Thursday, July 31, 2008

What Would Batman Do?

Barry B. writes: "I just saw the gum wrapper post on the blog, which reminded me that some person drives past my house during afternoon rush hour and dumps out a handful of lottery tickets. I don't know who it is YET as it usually occurs while I am picking up [the kid] from daycare. But I am closing in. They are Cash 3 tickets and it usually occurs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Coming back from seeing The Dark Knight last night I discussed climbing up a magnolia tree at the edge of my lot with a handful of rocks."

A Convert!

Because of Dr. "M.'s" efforts on this very "blog," my sister has decided to begin reading those "Young Adult" vampire novels! Cleverly played, Dr. "M.," striking so close to home. But I'm not in your web yet! You'll never get me alive! ("Web" is probably the wrong word. But this is just a "blog." Otherwise, I'd try to think of something more vampirey.) My sister adds in a postscript: "I almost sent you that article about Jerry Lewis, but I didn't think you'd like it, so I didn't." (Left: Dr. "M." in a recent photograph.)

Lap Talk

Welcome once again to "Lap Talk." The Time Out New York article has appeared, and the interviewer did not use my story involving a lap, so, as promised, here it is on your favorite recurring feature of the "blog," "Lap Talk": "One of our cats just started doing a spontaneous circus-like trick last week," I informed the interviewer. "I happened to be whistling the song 'Rye Whiskey' by Tex Ritter. The cat perked up, came over to the couch where I was sitting, and started purring extremely loudly while jumping with gusto back and forth over my lap. Now, out of nowhere, the cat does this whenever I whistle 'Rye Whiskey.' This song, in its whistled form, makes her very happy and full of energy. Two nights ago, as an experiment, my wife tried whistling the tune, and the cat came over and began jumping back and forth over her lap in the same vibrant manner, once again purring loudly. It works without fail!" (And yes, that was the answer to a question.)


I guess I assume it's rare because it's from an exhibit called "The Unknown Weegee." But how rare can it be if it's on the "internet"? Let's all read that essay by Walter Benjamin, you know the one.

Rare, Apparently

An apparently rare Weegee photograph, courtesy of Phil.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Roy Blount Jr. has, like McNeil, noted the evocative brevity of the New York Times TV listings (as mentioned here previously). Those listings, as Blount recounts in his forthcoming book ALPHABET JUICE, "once described BUNDLE OF JOY, a 1956 movie with Eddie Fisher and a pregnant Debbie Reynolds, as 'a grisly little sunbeam.'"

Jerry's Gun

Fellow Jerry Lewis fan Jim Dees knows how I love to see Jerry's name in the newspaper. But not like this! NOT LIKE THIS! Dees sends a "link" to an article about Jerry bringing a gun into an airport. According to Jerry's spokesperson, it's a "hollowed-out prop gun that Lewis sometimes twirls during his show."

Dr. "M." Goes For the Jugular

Dr. "M." circles her prey with courtly elegance, still trying to get me to read a series of "Young Adult" novels about vampires. NEVER! But she's found a soft place for the attack - my affection for wisecracking teen detective Veronica Mars. Surely if I'll watch a TV show about a wisecracking teen detective, I will read a book about a girl named Bella who falls in love with a hunky teen vampire. A hard point to deny! Not to mention humiliating. As I struggle to continue "blogging" in a recumbent and weakened state, Dr. "M." emails in the smooth, hypnotic tones of the undead: "I would describe Bella's relationship with her father as very Veronica-Keith Mars-esque, but without the witty retorts." Nice try, Dr. "M."! But here's where you went wrong: "without the witty retorts." I love witty retorts and refuse to read any book that does not contain them. And so... the hunter becomes the hunted! Or something. Our mysterious and eternal dance something something something.

Real Life Pipe

The above plaque comes to us from Dan Brown, via a friend of his who was visiting Marfa, Texas, and snapped the photograph. Dan Brown, you may recall, directed a short film of my short story "The Pipe." The third paragraph of the plaque is very nearly a summary of the story and film, which is why Dan Brown's friend sent him the picture. Marfa is also home to the famous "Marfa Lights," a weird phenomenon that has nothing to do with UFOs, but for some reason makes me think of UFOs and that's good enough for me. As you know, UFOs have been a preoccupation of the "blog," as evidenced by the time that Jasper Johns saw a UFO, or McNeil's popular "Way... Way Out" column. Dan Brown himself has provided UFO footage. And then there were the Texas UFOs. So it all comes together.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In Fact

In fact, during the cobra story - which was specific in its use of detail - I heard John Currence say something I never imagined I'd hear him say, which was, "That's where I draw the line."

Joanna Batman Vs. The Cobra

Just ran into an ex-student. She told me she went to high school with someone named Joanna Batman. She (the ex-student) once ate a cobra in Vietnam.

Good Butterflies

We get some good butterflies around here.

