Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Entropy For The Entire Family

Or ... the late night ruminations of stray cats prepping for the holidays

Entropy, for those of us who opted to do drugs and carouse with crazed, exquisitely uninhibited females rather than finish our high school homework assignment on thermodynamics,  is an unassailable physical law regarding the inevitable disintegration of functioning systems in time.

All systems, in other words, from the biggest (the universe) to the smallest (the quantum fluctuations that enable the cells of our bodies to maintain the integrity required for life) are driving on a one-way street towards ultimate breakdown.   Order  t>  Disorder.   No U-turns allowed.  No refunds.  No trying to go retrograde when you think nobody's looking.

The ultimate end zone of entropy is considered achieving a state of complete equilibrium, no further heat exchange possible (much like a Japanese house in winter), the potential for generating any further useful information nil (think of the current U.S. government).

Fortunately, even entropy entertains a sense of irony  (the official term is entropic irony).

We exist (in varying degrees and to the extent we are willing to take the concept of existence at all seriously) because of entropy. Within the current state of the universe's rush towards icy oblivion are the optimal conditions to support the fragile, living ecosystem of planet Earth. We are, in a sense, tapping into chaos, harnessing the ongoing disintegration to create a tiny, albeit temporary pocket of order.  We are, in other words ...

Living On Entropy

The human mind, presumed still functional for at least a small percentage of the global population, flies directly in the face of entropy. Even the dumbest, most reactionary thoughts are anti-entropic in nature (Tea Party members take heart). Not to mention that ...

Entropy Can Be Fun

Consider insanity, by one definition essentially an amplification of  entropy within the brain.
And yet by all accounts the insane majority is having much more fun than the sane minority. The sane are often too terrified of all the insanity raging around them to even leave the house.
Therapists, those at least willing to make house calls, advise their sane patients to get over themselves, hop aboard the crazy entropy train and start enjoying life while it lasts.
Needless to say, there are numerous examples of ...

 Entropy Being Employed To Make Life More Interesting & Zany

*Many of China's cites are currently encased in an unrelenting, lethal smog. Not to worry. The spin doctors at the Ministry of Entropic Disinformation have published a list of reasons why the ongoing smog is actually good for the Chinese public. Things like ...

The deadly smog promotes solidarity
It reminds the people that everyone is equal
It is a happy sign of China's growing industrial might
It makes people funnier (remove masks to laugh only at your own risk)

*In the edgy Disneyland satire state known as North Korea, exalted chubby-boy leader Kim Jung Un has began purging senior Party functionaries, including members of his own family. The official explanation is that these "depraved" individuals have not been clapping fast enough at party events (the accepted minimum rate is 100 distinct claps per 60 seconds).

Kim's elderly uncle, whose military style hat is so large that satellite surveillance photos often mistake it for a nuclear reactor under construction, offered the excuse that the inevitable entropy of his aging body has rendered him incapable of maintaining that level of clapping. This was dismissed as yet another example of insidious "Capitalist Propaganda" and the old geezer was reportedly shot.

*An overweight newlywed in Colorado pushes her equally overweight husband off a cliff, claims ...

"Entropy Made Me Do It!"

*A fourth grader in Georgia sets his teacher on fire while she's writing the formula for the Second Law of Thermodynamics on the blackboard, claims a video game made him do it. Besides, science is boring.

A congressional sub-committee has already launched an investigation, based on the supposition that violent video games promote entropy in young children. Tea Party member asserts that teaching science breeds sociopaths.  "Video games don't maim and kill people, physics does!"

Meanwhile, the cats are howling outside the window, warming up to sing the songs of the ...

 Winter Solstice

Happy Holidays To All!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Ask The Dog / A Brief, Occasionally Sordid Q & A With The Mentally Challenged

Q: When is a bit not a byte?

Ans. When it's a nibble.

Not to be confused with a bite to eat.
As in:  Care for a bite?
           Maybe just a bit, you know, something to nibble.

Q: The word nibble is curiously similar to the word nipple. Is there any verifiable linguistic and/or semantic link between the two?

Ans: Aside from the fact that throughout all of recorded human time the nipple has been an irresistible object of those bent on nibbling, absolutely none.   

Q:  Why do I always feel depressed this time of year?

Ans. 1:  Hey, who doesn't?

Ans. 2:  Basically, it's all in your head. Chemistry, as they say, rules the roost.

A renowned scientist is a wheelchair once said:  'Our entire existence is electrochemically determined from birth, but as doing the math corresponding to the vastly complex neuronal interactions in the brain is beyond even my big brain, the illusion of free will is maintained.'
Of course, he was more or less compelled to say this. 

Ans. 3:  SAD.

Hardly credible, you say. By definition, a depressive is generally incapable of any emotional response, sad or happy, valid or otherwise.

Not sad, you nincompoop,  S.A.D., as in Seasonally Affected Disorder, often manifest as an irrational fear of winter.

So you're suggesting I'm not only depressed, but also some sort of fearful phobic?

Slightly redundant, but yes.  You're a fear-mongering, afraid-of-his-own-shadow, scaredy-cat, phobic depressive. You're also beginning to annoy me.

Ans. 4: Christmas music; its month-long, non-stop, all-pervasive proliferation.
Seriously, how many times can you be subjected to Bing Crosby singing White Christmas before the only thing you want to do for the holidays is strangle Santa Claus?

Q: My girlfriend and I have been going through a rough patch. What can I get her for Christmas to let her know I still care?

(Okay, talk about making the top ten list of cliches you never want to hear again as long as you live. The Rough Patch. Frequently employed in TV cop shows, after a body turns up, cops naturally suspect the boyfriend / girlfriend / spouse, always begin their interrogation by saying, "Sorry to ask, but how was your relationship with the deceased?"  The invariable response:  "I don't deny we've been going through a bit of a rough patch, but things were definitely getting better.")
 Unless you are referring to a minor skin irritation, Please stop using this expression.

Ans:  Give her a free pass to sleep with other guys. Your 'rough patch' is to her most likely a brain-numbing, energy-sucking, beyond all hope, existential dead end. She's looking to replace you, and this will enable her to do a bit of comparison shopping without having to be constrained by conventional feelings of guilt. The upside is that even as you become little more than a vague memory as a lover, she will continue to refer to you as a friend.

Stay tuned for  Ask The Dog / Part 2


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mayhem at the Mall / with Muzak

Discerning observers of American culture, or more accurately the bizarre mutation American culture is in the process of degenerating into, cannot but be aware of the recent surge in what the media calls "yet another shooting incident at the mall".  One a week, always at a different mall, seems to be the norm, and taking into account that there are like a billion malls in the U.S., this trend is likely to continue for quite some time - assuming the rules continue to apply, one attack per week, no mall can be hit more than once,  approximately 20, 000 000 years.

Meanwhile, who even knew there were rules about this? Is there perhaps an online handbook?
Procedures and Restrictions for Random Gun Violence at American Malls

At first glance it seems logical:  heavily armed psychopath with vague grudge and major Mommy/Daddy issues seeks large audience in confined space upon which to inflict his special brand of insanity. Except it's no longer particularly special. You might think that the would-be maniac murderer with even a smidgen of intelligence could figure out that the whole mall thing is already passe, that he is merely enabling at this point the perpetuation of a fairly blatant cliche.  Ho-hum.  Not much glamour in that.

Or is there perhaps more going on here....

Are Malls Natural Magnets For Monsters?

Malls burst onto the American landscape in the early 60's, at a time when, counterculture hijinks notwithstanding, Big Business was working out the details of what has been referred to as the 'commodification'  of the American psyche; basically turning all aspects of life into a product and reducing one's existential choices to the bare minimum: consume or be consumed.

"The real world - assuming such a thing ever existed - was subtly manipulated in a simulation of the real, in which all priorities were preordained, one's presumed needs could be readily met and the natural inclination to question was subsumed in a never-ending deluge of eye-catching gadgetry."

Of course, back in the good old days of blissful consumerism, the only monsters in malls were zombies, and then mostly in the movies. The modern descendants of these undead mall trawlers tend to be living, large and overweight, plodding through malls the size of small cities, with brain-cell-destroying music humming in their heads, eyes fixed on the next big, juicy sale. Instead of feeding on each other, they feast on fast food while buying all the useless (though apparently essential) junk they can carry.

Let's face it, even without lurking lunatic killers, malls are scary places.

And yet, despite the ongoing spate of 'shooting incidents' people continue flocking to the malls.

This can perhaps be explained as a function of the rapidly shrinking attention span of the general public, combined with a chronic deterioration of short and long-term memory.
  A young woman questioned outside a mall immediately after 'yet another incident' told her interviewer,    "Like I could never imagine nothing like this ever happening here."

(in case you're wondering, the interviewer did not point out the obvious no-no of the double negative)

Or it might be that people, sensing the slow-motion demise of their consumptive souls, actively seek out these danger sites, willing to risk death in a effort to feel ... something ... anything, really.

 And how long before the malls pick up on this trend, sniff out a new source of potential profit?

