Dada koan #19: you’re never too old to be hiding behind something


Here’s a profound dada koan. It would be bad taste for me to call something I’d written profound but since this is a dada koan it means I grabbed all the phrases and words, readymade, from a candy box that has a notecard marked “Surrealism” scotch-taped to its lid. These candy boxes are easy to come by. Wait a couple weeks for Walgreen’s to have another $5 sale. Anyway, it’s the candy box that deserves any accolades for profundity.


Aw c’mon, guys. Twarn’t nuffin.

Here’s the above flamingo-colored cut-up poem sailing on its blue-green rectangle in B&W:

you’re never too old to

be hiding behind something.

an overweight comedian

the Internet

three red lipsticks,

stop being a snowflake

falling onto tables


to  die first

Thanks very much for stopping by. Brotchie’s A Book of Surrealist Games has lots of inspiring word-play strategies by Tristan Tzara and other Dada experts.


Unrelated Addendum #1:  Note to a wonderful composer/musician. My Insignia CD player is silent.  It has 9 buttons including 2 on/off switches on the sides. I’ve tried these buttons in all different configurations but nothing. Batteries are new and correctly placed. This happened last year too and when I brought it over to Best Buy, the blue shirts had it singing my Ultra Lounge CD– Teach me, Tiger, whoa whoa whoa– in two shakes of a dachshund’s tail. But that Best Buy is a Target now. Everything in Chicago is either a condo or a Target, by the way. Anyway, hoping to find a remedy to this problem soon so I can hear songs with titles like: The Hand That Feeds Me Could’ve Used a Little Salt (Troll Braille CD by Walker Evans).

Unrelated Addendum #2:  Wow, I’ve really put a lot of weight on recently. Wonder if something’s bothering me.

Unrelated Addendum #3:  Turns out I’ve formatted 300-plus pages completely, totally wrong. I guess you don’t tab over or count out 5 spaces to indent paragraphs anymore. What a mess.

Unrelated Addendum #4:  Lots of novels piling up in To Read stacks including several by Dawn Powell. Despite this fact, last night I stayed up to re-read her A Time To Be Born which is a roman a` clef about Clare Luce Booth (Amanda Keeler) and her newspaper magnate husband. The early description of her house–“the marble-floored, marble-benched foyer”– with its gargoyles and “urns of enormous chrysanthemums” is pretty great, as is, actually, the entire book. Here’s a sample bit that concerns a different character:

“She was thirty-two but she looked like a woman of forty so well-preserved she could pass for thirty-two.”


Dada Koan #18: twin boys in ear canal


Today’s dada koan tackles the tricky problem of poor hearing.

What is a dada koan? It’s a kind of Frankenstein monster pieced together from old newspapers. Tristan Tzara, the great dadaist, is credited for inventing the cut-up technique poem.

You know, the candidates for this very fine 2016 presidential election don’t do mud-slinging. They’ve clawed past that to reach the primordial ooze and now there’s a hole in the earth and we’re all falling through.

But I digress.

Here’s the above pink on yellow dada koan cut-up poem in B&W:

robust, 75-year-old:

I feel strange essentially

twin boys in ear canal

whooped and clowned around.


coloring books.

problem may just be wax.

Just little boys horsing around with their coloring books. What a relief!

Thanks very much for stopping by.


Unrelated Addendum #1: We Speak Chicagoese, stories and poems by Chicago writers is edited by Bill Donlon and Dennis Foley. It’s hot off the presses and includes such abundance of local amazing as: “Brothers” by Sherwood Anderson, “My Brother’s Ass” by Carl Richards, “A Deal in Wheat” by Frank Norris, and “I Took the Santa Claus Job” by Beau O’Reilly.

Unrelated Addendum #2: Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet and Clarice Lispector’s Agua Viva feel more like philosophy than fiction. Reading these writers both at the same time makes me feel surreal, displaced, and uh… disquieted.

Addendum-related Addendum: Did Gregor Samsa have disquieting dreams?


Dada koan #14: her feet lying across cutlery


Ah, yes, it’s a cut-up technique poem.  We’re sailing here with these dada koans.  #14’s clipped a few phrases from newspaper advertisements.

This surreal poem’s pasted onto Edie-Sedgwick-’60s-color paper.  Here’s the above koan in B&W.

Kitchen novelty offer

announced by the state


should be toasty

on his lap with her feet lying across CUTLERY SETS

Vaguely feminist?


Thanks very much for stopping by.

Very Tangentially-Related Addendum #1:  Jean Stein’s Edie bio is fantastic!  Andy Warhol sounds like a child!