All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up

Let's see what's happening in the world of entertainment! I just enjoyed a William Faulkner reference on an old rerun of THE SIMPSONS. Moe claims that Faulkner wrote gags for the Little Rascals. I've seen the episode many times, but this evening noticed for the first time a Simpsons-style William Faulkner lurking in the background of the Little Rascals flashback. In other entertainment news, McNeil's coworker Secondhand George says that he used to see Foster Brooks hanging around in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where his (Brooks's) daughter lived. Old SG spoke to Foster Brooks once. Mr. Brooks was sitting at a lunch counter with a sandwich and a cup of coffee. SG introduced himself and Mr. Brooks was "very nice and polite." He abruptly shifted into his famous "drunkard" character for SG's personal entertainment. This has been All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up. (Pictured, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, one of the Little Rascals.)

McNeil's Gold Medal International Emergency Exit Theatre

The way McNeil tells it, a gum wrapper blew out of a car window and one of his daughters was hit with a $175 ticket for littering. Such is the "backstory" for today's edition of MGMIEET:

Monday, July 28, 2008


I'm going to "link" to a nice little review I just received from the New York Observer. I know it goes against everything I pretend to stand for, but what the heck (see my favorite Peter De Vries quotation). Here's my reasoning: I can't seem to help going on and on about the novel's sole bad review (so far, that I know of), the one that mistakenly called me a "YA writer," so every time I pick at that scab again, maybe I earn the right to balance it with something positive. Let's not be coy! We all know what "blogs" are really for. So, the New York Observer says they're going to review "two first novels, one with a new voice, the other with a new everything." And the one "with a new everything," in their kind estimation, is my book AWESOME, which they proceed to describe in flattering terms. There. I said it, and I'm glad! Glad, do you hear me?

Dr. "M.'s" Yak

Ha ha! Dr. "M." does not really own a yak! But wouldn't that be something? No, "Yak" stands for "Young Adult Korner," in keeping with our hilarious practice of spelling "corner" with a "K." Ah, Dr. "M."! Our TV critic, food expert, and palimpsest aficionado! It seems she has taken up reading "Young Adult" novels, adding a new layer of authority to her "blog" presence. Now, you know I have a problem with "YA novels," stemming from the fact that I have been perversely and incorrectly designated a "YA writer" by Publishers Weekly for no reason whatsoever and they don't even care no matter how many times I email them through a blur of tears. So my dander rises when I hear the term "Young Adult"! There is also the fact that being an old adult, I hardly have time for my old adult activities, much less any side trips into whatever it is that young adults do to pass the time. The idea does not appeal to me much, I confess! I blanched at the thought of reading Harry Potter, and resisted that whole phenomenon quite easily, though I knew many trusted and intelligent non-young adults who read and enjoyed those books. The thought of it still puzzles me! Then again, I watched the Gilmore Girls every Tuesday without fail so I have no room to talk. And then there are my Jimmy Olsen comic books. I'm getting around to the point, which is that Dr. "M." recommends a "YA novel" called TWILIGHT. She says: "I read Twilight over the last couple of days, and I think I felt flush throughout most of it. Whew! While I doubt Twilight is as good as Faulkner's vampire story," she continues, "it does make for an indulgent diversion!" I had never heard of the book before Dr. "M.'s" email, so I did some "Googling" and found out something surprising. According to the New York Times, the author wrote the book "in a flash after she had a dream about the characters, who then inhabited her mind and dictated the novels to her." See, I want some of that! Why can't things come to me in a dream, like they do for everybody else? All I ever dream about is Leonard Maltin. About the "YA" TWILIGHT, all I can say is, if I ever were to read a "YA novel" it would be because Dr. "M." recommended it. She is trustworthy and true blue! In the meantime, I CAN personally recommend TWILIGHT, the old adult novel by William Gay, if you like gothic, necrotic literary thrillers about mad undertakers who are a little too "into" their work. William Gay's TWILIGHT does feature two young or young adult protagonists beset by terrible grisliness but you would be crazy to let your young adult read it. Finally I will remark that the Dalai Lama eats yak meat. I base this on his autobiography, which I read a long time ago. But according to my recollection, the Dalai Lama is not a vegetarian! He tried for a spell, after seeing something bad happen to a chicken, but he got sick while on his all-vegetable diet and had to start eating meat again. Growing up in Tibet, vegetarianism is not an option. There are hardly any vegetables! Yak is a staple! I should really do some research before making such assertions, but this is a "blog" and nothing matters. Well, hold on, let me grab the book. I'm throwing around guff about the Dalai Lama, after all. Okay. Here's what the Dalai Lama says: "I was instructed by my doctors that not only must I take less greasy food, cut out nuts and reduce my consumption of milk, but also I must start eating meat again... so reluctantly I returned to being non-vegetarian. Today I eat meat except on special occasions required by my spiritual practice." This sort of ties in with the "YA novel" TWILIGHT, which is, as I understand it, about vampires who have given up human blood. Anyway, I bet you thought the Dalai Lama was a vegetarian! That'll teach you to question the "blog."