Today Only!
Between 10 A.M. and 12 Noon, Psycho Shooter on premises
Come early for a good hiding place
Survivors of the impending carnage entitled to a 5% discount on all subsequent purchases

Fortunately (or not) for the rest of us, the news media never tires of these events, managing each time to achieve unprecedented levels of near-hysterical fervor in their reporting. CNN apparently has a team of roving correspondents capable, in theory at least, of getting to any major mall within five minutes after the shooting starts.
At which point the interviewing begins.

CNN:  So you heard the shots.
Slightly Addled Eyewitness:  Uh, yeah, I guess.
CNN: What did you think?
S.A.E:  Like I thought it was you know like a joke. Like maybe kids playing with guns.

CNN: Is there a large law enforcement presence?
S.A.E. 2:  A what?
CNN:  How many police do you see?
S.A.E. 2:  Oh yeah, there's like a million cops. And a helicopter too, up in the air, like flying around. 

So what may be glean from all this?

1) People who frequent malls are generally not very bright.

2) More importantly, it turns out that the Mega-malls of the modern era are the near perfect venues for Americans to indulge in their two favorite pastimes:   Shopping & Shooting. 

Good morning, shoppers
Incidents of psycho-shooters terrorizing malls have reached near-epidemic proportions
Should you have to suffer the anxiety of wondering if you'll be the next random victim?
Why not purchase a handgun, shotgun or semi-automatic rifle today at one of our mall gun shops?
The first one hundred rounds are free!
You owe it to yourself and your family.
Gain some peace of mind.  Shop armed!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Defeat Of The Wackadoodles

One good thing to presumably come out of the most recent US political dance with mindless absurdity is that the voting public will wake up to the utterly vapid (though no less dangerous) nature of the so-called Tea Party.

Def:  a group of  primarily white, mostly unattractive, evangelical-fueled, self-serving hypocrites, who employ magical (i.e. delusional) thinking to promote a standard (i.e. imbecilic) Christian fundamentalist political agenda.

Ex:  The Affordable Care Act must be repealed because Obama is a radical Muslim, Leninist, Satan-worshiping Socialist intent upon robbing us of all our God-given liberties. Just ask Sarah Palin. Or, if you find her intellectual prowess intimidating, Michelle Bachman.

And this is one of the more tepid claims from the lunatic, Born-Again fringe. 

Note: Sarah did take time out from her campaign to hunt and kill for "sport" everything in Alaska walking on anything more than two legs (because the Constitution says she can), showing up at a conservative rally to remind the faithful that Obamacare "Death Panels" are already busy sifting through potential candidates for early eradication.

"Yeah, but that will just be the poor, gays, Muslims and illegal immigrants, right?"
"One can always hope, but I wouldn't count on it."

But then hold on a minute ... the morons who voted these people into office remain morons - once a moron, always a moron - strenuously impervious to the hard facts, easily swayed by the manipulative bible-thumping fanatics. What are the chances they will be able to figure out the whole Tea Party sham?

Take Earl Shuck, recently laid off from his job at the toxic waste disposal plant, living in a trailer in western Kentucky with his wife and eleven kids, all of whom suffer from some sort of physical and/or mental illness, possibly the result of proximity to numerous toxic waste dump sites. Even if he could afford it, Earl wouldn't be able to find a health insurance plan accepting those with pre-existing conditions. Yet Earl continues to vehemently oppose the Affordable Care Act.

"What precisely is your issue with Obamacare, Earl?"
"It aims to steal away my freedom, plain and simple."
"Your freedom to do what, exactly?"
"My freedom to, uh, well, you know ..."
"You mean the freedom to be able to pray to Jesus each night with a fully loaded .9mm under your pillow?"
"Hey, some liberal homo-sexual could bust in here in the middle of the night hell-bent on engaging in immoral, ungodly acts . No way he's leaving alive."
"And the AK 47 standing next to the front door?"
"Something wild walks by outside, I got an obligation to blow its head off. The Bible says so, don't it?"

Have the walking dead secretly infiltrated the Tea Party?
It would sort of make sense, as zombies, by definition, have no need for health insurance.

Amazing what people who read the Bible can find lurking therein.
One Christian conservative talk show host recently claimed that Obamacare is clearly alluded to in the Book of Revelations, as one more ominous precursor to the End of Days.

Talk about delusional.

At least the Catholics confine their opposition to the issue of health insurance covering the cost of birth control. Because the single most important requirement of good Catholics is to procreate lots more good Catholics. I mean, imagine sex without having to feel nervous, guilty and depressed at the prospect of an unwanted pregnancy. It's crazy. Under those conditions a person could almost enjoy it, which would most likely constitute a sin, no doubt prompting a new round of nervous, guilty depression.

Ain't religion great?

 So anyway,  this Tea Party politician dies and goes to heaven. The angel manning the gate tells him he can't get in without health insurance.
He doesn't quite get it, being dead and all, but he says, "No problem. I've got a trunk load of cash, courtesy of my dim-witted constituency. I'll just buy some."
"No can do," the angel tells him. "You can't buy insurance with a pre-existing condition."
"What pre-existing condition?" the guy wants to know. "Aside from being deceased, I'm as healthy as a horse."
"You're human," the angel says. "If that's not a disease, what is?"
"So there's nothing I can do?"
"Sorry. If you had died a month ago, before the Heavenly Affordable Care Act had been repealed, you'd already be well on your way to eternal paradise."

* For a slightly more serious, somewhat less 'fictionalized' take on fundamentalist religion and politics, we recommend Amanda Marcotte, who regularly takes aim at the Christian Right on


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fall Ball

Back by popular demand - and thanks to both of you for asking -  a few thoughts on the "Great American Pastime."

No, not the pathological American obsession with accumulating weaponry - because, let's face it, the more guns we own, the freer we are. Hey, who needs health insurance when we've got an arsenal in the basement?
 I refer to the other G.A.P.  Major League Baseball! Defying time, possibly gravity, three and a half hour games, the threat of actually falling into a coma while watching, the great plays (which usually occur right after you've left the TV room to pee), the nearly supernatural consistency of umpire incompetence, the sheer annoying magic of it all.

It's October, the one month of the season that makes the previous six somehow bearable. That's right, I'm talking MLB Playoffs. Baseball pundits are quick to point out that anything can happen, which generally translates into the top teams mysteriously choking and some upstart Wildcard entry managing to sneak into the World Series.

(The Detroit Tigers, who should be the best team in baseball, but never quite are. Last year in the W.S. they were swept by the S.F. Giants, a team so far underwater in the standings this year that several of the players heads reportedly exploded from the pressure. How long these now headless team members will be on the D.L. is unknown)

 Forget the bookmaker odds, bet on the long shot, the dark horse, the team that defies the criteria of the upscale marketing demons.
Basically, it pays to root for guys who don't fit the standard profile. Not all that easy, since baseball, along with everything else, has been mostly homogenized, filtered down into a single blurry image of what the giant corporations running the planet have taught us not to only expect, but crave.

Case in point: Both  Miami Marlins' and Tampa Bay Rays' fans - all 237 of them, collectively, on average - apparently feel not the slightest bit of self-referential, irony-laced discomfort watching a game in stadiums named after brands of orange juice.

Still, there are glimmers of the iconoclastic. The Pittsburgh Pirates are back in the playoffs for the first time since your grandmother was in grade school. They're a wild, rough-around-the-edges bunch, who play really well, almost in spite of themselves, in a town in mostly rural western Pennsylvania, of all places.  They also have really cool uniforms.
All they have to do is get past the Cincinnati Reds in a one game punch out, which I'm predicting they will do. Today.

Of course, I'm also the guy who predicted that the entire Tea Party - along with Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian - would be abducted by aliens and transported to an intergalactic penal colony. 
 Just wishful thinking, I guess.

*Highlight of the post season so far:  The elimination of the Texas Rangers. Not sure why, but I have a visceral hatred for this team. It could be the two obsequious twits who announce their games, or the preponderance of all-white, overweight dumbbells in the stands, or possibly Nolan Ryan's fleshy scowl, or the fact that he drags George Bush along with him to the stadium, who sits there looking confused, wondering what time the Dallas Cowboys' game is supposed to start.
 Sayonara, Texas.

 Anyway, this is how I see it all playing out:

National League:
Pittsburgh beats Cincinnati, goes on to play St: Louis, beats them.
L.A. Dodgers beat Atlanta (a good though ultimately boring team)
Pittsburgh beats L.A. for National League Championship.
American League:
Cleveland beats Tampa Bay, goes on the play Boston, beats them.
Detroit beats Oakland.
Cleveland beats Detroit for American League Championship.

Cleveland / Pittsburgh play in World Series.

The odds against this particular outcome, by the way, are astronomically high.
A Detroit / L.A. or  Boston / St. Louis World Series are statistically much more likely.

But then as they say, in the Baseball Post Season anything can happen.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Fictional Dog Don't Hunt

A reader writes in the ask, Do all dog breeds bark and equal amount?

 First of all, it's a really dumb question. Secondly, do you perhaps mistake me for the Dog Whisperer?

Oh, what the hell?

