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Jan. 26th, 2017


The Tree Next Door

The wind blew over a small tree a couple of days ago. The tree (five feet and change in height) had been standing beside the front porch next door, between a couple of scrubby bushes. I assumed the wind had uprooted it, but when I went outside I couldn’t help noticing the bottom was neatly sawn off and inserted in a Christmas tree stand. In all likelihood the tree was a Christmas tree. I have no idea how long the tree had been standing next to the porch. Could have been a week, could have been 15 years. At first I thought perhaps someone had put it out for garbage collection. But who throws out the stand with the tree?

Well, maybe the folks next door bought a new stand and decided it would be less trouble to throw out the old stand with the old tree.

Or maybe half the trees I see sticking out of the weeds and bushes are sitting in Christmas tree stands.

Jan. 3rd, 2017


What Are the Odds

2016 was nuts, celeb-death-wise[1]. It knocked them off by the twos and threes and fives. Carrie Fisher and Richard Adams died within a few hours of each other last week, not quite closing out the year. I found this really eerie because of the connection they shared and which nobody has commented upon till now.

In 1978 I was managing the Guild 50th (located just down the block from Radio City Music Hall) and we were showing the film of Adams’ Watership Down. One of the local papers or TV stations had compared the cartoon favorably to Star Wars, so the owner slapped “As exciting as STAR WARS!!” on the Marquee.

On the very first night of the engagement, four people asked for their money back. “The marquee says ‘Star Wars,’ but it’s bunny rabbits,” said the least-drunk of them. “And they talk.”

For the next two weeks (it wasn't a smash hit), you could reliably depend upon someone bellowing “It's A FUCKING CARTOON!?!” around 10 minutes into the 8 o'clock show. (It usually took ten minutes because there's a brief prologue & I suppose they thought everything would switch from cartoon rabbits to live action humans when the story proper commenced). One night a disgruntled customer stood on the sidewalk in front of the box office for quite a while, warning potential patrons that it was nothing like “Star Wars.” “It's RABBITS,” he said, “Hop hop hop!”

I see I’m straying a bit from my point, which was crystal clear to me when I started writing this but now maybe not so much.

Well, Carrie Fisher was IN Star Wars, and Richard Adams WROTE Watership Down. And now they’ve both passed on in the same week, maybe on the same day.


[1] Not as nuts as 1977, though— Charlie Chaplin. Joan Crawford. Howard Hawks. Erroll Garner. Allsion “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” Hayes. Roberto Rosellini. Zero Mostel. Leopold Stokowski. Vladimir Nabokov. Bing Crosby. GROUCHO MARX. ELVIS PRESLEY.

Dec. 10th, 2016



The estimable Nige has encountered a new word, and shares it with us:

“‘As briskly as his bird-like legs allowed, the Reverend Unwin hirpled back to his study...’
The quotation is from The Winner of Sorrow, a remarkable novel about the poet William Cowper, which I’m reading on the recommendation of Patrick Kurp of Anecdotal Evidence. Written by the Irish poet Brian Lynch, it’s a wonderful read, and I’ll no doubt be writing more about it when I’ve reached the end. But to the hirple...
 This verb means ‘to walk with a limp, to hobble’. It’s a fine word, one that I’d never come across before. Its origins are in Old Norse, passing into Scots and Northern English usage, and apparently best preserved in Ulster Scots. None of which fits the milieu of The Winner of Sorrow, but who’s complaining? It’s always a pleasure to come across a new and expressive word.
 Here it is cleverly used (and cleverly rhymed) to describe the gait of a cricket in an Ulster-Scots poem, Address to a Cricket by Sarah Leech:

‘You cheer my heart wi’ hamely strain,
or shrill toned chirple,
as cozie roun’ the warm hearth stane,
you nightly hirple.’”

For my part, I welcome the word not only for its excellent self but because it provides an excellent rhyme for ‘purple.’ There aren’t very many.

There are NO rhymes in English for ‘orange,’ which is a tragedy. There is Carhenge, sort of, but unless you’re actually writing about Carhenge, it’s difficult to work it into a song or a poem and make it seem effortless and inevitable, which is what we want.