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I was watching a production of LES TROYENS - I was, too! - and it made me start thinking about the symbolic significance of the horse - it did, too! So I got out a nice old dictionary of symbols I bought in a used bookstore in New York back in 1996. The book FELL OPEN to the PART ABOUT HORSES! Well, it was helped by the fact that some ephemera was nestled against that page - a plain black-and-white business card that said "The Emin" in lettering both portentous and raised, a business card which has been lying there undetected next to the entry on "Horse" for lo these 12 years. Waiting for me! Portentously! Full of portent! Underneath "The Emin" there was a street address and a phone number and no other information. So I "Googled" "The Emin" and came up with this: "click" here, taking care to note that I neither understand nor endorse the beliefs of "The Emin," any more than I understand or endorse the theology of Pastor Melissa Scott. But it seemed like a thing to put on a "blog."

Two Updates

Our "internet friend" from She Blogged By Night sends us this picture of Nedra Harrison in a format compatible with the "blog." We are thus able for the first time to properly illustrate a "post" about the elusive Nedra Harrison. Here we see Dr. Harrison in her "aviatrix" gear - you know, that leather helmet with goggles on it for which I am sure there is a name. Phil probably knows, in the same way that he knows what to call one of those bicycles with a big wheel on front and a little wheel on back. In our second update, Frasier fan Kelly Hogan is able to confirm that Frasier does take off his shirt a lot. It is not just my imagination. "YES!" she writes emphatically. "But not near as many [times with his shirt off] as Gordon Ramsey in Kitchen Nightmares! Brrr..." I have never watched "Kitchen Nightmares," so I'm not sure if Kelly is joking about the host taking off his shirt, though I am inclined to take her word for it. Nor am I aware if her "Brrr" is meant to indicate some sort of existential horror about our failing human bodies or simply the idea that Gordon Ramsey might get chilly with no shirt on.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Does it seem like there are a lot of Frasier episodes where Frasier takes his shirt off? I just asked my friend Kelly this question via "myspace" because she likes Frasier and will know for sure. I like Frasier too. And it's fine with me if he wants to take his shirt off. I'm not trying to imply otherwise! I'm just saying.

Stay Indoors: Phil On Rampage

Phil is on a rampage! By which I mean that he has sent two emails. For Phil, that is "a whirlwind of activity" and indeed "a rampage." The title of Phil's first email is "Could This Be the Best Blurb Ever?" Here is its content: "From Christopher Castiglia and Glenn Hendler’s introduction to 'Franklin Evans, or The Inebriate,' by Walt Whitman: '"Franklin Evans" is a particularly important historical document precisely for the reason critics and editors have left it unread for decades: it is an incoherent and often aesthetically dissatisfying text.'" Yes, Phil, that is the best blurb ever. In his followup email, Phil changes his mind once again about "the best site on the 'internet.'" NOW he thinks it's this one ("click" here) about bubble gum cards. I still contend that his original choice was right on the money. (Pictured, courtesy Phil's current favorite "web" site, the rear view of a bubble gum card from DAKTARI, a TV show I remember because I am old. The front view shows a lion in a truck, and is too depressing for the "blog.")

Friday, July 25, 2008


"I love toast," Theresa reports. "I never think about how much I love it until I make it."


I am pleased to say that I have had my first peek at the vampire screenplay written by Faulkner. The title page is marked "Property of Howard Hawks." There is a character named Clyde. In a vampire movie! I have not yet ascertained whether or not Clyde is a vampire. But I sure do hope so!


Mostly I want to say something about shrimp. I have been often chided and mocked for my reluctance (bordering on the phobic) to eat shrimp anywhere other than on the Gulf Coast, where I was born and raised. Having just returned from New Orleans I am able to say with confidence I AM NOT CRAZY. Shrimp taste exactly one thousand times better when you eat them on the Gulf Coast. "Clean," I would say, and "non-shrimpy" they taste. I understand modern technology and the shipping of fresh seafood, but I cannot help the truth! The garlic shrimp on the lunchtime menu at Rio Mar will make you understand how wrong you have been all these years about everything, and how much you should have listened to me. We had dinner at Rio Mar a night or two after our lunch, and tasted something even better than the shrimp. It was a salad - a revelatory salad - comprised of CRAB AND MELON! Who could dream of such a thing? A chef, I guess. Theresa and I agreed that it was one of the best things ever created, much like the TV show THE WIRE. We made a number of faces at one another as we sampled the crab and melon, indicating through nonverbal means (because our mouths were full of crab and melon) how pleased, satisfied, and surprised we were by the combination of crab and melon. Our faces were many! The chef and owner, Adolfo Garcia, came out and greeted us. I had met him once before, very briefly, at - where else? - City Grocery. We had a nice time talking about West Indies salad and other things, and he used the word "clean" to describe his crab and melon salad, the same word I had used about his shrimp a day or so before! He also said, unless I misheard, that the salad had come to him in a dream. I believe it! What else did we eat in New Orleans? Because you are spending your time reading a "blog" I am going to assume that you care what strangers eat. Grilled octopus, oysters, crawfish, pan-fried rabbit, hen and andouille gumbo, the best ham hocks EVER (at Cochon), these are some of the things that leap to mind.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Conserve This Tidbit

A friend of Dr. "M." wrote Dr. "M." a note which Dr. "M." passed on to me. It went a little something like this: "I read Jack's blog and watched the clip of Bobbie Gentry singing Ode to Billy Joe. The original lyrics (written on lined legal paper) are in the manuscript collection at Ole Miss - one of those odd things I found when I should have been researching/writing." There. The thought of that is going to have to last you. Or you might revisit our award-winning series on belts.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Whorton Reports

"'Signs and Symbols.' That is the name of the Nabokov story," Jim Whorton reports.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

How Large and Terrifying He Was

Please forgive me for harping on about the Foster Brooks robot, but I just had to mention something I had forgotten before seeing the photograph again after all these years: how large and terrifying he was.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Foster Brooks Robot Revolution

I do not think it is immodest to suggest that your humble "blog" has spawned a revolution! That's right. Just a few short days ago, there was virtually NO "internet" appreciation of the Foster Brooks robot. But now? Take a "gander" at this "post" ("click" here) by my "friend" DJ Gnosis, featuring photographs "snapped" by yours truly. Our own small efforts have spurred Mr. Gnosis to recall, and find evidence of, an alarming medical advertisement featuring Foster Brooks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


This is when the "blog" becomes a "slog." Ha ha! Wheeeee! That's wordplay! I mean, isn't it? Anyway, with Square Books and TurnRow under my belt, it's time to take the "book tour" on the "road." And the schedule has changed a bit since I told you about it last, so here's where I give you a long, boring "post" about when and where I'm reading. Looks as if a few more dates might be added - Brooklyn in mid-October, perhaps - so check back often! Or don't! Yes, don't. July 21: Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS. July 22: Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, LA. July 23: Jefferson Parish Library, Metairie. July 24: Octavia Books, New Orleans. August 5: Changing Hands Book Store, Tempe, Arizona! August 6: Book Passage in San Francisco, CA. August 8: Books, Inc. (also San Francisco). August 9: Book Soup in Los Angeles. August 14: an A Cappella Books special event at the Highland Inn, Atlanta, GA! That one is right across the street from our old apartment and just up the block from Manuel's Tavern, plus I'll have my ideal opening act: Hubcap City! Yeah! August 15: Wordsmiths Books, Decatur, GA. Weekend of August 29: Decatur Book Festival. October 4: Louisiana Book Festival, Baton Rouge. October 8: Happy Ending Reading Series, NYC. October 9: Greenwich Village. (Pictured, utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First Time On the "Internet"! Definitive Proof of the "Foster Brooks Robot"!

For the first time EVER on the "internet" (as remarked upon with grave shock and incredulity in a previous "post"), we present photographic PROOF of the EXISTENCE of the FOSTER BROOKS ROBOT! Here we find Mr. Ward doubled over with laughter at the antics of the Foster Brooks robot. (I regret to note that the Foster Brooks robot is seated at a little bar, not at "a little table" as he appeared in my failing memory.)

Glacier Boy

James Whorton, Jr., wrote in response to a recent "post": "No kidding, in the latest draft of my novel I had a character talking about clouds that communicate information to people. They were called the 'passenger clouds.' ... Something like it also appears in a Nabokov story... I can't remember the title now." Whorton was writing from a hotel room in which there was a problem with the hot water: not a lack of it, but a surfeit. "The water was steaming even in the toilet," Whorton reported. That is a good detail, and I hope he was not planning to use it in an upcoming novel, because now I have blown it. I used to be more sensitive about such things. But the "blog" is a greedy beast and requires a constant influx of tidbits. Speaking of t*****s (I cannot bring myself to type the word again! [Not "tidbits" - the other word!] It is not the sort of thing we usually discuss on the "blog." Henceforth I will refer euphemistically to the receptacle in question as "the plumbing"), I was looking at "the plumbing" the other day and noticed for the first time that its brand name is "Glacier Bay." But in my hasty glance, I saw it as "Glacier Boy." It struck me that "Glacier Bay" is a pleasant and comforting way to think of "the plumbing." It also struck me that "Glacier Boy" would be a great superhero, known for his powers of extreme slowness and deliberation. (Pictured, a friendly creature from the Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Yesterday Was Bastille Day

Hey, remember how I found a picture of a patriotic unicorn with which to celebrate the 4th of July? Well, yesterday was Bastille Day, so I thought I would do a "google image search" for "bastille unicorn" (sans quotation marks) just to show my solidarity with the French people, and indeed all the peoples of all the nations of the world, because that's how I am. Here's one image that came up. Yesterday I thought, "Huh. Unless I am missing something, that has nothing to do with Bastille Day, and therefore is not up to the 'blog's' rigorous standards." Today I have reconsidered.


