Words Made Up Of Other Words

One feverish anal-retentive little hobby of mine is coming up with anagrams.  Although there are algorithms that will do the grunt work for you these days, I like the thrill of discovery that occasionally pops up during eureka moments from a dungheap of duds (that would be a good name for a second-hand clothing store).  That’s why I do them all by longhand.  It’s a bad habit, as I accumulate folded scraps of paper I have to sift through in search of anything worth salvaging.

I’d be grateful if you could let me know which ones you like.  And if there are any you don’t like, don’t feel you have to hide your flamethrower under a bushel.

But before I share them with you, have you ever seen anything more surreal than George W. Bush commemorating the historic Selma march of the civil rights movement?

I haven’t.

George W. Bush        SOB GREW HUGE (or:  s.o.b. grew huge) (a golden oldie)

eternal God         GENTLE ROAD; OLDER AGENT; LORD AGE NET; GOLDEN TEAR

omnipresent        NOTE MR. PENIS

redundancy         RANDY DUNCE

The Last Supper      TRUST SHEEP, PAL; THE PUREST SLAP; SLURP THE PASTE;

HELP UTTER SAPS; HUSTLER PET SAP

American Sniper       SIMIAN CREEP RAN

Clint Eastwood         A TWISTED COLON; TOTAL SWINE, COD

melting glaciers         GIGANTIC SMELLER

tenacious         INTO SAUCE

downloads       WOODLANDS

hug         UGH

bloody     OLD BOY

bleed       BE LED

antlers     RENTALS

automatons    TOMATO ANUS

nuclear powers    CRUEL WAR OPENS; PEONS’ RAW LUCRE

Paradise Lost      OLD PARASITES

Stairway to Heaven    ATTORNEY HAS A VIEW

heart failure       FEEL A HURT AIR

confused     END FOCUS

freakish      FISH RAKE

Bermuda Triangle     END BRUTAL MIRAGE; RUN METAL BIRD AGE

State of the Union    HUES OF ATTENTION; FUNNIEST HATE, TOO

split personality        LOST REPTILIAN SPY

toilet paper         PLOP ATTIRE

painkillers      RAKE IN PILLS

I hope you like them.

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Answers to Mr. Spock Sing-Along Quiz

Here are the answers to the quiz entitled “Mister Spock Belts Out A Few Tunes,” posted earlier today:

1.  If You Could Read My Mind (“love, what a tale my thoughts could tell.”)  Gordon Lightfoot

2.  (“How does it feel to be on your own, with no direction home, a complete unknown?”) Like A Rolling Stone      Bob Dylan

3.  I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You     Hank Williams

4.  God Bless the Child (That’s Got His Own)   Billie Holiday (also covered by Blood, Sweat, and Tears)

5.  Why Don’t We Get Drunk And Screw?  (Sorry–I don’t know who sings it, but it’s a country and western song, vs. city and eastern)

6.  You Don’t Miss Your Water (Till Your Well Runs Dry)  Otis Redding; Taj Mahal (not sure who wrote it)

7.  (“I hope I die before I get old.”)  My Generation    The Who

8.  You Can’t Always Get What You Want  (“but if you try some time, you just might find you’ll get what you need.”)    Rolling Stones

9.  (“Like a”) Bridge Over Troubled Water (“I will lay me down.”)  Simon and Garfunkel (also beautifully covered by Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, and–of all people–Elvis)

10.  (“If you ever change your mind about leaving, leaving me behind, oh, bring it to me, bring your sweet loving”) Bring It (“on”) Home To Me     Sam Cooke (also covered by the Animals, along with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

11.  Who’ll Stop the Rain?     Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR)

So how did you do?

Mr. Spock Belts Out A Few Tunes

Do you remember Spy Magazine?  It was funny, clever, and hip.  It had a retro look.  And the people who wrote for Spy weren’t afraid to skewer those in power, including perennial prima donnas like Donald Trump and assorted insufferable celebrities.  Their motto was “No Sacred Cows.”

