Wednesday, May 31, 2006

purveyors of platitudes

I figure the kind of people who say,
"If life gives you lemons, make lemonade,"
have either inherited a sugar cane plantation or a controlling interest in the local water works.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Fable

I know you've been missing them. Here goes:

The inchworm says to his lady friend, "What more do you want from me? I've been bending over backward for you. Literally."
"That's the problem," she answered. "You're not misusing the term. I need you to be more figurative."


Here’s a joke I thought of today which must be out there somewhere, it’s that obvious. But I haven’t run across it until it popped into my mind when I saw someone wearing a sticker that said “illegal immigrant,” and I realized that

“It is odd that they call household help ‘domestics’ if so many are foreigners.”

Monday, May 29, 2006


The greatest source of the mess in our apartment is Coco. If he treats future lovers the way he treats his toys, I pity them. He either tears out the insides and spreads them about or he simply loves and leaves. Either way, there’s a trail, with Coco at the far end, searching for some other entertainment.

Therefore it’s curious that some forms of dirt really bother him. For instance having new shoes get dirty is an injury that cannot be borne. This is especially vexing to parents when it includes the soles of said shoes since he has yet to meet a puddle he can resist. Another such item is dripping food, especially ice cream. Not that this would encourage him to slow down or use utensils. It just means that the tail end of many a meal gets to be rather vocal.
So it is always a mixed joy to eat ice cream with the young master. Especially since ice cream stores seem to want to make up for their exorbitant prices by scooping too much into a cone – more than an adult could eat, not to mention a three-year-old. Drip. Drip. “Nakkin! Nakkin! Daddy!”

Last weekend, we were having some very delicious ice cream (you should try Uncle Louie G’s if you happen to be in the neighborhood). The whole family was together and Julie and I were observing the kids in the stroller. Madge is old enough to concede that sometimes a cup and a spoon are more useful than a cone. One down. As was to be expected, Coco’s ice cream started to melt and drip down the cone. As it was about to reach his hand, he tipped the ice cream to halt the progress. The little dear has already figured out gravity. Bless him.
This scenario is not new to me, though, and often ends, predictably, in a spilled ice cream. Therefore, all I could do was stammer, “Coco, uh, the, uh, your, uh,” because I was going through all the things I’ve said in the past that didn’t work and had the adverse effect of him yanking the ice cream away and making a bigger mess.

So I decided to be a smartass and said, “Coco. Big picture.”

And kiss my ass if he didn’t set the whole cone upright and hold it so I could wipe the ice cream trail with my napkin.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

library woes

Inshallah, infidels.
NSA dudes, I assume you internet and email folks are separate from the library records people, but you must have coffee breaks together. Or maybe you go out and smoke together (what, I wouldn’t presume).
Anyway, if you wouldn’t mind passing this on to the library department, I’d be grateful.
Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda (just to keep your attention).
I’ve got a suspicion that the folks at the Central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library are lazy. I’m sure you guys at the NSA know all about sinecures (because, come on, we all know how many terrorists you will be catching by tracing library records and emails and phone calls and whatnot).
Anyway, every time I request a book to be sent to my branch (you know which one, I’m sure, on top of your game as you are), I get a notice in my email saying they can’t locate the book. And we both know this is bullshit, right?
Without fail. If I request a book from another branch, it arrives eventually. Or at least it takes a week or so for the email saying they couldn’t find it to arrive, making it appear that they’ve at least made an effort to locate my requested material.
Not so at the Central branch. Request made, two days pass, inbox says: can’t find it.
I was at said branch last Wednesday and checked out several Tintin books (Madge was sick, you may recall, and needed entertainment – she’s better now, thanks for your concern, NSA folk). Of the four Tintin’s we were checking out, the checkout lady confiscated two, saying they were on hold for someone else. (The checkout lady, btw, was very nice and recommended her grandmother’s West-Indian cure-all of rice-water for Madge’s chickenpox.)
But there were two other copies of each Tintin ON THE SHELF. Lazy sumbitches, I tell you. If that’s not proof, I don’t know what is. That’s the only way they fill requests at that branch. If someone happens to try to check out or return a copy of the requested item, they’ll snag it and in turn lose it in transit on the way to the requester (I’ve got a book coming to me, the record for which has been saying “in transit” for a month now).
Of the places I’ve lived recently, Minneapolis has been best about getting holds to the customer. SF has been fast, too, but often the items turned up lost – which isn’t surprising, given the abuse the branches seem to take there. New York was fairly crappy about it and Brooklyn isn’t much better.
And why, in Allah’s name, is the Brooklyn library system separate from the New York one (which includes Queens and the Bronx, if I’m not mistaken)? Is Brooklyn too good for Manhattan’s books? Won’t Manhattan share? It’s anti-semitism, isn’t it?
But listen to me, complaining about a free service. Well, free, at least. Which is my point.
It must infuriate you to no end so have the libraries by run so sloppily. Don’t you think it’s an effort to thwart your investigations? You might look into it.
And if you happen to run across a copy of the Oxford Anthology of English Verse (very sub-versive stuff, hyuk, hyuk), send it my way. You know where to find me.
Good luck in nabbing the bad guys and convincing yourselves you’re the good guys, NSA.
Night, night.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

