Monthly Archives: April 2006

Shore Thing

Well,, we’re back. My daughter Chloë and I had a splendid drive from Ann Arbor to Brooklyn, with a stopover on Saturday night in State College, Pennsylvania.

We traversed a splendid transect of rural and industrial America, and took a couple of little detours. The first was a brief hop northward from Route 80 to catch a glimpse of Lake Erie; we achieved this in the town of Lorain, a western suburb of Cleveland. This was the third year I’ve made this round trip to fetch Chloë at the end of the school year, and each time I’ve been aware of the Shining Big Sea Water just a few miles away, all unseen. This year we decided to take a peek.

419

Your correspondent finds himself tonight in Maumee, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo. The area code here is 419, so it seems fitting to post a link that has to do with the “Nigerian Scam”, also known as the “419 scam” (because that is the number of the Nigerian law that the racket violates). This is the familiar email con in which someone in Africa claims to have a king’s ransom that needs depositing Stateside, and that the plan lacks only a trustworthy party (the intended scamee) to provide a safe place for the swag, in return for a hefty cut.

Jess Kaplan has brought to my attention a fellow who calls himself Ebola Monkey Man, whose hobby is scamming the scammers. He pretends to bite, then plays the would-be swindler like a tarpon. He posts the email exchanges on his website; in particular Jess had pointed out this episode. Meet Black Mic – Bitch Honkey Killa and B-Smooth.

Possible Service Interruption

Tomorrow I will be hopping in the car and driving from Brooklyn to Toledo, Ohio, the first leg of a trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan. My daughter Chloë has wrapped up her junior year at the University of Michigan, and I am going to pick her up. There may be a brief waka waka waka outage as a result; I will do what I can, though.

What’s in a Word?

If you are as fond of our mother tongue as I am, you’ll enjoy the newest addition to the waka waka waka sidebar: the Online Etymology Dictionary, which describes itself as “a map of the wheel-ruts of the English language.”

Symbol-Minded

From my friend Jon Mandell comes this link, to an amusing online parlor trick. Can you see how it works?

Needs

As Mulla Nasruddin emerged from the mosque after prayers, a beggar sitting in the street solicited alms. The following conversation ensued:

Bottom of the Tenth

Baseball fans of a certain age may well recall the outstanding 1986 New York Mets. In particular, the Mets’ postseason that year provided some of the most memorable games of all time.

My son Nick, a promising young pitcher in his own right, has sent me this fantastic link, to a most unusual reenactment of the final inning of the historic Game Six of the 1986 World Series. As the Mets came to bat they were down 5-3 to the Boston Red Sox, who at the time were still laboring under the curse of the Bambino.

It’s quite a piece of work. Enjoy.

Natural Curiosity

My lovely wife Nina was just reading to me some excerpts from an article about one Allison DuBois, who is the real-life sibyl behind television’s popular series Medium. The magazine article described example after example of Ms. DuBois’ abilitites. For example, DuBois told a woman that she saw her recently deceased father sitting nearby, wearing a clown nose, when as it happens a box of clown noses had been purchased for the father’s wake. What are we to make of this sort of thing?

Ok, That Went Pretty Well

Here are a couple of photos from Chinese president Hu Jintao’s vist to the White house. During the reception on the South Lawn (we decided to snub Hu and crew by not throwing a state banquet in their honor; after all, he is only the leader of the world’s most populous nation) Hu was manhandled by President Bush, and heckled by an adherent of Falun Gong. While introducing the Chinese national anthem, an announcer mistakenly referred to the People’s Republic of China as the “Republic of China”, which of course is Taiwan. And once everyone went inside, Dick Cheney apparently fell asleep.

I have to wonder if the whole thing was a prank; I rather hope it was. You can just imagine them all trying to keep a straight face. I still don’t think it tops Bush père vomiting in the lap of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa back in 1992, though.

What a pack of cards.

Mens Sana in Corpore Kayoed

From my old friend P.M. “Nick” Nicholes, who lives with his family in magnificent isolation in Lennep, Montana (pop. about 8) along the Musselshell River, near the Crazy Mountains, comes word of a brand-new way to test oneself in both brain and brawn: chessboxing.

Burning Bush

My friend Jess Kaplan has sent me a link to an essay by Carl Bernstein that, not unsurprisingly, calls for a Congressional investigation, possibly leading to impeachment proceedings, of George Bush. You can read it here. While Bernstein’s credentials on the subject of ousting Republican presidents are, of course, unimpeachable, one must be wary to some extent, because of his visceral, Krugmanesque loathing for Bush the man.

Sphinx

Something recently brought to my mind the enigmatic Voynich Manuscript, and I thought it would be worth a mention here, for those of you who haven’t heard of it. It is one of the world’s odder artifacts.

Peer Pressure

Today, having been summoned for jury duty, I spent a few hours as a cog in the machinery of American justice. Admittedly, a case could be made that my contribution was actually quite minor: I showed up at 8:45 a.m. at the Supreme Court building at 360 Adams Street in downtown Brooklyn; sat in a large room, reading, until lunchtime; took a very enjoyable stroll (accompanied by an equally enjoyable sandwich) down to the lovely Brooklyn Promenade overlooking New York Harbor, where I dined al fresco in the delightful spring sunshine; returned to the Central Jury room at 2; sat there reading until the end of the day, at which point I was discharged. Still, despite the fact that my name was not called even once other than to send me packing, I exited the building with that special glow of inner satisfaction that only those who, like me, have sacrificed in the service of their country can really understand. Not pride, mind you, but just the knowledge that one has done one’s Duty, and done it well.

