Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fun Times For Fat Boy

Here is a picture of me that Neko Case took. In it, I am fake typing on Faulkner's actual typewriter, on which he wrote his actual books, in Faulkner's actual office while Neko Case stands over me with a camera, snapping away! Hence my stuporous bovine trance. What was I supposed to do? NOT put it on my "blog"?

"Blogging" In Steep Decline

The "blogging" news is grim. It seems that "blogging" averages have dropped over the past year. Our first year's average of 2.8 "posts" per day has dropped to 2.5 over two years. That's right: we let our "blog"iversary of September 27 pass without notice - without, literally, a word -, another sign of "blogging" lethargy, or "blog"thargy as it is called in "blogging" circles, or "blircles." Warnings of "blogging's" decline have been with us since the beginning, and it seems that the predictions were accurate. If "blogging" trends continue, we will be down to less than two "posts" a day by the end of 2011. Not pretty to contemplate. The time to act is now, people! I thought I would add a picture of a monkey here to cheer us up. That always works. But my heart wasn't in it. No monkey seemed suitable. When I went back to pick out some highlights of the year in "blogging" I discovered that there weren't any.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

McNeil, Briefly

Welcome once again to "McNeil, Briefly," your regularly scheduled McNeil update. McNeil says he has switched to "organic pop tarts." There are many things wrong with that designation. For one, "Pop Tarts" is a brand name. He still slathers his toaster pastries with margarine and says they taste great when washed down with something containing aspartame. In other McNeil news, McNeil held his nose and watched a youtube clip that did not involve Dean Martin or any of his cronies. Of the the trombone quartet recently featured here, he said, "I don't get it." Well, McNeil, there's nothing to get. It's a trombone quartet. The trombonist assigned to the trills does an admirable job. Oh! Speaking of Dean Martin, I forgot to tell McNeil about a reference he would appreciate. People kept appearing from behind a divider as they entered Neko Case's band bus the other day. "It's like Dean Martin's closet!" said Kelly Hogan.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bunting Galore

I had the good fortune of spending yesterday with Kelly Hogan, Neko Case, the great pedal steel guitarist Jon Rauhouse, the artist enigmatically known as "Judge" (well, it's her surname, which is not really enigmatic) and Howe Gelb, the genius of Giant Sand (a Barry B. "fave" band) and OP8. But I'm not going to tell you about it! The events of the day will most likely be related in an article in the upcoming Oxford American music issue. I CAN tell you this: at Neko's show last night, I ran into good neighbor John T. Edge, who is in charge of the food around tonight's presidential debate. John T., who used to live, as I did, in Atlanta, clued me in that he had invited the fine folks from Atlanta's Taqueria del Sol (a personal "fave" spot of Mr. Edge and myself) to bring some of their fried chicken tacos and beef brisket tacos to the people of Oxford, MS. I swore a pact upon the spot to meet John T. on campus, in front of the taco tent! And so I did, for I often crave the delicious tacos of Tacqueria del Sol but now I live so very far away. I was the first in line, twenty minutes before they started serving. And because of security surrounding the debate, I LITERALLY had to walk MILES for my tacos! But there was trouble. A petty bureaucrat appeared and tried to tell the taco makers that they could not serve their tacos because of some miniscule paperwork error. Next thing you know, I heard some local guy on the phone with the GOVERNOR'S office! Like (I'm paraphrasing), "Get me the Governor! There's taco trouble!" So the Governor of Mississippi stepped in (saying something like, I suppose, "I am suspending this debate until we solve this taco crisis!") and allowed me to have my tacos. Later, by coincidence, I was strolling along eating a fried chicken taco about two feet from where the governor emerged from his car. And I held up my taco and yelled, "Thanks for the taco, Governor!" Then I ran and hid because I was afraid of being tasered. I ate another taco while seated on a hay bale, like I was at some kind of old-timey political gathering. Which I was! I mean, the old man seated on the next hay bale over was wearing a straw boater with a red-white-and-blue band! A gospel choir was singing and the national networks walked among us. There was bunting galore. Walking around Oxford yesterday, Jon Rauhouse observed, "It looks like they're filming INHERIT THE WIND here." (He also delighted in repeating the word "bunting" at every appropriate moment.) At today's festivities, I was also obliged to enjoy a sausage dog, because Chef Dan Latham (erstwhile owner of the late, great L&M) was cooking them. When you see Dan Latham and pork in the same spot, you don't walk away! I was a little perturbed because a guy held a McCain sign directly over my head the entire time I was standing in line for my sausage dog. It is a free country, I guess! I am not trying to get "political." But it is rude to hold a sign over someone else's head. Consider, sir, how it reflects on your candidate! I did not say this at the time. I am afraid I just made funny faces at the cashier, as if to say, "Get a load of this guy!" I'm pretty sure I'm passive-aggressive. (Above, straw boaters. Below, flags and stuff.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why Can't I Be More Like Jon Host?