entertaining the ill

Madge seems to be at the tail end of her chicken pox. We’ve been spending the days at home while Coco’s in school. I’ve been trying to get her to watch movies, but she’s been more interested in playing on the computer. We even went to the big library (not the local branch) to get some movies and spread some chicken pox among the general population. But to no avail; so I’ve been watching movies while she’s been playing. Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten the Jack Benny Show.
What an acquired taste. And a taste whose acquisition requires certain hang-ups, for which Benny’s twee posture and glance is a release. And in the episodes we got this time, it was clear that the laughter was canned and his chin-holding sidelong glance was a mere matter of instinct. Weird.
But, in my defense, I also got some of the Colgate Comedy Hour featuring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Those guys are just no-holds-barred. How can you not laugh when Jerry dances and skips a little too high and lands smack on his butt. The best part, for me, is that the whole show always appears slightly unstable, just at a boiling point, with props not functioning, lines getting missed, extras and principals having to turn away to keep from laughing, etc. But Messrs. Crusetti and Levitz also push at this edge and, dammit, it’s just funny.
And quite frankly how can you not love a sketch that starts with this set-up: “Unfortunately, good Tarzans aren’t born every minute. We gotta have a reservoir of fresh Tarzans.”
But no, Madge kept playing computer games.
Until the ads came on. Her favorite: the Halo ad. A cartoon ad for shampoo (“Soap dulls hair. Halo glorifies it!”) that featured three bears questioning Goldilocks’s identity because her hair was so scraggly. So they wash it, and voila, Madeleine says, “I wish we had Halo shampoo.”
What the? How does that work? Everything I say, she answers with either “why,” “no,” or “but.” An ad, however, has an authority she can’t resist.
In her defense, though, we had this conversation a bit earlier.
“Is Halo real?”
“Real? Yeah, it’s real, but you can’t get it in a store. They stopped making it.”
“Oh. They deleted it.”
“Yes, I guess so. But Ajax and Palmolive and Colgate [other cleaning agents the sponsor is touting] are still around, though we call it toothpaste now, not dental cream.”
“Oh. When did they take away Halo?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure the company wanted to stay in the shampoo business.”
“Maybe it didn’t sell. Maybe [at this point, Madge tuned me out] they had too many competitors. Maybe, once they had to compete with something other than soap, it turned out that Halo sucked, despite the vaguely phallic packaging.”
But kids never tune out as much as you think they do.
“What’s phallic?”

Okay, I gotta confess, the last part was made up. This time. Something similar has happened before, though, and I’ve since learned to keep snarky “adult” comments inside my head.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Tames Taylor?

100_0006.JPG, originally uploaded by cbata.

Just a little comparison. Who's with me on this? Okay, maybe not. But there's something there, no?
Of course Chris is cuter, because he has those dimples. Dimples are unfair. Unfair, I say!

alphabet and numerical value

In response to Auntie B. here's a little more.
See, the question then arises, how did they (and who were they who did) decide which numerical value gets assigned to which letter.
While all other Greek shmos were bickering about numbers in the 1-26 range, Ceeificarekopos decided that gamma has the value "infinity." To which Betchacanttopses replied that beta should receive the value "infinity plus one."
The entire hall laughed and proposed another toast.
Then Alcaponektikos spoke up and said, "Alpha is any number you can think of or say and then one more" and spilled some excellent wine all over his toga.
Finally, Zero spoke up and said, "I thought the lowest number went first." And all laughed again and drank some more.
Seventeen hours later they lined up and measured their whatsits and decided that way. No, strike that. I said girth last time.

day in the park

The kids were being extra cute today when we went to feed ducks and geese at the lake. Coco discovered “ploofing” pebbles in the water. And they held hands in the stroller on the way back as Coco was falling asleep. (Madge is reading Tintin.)
Unfortunately you have to be clandestine about feeding ducks and geese, nowadays.
I feel old when I write stuff like “nowadays.”
“In my day, sonny, we could feed a duck steak and nobody cared. Nowadays you gotta sneak around and feed them government approved alfalfa seedlings and vitamin supplements and fruit smoothies while the likes of you and me are eating discounted cans of dogfood…”
Yesterday I sent on my insight about iPods and their ability to change your surroundings. You have a semi-random soundtrack, after all. Hey, is this symbolic of something? You get to program what accompanies your travails, so the tone is set by your taste, yet the order and the way they shape your experience is random (as generated by the programmers at Mac). Hm. More on that later.
Anyway, I was making my observation about a song speeding me along, and I jokingly wrote the cliché, “I was passing people half my age.”
And I stopped short.
Because I realized this was entirely possible. Not that I would pass them, but that people half my age are independently jogging around parks. That’s a milestone, no? I’ve reached the age when geezer (in the U.S. sense, not the hip Brit sense) clichés begin to apply.

Study of Birds

100_0184.JPG, originally uploaded by cbata.