My "reading" at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ, has happily transmogrified into a "workshop." I will be telling all interested parties "How Not to Write." Portions of the "workshop" will include "How to Avoid Writing" and "If You Must Write, How to Sidestep the Deadly Pitfall of Beautifully Crafted Prose." Perhaps I will also explain to everyone not to use phrases like "happily transmogrified." By the way, Arizona has the coolest state abbreviation, doesn't it? AZ! (There's not a good illustration that would go well and naturally with this "post," but we've been skimpy lately and you know how Verdell gets. So here's a pangolin.)

Monday, July 14, 2008


Look ("click" here)! Via the ArtForum magazine, Phil presents a clip of Andy Warhol on THE LOVE BOAT.


Remember my lovable fictional creation Pearlie Withers? Of course you don't! She was supposed to appear in my upcoming detective novel SHUT UP, UGLY, but my task today is to remove all references to poor old Pearlie from the manuscript. Pearlie is a victim of the writing process! Say goodbye to Pearlie. You made through a couple of drafts, Pearlie, way to hang in there. Have fun wherever it is that deleted characters go. A sad incidental loss will be Pearlie's contention that the government is using clouds to communicate secret messages. But I call dibs on the notion! Maybe I'll use it in something else. I'm very frugal that way.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Prickly Beauty

Speaking of nature's bounty and man's subjugation of it: before my reading at TurnRow yesterday, we saw Jamie and Kelly's garden. It's thriving. We were particularly taken with the "lemon cucumber," a prickly beauty with a soothing fragrance. I regret to say that I left my "lemon cucumber" in the cup holder of Jamie and Kelly's new car. Jamie drove us in the new car to the grave of Robert Johnson. Well, it is one of two or three disputed gravesites of Robert Johnson, but Jamie is pretty sure this is the one. It's the only one with an eyewitness, says Jamie. People had left offerings around the grave - sunglasses, spare change, a shot glass, and a surprising number of Mardi Gras beads. "You know, because he loved Mardi Gras so much," was Jamie's deadpan remark. The churchyard was full of dragonflies. I mean, full. There were scores and scores of them, all over the churchyard and the adjoining field. Theresa, who very much likes dragonflies and sometimes purchases objects imprinted with their emblem, said, "I'm glad they're going about their business and not swarming all over us like in a horror movie." It was a strange and beautiful sight, this squadron of dragonflies around Robert Johnson's grave. None of us had ever seen so many dragonflies congregating. Later, Kelly told us that Greenwood had been hit with a cricket epidemic of Biblical proportions one year, and a similar onslaught of palmetto bugs in another. "Maybe it's dragonflies this year," she said. We also drove across a bridge over the Tallahatchie River. See above.


"How 'bout them apples?" is the first sterling witticism that leapt to mind as I contemplated a title for this "post." Yes, though it is, in reality, a continuation of our long-running look at the progress of the apple tree in McNeil's yard, the usual words seemed inadequate to express the majesty of the apples in question. GAZE UPON THEM, ALL YE LANDS!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I got a review so amazingly good I think there must be something wrong with the person who wrote it. I'm wrestling with my sense of honor. And so far I am kicking my sense of honor's behind! Remember when I said I wasn't going to "link" to any reviews, good or bad? "Click" here if you think I'm a craven liar. (Pictured, Ivanhoe, as portrayed by Robert Taylor. I believe Ivanhoe had a sense of honor. I never read it.)

Dream Report

I dreamed about Leonard Maltin last night.

Apples In the Rain

"I was going to send a picture of the apple," said McNeil, "but it was raining." "You should have sent it anyway. I would have called it 'Apples In the Rain,'" I said wistfully.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Faulkner and the Vampires

After my reading tonight, the guy who runs Faulkner's house told me he's going to show me a screenplay that Faulkner wrote about vampires!


Well, there is a Jerry Lewis reference in the New York Times today, as always, and one to Gilbert & Sullivan as well, but you're going to have to look them up yourself. Not to mention the article I thought SHOULD have referred to Jerry for a number of reasons, but didn't. I can't tell you about it now. I can't tell you about it because McNeil has been digging around in the New York Times archives, old articles to which I cannot figure out how to "link." Nor can I "cut-and-paste" them, because of their format. Which leads to my least favorite activity. Typing. McNeil leads with a page from the TV schedule in the New York Times for June 11, 1970. I can't figure out precisely what he wants me to notice about it. But the capsule descriptions of the day's programming - particularly the movies - are notable for their strange terseness, whether laudatory (GENTLEMAN JIM is described as "Brisk boxing picture. Flynn dandy") noncommittal ("'Face of a Fugitive' (1959) Fred MacMurray, Lin McCarthy. Man with a past") or judgmental, verging on dadaism (here's what they say about a film called THREE FOR BEDROOM C: "Extremely flimsy, choo-choo included"). McNeil also sends along two bad reviews of Jerry Lewis films, suggesting that I write a letter to the editor of the New York Times, rebutting them. The review of WAY... WAY OUT is remarkable only for the creepy dollop of misogyny - or perhaps what we might more properly call a phobia of women, rather than overt hatred - in its description of Anita Ekberg as "slimily svelte." Ew! I don't want to think about the reviewer's many possible psychological problems. Speaking of misogyny, McNeil gives us an old Broadway theater column for dessert, in which plans are announced for Jerry Lewis to star in a play about a man with five wives, "each of whom performs a different chore." From what McNeil can tell through his constant burrowing and digging like a little gopher of the mammalian variety, this staging never came to pass. Almost as intriguing is the next item in the column, about a play called FIRST ONE ASLEEP, WHISTLE, which opened and closed on the same night. What I like is that it sounds like the unbelievably fake title of a play-within-a-play. I will conclude, as Jerry Lewis and Broadway are still bouncing around in my head, by saying that Laura Lippman's dream came true, and she caught a performance of BOEING, BOEING. If we are lucky, and I can talk her into it, maybe we'll have a mini-review on the "blog" soon.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ah, Memory!

