Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Heaven's (Not Hell's) Bells

Although I consider Edgar Allan Poe vastly overrated, maybe he was onto something concerning the magic of bells.

A story in The New Yorker of April 27, 2009, about the bells of Russian monasteries, states:

"The curative and purifying properties of church bells are elaborated on numerous Russian Orthodox Web sites."

According to The New Yorker article, folklore, popular belief, and legend assert that the ringing of church bells:

  • prevented the spread of plague and epidemics
  • provides pain management
  • kills flu viruses
  • produces ultrasonic waves that "curdle the proteins of jaundice-causing virus cells"
  • combats mental retardation in children
  • encourages flax to grow (what exactly is flax? it was always listed as a major product in fourth-grade geography)
  • purifies the air by activating super-lightweight microleptons
  • wards off hurricanes
  • dispels radiation
  • relieves constipation
  • stimulates erotic control centers in the cerebral cortex
  • enables baseball hitters to hit more home runs
  • turns Rush Limbaugh into a rational commentator
Okay, okay, so the last four bullet items were ringers (HAHAHAHAHAHA!) put in there by Pavel Laughorismovich Kokonuts. Just wanted to see if you were still reading.

Hey, even if half those things are true, ring away, ring my chimes!

(Remember The Gong Show?)

Monday, April 27, 2009

The English Major, Edited

In the last several years I've become an ardent fan of the novelist and poet Jim Harrison. For lack of a better description, he's a man's writer. And there are not many of those. But he also can be described as a nature writer and a philosophical explorer. His characters, and his prose, are down-to-earth inventions: accessible and reachable.

I find Jim Harrison's writing humorous, tragic, reflective, original, authentic.

You hear real voices.

I enjoyed his recent The English Major so much that I practically read it in one sitting.

I have a habit of dog-earing (dog-earring?) pages for later reference, mining for Laughorisms, aphorisms, maxims, and epigrams.

This work gave me these tidbits (neither endorsed nor opposed by The Laughorist):

-- "Time tricks us into thinking we're part of her and then leaves us behind."

-- "Weather-wise was it autumn or early winter in my life?"

-- ". . . I drove off with the unprofound thought of the hopelessness of sex to improve the human condition. Perhaps I should drive to New York City and announce this to the United Nations."

-- "I suddenly felt like I had as a boy on my first descending elevator down in Grand Rapids. Who and where was the driver?"

-- " 'Birds are holes in heaven through which a man may pass.' "

-- "Given the right tools men will always murder each other."

-- "What I missed was no longer there or on the verge of disappearing."

-- "Fuimus fumus, or something like that, said Thomas Wolfe, my hero when I was in senior high school. I think it meant that our life goes up in smoke." [actually "we were smoke"]

-- ". . . my frizzy-haired assistant professor would wear his bell-bottoms at a student cafe and say 'All power to the people.' I was never sure what people he meant."

-- ". . . no creature in nature jogs."

-- ". . . alcohol was the writer's black lung disease."

-- " . . . he told me that self-pity was a ruinous emotion. 'Look at the world, not up your ass.' It took me a while to figure this out."

-- "When you don't have much to do, why rush?"

-- " 'I won every argument and I was always wrong.' "

-- " 'Some men will climb the same mountain hundreds of times while other men need to climb hundreds of mountains.' "

-- ". . . I recalled James Joyce's motto 'Silence, exile, cunning,' . . . "

Being a persnickety wordsmith guy, though, I can't resist pointing out something that the author, his editor, or a copy editor should have caught, especially because the protagonist was, after all, an English major:

"Tragedy struck little Lothar a scant week after I brought she and her mother home from the dog pound."



Saturday, April 25, 2009

Have a Good One

"Have a good one."

You hear this phrase, I suspect, mostly from sales clerks as they hand you some change and scowl, or maybe smile weakly. I can't fault them on the scowl. After all, they have a tedious job. And typically in the United States they are not even allowed to sit, as they are in many countries, at least in Germany (I saw it). And Germany is not exactly known as a slackers' haven. But I digress.

Have a good one.

I loathe the expression.

Have a good what? A day, a bowel movement, an apex of pleasure, an assignation, a life, a death, a time, an evening, an afternoon, a betrayal, a laugh, an interview, a meal, a journey, a wrestling match with a hyena from Borneo, a marathon, a flight of fantasy, a root canal, a trip to Neptune, a session of electroshock therapy, an audience with the pope, a nap, a meeting with a client, an acupuncture session, a spot of tea, an instance of amnesia, a just dessert, a singular moment of unparalleled exhilaration, a bout of ennui, a satori?

Which is it?

Tell me.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Those Pesky Vowels, Again!

News Item:

WASHINGTON -- Majestic Athletic spelled things out quite clearly Tuesday: It was the uniform company's fault that Washington Nationals Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman wore jerseys reading "Natinals" during a game last week.

Dunn and Zimmerman donned the shirts that were missing an "o" for the first three innings of Washington's 3-2 loss to the Florida Marlins on Friday night. They eventually changed into jerseys with the team nickname spelled correctly.

"All of us at Majestic Athletic want to apologize to both the Washington Nationals and Major League Baseball for accidentally omitting the 'o' in two Nationals jerseys," Majestic Athletic president Jim Pisani said in a statement distributed at Nationals Park on Tuesday.