I suppose you'd all prefer it if I were more like Jon Host, and only deigned to "blog" whenever my brother fell off a tractor. Well, I'm sorry I'm not Jon Host! But if that's the way you want it, fine. I have to warn you, my brother is not likely to fall off a tractor. And you'll be all, "Boo hoo hoo! Where's the 'blog'!?" And I'll be like, "Whatever." I'll be like, "Sorry, I'm waiting for my brother to fall off a tractor." And you'll be all, "Please, Jack! I need an update on the Foster Brooks robot!" And I'll just look at my watch like I'm thinking about something else. I don't have a watch, but I plan to get one for just such an occasion. I hope you're happy!

My Days Are Full

Hey, if you "click" on that recent reference to Soupy Sales (and why would you?) and then you "click" again (again, why?), you may be taken to an old "post" about monkeys controlling a robot arm with their thoughts. But if you "click" yet again (don't you have something better to do?) you will find what seems to be a factual error on the "blog." A factual error on a "blog"! This will not stand. But you see, it's a design flaw, not a factual error. The recent "post" should have included a "link" to another "post" in which the seeming discrepancy was explained. Whew! I'm glad that's settled. This is what I do now. What do YOU do? Something important? Well la-di-da. Don't let me keep you!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Am Not An Anatomist

This morning I was walking past the Ford Center here in Oxford, MS, when it struck me for the first time that the presidential candidates were set to have their first debate on the very stage where George Saunders and I had OUR first debate! To be accurate, George Saunders and I did not have a debate. It was like, "You are nice." "Thank you." "How pleasant to see you." "And you as well." It was a reading. I read then he read and there was very little fighting. Well, when I got home this afternoon, the future of the upcoming debate between You Know Who and Old What's His Name had been thrown into doubt! You can imagine how distressed I was about my loss of "braggin' rights." But not everything is terrible! For example, both Jon Stewart and David Letterman did Jerry Lewis voices on their late night shows this evening. Mr. Stewart pretended to injure his shoulder and said something like, "I hurt my LOYD-anum," in the famed Jerry manner. I am paraphrasing. The final word was a Jerry-like word that I cannot recall with certainty and I wouldn't be surprised if it did not represent an actual part of the shoulder. I am not an anatomist! Then I "flipped over" to find Mr. Letterman pronouncing the surname "Spitzer" with a Jerry-like twist. See? Jerry is relevant, just like I keep insisting all the time into the uncaring void. Finally I will mention that Stephen Colbert ended his program this evening with a Soupy Sales reference. Am I quite as excited as I would be had he chosen Jerry Lewis? Perhaps not. But it was a nice try. P.S. When I was looking for something to "link" with the word "presidential" (above) I noticed with surprise that in a previous edition of Mr. Ward's Presidential Korner, someone has placed a pencil on Kennedy's podium, despite direct orders to the contrary! Check it out. P.P.S. Perversely, I have chosen an image of Soupy Sales with which to illustrate this "post."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


From Mark Childress comes a newsworthy "tip": Dr. Regina Benjamin, a woman in my hometown of Bayou La Batre, is one of this year's winners of the MacArthur Foundation "genius grant." I'm not familiar with Dr. Benjamin, but Mom says that several of her friends visit Dr. Benjamin and one of my childhood acquaintances works for her. Remember when "blog" friend George Saunders received one of those "genius grants"? Yes, I am giving the "blog" some sort of mystical credit for all these "genius grants." Stick with the "blog" and it is pretty much a sure thing that you will get one, too! So: Good for Dr. Benjamin, good for Bayou La Batre, good for everybody. We couldn't be prouder. In other medical news, Mr. Ward fell onto a big clay pot and broke "a bunch of ribs"! We wish him a speedy recovery. It reminds us of when Amanda Stern broke her foot, which we assume is better by now.

Distress Call

McNeil! What am I going to do with him? Yesterday, during a telephone call, he revealed something unexpected and distressing: He does not watch the "blog's" "youtube" clips IF they involve homemade things such as this fellow doing his Michael Caine impression or this talented young woman performing the opening number from the Music Man in her own home! To me, these represent the fulsome, egalitarian spirit of the "youtube." Yet at any sign of actual non-celebrity humans or so-called "unprofessional" production "values," McNeil immediately suspends the operation of his "youtube." McNeil prefers his own slick brand of MGMIEETs, and indeed submitted two samples today: THIS and THAT. Nothing against them! SPOILER ALERT! One contains Bob Hope, Don Rickles, John Wayne, and Bing Crosby while the other features Sammy Davis, Jr., and Batman. Fine! I can enjoy that. But why can't McNeil, in turn, appreciate the two young British gentlemen who try their best at a Laurel and Hardy number or some guys who take their bassoons into an elevator? That is all I ask! (Pictured, semaphore flags, which seem appropriate to the title of our "post.") P.S. Remember the time McNeil sent us some footage of an average joe enjoying a rainbow? Perhaps McNeil is more a "man of the people" than he seems! Perhaps!

