Random Thoughts

Someone offered me some gum today. It was a stick of New! Wrigley’s · Extra · Fruit Sensations · Long Lasting Fruit Flavor · Sweet Watermelon · Sugarfree Gum. Now, aside from having a name nearly as long as the phone book, the box was roughly the shape of a phone book, in miniature:


New! Wrigley's Extra Fruit Sensations Long Lasting Fruit Flavor Sweet Watermelon Sugarfree Gum

— But that’s okay. Not a problem. Not where I’m going today —


I think I may be influenced by reading Tom Vanderbilt‘s interesting and informative recent book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), but I was walking around today and thought of these:

No Parking Here Practice Defensive Driving!
The Pessimists Mug® Despair, Inc.

The Pessimist's Mug® Despair, Inc.

Just about everyone has seen an oh-so-witty novelty mug or glass of this design, or some variation thereof. Yes, they’re cute, but in truth, when confronted with the concept of ‘the glass being half-full,’ I always imagine it to be either the left or the right side. Bartenders don’t appreciate this.

Even though I can’t shake the thought from my consciousness, as in so many other things (see my early post, Welcome to the Panniverse™ ) I’ve learned to cope with my irregular thought processes and more or less successfully blend into society. After a while I learned to see the ridiculousness of the Left-Right interpretation: one can simply rotate the glass so the left becomes right and vice-versa (or front and back). It’s that whole you-can’t-have-good-without-evil-they’re-both-sides-of-the-same-coin idea. Or maybe it’s a double-edged sword. I think I’m having a crisis of analogy.

Oh I don’t know, it’s all so hopeless! (No it isn’t!)

I’ve an accumulation of especially random thoughts that need to be downloaded from my head. Perhaps they will be of dubious entertainment value to you, Dear Reader(s):

Tug of War

Wouldn’t it make more sense to be called a “war of tugs”?



To refresh your memory or enlighten you if you’re outside the purview of New York State politics, last spring Governor Eliot Spitzer (former Attorney General, reformer, crusader, blah blah blah) resigned under a cloud of embarrassment when it was revealed that he was a regular patron (Client #9, famously) of a high-class prostitution service.

David Paterson, the Lieutenant Governor, was subsequently elevated to the higher office and made news, as he was both the first black governor of the state and the second legally blind governor of any of the 50 states (the precedent was set by Bob Riley, Governor of Arkansas for 11 days in 1975).

I like this photo because the fragment of the Tribeca Film Festival logo looks a bit like an eye chart.

It’s a feel-good story and Paterson has been doing a relatively good job, especially under the current economic hardships, what with the Wall Street collapses and debacles. Also despite the revelation soon after he took office that both he and his wife had had extramarital affairs (but everything’s all better now).

I’m all for him succeeding, but there’s one aspect of his story that irks me. Everyone praises him for his ability to memorize his speeches as he is unable to use a teleprompter. Here’s a typical example:

But what David Paterson really needed was some time to just listen — 60 hours, to be exact. That, he said, was the time it would take him to memorize his hour-long speech, which the legally blind governor does by listening to a recording of one minute at a time.

“I can’t read the speech. Since I’m not totally blind, I never learned Braille, so I can’t read the speech by hand and then recite. So, I basically have to memorize it,” he said.

— from abcnews.com


Sixty hours?!? Seems to me that the 54-year-old Paterson, whose vision was compromised as an infant, might have made the sage decision to acquire the skill of Braille fluency at some point in his life, whether during school, law school, his early political career, somewhere along the line. It couldn’t take more that a few, maybe as much as a dozen, speech-memorization sessions, could it? But it certainly would have been worth it.  True, I know he couldn’t have predicted his unlikely rise to such an exalted office, but he’s obviously an intelligent, capable, and ambitious individual, so the lapse surprises me. This fact undermines my estimation of the esteem he deserves. Especially since a governor’s job is to make informed, responsible, and well-considered decisions.

moviegoerOne of my secret pleasures is seeing the “buried” comments in the film reviews of the current staff of The New York Times. After the body of the review but before the pragmatic details of the cast and crew listings, release dates and runtime, etc., there’s a short italicized segment that’s very easy to elide over. I suspect its inconspicuousness is intentional for it allows the reviewer, if he or she desires, a succinct and sometimes snarky way to augment the main review.

I refer to the part of the article where the film’s MPAA rating is disclosed. After this, there’s a haiku-like “explanation” of which elements of the film necessitate that rating. Here are some examples from films currently in theaters:


©Accoutrements / Archie McPhee Yesterday morning I was listening to NPR and heard a brief story on a nascent holiday called “HumanLight.” Created eight years ago by some (secular) Humanists and celebrated between the winter solstice and Christmas, it is apparently intended to allow such folks to join in the seasonal festivities without compromising their irreligious principles:

“HumanLight presents an alternative reason to celebrate: a Humanist’s vision of a good future. It is a future in which all people can identify with each other, behave with the highest moral standards, and work together toward a happy, just and peaceful world.”

-from the HumanLight website.


I’ve never seen the film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), but I’ve known the title for ages, and been vaguely aware of the premise for almost as long (swinging couples in the midst of the Sexual Revolution). Nevertheless, there’s one thing that’s consistently irked me about it.

One of the title characters seems not to belong. That’d be Ted. We have Bob, we have Carol, we have Alice. That’s A, B, and C. Why isn’t the fourth participant named with a D? It would make for a more compact grouping. Maybe, not having seen the movie, I’m unaware that in fact Ted is a bit of an outsider and the whole thing’s symbolic. I don’t know. On the other hand, if his name started with a D, then it would be Bob & Carol & Dead & Alice, and that wouldn’t be too good, unless it was a Weekend at Bernie’s-type story. But what about Bob & Carol & Dan & Alice? Or Dave?

I think I’m more confused now than when I started writing this post.

  • Why don’t I own any music by Tanita Tikaram?
  • A fantasy of mine, which I doubt anyone else shares: wouldn’t it be just the most amazing thing if the Latin Playboys (Los Lobos spinoff / side project) recorded an album using the Harry Partch Instruments? Does anybody even know what I’m talking about?
  • Is Islamic music allowed to have imagery? Their visual art isn’t, which is why there is so much abstract and pattern-based stuff in their culture (e.g. The Alhambra).
  • taken from the Picasa web album of "Robert" taken from the Picasa web album of "Robert"
  • One of my favorite pastimes is to watch television or movies with the sound feed off, replaced by music from my stereo. It’s amazing how frequently the video and audio “work.”* I’m sure this is due to some sort of wiring in our brains that coerces us into putting disparate things together (even if they have to be subliminally fudged). It’s the same phenomenon that allows us to solve puzzles and explains our propensity for seeing (mostly) human faces and figures in abstract milieux.

* note to self: coin term for this activity and submit to appropriate lexical authorities.

To me, one of the nicest sensations in the world is reading a book in which the action takes place during the same time of the year that you are actually reading it. When the author describes crisp autumn air laced with russets and ochres and you can confluentially reinforce it by looking outside the window, c’est magnifique! Quel brilliant!