Unfortunately, the operation folded a long time ago, but one of their gems was a piece entitled “Name That Tune, Mr. Spock,” in which the legendary Vulcan of Star Trek fame provided his interpretation of the lyrics of well-known songs.  The concept was so engaging, I’ve decided to revive it with a few of my own Spockian takes on songs you might recognize.

To provide you with a challenge, I’ve opted to withhold the original lyrics and song titles until tomorrow’s posts.  Feel free to post your guesses in the comments section if you’d like to take a stab at it in the meantime.

As Orsino would say in the opening line of Shakespeare’s (overrated?) Twelfth Night, “If music be the food of love, play on.”

Before you start, keep in mind that in some cases the lyrics in question include not only the title, but part of the refrain as well.

1.  “In the event that you were gifted with the capability to decipher the unexposed contents of my consciousness, I guarantee you would find the narrative they entail most engaging.”

2.  “Perhaps you could convey to me the sensation produced by your solitary, anomic, anonymous state, which resembles that of a small, peripatetic mineral.”

3.  “The tenacity of my affection for your person is the ineluctable concomitant of the biological imperative to propagate the species.”

4.  “May the Judeo-Christian deity condone the juvenile human individual who has independently mastered the art of self-sufficiency.”

5.  “Please accept my invitation to imbibe intoxicating spirits and copulate in a perfunctory manner as a matter of course.”

6.  “One tends not to appreciate the indispensable crystalline liquid source of all life necessary to sustain survival until the subterranean cylindrical space where said beverage is stored is entirely deprived thereof.”

7.  “The realization of my own personal mortality is preferable to longevity in light of the latter’s undesirable attendant decrepitude.” (Note:  The words here refer to a famous line in the song rather than the title itself.)

8.  “The occasional inability to obtain one’s desires is an unfortunate by-product of human experience; however, given the application of sustained effort, one may periodically succeed in achieving the wherewithal to procure satisfactory essentials.”

9.  “In the manner of an infrastructural conduit joining two pieces of land separated by an elongated turbulent body of water, I shall assume a recumbent position in order to provide you with vital emotional support in an empathetic manner.”

10.  “In the event that you reconsider your decision to abruptly abandon the organism who is currently speaking, I would deem it agreeable if you would correspondingly return to this location with your myriad coital gifts in tow.”

11.  “Please inform me of the identity of the person capable of enforcing the cessation of the relentless precipitation in progress.”

I’ll see you tomorrow with the answers!

Kirk out.

(By the way, if you’re in need of a laugh, make sure to check out William Shatner’s rendition of “Mr. Tambourine Man” on You Tube.  The man clearly missed his calling.)

Mediocrity Triumphs!

When I was a little boy, I went to the Boston Museum of Science and saw some baby chickens being born in an incubator.  Man, those were some hot chicks.

Q)  Why did the lumberjack clear-cut the forest?

A)  It was getting too big for its birches.

Q)  What did the logger who suffered from terrible hay fever say?

A)  “I can’t see the forest for the sneeze.”

I’m proud to announce that I’ve been given a job at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, better known as Gitmo, the notorious Home of American Torture, as their Chief Distributor of Bad Puns.

Speaking of Gitmo, have you seen Mos Def’s video in which he tries to see what being force-fed liquid food is like?  He can’t stand it for more than a second, as the procedure is too painful to endure.  How nice that those prisoners who find their lives at the “camp” utterly intolerable are not even allowed the satisfaction of a dignified death through a hunger strike as they’re kept unwillingly alive in such a sinister manner.  Bon appetit, putative terrorists.

Yesterday I participated in a contest of sorts at my wife’s church.  We sang a song entitled “This Is My Father’s World.”  (My real father once shared the philosophical observation that no one really owns anything and we’re mainly just a Planet of Renters.)  I had practiced the song religiously, drilling the Korean lyrics into my head while sitting on the toilet for a grand total of five minutes.  Since I think it’s silly to believe in God, especially considering how many horrible things happen in the world while you wait (that’s meant as a reference to an overused TV commercial catch-phrase, not a criticism of the reader, who’s apt to be a better citizen than I’ll ever be), I didn’t feel  particularly compelled to memorize the sucker.