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Didn't Forget You

Don't fear, "blog" friends. I tried to "blog" yesterday. I wanted to find something as good as this. Remember that? But I didn't. So rather than present a poor example of "blogging," I decided to go to bed. The closest thing I found was this, and I think you'll agree that while it's diverting, I could have done better:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Jerry Reference That Got Away

I missed a reference to Jerry Lewis in the New York Times yesterday. You can't blame me! There are so many of them. This one was by Alessandra Stanley. No doubt she has heard about the contest I set up between Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott, and wants to get in on it. I always thought it would be Jon Pareles who leapt into the fray! I will not "link" to Ms. Stanley's reference, as it equates Charlie Sheen with Dean Martin. Nothing personal against Mr. Sheen! But the mind reels. (Update: I think the article in question will be in TOMORROW'S Times. But the "web" version was published yesterday. I think. I'm all mixed up inside!)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ivan T. Sanderson and the Unnamed Behemoth

I was "flipping around" the other day and landed on a program about UFOs. Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I am not that interested in UFOs. But they seem to be on television all the time, or maybe I am just noticing them more often now that somehow they have become a "blog" preoccupation, like velvet suits. (I should mention that I just saw the comedian Katt Williams on TV in a bright green velvet jacket, I believe.) I blame McNeil. In any case, this UFO show flashed an image of a UFO book by Ivan T. Sanderson. I was surprised! I recognized the name. You know how I love cheap books. I once picked up a 1937 first edition of Ivan T. Sanderson's ANIMAL TREASURE for fifty cents at a library book sale. It's a pretty straightforward travel/naturalist book for the general reader, though chock-full of the kind of sentences I enjoy: "These were giant millepedes, larger than Frankfurt sausages. They are harmless, timid, and friendly animals, filled mostly with air and completely devoid of any sense." (And on the next page he meets some pangolins!) So I did not associate Ivan T. Sanderson with UFOs. Hence my surprise. But it did stir a memory which turned out to be correct. I thought I had seen Mr. Sanderson's name in a McSweeney's article about the yeti. (One issue of McSweeney's contained a magazine-within-a-magazine called YETI RESEARCHER [the only book ever to be stolen from my home! But that's another "post"], in which Mr. Sanderson is given credit as "the first to propose a classification system" for "cryptic hominids.") Once you make the leap from pangolins and millepedes to yetis, I suppose it is only one more short hop to UFOs. But none of this is what I meant to say. When I did some "Googling" on Mr. Sanderson, I found a review of ANIMAL TREASURE on the "web" site of the obscene behemoth, that corporation I will never name (where I am STILL designated as a "YA writer" despite PW's kind correction). If there is anything I enjoy about the behemoth, it is distilled in the time the person reviewed a pair of socks. I also appreciated the boisterous "customer review" of Sanderson, which I present now for your pleasure, with its flights of enchanting - indeed, rapturous - misspelling and "questionable" grammar intact. I believe they express enthusiasm in a way that a more proper and restrained reflection never could, and in fact I feel a certain kinship with the kid who wrote the review. Sometimes I try to write this way "in character" but it just goes to show you that nothing beats the real thing: "this was a really great book, I read it like 10 times. I read it so many times it fell in about 5 peices even if you dont like animals a lot its very iteresting and witty and tell's about a lot of strange animals. its also funny, Ivan T sanderson is a very funny writer. I totaly recomend this book !!! P.S this book was wrote like 100 years ago and tells about a english dude going to africa to collect rare animal specimens. on his journey he runs into giant bat's, loud lizards,and cool snakes, and to make it better its all a true story !"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


McNeil has been reading Pawlicki on the subject of time travel. We hope he doesn't get any crazy ideas! Too late. He writes: "Scroll all the way down to the end of this page and read the last line...then the salutation...AWESOME." We did as McNeil asked. We read, "The technology of time travel confers upon the technocrats the power to create entire worlds to order. The engineers accede to the power of the immortal gods, transcending time and space. When we meet the gods, we shall find that they are us. THE END" Awesome, McNeil? We feel that "yikes" might be a more proper exclamation. (Pictured, McNeil.)

A Secret

The NBIL has come up with a good name for a band. But I don't think I should tell you what it is. You might steal it! It's Poe-based, that's all I can say. "Poe-based" would be a terrible name for a band, even if you had a Poe impersonator playing bass. Especially then!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

McNeil's "Way... Way Out"

Welcome once again to McNeil's popular UFO column "Way... Way Out." Today McNeil favors us with a "post" from the "web" site of "Sky & Telescope Magazine." I think it's about a mysterious object floating around in the sky. I'm not a very careful reader. But I did enjoy the comments section, especially the comment by Dr. Gottfried Beyvers, who wrote, "I don't know what that object might be, but I do know that you gave the wrong distance of the cluster CL 1432.5+3332.8 ! Its redshift is 1.112; the cosmology calculators then tell us that its proper distance is now 11.7 billion lightyears and that the distance at emission was 5.54 billion lightyears. The number you report (8.2 billion) is the light travel TIME! S&T has had a good record of giving correct cosmological distances, please do continue that." (Illustration from "How to Build a Flying Saucer" by T.B. Pawlicki, which is something I found on the "internet.")

