Friday, May 19, 2017


As you know, Megan Abbott and I are on a steady diet of celebrity memoirs, which I tell you about only where there is an owl in one of them. So! Louise Brooks is widely read, and sprinkles her reminiscences with literary allusions, including a passing one to Edward Lear's nonsense masterpiece "The Owl and the Pussycat." PS I didn't even put "owl" in my search terms but here's Louise Brooks with an owl photoshopped onto her head. It popped up like magic.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

How About an Apple, Chad?

As you know, I never "blog" anymore except when I do. For example, I am obligated to "blog" every time I read a book with an owl in it because it has to go on my big long list of books with owls in them ("click" here). A couple of weeks ago, I guess, I ran into Bill Boyle at Square Books, and you know how Bill is always recommending books. So I got the book he recommended and we went to the City Grocery Bar (pictured, with book), which is conveniently located. (Also pictured, a Benjamin Franklin pencil sharpener Ace Atkins gave me that evening.) So I've been reading this book and thinking, "Oh well, I can tell Lucia Berlin is not an owl type!" But suddenly last night she gave me some "ratty horned owls." And Jell-O, which is in the books I read almost as often as owls are. The Jell-O appears in the same sentence as the book of Deuteronomy, a good balance. I like those two proper nouns holding down a sentence from either end. I am also allowed to "blog" about THE BIG VALLEY. Hey! Remember when Heath really had a thing for apples in the first episode? So last night I was watching one in which this kid goes through a horrific tragedy, seeing his grandfather gunned down before his very eyes, so Heath is awkwardly holding an apple and he says, "How about an apple, Chad?" Apples are Heath's answer for everything! He also loves cleaning guns, especially when Audra is around, but not exclusively. I'm going to watch some more and make sure this is true. I'll tell you one thing, though. Jarrod is always staring into the fireplace. That's where he goes to stare!

Sunday, May 07, 2017

The Tinder of Our Wishes

Hey remember when my book about cigarette lighters came out? Me neither! But for a while there I would see something and think, "Oh, I should have put that in my cigarette lighter book. If only I had known!" But after a while you stop thinking that because you'd go mad. Mad, I say! But I just read AGNES GREY. To my surprise there were no owls in it, because those Brontë sisters are usually reliable purveyors of literary owls. The closest we get are some rooks who fly away as the sun sets: "For a moment, such birds as soared above the rest might still receive the lustre on their wings, which imparted to their sable plumage the hue and brilliance of deep red gold; at last, that too departed. Twilight came stealing on..." And I was like, "Oh, boy! Here come the owls." But there were no owls. Here's what Anne Brontë DID have: something I would have stuck somewhere in my cigarette lighter book, had I read it in time... "the flint and steel of circumstances are continually striking out sparks, which vanish immediately, unless they chance to fall upon the tinder of our wishes." I also enjoyed (this is unrelated) her elaborate conceit on the subject of a lonely glowworm. Anne Brontë is in great sympathy with nature. The same cannot be said for Arnold Schwarzenegger, I fear. We watched most of ERASER last night. You know, Dr. Theresa and I saw it in the theater when it came out, and I associate it with the very earliest years of our marriage. I did not recall the part in which Arnold is being pursued through a zoo by some bad guys, so he shoots out the glass on a tank full of alligators, and the alligators immediately begin eating the bad guys. "Don't they feed these alligators?" I wondered. Actually, what I wondered was "Don't they feed these crocodiles?" But I decided later that they were supposed to be alligators, for reasons that will soon become clear. So after the alligators eat the bad guys, one of them gets after Arnold, so he shoots it in the head. Hey, these alligators just helped him out! And isn't he responsible for them now? Doesn't he realize their terrible irony? But no, he just says, "You're luggage." That's what he says after he shoots the alligator. I found it unnecessary! First of all, the alligator is already dead. Second of all, even if the alligator was alive, it wouldn't be able to understand what you were saying. Third of all, why are you gloating? Even if forced into a situation in which she was required to kill an alligator (there is some arguable precedent in AGNES GREY), Anne Brontë never would have gloated about it! Fourth of all, why are you staying and making wisecracks to a dead alligator when there are more bad guys coming? In any case, his remark was in extremely bad taste. I decided they were meant to be alligators because I believe shoes and belts and boots and suitcases are traditionally made from alligator hide, not crocodile hide. I don't know the difference. I must sadly conclude by noting that Arnold Schwarzenegger appears in my cigarette lighter book more than once, poor Anne Brontë (as noted) not at all.