Jina had also told me ahead of time that we’d be surrounded by several other singers at the time, so I figured I could fake my way through it.

And that’s exactly what I did.

Because Jina is holier than thou, whoever thou might be, we’d already been stuck in the church and portions of its vast compound since ten in the morning, and the “talent show” didn’t commence till two p.m.  What a waste of a semi-beautiful day.  I was also restless because I wanted to be doing something more productive–or at least fun–with my time instead of farting around with a bunch of benighted if well-behaved lunatics.  

While Jim Morrison may have said that “All the children are insane,” (thanks for that authoritative diagnosis, Dr. Morrison, who cleverly and cutely arrived at the self-fellating anagram for himself “Mr. Mojo Risin'”), I’m delighted to announce that most of the kids I “teach” in Sunday school are still pure and wise enough not to go in for all that God and Jesus bullshit.

As the irrepressibly uptight twerp who conducts the class blurts his instructions to them through his microphone, performing all kinds of ignominious contortions for them to imitate while indoctrinating them in the ostensible ways of the Lord, I make faces at some of those children whose attention he fails to hold, while the rest of the kids who ignore him daydream about magnificent television cartoons they’ve watched.

Whenever the rest of the congregation–junior or senior–lower their heads in groveling prayer, I look around to see if anyone else is bowing out of the ludicrous ritual; that way I’d know I might have an ally.  

But no–hence, I have to keep up appearances, which is a big part of Korean culture–perhaps the main part, if not the only part, at least as far as I can tell, or as near, as an old housemate of mine from Vermont used to say.

Anyway, it’s Monday morning here and I’ve got to get up and get ready for work in a few minutes, so I’ll cut to the chase:  despite the formidable competition of the descendants of Orpheus and the sirens, people born with music notes flowing through their veins, Jina and my team managed to come in second place.  All I did was intone the words in a nondescript way, hiding my voice in a thicket made up of the voices of my fellow singers, peering at the lyrics with quasi-literate comprehension through my handy symbiotic reading glasses (you have to wear them at the same time as your regular glasses–they fit comfortably right inside them).  First place went to a group of crooning teenage girls who had us beat hands-down on the adorability factor.  

Despite the advice I always give to my public speaking students, I never made eye contact with the audience once–maybe because if I had I would have burst out laughing at being involved in such a fraudulent farce.

Although we were not privileged to win one of the coveted electric fans distributed during the raffle afterwards, Jina received a prize of one hundred thousand won (about a hundred US bucks) after I’d already high-tailed it out of there.

I went on to meet a friend for Mexican food and beers, and he soundly defeated me at chess.

I hope to win at the game some day before I die, but if I held my breath I would have become a chess piece myself a long time ago, ready to nestle endlessly in my box all by myself, everlastingly out of the game, sequestered in a boneyard of old discarded chessmen and -women of all shapes and sizes, hidden under the tessellated arena of the boring board.

The First Time Ever I Faced Your Saw

The nanosecond of truth has arrived.  My wife Jina and I have just about finished renovating our new school.  She’s put a lot more hours into the project than I have, although I did help her for several hours on Thursday.  I built wood decks as a carpenter’s apprentice for three weeks twenty-five years ago, quitting as soon as I got tired of the commute and the increasingly chilly weather, not to mention the ignominy of getting sawdust up my nose (otherwise known as Amish cocaine), along with the maddening sensation of having George Harrison’s overplayed song “I Got My Mind Set on You” stuck in my head like Steve Martin’s arrow for the whole time I worked there (the foreman liked to have the radio on non-stop).

That said, I know fuck-all about carpentry.  And that despite having had to endure a fusillade of Carpenters’ songs while trying to grow up and survive the dress rehearsal for the holocaust that was junior high school.  (A few years later, in a high school in a midwestern town that got so cold in the winter the building had hardly any windows, except for a few narrow numbers adorned with chicken wire to repel overzealous simian adolescents like me, I contemplated compiling a list of girls I liked, walking around with a clipboard, and asking them out, anticipating relentless rejection and a future career as a telemarketer.)