I hope Chris doesn't mind. This cat is onto something, I think.
I believe "Museo Ornitologico" translates to "Dry Goods, Wholesale" in Cat.

mamma dentata

mamma dentata, originally uploaded by Tsjeu.

I'm back to experimental mode. I've put some of my pictures on flickr and was playing around and found this and thought I'd share.
Sweet dreams...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

alphabetical order

Ever hear that joke, “Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song?”
I think I read it somewhere. It’s not a great joke, but cute. I never gave it much thought until I got to write a limerick for WWDTM about Sweden officially adding the “w” to their alphabet (upping the membership of their writing symbols to 29). I don’t think the limerick made it on the show, so here you go:

Ve Svedes had a new letter bubble through.
De Vorld-vide-veb caused so much trouble. True.
Our alphabet song’s
Almost tirty vords long.
Ve added de new letter, –
Ans: W. (Actually, double-v, but no listener would guess that.)

When I find the rhymes, I exhaustively and -tingly go through the entire alphabet, plugging the ending sound onto various letter combinations as they come up and listening to whether they make a new word or not. Whenever I get past T, I wind up switching the place of V and W because W, when applied to this system of working, makes the sound of U.

Sorry about that discursion. Wake up!

The point is, my way of working plus the nature of the story made me ask the question again: Why IS the alphabet in that order?
Why, for example, is it not in inverse Scrabble scoring order: most-used letters first?
After an extensive study (of the outside of a pillow and the inside of my eyelids), I have come to the following conclusion.

There was a conference, in Greece, and various members lobbied for the beginning letter their last names to get positions of primacy. Finally, in a spirit of compromise, the members lined up in order of girth (height was too boring after they’d had all that ouzo) and that was that.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

belated comeback

Scene: a coffee shop, ordering cookies for the kids. The kids were “exploring.” I like to call it a “controlled explosion.” Other people might call it running rampant. Whatever. Nothing broke. (This time.)
Me: “I’d like a blue and pink fish cookie and a pink flower cookie. Or purple, whatever you have.” So far, so good. I had rehearsed it beforehand and was quite pleased with the clarity of the delivery – these sorts of orders have a hair-trigger and can blow up in your face at any time.
Counter-intelligence (smiling, of course): “Aren’t you a bit old for that?”
Me (in store): “No.”
Me (just out the door):“Oh, right. I’m too old for the cookies. Next thing you know, my kids are too young for scotch and soda.”
Next time.

remembered joke

I called my friend Aron today. Hi, Aron. And he reminded me of a joke I wrote – just the punch line, so I had to reassemble it. Then I realized it’s the kind of joke I don’t like to tell because I don’t know what character to adapt. It’s the kind of thing I’d think people submit to Overheard in New York without actually overhearing it.

Guy1: Dude, you know those “phantom limbs” vets have, where the missing leg will still itch them or something?
Guy2: Yeah.
Guy1: Well I know just how they feel. I got my hair cut yesterday, and today I used way too much shampoo.

Overheard on the R train, in my head.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hopkins (H Fable, take 2)

The Human and the Hangnail*

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief-
woe, world-sorrow; on an age-old anvil wince and sing --
Then lull then leave off. Fury had shrieked "No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief".
O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

*Okay, so maybe that wasn't Gerard Manley Hopkins's title for that Sonnet. He left it untitled. Let's just say it's a suggestion of mine. Also, I don't know where GM Hopkins went to high school, but I have the feeling, if it had been like mine, he would have come away with the nickname "Girlie."

All joking aside, spend some time with that poem. It kicks ass!

H Fable

The ham sandwich and the heart attack

“Just who we’ve been waiting for,” said the constricted arteries to the newly arrived ham sandwich (cave-aged Swiss Gruyere, mustard with a bite of radish, cornichons, country French bread), “now the fun can begin.”
“Hang on,” said the ham sandwich, “don’t you want to savor the last morsel of me?”
“Okay,” the arteries grumbled. Then, a while later, “How about now?”
“Hang on,” the ham sandwich said again, “what about the chaser? What'll you have, a cold beer?”
“Good point,” the arteries said. Then, a little later, “Now?”
“You know,” the ham sandwich said, “a nap would be good, right about now.”
The arteries agreed. And the heart was made so happy that it continued beating happily ever after. Or at least until the passing of the ham sandwich.

Reconstructing a Running Memory

Not that the memory was running, but I am trying to remember something I thought of while running. Usually I carry around a little digital recorded to “write down” whatever witticism pops into my mind – only to erase it later when it turns out not to be so funny after all. For example, apropos of nothing, today I mumbled, “Chutzpah – could you say that it’s Jubris?” Initially, I thought it was clever, but first of all chutzpah isn’t so much unwarranted pride or arrogance, but rather gumption, and second, well, I’m German, and I really should watch what I say. So I erased it and only present it here as an example of my way of (not) working.