In fact, several breeds of dog tend not to bark much at all; Chow chows, Akitas, Mastiffs, Bulldogs and Boston Terriers highlight this category. Retrievers (pardon my incredulous laughter) also have a reputation as non-barkers, unless, of course, they happen to be insane. The bark of an unhinged Retriever can shake loose the fillings in your teeth. Prolonged Retriever barking has been known to provoke acts of sheer desperation in humans, including nail biting, excessive drinking, cutting oneself with razor blades and, in extreme cases, actually leaving the house to go jogging.

(By coincidence, Chows, Bulldogs and Mastiffs are among those breeds considered the least intelligent. Unlike Border Collies, universally acknowledged as the smartest dog breed, which don't so much bark as speak several languages)

Not to be confused with the so-called barking breeds, who will literally bark at the drop of an imaginary hat. In this group Beagles, Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas and Toy Poodles are the most notorious offenders.

(In all fairness, dogs that are so small as to hardly qualify as actual dogs - the so-called barking rodent breeds - often bark defensively as a warning to their owners, who can neither see them nor particularly care if they step on them.)

Another question frequently asked by people who perhaps spend too much time around dogs:

Why Do Dogs Bark At Nothing?

Again, canine insanity may be a factor here. 

What dog owner has never inquired of his or her dog,  "What are you barking at?"

There is no record of any dog ever having answered this question.

Those savvy of canine physiology will be quick to point out that 'nothing' to a human is very likely 'something' to a dog. Lest we forget, dogs hear things we can't hear, smell things we can't smell (thankfully) and most likely know things we don't know.

Think of it this way: Your dog has to listen to you blabber on all day long, mostly about idiotic nonsense.  Barking about nothing is merely its way of emulating your apparent stupidity.

A related FAQ from dog owners:  Why is my dog smarter than me?

Possible responses:  You live in either Alabama or east Texas;  you spend more than 30 hours a week in a Walmart; your long term proximity to an excessive barking breed has had a deleterious effect on your already cell-depleted brain.  Basically, if you have to ask the question, there's very little chance you'll understand any of the possible forthcoming answers.

It's akin to the query:  Why is it that I continue to vote Republican when all Republican politicians are clearly self-serving morons?

Short answer:  It takes one to know one, although it's never too late to shift that fat rump of yours to the left.

Recently, according to a minimally reliable online news service, a man living in Indiana (recently relocated from east Texas) called 911 to report that his dog, a strong willed Shepard, had stolen his car and driven it to a nearby 7-11.
The police operator politely expressed her skepticism, then reminded the caller that tying up police lines with fatuous emergencies is a criminal offense.

The man replied:  "Hey, did you just call me fat? Look lady, this is as much of a crazy mystery to me as it is to you. The 7-11 in question doesn't even sell dog food."
Another version of this story is that the man called a 7-11 to report a dog repeatedly calling 911.

The 7-11 store manager told him:  "Well, if the dog can operate a cash register, doesn't mind wearing a stupid uniform and is willing to work for below minimum wage, have him come in for an interview."

A final thought:  Over time our dogs become us, and vice versa.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Continental Drift

Recently had the experience of being wrapped in a somehow aerodynamically feasible, pressurized metal tube, way too far off the ground, hurtling through space at 2/3 the speed of sound, for a lot more hours than one would prefer, sitting in a seat with a highly complex control system, capable of something just short of an infinite number of positional options; finding just the right set of seating variables, thereby achieving maximum comfort, requires no small amount of luck, some fairly intricate mathematics, and even if you're smart enough to figure it out, it can easily take longer than the full duration of your flight.

Not that there should be any confusion about this. Notwithstanding the occasional pangs of misplaced guilt for the people inhumanly crowded into the strictly non-adjustable seats in the back, Business Class is really the only way to go. It at least offers the possibility of completing your journey without suffering either some sort of physical paralysis or serious mental breakdown. And yet there is the lingering sense of being systematically 'killed' with Business Class kindness. I mean, how cheerful-smiling-friendly can these flight attendants be? How often can they inquire into your well-being, ply you with snacks, engage you in conversation in a way suggesting they actually care about anything you have to say?

 To the point that you find yourself becoming slightly suspicious.  To the point you're compelled to ask.

Excuse me, but are you by any chance the member of some happy, smiley face cult?

If it would make your flight any more satisfying, I certainly could be.

No, don't go to any extra trouble on my account.

In that case, is there anything I can get you? Another drink? Something from our so-elaborate-as-to-be-virtually-incomprehensible menu?  One of our comfy, hypoallergenic, made-entirely-from-recycled-plastic-water-bottles lounging jackets?

A lounging jacket?

It's also quite stylish.

Would you perhaps have an operational manual for this chair?

Let me go and query the Captain on that. 

*(So how many flight attendants does it require to screw in a light bulb?
Four.  One to push the cart, a second to smile reassuringly at the bulb, a third to unscrew the bad one and screw in the new one, and a forth to go on the P.A., informing passengers that while changing a light bulb in flight is not exactly routine, neither does it in any way constitute what might be construed as an emergency situation.)

The highlight of my in-flight service was being asked by a tall, Finnish flight steward if I would like him to tuck me in with a blanket.  

Uh, no thanks, I told him.

In that case, he said, may I offer you a reindeer meat sandwich?

Reindeer, did you say?

It's really very delicious.

(And this is exactly my point. You know the people back in Economy are not being offered reindeer sandwiches, and a case can certainly be made that, from a purely existential perspective, they are much better off for not having to make that choice.)

I passed on the reindeer, the blanket, the complimentary foot massage; ordered another beer instead, as the plane cruised somewhere over the arctic, outside air temp hovering around negative 60 C.
The miracle of flight, I reminded myself, repressing an urge to start screaming.

At least I was finally able to conquer the seat. After nine hours of pushing buttons I had the thing more or less where I wanted it. Not exactly comfortable, but close enough. The pursuit of absolute perfection is, after all, a fool's errand. Even thought I might be able to doze off.

Which is, of course, exactly when the Captain's voice came over the P.A.

We'll be landing in approximately twenty minutes. Please make sure your seat belts are secured and return all seats to their upright positions.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Blurry Reflections In An Ever-Expanding Puddle

After twenty-two straight days of ominous grey skies, sizzling high humidity and near-constant drizzle, is it any wonder you're reaching for the anti-depressants? Chewing them like candy, swiping them from family and friends, hording them with pack rat-like fervor. You're as depressed, but somehow you don't mind it as much. You're learning how to be happy with your chronic unhappiness.

Think of it as the paradoxical nature of life in the rainy zone.

Even the usually uncomplicated act of moving through space has become a daunting challenge. It's like trying to walk on the bottom of a swimming pool wearing gravity boots (breathing, needless to say, is also problematic). To conserve energy you and your wife take turns dragging each other around the house.

I'd like to go and sit on the couch now, you announce.
Fine, she says. But first you'll have to drag me into the bathroom.
Let me take another pill and see how I feel about that.

Twenty minutes later you're still sitting at the kitchen table, feeling neither one way nor another. The wife has managed to crawl to the bathroom and you're dumbly gazing out the window wondering when the garden had turned into a jungle. Menacing plants with large, succulent leaves press against the glass, aggressive crawlers seek out cracks in the outside walls, flocks of subtropical birds nest in the attic.

You weren't even aware there was an attic.

And then the screaming starts.  Not that you immediately recognize it as such. Sounds waves propagating through a humid medium of supersaturated air invariably become distorted, compressed, twisted into unrecognizable shapes. A woman's scream, therefore, is mostly indistinguishable from, for example, the mournful murmuring of ghosts, the subsonic drone of an anomalous electromagnetic discharge, the hapless yowl of a hungry puppy.

You sincerely hope it doesn't turn out to be option # 1. With your mood in free fall and your limbs simulating strips of worn out elastic, the last thing you need on your plate at this point is a so-called 'supernatural situation'. And suddenly you're wondering where the expression 'on one's plate' came from.

  Don't I have enough on my plate already? You also want me to worry about the origin of the expression 'on my plate'?  Anything else you'd like me to do while I'm at it?

Could you perhaps remove the birds from the attic?

Okay, now you're getting on my plate and I'm not very happy about it.

Can I offer you a mood enhancer?

Screw you!

Two mood enhancers? That's two for the price of one. You'll be feeling twice as upbeat in half the time.

In addition to being an idiot, are you also a drug dealer?

Fortunately, both you and your wife have wholeheartedly adopted the puerile, dehumanizing and utterly mindless practice of carrying cellphones at all times.  She calls. You answer. It's one of the few things you actually agree on.

Get in here, she says. 
Why, you want to know.
She says, I'm trapped in the bathroom with a giant spider.

(Another feature of the relentless rainy season, the giant spider, with the apparent ability to materialize out of thin air. They appear, they terrorize, they vanish. If you stare at them and let your eyes slip out of focus, they begin to resemble distant elliptical galaxies millions of light years from Earth, the black holes of their plump fuzzy heads as alluring as they are lethal.)

How do you expect me to get there, you ask her.

Crawl, she says.

You want me to crawl to the bathroom to see a giant spider?

No, I want you to crawl to the bathroom and catch a giant spider. Bring tools, preferably with the capacity to also serve as weaponry.

