Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I finished Steve Martin’s “Born Standing Up” at the gym today. He writes extremely well. Before that, it was Marco Pierre White’s “Devil in the Kitchen” which I enjoyed more. It wasn’t as well written, but I loved it. Here I was thinking, I haven’t come down to the inevitable discussion of books, and I have these two excellent memoirs handy (okay, one excellent one and the other I adore) then it happened.

Over coffee this afternoon, my friend Jim referred to “Harpo Speaks”.

Unfair! Until Max Maven writes a memoir, “Harpo Speaks” is definitive of the genre. And I have nothing to say about it, except that I still like “Devil in the Kitchen” better, though I have no good reason to. "Harpo Speaks" is an amazing work all around. Sigh. Shutting up, for now.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Does your brain ever feel like a zit? You know, all puffy with infected thoughts. Like if you could physically scour out the inside of your skull, the smog would thin, the economy would improve and sitcoms would be funny again.

You may be having a Dysfunctional Downer Day™. (Okay, I’m kidding about the ™ part, though someone else may have trademarked this by now)

Like a zit, a particle of dirt (bad news, traffic, some idiot in the elevator with too much cologne) works its way into your consciousness, causing a build- up of bile that not only poisons your mood but can turn your very presence toxic for a ten foot radius.

Worse, the D.D.D. is contagious. Only the most stalwart can isolate themselves until the phenomenon dissipates. (Of course, solitude breeds reflection, which is counterproductive to mood improvement)

There are treatments for D.D.D., such as starchy foods, a good book (preferably one you’ve read before so you don’t get any nasty surprises) or the ultimate—pet a dog. The effect of the cure is in direct ratio to the cuteness of the dog. For example, being cut off in traffic only requires a schnauzer-level of cuteness and you’re good to go. However, really bad news takes a corgi-pomeranian mix. Fortunately I have one of those in my living room, and am going to pet him right now. I don't know what the rest of you will do, though the early works of Calvin Trillin are always a safe bet.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


At Borders, in Glendale. Two people (mid 20s) who had been browsing in silence, until:

"Have you ever eaten Spaghetti-Os?"
"No, have you?"

There has got to be a metaphor in there somewhere. When I find it, I'll let you know.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Buying rosh hashonah dinner at the Honey Baked Ham (tm) store.

No, not me. You know who you are.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Cyberspace is funny. Despite the illusion of enormity, really we’re all just sitting alone with our faces in a monitor. To those of you picking your nose or scratching your butt, thanks for not making me watch. Not like on the freeway, where we’re all encased in our tiny worlds jammed up next to each other, where in fact, yes, I can see you pick your nose and may I ask you to stop, please?

People close to me found True Love in cyberspace, though I did manage to use real paper to wrap the real wedding gift. I have friends here, in cyberspace. Some I’ll never meet in the flesh. They, you, are none the less real for all that. And when one of my virtual friends is suffering in their real world, that overlaps into mine as well.

Things I’ve Learned From People I’ll Never Meet:

1. I have a terrific recipe for summer squash, gotten from a Sioux zen master in a game of Tri Peaks.
2. Kids bite. Literally. They also spit a lot.
3. Sometimes someone who seems really nice, really is. (That one surprised me.)
4. Colloquial German looks strange when abbreviated in a chat room. Same for French.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Illusion/Reality: No Pressure

Once upon a time, the written word had heft. Originally because it was scratched into a rock. Then because it was painstakingly painted onto that rare new invention, paper. (Skipping papyrus, vellum, et al for expedience.) Even when literacy became more common, education was not, thus giving publication gravitas which mere verbal discourse lacked. The drunk old guy shouting on the street lacked the credibility of anything Mr. Boswell wrote about his buddy Sam, though their conclusions might have been similar.

What changed? Accessibility, for one thing. From political rants printed on foolscap and handed out on streetcorners, to tabloids, to talk radio, to … this. The blog.

Anybody can do it. (www.blogspot.com, if a Luddite like me can set it up, your dog can.) In fact, one could argue that almost everyone has. It may soon be mathematically possible to have more blogs in cyberspace than there are laptops, PCs and Blackberry™s combined.

And that’s where illusion comes in. The illusion of dignity, of relevance—when in reality, I more resemble the old man on the street than Samuel Johnson. I know that someone (most likely someone close to me, who else would bother?) is going to take the time to read my words, without the benefit of a shared meal or even equal listening time. How intimidating!

There is enormous pressure to write only salient, insightful observations that would justify your effort, dear reader. In the spirit of thousands of years of pontificating loudmouths, I will do my best to withstand sagacity. Meanwhile, you might want to check to see if your dog has a blog somewhere. I think mine does.


From a pretty girl, outside my gym:

"I want to be an ice cream man. Then I could drive an ice cream truck and be all, you know, 'want some ice cream, little kids?'"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I used to do magic. When I was 8, I got a 35-cent pamphlet on witchcraft from a supermarket in West Hollywood. I threw it out when the girl who had bullied me mercilessly for months broke her arm. To quote my friend Max quoting Niels Bohr, “They tell me it works whether you believe in it or not.”

Some thirty years later I took up sleight of hand. That didn’t last much longer, and all I kept from it are a few cherished friends and an obscure screen name. What I find interesting is that although the concept of magic is still entertaining as narrative, magic done live isn’t. In the audience of a typical world-class magic act, I’ll yawn and try not to look at my watch. People around me will gasp, transfixed by what they couldn’t possibly have just seen---how did they do that?!—and even when it’s objectively amazing, I’m still thinking “Oh God, how much longer?” (There are exceptions, notably the abovementioned Max. We’ll get to them in a later post.)

But I can read a truly crappy speculative fiction novel through to the end.

There’s a metaphor in this. Real illusion--- where the card appears in an impossible place and I have no idea how it got there, when a hatful of something gooey is suddenly dry but no more stylish for all that--- is as mystifying as how some people can cast their only vote completely opposite to their best interests. I don’t know how either thing happened, but I accept that it did because it’s true. At least the crappy novels generally have a happy ending.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scary Cookies

I make cookies. They’re scary good, but I don’t eat them, I only give them away. That’s got to be a metaphor, but for what?

Robert says that a blog has to be about something. Considering how many he reads, I don’t know where he got that idea. If a tree falls in space, and Superman isn’t around to save it, do generations of rationalists spin in their graves?

It’s all about metaphors. When we’re trying to explain a thought, we don’t exercise our vocabulary to give a specific definition. Instead, we come up with an example. “Okay, imagine a couch made out of a single giant marshmallow. No, wait. Not one big marshmallow. Lots of those little ones. Now, imagine that you’ve poured hot chocolate all over it and they’ve gotten all gooshy. That’s why hydrogen cars are better than electric.” Metaphors aren’t always a good thing. But they’re here to stay. And that’s why “scary cookies”.