Anyway, my running memory, I think, is as follows. I was rounding the final (for me) bend of Prospect Park - right by Grand Army Plaza, if you’re interested, and just past the Long Meadow if you’re not – and my iPod, in it’s infinite wisdom, chose to play “Cry Cry Cry” by the Steve Miller Band. Now for some reason I’m not proud for liking the Steve Miller Band, yet, every time I hear the few hits that made them/him great, I get this feeling of coming home, of things just being right. There’s nothing special about it. The words aren’t terribly inventive (I’m not one to go Whooo when someone says “gangster of love”) and he doesn’t really stretch or reach for anything, but things fall nicely into place.
But that’s exactly it. Sometimes it’s nice (terrible word, but appropriate) when artists choose to be craftsmen (sorry, craftspeople) and don’t reach. The playing is just confident and right. The licks aren’t flashy, but he sure knows in advance how his guitar is going to sound and that’s just fine for him. Wheee-ooo, wheee-ooo, wheee-ooo, wheee-ooo; buh-bubadump bah-duh bah-duh, buh-bubadump bah-duh bah-duh. If you know the song, I think you’ll be humming it now, too.

There, step one of my memory done. Ah, but there’s also this. I have a tendency to take something that people are likely to know and then explain what I mean by giving a more obscure example. For example, to explain how I feel about Steve Miller (to myself, during my run – now you know why I run alone) I thought of seeing Etta Jones (vcl) and Houston Person (ts). They’ve been touring together for eons, and Houston Person punctuates her singing with bluesy tenor sax licks, which, frankly, he must be tired of, but he just does them so well it’s frightening. It’s relaxed, not pushed, not bored, but just there when it needs to be. It’s like perfect cadences in Classical Music (i.e., from the fin-de-dixhuitieme-siecle). See, there I go again, trying to explain something by painting myself into a more obscure corner.

Step two of my memory done. Next I realized how thankful I was for the iPod. Not only is the shuffle program somehow omniscient (as I was running by the lake, it gave me a little boost by choosing the Theme to the Magnificent Seven) but it doesn’t skip! I know I’m naïve, but that still gets me. I’ve seen a few things, but this technology, like birth, blows my mind. First, it’s so small! And holds so many songs! (I’m talking about the iPod.) As usual, I’m way behind the times with the mP3 fascination, but I thought it was just some overblown hoopla until I got my own. It’s tiny! Yet it sounds great!

So now we get to step four. Of course my kids won’t find the iPod to be anything special. It’s not a new observation that turntables and tape players are archaic, stone-age tools for them, like manual typewriters or silverware. (What?! Yes, they’ve moved beyond. At least I’m guessing it’s a generational thing, otherwise I’d have to think they’re ill-mannered, and I couldn’t possibly think that of my own kids, could I?) Anyway, I was trying to get beyond the usual observations about kids and their approach to technology and I realized, as tedious as it was to make tapes or turn records over, at least we had some manual connection to what was going on. I remember I could blast music so loud it would make the needle skip. The music would virtually self-destruct! Whoa! Like feedback with a microphone, but less painful to the ears. But not only that. As annoying as it was to change batteries and to hear the walkman play things more and more out of tune until it became too warbly and unbearable, at least we knew that changing the batteries would fix this problem. Cleaning dust off of needles gave new clarity (I still don’t believe cleaning tape heads did jack s**t, but whatever). Whacking a receiver on the side could reconnect loose wires. But when an iPod goes, and it wasn’t the juice that ran out – that’s real frustration. No screwdriver will help you there.

Mechanical problems are solved relatively easily – at least in theory: take it apart, make sure all the parts are clean and not bent out of shape (and are not lost!!), put it together, and voila! But software problems? Eek!
And then I was stuck. Should I be jealous of the younger generations because they don’t have to struggle with iffy, cheap hardware that gives out at any moment? Or should I feel sorry for them because the breakdowns they encounter have deeper causes?

I don’t know. (I think this is the point I was trying to reach in reconstructing the memory.)

And by that time I got to the drug store and the closed pharmacy window and decided to skip getting anything at all and just went home.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lancelot - thumbscrews down

Hey, NSA infidels, al Qaeda, al Qaeda (getting some more hits from you guys – it’s like dropping sexual and pornographic words in a different context. Or is it really the same drive, just redirected – a different kind of voyeurism?) But I didn’t set out to analyze you folk.
I was just curious if you also have to check out people’s DVD rentals. If so, don’t bother with Lancelot of the Lake, directed by Richard Bresson. Though you might want to read something into this with Mordred using Lancelot’s affair with Guinevere to overthrow Arthur’s great kingdom, I don’t think you’d get far. If Dubya’s Arthur, who is Lancelot? Not Cheney; Powell’s gone; the cabinet in general is getting restructured, so I don’t know who you’d go for. And if, by someone’s stretched imagination, Laura is Guinevere, you’d know better than I who her secret paramour might be – though I shudder to think.
With Mordred’s identity you’re having a ball, I know. It could be anyone, I guess; enough people are pollingly (appollingly? Hyuk, hyuk) dissatisfied, but who’s willing to do something about it?
Anyway, my point is, we didn’t finish watching the movie. We skipped ahead to see if it would get any better, but no. The flat acting, the terrible sound-effects, the boring settings, you’ve got more important things to do, NSA people. (Like monitoring which Krispy Kreme is about to cook up a new batch, am I right? No, seriously, go check out Al Gore’s documentary instead.)
Do you know Netflix’s recommendation system, NSA folks? I’m worried that, if I give Lancelot a low rating, they won’t recommend Arthurian things. But the point is, I like Arthurian things, I just hate it when they’re badly done. And since it’s the same story over and over again, you develop some expectations.
If this movie was some French anti-British propaganda, it makes sense. Otherwise, I’m baffled.

