Monthly Archives: May 2010

Oh, and add ‘Hap for the Hapless’

Yes, hapless, that’d be me. A planned half-hour off work spent searching for my lattitude and longitude in
order to file a renewal of my coveted Israeli Ham radio license turned up this long-lost video I made in my
spare time while doing the first historic-restoration project in Jaffa’s fabled American/Templar Colony. I
stupidly became un-consolably eager to post it here.

Enter haplessness:
1) The video was in .mov format. I’d used Avid Pro to make it, but saved with Quicktime, Apple’s cursed
invention which ‘Quick-‘ gobbles up most of your computer’s ‘Time‘ searching for updates, I-tunes, friends, viruses (?) who really knows? Anyway, it of course wouldn’t play  in Windows Media Player.

2) Three free-trial mov-to-avi converters later, I had one partial file, (the 20% you can see here), plus two black-screen carcasses. This after guessing that I needed ‘More Codecs’ and downloading them, to no great avail.

3) Did I mention that there was no audio?

4) Off to speed-read Windows Movie Maker. Their ‘Help’ tells you everything except what you need to know. Not as abysmally clueless as Xanga’s current pathetic excuse for a Help’ but damned close. Write off another
hour spent synching up the audio-visual body parts.

5) ‘Upload Video‘ actually works. But, I then had another lost billable-client-hour wasted trying to figure how
to post in in a blog. No html to copy-and-paste from my new wet-behind-the-eyes-and-ears Video-Blog.

6) And so ten minutes ago I discovered that clicking on ‘Videos’ above the ‘Add Weblog’ box brings up a ‘Choose’ menu, already populated with my meagre little creations. Shouldn’t this be stated somewhere?

   And so, enjoy the minute of pleasure for which I suffered four hours to bring to life. Of course this ratio is not un-heard-of in many other walks of life. How long do you think it took me to get the actress in the opening scene to lock her doggie in a closet for a couple hours?
(The full song is on my ‘Audio’ tab, btw)
And here’s what the house looked like when I got there: Call it ‘Before’.


Much Ado About Dates

                                      The Beginning:

“You got a date?” she asked me, eyes dripping concern. Ticket in hand, in the lobby, I tried and failed to catch the middle-aged blue-hair’s drift.
   See, I’d signed up for Culture. Two-hundred-fifty shekels I didn’t have, spent for what I assumed would be Shakespeare. Anyone else would’ve made the same mistake. ‘Much Ado: 2010’ then just a list of venues and times. On-line. And here I was at the proper time and place, ‘Hechal Ha Tarbut Netanya, 8:00 PM’ but having to answer a slightly improper question from left field.
“No, I’m all alone.” I told her, all mock-pathetic. The ‘mock’ must’ve been a hair too meek, too ‘under-the-top’, I thought when she put her hand on my shoulder and said “Don’t feel bad, we’re here to support you”.
Duh. I need support to watch a play? And where’s the scenery?? And why was she wearing that big hemlock stickpin??? Oh well, culture is all about questions, no?
But the usher kept up the date-fetish, asking/ telling me “If you have a date you can sit in the front.”
    I sat in the back. A good thing, as I needed less than ten minutes to realize that the ‘date’ referred to was for my presumed planned assisted suicide(!) Not that the ‘Hemlocks’ would, god-forbid, lock me into it, should I have late-hour-last-minute-second-thoughts. In the dark, squirming already in my seat next to a very bald woman with a really runny nose, I managed to read the name of the event: ‘Much ado about ‘adieu’.
Clever. Comedic, even. At least they’d gotten that part right. The speaker was in the ‘Hello!‘ of his Power-point, ‘the ettiquite of farewell parties’ awaiting his next click on the remote when I siezed the moment to bid farewell. “You say hello, but I say goodbye…” ran through my head as I ran through the lobby and out the door. I’d never felt more alive.

     Hmm, I glanced at my phone, ‘if I hurry I can get to the real play.’  The address was unfamiliar but at least I knew the street name. Getting closer I recognized the place, a once-upscale restaurant on Smilanski. Probably making ado these days with dinner-theatre, I thought, over the sound of my stomach grumbling. And yes, the smell of food did hit me as I opened the door.
“Have a date,” a blue-haired apron-clad-woman demanded, holding out a plate. At least I didn’t feel date-less.
“We’re starting from the beginning.” she informed me. I liked that. Hate tuning in when it’s already Act III and half the throw-away characters are already dead. I took a bite of the date, wondering if ‘Take two; they’re small’ would be impertinent.
“We’re mixing the dough up there on the right. Why don’t you join them.” she kinda pushed me in the right direction. Or wrong. ‘Why don’t I join them?’ ;that was indeed the question, and I soon had my answer: Yes, I was again in the wrong place. “Much ado about Dough” read the cloth banner, and beneath it “Tonight: Date-bread!”. I grabbed two more dates with reckless abandon on my way out, holding my phone to my ear in a attempt to radiate ‘he’s just gotten an emergency call!’. No need to admit failure in public.
On the street, with ‘So we don’t get fooled again’ running in my head, I found a street-light and checked the fine print. Hmm, three more ‘showings‘ tonight. Now which one should I choose?

