Monday, December 31, 2007

The 2007 Booklist

Continuing a time-honored tradition (begun way back a year ago), I hereby list my annual booklist, in order of completion (last year: 14 books), with little or no editorial comment:

1. The Pleasure of My Company. Steve Martin. Fiction.

2. Everyman. Philip Roth. Fiction (read on a flight to Berlin). (Weird. The link you see for Roth has a rare interview, with The Guardian, with a photographer from Berlin, oddly enough.)

3. Lisey's Story. Stephen King. Fiction.

4. The Mission Song. John LeCarre. Fiction. (a year ago I was privileged to pose a question to him on BBC Radio; can't find the link; maybe someday)

5. Grammar Lessons: Translating a Life in Spain. Michele Morano. Essays.

6. The Innocent. Ian McEwan. Fiction.

7. Stumbling on Happiness. Daniel Gilbert. Non-fiction (sociology/psychology).

8. The Woman Lit by Fireflies. Jim Harrison. Fiction.

9. fly away peter. David Malouf. Fiction.

10. Samaritan. Richard Price. Fiction.

11. This Clumsy Living. Bob Hicok. Poetry.

12. Some Can Whistle. Larry McMurtry. Fiction.

13. Um...Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean. Michael Erard. Non-fiction.

14. Proust Was a Neuroscientist. Jonah Lehrer. Non-fiction essays.

15. Silk. Alessandro Baricco. Fiction.

I am three-quarters finished with Richard Ford's truly superb and already-memorable The Lay of the Land, but that can't go on this year's list unless I speed-read through about 150 pages in the next 3.5 hours (won't happen).

I do like books. Today, at lunchtime I saw that Murphy's Books was open, downtown Syracuse. It was a surprise because its owner (who is brother to our receptionist and brother to a friend of mine) is battling leukemia. He is liquidating the store's inventory. He is. . . His collection is excellent and literary. I bought nine books for nine dollars and change. A dollar a book, hard or soft. Can't beat that. Perhaps I'll list them some other time.

Endnote: My story -- the one I took a week off of blogging from to write -- was not selected by Glimmer Train Stories. Everyone I showed it to (including successful published authors) loved it. The main thing is, I loved it. And still do. I may self-publish. Hard to decide, seeing as my son gave me the writer's guide for 2008. We'll see.

I am glad the holiday frenzy is over.

Our tree stays up at least to Epiphany, January 6.

I am wearing my slippers and may be asleep well before midnight.

Happy New Year.

Pacem in Terris.

Carpe Diem Et Cetera Add Dollares

Big news! I sold my first "Age Quod Agis" product.

My Wackyjackystees Webstore (also found at is poised to zoom into the capitalistic stratosphere. I see retirement coming, oh, 0.5558733429 seconds earlier!

"Age quod agis" is Latin, for "Do what you are doing." This is the mantra for all uni-taskers universally united in opposition to manic multi-taskers.

If a Jesse Bechtold of Texas, USA, does not return his Age Quod Agis mug in the next 30 days or so, Pawlie Kokonuts clears $1.40 (which actually merely goes as credit toward my monthly fee of six bucks or so).

The tides of entrepreneurial elan are turning!

Of course, the day my ship comes in, I'll be at the airport.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Steppes, Revisited

Upon closer inspection this morning (in my pajamas*), I noticed that in the interim space between the aforementioned five wobbly sidewalk cracks and the stairs at the foot of the house, there are eight incipient fissures in the sidewalk, a symmetrical and elegant addendum to the jigsaw puzzle I posted about yesterday. The eight cracks are less ominous; the sidewalk is still seismically stable there (for all practical purposes).

So, we have, what?, instability leading to stability with hints of instability, leading into our domestic abode, a Bastion and Palace of Stability Riddled with Tremors of Instability. Something like that.

The answer is in the steppes, or the steps.

* Groucho Marx joke: "We went to Africa. I shot an elephant in my pajamas; how it got I'll never know!"

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Steppes of Tipperary Hill

On Tipperary Hill (and some say Syracuse may claim sole possession of such a neighborhood moniker), also known as Tipp Hill, the after-the-sidewalk three steps (replaced a couple years ago by my wife and our young neighbor: two women working like chain-gang laborers in the summer heat, or poster gals for Rosie the Riveter-type feminine industriousness) lead to a patch of broken-concrete sidewalk, before you get to more steps leading to the front door, and then our purple (plum?) house (my brainstorm).