Friday, May 19, 2006

One-liner on a literary theme

For Hester Prynne, it's always a red-letter day.

Now, I'm quite sure this line isn't original with me (it couldn't be, right? it's too obvious), but I don't remember ever hearing it from an outside source. So I'm claiming it here.
If you can prove to me that it's been mentioned someplace I'm likely to have seen, please point it out to me in the comments.
If not, you have to cite me when using this joke. Tedious, isn't it?

Mpls. Memory

It's a rainy day here in Brooklyn, perfect for feeling sorry for yourself.

Okay, enough of that.

This picture is in memory of the Best Neighbors Ever (TM) - Jen, Trent, Joe, baby-to-be, you know who you are. Remember our brunches? I do.

I miss you guys.

I guess I wasn't done with the rainy day maudlin stuff after all.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

G Fable

Grey Goose, a Girl, and a Garden Gnome

That’s really all I remember of the weekend. But with therapy, I think this memory might fade. That, and a good lawyer.

Okay, so that wasn't really a fable. This one is, though:

The Gelding and the Gadfly

The ex-stallion sighed to the gadfly. “You know, I used to think you were a real pain in the neck. Now my perspective has changed. Sting me again.”

Jacques Cousteau,

kiss my ...

anybody out there?

If the NSA checks in on emails and postings that include “hot” words, will I get more hits on my blog if I regularly include the words “Al Qaeda”?
Sounds too easy.
Maybe I should engage the poor NSA monitor.
Hi, NSA person,
How are things at your job? Found anything worthwhile yet?
Anything you can share? Will the restructuring of Bush’s cabinet affect your job? I hope not. Here’s a tip. If you’re worried, try to fabricate some codes and theories you need to investigate further, Dan Brown style.
Speaking of, do you get to monitor movies before they get released? Or is that privilege reserved for senior NSAers?
I’m really not trying to waste your valuable time with this entry, maybe there will be something here for you. You never know. Check for acrostics. (Nothing, huh.) How about reading it backwards. (Nothing again.) Code, replacing letters with other letters. (Nada?) Oh. I’ve got it. Translate it into Russian. Then, from Russian, to Japanese, then Spanish, Croatian, and back to English. Anything? Too bad.
If you want, you can check my library records and read some of the books I’ve checked out. I recommend the Thurber, but the Magic Treehouse Series may be more your speed. Don’t bother with the books on how to find a job, you’ve already got one. Or am I trying to infiltrate the economy and sabotage something? No chance. How about the book on screenwriting? Maybe I’m working on propaganda films. Nah.
I’m sorry. Nothing today, NSA person. But check in next time I type the words “al Qaeda.” You never know.
I feel safer knowing you’re reading this.
Actually, what makes me feel good is that some people in government jobs still know how to read.
Good on you.
Suspiciously yours,

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

creative, yes, but...

Granted, this ad is witty and well-done, but is the man-hole smell something you want associated with your brand of coffee? Not to mention the way it'll look on a rainy day. Still, making use of the steam is quite a gimmick.

Needless to say, I haven't actually seen the ad in real life despite the claim that it's in NYC.

my amazon review

I'm tired because we had a lengthy day at the hospital. An MRI, itself no big deal, really, but for a three-year-old. Therefore sedation, therefore empty stomach and I.V. Not a good mix for the temper of an already volatile kid. But really, he did well. So did we as parents, I might add. We stayed well within our bribe budget and the pacificatory treats were also kept to a minimum. He was genuinely hungry, so he didn't need to be plied with popsicles. He was actually asking for "white cheese" while we were waiting for the MRI to be available. ("White cheese" means anything that's not cheddar - "orange cheese" - and not too stinky - "Daddy's cheese.")
Like I said, things went well. Now we wait for the results.
But, because I was busy, I'll just post something I whipped up for when they sent me an email asking me to review some books I'd purchased. Here you go (last time I checked, 1 of 1 people found the review unhelpful - hmph):

I am flattered that such an august company as would select me to review The Bible: Authorized King James Version With Apocrypha (Oxford Classics). (They also asked me to review Samuel Johnson’s Essays and the collection Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, but there’s only room for one book per review.)
I’m not sure of my qualifications to review any of these, but I’ll attempt to rise to the occasion.
Where to start? Characters, plotting, pacing, authorial intent, believability? It is all one big blur.
Maybe I should start by saying I haven’t read the whole thing. Next, let me state that I got it for reference purposes, to stand alongside my dictionary, thesaurus, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, and, thanks to a book-jacket blurb by Garrison Keillor, Roy Blount’s Book of Southern Humor and Shakespeare’s collected works.
And as such, this edition doesn’t fare as well as it might. I appreciate that it is neither gaudy nor ornate, and that it doesn’t have the word “Holy” plastered all over it (a selling point for someone of my non-persuasion), so it fits well on a shelf along other fat, unread books. But the useful table of contents, the “List of Books of the Bible” (as it says in the “Contents” on p. vii) isn’t until p. lxxiii. If I ever have to look up anything, I need to go to lxxiii first. (And, let me warn you, it’s not alphabetical. X comes before L, which comes before C, but after I.)
Anyway, the first thing I looked up was a reference in “Roughing It,” by Mark Twain. He referred the reader to Numbers, 37. I’m sure it’s symbolic that this was the first thing I looked up, but I don’t know of what.

