. . .

“Barely awake, house quiet, coffee poured, blank page. Quick, first thing each morning, start writing. Keep the pen moving on paper, shoot for paragraph or two, no thought to where it’s heading, or if it will lead anywhere, or be worth reading, or embarrass you. It’s better if it does.  The last thing it should seek, in any sense of the word, is to be good.

“Type it up allowing minimal edits for preposition or punctuation fixes. There’s always a word or two you can’t read and have to take your best guess at.”

Nog called them his sillies. No surprise, eventually we quietly on our own would get up to write them too.

. . .

Bry — February 28, 2012, 5:01 am

THINK THE worst of people, get it over with, you’ll never get to heaven if you can’t go through hell. Fred Rogers, Ted Lasso, they exist* because they’re not children but adults who learned how the world works so they can work within it on behalf of the child, who will not be denied in the best and worst of people.

*Rogers exists still because we’re affected by him. The character Ted Lasso, for the same reason.

. . .

Bry — February 27, 2021, 5:09 am

I BELIEVE Christ was born, lived, died, and was buried. I believe He rose again.

But listening to you, Franklin Graham III, evangelist son of evangelist Billy Graham, I know He died again.

. . .

Bern — February 26, 2021, 5:00 am

IN DEFENSE of the blank page, why is it so terrible? Does the reader need one more thing to read? to ponder, to judge and decide what if any of it she wants to accept? When will writing catch up to modernism, or post-modernism, or new-post-modernism in painting, sculpture, architecture?

Music managed it with John Cage’s 4'33"—along with nine other selections on Apple Music that offer total silence. Where is the minimalist? The brutalist? Yoko Ono’s one-word poem (Fly.) was a step in the right direction and seemed to augur smaller things. But the movement seems to have ended there.

This morning I could take a leap, I could leave this page alone, as it is, to represent potentiality, refusal, acceptance, or whatever the reader wants to bring to it. Instead, I acquiesce to tradition, expectation, and the insistent demands of the marketplace.

Here you go.

. . .

Nog — February 25, 1994, 4:46 am

THE BRAIN’S radio. This morning it’s “Sleigh Ride,” the version from whoever arranged and performed The Dating Game theme, playful, the definition of upbeat, and of no use to the conscious or unconscious mind. What id, what shadow, what demon called in this request this morning? “And can you play it over and over?’

He opens it to all listeners out there, and gets snatches of tunes of various genres and eras flitting through, like turning the dial on the station knob: Paul Simon’s longing, Iasos’s angel chorus, “Marriage of Figaro,” his freshman roommate’s Allman Brothers, a Julian Casablanca his nephew played for him last week when he came by to drop off his fish-and-sweet-potato casserole, adding one more song to the mix, as if his brain could take in more. But the brain is not a library with only so many shelves. The brain is a radio.

. . .

Nog — February 24, 2001, 5:06 am

REMINDER THIS morning a hidden, constricted part of me believes life is nothing other than a referendum on my performance. Last night dreamed my funeral was overseen by people on a kind of dais, literally with scorecards.

. . .

Bern — February 23, 2021, 5:00 am

“WISHES THREE,” said the djinn, his bare arms folded to display tattoos of many-ringed planets.

The young man furrowed his brow as if this were a test of his wisdom, or his moral sense.

“I recommend,” said the djinn, “using your first for something pleasant, immediate, and small. Gets the ball rolling.”


“Something to eat or drink, perhaps. Or to wear. Or kiss. Or ride on.”

“How long are these wishes good for?”

“I don’t know. No one’s pushed it ever.” The young man nodded shrewdly. “Perhaps you could wish to know what you want.” Or, thought the djinn, you could wish you were the kind of young man who knew what he wanted.

The young man was smarter than that, and he sold futures, calls, and options on the wishes, and bought fine things, and lived reasonably well ever after. But only reasonably.

. . .

Bry — February 22, 2021, 5:01 am

ON THIS week’s podcast we’ll discussing chaos theory with mathematician Robert L. Devaney while going through an automatic carwash with the windows open. Next week be sure to join us as we explore shame with therapist R.J. Truett while talking with our mouths full as we plow through America’s highest-calorie state fair delicacies. Upcoming segments include trading pickup lines riding an elevator  up and down Roosevelt Center, answering listeners's questions breathing helium in plank position, and sitting either side of Tucker Carlson at the bar of his country club and talking past him about the variety of artificial insemination techniques employed with wild and domestic animals.

. . .