Monday, May 01, 2017

A Very Important Announcement

I can't believe it took me so long to watch the ending of THREE RING CIRCUS. I just got around to finishing it last night. So Jerry does a clown act with a tiny monkey. This is one tiny monkey, believe me. And it runs over and starts riding around in the sawdust on a tiny scooter and I was like, "Gee! They really found a tiny scooter to fit that tiny monkey. Look at him go!" This isn't the important part, but it was pretty great to see that tiny monkey really booking it on that tiny scooter. And he's wearing like a red silk diaper. Suddenly he's off the scooter and posing Burt Reynolds style in his red silk diaper. We haven't gotten to the important part. Now Jerry, for reasons I can't quite recall, picks up something like a bazooka and starts shooting something - maybe they're long foam tubes? - at the reclining monkey. It's all real harmless and Jerry misses by a mile anyway. Don't make me swear to what it is coming out of that bazooka. But one thing is for sure: that monkey needs to escape, and pronto. So he jumps up and hops on the back of a convenient dog we haven't seen before and rides away to freedom. That's the important part: THREE RING CIRCUS has A MONKEY RIDING A DOG IN IT! As I'm sure you will recall, I have mixed feelings about monkeys riding dogs. They (the feelings, and the monkeys riding dogs) even come up in one of the stories in my most recent short story collection MOVIE STARS, in which they (the monkeys riding dogs) symbolize... the futility of existence or something? I can't remember. But in this case I was okay. I even laughed! The dog seemed into it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Visceral Sense of Jibbs

As you know, I don't "blog" anymore unless it's about THE BIG VALLEY, which has been off the air since 1969, or if I read a book with an owl in it. But occasionally one has a thought that is too long for twitter - not very often! - and where is one to put it? "Here" is the only answer. So I have finally watched the entire ADVENTURE TIME miniseries entitled ELEMENTS, and I did it through legal means. I paid $9.99 for it! But I shan't say anything about the episodes that haven't aired on normal television for normal people yet. EXCEPT! To make the general observation that there are a lot of great jokes in it, among other things. PASTE magazine said ADVENTURE TIME: ELEMENTS has "a visceral sense of armageddon" and maybe they know what they're talking about but I mainly just laughed a lot. NOW! Roughly ninety-nine percent of the jokes contained in the miniseries are jokes that anyone can enjoy, from the most cantankerous old codger to the rosiest tot, but I also noticed a few things that made me laugh in a smug, knowing, secretive manner with which I feel certain you are longing to become intimately acquainted. For example, in last night's episode "Cloudy," the word "jibbs" was used as a mild expletive, as in "What the jibbs?" And... I may not get this line exactly right... "Calm the jibbs down." So! While we were working on the outline for "Cloudy," ADVENTURE TIME head writer Kent Osborne was simultaneously in rehearsals for a staged reading of some kind of script or another, in which his character's name was Jibbs. For whatever reason, this tickled the rest of us in the writers room no end. On top of that, Kent was required to affect an Irish accent for the role of Jibbs, and as he was just beginning to work on it, our delight was boundless in mocking him unfairly when he tried it out in our presence. These twin pillars of hilarity - the name "Jibbs" and our accompanying merciless jeers at Kent's nascent Irish accent - made it irresistible to include the expression "what the jibbs" in the outline upon which we were currently at work. So I was especially happy to see that the exclamation, or a variation on it, occurred more than once in the finished storyboard, brilliantly executed by Graham Falk and the aforementioned Kent Osborne, and, of course, in its ultimate animated iteration, the toil of countless souls. I hope you feel that you have benefited from this thorough examination of "humor" and its mysterious inner workings laid bare and that my vivid yet clinical dissection of the matter has not robbed you entirely of the magic and joy in your life.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Barkley Absconditus