Unrelated Addendum #2:  Five facts from the Armond Fields bio Maude Adams, Idol of American Theater, 1872-1953:

  1.  An over-worked Maude had nervous breakdowns.
  2.  Young Maudie, playing the role of Adele, appeared with her mother in Jane Eyre.  A critic wrote her mom performed Mrs. Reed “with quiet but very mean cruelty.”
  3. In the New York Herald, 1901, Sarah Bernhardt announced she’d “play Romeo for one hundred nights in America to Maude Adams’ Juliet.”  Not to be.
  4.  John Alexander designed Maude’s costume with its world’s first “Peter Pan collar”.  Peter Pan opened at the Empire Theater, New York City, November 6, 1905.
  5. Advice to Maude from top theater impresario Charles Frohman:  “You are not to be interviewed.  You are not to be quoted.  People will wonder at you, yearn for details of your private life.  Let them.  It will only spur their interest and their desire for you.”  The internet disagrees.


Dada koans #11: American lawyer still itching


Well, the balloons have slunk to the floor, the crepe paper’s been tossed, we’ve used up a lot of scotch tape, and that brief shining milestone is officially over.  But we persevere and here’s dada koan #11.  It’s cynical but we don’t choose the words– blame the Whitman’s Sampler box.  (See previous dada koan posts or Brotchie & Gooding’s A Book of Surrealist Games for instructions on the cut up technique poem).

The above brickyard-red poem in black and white:



still itching for


we might advise that


is daunting

had eluded




This is solid advice for anyone heading to California.

Thank you very much for stopping by.


Unrelated Addendum #1:  Bachelorette Recipe for a hot summer.  You will need:  a bagel, a toaster, 2 slices of cheese, paper or dish towel, patience.  Toast bagel.  Immediately put the 2 cheese slices on one bagel half and then bagel lid it.  Wrap sandwich in a paper (or dish) towel and squeeze it for two or three minutes depending on how hungry you are.  Voila!  A delicious toasted cheese bagelwich you didn’t need to turn your oven on for!  (This doesn’t work very well with bread, by the way.)

Unrelated Addendum #2:  Nabbed a copy of the confessions of Aleister Crowley for a buck!  That’s because someone had scissored off part of the cover and scrawled black magic marker all over it.  But that only adds to its Satan-Worshipper patina.  Crowley’s mom called him The Beast as a bad thing but later he adopted this nickname for himself.  Kind of like me and awkwardphobic!  When he was a tyke, his mom who was religious told him ‘Ladies have no legs’.  Then one day, these two old church women visited and little Al crawled under the table and yelled, “Mamma!  Mamma!  Sister Susan and Sister Emma are not ladies!”  I’m sure the book is full of charming anecdotes like this.

(the confessions of Aleister Crowley, an autohagiography edited by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant)


Dada Koans #10: found in a Louisiana bayou


Yes, at long last– the tenth anniversary of dada koans.  Exhausted by this morning’s round of radio and TV interviews.  Same questions:  How old are you? Did you know Tristan Tzara?  Why the name ‘dada koan’?  Did you foresee the day you’d reach Ten DK?  Hey, would they care how old I was if I was a guy.  But that’s okay.  Never met Tristan so I tell a story about Dali’s sex jacket and 55 dead flies in 55 shot glasses and they seem satisfied.

Back from Michael’s craft store. Ribbons and crepe paper, balloons, plastic animals (those are pretty expensive actually), and stick-on letters that read “DK: Number Ten!”

Difficult to scrape a small hole in the glass but managed and am now shot-gunning a bottle of Barefoot Bubbly Brut.


Why not celebrate DK Tenth your way by making your own dada koan poem? Scissor out words and phrases from Trader Joe’s newsletters, political flyers, and diet pill ads. Hide them in a Whitman’s Sampler box labeled “Surrealism”. Pull out a maximum of ten word slips. Rearrange, squeeze some Elmer’s glue onto loud-colored paper and presto. A dada koan for the ages. (Presto! is also the name of Penn Jillette’s weight-loss book where he recommends eating potatoes with no butter. He lost a hundred pounds.)

Here’s the above #2 pencil yellow poem in b&w.

as discombobulated as a fresh-

Celebrity Pink

football or life in general


lumped in with the muck

found in a Louisiana bayou

Well, there it is. A certain flooberty* state of mind explained.  Thanks for stopping by.  Keep drinking fluids and buying books and avoiding those mosquitoes.


Unrelated Addendum #1:  “Why do people always try to tell you that life gets better?  Like life has a bad cold.”– Kelly Link, Get In Trouble, short stories.