Nonetheless, I managed to assemble four identical chairs made of pine Jina ordered online, while she put together a couple of tables that were more challenging to build, requiring a more experienced craftsperson.  The result of our steady labors was a handsome set of durable furniture ideal for smashing windows and the heads of students with.

The previous evening she’d enlisted the help of three of her Christian colleagues who chug the same visceral venom of God-fearing propaganda Jina does and attend the same church.  (One of them is to the pastor as an overworked nurse is to a doctor riding on his reputation; “I graduated from Harvard, MIT, and Columbia–I’ll have the nurse cut you open so I can get in eighteen holes of golf with one of my fellow saviors.”)

These Christian mensches devoted themselves to helping Jina glue plastic strips of fake wooden flooring onto the fake plastic floor that was already there, much to the dismay of the mold that was growing in the corners.  When I arrived they were merrily squatting away and laying town the floor segments, happy as a bunch of kids doing a jigsaw puzzle together.  I had to admire and envy them for their pluck, especially considering what an inveterate shirker I am.

Jina told me later when I suggested we repay them with a generous meal at a fancy restaurant that she’d already done them lots of favors, but agreed that it would be nice to take them out and treat them to a feast.  (Another Last Supper, anyone?)

One of the more annoying tasks we had was putting up the molding, as it involved making precise measurements ahead of time.  I’d somehow managed to break the plastic switch that locks the tape measure into place, so keeping it from getting sucked back into the housing like a tinny metallic frog’s tongue posed a challenge.  One thing I hate about tape measures is that the steel hook at the end you use to steady the thing makes it hard to lay it flush against the surface, so it’s all but impossible to get a precise reading.  Another factor is being a late adapter to the metric system and going through withdrawal from inches and feet.  Yet another is having to squint at the teeny rows of lines and make sure I’m counting correctly so everything fits.

I was using it to measure the walls for the wooden molding Jina had ordered, then the boards before sawing them and helping her glue them to the wall.  A few times I got it wrong, but luckily she’d gotten plenty of wood, enough to crucify a modern Korean Christian family (Jesus would be proud, if pride weren’t a sin).

Jina doesn’t approve of profanity, whereas I do.  I find it especially helpful to express my dismay in frustrating situations.  For example, several days ago when I was already running late for work, I had to try on three pairs of socks before I could find one that didn’t have holes in them.  This required the recitation of trusty oaths from the salty lingo catalogue.  It probably wouldn’t amuse Jina if she knew that my favorite curses are “God damn it” and “Jesus Christ.”  Maybe I’m just fed up with having been force-fed her evangelical cud to chew and spew for so long.

The holy sock problem had a silver lining, however:  last Sunday when we arrived twenty minutes late for church (Hallelujah!  We missed the beginning!), we went up to the balcony where the tardy parties have to sit on the floor like livestock in the manger where Jesus first soiled himself with holy shit.  When I took off my shoes to enter the stultifying sanctum, Jina eyed my foot and noticed a hole in my sock.

“Go downstairs,” she said.

I didn’t quite make it downstairs, though.  Instead, I went for a nice walk, buying an egg sandwich and a cup of coffee, despite some stentorian throat-clearing from God the voyeur in the heavens.  It was a clear and beautiful day in Seoul, and we get so few of them, I had no choice.  Besides, if God loved his creations, He wouldn’t insist that they waste so much time listening to some wanker with snake oil running through his veins.

After that I had to consume some more food in order to keep up appearances and thwart any countervailing impulse towards losing weight.  I was one of the first members of the flock to arrive before the bleating multitudes poured up the stairs and baaa-baaa’ed up to the cafeteria counter.  Despite the rare moment of both solitude and silence in the dining room of God, I ate my noodle soup seasoned with kimchi and a salty brown concoction of soy sauce and sesame oil more gradually than I otherwise would have.  (Usually when I eat alone, which is most of the time, I scarf my food down with reckless abandon–choking is a surefire way to lose weight, especially if whatever it is that’s lodged in your throat stays locked in your windpipe long enough to permanently separate you from consciousness.)