Alison Calder Pollack,
June 4, 1935 – March 28, 2006

My mother, Alison, died in Oceanside, California on March 28th after, as they say, a brief illness. She was seventy years old.

My mother with little Nick
Alison with my son Nick, 1988

Experts Stunned as Pollack Turns 50

Brooklyn, NY, April 13 (AP) -

In a startling development that medical researchers familiar with the history of his early adulthood called “completely unexpected” and “totally out of left field”, software developer and erstwhile recording engineer Malcolm Pollack celebrated his 50th birthday today.

The portly PubSub programmer’s hemicentennial was greeted with happy surprise in other quarters as well.

“We sure never saw this coming, but hey, we’ll take it!” said Hugo Grasping, a spokesperson for the Internal Revenue Service.

Brewery and distilled-spirits stocks rose sharply as the shocking news made its way around the trading floor. Dougall MacCallan, marketing strategist for John Dewar and Sons, reached by phone in his office in Spittal of Glenshee, Perthshire, was obviously gladdened by the news.
“There’s nae poackits in a shroud,” he chuckled.

Elsewhere, employees at the Dogfish Head brewery, in Milton, Delaware, briefly interrupted their celebration to talk to reporters.
“Whoooo-hooo!!!!!” said one. “Baby needs a new pair of shoes.”

Sound Reasoning

For fans and foes of Daniel Dennett, here is a page that has links to several audio files of recent interviews with the feisty philosopher. They are big files, so they take a minute to download and get running.

Unnatural Acts

In a previous post about C.S. Lewis’s book Miracles we began to look at his treatment of the Natural vs. the Supernatural. In Chapter 3 Lewis rolls out the argument that serves as the necessary underpinning for the rest of the book; he calls it The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism.

Then Play On

I know today’s post was supposed to follow on the previous item about C.S. Lewis, but in this morning’s email was a very interesting note from my friend Gus Spathis.

More Than This

It is always with happy anticipation that I begin reading a book; I wouldn’t have taken it up in the first place had I not some reason to think that I would profit by it, and when the writer is someone I admire as much as C.S. Lewis, I know that I will be in the company of a man of immense erudition, elegant refinement of style, and – perhaps most fascinating to me – one who is both a skeptic and a believer. So it was with great interest that I opened his book Miracles, which deals directly with a question that has been vexing me no end lately – the question of Natural vs. Supernatural.

With Friends like That…

Having got up and off to work earlier than usual today, gone off to Don Alias’s funeral (a sad affair) up in Harlem at midday, strained my brain for hours afterward writing code, then spent the evening at the kwoon, I’m just too tired to write much tonight. So I will just pass along an interesting item from the New York Times’s website (with a tip of the hat to Eugene): The Gospel of Judas, a manuscript dating back to the fourth century A.D. or so, has just been translated. One of the “Gnostic Gospels“, it paints Judas in a more favorable light; in fact it depicts him as Jesus’s most valuable ally, as the one who made his sacrifice possible. Read more here.

Bang the Drum Slowly

In a further example of what is becoming a depressing trend, another musical friend has left the building. Percussionist Don Alias was only 66.

Man of Action

In the mail yesterday came an envelope from my good friend Jess Kaplan, who is, due to his sharp and perpetually curious mind, a constant source of fascinating material. Inside was a printout of a lengthy essay, by one Arthur M. Young, on the subject of science and consciousness. I am embarrassed to say that I had not heard of the man, because when I looked him up I discovered him to be, quite obviously, one of the brighter lights of the twentieth century, a restless and productive polymath who, among other accomplishments, invented the magnificent Bell helicopter – a task he apparently set himself simply as an exercise for the training of his mind and the growth of his wisdom.

Heavy Weather

I’ve been a bit out of touch, as readers will understand, and have just noticed two recent items in the scientific news. Both have to do with the climatic effects of largish objects colliding with the Earth.

April, Come She Will

It was a beautiful spring day in New York; much-needed balm, as I was deeply weary and full of dark thoughts.

I went for a long walk in Prospect Park, where the sun was shining in a clear blue sky, the air was fragrantly astir, and the daffodils were blooming. I saw thousands of smiling happy people – gamboling and frolicking in the Long Meadow, thumping away at Drummer’s Grove, playing at the ballfields, pedaling their bikes, sitting on the benches, tossing footballs, pushing strollers, and sleeping on the grass. There were Jamaicans playing cricket, and Russians playing chess. I saw Muslim women in hijab, Lubavitchers in long black pants, and sunbathers in bikinis. Two middle-aged white guys were playing Gypsy guitar music, very well indeed, while a few feet away attractive young woman was telling the equally attractive young man she was playing Frisbee with that she was sorry she didn’t speak German so that they could understand one another better. She said she felt badly about it, but the only languages she spoke were French, Spanish, English, Italian, Arabic, and a little Farsi.

And there were children everywhere, in all sizes, shapes, and colors – in strollers, on foot, slung upon their daddy’s shoulders fast asleep, laughing and shouting and crying, and eating ice creams, and nursing at their mother’s breasts, and drinking at the fountains, and flying kites, and running around and falling down and getting right back up.

And all the time the Sun was shining on down, same as always. And tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, same as always.

I feel much better now.

Back In Black

I’m home in Brooklyn once again, and should be able to resume thinking and writing after this mensis horribilis.

Sorry, all, to have let things lapse so badly around here; the place feels neglected. I’ll open the windows tomorrow and let a little spring air in.