Are you seriously suggesting we terminate a giant spider?

If this thing bites me and I die, I will come back and haunt you mercilessly.

Ah, ghosts again. Why are you not surprised? One minute you think of them, the next your wife is threatening to become one. You sense yourself caught in an unreconcilable loop of quasi-tragic unreality. You're also pretty sure it's started raining inside the house. On the other hand, you might just be over-medicated. You're so mood-enhanced you've begun hallucinating. To the extent you're willing to entertain the implausible notion that the sun has come out.

The what has come out?

Bright glowing disk in the sky, source of all life on Earth?


Never mind.

Pondering all this, a virtual myriad of potentially debilitating variables,  the phone rings .......


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

... No Cure For The Summertime Blues

*Original musical version released in 1958, written and performed by Eddie Cochran.

Summer, more accurately mid-summer, a week after the M.L.B. All Star Break,  colloquially referred to as the Dog Days. Welcome dogs everywhere. Of course, if you're like me and have a dog, you already know that every day is dog day, or in the case of my dog, Princess Dog Day. Ever notice how even a seemingly dumb dog can upon occasion display flashes of sheer brilliance, pretty much get you to do anything it wants, and at some point you just have to stop feeling bad about yourself for being so easily manipulated by a dog?

Anyway, Dog Days.  Courtesy of the ancient Romans who, apparently, in addition to inventing sewer systems, tossing Christians to lions and slaughtering barbarians, occasionally glanced up at the night sky.

Note* A little known fact; up until two hundred years or so ago, nights were dark and the night sky was actually visible. Who knew?

The Romans, it seems, were intrigued by Sirius, brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, which according to some earlier Greek guy resembled nothing so much as a big dog. Hence Sirius became the Dog Star. As Sirius and our own Sun are in conjunction during the summer (rise and set at the same relative time) the Romans mistakenly surmised that the energy emanated by the Big Dog star was combining with the energy of the Sun, thereby explaining the typical summer heat waves experienced in Rome.

You see where this is going, right?  Hottest part of summer = Dog Days.

(We shouldn't be too hard on the ancient Romans for assuming that a star approximately 86 trillion kilometers from Earth could have an effect on its weather. Recall that until the 16th Century anyone with the temerity to suggest that the Earth was not the epicenter of the Universe was routinely burned at the stake. Until the late 19th Century the scientific consensus was that everything in the universe - time, space, mass, energy - hung like Christmas tree ornaments from an invisible, light-propagating medium called the Luminiferous Aether. It required the glial-rich brain of Einstein to put this wacky idea to rest.)

Note*  Einstein was an avid dog lover, frequently observed on long walks conversing excitedly with his pet sheepdog; although exactly how much, if any, the animal's insights contributed to what would eventually become the Special and General Theories of Relativity is unknown.

So let's assume that many of us are currently ensconced in the hot and humid Dog Days of summer, perhaps secretly longing for winter, despite the fact that we absolutely hate winter, complain endlessly about it while we're in it. Maybe you're thinking, okay, you got me there, but at least in winter I don't have to spend half my time hunting down and killing mosquitoes. Putting aside for the moment the karmic implications of doing such a thing, this segues nicely into ...

Curious facts about mosquitoes:

Mosquitoes can smell the warm blood of a mammal at up to sixty meters.
They are particularly attracted to people with O type blood.
They are especially attracted to the blood of beer drinkers.
The blood of a pregnant woman is considered a special treat.
A mosquito is 500 times more likely to bite you during a full moon.

The obvious conclusion:  The last thing you'd want to be in summer is a beer drinking, pregnant, scantily clad woman with O type blood trapped outdoors during a full moon on a typical Dog Day evening.

F.Y.I. World high & low temperatures for yesterday, July 22nd:

Ouargla, Algeria:  119.7 F  (48.7 C)

Davis Lgb 46 AWS, Antarctica:  -94.7 F   (-70.4 C)

In terms of appealing summer destinations, more or less a toss up.

But then as Neil Young said (sang, actually):

"I'd rather be burned in Canada, than freezing in the south."

 **Correction:  The above was never uttered by Neil Young. The line actually comes from the song
"We can talk," performed by The Band on the album "Music From Big Pink."  Apologies to Levon Helm and the gang


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Brain Hacking, Eyeball Licking And Other Fun Tips For Summer

Part One:

Sure, there's plenty of stuff scientists should probably be doing:

*Coming up with an easy-to-understand way to convince the right-wing naysayers that global warming is not some sort of liberal conspiracy (something written at an elementary school level, with plenty of pictures. 'Here's a photo of Dick and Jane bursting into flames in Death Valley.'  And, of course, a title which draws them in, without letting the cat out of the bag, so to speak, too soon. Something like,   THE BIBLE  of global warming  )

*Figuring a means to compel the vast multitude of twitter users to think, in however muddled a fashion, before they actually tweet

*Calculating the adverse impact on the planet once all 1.4 billion Chinese start driving cars (China already holds the world record for traffic jams - 1327 kilometers long. People sat in their cars for up to 12 days, waiting, presumably, for a miracle, possibly in the form of an alien spacecraft appearing and vaporizing all the vehicles ahead of them. Eyewitnesses reported an ominously thick black cloud hovering over the roadway, subsequently determined to have been only slightly less toxic than a full-blown nuclear power plant meltdown)

 *Developing a vaccine for the Rapidly Deteriorating Intelligence Virus ( R.D.I.V.), which has apparently already reached global epidemic proportions ( the problem here, of course, is that the scientific community is not necessarily immune to the virus, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the dumber the scientist, the less likely he or she is to come up with a cure for dumbness)

 *Finding all the missing dimensions postulated by String Theory, because it really is such a cool theory, and if you're anything like me, you, too, want to know where all the missing gravity went, and also those extra dimensions might provide a safe place for us to hide once things in regular three dimensional space start getting really scary.


As it turns out, discovering safe hiding places is the last thing on the collective scientific mind these days; in fact, it's the elimination of that one completely reliable and impervious-to-all-intrusions hiding place that science has set its sights on.  Your brain.

A group of rogue researchers in California has apparently successfully developed prototype technology for reading minds. At the present time, effective mind reading requires fitting a large, metallic cranial cap to the subject's head, attaching an array of sensors to various parts of his or her  body (the risk of electrocution during the process is, researchers insist, minimal; about as likely as spontaneously bursting into flames while visiting Death Valley) and conniving him or her to ingest copious quantities of LSD.

In a recent interview, however, project leader Dr. Wilfred Wigglesworth revealed that a practical, affordable mind-reading app should be available within the next few months, easily downloadable to any upper-end smart phone.
And many of you might be thinking, how cool is that? A smart phone that's also a psychic phone. Your own personal psychic hotline.  I absolutely have to have one.  In which case, I suggest you think again!

One of things that occasionally terrifies me is the thought of being surrounded by millions of people, all of them constantly thinking stuff,  minds swirling with fuzzy, tedious thoughts, always threatening to somehow escape their skulls, and having to imagine the awful consequences of what that would be like.
Bottom line: Last thing I want to know is what the weirdo standing next to me waiting for the light to change has going on in his head.

Consider:  You run into a guy you haven't seen in years, which is fine because you never liked him, found him annoying, passive aggressive and not particularly bright. However he somehow manages to cajole you into having a cup of coffee with him. You sit down, slip out your phone and engage the mind-reading app.

Guy says:  You know, it's uncanny. I was just thinking about you and then like wham, there you were.

You check your phone:  Lie.  He hasn't thought about you in at least five years. Also isn't thinking about you now.

He says:  Must be one of those Jungian things, you know, synchronicity.

Phone:  Another lie.   He has never read Jung. Only knows the term synchronicity because his ex-girlfriend invoked their obvious total lack thereof as an additional excuse for dumping him.

He says:  In any case, it's great to see you again.

Phone:  Big lie.  He's thinking, just when you think your luck couldn't get any worse, you run into this son-of-a-bitch. If I wasn't so damn passive aggressive, I could have just given him the finger and walked away. At least the prick doesn't remember the 200 bucks I owe him. Come to think of it, maybe I can hit him up for another hundred. Better still, I can just rob him.

You're thinking, damn, why did I leave my gun at home? But you say:   So, what are you up to these days?

He says:   Let's see, I started my own software company, eventually sold it, made a bundle, bought a co-op, where I currently reside with my supermodel girlfriend and now I'm working on the next great American novel.

Phone:  Unmitigated Whopper.   In fact, lost his job at the post office two years ago, forced to move back in with his parents, until they got fed up and kicked him out. Currently shares a cardboard box under a bridge with a Mormon couple who may or may not be brother and sister.

Okay, partly your fault for agreeing to have coffee with the guy, but you've got the app and how are you supposed to resist using it? But seriously, was any of that anything you really needed to know?


Stay tuned for Part Two, a discussion of Japan's latest erotic and completely disgusting craze, eyeball licking, a.k.a. worming.  Pros and cons, techniques, how to spot and avoid these tongue-wagging trend setters before one of them manages to start licking your eye,  etc.......