“You have a date?” I was used to the question by now, even coming from a blue-hair this time done up in a bee-hive I’d thought had gone extinct since ’66.
“Why do you ask?” I felt combative.
“Well, most of the guests come with a date. You know, considering the program.” she said, nicely enough.
“What, you think I’ll suffer too much, watching Claudio smooching it up with Hero and me here oh all alone, no date, just a palm.?” I thought that was funny. Literate, despite the risque touch. Hell, the Bard wrote lots of worse stuff.
‘Beehive’ didn’t get it.
“It’s ok if you just want to watch.”, she agreed, in an earnest and decidedly single entendre.
“Thank you, Ma’am” I told her and walked down the hallway. The smell of the crowd and the roar of the grease-paint grew stronger with every step. No, wait, I know that smell?  Not grease-paint. Don’t tell me. Air-conditioner? No, hair-conditioner. Yes. I should have known.
This time I didn’t even need to read the cardboard sign. ‘Much ado about a ‘do’. I felt suddenly sad and bald. Remembered asking my barber once if there was anything ‘interesting’ I could do with my hair. He pretended to think a few seconds before saying ‘No’. ‘Well, at least a straight answer’ I thought as I went back to stare-straight-ahead mode. At any rate, I was yet again in the wrong place at the right time. Oh, maybe one of the hired-gun barbers there might want to do my locks up as a.. As a wasp’s nest?
    I scrolled through the remaining Los Much-ados without much hope. Three strikes and you’re usually out, right? Anyway, the play’s the thing and I’d already missed half of it, if it even existed? Teach me to support the Arts.
Blue-hair II  was stapling up a sign in front of the restaurant when I passed by on the way back to my car. ‘Next week: Much ado about Nutmeg’ I gave her a despondent yet spice-laden look. Even though it wasn’t her fault I can’t read.
    Too late, I found the whole thing laid out on the web-site when I got home. One simple click I hadn’t noticed. Oh well. There’s always tomorrow. ‘Much ado about a Doe: A feminist look at Bambi; Open University, Ra’anana, 8:30 PM.  I’ll find a date when I get there. ‘You like deer; I like deer; Let’s hug.’
Just for Art’s sake,
                                                                  The End

Wu: This is fiction, right?
Me: Yeah, Wu. Just like Moby Dick. It never really happened
Wu: Glad you cleared that up. But you shoulda called it “To Be (or not to be) Stoopid”
Me: Cute. You wanna write the next piece?

I used “To say ‘I USE TO SAY'” in this Title

I’m feeling re-cursive. Damn-it.  Damn-it again.

Actually, we all say “I use to” and “I used to”…” Many ways, in fact:

I have a Fiesta I use to drive to work.
This morning, in fact, it was that very Fiesta which I used, to drive to work.
But I used to drive a Toyota to work.
Yes, I had a Toyota once.
I used to drive it to work.
I used it to drive to work.
But then I ‘moth-balled’ it for a while.
I used to use it mainly as a shed-on-wheels.
But now it’s for sale as a Used Car
Someone will buy it, I’m sure.
He’ll have to get used to it.
It is a used car. I know that. I used it.

People kept telling me what a nice car it was.
Then they often asked to borrow it.
They always brought it back out-of-gas.
I felt used.
Now I refuse to lend it out.
I guess I had to get used, before I learned to say “Enough”
I’d kinda gotten used to being used.
Somewhere inside, I used being used as a way to feel, you know, ‘useful’.
This is actually not at all  unusual.
The world is full of use-ers and use-ees.

Use-ees looks odd without an apostrophe.
One feels that it should be written “use-ee’s”.
But ‘that would be wrong‘. Nixon even said so.
The ‘green-grocer’s apostrophe’, that mistake is called.
So don’t use an apostrophe in ‘use-ees’.
Unless of course youse are talking about ‘the use-ee’s Toyota’.
Or his epiphany.
I should have learned my lesson back in the ’70s.
No, not the 70’s, the ’70s.
Someday if I’m lucky I’ll be in my 70s, and 70’s a ripe old age.
For a guy who used a Fiesta to drive to work.