The broken concrete is in five pieces (I love that early Jack Nicholson movie "Five Easy Pieces," the title of which refers to classical piano, a film that features the classic chicken-salad sandwich rant in a diner; it also starts with a classic line; the record player is playing Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" and the Karen Black character is filing her nails or something; Bobby, the Nicholson character, says: "You play that record one more time, I'm gonna melt it down into hairspray.").

The five pieces of concrete sidewalk wobble, but they can be adjusted to snugly fit together, at least temporarily. Years ago, Ballet Daughter was holding IrishStep Daughter, an infant, and fell right there, or thereabouts, the infant's head hitting with a thud. It was horrid. But wasn't horrid. Everything turned out frightful but fine. Did the accident occur because of the five pieces of separated concrete? I don't know. Memory is so tricky. I doubt if the deteriorated condition was that deteriorated 10 or so years ago. Ask Marcel Proust.

If the five pieces get out of whack, it is easy for anyone, including the postal delivery person, to trip. (Well, tripping is optional, not mandatory. Just open your eyes.) A covering of snow (possible about nine months of the year here) blankets the problem, like love covering a multitude of sins (didn't St. Augustine say that? Check with Ralph Keyes, the quote guy; I believe Augustine did say: "Love -- and do what you will.").

So, I frequently find myself wedging in the five pieces tidily. A jigsaw puzzle in real life.

Oh, you're wondering why we don't simply spend some money to fix this risk, this potential liability?
That's an excellent question. The answer, like the precarious puzzle in the ground of reality, is puzzling.

The answer (all lies or part truths or full denial) is:

part poverty, part laziness, part mystery, part needing something to blog about,

and all puzzle. There's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Even Steven

From my days, eons ago, in the seminary, I remember December 26 is the Feast of Saint Stephen, recognized as Christianity's first martyr. (The feast is tomorrow in the Eastern church.) (Yikes, the things I learned about it from Wikipedia!)

From the gauzy memory of my later, at times less-innocent, youth, I also remember Saint Stephen being celebrated in a song by The Grateful Dead; good song; fascinating annotated lyrics.

Connections. We're all about connections, here at The Laughorist. That, and a laugh or two.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Silent Day

I guess I have survived the orgy of getting and spending we call Christmas (though, not parenthetically, it is hoped, ignoring its Presence found at the intersection of Silence and Mystery, amid the most abject Pain and Need, in the Ground of Being), left with a residue of weariness and emptiness, a vacancy filled by the Unnameable Name.

High-sounding words.

Silence is better.

I stayed in my pajamas all day. And now night.

Literally. Really.

Is that depression? Or sanity?

Late last night, the church provided sanctuary and solace, reverie and focus. The Story never changes, except infinitely so, in each of us. The trumpet declared brightness and awakening, even at midnight. There were tears in eyes.

Would that we all were there.

Or here.

Alas, we were / are, yes?

Readers: To you, Blessed Christmas, a season that lasts at the very least until Epiphany.

Ergo, keep your candles glowing.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Anniversary Inventory

Since, um, we last spoke, I have:

  • Blown (careful, now) my Rudolph-red nose 7,829 times
  • Sneezed 1,645 times.
  • Slept 22.34 hours (but most of that in the last two days, aided by Benadryl; doing better, thank you)
  • Celebrated the anniversary of my (premature; of course!) birth (December 18; yeah, not just Pawlie Kokonuts, but also the birth anniversary of Keith Richards, Steven Spielberg, Ray Liotta, Katie Holmes, Christina Aguilera, Steve Biko, Betty Grable, um, Keith Piper, et alia, but not Soren Kierkegaard; oh, I forgot Brad Pitt; must've been insecure sharing the klieg lights with him; also Ty Cobb, Paul Klee, DT Suzuki, too)
  • Been treated to a luscious gourmet dinner for said anniversary
  • Received a total of eight books (6.5 for my birthday anniversary); one set of Rothko notecards; one tin of shortbread cookies (Crabtree & Evelyn)
  • Coordinated the writing, pricing, and distribution of two corporate proposals potentially worth a couple hundred thousand dollars, equal to about 25 euros, give or take
Thanks. One and all.

Carry on.