Bern — February 21, 2021, 5:00 am

On a Wyoming back road we come to the tiny town of Natrona and decide to have lunch at the town’s Chinese restaurant, the Wyo Ming.

“No,” says Nog, looking at his menu. We pick up ours and see a small yellow stickie in the top corner. It announces the special, Skunk Low Mein.

Our hostess and waitress, striking redhead, 40s, with an accent we can’t place though it’s East Coast, assures us it’s no joke.

“Our cook removes the glands. She got the idea from a Netflix documentary on fugu chefs.”

Bry asks her what skunk tastes like. She taps her pen against her lower lip.

“Jackalope,” she says. “Without the stringiness.”

. . .

Bry — February 20, 1999, 5:01 am

A CHILDREN’S book I must start on this very morning—Puppycat & Pussydog.

Two animals, who don’t fit in amongst their kinds, meet and encourage each other to pursue lives in which they fulfill the potentialities of their inner idenities. JK Rowling will hate it.

. . .

Bern — February 19, 2021, 5:09 am

READING SALINGER’S Seymour, An Introduction, a second-hand hardcover with a once-glossy dustjacket falling apart, such that its pieces are now bookmarks. “Christmas 1963” in a woman’s hand in the lower left corner of the front endpaper, and her name obscured by a broad swipe from a blue permanent marker. Books by living authors I’m good about ordering through our local bookstore and driving into town to pick up curbside. Dead authors I find on the Abe’s Books site, and when they arrive I open them to find traces of other owners, and it feels like someone passed the torch, or rather they collapsed and I took it from their hand.

But I started out to say I’m struck this morning by the printing of this book. By this I only mean the impress of the typeplate on the page. The sun is still low and it sidelights the curving page like sunrise across the crown of a gentle new-mown hill. The paper’s tooth is that of packed sand at low tide, and what stands out is that each letter is slightly embossed, with little points of highlight and shadow. This book at this moment becomes less a work with its place in the culture and history and hierarchy of words than that feeling on your arm when someone puts a hand there to say, please hear me on this.

More and more I turn to the same few authors, as I do friends.

. . .

Nog — February 18, 1999, 5:06 am

SAW AN article yesterday in the NYTimes about semi-colons, their nuances and limitations.

I am contributing to the world of letters the demi-colon. This is the upper dot of a colon reaching down underneath it to paw at the empty space.

. . .

Bry — February 17, 2021, 5:09 am

THE GIANT: “Fee-fi-fo-fuck, I stubbed my toe on a pickup truck.”

. . .

Nog — February 16, 1990, 4:46 am

The first ever book on writing I knew—either Gardner’s Art of Fiction or On Becoming a Novelist—described editing one’s own work as the unpleasant but in a way satisfying (not the word) process of “cutting away necrotic tissue.”

But to complicate matters, the writer isn’t cutting away at himself. The book, as we like to think, is the writer’s child. Which is why he’s horrified when it goes under a stranger’s knife. The editor doesn’t care, doesn’t appreciate it. and by all appearances is following procedures from an operative manual. Ectomy, ostomy, oplasty, or rraphy, no matter how non-invasive they’re held to be, all are cuts. The writer longs for the day when editors had time for exploratory procedures; now they apply therapeutic and cosmetic measures—excision, resection, grafts, amputation (castration!)—seemingly without hesitation.

The analogy falls down pretty quick though, as it’s up to the writer to administer measures and manage his own pain and discomfort. And we must keep in mind the line between local and general anesthetic is fuzzy and not without its risks. Gardner warns us too the main occupational hazard for writers is drink.

. . .

Bry — February 15, 2021, 5:08 am

I’ve discovered the magic picture bar on this laptop gives me the option of quickly inserting an emoji in text. 🐭 On this end it’s a mouse head. On your end it may be a different mouse’s head. Much is lost in translation.

Emojis serve as the intonation or body language some of us lean on to get across subtleties of meaning. Used alone and by themselves, with no explanatory text, they become gestures discouraging further conversation. In five years, Fox and CNN will be running marquees of them.

. . .
Ad for Hotel DeWitt in Albany.

Nog — February 14, 1993, 5:23 am

IN THE Gospel of John, Jesus wears the present first-person singular copulative εἰμι in conjunction with the personal pronoun ἐγώ on a t-shirt reading Wham Bam Thank You I AM

. . .