Talked to Mr. Ward on the telephone today. He said he had seen a lot of doctored pictures of Dennis Leary lately, promo bits for Mr. Leary's TV show RESCUE ME [One of Sheri Joseph's "faves" - ed.], in which Mr. Leary is shown with his jaw grotesquely distended. "I kept wondering what it reminded me of," reported Mr. Ward. "Finally I realized it was the logo for the Jerry Lewis Cinemas. Remember those?" "No," I replied. "They were all over New Jersey when I was growing up," said Mr. Ward. "They went out of business because he only showed G-rated movies. We'd be like, 'What's playing at the Jerry Lewis Cinema? Oh, 101 Dalmatians, which came out 12 years ago.' I haven't been able to find the logo, but I think it looked just like that picture of Dennis Leary." I sadly admitted to Mr. Ward that the Jerry Lewis Cinemas had never made it to Alabama. We were both near our computers, and thanks to the "internet," I was able to find a picture of the logo and show it to Mr. Ward long-distance. "That doesn't look like I remember it at all," said Mr. Ward. Ah, memory! Speaking of which, I have misremembered and badly reported a story that Mr. Ward told me: it wasn't Andy Warhol who noticed Mr. Ward's tiepin! It was Tom Wolfe. And it wasn't even a tiepin. Mr. Ward cleared up the matter for me. "I was an usher at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for their lecture series," he said. "One day I was wearing my stupid skinny New Wave tie and holding it in place with a paperclip. I escorted Tom Wolfe to his seat. He was in his dapper little white suit. He looked at my paperclip and said, 'Oh, your sartorial choices are very eclectic.'" Mr. Ward repeated this latter phrase in an imitation of Mr. Wolfe's voice, which, in Mr. Ward's interpretation, fairly dripped with genteel scorn. This places it between the sincerity and joie de vivre with which Sammy Davis, Jr., received the pants of Barry B.'s friend [See the penultimate "link" in this "post" - ed.] and the open shock displayed by Tony Bennett when he saw my brother's sneakers.

Lap Talk

Welcome to our most popular regular feature, "Lap Talk." It's a sad day, "Lap Talk" fans! I had a pretty good item for "Lap Talk," but I accidentally spilled the beans to a reporter from Time Out New York. We'll see if he uses it in the finished interview. If so, we'll "link" to it. If not, we'll reveal it right here... on "Lap Talk"! This has been "Lap Talk" for today, July 10, 2008. Thank you for joining us for "Lap Talk." This is your host Jack Pendarvis, saying, "Goodbye from 'Lap Talk.'"

An Excerpt, Racy and Possibly Blasphemous

Over on the "blog" for TurnRow Books (where I'm reading from AWESOME on Saturday) I present several "zinger" suggestions for reviewers who do not enjoy my new book. Jamie and Kelly of TurnRow are also kind enough to present an excerpted chapter. Once again, I AM NOT BEING PUSHY! In fact, if you read the chapter and find it disheartening, you may save yourself some hard earned money! Coincidentally, given our theme of the day, it contains some passages from the Old Testament. WARNING: The excerpt is racy and possibly blasphemous. Please do not read it if it is important for you to continue liking me personally either for my sake or yours.


My "iPod" broke! Or, to put it in the special "computer" language in which it informed me, it has been "corrupted." How Biblical! Yea, it said it has been "corrupted" and "cannot be restored." Speaking of the Bible, I seem to have lost my Bible during the move. No Bible and no "iPod"! What's a boy to do for entertainment? I think it is strange that I used the word "corrupted" in a "post" yesterday, only to have my damaged and rage-filled "iPod" throw it back in my face. And now, for your reflection, I leave you with an excerpt from MOSES UND ARON by Arnold Schoenberg, which used to be on my "iPod." (NOTE: I briefly had the Golden Calf scene here instead, which was much more thematically appropriate and just what I had in mind. But when I watched it all the way through, I saw I had put up a version in which they apparently butcher a real cow, and you know how I feel about that as a cinematic device!)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Stang Sighting In Atlanta

The president of the Eastern chapter of our "Stang Spotters Club," Mr. Phil Oppenheim (whose mother, may we remind you, dated Arnold Stang himself), writes in to say, "Look who's renovating the LP Grant mansion in [Atlanta's] Grant Park!" The accompanying photo speaks for itself: STANG! We happily note the ampersand.