A Profound Methodology

I have just returned from the City Grocery Bar, where I witnessed a bartender as she turned some uncrushed ice into crushed ice before my very eyes. What she did was wrap the ice in a linen napkin and smash it against the bar of beaten copper in a violent and exhilarating way. A profound methodology! It served to remind me that I was right about ice. If I were to write a slogan for the American Ice Council it would be, "Nothing beats the great taste of ice!"

Out of Gas

According to our shiest correspondent, "D." from Atlanta, "Corner Gas" - a sitcom of immeasurably mild interest to the "blog" - has been cancelled. "D." includes a "link." I faithfully present it. Is there nothing else requiring my attention? I'm starting to question the meaning of life again.

Big Bad Stang

Look at this big picture of Arnold Stang that Phil "snapped" with his "camera phone" off of his "television." Look at it, I said! You can't tear your eyes away! That's right. You've been Stanged!

Tractor Safety

Irrepressible we called Mary Warner and her capacity for "blogging." Not so with Jon Host, we fear. Repressible is what he is. He has not "blogged" since August 29, when his brother fell off a tractor in a scene reminiscent of the classic film KILLDOZER. Don't worry! The brother is fine! Which was the point of the "post." We cannot say the same for Host's "blog." And we - unlike his brother, thankfully - are crushed.

Mary Had a Little "Blog"

Hey, remember my friend Mary who used to have a "blog" and then she stopped having a "blog"? Well, now she's got a "blog" again! Irrepressible! Check it out.

Aloha, Hilarity!

Yesterday, McNeil snacked on some "Hawaiian-style" potato chips. What made them Hawaiian-style? "The palm trees on the bag," McNeil quipped. Aloha, hilarity! In troubling news for the economy, McNeil's local grocery no longer sells the margarine made by Lee Iacocca. What does it mean when noted tycoon Iacocca can't get his margarine into the stores? We have several analysts working on it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ice Reminder

I'm afraid some people may have missed my "post" about ice.

McNeil, Briefly

Welcome once again to McNeil, Briefly, where an eager nation turns for all the hottest and most up-to-date gossip about McNeil. Did you know that McNeil puts margarine on his Pop Tarts? Reports suggest that this is true! We have dispatched a team of investigators to North Carolina, and we expect to be able to confirm very soon that said Pop Tarts are slathered in McNeil's favorite margarine, the one manufactured by Lee Iacocca. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


And here's Fischler in Jerry Lewis's dinner jacket (like Carlos Jacott before him), because I seemingly can't stop "blogging." (Also pictured, "blog" "fave" January Jones.)

From the Desk of the Dullest Man on Earth

One of the reasons I'm enjoying MAD MEN so much these days is... Wait. Let me stop for a moment and explain that I know you won't care, whoever you are, about what I say next. And you're right! It doesn't matter. Anyway, Patrick Fischler has been giving a sharp, knowing performance as a Jerry Lewis-like character. Wow! I really am the dullest man on earth. I've started writing this "post" a couple of times over the past few weeks and my body won't let me! My body knows that you don't care nor should you, anonymous person out there. Don't get me wrong, you should watch MAD MEN and enjoy Mr. Fischler's performance but why should it interest you that I have in mind a list of attributes shared by Mr. Fischler's character and Jerry Lewis? Evening wear. That's one of them. In tonight's episode, the character was referred to as a "big mouth" and I was just itching to remind you, whoever you are, that Jerry once made a movie called THE BIG MOUTH, though I knew the connection was shaky at best and would undermine... Ugh. See how this "post" would be if I finished it? I'm doing you a favor! Now scram, you! None of this diminishes my boundless affection for MAD MEN, Jerry Lewis, or Patrick Fischler (pictured). Hey, remember the other time I had trouble finishing a "post" about Jerry Lewis? Gosh, I have a lot to share. My heart is so big and full. That's why I "blog"!

Super Important Correction: It's the Whisper 2000, Not the Miracle Ear!

The NBIL (or whatever we're going to call him) has been handing out WRONG INFORMATION! "I was wrong about the name of the hearing amplification product I told you about," he writes. "It was the Whisper 2000, not the Miracle Ear. Sadly, I could not find the infomercial with the 'awesome' quote, but after watching the Listen Up commercial I can tell you that there are a lot of similarities between the two ads. I did find this link: Apparently you can still buy the Whisper 2000 in the UK! Miracle Ear, it seems, makes hearing aids that are a little easier to conceal than either the Whisper 2000 or the Listen Up. But they don't shy away from shilling their products in infomercials either." The NBILOWWGTCH sent by way of illustration a commercial for the actual Miracle Ear, which he called "a little disturbing." We agree. In fact, we're not going to show it to you because you might become disturbed! It's a man being hit by a golf ball over and over and over because he can't hear.