Wu: Your point?
Me: Don’t you mean “You’re pointing where exactly.”?
Wu: Exactly.
Me: Ok. Use/used has got to be one of the odder constructions in English.
Wu: Odd? I use it all the time without thinking about it.
Me: Lucky you. Anyway, native speakers use a few clever tricks to overcome the confusion.
Wu: Such as?
Me: Well, the word ‘used’, when used in the sense of  “I once did such and such, but no longer do.” is often pronounced “yous”. Like ‘juice’
Wu: “Well I yous-ta luv her.. but it’s all over now.”
Me: Thank you Mick. Do note that the word when written is still spelled ‘USED’.
Wu: Noted
Me: Further, the noun ‘use’, as in “use of tools” is pronounced similarly, i.e. ‘yous’ but is spelled ‘USE’.
Wu: Go on.
Me: Glad you’re enjoying this. Now the verb ‘use’, meaning ‘to derive a function or utility from something’ is pronounced ‘youz’. Like ‘ooze’.  As in “I youz Wu as a handy straight-man.
Wu: It’s ok. I’m used to it.
Me Thanks for reminding me. And lastly, the ‘used to‘ as in the bizarre expression: ‘I’m getting used to being used by youse guys.’ is pronounced ‘yous to’, but again, written as ‘getting USED TO’.
Wu: Who came up with this shit?
Me: By me, bro. If I knew I’d run him over.
Wu: With the Toyota or the Fiesta?
Me: Probably both. Can’t hurt, you know.

Breaking up with Style and Fidelity

Well, low-fidelity, but recording in the 70’s was tougher than today. I remember spending a good week
making sure she had a clear exposition of audio heartbreak. For her files. Hey, it’s sweeter than just
leaving in the middle of the night, no note.
Happy ending: We spoke briefly just ten minutes ago.
(I’m supposed to pick up a gallon of milk and another bag of potting soil on the way home.)


Doctor Tim Rescues Sarah/ from the Mess-o-lithic Era

Sub-saharan: decoded!

Sub-saharan, a mysterious language known for centuries as the ‘Fermat’s Last Tongue’ of undecipherable scripts fell victim, it was announced this morning, to the years-long dilligence of Dr. Timothy ‘Roadkill‘ Spatsky Ph.D.
    In a stunning press conference at U-Texas Arlington, Professor Spatsky was modest about the achievement, yet the attendees were in obvious awe of his breakthrough. Working with sparse raw material (one stone tablet
found in 1799 by French explorers) he laboriously arrived, step by painstaking step, at an understanding
of the puzzling alphabet and syntax of the language, unrelated to any other. Containing just five letters, it does have a seeming resemblance to Hebrew, another although modern-day example of severely limited letter-sets. Spatsky mentioned this fact while referring to the failed earlier attempts by his colleague at Jerusalem’s Hebrew Univ, Y. Solberg, who’d abandoned the struggle several years previously.
“My methodology differs in several important aspects from Solberg’s.” he quipped, eliciting chuckles from the mostly academic audience, who then broke into another round of well-deserved applause. Spatsky, standing behind  his trademark plaid podium, modestly thanked the crowd and entertained questions, after first revealing the text:


and explaining: “What we have here, I contend, is a record of a wise Queen and her dealing with, most likely, a volcanic eruption. Deciding to clip her beast-of-burden’s hair, she reaches for the royal scissors, the very sound  of which frightens the animal. After a short period of awkwardness and impropriety, Sarah has no choice but to use them for a more dramatic purpose, described here by what is almost certainly an early example of euphemism.”
      A full transcript of the Q&A session can be found in this month’s Journal of Applied Proto-linguistics here.
For a report on Solberg’s reaction see related article. (below)

‘What doesn’t work’:  staff-writer, Tel Aviv

Reached at his home near Tel Aviv, Professor Solberg expressed his deep congratulations on Dr Spatsky’s stunning success:
“The guy’s good. Real good. I gotta hand it to him.” he told me candidly. I asked Solberg about his own disappointing quest:
Well, we went with a more ‘brute-force’ approach, which shoulda worked, but…”
“Brute force?”
“Uh huh. But after a while the monkeys kinda stopped typing, and then..”
“Yeah. The bonobos. I remember the day I came into the lab and there were like, less than a dozen new trial sheets in the typewriters. Don’t recall if it was me or Rosie who said…”
“Typewriters? Rosie?”
” Yeah, Rosetta Stein, my assistant. Anyway, one of us goes, like ‘Fuck these monkeys!’ and we both laughed of course, but then it hit us.”
“Hit you?”
“Yeah. ‘Catch flies with honey‘, so to speak. So I ‘encouraged‘ the females and Rosie ‘took care of‘ the males. Only took a day or so and they were cranking out, well, not Shakespeare but at least some passable harlequin romances in between the gibberish.”
“This is off-the-record, ok?”
“Of course”
“Ok, there was this one I liked alot. Maybe I spent a little extra time with her. Anyway, the triplets look so much like me. We call ’em ‘Hear no evil’, See no..”
“Yeah, it’s rare, but well, it happened. You heard about the cash prize for the decipher, right?”
“Sure. There a picture of Spatsky with the check on page 39 of the Journal article.” I told Solberg, trying not to rub salt into the wounds.
“So we were counting on it, you know, to decorate the jungle-gym. Kinda took a financial hit here, me ‘n Rosie. Lucky she’s got that pole-dancing gig or we’d have to consider the Zoo.”
“The zoo?”
“Yeah, the ‘kids’ just eat all day. especially Sarah.”
“Speak-no-evil. We called her Sarah as a nickname right from the first day. That name showed up in so many of the monkey-texts. Turns out we were on the right track after all.”
“Well, I wish you all the best, Dr Solberg, and my regards to the ‘family’.” I said, and turned off the tape recorder. Jeezuz. And I thought being a cub reporter was going to be boring.