Unrelated Addendum #2:  First Shake, Rattle, and Read  on Broadway goes.  Now Bookworks on Clark Street will close in the fall.  No more bookstores can close in Chicago!  Jeez.  Ronda and Bob of Bookworks are so smart, friendly, and kind.  If it weren’t for Ronda– I doubt I’d ever have read the amazing Jose Saramago.  A beautiful, soothing atmosphere and chock-full of treasures.  I’ll miss them and their bookstore like crazy.  It was sanctuary.

*the term “flooberty” was coined by Hermione Slugfish in the late 1970’s.  Noun that means fuzzy-headed-ness.  Her (copyright 1982) “Feeling Flooberty” T-shirt is no longer in stock.

Dada Koans #9: mental illness could be awesome


Can you believe it’s Dada Koans #9 already?  We are about to hit a milestone dada-koan-wise.  Soon there will be retrospectives and lecturers in corduroy jackets and coffee table hardbacks.  Let’s keep going as long as the Elmer’s glue holds out.

This is another cut-up-technique surreal poem.  The words and phrases were ripped out of the newspapers.

So, the above mustard-colored poem in b&w:

mental illness could be awesome

werewolf we never knew

jumps or lunges

you need discipline

(I do not)


on the next

sunny something

You’ll notice I put in a pair of parentheses.


Thanks for stopping by.  Back from seeing relatives in North Carolina.  The crepe myrtles are in bloom– rows and rows of saturated deep pinks.  Good visit.  Nice people.  Farmer’s market.  Peach preserves.  Fried green tomatoes.  Rodin sculptures look especially beauteous outdoors.  A wall of swirling tree branches in the NC Museum’s cafe mimicked Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.


Unrelated Addendum #1:  Elizabeth McCracken quote:  “It was so hot you could hear the mayonnaise go bad”.  That’s from Thunderstruck & other stories which has a top-notch musical saw story– “Some Terpsichore”.


Unrelated Addendum #2:  Here’s part of a married elderly woman’s rant– circa end of July 2016– in Chicago’s O’Hare airport.  She missed her plane.

“Five minutes.  They couldn’t wait five minutes.  They wait for other people.  Ha!  If I was in a wheelchair they’d’ve waited.  I explained about my medical condition.  You want me to have a fit, my tongue hanging out?  Fine.  I will NEVER fly (name of airline) again.  They must work for the government.  No integrity!  They work for Hillary.  Liars!  Or they work for Donald.  Lunatics!  This country’s going straight to hell.  Look at this, they tore the luggage.  They’re rough with luggage.  They’re disgusting.  Did you see that woman at Starbucks?  She had a whole fistful of vouchers.  That’s how they operate.”

This actually went on for a couple hours.


Unrelated Addendum #3:  Overheard in Maryland BWI airport–circa August 2016.  Little girl to her sister, giggling:  “Did you hear that airline lady at lunch?  She said everybody from Chicago is stupid.  She was eating a big sandwich.”


When we arrived at the museum, we saw a playful cartoonish sculpture and I said, “That looks like a Miro.”  As we got closer, saw that the placque read– “Henry Moore”.  So, I’m stupid.  But I don’t think everybody from Chicago is.




Dada koan #5: devious old radio host


This one’s my favorite dada koan (thus far). Maybe that’s because The Unsuspected by Charlotte Armstrong was a beloved mystery novel for me as a teenager. Old radio host Luther Grandison was so sweet.  (Nobody could believe anything bad about dear old Grandy!)

A dada koan, by the way, is just a short random “cut up” poem. Similar to the ones Tristan Tzara used to pull from his Cubs baseball cap. Only perhaps not so “elusive” as Tristan’s.

(Ha ha! That’s a little inside joke with myself. My American Heritage dictionary helpfully defines elusive as “tending to elude capture”.  However, I’m easy to find these summer months– usually sweating in my apartment holding an ice cube.)

At any rate.  Here is the above neon cantaloupe-colored poem in b&w:

an old radio host

saying “this is an onion”

Led to Brazen Killing

the central mystery of the case

scapegoat neck

is trending higher than

signs of the apocalypse


inspired by the theme “Joy”

Well, there you have it.  Vegetable comment causes bloodshed.  Not very elusive.

By the way, the plot of The Unsuspected is pretty far-fetched.  And also, I suppose, disturbing and wrong.  If you’re reading Charlotte Armstrong for the first time, you’d probably be better off with Mischief or something.  She’s written multitudes of mysteries that are better than The Unsuspected.  But I don’t care because it’s still the one closest to my heart.  She seems not so much in vogue now.

Thanks for stopping by.

Unrelated Addendum:  Remember those Oprah shows where a group of women who looked thirty-ish turned out to be ninety-five?  I’d never make it onto those shows because I look MUCH older than I am.  There’s no money in that.