Ice is useful in a variety of capacities. Let's hear it for ice.

Her Meticulously Curated Sidebar

You know there are many things I love about Maud Newton, not least among them her meticulously curated sidebar. Today I leapt from it to a "link" in which we find Poe saying he's written the greatest poem ever in the history of the world and his friend replying, "Have you? That is a fine achievement." This reply pleases me, putting me in mind somehow of the one thing James Joyce ever said to Proust ("Yes, I am very fond of truffles"), or Jesse James, Jr.'s remark to his grandmother: "Here comes the man who killed my father." It contains also the appealingly flat matter-of-factness displayed by Milton Cross on the outré subject of Scriabin: "As a child he showed his affection for the piano by kissing it, as if it were an animated being, and by expressing anguish when it was repaired, tuned, or moved."


Know who else worries about the creative implications of "Google"? Roy Blount Jr., that's who. In his delightful forthcoming book ALPHABET JUICE (from which I have quoted here before), Mr. Blount reveals that he checked "Google" to see if anyone had written "I've Googled so much I'm googly-eyed" (among other phrases) before him. (Someone had.) It's just like the time I checked to see if I had made up the phrase "wound up from the ground up." (I had not.) Speaking of Roy Blount Jr., it turns out that I am reading with him, apparently, on the Thacker Mountain Radio show on Nov. 20. John Hodgman, I have been told, will be reading as well. These are a couple of brilliantly funny men and just by standing next to them I am sure to be degraded and exposed as a shallow, desperate oaf with nothing to say. Yet somehow or another I am really looking forward to it. (Pictured, John Hodgman and Barney Google.)

Frankenberry and E.M. Forster

As promised, I just checked with "Google" to see if I am the first to put John Ashbery and Frankenberry together in a "post." There were ten "matches," and this "blog" represented two of them (now the score is eleven and three, I guess). Here's the thing: the most notable "post" to contain Frankenberry and Ashbery was by the poet Bruce Covey... from a series of poems he wrote USING "GOOGLE" as an aleatoric tool. So (wait, I'm going to blow your mind) I was using "Google" to write a "post" about Frankenberry and John Ashbery by finding this "post" about this guy using "Google" to write poems containing Frankenberry and John Ashbery! But that's not all! Theresa and I KNOW the poet Bruce Covey. He's the husband of the chair of Theresa's dissertation committee! I will give you a moment to revive yourself from a swoon of disbelief. It's like E.M. Forster said that time. You know, that thing he said about this "blog."

I've Seen Pricklier

I thought I'd use the "Google" to check and see if anyone else has referred to the juicy bits from John Ashbery poems as "ashberries." You know I have bad luck with such things... see my lacklustre pun about Cormac McCarthy as just one of many, many examples. Internet, you contain so much! How can we ever be "original" in the face of your bounty? (I will content myself with inventing "C-Spandemonium" and being the first person ever to put a picture of the Foster Brooks robot on the "web.") Here are some things I found out regarding ashberries: There is a poem called "Ashberries" that has "nothing to do with John Ashbery." And there is something called the prickly ash berry (pictured) but it doesn't look so prickly to me. It doesn't look near as prickly as the "lemon cucumber" grown by Kelly and Jamie Kornegay. Wait. It occurs to me that the tree from which the berry comes is probably prickly, so that it's a PRICKLY ASH berry, NOT a PRICKLY ash berry if you know what I mean. This is what I do all day. Finally, I should check to see if anyone has put Frankenberry and John Ashbery together in a "post," as I just did. Hold on while I check.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Here is another snippet from that book by John Ashbery. I call such snippets "ashberries." Wheeee! What a wordsmith I am. Anyswayze, here it is. I'm not putting those irritating slashy things in it - you'll have to figure out the line breaks yourself: "A cheer went up, for it was recognized that these are lousy times to be living in, yet we do live in them: We are the case." (Pictured, Frankenberry, not to be confused with John Ashbery. Ashberries would be a terrible cereal. But John Ashbery would be a lovable cereal mascot!)

Parts of Me

Hey! I got a telephone call from Neko Case tonight! She wanted to ask my "advice" about something. Part of me thought, "Don't 'blog' about this, Jack. You'll come off like an ass [that's not a bad word! It means a donkey!] plus Neko Case will grow to despise you for your cheap ways." And the other part of me was like, "Who cares? Whoopee!"

Pia's Composer Korner

"Want to hear something short and beautiful?" asks Pia Z. Ehrhardt - a question to which the answer should always be yes! And with that, we herald the return of "Pia's Composer Korner" after almost a year and a half. Last time, Pia was talking about a Barber setting of an Agee work. Today's "link" ("click" here) is a Barber setting of a different Agee work. Finally! Pia is back to class things up. And then I have to go and ruin it with a picture of a barbershop quartet. Get it? No? Think about it. Wheeeee!

I'm Just Saying!