I’m now thinking about ‘Hirpling Down to Carhenge’ as an album title, tho.

Dec. 4th, 2016


My ‘Online Stuff 2016’ Round-Up

“Mad Swirl” has just published my poem ‘Apartment 4-C’ online, so I thought I’d link to all my non-actionable 2016 online content in case you’d like to binge read it.

There’s Apartment 4-C in Mad Swirl, which also posted my Invention of Meatloaf back in September.

Pyrokinction, which recently folded, ran my ‘1968,’ ‘Sunday Morning Suggestions,’ and ‘Highway 71,’ all on one page.

The Mind[less] Muse (Pyro’s sister publication) folded at the same time, but they posted my Friday Morning with Ducks in early July.

Pacific Poetry included “Lease Breaking Party Featuring Two One-Line TCM Movie Descriptions” and “Traffic Accident” right here, in their spring issue.

(If you enjoyed those, you might also enjoy this FREE pdf of ten of my poems written to accompany ten paintings by RoByn Thompson. All of the paintings are included in the pdf, right next to the poems they accompany).

Things of mine were also published this year in Chiron Review, No Exit, and Spillway, but only in hard copies. (the ‘No Exit’ that ran my poem “Crossing into Jersey" does not have an online presence as far as I can tell, although there are about 60 other magazines called “No Exit” that do. But none of them published my stuff).

As usual, the bulk (and the best!) of my online work consisted of snarky comments, moronic non sequitors, and fart jokes. I can provide no links to these, as I have no idea where I left them, or what names I left them under, but they were all killer.

Nov. 26th, 2016



There are four ducks living in the chicken yard. They were gifts to the farm from an ex-employee who was moving somewhere you can’t keep ducks as pets. The ducks quickly became part of the flock. When the sun goes down, they go into the chicken hutch with all the chickens. The ducks can actually fly over the fence if they feel like it, but they don’t. Like the chickens, they stay in the yard even when a section of the fence gets knocked down.

At least two of the ducks were ‘invited’ to Thanksgiving dinner this year. I was not happy about this because I like the ducks considerably more than I like the chickens. Kip, who deals with both the chickens and ducks more than I do, was also not happy about it, and for the same reasons. Real-life ducks are not belligerent and sarcastic, like cartoon ducks. They wag their little duck tails when they see you coming with a bag of bread or a bucket of water.

The chickens, on the other hand, are even stupider than their reputation would suggest and do not seem to see any connection between the food they eat and the person dumping the food into the yard. In fact, they sometimes peck at the ankles of this person while he is still in the middle of dumping the food.

Really, fuck the chickens.

Anyway, a few weeks before Thanksgiving Kip and I began sharing stories about the four ducks (Crackers, Dino-duck, Jean-Pierre, and Duck of Earl) with our employer, who apparently found their mad-cap adventures so delightful that all ducks were reprieved. I don’t know what Thanksgiving dinner consisted of, but it was not duck.

Yesterday my boss asked me which Duck was Jean-Pierre, ‘the suave one.’ I pointed out one of the white ducks. (There are two white ducks and two with green heads). Actually, aside from the fact that some of the ducks have green heads and some do not, I can’t tell any of the ducks apart and they have never had any mad-cap adventures.

Also they do not have names.


Sep. 6th, 2016


Tale of the Tape

As I was walking to the post office, the flap of the envelope containing my electric bill unsealed itself. I experienced that brief feeling of satisfaction I get whenever something falls apart or craps out that would not have fallen apart or crapped out in my day, and continued on to the post office. There was a new person behind the counter. “Hey, my envelope flap came open. Lemme have a piece of scotch tape, would you?”

NEW PERSON: We don’t provide tape.
ME: What?
NEW PERSON: We don’t provide tape.
ME: [Pointing] There’s a tape dispenser right there.
ME: On the lower counter there.
ME: Level with your left nut.
NEW PERSON: I know where it is. We don’t provide tape.
ME: I see. I guess I’ll just walk the three blocks back home and retape my envelope and then come back here, then.
ME: Or, you could give me an inch of tape from that dispenser and I’d have no reason to come back today. We would both be all done.
NEW PERSON: I think we’re both all done now.
ME: No, because I have to go home and tape up my envelope and bring it back here.
ME: So I’ll just get hopping, then.
NEW PERSON: [Hums tunelessly, pretends to scrutinize back of Express Mail envelope].
ME: See you in MINUTES.