Hoodia Love? -or- ‘Where’s a Bushman when ya need one?’

    Hiding in the bushes. I know they’re there, in their froggy loin-cloths, communicating with clicks. Right- click, left-click, lateral-click. And hopped up on today’s plant, Latin name
Hoodia gordonii.
I won’t sleep until I master the native common name, which starts with a lateral click: ‘Klik-ooh-duh’?
A succulent, it was given to me along with a host of other exotics by Orli, who I’m certain spends most night dreaming of having me pollinate her, a lengthy process involving much ecstacy and screaming. I’m waiting for her to non-chalantly arrange the opportunity, although I’ve been hopelessly in love with another exotic flower now for decades. Probably, upon hearing that her gift has flowered, (a rare instance in captivity), she will insist on seeing it in person, along with a bottle of fine wine and a towel to carefully place under her stamen. Or is it pistil. I can never remember that part.

Ok, let’s be serious: Hoodia was for thousands of years an aid to the South African bushmen, who ate its flesh before embarking on long hunting expeditions. It’s rumoured to stave off hunger; for food a n d conubial bliss. The plant, or actually everything patentable except the plant itself, was bought by a European firm, who tried to isolate the active ingredient with not too much success. Their disappointment hasn’t stopped less rigorous firms from marketing it lately as a weight-loss miracle.
For my part, I’m just tickled to see it bloom. Brown flowers? It reminds me of the coloration of the ‘wood nymph’ butterfly.
I will of course in due time run it through Johnny’s volunteer pharmaceutical home-trials:

I’ve had a long history of eating anything with even a hint of psycho-active powers:
1) Morning Glory: Gobbled 40 seeds in a panic once at JFK. They’d been sewn into my jacket-lining. Went through customs as a neon-pink lizard with arms reaching to Jupiter and beyond. My sympathies to the green-and-purple   hapless gargoyles behind the bullet-proof glass who, tiring of my incoherent babble, somehow waved me through.
2) Cannabis: Ok, it works, you truly believe you’re ‘deep’, but the songs you write, if at all, somehow seem less magical in the light of day. Delete and Pass
3) Ghat: Beloved among the Yemenis including my adopted tribe, it fills your mouth with cud, and your mind with great ideas about shit you could do, none of which particularly come to fruition. Plus, the high is kinda paranoid, resembling ‘Ice-cafe’ more than fine Columbian coffee
4) Mescaline, Psilicybin, etc: Great, now I can fly. Trouble is, the Arrivals Hall looks
suspiciously like Departures. Sure, I saw God at FL 350, but do I really want Him nagging me every time I try to innocently comb my hair?
5) Poppies: A long process just to lie there and watch free in-flight eye-ball movies. For that they invented diazepam (Valium).
6) Methaqualone: Ahh, total success, except that sadly it doesn’t grow on trees, or bushes, or anywhere now-a-days. Closest thing to a perfect drug ever invented, though
7) Coca leaves: A perfect disaster, in the wrong hands. The more you chew the more you want… until you stop. And then you can’t bear even saying ‘hi’ to your own Mom. Crash and burn.

Which brings us back to my high hopes for Hoodia. Just that I refuse to eat it until I master the lateral click in the name. Damn bushmen. Wisely close-mouthed, the ‘primitives’. Looks like
twenty years in the Kalihari, minmum, price of admission. And will Orli wait that long?

Flower Bud (above)

Success! (above)

Now how’d that picture get in here?

Spinning the Slick

I told Wolfie across the street about my job  with BP. He’s with the World Wildlife Fund, or whatever they call themselves nowadays. They do have an opening for a copywriter, but the pay is… well.. a complimentary re-useable shopping bag with a seal on it. Nice shade of green though.
“BP’s starting me at 30k plus a credit-card for gas, no limit mentioned.” I said, kinda looking down at my shoes.
“Go for it. You can gas up our rescue vans once in a while.” Wolfie looked sad.

Well I’m sad too.  You people think I sleep well at night writing stuff like this: