Ramblings & ephemera

That’ll work too

From Jay McInerney’s “White Man at the Door” (The New Yorker [4 February 2002] 57): [Matthew Johnson, head of Fat Possum Records, has] got a damaged lung, bad teeth, a couple of hernias, and a back catalogue of death threats. His dentist once held up a toothbrush and asked him if he’d ever seen one, […]

More on Slab City

From Evelyn Nieves’s “Slab City Journal; For Thousands, a Town of Concrete Slabs Is a Winter Retreat” (The New York Times: 18 February 2001): Every winter, when the Winnebagos and pickups shake the desert off Beal Road like a small earthquake, Ben Morofsky gets wistful for the 120-degree days of summer, and the peace of […]

The end of days in Slab City

From Charlie LeDuff’s “Parked in a Desert, Waiting Out the Winter of Life” (The New York Times: 17 December 2004): Directions to purgatory are as follows: from Los Angeles drive east past Palm Springs into the bowels of the Mojave Desert. Turn south at the stench of the Salton Sea. Proceed down Highway 111 to […]

Thoughts for a Lovecraftian tale

Cthulhu in ancient Rome Tennessee farmer David Lang’s disappearance into thin air Lovecraft’s victims’ tendency to write in diary/account as things happen to them: “It devours me!” A forgotten skeleton

The airplane graveyard

From Patrick Smith’s “Ask the pilot” (Salon: 4 August 2006): The wing is shorn off. It lies upside down in the dirt amid a cluster of desert bushes. The flaps and slats are ripped away, and a nest of pipes sprouts from the engine attachment pylon like the flailing innards of some immense dead beast. […]

Bruce Schneier on steganography

From Bruce Schneier’s “Steganography: Truths and Fictions“: Steganography is the science of hiding messages in messages. … In the computer world, it has come to mean hiding secret messages in graphics, pictures, movies, or sounds. … The point of steganography is to hide the existence of the message, to hide the fact that the parties […]

A living story, tattooed on flesh

From The New York Times Magazine‘s “Skin Literature“: Most artists spend their careers trying to create something that will live forever. But the writer Shelley Jackson is creating a work of literature that is intentionally and indisputably mortal. Jackson is publishing her latest short story by recruiting 2,095 people, each of whom will have one […]

Which wires match the mouse test?

From Computerworld’s “Q&A: A lost interview with ENIAC co-inventor J. Presper Eckert“: What’s the zaniest thing you did while developing ENIAC? The mouse cage was pretty funny. We knew mice would eat the insulation off the wires, so we got samples of all the wires that were available and put them in a cage with […]

How a 75-year-old jewel thief did it

From MSNBC’s “75-year-old jewel thief looks back“: When Doris Payne went to work, she stepped into her fancy dress, high heels and donned a wide-brimmed hat. Her creamy, mocha skin was made up just so, her handbag always designer. Sometimes a pair of plain gold earrings would do. Always, she looked immaculate, well-to-do. … New […]

Unsure of himself

From "The Producer" in the 15 October 2001 issue of The New Yorker, an article about the Hollywood producer Brian Grazer: Ron Howard: But you love really sophisticated movies. Grazer: Like what? I guess I do. I do? Which ones were you thinking of? 

Short story idea #43

Defense attorney for dictators. It’s a tough business, being the lawyer that dictators call when they fall on hard times. They never bother to ring my phone when life is all castles and ice cream for every meal. No, they wait until they don’t really have a pot to piss in, and then they get […]

My high concept Hollywood movie

In Hollywood there’s a meme known as “high concept”, the idea being that you can explain all there is to know about a movie in just a few words, ideally relating to another movie. So, for instance, you might describe a movie you’re looking to get a greenlight for as “Die Hard on a chicken […]

Sinatra’s footprints

From a review of Sinatra: The Life, by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, in today’s New York Times: When it snowed, one writer observed, “girls fought over his footprints, which some took home and stored in refrigerators.”

For a mystery

The first line of a mystery novel, suggested by a public defender who heard a woman say it: “I said, ‘Mama,’ I said, ‘Death was on that boy.’”