Then I played ping pong with a friend in the church basement.  But something else happened in the interim.  When I approached the table tennis zone, I heard the awful, cloying sounds of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) pouring like sap from the instruments and mouths of some kindly yet deluded teenagers whose early exposure to rigid indoctrination has hamstrung their capacity to rock out and cut loose like Dionysian wild men and women.

As a lark and a piss-take, I lapsed into my Elvis impression while coming down the stairs, singing:

“Well, since my baby left me, I found a new place to dwell.  It’s down at the end of lonely street, that’s Heartbreak Hotel. . .”

I sang a bit more but decided to cut my own virtual mike when I noticed the kids looking at me as if they were preparing to throw tomatoes and hand grenades to get me to stop.  I guess Elvis wasn’t white enough for them.  (Elvis was a white man with black bones, at least until he joined the army, filled out, grew sideburns, donned sequins, and started singing the likes of “It’s Now or Never” for tourists in Las Vegas too shy to kill themselves.)

The good news is I may be in love.  But I don’t want to jinx things.  Besides, as you know, my situation is incredibly complicated.  Crazy little thing called life.

The other good news is that thanks to my brother, I’ve discovered the funniest man in the world.  His name is Mark Peters and he writes a never-ending Twitter feed that’s absolutely hilarious.  He recently interviewed Jack “Call Me John” Handey, but I daresay Mr. Peters is even funnier.  He’s also formidably intelligent and voraciously veracious.

Please check out his work.  He’s at the cutting edge of the cutting edge.  The easiest way to access the link (pardon my tech-unsavviness) is to type in “Mark Peters Wordlust” in your Google search window.  Then click the first thing that comes up.

Otherwise, I’ll post it for you tomorrow.

I guarantee you’ll soon be laughing so hard you’ll wet your pants.  If not, you’d better contact your doctor, as you may have an enlarged prostate gland (having a constipated bladder is no laughing matter–unless you’re someone else who doesn’t like you).  But don’t despair.  If you keep reading and end up laughing your ass off, you won’t have to get prostate surgery–just a prosthetic pelvis).

Also, if you don’t have a nice weekend, I’ll kill you.

(How’s that for hospitality?)

Playing Scrabble

After awhile–

Approximately a lifetime–

You get tired

Of trying to make

Sense of the world

With words.

 

Discarding their 

Unpardonable power,

You deem them

Impotent, if only

For their relentless

Presence in your mouth,

Ears, and brain–

Even eyes–frankly

Speaking, you get

 

Sick of them.

They’re like people

In that respect.

 

Which is why,

If you’re like me,

You like to play

With them instead

Sometimes, throwing

Out syntax

In favor of double letter

And triple word scores,

 

Ever vexed by exes, zeds,

And Qs, perplexed

By the haphazard

Row of vowels

Staring back at you

From your green plastic

Tray (unless you’re lucky

Enough to have a wooden

Set) like monogrammed

Pats of butter, and then

 

You grow weary

Of the alphabet’s

Absurdity, of the futility

Of sedentary combat

 

With a student, friend,

Or spouse.  The board

Grows crowded

With random verbiage

Until the bag of tiles

Is empty, you 

Work with what’s left

Until your patience 

Ends, and you fold

And tilt the board

Into the bag,

Thank your opponent

For a game well-played,

And go surf the internet

In search of words

Strung together with purpose,

 

A maze of meaning

In which to get lost

For the rest of your 

Life, a blizzard

Of symbols and sounds

To pass the time

Before you lie

Down in a box

In silence, utterly

Devoid of anything

To say, read, or write,

Deprived by the cessation

Of vital functions–

Suddenly profound

Due to your newfound

Ability to shut up

Forever.

 

New Chess Rules

Chess is perhaps my favourite game (I prefer the British spelling of the adjective, because “U” are right in the middle).  I might even like it more than Scrabble, which I absolutely adore.  I just wish my family still had one of those old Scrabble sets with the wooden tiles.  Excuse me while I cry.  If only my keypad had little windshield wipers to dry off the letters as the teardrops plummet like tiny tapered bombs from my eyes; for now I guess the mini-umbrellas with the toothpick stems will have to do, even if they interfere with typing.