Monday, May 15, 2006

F Fable

The Fly and the Frog

I fly passed by a frog. Given his knowledge of the frog’s diet, he was understandably nervous. Rather than hide, he decided on a different approach. “Fair frog,” he said, “I hear that you are an enchanted prince.” The frog eyed the fly, but said nothing. “Don’t you miss the food from the royal kitchens?” the fly continued.
“I do,” said the frog. “But I have to live in the present.”
And with that, well, you probably saw this coming all along.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

E Fable

The Ermine and the Eggs

“Who says there’s no life after death? It may not be rebirth, but this really is something, isn’t it?” says the ermine, slung around the shoulders of a parading monarch. “Just look at the statement I’m making. Regal, pure, proud.”
“Life before birth can be pretty exciting, too,” answer a half-dozen approaching airborne eggs. “Though we’re less sure of our statement.”

Art - not just for kids

Coco’s Work (Lot 1): He sat and made a “blue” [“glue” in regular English] project, and came up with this. I thought I heard him say, “Da Wedding.” Not being sure, I asked, “What is it called?” And he answered, “Ah … da Wedding.” Now, I can’t be quite sure if it is written “uh” or “ah” or “aah” or “eh,” all of which give the work different connotations. But I’ll go with “ah.” I think the artist was making a statement about the shortcomings of written communication by giving such a slippery title only in its aural form. He also appears to be making a statement on the holy institution of matrimony, so recently in the news with intended bans and whatnot. The artist keeps up with current affairs and does not live in isolation. Note the whiteness of the napkin besmirches by a red stain, red so evocative of passion, blood, and pizza sauce. Also, he’s making a statement about matrimony what lurks beneath the surface of the wedding event by “bluing” the napkin folded, yet loosely open. What lurks beneath the white veneer, he seems to ask. Finally, I’d like to point some allusions of the medium. The napkin, used to wipe traces of consumption, the offal of life-giving food, and, I feel compelled to mention, the remnants of the life-giving female cycle. Kudos, Coco.
Starting bid: Bob the Builder underpants.

Madge’s Work (Lot 2):

[Excuse me
Excuse me
I need to get throgh
Excuse me.
I am getting throgh!]
A quick, assertive statement on manners and determination (determinism, too, Ms MG?). Written by a female, it might be a statement on feminism in the 21st Century, but, as male critic, I hesitate to presume. The traces of erasure conjoined with the willful spelling leave open the question of an assertive personality confronting the strictures of social communication. Finally, this critic would like to point out how the line between art and life are blurred as becomes evident in recitation of the poem. Not until the thunderous applause does it become obvious that this is a triumph of artistic expression rather than an attempt to get to the podium. Hats off to Madeleine, she’s “getting throgh.”
Starting bid: a manicure.

Friday, May 12, 2006

D Fable

To keep myself honest, I figure I should keep plugging at these.

The Dolphin and the Donkey

“I’m much smarted than you,” said the dolphin to the donkey. “The humans say so. And they call you a name.”
“Yeah?” replied the donkey. “If you’re so smart, what are you doing talking to me on land?”


The Donkey and the DA

[Insert your own jokes here. But you can’t say one’s an ass and the other a donkey. That’s too easy.]

The point of joint returns

No matter where you go, if it’s a pretty site, there’s Asians planning a wedding shoot. Sir Edmund Hillary the first to climb Everest? I don't think so. The only reason Tensing Norgay knew his way around Mt. Everest so well is because he’d taken Asian wedding parties there on a photo shoot just a few months prior. Eric the Red, Columbus, Magellan, all their travelogues omitted encounters with Asian wedding parties. To sound more impressive, I guess. Marco Polo might mention them, but I’ve only read as far as getting to the Mongol court.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Aristocrats Limerick

Okay, I’m spent. After some mild encouragement to get going on an Aristocrats Limerick, I went ahead. And now I have something. If you want a copy, email me ( Be forewarned: it’s a dirty joke, and I can only euphemize so much. After a while I gave up and got crass. (Which is why I’m not posting it.) Also, I might need to mull it over and touch it up. (I fear it needs more grossness for pacing, but right now it would seem gratuitous. So I’ll let it sit a little.)
Anyway, it’s about as short as I could make it. But “Aristocrats” is a difficult word to rhyme with. And, in order for the rhymes to make sense, I needed to introduce a certain kind of rodent and perform contortions on it (before, of course, inserting a few of them somewhere), and I needed to establish that the children in the act weren’t well-behaved and had encountered a clenched hand along the way (the sandpaper gloves came up on their own).
Other difficulties arose in trying to get the set-up as concise as possible, and from introducing the words “family act” (the rhyme, again, led to “explanatory” verses).