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Readership Inexplicably Surges / Bloggers Panic

  All of a sudden - out of the blue, one might even be inclined to say - the blog is getting a relatively large number of hits, and those of us here responsible for content are clearly feeling the pressure. Previously, the assumption was that readership was limited to a group of five or six people, all of whom felt some perverse sense of moral obligation to occasionally check in on the fictional lunatic's progress.

"Oh crap! There's a new posting on the dog blog."
"He'll never know if you don't read it."
"Oh, he'll know. I don't know how he knows, but he always knows. It's actually a little creepy."
"You're actually a little creepy."
"And morally obligated."
"Oh, for God's sake!"

When you presume you're writing for six people who know you well enough to be mostly immune to disappointment, and who also feel you have some sort of bizarre, god-like power over them, you can pretty much write whatever you want. Then you wake up one morning and you have a legitimate audience, spanning multiple continents, with expectations, no less. People, in other words, who actually exist, with curious minds, their actions - i.e. reading your blog - an effort to at least 'temporarily stave off the threat of meaninglessness.'  Little do they realize.

They seek meaning, from you, of all people, despite your ill-disguised obsession with disparaging the concept at every opportunity.

"So what your saying is that you put all your energy into saying things you don't mean."

(This courtesy of my therapist, Dr. Suzie Suzuki, whom I'm hoping will be able to help me cope with the sudden predicament of having to be relevant, although I'm not entirely doubt-free.)

"No, I always say what I mean," I tell her. "But what I say often has no meaning."

"So we may infer that the statement 'I always say what I mean' is in fact meaningless."

"Hence my current dilemma."

( You're no doubt wondering why I would be seeing a Japanese therapist. The Japanese are notorious for not even believing in psychology. They prefer to see human behavior as a function of the influence of obscure nature spirits, residual samurai impulses and, oddly enough, cranial size. The Journal of Japanese Cognitive Research, to which Dr. Suzuki is a regular contributor, is actually a comic book depicting the zany exploits of precocious preteens whose amazing superpowers are frequently misdiagnosed as symptoms of early onset psychosis.)

"Perhaps your readers read in an effort to demean meaning, discredit it, as it were; they unconsciously seek out the negation of meaning, which conveniently coincides with your fairly facile efforts to hoodwink the blog-reading public with pseudo-philosophical claptrap."

"If only I could believe that."

"In any case, I should measure your head."

After determining that my westernized skull is far too small to contain a fully functioning adult brain  - which I'm guessing is not a good thing - Suzuki informs me that I'm suffering from Retrograde Blogger Anxiety, or R. B. A., symptomatic of a more comprehensive and, needless to say, more debilitating Social Networking Phobia, or S. N. P.

"To put it in layman's terms, you have until now based your tenuous identity on a sort of solipsistic self-denial."

"Say what?"

"The comfort derived from an anonymous non-existence has been usurped, your counterfeit superhero status exposed."

"Are you getting this stuff straight from the comic book?"

"Are you suggesting it's not a valid source of therapeutic insight?"

"Just tell me what to do."

"It should be obvious. Face your fear, look the beast directly in the eyes, howl at the waxing moon, eat more tofu."


"Okay, fine, I have no idea. But I am definitely going to start reading your stupid blog."

More on this later. Until then, Welcome New Readers, whoever you may be.....

Monday, June 24, 2013

Big Bad Moon On The Rise

*A baby girl in Sweden gazing at the night sky sees the Super Moon and assumes it' a giant breast bursting with yummy milk. But why can't she touch it? It seems so close. Tired of waiting, she eventually closes her eyes and the moon mysteriously disappears.
But does it really disappear? If, as modern physics teaches us, reality is almost exclusively a matter of perception, then a case can certainly be made for the one minute moon / the next minute no moon hypothesis. If at any given moment not a single person on Earth is looking at the moon, then in effect there is no moon. Which is why I myself make a point of looking at the moon at every opportunity. The consequences of a sudden moonless situation are simply too dire.

*A male reader writes in search of an answer to a fairly timeless question:  Are all women insane, or is it only the women I get involved with?
The short answer: yes and yes. If we assume that all women are insane (and as men do we really have a choice here?), then any one of them you become involved with will also be by definition insane. Only an insane person wouldn't be able to see this. On the other hand, dear reader, if you yourself are insane, your ability to perceive insanity in others is virtually nil. So what you're probably asking is ... Why do I invariably drive all the women in my life insane, and once I have accomplished this, why do I invariably feel the need to complain endlessly about it?

*The moon may also be a factor:
Women are notoriously more psychically receptive to lunar emanations. A 1957 study, conducted by an all-male group of Presbyterian "social scientists," concluded that men should take whatever steps necessary to prevent their female counterparts from gazing directly at a full moon, particularly if it's Super-Sized.  Symptoms may include a general increase in sensitivity, a desire to talk about the future, a disinclination to spend more than eight hours a day in the kitchen, a tendency to dress scantily, often to the exclusion of any and all undergarments, shameless displays of affection and, in extreme cases, a proclivity to actually initiate sexual activity.
Good Lord!

(note: this study was mostly discredited in the late 1960's, for all the obvious reasons; Professor Paula Gemstone Delaney, of Cornell University, concluding that if it were possible to harness all the energy men put into projecting their insecurities, idiocies and blatant insanities upon women, the nation's dependency on foreign oil could be eliminated in a matter of days.)

* News Headline:  "A small cadre of narrow-minded, sexually-repressed, religious zealots with assault weapons murders a mixed group of Chinese and Uzbek tourists in northern Pakistan."

And I just have to wonder what members of the U.S. House of Representatives were doing in  northern Pakistan in the first place?  Was it a fact finding mission gone seriously awry? Was Michelle Bachman one of the ringleaders?  Did she perhaps see the full moon rising, misinterpret it as a sign from God that the world's end was imminent and give the order to open fire? Will she somehow manage to blame the entire incident on Obamacare?

(Meanwhile, who knew there was such a thing as Uzbek tourists?)

* In the news 2:  During recent riots in Turkey CNN had one of its reporters, Jane something-or-other, on the ground, in the midst of the action. They cut to Jane, who's standing in the middle of a large crowd of mildly agitated Turks. Only thing is, Jane is wearing a large, complex-looking, full-face gas mask. Seriously. Talk about being over-cautious and looking really stupid in the same breath. More absurd, however, CNN anchorperson what's-his-name starts asking her questions. Jane's answers, unfortunately, are rendered completely incoherent by the ridiculous mask.

"So Jane, what exactly is the situation on the ground there?"
"Mmk u luw suti wa okup ewoww. Cowee shuzzz vergg ptku."
"Are you seeing many casualties?"
"awa lep merzz cawaaj jup jip saaaap."
"Any sense of what the soldier's intentions may be?"
"Wuug la rura corbu mur falarx cowchu, mur mur mahgii rahlbb."
"Sounds slightly ominous."
"Bllob wip shazpi feelf."
"Ekte oou ledpof."
"Thanks, Jane. And you stay safe out there."

This actually happened, by the way, whereas this .......

*Back in the CNN studio:

"Did you understand anything Jane just said?"
"Not a word. I assumed she was attempting to speak Turkish."
"Or it could have been the moon."
"Right, the Super Moon, obviously having a deleterious effect on Jane's already fragile mental state."
"I'm pretty sure that theory was discredited."
"Mostly discredited. There's a difference."
"So if anyone asks ..."
"We definitely go with the moon excuse."

......... probably did not. Although ...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Query First, Absolutely No Attachments

 How to write the perfect (okay, nearly perfect) fiction query.
 Or why you have less than a snowball's chance in hell of ever getting this garbage published.

 Type of book: Should precisely define and locate your book within the nearly infinite and mostly incomprehensible jungle of all other books.     Example:  Sort of a novel, I guess.
 Title:  Should be clever and catchy, if possible bearing little or no relation to the book's actual content.   Example:  Marilyn Monroe vs. The Humanoid Flesh Eaters Of Upstate New York

Genre: In fact, a trick question; while announcing the genre of your work is required, the vast majority of literary agents insist they do not represent "genre" fiction. Selecting a genre, therefore, is in effect the metaphorical equivalent of slitting your own wrists.

"Found your writing to be exciting, sexy and brilliantly unique, but unfortunately we don't do genre."

 Basic rule of thumb: be as genre-vague as possible. Employing multiple genres, if possible to the point of absurdity, is a proven method of getting noticed.
Example:  a speculative, quasi-erotic, dystopian, multicultural, urban, nanopunk, family saga       

Story Outline  (a.k.a. the irresistible hook)


 "Something pretty weird bad is happening in Rochester, N.Y., and you're like so what else is new, but this is bad beyond bad, cause, and who the hell knows why, people are like turning into cannibals, running around like crazy famished fiends and eating people, and you're like holy crap, what is up with this, and you're running too, like a lunatic for your own life, and eventually you figure like what the hell, and you pull out your last pack of smokes, even though you like totally swore on a stack of holy books you'd quit, but then if this ain't a mitigating circumstance what is, and so you're trying to at least finish one smoke before you're, you know, eaten, and then out of the blue there's this cannibal right up in your face, and it's like thanks for nothing God, but then, like wham, a fucking miracle happens, cause the cannibal is back-peddling away from you, trying to tear its own face off while shrieking at the top of its lungs, and it hits you - these fuckers can't stand cigarettes."

"Maybe it's like passive smoke damage paranoia or something, who knows, but you're all of a sudden thinking you may not get eaten after all, all you got to do is keep smoking, except the city is turning fast into a ghost town, and in this dark day and age cigarettes just ain't that easy to find, so now you're like searching for smokes while at the same time ducking the cannibals, and then, lucky you, you run into this totally weird Born Again C girl, who latches on to you and would rather rip your arm off than let go, scared out of her head, but she won't stop whining, and you're like, why don't you just send up a flare or something, give the crazy ghoul people our exact G.P.S. coordinates, and by the way shut the fuck up, but that ain't going to happen, cause Jesus has like bailed on her big time and she knows it, so you're like, hey nutcase chick, calm down, have a smoke, and she starts like really freaking out, screaming cigarettes were conjured by the Devil himself, smoking is a sin against God, blah, blah, blah, and how she would rather be like torn to pieces by inhuman monsters than smoke a single cigarette, and you're like, fine, have it your way, cause that's pretty much what's going to happen, probably like really soon."

"Meanwhile, it's still day one in scary nightmare cannibal land, and you're like already really fucking exhausted."

 Agent responses:

1:  This is the absolute worst query I've ever read. In fact, it's so bad that, for sickeningly perverse       reasons I can never hope to fully fathom, I actually want to read more. God forgive me.

2:  Are you like fucking kidding me?

3: Will there be a sequel?  I sincerely pray not, but will there?

4:  Novels are rarely if ever written in the third person singular. There is a good reason for this.

5:  Please send the manuscript in its entirety, so that we witches (sorry) agents can perform upon it a ritualistic burning.

6:  This so blows. For the first time in my life I actually envy the illiterate.

7:  Loved your query. Unfortunately, the market for experimental, postmodern, high-school-dropout, ironic horror/humor is virtually non-existent.

8:  If by any chance you're actually Thomas Pynchon, please inform us immediately.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dangling By A Linguistic Thread

One of the drawbacks (one of the many, actually) of living in a foreign country is that people sometimes talk to you. Shocking perhaps, but nonetheless true. No way around it, really.  Even in a country where the indigenous inhabitants generally abhor outsiders, consider them overly provocative, prone to rash and unpredictable verbal outbursts. And it's usually the deep, existentially challenging sort of stuff they want to talk about - can you eat fermented soybeans? do all Americans carry guns?
And you're thinking, damn, I wish I had my gun with me right now.
Adopting an expression that conveys scary intensity, or some quasi-dangerous version of mental illness, doesn't much help either.  Basically, people can't resist the urge to talk, even if it's to someone they consider the last person on Earth they'd care to speak with.

 Namely me.

I've tried wearing a sign around my neck conveying in several languages that I definitely do not want to talk to anyone, about anything, under any circumstances. There's always some guy who has to walk up and talk about the sign.
"So, like, what's with the sign?"
I point to the sign.
"Yeah, right. So, like, what does it mean?"
"It means," I say through gritted teeth, "fuck off!"
"So you do want to talk."
"Only to insult you and your entire family. Is that your wife over there? She's not pretty, not even a little bit."
"Yeah, tell me about it. She can't cook either. You married? Does your wife wear a sign? I wish mine would wear one."
At which point I remove the sign and begin whacking him atop the head with it.

Due to a brain injury suffered in childhood my primary foreign language processing center tends to be erratic; it splutters, yawns, fades in and out on a misguided neuronal whim. Most people's F.L.P.C.'s resemble a smoothly functioning computer network manned by highly efficient, smiling nanobots; mine looks like a telephone switchboard from the 1950's, run by one tiny, demented leprechaun. So when I'm forced to listen to someone talking in one of these jargon-riddled lingos, a typical sentence comes through something like this: 

 word - word - void - word - void - void - word (maybe) - void - word - void - void - void - word

And that's on a good day. By the time I've weighed all the variables and pasted together a possible meaning the speaker has generally given up and stormed off in a repressed rage.

I occasionally have the opportunity of spending a brief amount of time in a rather small room with several Chinese people (I know, it sort of sounds like a punishment, and in a way it is). They generally pretty much ignore me, but just having to observe them interact amongst themselves can be disconcerting. Chinese is a fairly aggressive-sounding language, laced with no small amount of barking and spitting; combine this with the Chinese person's proclivity to stand very close to anyone he or she is speaking with and the whole thing starts feeling a bit like happy hour in the psycho ward.
Anyway, recently one of them broke protocol, got close enough to actually touch noses with me and commenced what I can only describe as an all-out linguistic assault, Cantonese style, complete with waterworks.  Content, of course, was mostly elusive - the withered neurons in my foreign language center having immediately begun waving little white flags - but I definitely sensed a threat in progress; some sort of tirade perhaps on the corrupting influences of American culture, or possibly a not so subtle boast of emerging global Chinese superiority.

So I said,  "Oh yeah? Well at least where I come from people don't eat dogs."
"Dog?" he said in English. "I like dog."
"Why am I not surprised?"
"You have dog?"
"Like I might give you that information."
"I love a puppy."
"You monster!" 

Turns out that the guy keeps a Chocolate Lab as a pet and had merely come over to me to ask if I'd care for a cup of tea.

Not that sticking exclusively to one's native tongue ensures risk-free communication.

Recently I was foolish enough to attempt downloading the updated, 'new and improved' version of Skype, which surprisingly was simple enough, until the new version demanded my password.
My, uh ...
I have no idea.
What's the point of a secret password if it's so easy to remember?

Long story short, I had to open a new Skype account and choose a new password, which I can't exactly recall now, but that's neither here nor there. The only problem was that all the contact information from the original account had vanished. Okay, no big deal.  I want to call my daughter, so all I have to do is go into the Skype phone book and find her name. Except that there are like a hundred Skype users with the same name. How is that even possible? I decide to go into 'Skype Help' and inquire.

How is that even possible? I ask.
Everything is possible with the new and improved version of Skype, Skype informs me.
What now?
Start calling numbers. You have nothing better to do, and who knows, you may get lucky.

Call 1:
"Hello, this is your father."
Sustained silence.... "Look, just because my mother was stupid enough to marry you, like what, a month after my real father's bizarre death in that chicken coop, doesn't mean you're my father now."
"Well, I ..."
"And if you're calling to ask me to set you up again with one of my friends, just forget it."
"Uh ..."

Call 2:
"Uh, hi. This is your Dad."
"What? Are you out?"
"Of prison. Ma said another five years. At least that's what she's hoping."
"Uh, I am out, but I'm chained to the, uh, chicken coop."
"And just so you know, Dad, I never believed you mugged all those old women."

Call 3:
"Hello, it's Daddy."
"Oh, so that's your thing today."
"My ... thing?"
"The Daddy fantasy. Okay, Daddy, but I have to tell you that I've been a very bad girl."
"Well I hope it had nothing to do with the mugging of the elderly."
"Okay, look, the naughty little girl thing I get. But the elderly? No way!"
"But ..."
"Screw you, weirdo!"

And all of a sudden the void starts looking a lot more appealing....

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lost in the Lunatic's Library

So here's my list of ...
Books that should be read, but probably won't be, due to the fact that either they A) were never written, B) were written but never published, or a somewhat more remote possibility, C) were written and published, but in a parallel universe, rendering them for all intents and purposes inaccessible.
(The upside of parallel world publishing, by the way, is that a writer can pad his or her resume with a hefty list of books he or she has successfully published, at least in theory, without having to worry about some anally obnoxious fact checker proving him or her a blatant liar.)

One of my favorites: The Erotic Adventures Of A Quantum Mechanic.
Right off the bat we're drawn to the clever play on words in the title. The story follows a young man's path of sexual awakening in an indeterminate, irony-laden world. Think of sex on the subatomic level. Can the sexual urges of an electron be anything more than virtual? Is third party observation the key to a fully actualized sex life? Written in the first person, both narrator and reader are continually forced to confront the paradoxical intersection of imagination and reality. Is the imagination a function of reality, or vice versa? When, for example, the young Quantum is seduced by his best friend's older sister, can the reader attest beyond a reasonable doubt that the sex depicted is anything other than a quantum fantasy? And more to the point, does anyone, with the possible exception of Quantum himself, really care?

"He was lured by her savory softness, the sway of her firm female buttocks ascending the stairs, the highly stylized way in which she removed the stuffed animals from her bed. Fortunately, the Barbie doll on the bookcase was wearing sunglasses. Better, he thought, that there be no witnesses, but then again ..."

Best title ever for a novel:  Lycanthropy For Flute & Oboe (already copyrighted, so don't get any ideas).  Which begs the question, can the title of a novel be so good that the book should be published on the basis of it alone?
Read the title, loved it. Don't really give a crap on content. Could be a cookbook for paranoid schizophrenics for all I care. Let's move on this fast, before the vampires get wind of it.

Richard Rorty, the late American Pragmatist, said that it's the poets and novelists, rather than the philosophers, who have become the primary interpreters and re-inventors of modern/postmodern culture. How we say something, in other words, is often more important than what we say. So think before you speak ... no, wait a minute, don't think.

Still, one has to wonder if Rorty ever read anything by the madly prolific genius, David Foster Wallace.
Bringing to us to acclaimed novel, written and published, reputedly a bestseller, but nearly impossible to read:  Infinite Jest.  Compared to Wallace, Proust was the ultimate minimalist. Think of James Joyce on methamphetamine. This is a guy who could go 50 pages describing a single game of tennis; brilliantly, for sure, but the casual reader, overwhelmed in waves of magical, maniacal language, should not underestimate the potentially deleterious affects upon his or her own continued mental well being.

Hence our offer: This blog will pay a total of $1.00 to anyone who can read Infinite Jest within 3 months, without skipping any pages. To claim this reward the reader is obliged to submit a brief book report (maximum 1000 words) describing the various themes of the novel, providing examples of its metaphorical wit and subtle black humor, as well as taking a position (yea or nay) on the book's status as an postmodern masterpiece.

Finally, the book we're all looking forward to reading:  The Big Baby Book Of Ingrid Mayflower.
Ingrid M, already being described as the cutest baby born thus far in the 21st. Century, lives in a pouch, chirps in English and Swedish and apparently spends a lot of time sleeping, during which, it is surmised, she is busy outlining the story of her weird and wonderful life to come.

Welcome to crazy planet Earth, little Ms. Mayflower.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Myopia in the Land of the Millepedes

Another whacky day on planet Earth, punctuated by a persistent growling rumble from an unspecified external source, although some sort of inner ear malfunction in progress cannot be entirely ruled out.

Outside, despite a sudden snow storm and continuing sub-zero temperatures, signs point to a seasonal shift. For the next 30 seconds, at least (30 seconds of visual ecstasy), the cherry blossoms are in bloom, the sheer swooning luminosity of which can literally blind a man. Whatever you do, don't look directly at them. Mass communal blossom viewing parties are arranged, in which thousands sit around happily averting their eyes. Paramedics in tinted goggles stand by, just in case.

Yesterday a couple of centipedes were spotted in the bathroom, a definite indicator of something.
Bug invasion imminent, residents hunker down, clutch cans of insecticide, pray to Jesus for a bug-free afterlife.
Hard to see the evolutionary point of a centipede - truly ugly insects, and seriously, who the hell needs a hundred legs?  Good thing they don't have to worry about finding jeans that fit.

Meanwhile, legions of elderly amblers have taken to the streets, culturally cajoled into believing that slow-as-a-funeral-procession walking can prolong life indefinitely. Oddly enough, statistics tend to bear this out. Hardly matters that it takes half a day to walk around the block. It's not as if these people have a whole lot else to do. Problem is, some of the ancient travelers leave their homes, start walking and almost immediately forget where they live.
 One neighborhood woman admits that she hasn't seen her grandfather in five days. I'm guessing she's sixty if she's a day, so you can understand the strain on my already overtaxed faculties trying to imagine how old her grandfather must me. I attempt to explain the fugue phenomenon to her, but she insists her musical aptitude is next to nil, so why bother?
"Just how old is your grandfather?" I ask her.
"I have no idea," she tells me. "But if you really want to know, we can go inside and ask his father."

In other news:  Talked to one of the kids, via Skype, whose connection was typically murky, a jittery, time-delayed jumble of sounds, mostly incoherent, highlighted by howling banshees simulations in the background. (for those of you who have never heard the howl of a banshee, consider yourselves lucky)
Think of trying to talk to someone in the Andromeda galaxy, using two Dixie cups and a very (very, very, very) long string.
Actually, if you did try to call someone in the Andromeda (aka M 31), it would take 1.5 million years for them to pick up the phone (or cup, as the case may be), and 3 million years for you to hear them say hello.
Not to suggest you shouldn't make the call, only that you should be prepared to be patient.

Note: The Andromeda galaxy is scheduled to collide with our own Milky Way galaxy in approximately 3.75 billion years. Probably too soon to add this cosmological certainty to our list of things to have anxiety about. Very little chance that any of us - with perhaps the exception of a select group of senior citizens from my neighborhood - will be around to see it happen.

Anyway, I couldn't be exactly sure what the kid was trying to tell me. There's a chance she was intentionally filtering her voice through one of those homemade fish aquariums. She either said that her new boyfriend works with plants, or believes he is a plant.  She either saw Chris Isaak in a San Francisco restaurant, or believes that the ghost of Issac Newton is currently haunting the San Francisco subway. As improbable as that would be.  But hey, San Francisco, right?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mostly Brainless and Armed to the Teeth

 By now hopefully everyone (and by everyone I mean all six of you who occasionally read this blog) has had a chance to see the most recent propaganda video courtesy of North Korea (if you haven't, it's definitely worth tracking down). The basic plot line is that the vast majority of American people are impoverished and desperate, forced to live in leaky tents, drink melted snow from styrofoam cups (provided free by the government) and eat small birds to survive.

Close up of a barren tree: The narrator, curiously enough some guy speaking in a deadpanned Brit accent, says, "Look at this tree. There are no birds in it because Americans have eaten them all."
 Cut to another tree, as barren, but with two sparrows perched on its branches.  Narrator says, "Two birds have suddenly arrived in this tree. They will be eaten by the Americans on Wednesday." 

Doubting my credibility on this?  Here's the link to the actual video. 

As propaganda, it clearly leaves something to be desired - apparently even the 27 North Koreans with Internet access aren't totally buying it; the remainder of the population only wishes it had some small birds to eat - but as one more pathologically creative element in the Theater of the Ridiculous that the North Korean regime increasingly represents, it's nothing short of brilliant.
Call it Parody Propaganda from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  PP/DPRK, for short.

Not that the pathological and the ridiculous are strictly confined to Northeast Asia.
Back in the land of leaking tents and homeless bird eaters, the gun debate sputters on, more or less incoherently.
 Kudos to the psycho-Conservative Right, by the way, for providing the American people with yet another example of how, with a skillful blending of banality and cynicism, an issue can simply be talked to death, thereby removing the need to shoot it.
 The basic conservative plot line is that since the vast number of American gun owners are normal, mentally healthy, law abiding citizens, only interested in hunting and/or self defense, there is no logical reason to deprive them of their military type assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
And the spineless Liberal Left, as personified by, among others, CNN's Piers Morgan, who may actually be an exotic species of British waterfowl (and possibly the narrator of the North Korean video), lets them get way with it.

It bears repeating: There is nothing either normal or mentally healthy about a person who hunts and kills animals for sport.

Ancient Hindu proverb: A man who slaughters a family of deer today is as likely to slaughter his own family tomorrow.

 Lacanian therapist, Fritz Klepperwitz:  "Contrary to common belief, any member of an advanced, consumer culture who continues to engage in the primitive ritual of hunting cannot be regarded as a rugged individualist resisting the forces of socially-induced conformity. Rather, such a person must be viewed as emotionally and intellectually undeveloped, almost certainly tormented by a deep-seated sense of emasculation, attempting through acts of violence against animals to sublimate feelings of sexual desire for the mother and an irrational hatred of the father. The typical hunter's conflicted self is frequently expressed in secretive behavior which glaringly contradicts his projected tough guy persona; for example, cross-dressing, having pedicures and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, watching Gossip Girls."    

Admittedly, the self defense thing does make a bit more sense, since, as we all know, hordes of potential evildoers roam virtually every street in America, day and night, seeking out vulnerable, unarmed households to loot and plunder. Sure, they may resemble girl scouts out on a cookie drive, or vaguely disembodied Jehovah's seeking the mother ship, but don't be fooled. These people have nothing but mischief on their minds.

A recent survey asked conservative gun owners to rate the likelihood of the situation depicted on the popular TV show, Walking Dead, actually happening.
Here's a breakdown of the results:
43% - Could possibly happen
31% - Very likely to happen
26% - Has already happened

Maybe you want to wake up some morning in a gun-free house only to find a mob of the crazy undead trying to break down your front door, but not me, pal.

Note: During a zombie attack, always aim for the head.   Shoot the head, kill the Undead.

And finally, this juicy tidbit from one of those States that most of us could probably find on a map but would not particularly ever want to visit.
A man walked out of his house at 4:30 in the morning and fired his gun at a tree. The bullet hit the tree and ricocheted back into the man's chest.
The news headline read: Man shoots tree, tree shoots back.
Talk about a normal, mentally healthy gun owner. And why, if you're going to shoot a tree, would you decide to do it at 4:30 in the morning?
Local law enforcement is apparently investigating the tree, trying to determine if it is perhaps an overly aggressive species, possibly non-indigenous to the area, although an anonymous police source admits that proving premeditation will be a serious challenge.
In the interim, a group of local conservative lawmakers have issued the following joint statement:
It is precisely this type of random violence, inflicted upon unsuspecting individuals by an unruly and ungodly nature, that justifies the right of all law-abiding Americans to arm themselves, the more firepower, the better!

