Dada Koan #23: for the menacing teen in us all


Today’s dada koan was cobbled together in 2016.

Words for dada koans can be found in chocolate boxes but the catch is you must put them in there yourself. Snip good words and phrases from a variety of pulp and shiny paper sources. Allow months or years or even decades to pass– then pull randomly from your Whitman’s Sampler box and glue onto colorful stationery for your very own idiosyncratic thing. You might’ve chosen to watch the President’s little Pekingese mouth on TV– bottom teeth contorting all over the place– but instead you now have a dada koan!

Here’s the above sunny on amber surreal poem in B&W:

If you’re a menacing teen

eating a

lawnmower, sitting

AT a

cowboy bar

nicks in the good furniture

Is there a more



An appropriate one for the day after Mother’s Day. Regardless of age, we’re all menacing teens at heart.

Thanks very much for stopping by.


Unrelated Addendum #1: So Trump insists on two scoops of ice cream for every visiting dignitary’s lousy single. What next? More maraschino cherries? Whipped cream? More chocolate jimmies? It will end in tears. I can think of a few world leaders where this would generate ice cream wars.

Unrelated Addendum #2: Attia Hosain’s Sunlight on a Broken Column was enlightening. Family life in 1930’s India and there’s a love story mixed in with the political upheavals. However, if you own a deep green Virago Modern Classics paperback (mesmerizing c.1770, Lucknow cover art– “A Half-Length Portrait of a Lady at a Window”)– be aware you’ll have two page 97s but absolutely no page 98.

Extremely unrelated Addendum #3: Saturday, May 13th, red line: Young man with Dr. Zhivago-big eyes sat across from me, blathering away. He’s staring hard into my retinas but since he’s got his phone-wire plugs in, I’m unsure his words are directed at me. After a minute, clearly indeed yes they are– but it still all kept coming out too fast.

“I don’t understand,” I said. He leaned right into my face. I suppose I could’ve moved but that seems melodramatic for an el ride. He fired more words and I shook my head saying sorry.

Finally, he sighed.

“You’ve heard of Hillary Clinton? Bill Clinton’s wife?”

I nodded.

“How much do you think she’s worth?” He rubbed his thumb and fingers together to indicate big money.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“There’s people who say Trump is a scapegoat and the Clintons are in charge.”

“I hadn’t heard that,” I said.

“You’re hearing it now!” he exclaimed. “These people will blow your head straight off.” He pointed to my head, then made an explosive sound, fingers expressive. Maybe I looked worried because he said, “Hey, they’ll blow my head off too. I don’t want that either.”

How will I put up with this until Berwyn, I thought. But suddenly he said, “Well, this is my stop.” Giving me a last intent look, he said, “I don’t believe in small talk.”

Happy 2017, everyone!


Dada Koan #21: immense traditionalism and warm spoons


Rip van Winkle yawns and stretches, saying, “Okay 2017– but who is president? Who? Oh, c’mon! Knock it off guys– I’m serious. Who? Who? Really, who?”

I’ve been reading the Weekly World News. Someone was about to throw out seven old copies. Bat Boy at NASCAR, the face of God photographed from a Hubble telescope (blurry), a severed finger turns up in a can of peas. Two stories about men who died from their own flatulence– one suffocated, one passed by an open flame. Two stories about female surgeons who– confronted by their rapists who needed appendixes out or something– castrated them.

The Weekly World News definitely had its big furry Bigfoot toe on our 2017 zeitgeist.

Well, here’s Dada Koan #21. The above dada koan was made by following– sort of– Tristan Tzara’s rules for a cut-up technique surrealist poem. Ten words and phrases, blindly chosen, are taken from a Whitman’s Sampler chocolate box and glued to colorful paper. The words are rearranged– sometimes extensively– for sense.

Thanks very much for stopping by. Well here we all are, huh?


Unrelated Addendum: Shirley Jackson was amazing.

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 koans #8: for a safe & healthy business


Well, I’ve been posting these dada koans since January.  Thanks to A Book of Surrealist Games by Alistair Brotchie. Why make dada koans, you may ask, as opposed to doing laundry?  Because a koan takes a minimum of effort– and in the end you’ve got yourself a weird little story.  Whereas with laundry…  To paraphrase Joan Rivers– you cook, you clean, you do laundry and then in a year you just have to do it again. So. Fill a Whitman’s chocolates box with words and phrases–little rectangles cut from Orkin ads, dental check-up come-ons, free newspapers, etc. Shake the box and pull ten slips.  Glue the finished piece to colored paper to fool yourself that your dada koan has some permanence.