Now I feel a bit as I imagine the Ancient Mariner did. It's a tale I was compelled get off my chest, I guess. "And till my ghastly tale is told, / This heart within me burns." While it's a feeling of accomplishment, I'm not sure "pride" describes it.
Incidentally, I looked at Coleridge's Rime again because I had a grander plan of having a wedding guest be accosted by an old fart who'd tell this joke instead of his journey. A dead albatross would figure in it somewhere. As I was perusing it, several tasty phrases came up, but the Rime is in a four-square rhythm and the transposition to a limerick would be a bit forced.
But, in case you're interested, the Mariner includes:
they raised their limbs like lifeless tools
the dead men gave a groan
and the balls like pulses beat
the steady weathercock
and a thousand thousand slimy things
and thou art long, and lank, and brown, / as the ribbed sea-sand
he hath a cushion plump: / It is the moss that wholly hides / the rotted old oak-stump
[and I could have sworn there was "a toothless mastiff bitch" but I can't seem to find her now - she may be in a different Coleridge poem]
I'd like to point out I'm not the sicko here. It's Coleridge.

But that's not the route I took. So, if you’re interested, drop me a line.
I need to take another shower.

Different C Fable with single ending

The crow and the car

The crow alighted next to the warm, ticking car. “Humans,” he snorted. “They use you to plow over other animals, feeding me; then they look at my tracks and name laugh-lines after them. What are they implying?”
The car, wisely, remained silent.


This is an actual headline from the International Herald Tribune:

158 years later, France recalls end of slavery

What editor let that slide? I know I’m too much of a "creative" reader, but still, “remembers” or “reflects on” gets the intended point across. Isn’t that worth a few extra letters? As it stands, the story that follows could be something like this:

Fed up with strikes and labor disputes, France’s department of the interior, in a closed meeting, overturned its 158-year ban on slavery (a 34-31 decision, in overtime, with twelve abstentions). “It’s about time we taught these good-for-nothing kids a lesson,” said ... "And our immigrant problem," added ...
[It turns out I’m completely ignorant of French politics and politicians, otherwise this would be a brilliant piece of
Onion-type satire. As it is, I’m tired, and I ask you to forgive me and fill in the remaining text yourselves.]

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

C Fable

I couldn't decide on an ending. Please vote in the comments if you have a preference. (Please have a preference.)

The Cat and the Chihuahua

The housecat pulled the Chihuahua aside while the owner wasn’t looking. “Have you no shame?” it asked the panting dog. “Calm down, show some restraint, be your own animal for a while.”
Ending 1: “W-W-What makes you think I l-l-like being this w-w-way?” the Chihuahua answered.
Ending 2: “And when’s the last time you were taken out on the town?” the Chihuahua replied.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

B Fable

As promised, the next alphabetical fable:

A bear approaches a beehive and is immediately accosted by a tiny army. “Get out of here,” they shout. “Don’t you know how long it takes us to make just an ounce of honey?” “I can’t leave,” he replies, “I’ve got a family to feed, too.” With these words, he grabs a fistful of honey and turns to pose for the camera for the Bzzy-B Honey PR department.


Ay, ay, ay. As Bart Simpson said under his nom de medecin, Dr. Cheeks, while mooning a customer, “I’m a little behind.”
I was putting the kids to sleep last night (in the non-euphemistic sense) and succumbed to my own calming charms while contemplating what to put in yesterday’s (today’s, at the time of contemplation) blog. I drew a blank (actually, I was working on a B fable). I was also ruminating on what to enter for the 78th Annual Meeting of the Society of the Fifth Line. They’re a group of limerick-lovers who get together once a year to share, I’m guessing, their ability to rhyme and make merry – though I’m not sure of the order of priorities, never having attended. One of the members tracked me down last year to submit some lines and he did it again this year. I’m still not sure what to submit. Thinking in large-scale incomplete things again (you may notice a theme), I have begun recounting the Aristocrats joke in limerick form, but I’m not sure I can get myself to be really gross (in written form, that is), so I still need to work around that. We’ll see what happens. But the deadline, I think, is today. So I’ll cut this short and get to rhyming.
Here’s one I did when I got the “assignment.”

When the Romans were conquering Munich,
One native peeked up the wrong tunic.
He met a stiletto
And soon sang falsetto
And started a job as a eunuch.

Yes, it’s that kind of limerick they’re looking for. To the point. (Badum)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Fable

I read Lessing's fables recently. A while ago, actually. Not that it matters, but it sounds better in a blog to have current, hot topics on the plate. So an eighteenth-century work about antiquated items is sure to go over well. Nevertheless, the fables are quite good. I might even translate some of my favorites for this blog. You know, on slow days (actually, more likely on rushed days like Wednesdays).
My edition came with a treaty on the fable, which I tried to put to use. Since I think in unrealized grand projects, this was (no, is! - I won't be defeatist about this) to be an A-Z book. So far I have - A. Here it is.

