On Not Working

Cary Tennis' columns at Salon are a reliable source of juice on dry days. And boy, was today ever a dry one.

It's way meta, but Tennis had a great response to a person who wrote to confess that all of a sudden, she just stopped working.

"Why do we suddenly stop working? Sometimes it is because some essential linkage to us has broken or worn down; the cam that was to prod us into movement no longer brushes against us, and so we come to a slow halt, and freeze, and find to our amazement that as the rest of the engine hums with admirable harmony, we sit quietly, doing nothing, untouched, unsupervised. Or it may be that rather than a physical cam or rod that no longer prods us, it was a link of information that has decayed, so that we are no longer receiving instructions. Again, in the lack of instructions, we simply stop working. Or we may be receiving instructions, but in Mandarin. We do not speak Mandarin. How odd. But we wait. We wait for better instructions. Or the instructions may be in our native language but indecipherable, written by another cog who was daydreaming.

"So we simply stop working. Those adjacent may be too busy to notice that we have grown quiet and still. In fact, because the machine was poorly designed, it may turn out that the machine works better when we do nothing..."

Tennis confesses that once he did the very same thing -- came into work faithfully every day only to sit there, shoving his mail into a cardboard box underneath his desk.

On Our Own

Last night, it was just me & Jane, and we had the best time. We went out to eat early at a fancy restaurant where we had the usual: Jane had buttered cappellini, and I had tomato soup. Then we went to Whole Foods in search of marshmallows. At home, we impaled the marshmallows on chopsticks and roasting them over a candle. Then a friend stopped by, in desperate need of black Mary Janes, and Jane graciously offered hers. (Well, more or less graciously. I'm still really proud of her, though.) We watched TV until really late and then we went to bed.

And then, this morning, I caught Jane sitting on the floor of her room, writing in her diary.

"Whatcha writin?" I ask, and then regret it, because I don't want to be intrusive. But I have to say something...I'm so charmed to see her sitting there, lost in her own world, scribbling like you-know-who.... Could it be? Is she writing ... A poem? A novel? The Next Great American Novel? Is she, at this very moment, penning the Elusive Giant Squid of American Literature?

"D-O-G," she says, matter-of-factly. "Dog."

Oh. Yes. Gotta start somewhere.


For Once, A Truly USEFUL Displacement Activity

Go play Free Rice. You get to improve your vocabulary, and hungry people get to eat. All that SAT prep really can do some good in the world.


Multitasking Radiator

In my Brooklyn office (that sounds so official), I sat next to a radiator with a little shelf on top of it. Used to keep my coffee warm in the winter, very convenient. Would you know, someone's come up with a product that does the exact same thing? Yep, you set this ceramic plate on top of the radiator, plop your drink and snacks on it, and, presto, your radiator is a hot plate.

Assuming the heat's on.

History Not What You Think. Uh. Thought. Uh. Thunk!

I don't even know where to start with this YouTube gem. The idea that all of classical history is merely an early modern fabrication is stunning enough, but then there's the presentation: the monotonous-yet-urgent synthesized speech, the weird powerpoint transition that looks like some kind of masonic emblem, the repeated instructions to buy the book at Amazon... And what is that music playing in the background?

First LOLCats, now this. Life before the innernets was truly impoverished.


Still Thinking About It

Denis Johnson's novel Tree of Smoke, about a CIA agent caught up in the Vietnam war, won this year's National Book Award.

In 2006, Dana Spiotta's novel Eat the Document, about the anti-war movement, was nominated for same.


Brocade Home Miniatures

Now you can furnish even your dollhouse with overpriced faux-coco.

Make My Logo Bigger Cream

Make My Logo Bigger Cream: workplace and class warfare in the form of a spoof informercial delivered via internet. Hmm.

One-Hour Thanksgiving

Recipes just in case you're in a rush. The folks at Shelterrific gave it a whirl. Verdict: Just dandy.

Hypertext LOLcat

The LOLcat bug bit Mark, too.


Saved for another day: Charles Fort, the Big Daddy of Funny Ideas.

Forget Monster.com

"Today I was the snack helper. We all voted and lots of people voted for me, so that's how I got that job."


"Grandma's scrambled eggs are delicious. Your eggs? Well, I don't know about your eggs."


april hates u, makes lilacs, u no can has!!!

Of all the wonderfully strange media objects -- Hamster Dance, All Your Base -- for which we can thank the innernets, this one's got to be one of the best: a LOLcats version of "The Waste Land." Thanks for the laugh, ET.


Impossible Object Proves Not So Impossible

The Antikythera mechanism, an ancient device that was likely used to forecast astronomical events, is being subjected to all sorts of interventions, including x-ray tomography, which is revealing previously obscured inscriptions on the device.

The New Yorker covered the story five months ago. So now I know what my current news lag is.