As much as I loved Manohla Dargis's kind mention of Jerry Lewis in the New York Times yesterday, I feel I should be completely honest and say that it was used in the service of an argument with which I do not agree. I have seen a lot of reviews of Coen Brothers films that seem to imply that the brothers are cold, inhuman automatons getting by on equal parts slick, robotic skill and misanthropy. These reviews tend to mention (as Dargis's does) that their movies nevertheless often have warm human hearts at their centers. This, the reviewers claim unfailingly, is an accident, as if Jeff Bridges (for example) improvised his dialogue in THE BIG LEBOWSKI and directed himself (after casting himself and creating his own character)... as if, in other words, the Coen Brothers are occasionally thwarted in their evil attempts to make coldhearted, mean old entertainment by the gracious and subversive efforts of a kindly band of underground vigilante actors who secretly insert humanity while the Coen Brothers' backs are turned or something. And then Jeff Bridges (for example) sneaks in late at night and edits the movie so that when the Coen Brothers see it for the first time, they're like, "What? I don't remember putting that humanity in there!" I just don't buy it, I suppose. I haven't seen the movie currently under review. I'm just saying! I hope this will not discourage Manohla Dargis from continuing to slip Jerry Lewis references into everything, just the way I like it!

A Gentler Personal Sound Amplifier From Days of Yore?

Our recent "post" about the commercial for "Listen Up," your personal sound amplifier, has provoked a conversation with the NBIL (New Brother-In-Law - I'm going to need to find a more accurate acronym for him soon, as the months tick by!), who recalls a commercial for a similar product from years ago. He says it was christened the "Miracle Ear," (sic) and recalls that the commercial featured a guy sitting in the woods with said "Miracle Ear." (sic) The guy, according to the NBIL, sits listening to things in the woods with his "Miracle Ear" (sic) and says, "Awesome... totally awesome." You really have to hear the way the NBIL does it to get the full effect. There's a guy sitting in the woods in the "Listen Up" commercial, too. But he doesn't say anything. He just looks extremely serious as the announcer says (I may be paraphrasing), "Hear the wildlife before it hears you!" I haven't seen the "Miracle Ear" (sic) commercial, but it "sounds" as if the "Miracle Ear" (sic) guy is enjoying nature in a mellow way while the "Listen Up" guy is eager to kill something. Oh well! It takes all kinds.

Phil's Greatest Triumph

For the archives: Phil sends in the cover of the Batman comic that seems to have inspired my favorite Donald Barthelme story. I say "seems" only out of extreme caution, because I have never read the comic book in question, but - SPOILER ALERT! - the cover does accurately represent the dramatic climax of Barthelme's piece in several key details. Before you carefully examine the cover I feel you should know it contains another SPOILER ALERT! Batman is really Bruce Wayne!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Manohla Dargis Pulls Out In Front

You know - because I have mentioned it over and over - how I appreciate the New York Times for all their Jerry Lewis references. Now, no one over there is ever going to make as many Jerry references as Dave Kehr! But he has an advantage because his "beat" is DVD releases of old movies. The reviewers of NEW movies have to make a little extra effort to find some way to squeeze Jerry in, and it is their "can do" spirit I salute today. I believe with today's reference, Manohla Dargis has pulled out ahead of A.O. Scott in the Jerry reference sweepstakes. I have no math or research to back this up. Just a gut feeling. And this is a "blog," so that's plenty. I officially give Dargis a one-point lead over Scott. Today Dargis writes, "Jerry Lewis has made a brilliant career out of playing stupid, but you never feel as if he loathes his disorderly orderlies because they’re slow on the uptake." Dave Kehr is the king, never forget that. But Kehr's not doing it for the points. He's doing it for the love of Jerry. He doesn't need my points or anybody else's! I believe Dargis and Scott will be moved by the spirit of competition, however, resulting in more Jerry references than ever before. Glad to help!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wisely the Spruces

Did you know that a slim book of poetry costs about the same as a thickish magazine? It's true! That's a handy tip for today's busy bargain hunter. Arguably, the poetry will do more for you in the long run. Like today I bought some John Ashbery containing this line: "Wisely the spruces contented themselves with rustling." But maybe you're not concerned about the long run! In fact, much poetry advises "ye" to "gather ye rosebuds while ye may" and stuff of that nature. Like, "Whatever!" Like, "Do whatever you want." Like, "Who cares?" Like, "Go for it!" So maybe you should just spring for the magazine, which can be satifsying and appropriate. But I don't know. I'll shut my big gob now. Here is a picture of some ladies who are in the process of gathering rosebuds or perhaps they have just finished.

The McNeil List - Invisible Soldiers: HOT! Particle Collider: NOT!

