: a soul-searching examination :

October 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

I hate to get all metaphysical on you, but I’ve been wondering about the soul lately. More specifically, just what the heck is it? If there’s a good answer, I can’t find it. I couldn’t even find an adequate definition, nothing to indicate whether the soul is real or imagined.


I checked the New Oxford American Dictionary, a generally reliable source, and was in no way enlightened, just disappointed:
soul | sōl |
1 the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.
• a person’s moral or emotional nature or sense of identity.
• the essence of something.
• emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, esp. as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance.

ORIGIN Old English sāwol, sāw(e)l, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch ziel and German Seele.

Immaterial. Immortal. Essence. Fine, beat around the bush, why don’t you?

That definition tells us squat. Bupkis. I have a ton of nagging, unanswered questions. Does a bug have a soul? A flower? What’s the nature of a soul? Is it a property? Tangible or intangible? Is it similar to a gas? What does it do all day? Where’s it housed in the body? Is it free-floating? Does it really exist?

It seems suspiciously like a poetic device, if you ask me. A fancy, lovely word, albeit abstract and meaningless. Brevity has a soul. A watercolor has a soul. Motown has soul. Humans, everything has a soul, apparently. Animate, inanimate, unearthly, even the ethereal.

This post, too, has a soul. Oh, sure. It’s the very soul of deception, masquerading as thoughtful discourse. And I apologize, I was desperate for a topic. But, c’mon, you should be used to this by now. You take a chance by coming here. Great posts are virtually unheard of in these parts, scarce as hen’s teeth — even decent posts are a long shot.

But, bless your hearts, you’re such good sports about it I feel like a heel. So no more chicanery, no more bait-and-switch tactics. Huh, what do you know. There’s a certainty we can rely on: my immortal soul is destined for eternal damnation.

Excuse me while I kiss my lying ass goodbye.


copyright © 2015 publikworks

: the promiscuous reader :

October 4, 2015 § 8 Comments

Don’t judge. There’s nothing wrong with wanton, indiscriminate reading. It’s absolutely proper and should be encouraged.


Libraries do, they’re huge advocates of gratuitous reading. In this pursuit, they will eagerly, if not enthusiastically, aid and abet. They’re brothels for the mind, you know, there to satisfy our curious lust for knowledge. Left to our own devises, humans are too lazy and too cheap to experiment.

When we buy a book, we tend to play it safe. We go with an author we know or a subject we’re comfortable with, nothing unusual or daring. It’s our fallback position, the same old same old, the tried and true, every time. Where’s the adventure, where’s the excitement? The fire’s gone out. And so, I might add, has creativity. We’re in a rut.

Stop following routine and start pursuing your curiosity.

Do you know how many books are loose in the world today? Billions. There’s no time to be choosy. Cruise the aisles and shelves with heedless, reckless abandon. Break out of your comfort zone and explore new subjects, like counterfeiting or quilting or particle physics, anything surprising and interesting. If you really want to blow your stodgy mind, check out a graphic novel. Thrills this way come.

Being inquisitive is, in fact, very healthy and invigorating. You needn’t sneak around like a peeping tom, unless you like that sort of thing.

I’ll tell you what’s shameful. Proofreading. It’s entirely too slipshod and careless. Publishers have no excuse for skimping on fact-checking and proofing. Not when they demand $35 for The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. $28 for the new Jussi Adler-Olsen, The Hanging Girl, which is where you’ll find the glaring, egregious error pictured below.


Another thing coming? Thing doesn’t even make sense. The expression is ‘think,’ you’ve got another think coming. There’s an ugly one in Special Topics in Calamity Physics, too — ‘And try to eat something once and a while.’ Once and a while, duh, should be once in a while. Then, in the very same book, Jimmy Stewart is spelled ‘Stuart.’ Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Quality control isn’t what it used to b — I, uh, better stop there before I’m off on another tangent.

eye rolling
copyright © 2015 publikworks

: a sneak peek :

September 30, 2015 § 9 Comments

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, New York Comic Con is coming and really, really soon. I’m jumping the gun a little, but who cares?

