Thursday, January 31, 2013

Street Scene, 3:10 P.M.

The dark-haired man with the welding arc is making a black grille. His face is inscrutable behind dark goggles. Yellow sparks shoot across the sidewalk, like angry fireflies, as salsa music blasts from a radio near his feet. Behind him, the shop doors stand open. Inside is a miscellany of iron railings, mirrors with metallic frames, architectural details and convoluted gates and gratings. By the door, a rusty metal "tin" man, made of discarded metal parts, stands guard, like an Oz refugee, like a seven-foot, junkyard god.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Word of the Day: distichous

What's "the word I'm thinking of"? Today, it's....

distichous [dis-ti-kuss] (adjective)

Divided into two parts or two rows

"His eyes? Nor pen nor camera can present them. Imagine a black pearl imprisoning a diamond; imagine a dewdrop trembling on polished jet; add to these beauties life, and you will have the dormouse eye. His tail? Distichous, say the books. Feathers are mostly distichous, hair-partings are distichous, the moustache is distichous. So is the dormouse tail; but the hairs along it do more than merely part. They curl, upwards from the root, downwards to the point, and form a plume."
--Douglas English, Wee Tim'rous Beasties (1903)

Do you remember what the dormouse said? (It wasn't "feed your head.") In Alice in Wonderland, he said, among a few other things, "You might just as well say that 'I breathe when I sleep' is the same thing as 'I sleep when I breathe'!" He also told a story about three sisters who lived at the bottom of a treacle well and were learning to draw anything that began with the letter M. This confused Alice, of course, who took everything literally, with comic effect. It's still one of my favorite books. Alice's story is distichous, of course, being divided into two parts: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.



Lines from Shakespeare Mistaken for 1990s Hip Hop Lyrics

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Much Ado about NOTHING (Fluff)

It was my own personal energy crisis. I was having extreme difficulty charging my iPhone. The "white male" plug would not fit straight into the phone's, uh, lady part. I thought some of the pins in there had become bent, perhaps, or I wasn't "doing it right". I was afraid I would have to take the thing for repair to the dreaded Verizon store -- always an ordeal almost on the level of visiting the Kafkaesque Department of Motor Vehicles.

Then I examined the phone's little docking bay under bright sunlight and discovered there was a lot of...fluff in there. You know, lint. I normally keep the phone in my pocket, and apparently I've been shoving it in right side up, instead of upside down -- and topsy turvy is, if you want to keep it clean down there, actually the right way. (Confusing, I know.) That exposed the socket to the bottom of my pocket -- where lint colonies thrive and multiply. So I took a safety pin and excavated all the flocculent detritus from the phone's Lady Jane. And then that badboy charger fit right in. Oh joy and rapture! So if you're having trouble charging it up, you may need to do some probing. Be gentle!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Quote of the Day

"Sometimes a single recollected moment lights up the sky of memory and brings it all back. The mind's eye fills with broken sunlight and soiled rain. Pieces of time assemble, counting off, strung along the pulse, in breaths in heartbeats. It's all burned in; the dream's inseparable from the dreamer."
--Robert Stone, From the "Introduction" to Bruce Weigl's Song of Napalm


Sunday, January 27, 2013

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.

tittynope small quantity

Yes, archaic word fans, a "tittynope" is a small quantity. It does not refer to a woman's bust (or lack of it). But can anyone who sees this word today resist thinking that it does?

mandala in the sky

Carl Jung wrote a book entitled Flying Saucers, which put forward the idea that UFOs are projections of the human collective unconscious -- mandalas (look it up!) in the sky. Interestingly, he did not deny that these "mandalas" also had physical existence.

excuse me clip art

Oh, don't apologize. We all need a little clip art now and then.

hornet topiary

An interesting pairing of words. Trimming a shrub in the shape of a hornet, or maybe a hornet's nest? Or is your shrubbery infested by hornets?

burning hell

I'm not sure why searching on this phrase would lead you here. I don't preach hellfire. Hell, I believe, is a state of mind resulting from mental resistance to the fact that we live in a....

catawampus universe

"Catawampus": awry, askew. All f'd up. SNAFU. That's our universe, all right, but it's possible to transcend. (I've always thought "catawampus" sounded like a weird sort of animal -- something like a combination of a lion and an octopus.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Word of the Day: frottage

What's "the word I'm thinking of"? Today, it's....

frottage (noun) [fraw-tahzh]