Yes, I’m mad about chess, even though I may be the worst chess player on the face of the earth.  You’d be hard-pressed to find someone with a greater knack for losing the game.  However, I’m equally ill-adept–or should that be inept–at most other games (and am no great shakes at Scrabble either, or Monopoly or Clue, and forget about Stratego; I’ve never played Risk, and had beginner’s luck when I played poker with my brothers a few years ago, but I’m superstitious enough not to get more involved in it, as I have an addictive personality and am apt to develop a serious gambling habit if I do; I’d probably end up getting my skull staved in by Joe Pesci with a shovel and buried in the Nevada desert).  

At least I’m consistent.  The best thing about failure is that it makes you feel so generous.  Knowing you’ve done your best to defeat your opponent in vain enables you to masochistically revel in his or her victory and bask in your happy assailant’s gloating contempt for you, the vanquished party, as you secretly hog the moral high ground, feeling noble for your sacrifice instead of guilty for having damaged another person’s fragile ego, which might have traumatized him or her for life.

So let’s take a look at some of these new rules, shall we?  They’re guaranteed to make your chess game even more of a challenge–as if slogging it out on the tessellated cerebral square with some brooding brainiac weren’t already enough of a headache to begin with.

1.  Black starts instead of white.  Why should white always get to go first?  Fuck white.  To hell with that racist bullshit, the KKK and the Aryan Brotherhood or whatever the heck they’re called be damned in the fires of everlasting ignorance–as if they needed any help in that department.  Less power to ’em!

2.  The king has the same mobility that the queen normally does.  This keeps the poor schlub of a monarch from feeling so emasculated, as he invariably does if you play by the official rules of the game.  He’s supposed to be the fucking king, for Christ’s sake!  Let him act like one for a change.

3.  Use dice to move the pieces.  This way the pawns can move across the board more easily, and everyone else can too.  But there’s a built-in handicap for some pieces, namely the bishop and the castle, as they’re hamstrung by this rule.  They can no longer move all the way across the board.  Neither can the queen or the newly-empowered king.  (What a shitty rule, come to think of it.  Let’s throw it out and move on to the next one.  Besides, it’s a pain in the ass to keep track of dice, especially if you have or play with kids.  They’ll lose ’em for you every time.)  By the way, this rule only applies to the knight if you roll a three or a six; his L-shaped maneuvers are a sacred and inviolable part of the game.  (It just occurred to me that if you use two dice, instead of just one die, the rule might be cool.  Try it out and let me know how it goes.  It’s also better because, as Freddie Mercury would say, “I don’t want a die.”)

4.  To keep the king from getting too uppity about his newfound powers (and to prevent him from straying and getting involved with your opponent’s queen, or even hunting for an inaccessible princess), the queen is granted the knight’s L-shaped advances along with her usual moves.

5.  Here’s the best move of all:  in setting up the board, alternate black and white pieces.  It will be a bitch for you to remember which pieces are yours and which ones belong to your adversary, but isn’t chess already the ultimate game of concentration (excluding, say, Concentration?)?  If you get too confused, you can always sew little uniforms for your players, or make wee name tags, but I guess that defeats the purpose of the rule.

Good luck, have fun, and don’t blame me if you lose your mind in the course of sharpening it.  Pencil tips have broken just as easily.  Turn the crank gingerly, ease up on your grip on the pieces, and everything should be just fine.

To invert a phrase, may the worst man lose.  (My apologies to grammarians, since “best” and “worst” should, technically, involve a minimum of three people.  So there’s another cliche we can throw out–“May the best man win.”  Let’s alter it to “May the groom win, or at least not have to feel like a total loser?  No?  Just thought I’d ask.”  Or how about:  “May the bride and groom win the capacity to love and understand each other deeply, despite the travails that are bound to ensue; alternatively, may they win a happy and prosperous divorce”?)

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines and rev up your chess boards!