"D." from Atlanta sends in a handy "link" for assuaging McNeil's fears about the particle collider - or "black hole machine" as we've been calling it on the "blog." It's a place to go to see whether "the large hadron collider" has "destroyed the world yet." Here it is: http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com/. But "D." has no way of knowing that McNeil has moved on. McNeil is now more frightened of "invisible soldiers." Writes McNeil, "Did you see Larry King? With Bob Woodward? What was he talking about when he was talking about the 'secret weapon' aspect of the surge? I was all like [here McNeil uses a clever, saucy, youthful and profane three-letter acronym expressing confusion or wonderment]. Are they making troops invisible?" McNeil raves on. "I've been hearing about that for about a year now - where they have the capability to project what's behind a person in front of them so you can't see them." Get some rest, McNeil! Everything is going to be fine.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

How I Should Have Ended That Last "Post"

I should have said, "Clobbered him good!" Because he did. He clobbered him good.

Monday, September 08, 2008

McNeil Was Right

What can I say? McNeil was right. Robert Taylor is okay. Just watched him in a great movie called ROGUE COP. Now, that doesn't mean I've given up my championing of Robert Montgomery. He's still number one in my book. BUT. In ROGUE COP, when R.T. said, "Come on, stumblebum. You're no street fighter. I'll give you a lesson for free!" - well, I'm not ashamed to say it: at that moment I fell in love with Robert Taylor. And then he clobbered Skipper from Gilligan's Island.

McNeil Expresses Engulfment Concerns

I won't lie to you: McNeil is still concerned about that machine in Switzerland, the one they're going to crank up in a couple of days. The one that, some say, might make a black hole and engulf the earth or whatever. McNeil sends along an article in which a German scientist says that we might not even know for four years! Like, we might be all, "Whew! Nothing happened." Then four years later these little black holes start popping up and that's all she wrote. Thanks for nothing, German scientist! You've just ruined the next four years for everybody. P.S. A surprising number of people act like I'm crazy when I lay the news on them about the black hole machine. So here is a "link" for any disbelievers.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


I guess we were near Ohatchee, Alabama, when we heard the AM radio ad for Ohatchee Hardware, "the friendliest hardware store in Ohatchee." An admirably modest and immensely appealing slogan! Perhaps the best I have ever heard. Speaking of commercials, don't forget to visit Uncle Mort's and the Original Frosty Mug! Highway 78 has changed, people! It's straighter now or something. Or there's a built-in shortcut. I'm not a geographer! In any case, if you are in a hurry to get where you are going, it has become far too easy to bypass Uncle Mort's and the Original Frosty Mug. Let's work together to keep them in business! I guess Theresa and I are going to keep using the quicker way - it's quicker! But somebody needs to take up the slack for us. Believe me, we have given Uncle Mort's and the Original Frosty Mug PLENTY of business! Now it's your turn to step up. Speaking of speaking of commercials, I have recently become a fan of "Listen Up," your personal sound amplifier. To be more precise, I am a fan of the IDEA of "Listen Up," the PERSONALITY of "Listen Up," as dramatized in its television commercials. In this, "Listen Up" is akin to Tater Mitts and the Magic Bullet, both of which I appreciate for the way in which they are marketed while remaining unaware of and uninterested in their actual efficacy. In the "Listen Up" commercial, a woman is checking her mail and can hear the people across the street talking about her husband like so: "Have you met the new neighbors? ... I've met him. He seems nice." Of course, I would love the commercial even more if the speaker went on, "I'm going to sneak up behind him and get him!" Certainly I am not the first to consider the fact that "Listen Up," your personal sound amplifier, would be the perfect tool for rooting out those who are plotting against you and your loved ones! (Further reading: "Johnny Click" and "The Man Who Wants to Fill the Sky With Logos.")

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Another Mosquito

Another mosquito!

Friday, September 05, 2008

I Encourage Everyone

I encourage everyone to take up the writing of fiction! Even when you do a bad job of it, no one really gets hurt.

"After You're On the Parkway It's Clear Sailing!"

I am going to "teach" Donald Barthelme's story "The Joker's Greatest Triumph" next week. Looking back at it in preparation, I realized how much the punctuation has inspired me (i.e., how much thievery I have practiced upon it), especially (but not only) in my first book. "Tell me Bruce what is it you're drinking there?" asked Fredric. "I'm sorry Fredric it's tomato juice. Can I get you a glass?" I could contemplate those absent commas all day! In fact I think I will. Later in the story, exclamation points take over in true comic book style. "Well we'll have to hurry to get out to the airport!" Batman says, and asks Commissioner Gordon for directions. Gordon advises him to "[T]ake a right on Memorial Drive until it connects with Gotham Parkway! After you're on the Parkway it's clear sailing!" I have given Portis credit for all the punctuation I have stolen from him. I don't know how I forgot Barthelme.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Words of Comfort

"I just wanted to let you know that you know that you are not wasting your life," writes Mr. Ward. "Today you finally helped me identify a strange jingle that's been stuck in my brain for years. After reading your blog I went straight to youtube and lo and behold there's a commercial for Bulletman. I'd totally forgotten he was a friend of GI Joe. I thought he was a cartoon character or something. Anyhow it all came rushing back to me. I once owned one of his pals Eagle Eye GI Joe with moving eyes. Interesting side note - we used to call Eagle Eye GI Joe 'Shifty Joe' and make him a spy because he could never really look the other GI Joes in the eye. Check out the commercial and you'll see what I mean. I still don't trust him."