I'm four episodes into THE BIG VALLEY and it's interesting because the whole drama centers around an empty place where a person used to be... not until Laura Palmer in TWIN PEAKS was there another absent character so important to a show. He's the dead patriarch, Thomas Barkley, and I just saw an episode where the town is unveiling a statue of him, but there's a shadow over the face and we can't really see it, can anyone? Yes, yes, THE BIG VALLEY swirls around a terrifying abyss of meaningless where "the father" is supposed to be. Where is the supposed pillar of society? I don't suppose it's a coincidence [yes, of course it is! - ed.] that two bridges have fallen down in four episodes. I'm sure there is some theological approach to THE BIG VALLEY, something from Nicolas of Cusa, something about the deus absconditus.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Familiar Barn Fight

As you know, I never, ever "blog" anymore unless I read a book with an owl in it or for some other reason. But now I have decided I can "blog" about the TV show THE BIG VALLEY whenever I want. Spurred by Laura Lippman's description of it as "gloriously weird," I decided to revisit THE BIG VALLEY, or maybe just to visit it, because I really couldn't remember anything about it. I remembered a promo in which they put a lot of reverb on the announcer when he said the title: "THE BIG VALLEY-ALLEY-ALLEY-alley-alley-alley!" And I remembered, from the same promo, the description of Barbara Stanwyck's character as "Victoria, a woman of backbone and bite!" All I can say is that was a pretty good promo if I still remember it from when I was a kid. So I watched some of THE BIG VALLEY. When a fistfight started raging in the barn, I thought, you know, maybe I did watch this show when I was a kid, because I felt secure in the knowledge that this was a staple of the show, it was all coming back to me, regular fistfights in the barn. But I can't be sure! I think there was something on the other channel I liked better. But here are some things I observed: 1. It all starts with one of the brothers on a bridge and here comes Lee Majors from the other direction and neither fellow will back up his horse to let the other one pass. So they literally just sit there looking at each other until the bridge falls down! I can't say much for the infrastructure. 2. The introduction of Barbara Stanwyck's character. She swoops into the room where her sons are standing and says (I paraphrase, but only slightly), "You're putting on weight, must you shout, here comes a visitor, I'll see you at dinner." And then she's gone. Like she was never there! She spits it all out like a machine gun and disappears in a flash. I thought maybe she was like Fred MacMurray, who supposedly used to come in and sit in a chair for one day and say all his lines for an entire season of his sitcom MY THREE SONS then get up and put on his hat and leave and they had to shoot around him for the rest of the year. My friend Ward McCarthy told me that about Fred MacMurray and if it's not true it's my own fault, because maybe I'm remembering the details wrong and I'm just too lazy to look it up. 3. Lee Majors kneels down at a lonesome grave (the patriarch has been plopped into the ground in the middle of nowhere, right where he was killed, not unlike the sad case of Meriwether Lewis) and then a young woman rides up on a horse and just casually leans down and starts striking Lee Majors wildly and repeatedly in the face with a leather strap, and she doesn't even know him! That's his half-sister, I guess, as they discover later, but there's an extremely weird vibe they've got going on (pictured). In fact they started making me think of Heathcliff and Cathy a little bit, and Lee Majors's name on the show is Heath, so I wondered whether that was on purpose, but my research methods (as noted above) are far too lazy to confirm or deny. Still, Heath is the brash, mysterious outsider who disrupts family life... for instance when he steals some apples! He's just walking around, trespassing, going through their stuff and finally taking an apple and Victoria catches him. So he takes off his hat. And I thought, oh, this brash, mysterious outsider is going to be respectful for a change! We're about to see the tender, gentlemanly side of this brash, mysterious outsider! But no, he was just taking off his hat to cram it full of all the sweet, sweet apples he could carry. And I was like, gee, Lee Majors sure has a hatful of apples now! He's going to have quite a night eating apples. Meanwhile, Audra (Linda Evans) gets a lot of use out of her leather strap, often with good reason, because they seem to live in a nightmarish hellscape. Right now everyone is shooting each other and I haven't even made it to the end of the first episode yet.