Bern — February 13, 2021, 5:22 am

THE MIND is a vast supercomputer, like your phone. Which itself is by exponential proportions greater than the systems that took the Apollo 8 astronauts to land upon the moon. It wasn’t Apollo 8— that one went around the moon for a look at its backside. In Exodus, God says, “Thou shalt see my back parts,” which scholars take to mean stars and firmament, although every child in catechism class knows God meant His butt, for God was mooning unto Moses. The mind is a supercomputer, like your phone, and it has a phone’s birdshot attention span. It thinks to attach firmament to butt, but moves on.


Ad for a silly Hennessy brandy dispenser.
. . .

Nog — February 12, 1997, 5:02 am

The standup comic develops his material martially, rehearsing his moves until they seem natural, noting which land and which miss, executing whichever modifications come to him in the moment, and slowly coming to the understanding the audience is a dance partner rather than an adversary. And no less unforgiving.

Ad for Childs Paramount jazz club.
. . .

now in american sizes

Ad for those seat-sticks Brits used to sit on at public events. Do they still?

Bern — February 11, 2021, 5:23 am

THE NEEDLE at E. The milk carton put back in the fridge empty. The reaches beyond the last detected star. The space next to you in the bed. The apartment as you carry out the last box and stop to see if you’ve missed anything. Lamp socket after you’ve unscrewed the dead bulb and can’t find a replacement. Dead hard drive. Road sign No Outlet. “You have no new messages.” February. Obit page. Blank page.

. . .
Ad for English crackers that
 they're calling biscuits, don't you know

Nog — February 10, 1997, 4:43 am

CHILDHOOD MAKE-BELIEVE is absurd, and a dangerous state, and you can see why we hurry to grow out of it. Starting out life wanting impossible things, overpoweringly, when you’re helpless and ignorant, is a prescription for all kinds of maladjustment. Even as we become driven to learn particular agencies—to walk, feed ourselves, make marks on walls—out of that desire, it doesn’t begin to get us what we want. In the long run as we adopt a more strategic approach to learning how to achieve certain goals. Eventually we develop strategic identities, and after that, as far as desire goes, we’re cooked; desire rears its head only in little ways, in our work, family life, indulgences, hobbies, binges, security, routine. We’re surprised and entranced when it breaks through as the memory of a morning, birdsong, smell of Play-Doh, a cool breeze on the sun-warmed hairs at the nape of the neck. Often it carries a sense of loss. To feel all that desire once more, but with the knowledge and power of an adult, could bust open everything.

. . .

Bry — February 9, 2021, 5:06 am

Comic about character called The Safe, from Bry's notebook.

more english things

Ad for argyle socks.
. . .
Ad for the Persian Room at the Plaza.

Bern — February 8, 2021, 5:19 am

IT WAS JAMIE, Pad’s oldest, who suggested starting an ultra-decadent dessert shop. The night before, he told us, he and friends had made a run to a Denver goth-punk specialty donut shop that at 11:30 on a Saturday night it had a line outside going halfway around the block.

“It was decadent, but not advertising-copy decadent,” he says. “It was more like State Fair decadent.” He now envisions opening a combination sushi bar and mega-buffet with at least a hundred foundational dessert elements—gelatos, cakes, cookies, cereals, custards—to be variously topped with whipped cream, fresh berries, hot fudge, then garnished with Mexican flavored marshmallows, gummy worms. There will be specialties of the house, or you can make your own a la carte creations. The whole experience is aimed at people with otherwise healthy diets who occasionally crave cheap thrills, guilty pleasures, indulgences we know they’ll regret.

Call it Chez Menu, we say.

His eyes dart.

“Say it slow,” we say, “with a goofy French accent.”

“Shay-mm...” He stops. And grins. ”...on you.”

. . .

Nog — February 7, 1992, 5:06 am

His canoe drifting. Familiar bends of the river. Redwings cling to cattails. Dragonflies pass over mating three at a time. Iridescent tricolors. Wind rattles the late summer leaves. Cool dark woods patrolled by benign demons.

Too much asyndeton can give writing a jerky feel, make you feel like you’re trying to catch many shiny pebbles poured through your fingers.

Ad for Foxhead Beer.
. . .

Bern — February 6, 2021, 5:05 am

TODAY WAS the day set aside to begin revising his first draft. He’d bought a quarter pound of Jamaica Blue Mountain, and the night before he’d set out a couple of protein bars. The two-inch stack of Hammermill manuscript was set out on the dining room table. On top of it was a Pigma Micron 02 pen. He sat down with the steaming cup.