Amen to that, brother!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Nothing Says I Love You Like, Well ... Nothing

Paul Dirac, one of the 20th Century's science superheros - proved the existence of the quantum field, antimatter and those spooks of the cosmos, better known as virtual particles, among other things - was by all accounts a very weird bloke. For one thing, he rarely, if ever, spoke. In the Dirac biography, The Strangest Man, a 'friend' recounts a 'conversation' he had with the physicist in a London restaurant over lunch. He, the friend, was jabbering on about the politics of the day, art, women, current trends in science, the London theater scene, the rising prices of haberdashery, etc. After an hour or so, Dirac looked up from his soup and replied, "Hmm." Thirty minutes later, having finished his lunch, Dirac stood up, perhaps contemplated saying goodby, decided against it and walked out of the restaurant.

Niels Bohr, another of the quantum mechanical masterminds, once said, "This Dirac seems to know a lot of physics, but he never says anything."

Sounds sort of ideal.  A friend who never speaks. Could be some kind of a genius for all we know. Given the benefit of the doubt, and all, because, let's be honest, isn't it when people start talking that the disappointment tends to kick in?

Hey, you want a friend who don't talk? Go get a dog.
I already got a dog.
So get another.

I knew a guy who only dated mutes. Claimed it enabled him to better control the conversation. Then one day his girlfriend said  "            ."    He took it hard, hid her notepad when she wasn't looking, considered reading a book on Existentialism.

On the other hand, Hank, the paradigmatic, alter ego, homeless guy, a deranged genius of the first magnitude, has a different slant on the issue; he being of the opinion that to stop talking is nothing less than a surrender to the harsh and, not to put too fine a point on it, irreversible contingencies of non-existence. 
"We all ooze nothingness," Hank says. "Close your eyes and the world disappears. Embrace the vacuum, moron. As scary as the nothing is, it's all we've got to ride home on."

I love it when Hank almost makes sense.

Then there's Hank's take on the ultimate cosmic mystery:

"Something, maybe the void, maybe a truly whacked-out God, burped, or hiccuped, or possibly farted,  and the Universe popped up, out of nothing, the ultimate free lunch, but not for long, see, cause for every particle there was its exact opposite, an anti-particle. The two cancel each other out. Pop, pop. Universe, no Universe. It's happening every single second. You say hello, I say goodby. But not this time, this time there's a discrepancy, a so-called quantum fluctuation. For every one-hundred-trillion or so particle-anti-particle pairs, there's one extra particle, a loner, riddled with uncertainty, like some homeless guy staring down the barrel of infinity. The entire universe and everything currently in it is based precisely on such a mind-altering misunderstanding. You, for example, are nothing more than the byproduct of an infinitesimal quantum discrepancy. So go meditate on that, wise-ass."

Sounds crazy enough to almost be true. Too bad I stopped listening after 'Something.'
"Say again, Hank."
"Fuck you! You are NOTHING!
"I love you, too. You may be a crud-covered foul-smelling doppelganger, but you're my crud-covered foul-smelling doppelganger."
"Tell me something I don't know."
I quote Max Planck.  "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die."
"Blah, blah, blah," Hank wheezes. "I'm a lot more dead than not and I still ain't buying into your eerie evil rap."

I decide to pepper his severely depleted brain cells with a little Bukowski:
" We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus. That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing."

"Much better," Hank says, drifting off into a quasi-psychotic muttering session. "Pluck a flower, move a distant star."
"Wait a minute, didn't Dirac say that?"
"Hey, you just spent the better part of an excruciating day trying to convince us that Dirac never spoke."
"Okay, then he wrote it."
"So write this," Hank says, somehow finding the strength to raise his middle finger and jab it in my direction.
"They denied Jesus, too," I tell him.
"Yeah, well, you ain't him."


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Crazy Talking Hominids

News as Noise:
  (part one)

Some guy walks up to the house of Harry Holcomb (sic), Colorado's Director of Prisons, rings the doorbell, and when Harry answers the door the guy shoots him in the head.
Cops have no leads, although CNN reports Breaking News in the case:
"Police are now seeking a speed walker, who may have been a witness to the crime."

Okay, first of all, what's a speed walker? And when did it become an agreed upon designation for, presumably, a human? Does it perhaps reflect some sort of neurological condition, compelling a person to walk much faster than, say, a normal person?  How fast, exactly, are we talking about? What is the upper velocity range of an air-breathing, bi-pedal humanoid walker, assuming no external power source?  Would such a person passing by your house be little more than a blur of speedy light fragments?

And even if a speed walker was passing the Holcomb house at the time of the crime, what are the chances that he or she had the time to see anything?
"Did you get a good look at the suspect?"
"A very good look. He, or possibly she, appeared to be a fuzzy blob, possibly with horns, rapidly vibrating in a bluish-grey fog."
"Good enough."

Later in the same Breaking News segment, a CNN reporter is questioning police chief Wayland Scruggs (sic) on the investigation:

"I know you said you have no suspects, chief, but do you think it's possible that the assailant may have had some issue with Mr. Holcomb?"
Uh, as opposed to what? Homicidal fury over the absence of an issue?
"Pray to God, woman, that this vicious killer had an issue. The alternative is the R word, as in Random, as in nut job with easy access to firearms shooting the first guy dumb enough to answer his front door. That's the kind of felony headache we do not need!"

I, myself, haven't answered the door in approximately 10 years; not so much out of concern with being killed, randomly or otherwise; more with being driven into a state of apoplexy by some bland-faced, smiling moron jabbering away in a mostly incomprehensible language about something so inane that I would rather be shot than forced to have a conversation about.

From a highly confidential source in San Francisco.  (thanks, Amber)
Two cops overheard at a downtown Starbucks:

cop 1:  "You want green tea? Not coffee?"
cop 2:  "Coffee makes me trigger happy. You know that."

Talk about the eroding confidence in law enforcement. One can almost hear the CNN Breaking News:
Cop in California guns down group of Chinese tourists crossing against the light. Claims Starbucks made him do it. A possible speed walking witness asserts that the crosswalk itself was alive with swirling heat demons, and the traffic light had just gone supernova when the shooting occurred.

"Those blurry, levitating stick figures speeding through the intersection on the legs of a million glowing centipedes never had a chance."
"Good enough."


Friday, March 15, 2013

Is the Postmodernist Lifestyle Really for Everyone?

It, in the sheer, elegant vagueness of the other, mutely resonant, a thing, by meaning nothing,  a deceptively smooth emptiness, suggesting furthermore the improbability of itself. 

If the above sentence makes any sense at all to you, read on.
The church of latter day post-structural chaos is currently recruiting, and could be just what the doctor ordered.
Assuming, of course, a doctor can be found with the requisite darkly ironic, self-referential bedside manner.
Patient: "Not feeling so good, Doc; shooting pains up both arms, difficulty breathing, fuzzy short-term memory."
Doctor: "I, on the other hand, feel fine, but then why wouldn't I, what with the access I have to a wide variety of powerful narcotics. Not that I'm so stoned at this moment as to be unable to treat you, although, frankly, I am having some trouble coming to terms with your actual existence."
Patient: "It's my existence, in particular, that concerns me. It's as if I can sense myself, you know, fading out."
Doctor: "Most likely an impending stroke. Crazy, huh? I, myself, have the cardiovascular system of an 18-year-old bodybuilder. I'm so healthy, in fact, it's sickening."
Patient: So, Doc, am I ... dying?"
Doctor: "The question strikes me as somewhat impertinent, but then what do I know? I lose patients at about the same rate I misplace my car keys. Oops! There goes another one. Which reminds me of a joke. Want to hear it?"
Patient: "Not really."
Doctor: "Two guys in a bar commiserating over the recent demise of their friend. First guy sucks on his beer and says, 'I'll tell you what I think. That wife of his drove him to his grave.'  Second guy sucks beer, nods and says, 'Yeah, but in the final analysis, at least he was spared the ignominy of having to walk.'"

At this point a second, competing text fragment is randomly inserted into the narrative: 
 Sorry to say, Mr. Lee, but short of a total body organ transplant, your days are numbered.
How many days, exactly, would you say?
Did I say days? Sorry, I meant day.
So what, I have hours to live?
If you're willing to entertain an extremely optimistic mindset.
Sort of depressing.
Perhaps you'd care to speak to one of our in house therapists.
Only if it's someone you hate and wouldn't mind finding murdered in his or her office.
A member of the clergy?
Dead even before he gets his Bible open.
In that case, drugs?
I'm listening.
"By no means easy, but once I was weaned off the concept of objectivity, I was able to wallow in total subjective bliss, without having to feel guilty about it all the time. "
 “God is out of the picture, my friend. The relevance of metaphysics has shriveled like an old man's scrotum. What other choice do we have but to embrace the carnival sideshow of the postmodern?”
"A writer is writing a story about a writer trying to write a story about a writer who can't write."
"Talking about absolute truth is like saying you're dating the perfect woman. For a time you can trick yourself into believing it, but sooner or later the lie is revealed."
"Facts are a lot like ghosts that only show up on certain holidays and never bring a gift."

Call now, toll free: 81 22 725-5100.  Our representatives are standing by to assist you.