1. A visual-arts technique of obtaining an image by rubbing chalk, charcoal, graphite, etc., over a piece of paper covering a flat but 3D surface, such as a leaf
2. Sexual stimulation and satisfaction by rubbing against something, such as another human

"One day he was discovered, in a store, in the act of frottage on a lady. He was very repentant, and asked to be severely punished for his irresistible impulse.... he stated that at the sight of a noticeable posteriora of a lady, he was irresistibly impelled to practice frottage, and that he became confused and knew not what he did. Sent to an asylum."
--Richard Krafft-Ebing, Charles Gilbert Chaddock, Psychopathia Sexualis (1894)

"Posteriora"? Anyway, when I was a kid, I would occasionally create frottage by rubbing coins, leaves, etc., with paper and a pencil. It's hard to imagine, now, having the free, unstructured time to do something like that--just because I felt like it, not because I had to or someone told me to.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Photo of the Week: Electric Eyes

electric eyes

The optician down the street is remodeling his office and selling off some of his old eye charts, hand mirrors, and ugly Ray-Bans. This string of lights, which once surrounded his frames display, he was actually giving away. "It makes everybody nervous," the receptionist told me. "It's like you're being stared at all day." Of course I said "Let me take those off your hands." I'm setting up a yoga meditation chapel in my basement, and these will be just the thing to remind me, while I'm doing a headstand or something, of the third eye -- the symbol of spiritual sight, inner vision, higher knowledge, and occult perspicacity.

Actually, I just made that up. These are some Halloween decorations my wyfe bought at Party City. (Click the pic to go eyeball to eyeball.) You can see how they once looked on our front porch here. Scary, huh?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Link Mania

This site must be popular. I blogged about it exactly 10 years ago today and it's still there.

Hollyweird's Small World

No doubt you've heard of "six degrees of separation," the notion that any person in the world can be linked to any other through a chain of--at most--six acquaintances. Hollywood is a much smaller domain, of course. According to The Oracle of Bacon, almost any actor who has appeared in a feature film can be linked to any other via only two or three connections--one of which is Kevin Bacon. Don't believe me? Go to the site and type in the name of the most obscure film actor you can think of.



The Beatles Complete... on ukulele

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Warm. Rode home on the train tonight with an acquaintance who was returning from today's Presidential Inauguration. He gushed about how inspiring it was, and I was jealous -- for about a minute. Then I thought about standing outdoors in a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd -- in 30-degree (-1 C) weather -- for five hours. There's always YouTube.

Shell-shocked. I live in a semi-detached townhouse, and the house next door, the one I'm attached to, is being renovated. It sounds like I'm sharing a wall with a bowling alley or a bumper-car ride. The workmen have also stationed an attractive Porta Potty out front.

Puzzled. Some people on LinkedIn -- ones I don't work with -- are "endorsing" me for skills I've never used for them (something anyone can do with just a click on LinkedIn these days). Gosh, thanks, but I'm wondering who they've been talking to about me.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Word of the Day: jargogle

What's "the word I'm thinking of"? Today, it's...

jargogle (verb)

To confuse or mix up

"Whether all you say have any thing more in it than this, I appeal to my readers: and should willingly do it to you, did not I fear, that the jumbling of those good and plausible words in your head 'of sufficient evidence, consider as one ought,' &c. might a little jargogle your thoughts...."
--John Locke, Letters Concerning Toleration (1689)

Things that jargogle me:

~~~I'm looking for something, and my wife tells me it's "in the closet." We have eight closets in our house. "Which closet?" I ask. "The Closet!" she yells.
~~~Kids playing in the street when there are two huge parks a couple of blocks away in either direction
~~~A relative who has changed her first name to something completely different--but not legally; trying to remember and use it
~~~High fructose corn syrup
~~~Weekend train schedules
~~~vesting (financial, not sartorial)
~~~PPOs vs. HMOs
~~~Variations on your basic zebra: zebroids (something that resembles a zebra), zorses (zebras crossed with horses), zebrules (zebras crossed with mules), zonies (zebra ponies), zonkies (zebra plus donkey), donkras (donkey plus zebra) and zebra hinnies (same as a donkra)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mental Note

I scraped by to break myself recently -- had to live in purgatory under an old stone wall in Devonshire. He who assays the hour of such entrance is a lucky cat, though gray and with a relatively besmirched family observing his table manners at a small lunch. This is a scenario of little consequence in a walled outpost. Here, each boy from the town's whistle-stop recites verbs in the morning, directed by a small concatenation of squirrels. And each morning, that circle of fur requests that llamas join them, to come live with them and join their league, distancing and separating everything from its element. That straight-line, forsaken boy of the Brown's with the worn, upturned collar sees this clearly, but is not taken seriously.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Read any good books lately?