This is a huge event. Maybe even more hotly anticipated than an iPhone launch — especially in pop culture circles. So prepare for a lot of hype and a ton of hoopla. On a positive note, it’s exciting enough to take the edge off October’s arrival.

Garish colors, whiz-bang effects, bells and whistles and explosions help us forget the soggy, gray world outside. Speaking for myself, I prefer the Mad Max world of aliens and monsters and superheros, Smurfs and Minions to the bland, predictable everyday. It’s so much more fun.

batmanNew York Comic Con is headed to the Javits Center in New York, October 8th — 11th. The site will be crammed wall-to-wall with amazing, eye-popping stuff. All new Star Wars. Dunny’s. Doctor Who. New stuff from Marvel and DC Comics. Kidrobot exclusives. The Walking Dead.

And it’s sold out.

We’ll miss the lines and the crushing crowd and the weirdos, which isn’t a hardship. But we’ll miss the excitement, too, the drama of seeing the awesome designs with our own eyes and getting swept away by the intoxicating new toy smell. Meh, never fear, we can participate in spirit. Through the glory of the Internet. I’ll be here, closely monitoring the action.

Personally, I have a weakness for Gary Baseman and Frank Kozik figures, Simpsons, too. Kathie Olivas creations. I’m a sucker for toys. And I’m a sucker for design. Put them together and I’m helpless — virtually hypnotic, but short of drooling. I’m also poor, so I have to be content with looking, not buying. Distance makes that easier.

Here’s a too small sampling of what’s expected at the 2015 New York Comic Con:

jack_vampire teddy

And that’s the very latest in toy news, but stay tuned for late breaking developments. You never know what those things are planning. Aloha.

despicable-Me-2Copyright © 2015 Publikworks

(Batteries not included)

: today’s deep thought :

September 27, 2015 § 5 Comments

“Do something every day that scares you.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

text separator_simple
What kind of crazy, half-assed advice is that? Don’t encourage people, for chrissakes. Not now, not in an age of Jackass and America’s Funniest Videos. Mayhem and grievous bodily harm will surely follow.scared

In this case, the author probably meant give a speech to the Kiwanis Club or ride a roller coaster, not Russian Roulette. Not mix aerosol products and open flame. Not toss a toaster in the tub. Yet there are many, oodles, who will fail to make the distinction. You could argue it’s an efficient way to thin the herd, but it’s mean and devilish.

roller coaster

Knuckleheads will take such forceful advice literally. So if you’re going to spout aphorisms, be clear about it. Leave no room for misinterpretation. Otherwise, expect bedlam. Misunderstandings will be the natural and ugly result. In fact, they’re the reason lemon-scented dishwashing liquid bears the stern warning: ‘Do Not Drink’. And frozen dinner instructions start with ‘Remove tray from package.’

Now, I’m not a scholar of First Ladies, but this advice seems out of character for the type. They’re a pretty colorless bunch. First Ladies are noted for fat ankles and selecting china patterns, not as advocates of self-destructive behavior. And, although she’s widely attributed as the author, evidence suggests Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t say any such thing. Similar, along the same lines, but not this exactly. Isn’t that a hoot?

Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, is the likelier source. In 1997, she wrote an article that began, ‘Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out.’  It continued on with a string of short, disjointed statements, such as ‘sing, don’t waste time on jealousy, floss,’ and included the line ‘do one thing every day that scares you.’ Baz Luhrmann, yes, the film director, transformed the essay into a spoken word song in 1999, crediting Schmich.

Hmm, who knew?


Copyright © 2015 Publikworks

: a tutorial on punctuation day :

September 24, 2015 § 16 Comments


Be honest. Doesn’t the exclamation mark look like a middle finger there? Sorry, it wasn’t intentional, but that’s what happens when you use lurid punctuation.

Welcome to National Punctuation Day.

And on this very auspicious occasion, please allow me to relate a cautionary tale. One that involves the misuse of the little marks with the great big job.