In fact I decided to deposit my electric bill in the mail box down the block once I had properly sealed it. I was uneasy about putting it into the hands of The New Person.

I found it difficult to score our exchange. On the one hand, The New Person did not provide me with the tape I needed. On the other hand, I went home and taped up the envelope myself.

Which really isn’t ‘the other hand’ at all, so he won the exchange.

But that’s okay.

This isn’t over, Tape Man.

Sep. 1st, 2016



I’m going to be proving the musical background for the official opening of RoByn Thompson’s Dream Projects show at the Paterson Museum on Sunday, September 18th. I’ll be playing the guitar (a left-handed Ibanez, with pick-ups so it can be plugged into an amp or a PA system, although no word on whether they’re going to let me do that). Info about RoByn’s show is here, and even tho it’s on Facebook you should be able to access it. I have three hours at my disposal and pretty much no limits on what I can play, since no one attending will be or should be paying the slightest attention to me.

RoByn & I collaborated on a chapbook (10 paintings by her, 10 poems by me) available as a *free* pdf right here.

The flier for my upcoming recital, or at any rate a version of the flier with no pictures and the formatting delightfully randomized by Live Journal’s interface, follows the jump.
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Aug. 10th, 2016



Here are my answers to the current movie quiz on Dennis Cozzalio’s Sergio Leonie and the Infield Fly Rule Blog. Follow either of those links and play along!

1) Name the last 10 movies you've seen, either theatrically or at home
Red Dust. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window & Disappeared. Inside Out. Kim. Straight Out of Compton. Sinister 2. Bone Tomahawk. Topkapi. The Walk. Mistress America.

2) Favorite movie feast
The eating scene in “Tom Jones.”

3) Dial M for Murder (1954) or Rear Window (1954)?
Dude. Rear Window!!

4) Favorite song or individual performance from a concert film
Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” in “Follow the Boys.”

Excluding another film from the same director, if you were programming a double feature what would you pair with:

5) Alex Cox's Straight to Hell (1986)? Hellzapoppin’ (1941)
6) Benjamin Christensen's Haxan: Witchcraft Throughout the Ages (1922)? Naked Lunch (1991)
7) Federico Fellini's I vitteloni (1953)? Barbershop (2002)
8) Vincente Minnelli's The Long, Long Trailer (1953)? Vanishing Point (1971)
9) Sam Peckinpah's The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)? Strange Days (1995)
10) George Englund's Zachariah (1971)? Bedazzled (1967)

I programmed these double features as if I were actually programming these double features. All my picks have something in common with the movies they’ve been paired with, but mostly I wanted two movies that complimented each other and provided a contrast. I would sit through all these double bills. Well, not The Long Long Trailer or Zachariah. If the rules permitted I would stick them on a double bill by themselves and not watch it. But the rules do not permit that.
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Jul. 20th, 2016


Stuff Falling Apart, Chapter 87

My bathtub drain was clogged again and my landlady sent over the plumber to deal with the carrot cube. It always turns out to be a carrot cube. The plumber spent half an hour snaking the bathtub drain with something that looked like a steam-punk ray gun and sounded like the part of the David Cronenberg movie where I go “O holy shit” and head to the kitchen to get another can of Diet Pepsi. Anyway, the drain was good to go shortly and I moved onto the next issue, which was an Internet connection that gets wonky whenever the sky is overcast. I suggested to the young lady in Tech Support that this might be an outside wire problem of some sort and she didn’t believe me but sent over a guy to check it out anyway. The guy told me the issue was that they were sending me too much speed. If I told them to send me less speed, my connection would seem faster. I said I didn’t really follow this, unless by ‘speed’ he meant amphetamines, but he assured me that if I called Verizon and said to slow down my connection, everything would be fine. “Part of the problem is you’re so far away from the main building,” he said. “What ‘main building’?” I said. He shrugged. He had done all he could do. Lord only knows how many morons like me he deals with every day. His patience was commendable. Fortunately (at least from the internet connection angle) it has been a dry summer with mostly sunny skies.