The good: It’s calming to rearrange words. To be Whitman’s Sampler-gifted the words– narrows the options. Thank god.

The bad: What you’ve created is one of these Tristan Tzara-esque cut-up technique dada things. Which may not make sense. Or, in the case DK #8, too much sense.

The above blood red poem in more consistent typeface:

YOU DON’T NEED Online Application

Protect your family from


2000 to 2002

tech bust

For a Safe & Healthy BUSINESS



Well, there you go.  Helpful advice.

Thanks for stopping by.  “Winter is coming” which I say in a positive non-Game of Thrones way.  If you live in Chicago– make sure to drink your diet Dr. Pepper, and iced caffeinated beverages.


Unrelated Addendum:  Buying a Snickers last night– I was delighted to see none of them said “Snickers.”  Took me a while to choose the right one.  Had my hand on “Forgetful” but then thought ‘but I don’t want to be Forgetful’.  Rebellious seemed inappropriate.  Finally, I made my decision and slammed “Loopy” onto the counter like a challenge.


Dada koans #7: a surreal casserole


All you need is a Whitman’s chocolates box full of words and phrases.  Cut up or rip out these words from newspapers and gas bills.  Give the candy box a good throttle.  Pull ten word slips and move them around.  Soon you’ll have your very own surreal scissored-out Dada koan poem thing.  Paste it onto vivid paper.

How to interpret today’s koan?

Opening word:  “Butler” refers to one who holds the profession.  Not a surname.

As for a gold-plated statuette of a casserole with the placque:  “The Discouraging Casserole” –well, I’ve won this particular award many times.  Metaphorically speaking.

Line 4: “solid color regret”  is more intense than paisley regret.

The “absurd facts” might relate to politics.  However, it’s followed by “Graphic elevated debt” which could be political or economic.  If not economical.

Last line:  “The party didn’t last” is a too obvious reference to Judy Holliday singing “The Party’s Over” in the movie Bells Are Ringing.  The plot concerns a woman who works for an answering service.  There’s a romance (Dean Martin) and an overall message to follow your dreams.  In a subplot, a dentist in the movie writes a musical with mixed results.

“The Party’s Over” is a melancholy song.  Somewhere a party is always ending, so it will never go out of style.

Here’s the above sea-blue and lemon poem in b&w:


awarded the

discouraging CASSEROLE

solid color regret

and the generous use of

absurd facts

Graphic elevated debt

The party didn’t last



Thanks for stopping by.  By the way, when I wrote the post for Dada koan #6, I lacked sleep.  But made up for it in exclamation points.


Related Addendum #1:  Wishing you all the best.

Related Addendum #2:  Music for “The Party’s Over” is by Jule Styne.  Lyrics by Comden and Green.  “Just in Time” is in this movie too.





Dada koans #6: surreal advice


Hello, internet.  It’s me, awkwardphobic.  Dada koans!  You can do this yourself if you put a crapload of word slips in a candy box and yank out ten.  Rearrange– or don’t.  Paste the finished poem onto colorful paper.  No longer using gluestick.  It’s liquid Elmer’s from now on because I prefer that wrinkled look.  Started in January and now I have a million of these things.  What the hell.

Dada koans remind me of being a youngster on the beach and grabbing colorful shells out of the saltwater.  My mother used to say, “Isn’t it nice to leave them where they are so other people can enjoy them too?”  She was good.  Well, after those shells were out of the water for ten minutes they didn’t look so hot!

And so it is with dada koans.  At the moment of completing a fresh koan, all its words makes a bizarre sense.  But a couple of days later…

DK #6 concerns a woman who made a brave choice for love.

Here is the above cranberry-colored koan in glorious B&W:

Dear Amy: I am in love

romanced by

a large

wrapped fish

in a plastic molding factory

all different

men– have told me

that you won’t be able to

out-do this


parsley, garlic, onion,

beets, kale, eggplant,


Fennel is perhaps not the go-to seasoning for fish.  Even a plastic fish.  A reliable herb reference book, Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham*, informs me that fennel’s planet is Mercury.  So not even Pisces, dang it.  Eh, with dada koans it’s the luck of the draw.

Unrelated and Related Addendum:  Happy July Fourth!  If you are planning a Dionysian ceremony for your backdoor barbecue– you will need an authentic thyrsus.  To make one– stick pine cones on the ends of the biggest fennel stalk you can find* (ibid.)

Related Addendum:  Yes, I believe some chopped up Chicago Sun-Times may have been incorporated in DK #6.  But there’s other people named Amy too.