As part of my job, I read book description blurbs. Below are a couple of my recent favorites. (Guaranteed 100-percent genuine -- not embellished or made up.)

"Warning! This 6,800 word story depicts the graphic sexual acts of a man being bred and impregnated by the tentacle goddess of his people and is intended for mature audiences only."

"When scientists with warped imaginations accidentally unleash an experimental bioweapon that transforms Britain's animals into sneezing, bloodthirsty zombies with a penchant for pre-dinner sex with their victims, three misfits become the unlikely hope for salvation." Title: "Apocalypse Cow".

And here's a book title that I couldn't have made up if I tried:

"He Died with a Falafel in His Hand". What a way to go....

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The T&T List


graph search
Mallory Hagan
Jusepe de Ribera
"Where Are We Now?"
The Equation of Time
BrookeBrooke Greenberg
Meerkats 3D
Ultra-Low NOx burners

Monday, January 14, 2013

Word of the Day: witticaster

What's "the word I'm thinking of"? Today, it's....

witticaster (noun)

Someone who thinks they're funny--but they're not

"Olgar's speech is too rotten even for one who 'hath tippled somewhat already.' A post-prandial witticaster of our own day could not be nastier at the orgies of a party of bankers."
--Edwin Sauter, The Faithless Favorite (1905)

Q: Why was the math book sad?
A: Because it had a lot of problems.

I love puns, and to me, they are very funny. They're also useful when you have to generate eye-catching headlines or little editorial tag lines quickly. But they are "the lowest form of humor" we’re told (but poetry is much verse). Tell that to Shakespeare, who was full of puns, e.g., the cobbler who says he is a mender of men's soles in Julius Caesar.

What is the highest form of humor, anyway? Surely slapstick is the lowest form, not puns. You know, people slipping on banana peels.... Hmm, bananas. "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a...." No, I won't be a witticaster.


Meanwhile, he's baaack. He's dun being guvanur of Cahleefornyah. Check out an article written by a work colleague and copyedited by me, all about Ahhnold: The Return of the King.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 39a small

Agree? More clip-art philosophy by me (and Alexandre Dumas). You can catch the BIG fish here. And more Philosofish here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Head Rattle

So glad I obtained a flu shot a couple of weeks ago, now that so many places are running out of the vaccine. I got it at my local Rite Aid at no cost,just by flashing my healthcare-insurance card and filling out a dumb form. It's that wonderful time of year when you can get stuck with a needle and shot up with dead viruses for free. And feel grateful for it.

I'm reading The Count of Monte Cristo, mainly because my wyfe is a big fan of a nighttime TV soap opera that is a contemporary retelling of it. Now I can say, "That was in the book!" It's from an era when even sailors and convicts spoke in flowery 19th-century cadences. Apparently, everybody took elocution lessons back then.

Picked up some flotsam on the street tonight, a couple of blocks from my home: a garden ornament in the shape of a Grecian woman carrying a vase. It's made of plaster-covered concrete, or something, and weighed a TON. Someone had put it out with their trash, though it's in great shape. I just barely staggered home with it and couldn't get it much past the front door. This weekend, I'll display it in the back yard -- and probably skip a workout.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Messy desk, messy mind? No.

Ten years ago today (give or take a day or two), I posted this:

"If you're a 'knowledge worker' feeling guilty about all the clutter on your desk, you can stop now. Psychologists say the 'mess' actually constitutes a useful 'mental map' of what's going on in that busy little head of yours. At least that's what this article claims:

In praise of clutter"

The article is still online and still interesting.

My cubicle at work isn't overly cluttered, but it does contain a few idiosyncratic items (besides my laptop and big-screen monitor):

  • A wind up robot toy
  • An old-fashioned green-glass insulator from a telephone pole, used as a paperweight
  • A tiny Lucite house with an attached roach clip that holds up a spiky seed pod
  • A stack of cards with quirky statements on them (such as "Anonymous: Nobody knows my name" and "Cake Walk") that an artist gave me
  • Three very small framed artworks: an abstract; a picture of dark clouds (or possibly flying saucers?) hovering over a landscape; a stylized picture of a male figure being inundated with electronic zig-zags
  • A mousepad that looks like a Persian carpet, which I inherited from a former employee
  • A vintage 1913 postcard that says "Greetings from Newark"

So that's my mental map... just so you don't get lost.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

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.

