Lists on this page:

Obscure but Amazing Things I Like

  • Ivor Cutler. He was this Scottish man, who always looked ancient and eternal, and spoke in a quiet, even voice, and bicycled everywhere and wore particolored hats and sometimes communicated by way of stickers that said things like “befriend a bacterium”. He claimed to be from the island of Y’Hup, where the boo boo birds invisibly fly and the Cut-Cuts sing songs about the importance of not trying to whiten your teeth by sticking them in an electric light.

    He was a poet. His poetry is inexplicable and somehow extremely compelling.

    The Happening

    • I put my hand in my pocket
    • To see what was happening there.

    The Forgetful Fowl

    • Today, absentmindedly, I laid a Granny Smith.
    • It was sold as a extra-large egg,
    • Two and thruppence for six.
    • The lady took it back.
    • “This is a Granny Smith!”
    • “It is a extra-large egg,” he said. “Look at the marks.”
    • She boiled it.
    • Then she took it back again.


    • “Why don’t you sit down and go away?”
    • “I can’t sit down and go away!”
    • “Yes you can,” I said,
    • And sat down and went away.
    • She was too shocked to follow me.
    • “Wow!” I thought.

    And he sang it as songs, too, like this rendition of “Shoplifters” and this one of “I Worn My Elbows”.

    He once explained himself, more or less:

    “The way I communicate, I’ve discovered—or what I think—is from my unconscious mind, to the audience or reader’s unconscious mind. And I don’t know what I’ve communicated, and they don’t know what they’ve received, but they do feel communicated with. … While they’re busy laughing, their sensors are down, and that enables the message to get through. And they don’t realize. If they did, they’d be bloody angry.”

  • Tattúínárdǿla Saga. What if Star Wars were an Icelandic saga, chronicling the strange deeds of the bold men of desolate Tattúín Valley? And Darth Vader was actually Veiðr-Anakinn, “Anakinn the Hunter”, a famous warrior? And Han Solo was Hólmgǫngu-Hani Sólósson, “Duel-Hani”, and the Emperor was King Falfaðinn Lightning-Bolt? A professor of Nordic Studies named Jackson Crawford has provided the answer. His version of the Star Wars story also corrects several misinterpretations that arose in the later Lucas manuscript:

    Anakinn the Sky-walker lay still upon the earth with his new limbs. But when Anakinn could move, King Falfaðinn gave him in earnest that name which the soldiers had given him in mockery, and he said: “Rise, Veiðr.” Veiðr rose and took a breath, and when the soldiers heard his voice, it seemed to them as if the thunder rolled, and they all quailed. “Jarl Veiðr,” said King Falfaðinn, “Can you hear me?”

    “Yes, master,” said Veiðr, and then he asked: “Where is Paðéma?”

    “This should not be concealed from you, my friend,” said King Falfaðinn, “You dealt her death blow to her when, in your anger, you strangled her upon her ship with seið-magic; your good fortune has departed from you.”

    But Veiðr was silent.

  • Superbad. What is it? It refuses to explain itself. As near as I can figure, it’s a collection of snapshots and ads from various surrealities we can only visit through this site. Like the one where your ancient computer is worried about you. Or there’s also this little story. Each page you get to has somewhere or other you can click to get to another page. There always seem to be more pages to discover.

    If you enjoy cheating, there’s a couple indexes that list most of the pages on the site, like What’s in the Trunk. But they won’t get you everywhere. You just have to explore.

My favorite words.

  • ramshackle
  • tantamount
  • dropsy
  • throttle (verb)
  • ax
  • insinuate
  • sojourn
  • wither
  • asunder
  • knack
  • void
  • insipid
  • flamboyant
  • hoick
  • hell-for-leather
  • bewilder
  • foist
  • underwhelming
  • absurd
  • jettison
  • erasers
  • throughput
  • parallax
  • smarmy
  • analemma
  • elixir
  • nary
  • blizzard
  • presage
  • bleak
  • disintegrate
  • debacle
  • nomad
  • dreary
  • erode
  • obsidian
  • brandish
  • kiosk
  • pockmark
  • marbles
  • eerie
  • slew
  • rinky-dink
  • blimp
  • oak
  • botch
  • cobalt
  • nixtamalization
  • duh
  • disgorge
  • vault
  • thaw
  • consort (v.)
  • haunch
  • dulcimer
  • zither
  • dirigible
  • zeppelin
  • blimp

Special moments.

Bits of music that always give me an involuntary spasm of being amazed.

  1. Gustav Holst, The Planets, Mars. The moment is about 6½ minutes in, depending on the performance. All the chaos, built up the whole time by the 5/4, yields into a long, warlike chord held by what sounds like the entire orchestra in fff, and then—here’s the part—the strings come in with a low note, and bend it up to their own long chord. That bend does it every time for me. Sadly, few orchestras play it that way—most play it as two separate notes, which just has no magic at all. I don’t know what the name of the orchestra is that plays the version I have. I wish I could help you with that. This uncredited performance has it.

  2. Flobots, “Handlebars”. The climactic verse where the song’s protagonist, who has been becoming steadily more corrupt and perverse for the entire song, shouts out,

    And I can end the planet in a holocaust
    In a holocaust
    In a holocaust
    In a holocaust
    In a holocaaaaaaaaaaaust!

    And an entire crowd screams in unison behind him. And suddenly we flash back to when he could just ride his bike with no handlebars, and that’s the end.

    The music video enhances it even more.

  3. Jean Sibelius, 2nd Symphony, Movement 2: Andante ma rubato. This entire movement comes close to that breaking point, but the spot is right at the end. The movement leaves room for you to breathe, or hold your breath, while you listen, and is painted with minimalist strokes of bright color. At the end, the orchestra has been getting quieter for a few minutes, and is winding down for the next movement. After a silence, the basses crescendo from nothing. The trumpets join them, and together they slowly go to two or three f’s. Then they stop in mid-air, they wait silently for you to move to the edge of your seat, and the trumpets blast their final three notes, falling away to nothing to let the srings quietly end the movement. The movement is 15 minutes long, so it’s in three parts here. You really ought to listen to the whole thing. The conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, is feeling the music too. At one point he has tears on his face.

  4. Joanna Newsom, “Time, as a Symptom”. This song is a pure distillation of the “Nullifying, defeating, negating, repeating / Joy of life”—the closest I believe any song I have ever heard comes to describing all of life in a single song. I usually only get halfway through before I start weeping.

    To understand its beauty, you should listen with the lyrics in front of you. It’s also good to know that it’s the eleventh track on Joanna Newsom’s album Divers. Divers has eleven tracks, but she refuses to call it the “last” track. The album cycles back to where it began, going so far as to finish in the middle of a word:

    • White star, white ship, nightjar, transmit, transcend!
    • White star, white ship, nightjar, transmit, transcend!
    • White star, white ship, nightjar, transmit, trans