At the zoo, the Ape jeered at the Aardvark.
“Hey, Orycteropus afer, you can change your name to appear first in the index, but you won’t attract any crowds until you show humans what they want to see. And what they want to see is a reflection of themselves.”
Then he set to hurling more feces at the wall.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The kid-friendly Slope (and Song stuff)

We’re still new to Park Slope, but I hear that about ten years ago, the place was still fairly iffy, at least the parts away from Prospect Park.
Nowadays in Park Slope a “bad block” is one on which the sidewalk is so bumpy it causes perambulating offspring to waken.*
As in, “Don’t take the stroller up 3rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. The incline will make you sweat, and the sidewalk will make budding teeth rattle.”
On the other hand, if you want your slumbering little one to loosen his or her grip on the pacifying cell phone or digital camera, this might be a good block. Also recommended for stubborn pickle jars.

*Ours is the kind of neighborhood where parents might get their issue
inflatable neck rests in order to keep them slumbering (even though the average garden hose is less flexible and resilient than a napping kid’s neck).

Speaking of neck rests, on the way to Vegas we flew on
Song, Delta’s now-defunct budget line. Ours was the final flight for that particular crew. Not very comforting in terms of service to be expected. But they did all right, considering. They sold their last five neck rests for $5 apiece. No doubt to be resold on eBay for goads more. I almost took some airsick bags for a similar purpose, but didn’t (sorry, Mom and Dad).
The second-best thing about the flight was the drunken flirtation of the two girls in front of us with some random guy from a different row who “happened” to park his horny behind next to them in the post-restroom-break stretch during which the seatbelt sign conveniently lit up. Needless to say, he encouraged not only the flirtation, but also the drunkenness, which he fed with his own supply of fermented faux-Russian potato extract.
The best thing about the flight? The recorded safety chatter. They got
Barry White – or someone who sounds a lot like him – to talk over slipcover music. Nobody says “inflatable slide” or “slip the mask over your nose and mouth” like the Walrus of Love. They should have sold the recording of that. iTunes, are you listening? Maybe that’s what got the girls in front of us primed for Mr. Testosterone (if his thinning hair is anything to go by).

Friday, May 05, 2006

Ansel Who?

Sometimes, when the kids get a hold of the camera, you come up with very artsy pictures. If the camera survives the experience intact, that is. Any guesses what this might be?

Okay, so Ansel Adams isn't the right photographer to compare this to, but he happened to pop into my head. In Vegas, we trekked from the Excalibur to the Bellagio - next time we're taking a cab - in order to see their Impressionist exhibit at the art gallery. But, instead of seeing Impressionists, we saw a sign announcing the upcoming Ansel Adams exhibit. So we had some ice cream instead and pretended that Coco's napkin was the Cathedral at Rouen at 10:47 am, when Monet was still getting over his jet lag.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

vacation summation

This, I presume, is the gambling equivalent of a Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes. Posted out of the way and made to look as boring as possible. “Well, you can’t say we didn’t warn you. More free drinks?”

The pools in Vegas, by the way, are all around 3 feet deep. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s so they can serve drinks there. It’s great for kids, except when the adults have sobered up enough to come to the pool wearing shades and sipping their breakfast. Of course they never spill. [Note to self: take another shower.]

One of the weirdest things about Las Vegas is that after a few days, some of the hotels and attractions seem quite tasteful - just as Tom Jones seems understated after you’ve listened to Neil Diamond.
Speaking of Mr. Jones, I again missed an opportunity to see him perform live. Friends of mine went and reported a disappointing thrown-panty count, but were happy to inform me of a fainting audience member. (Both during “What’s New, Pussycat?” whooawhoawhooa – now you’re humming that, right? You’re welcome.)

The motto is, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” So does that mean that my brother-in-law is not really married? What about STDs? Or debt?
Talk about a tired joke.
They’re actually saying, “What’s great about Vegas is that you get to leave.”

Odd tidbits

Apparently, when you have a Southern accent and order an “Arnold Palmer” in a loud-ish buffet setting and the man taking the order is an aging Asian, you will receive “Warm Water” and a sheepish grin.

In San Francisco, there was a sign that advertised:
French manicure $10
Polish change $8
And, even though I knew it was a nail salon, I kept wondering why they’d charge eight bucks for a couple Zloty.
Similarly, in Vegas, after walking by a replica of Studio 54, I saw a sign for “Paris LV” and wondered, “fifty-five what?”
I’m an idiot.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Home Again

We’re back and the white samite needs to go to the cleaners. Man, is Las Vegas smoky. It’s like being in Europe or something. You know, a place where people smoke indoors.
Between the smoke, the chemicals from the pool – how else do you counteract whatever drunk people emanate in a pool – the conditioned air, the buffet foods, and the airplane grease, it’ll take some washings to discover my original skin. Just in time for molting season.
But wait until I’ve unpacked and done laundry and caught up with things that took place during our sojourn in the LV time warp. Then I’ll have more to say.