As you were.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Sentence of Holy Smokes

En route to my car on the fourth level of the garage at midday, I am arrested by a vision of reality across Montgomery Street: powdery pockets of snow sliding down the emerald patina of the copper roof of St. Paul's Cathedral, accumulating just enough weight at angled wedges to glide downward in a puff of alabaster swirling smoke, eddies of epiphany that pour down, then pop, then dissipate in a gust, only to do it again, and again, surrounded by a curtain of endless flakes.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Dollar and a Dream (Or a Fraction Thereof)

Look, my goal here is to make money while I sleep. Isn't that your goal? I just checked, and so far this month I have made* $US 0.60 (as in, "sixty cents American," worth about 0.00000054338 euros) from my web store, This revenue stream, or rivulet, or droplet, or spike in relative humidity, originates from my selling one Kierkegaard magnet and one Kierkegaard oval sticker, to the same person, in Arizona. (It's pending; if the buyer returns the goods, I lose out.) I guess I had better stick to my day job. Speaking of which, I received an unexpected work compliment today, which I received graciously, which is funny, because the absence of such praise is the seeds of discontent for someone like me. Someone wiser than me once counseled that it is virtuous to accept both praise and blame equally.

I ain't there yet.

*I didn't "make" any money. Revenue does not equal profit, not even in the microeconomics of micro amounts.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Runes of Ruination

Maybe my note-taking skills (or lack thereof) kept me out of Harvard, Yale, Ox-bridge, Stanford
inter alia. Maybe my aversion to linear progression (well evidenced in this forum), be it attributed to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention surplus-intensity syndrome (AS-IS), is the root cause of my hieroglyphic notes.

Case study: I was on the phone a lot at work today. It's a significant part of the job, some days more than others. Deals, no deals, teaming, partnering, quasi-partnering, exploring, overcoming hurdles, assessing, flirting, filtering, figuring, eavesdropping, handshaking, handwringing, salivating, and palaver-ating. You know, "The Office" in real life.

Then I looked at my notes.

Runic scribblings.

Runes of my ruminations.

Gawd, help me!

Cross-outs, single circlings, arrows, loops, squiggly lines, wavy cross-outs, yeses, nos [correct? I don't know; I'm not into proper spelling or grammar right now; I'm off the clock], question marks, underscores, rectangular doodlings, imperatives to myself, triple circlings, karots, purple ink, orange ink, black ink, reverse and forward arrows, glosses, margin notes, names, phone numbers.

This scrawl on one page of standard yellow legal pad will make no sense to anyone if I get hit by a bus tomorrow morning before entering the portals.

It barely makes sense to me now!

Get me to an organizational rehab.

"Hi, my name is Pawlie. I'm a helter-skelter, higgledy-piggledy nonlinear, chaotic, ADHD-, AS-IS-riddled feckless factotum."

"Hi, Pawlie."

"Are, um, your 12 Steps in any kind of order?"

"That's a start, Pawlie. Why don't you just sit back, relax, and listen."

"In that order?"

Maybe it's all because I'm left-handed.

And I was a preemie.

Yeah, that's it.

And not any German-Austro-Teutonic lineage, either.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

White on White

No words can describe

the whiteness of the lake-effect snow I walked in and on and amidst this evening,

nor its moisture-laden airiness and fluffiness,

nor the greeting-card alabaster tree limbs laden and droopy,

nor the snowdrift's swallowing silence,

nor the tracks the dog made, as did I,

nor the holiday lights in the park casting their own brand of a yellower whiteness or their reds and greens and blues, nor the sight of the dog gamboling and dashing like a rabbit or a deer, or, well, a dog.

The wind's razoring was a stinging reminder of that old Irish blessing, the one that prays, "May the wind be ever at your back."

Oh, the wind at your back (as opposed to in your face) makes a difference all right!

To me.

But not to the snow-hungry Maggie (presumably half yellow lab and half German shepherd).

All nature is poised and waiting.

Waiting to be present.

And that's what Advent is for me.

This waiting.

Like a deer in the brush. Waiting.

We are waiting for what? And why?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Rehab Your Vocab

Have some vocabulary fun at Free Rice. In playing, you donate free rice to the United Nations (or so we are told).

My high score is 46.

So far.

Warning: The game ends only when you decide to stop. It took (stubborn) me forever to figure that out.