The first paragraph, the first line, read like a lead balloon. He did not get to its end. It was a dead animal lying in the road in his headlights. It was a dead animal wearing a little tiara. It was a vain dead woodchuck wearing a tiara, and he wanted to drive past it and hit a tree.

He crossed out one sentence and most of another, unbound himself to actually add an adjective, read (whispered) it aloud, and went on to the second paragraph.

the client signed off
on concept & layout
but his wife hates it

Strange ad of a woman lifting a man's long beard to look at his tie. Freudian ad humor. Guy Freudian ad humor.
. . .
Ad for plywood aimed at the rising executive.

Bern — February 5, 2021, 5:00 am

PAD’S BOY JAMIE brings us a batch of gorp he’s made—dried blueberries and pears, smoked mixed nuts including roasted pine nuts, dark chocolate-covered espresso beans—and tells us about British Naval officers’ desserts he’s been reading about in Patrick O’Brian.

“Spotted dick. Drowned baby,” he says. “I think they’re puddings.”

He proposes a dinner party, the menu made up of perfectly fine foods with off-putting names.

“You could serve several courses from a Burns Night Supper,” we say. He thinks we mean haggis. No, we’re thinking of cockaleekie (soup) and clapshot (mashed parsnips), both bringing to mind venereal diseases.

After that we run dry of ideas but agree to keep an eye out for Asian dishes with accidentally gross homonym names. Of course there are 1000-year-old eggs, which sound disgusting and are disqualified because they are.

. . .

Bry — February 4, 2021, 5:06 am

AS I’M BOILING the water, Paul Simon’s Slip Slidin’ Away starts playing in my head. “You know the closer your destination the more you’re slip slidin’ away.” And the ha of recognition, because that’s the case today. I’m on the verge of sending a longterm project to the printer but keep getting tripped up in a hundred ways. Even now, I see I’ve picked up my phone for a shot of distraction—news, email—to keep me from [passing? proceeding?] from awareness to resolve.

This is a battle between two inner forces, a benevolent one subtly nudging me forward with advice, the other throwing spells of forgetfulness over me, all before I’ve had a chance to grind today’s beans.

Ad for the book Charlotte's Web
. . .

oh for heaven's sake

Another guy with a long beard lifted to reveal his tie.

Bern — February 3, 2021, 5:16 am

I, LIKE everyone, was mystified and disgusted and a little gratified at this morning’s news Sean Hannity walked onto his set to find a pile of bloody bats’ and blackbirds’ heads in his chair. This on the tail of yesterday’s news Donald Trump, Jr. has made a panicked call from his bedroom to Secret Service agents downstairs to the effect that a “planted” pig’s head had clogged his toilet. Who pulls off stunts like this? Who goes to the trouble?

Scrooge’s ghosts would have been lost on Hannity. He, and Trump, Jr. too, would be too occupied squeezing these incidents for juices of moral outrage to recognize them as the warning signs of the leviathan of old rising out of its watery cave at last to devour its own foot-imps.

. . .
Ad for an art gallery. Its appeal is that you need something for the blank space on your wall.

Bern — February 2, 2021, 4:46 am

YOU CAUGHT a glimpse of the vision. There we had resolved the tensions between our childhood innocence and adult experience, we had agreed (excitedly!) on ways to build a future while appreciating the fruits of past toil; we learned that each of us might combine his or her work with joy and a sense of personal meaning; we helped each other forgive and resolve our jealousies (of which there’ve been an awful lot for an ideally classless society) as well as our resentments, cruelties, and reactions to slights; we created a world where each is given trust and support to grow and contribute. And you saw it too. Well, you glimpsed it at least, the bulk of it being hidden behind the popup window for the paywall.

. . .

Bry — February 1, 2021, 5:06 am

WATCH JUST tickled wrist to say my weekly summary is ready.

Meditation ring excellent. Whupped my sitting quota by over six hours, although my presence graph seems to indicate four-fifths of the time went to old pop songs in my head. Top of the list: Gilbert O’Sullivan’s Clair, clocking at 01:44:22 cumulative.

Less than four minutes total was spent lost in awe drinking in strangers through their eyes. I must do better if I mean to beat my January numbers.

And only just squeaked by my visions target, chalking up 17 for the week, apparently. Although I don’t recall a single one.

But see if I don’t up that puppy to 20 this week.

objet d’ashtray

Ad for a giant ashtray designed by an artist. It looks like it could hold 100 butts. Just the thing
January’s sillies
. . .
. . .
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