Waiting to deposit a check at the drive-thru I glimpsed a sign in the window. ‘Earn this rate of return,’ it advertised. A second, more deliberate look showed a laughable 1.55%! on a 39-month Certificate of Deposit. Me? I wouldn’t have had the cojones to advertise that. It reads like a punch line. Or a scam. Or a Candid Camera bit.

How do advertisers get away with it? Excellent question, class. That 1.55% is not supposed to register or sink in on a conscious level. And it usually doesn’t. We’re blinded by the exclamation point! It’s strategically and purposely deployed to befog and distract the very susceptible mind of the average consumer. On its own, 1.55% is a meaningless collection of numbers. Add the exclamation and, whoa, 1.55%! represents a bonanza in the dull, listless eyes of John Q. Public.

Am I kidding? Does this stuff really work? Yep.

People don’t think, details give us a headache, and we have no attention span. Something shiny catches our eye and, wheee, our minds wander away.  Besides, what’s the difference? It’s a number; one’s the same as another. And they’re all confusing — who has the energy to figure them out? An exclamation point, though, woo — that’s big and exciting and easy to understand. We’re gonna be rich. What’s a Certificate of Deposit?

So where does the fault lie? Well, you’re a grown-up, draw your own conclusions. Just bear in mind, there’s a reason for obnoxious, perky punctuation and it isn’t to clarify!


copyright © 2015 publikworks

: obituary for summer :

September 23, 2015 § 19 Comments

dialog balloonSummer slipped away quietly at 4:20 (EDT) this morning. Words cannot describe the loss, the sense of sorrow; nothing can.

The season had been losing strength and vitality in recent days, with the sun retiring earlier in the evenings and needing more time to rise with each passing day. It went peacefully in our sleep. Today, our hearts lie heavy with sadness and grief; we’ve lost a warm, beloved season.

Autumn is here as a replacement, but it’s a very poor substitute. More of a buttinsky, really. The glories of summer cannot be replaced. Certainly not by the likes of Fall. It blows.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to cry until I throw up.

sunsetcopyright © 2015 publikworks

: huh :

September 20, 2015 § 3 Comments

Those three letters, in that configuration, are part of every human language. Isn’t that a trip? We all speak huh. Everyone on the planet — sophisticate to aborigine, palace occupant to cave dweller –caveman– uses the same expression to say the same things. Huh is capable of communicating all kinds of stuff: confusion, disbelief, doubt, scorn, surprise, and, of course, what?

A merry band of Dutch researchers, who hadn’t originally set out to study huh, said the term kept popping up in nearly identical sound and usage in 31 vastly different languages.  Everything from Cha’palaa (spoken by a minority of Ecuadorians) to Icelandic to Murriny Patha (spoken among Aboriginals in Australia). That’s pretty universal, all right.

So there you have it. The one thing the entire human race can agree on is huh. It’s not even a word, really, more of an utterance. A grunt. Probably a holdover from prehistoric times, like a vestigial remnant.

The big news, in my opinion, is that the research was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize. What’s an Ig Nobel, you ask? They’re a spoof of the original and highly coveted Nobel Prize, honoring the quirkier achievements of science. (Ig Nobel, get it? Ignoble? It took hours for that to dawn on me.) They are, hands down, tons more fun than the real awards.


Some of this year’s other deserving honorees:

Physics – For testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals, regardless of size, empty their bladders in roughly 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).
Patricia Yang (Georgia Institute of Technology, US) and colleagues

Mathematics – For trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed to father 888 children between 1697 and 1727.
Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer (University of Vienna, Austria)

Diagnostic medicine – For determining acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain suffered when a patient is driven over speed bumps.
Diallah Karim (Stoke Mandeville Hospital, UK) and colleagues

Physiology and entomology – For painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects; and for carefully arranging to be stung repeatedly by honey bees in 25 different places to learn which are least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm) and which are most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft).
Awarded jointly to Justin Schmidt (Southwest Biological Institute, US) and Michael L. Smith (Cornell University, US)

And that’s the latest news from the 25th Annual Ig Nobel Awards in Boston. Stuff that in your beaker, Alfred Nobel.

beakercopyright © 2015 publikworks