm tired of walking up and down escalators that don't work. An escalator can't, in a sense, break -- it instantly turns into a still-usable staircase when it stops running -- but that shouldn't be an excuse for what seems to be close to 50-percent downtime. I'd rather climb an actual set of stairs than a frozen escalator. The variable spacing between the steps makes my legs and feet feel weird. It's as if, with a single step, I'm suddenly several inches taller or shorter. I like to stay the same size, or at least feel that way.

Impressed. My hat is off to the novelist V.C. Andrews, who died in 1986 but has continued to write eight more novels after her death. Her genre: Gothic horror, appropriately enough. Apparently, she had some help with these posthumous thrillers, but still. One has to be quite well-appreciated by one's readers to earn such an extended career. I can't think of another field in which it would be possible (there are no posthumous copy editors, alas), although I did see a very lively looking Marilyn Monroe in a recent perfume commercial.

Amused. One of the softball teams at work is called The Hit Factory. That's almost clever enough to make me want to play. They would have to call it something else, though, like maybe the Unlucky Strikes.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Word of the Day: solivagant

solivagant (n or adj)

Wandering alone.

"Dick walks out to view the created cosmos, and plays the solivagant for about ten years — an undaunted ugly duckling of a fellow!"
--G.F. Monkshood, Rudyard Kipling: An Attempt at Appreciation

This is often how I roll, literally and figuratively. Today I was walking across Manhattan, from my dentist's (alright, endodontist's) office on Madison Avenue to the PATH station on the West Side -- or at least I thought I was. As usual, I was more in my head than on the street, and somehow I ended up on the decidedly eastern Third Avenue. I tend to overdose on reverie, perhaps more so than ever when half my face is numb after a root canal. Maybe a companion would have steered me in the other direction. Other than family members, I don't usually have companions, though. J'ai une âme solitaire.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Photo of the Week

love shack for sale

We've finally decided to sell our dream house -- or the chateau, as we call it. This rustic classic would be perfect for DIYers and back-to-nature aficionados. Features include spectacular woodland views, "eclectic" antique furnishings, "quaint" hand-pumped plumbing, a "romantic" wood-burning stove, and electricity! A loft-like open layout can be configured as you wish with convenient fiber-board dividers. Beautiful "natural" landscaping, including wildflowers. Let this be your "Love Shack"! The tin roof has not yet rusted.

Must see! Click the pic for a close-up view of this deluxe, one-of-kind country get-away manor.

Actually, I just made that up. This is a property I couldn't resist photographing during my recent sojourn in upstate New York. It's conveniently located across the highway from the filing station where we gassed up on our way back to New Jersey. It may not look like much to you and me, but this world is full of people who'd love to have even such a humble roof over their head.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Random Acts of Poetry

Sunday Morning

The witch tree's limber fingers
sheltered the fluttering birds

as the sky howled;
I sat beneath a table of stone.

The devouring maw
of wilderness desired me:

I saw a cloud disguised
as a lion's head,

crawling vines encircled
my wrists and ankles,

and the sun seared
till I drowned in moonlight.

I woke up nerve numb,
crushed by sleep.

All morning
my mind was an empty plate.