Fun Summertime Activities

And while I'm telling you about something that's going to happen precisely three months from now, I should gently remind you of my readings this weekend at Square Books here in Oxford and TurnRow in neighboring Greenwood. Yes, the publication date of AWESOME is upon us, despite what the behemoth named for a river would have you believe with its scurrilous misinformation ("August 26th" [!]) which has already emotionally scarred the innocent Dr. "M."! By the way, I'm not being pushy! If you want to come to reading just to listen, that's fine! You don't have to buy a book. You can even jeer if you wish. It might do me some good! I realize that you have many choices for fun summertime activities, such as romping around, for example. I'll be grateful to the point of tears if you stop by to say hello, or sit down and allow me to drone you into a slumber. That's Square Books on the 11th (the official release date) and TurnRow on the 12th. 5:00 and 5:30 PM CST, respectively. Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to try in vain to wash the stench of commerce off my corrupted flesh. Bye!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Hey, I just found out I've been assigned a second appearance in New York. I'll be reading at the Barnes & Noble in Greenwich Village on October 9th. I've heard of Greenwich Village! Here's a picture of a beatnik. I believe some of them live there. Hey, in the meantime, don't forget to visit your local independent bookstore! McNally-Robinson, for example. Tell them Jack Pendarvis sent you! If you buy some books there in the next few months I won't feel so guilty when you come to see me at the chain. Life is a series of sordid compromises! And I couldn't be more thrilled about it. Remember that episode of HAPPY DAYS when Richie Cunningham fell in love with a runaway beatnik who lived in a movie theater? But then she had to go away! It was sad. I recall that Richie wrote a beatnik poem in that episode - one in which he rhymed "purpose" with "usurp us." If you will excuse me, I'm going to go throw myself into the maw of a live volcano.

Cereal or Eggplant

I was just speaking with the person whose coworker resembles Guy Kibbee. The person said, "All I do every day is think about what I'm going to eat and how I could quit my job." "What are you going to eat tonight?" I said. "Eggplant parmigiana or a bowl of cereal," said the person.

Less Pushy? Or a Different Kind of Pushy? The Sneaky Kind?

A nice person from "The L Magazine" interviewed me and now the interview is on the "internet." The questions were very good. The answers... well, I look at them and think, "Really?" I may have hit my head on something moments before replying. As I am trying to be less pushy about AWESOME than I have been about other books in the past, I planned to let the interview, as fine a job as the interviewer did, pass without mention. But I do wish to bring up two incidental things, NOT designed to trick you into buying my book. For a change! Rather, they point you, I hope, to the good work of others. To that end, I was very happy that the interviewer "linked" in the body of the interview to a "web" site dedicated entirely to my old heroes the Metal Men. I didn't know it existed! "Click" here to be transported into the metallic world of the Metal Men. Also, as there is no photo credit, I wanted to mention that the "author photo" accompanying the article (reproduced to the right side of this "post") was taken, like my others, by Charles G. Steffen. And yes, that's the fabled attic of yore.

Foster Brooks Robot Induces Feelings of Despair in Delicate Little Specimen

NOTE TO "BLOG" NEWCOMERS: The "blog" is a happy place! Looking back over this "post" before pressing the "publish" button, I think perhaps it does not seem "happy"! Do not let that sour you on the "blog." In fact, if you are new to the "blog," just skip this one! Thanks! Happy! Late last night - don't ask me why! - I started fondly reminiscing about the Foster Brooks robot that Mr. Ward and I once admired at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. I believe the year was 1994. The robot clanked its mouth up and down in a lackadaisical fashion, hardly bothering to match up with the scratchy phonograph recording of a live Foster Brooks show. The robot was sitting at a little table, as if enjoying an aperitif in a cafe. So the laugh track seemed out of place. So did the robot, I guess. Well, children, I am here to inform you that there are NO - that's ZERO - "Google Images" of the Foster Brooks robot! And there are only five references to the phrase "Foster Brooks Robot" on the entire "internet"! (There are six now! Take that, you forgetful youth of America!) Here is one of them. ("Click" on it, please.) The Foster Brooks robot is like the Nedra Harrison of robots! Neglected by our culture! Why does the lack of Foster Brooks robot information depress me? Probably because it's my 45th birthday. (So can everybody please stop calling me a "young writer" now? Thanks in advance!) Boo hoo hoo! Poor me. What a sniveling wretch! Listen up, you little twerps. Foster Brooks was a comedian who pretended to be a drunkard. That was his whole act. If Andy Kaufman had done it, I suppose it would have been performance art. Yes, I know, you don't know who Andy Kaufman is, either. FINE! If I wanted to make myself feel better, I could "Google Search" for "animatronic Foster Brooks" or something. But maybe I don't want to feel better!