"We take 100 percent responsibility for this event and we regret any embarrassment for the Nationals organization, players and fans," the statement continued.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

As I said in my recent post, beware of those missing vowels!

They're a matter of life or dearth.

(Well, watch out for extra consonants, too.)

Recruiting Serial Comma Commandos

Uncle Serial Comma Wants You!

Recruiting now at your local Laughorist.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kss of Death

Kss of death.

No, it's not a typo.

Yesterday, doing what old people do, I read the obituaries.

In reading the obits, I saw my name in there. Almost.

It was my first name and my last name, with one vowel's difference.

Close cull.

A brash with death.

Saved by a vowel.

Thank you [insert vocative comma here] Vanna White!

The Mysticism of Zoos

For me, last week visiting New York's Central Park Zoo for the first time in several years, as a wordsmith I was most struck by quotations sprinkled around on arbors, railings, and other borders. You might consider my infatuation with words in this case an infraction against Zen Buddhist clarity, of the sort noted in their old koan about looking at the moon versus looking at the moon's reflection in the water. Which somehow reminds me of today's Doubting Thomas Gospel.

No matter.

Here's a gorgeous sampling of what I mean:

The secret.
and the secret hidden deep in that.

-- Gary Snyder

Both William Wordsworth and T.S. Eliot often invoked the concept of the unnameable as a spiritual marker. Meister Eckhart talks of "the God beyond God," or words to that effect.

No wonder my son and his wife got married at the zoo.

Correct that: wonder, not no wonder.

Wonder, plenty of it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Many companies are giving employees, sometimes even requiring employees to take, sabbaticals.

Paid sabbatical.

It has such a nice ring to it.

Especially the ka-ching part of it.

Prescription Abandonment

Prescription abandonment.

I've added it to my list over at Wordie.

Prescription abandonment is the (growing) practice of not picking up your prescription; for lack of funds, presumably.

I suppose it could also be lack of interest or lack of care, quite literally. Or even some kind of passive-aggressive silent-protest conspiracy.

(In real life, this is no joke. I'm just blogging, which is not Real Life.)

I have often abandoned prescriptions in my life; have abandoned those mandates prescribed by tradition or culture or habit. Ergo (it always sounds smarter to throw in a Latin phrase or two), I have performed prescription abandonment before its heyday. You would be doing prescription abandonment if I exhorted you to use the serial comma, but instead you shunned it.

When my writing was poor, I performed description abandonment.

When I have failed at enlisting support or consensus, I was guilty of conscription abandonment.

And so on.

You've got your own.

Age quod agis.

What would Kierkegaard do?

He had prescriptions a-plenty, with Danish, to go.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Snippet of News

Word is that vasectomies are on the rise, so to speak, owing to the poor economy, or at least what people perceive as poor economic prospects. People (well, men people) are snip-sniping the chance of having too many kids -- unless you are a putative Octopop, though it seems to be women who yield to the child-multiplying imperative more than men. I could be wrong. Well, wait. I am wrong (those last three words being the hardest words to utter in the English language). What about Thomas Frazier, the Michigan Inseminator guy who just got thrown in jail or is about to be thrown in jail for refusing to pay child support for 14 kids he allegedly fathered by 13 different women? He is unemployed. (Except for one notable part of him, obviously.) The quandary is: how much money can he make in jail? (Hmmm. Don't answer that.) Not that he sounds like a fella who is very enterprising in all things not carnal. Vasectomy for him? Would seem reasonable and prudent, even if at our expense. Maybe the state of Michigan should bail him out, so to speak, and "own" 80% of his body. An 80%?ownership stake? Naw! Even 10% would probably do the trick.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Zen Living

I saw this quote in a New York Times obituary for Andrea (Andy) Mead Lawrence, who died at 76. She had won two gold medals as a skier in the 1948 Winter Olympics.

"There are few times in our lives where we become the thing we're doing."

A true Zen observation.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Scorpion Rules!

So does Prowler.

Even though I am old enough to qualify for a senior's discount at Denny's, I played laser tag yesterday. For the first time. Three games. I loved it. I'm sore today in spots. I was a maniac. My game pack had the name Scorpion on the front of the plastic electronic vest (if you have a vested interest in knowing this GROAN). And Prowler on another. And Erector on the third. (Well, I don't really remember the third name, but a guy can dream.) It was a blast. It did, however, give me pause to reflect. Does it, or games like it, encourage violence? No, I don't think so. Just the opposite, I suggest. I took delight in pulling the trigger at my wife and my daughter and all the teenagers running aroundf in the black-light environment. We laughed...especially at an adept "takeout." Admittedly, a few of the kids who humorously skulked in a corner and plugged away like snipers displayed a worrisome demeanor. I'l give you that. But overall my conclusion is that it no more encourages violence than Cowboys and Indians did for us in the Fifties. I suspect laser tag exorcises violence; gets it out of one's system in a harmless manner. Maybe scores of academics dispute this, but I'm just giving you one man's empirical conclusions.

Question: Has Cowboys and Indians become Agricultural Farmhands and Native American Warriors? Just asking.

Now go home and waterproof your child.