May. 24th, 2016


Burt Kwouk R.I.P.

The actor Burt Kwouk died today at the age of 85. He was probably best known for playing Inspector Clouseau’s ‘manservant,’ Cato, in the Pink Panther movies. He would attack the Inspector apropos of nothing (once from a refrigerator) and grapple with him until the phone rang and he would calmly answer, “Inspector Clouseau’s residence.” It was a terrific running gag that lasted for 5 or 6 movies over the course of 15 years. But he was in a lot of other movies both before and after that…

I was at NYU when the Pink Panther series was revived after a nearly decade-long hiatus and one afternoon some of my fellow students were in the Weinstein Hall cafeteria, speculating about the true identity of Burt Kwouk a.k.a. Cato.

Burt Kwouk was the true identity of Burt Kwouk, but in those pre-iPhone, pre-Wikipedia, pre-YouTube days, good information about stupid pointless shit was much more difficult to obtain and you were often forced to speculate in order to keep the conversation going.

CARL: You know, I’d been under the impression it was Bruce Lee, but…

JOEL: Yeah, ‘but’ indeed.

CARL: …But the new movie is definitely the same guy, and it ain’t Bruce.

STEVEN: It’s a lookalike. It was Bruce in Shot in the Dark, and they got a lookalike for the new movie.

JOEL: Is it ‘Kwoke’ or ‘Kweek’?

STEVEN: What? The made-up bullshit name? ‘Kwoke,’ I think.

CARL: Who’s the guy in Streetfighter? Did you guys see Streetfighter?

JOEL: Yeah. No, it’s not him.

CARL: Not the street fighter per se, but I think he’s one of the other guys.

ME: Are you gonna finish that Jell-o?

STEVEN: Yes I am. I’m not even sure it’s a real Japanese guy. Remember Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

JOEL: You think it’s Mickey Rooney? Because—

STEVEN: I’m just saying it’s not off the table. A Mickey Rooney-ish guy, I mean, a guy with that range, who can portray Japanese, American, whatever. Obviously Mickey himself is too old.

CARL: Obviously.

STEVEN: Stop looking at my Jell-o. Put the fucking fork down.

ME: I wasn’t…

GUY AT NEARBY TABLE IN AVIATOR FRAMES: It’s a real actor, he was in a couple of James Bond movies.

CARL [raised eyebrow]: A couple of James Bond movies.


CARL: Which ones?

AVIATOR FRAMES GUY: Goldfinger, and uh…

STEVEN [smirking]: Oh sure, I remember him. He played Odd Job. He just gained 150 pounds and grew six inches. Very versatile actor… [Winks broadly]

AVIATOR FRAMES GUY: He didn’t play Odd Job. He’s in, I think, Casino Royale, too.

CARL: Of course. The James Bond movie that isn’t even a real James Bond movie.

AVIATOR FRAMES GUY: What does that have to do—

JOEL: Yeah, yeah. Nice try, Captain Bullshit.

ME: Wait. Is he the Chinese guy who sells Goldfinger the atom bomb??


CARL: “Bingo. Yes.” Jesus.

JOEL: Are you two jerk offs in cahoots??

ME: No, but I remember there’s this other Chinese guy in—

CARL: Gentlemen, I would say he’s just pulling that out of his ass, but nobody has an ass that deep.


As excellent as Carl’s insult was—and I was conscious of its excellence even then, all too conscious—I hope I don’t need to tell my regular readers that I came up with a totally crushing rejoinder. In fact I came up with three.

The first one occurred to me less than a week later while I was buying a soda at the candy stand at Variety Photoplays on Third Avenue. I rejected it as being a trifle too obvious.

A far superior one came to me around 1993, when I was changing the belt on the roll machine at the bakery. Then just after the turn of the millennium, I thought of an even better one. Absolutely killer.

Next time I see that goddamn Carl, I’m ready.

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