Mystical "Horse" Encourages Good Reading Habits

Writes one Mary Warner, "I took [AWESOME] with me while I was dog sitting in the country. One night, a horse came to my window and neighed at me. (It was a black horse and I don't know how it ended up in my window but it was there waking me up nonetheless.) I [could not return to sleep], so I finished the book. I was glad the horse neighed at me after all." That was no horse, Mary! It was a magical unicorn who works for me. Look, I found a picture of him and you and that dog you were sitting.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Music, the Universal Language

I have not had much to say lately. That's never stopped me before! Ha ha! Wheeeeee! We're having fun now, joshing and such! But in the past few "posts" I've let music do the talking for me, be it a marching (stationary for the moment) band playing a rendition of the Britney Spears hit "Toxic" or some guy pounding out some Sousa on his organ. I had nothing of substance to tell you, but I didn't want to leave you high and dry! My alternate idea was to make a "post" with a title like "Uxhoihdaoifh Uhoaidfh Yhadofih" and a textual body, complete with "links," which was going to look like this: Ikdflakdhfadkfjahdkfjh? Hlkjdkfh "oifjskfj" sjhdfkjh! Skjdflkdhlfkdh "ldkh" df "dlkfhlsdkh" ldkflkd! But then I thought about how nosy "the man" has been lately and was afraid it would be mistaken for a secret code and the "blog" and myself would mysteriously vanish. My hilarious "gibberish" "post" would have been illustrated by a picture of Mr. Mxyzptlk, the rascally imp who used to bedevil Superman! [Note: Pendarvis was unable to find a "satisfactory" picture of Mr. Mxyzptlk. Because Verdell becomes distraught if there is no illustration, he settled on a depiction of the superdog engaging in a "tug o' war" with the supercat. - ed.] I still have nothing to say. But the NBIL did send me some information about tyromancy, which is when you put out a few pieces of cheese and predict the future by seeing which piece your rat eats first.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Legal Matters

Don't worry! Today's subject is not "literary matters," which are horrifically tedious, always. Look again! We are discussing "legal matters," which are exciting and dramatic! For example, yesterday I was reading in the paper about how "Google" is going to rat you out to "the man" by releasing all their information about whatever it is you've been watching secretly on the YouTube. It's pursuant to a ruling in a lawsuit. Viacom is upset that people have been watching their material for free. By coincidence I received an email yesterday from "Blog" Buddy and David Letterman fan Jason Headley (pictured), who "linked" me to his latest Letterman-obssessed discovery on YouTube. I believe David Letterman and his network and his show are owned by Viacom, so we can expect to see Jason Headley on the witness list, and possibly thrown into jail, for all the free Viacom entertainment he has been enjoying. What will the court learn about YOU from YOUR YouTube habits? As for me, there will be plenty of debate in chambers about why I enjoy repeatedly watching this woman perform the opening number from "The Music Man" in her own home. (You may remember her from the "blog" advent calendar, in which she performed some Gilbert & Sullivan.) Speaking of Gilbert & Sullivan & legal matters, I was reading an article in the paper the other day about how Chief Justice Roberts recently quoted Bob Dylan in a decision, and how Chief Justice Rehnquist used to enjoy quoting Gilbert & Sullivan in his. And I was like, "Hey, I once mentioned Gilbert & Sullivan & Bob Dylan in the same 'post.' I should be on the Supreme Court!" That's what I was like. And I danced a merry gavotte to celebrate my specialness. Hey, I know nobody "clicks" on my "links." It depresses me.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Google Image Search: "Patriotic Unicorn"

Because it is "the Fourth of July," which is a national holiday in the United States of America where I live, I did a "Google Image Search" for the phrase "patriotic unicorn," which led me to this "Cold War Unicorn Play Set." I mean no animosity to the peoples of any other country! Let us say that the unicorns are about to hug, or have tea.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

How I Spell It, Baby

Tonight I think we'll drink some wine with a unicorn on the bottle. That's how I spell class, baby!

Who's Boss

Yesterday I read an entire book. AN ENTIRE BOOK! And I was like, "Take that, book!"

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

You remember my brother. And you remember when he met Leonard Cohen. Yesterday, in connection with his job, he met two of these guys (not sure which two; sadly, the third has passed on):

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

McNeil, Briefly

Welcome once again to "McNeil, Briefly" - our occasional look at all things "McNeil." Lately McNeil has been worried by some science items he read on One involved a machine in Switzerland (I think that's what he said; I wasn't really paying attention). When they push the button in August, it's going to create a black hole and destroy the earth, according to McNeil's interpretation of the article. "How long do you think that'll take?" asked McNeil. "I mean, once they push the button?" We batted some figures back and forth. Some other scientists have come up with a way to be invisible, says McNeil.


In the New York Times the other day there was an excerpt from a Frank O'Hara poem about Lana Turner. That's the way they rock at the New York Times. If it's not an article about Messiaen it's an excerpt from a Frank O'Hara poem about Lana Turner. I liked the excerpt so much I was going to excerpt the excerpt for you. But I can't do paragraph breaks, you know, and it just didn't look good enough with those slashy things (I think they're called slashes) between the lines: ///. That never looks right. So today I went to the trouble of finding the whole poem on the "internet" so I might present it to you here like so ("click").