vocabulary for panic

"I don't want to say I panicked. I'd rather say I was feeling some extreme disquietude."

essay on loser

Oh, Google, you would send someone searching for this to me, wouldn't you?

clip art borders toilet

You have to wonder what would possess someone to search on this phrase. What are you up to? Selling commodes? Encouraging employees to wash their hands?

the icarus wing design

My advice: don't seek a wing design associated with the name Icarus.

cheesy movie synopsis

"Hiding a profligate past, Peter (Harry Hamlin) plays footsie with swimsuit models despite the risk. Hiding her own history, the mysterious Brenda (Delia Sheppard) helps the project as only she can. Richard Roundtree creates the catch phrase, 'Do I smell Pepperoni?'" More here.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Word of the Day: hypnopompic

What's "the word I'm thinking of"? Today it's....

hypnopompic (adjective)

Associated with the period between sleep and wakefulness

"....knowledge of Mrs. Finch's balloon ascent had been acquired supernormally by Mrs. Thompson… and had lain dormant in her subconsciousness until awakened by a natural association of ideas set in motion on her reading about the accident to the airship, and not even then emerging into her full consciousness, but emerging only in a hypnopompic dream."
--J. G. Piddington, "Phenomena in Mrs. Thompson's Trance," Proceedings of the Society of Psychical Research (1904)

This word brings to mind the hypnopompic period I experience most mornings between tumbling out of bed and gulping down my first cup of coffee. While I'm staggering around like Boris Karloff in Frankenstein, I'm often brooding over some bizarre or disturbing event--until I realize that "oh...that was just a dream."

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Much Ado about NOTHING

Parking is such a pleasure in downtown Jersey City -- not. My wyfe wedged our car into a tiny on-street parking space this afternoon, using her usual method of "park by feel" -- that is, by inching into it with many revolutions of the steering wheel and tapping the bumpers of the cars in front and behind. She ended up with one wheel on the curb and about a micrometer of space, if that, between our car and the others.

When she returned to the car, she found two irate citizens taking pictures and about to call the police. "I want to see how you're going to get out of that parking space without touching my car!" one of them barked. Neither of them would agree to move their own cars even a few inches to make that possible (and there was plenty of room for them to do so). One of them went inside her house, ostensibly to call the cops, although that seemed like an idle threat -- the police have better things to do in Jersey City.

Eventually, my wife just exited her parking space the same way she got into it -- by inching and, yes, tapping bumpers. (That's why they call them bumpers, word mavens.) She left one of the irate citizens literally hopping mad and inspecting his back bumper for smudges.

We've yet to hear from the police.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Brain Dump

Smoke this: Swim like a fish out of water falls down and out of your mind your own business trip over your own feet first. Easy as pie in the face of the facts of the matter with you, anyway? Each hearing file discards a sacked associate lecture with a frown during monthly integrity convictions. Take a rain check your coat at the door of opportunity slips away the mice will play fast and loose ends. Full steam ahead of the game plan of attack of the 50-foot woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle repair shop till you drop dead in the water under the bridge when we come to it rains, it pours. Cheer up, it's not the end of the world through rose-colored glasses of wine punch your way out of a wet paper bag it is or isn't because if today was a fish, I'd throw it back in the river. Clean as a whistle in the dark side of the moon is made of green cheese and crackers and dip recipe for disaster recovery plan of action figure it out of your mind over matter of fact or fiction. Capeesh?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Quote of the Day

Ten years ago today, I posted this. It seems as relevant as ever.

"Let me be very candidly specific. ...You need to get a good psychologist and a good holy man or woman, a priest or rabbi or minister--or how about all three--and figure out why you're turning everything in your life into politics. Because I have to tell you what I know: Politics is the biggest, easiest way in all of America to avoid looking at yourself, and who you are, and what fence needs fixing on your own homestead."
--Peggy Noonan (not someone I'd ordinarily quote; I wonder if she takes her own advice)



Why don't we do it in the road?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Photo of the Week


Well, we're at the end of the holiday season, and it's time to take down these Xmas lights from our front portico -- returning it to the dull, ordinary front porch we're used to during the rest of the year.

Actually, I just made that up. This isn't my house, although it's a short walk from where I live in glamorous Jersey City. My own manse is more of a "New England salt box" style, to put it charitably. Well it's a box anyway. And we didn't put up any Xmas lights this year, for a change, being too busy with various complications involving our extended and not-so-extended families. Here's to a better 2013.

(Click the pic for a close up view. You won't be sorry.)