The Sepsey Generation

Mysterious stranger and "blog" fan (!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????????) James Sepsey, responding to a recent "post," writes to ask if I remember "Bullet Man," a friend of GI Joe. He sends the black-and-white photo you see to your right. I do not remember Bullet Man - at least this Bullet Man - though he seems to be based on the old Fawcett Comics character (below) to whom I have alluded on this very "blog" (and in my next novel, until that paragraph was cut). The helmet is different. What is the relationship between the two Bullet Men? That would require some "Googling" and I just don't have it in me. I can't make myself care. I'm having a lot of difficulty just typing this. What am i doing with my life? Is this it? At the end of the day, IS THIS REALLY IT? The only thing that got me through was my delightful "play on words" in the title of the "post."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I Eschew Context!

I hope it doesn't seem as if I am "putting down" the guy who took the pictures of the Bob Hope doll. It's just that I was confused by the whole idea. My unwillingness to do my homework is to blame. I eschew context! I would rather just look at something and say, "Huh?" That is the operating procedure of the "blog," as has been specifically stated in our charter. I think we can all agree it is a remarkable likeness of Bob Hope.

I Don't Understand

McNeil sent me a "link" I don't exactly understand and neither does McNeil, probably. I'm not sure the guy who MADE the "link" understands it. But he has produced a creative effort! In the "link's" own words, the "link" is about a "1:6 version of Bob Hope... traveling the world as he is hosted by GI Joe collectors around the globe. This page details Bob's stay with ScottE (aka HoloSuite) for an October 1999 week in Vermont." Well, most of that seems clear, I guess. There's a GI Joe version of Bob Hope and someone mailed him around the country for photo ops in the 90s. That's my interpretation. Anyway, here's the "link." I believe the name "Joined Again" (see the "link") is supposed to be a pun based on John Glenn. Is that it? I don't get it. It's my own fault! My head hurts. Why do I have a "blog"?

Mosquito Around Here

There's a mosquito around here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Thanks to Sheri Joseph

About the reading I missed due to circumstances beyond my control: It turns out that not only did the magnificent Sheri Joseph handle things alone... she also took the time to read a passage from ******* (the book we're never troubling you about again). From what we hear, it was exactly the sort of saucy passage that we are loath to read in public based on our trademark hypocritical and selective prudery. So you go, Sheri Joseph! You go indeed. Sheri Joseph is a true friend and a real trouper. I should mention that Sheri and I had planned to enact - as part of our performance - a scene from the Gilmore Girls episode "Rory's Dance." Sheri was going to be Lorelai (sp?) and I was going to be Rory. Maybe next time! As long as we are not talking about *******, I just got a phone message indicating that a friend or acquaintance of Rainn Wilson (pictured) has presented Mr. Wilson with a copy of the book. Would Mr. Wilson be the perfect actor to portray the title character in a controversial live-action feature based on the novel? I can't say! Because we are never talking about ******* again. When Phil Oppenheim came to one of my readings, he asked during the "Q & A" portion who would play ******* in the movie. I answered Jerry Lewis, of course. It may be remarked that Mr. Wilson and Mr. Lewis share a certain preening menace and a certain gift for slapstick. I can say no more. Please note: I am not implying that Mr. Wilson read or enjoyed *******. I am willing to say that it may be lying on the back floorboard of his car, however, and that is good enough for me.

It's His Cloud

"It actually looks like an alligator Pez dispenser," says McNeil of his cloud. This confirms my suspicion that the "bonnet" seen by Sepsey is in reality a separate cloud not under discussion. The true top of the cloud is what I saw as an anvil and McNeil as an alligator head. Sepsey found in it, as you may recall, the comforting/threatening arms of Laura Ingalls Wilder. But we hereby resolve to take McNeil at his word. It's his cloud! He ought to know. We consider the matter settled.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Cloud Declaration

Remember the cloud that bothered McNeil the other day? I have done some pretty impressive research - by which I mean that I have flipped rapidly through the first few pages of THE CLOUDSPOTTER'S GUIDE by Gavin Pretor-Pinney - and decided that it is "Cumulonimbus." What does this mean? I don't know. And others - call them "cloud experts," if you will - might disagree with my assessment. Yet I stand by it for some reason. Wait a minute. It also might be "Cumulus congestus." No, no, I'm staying with "Cumulonimbus." Says THE CLOUDSPOTTER'S GUIDE: "You can't miss a Cumulonimbus incus, with its distinctive anvil-shaped top, called an 'incus.'" Meanwhile, "blog" fan Sepsey sees not an anvil, but a prairie-style bonnet. And a jaguar. The cloud, he suggests, looks like "Laura Ingalls Wilder reaching out to hug or strangle someone. But then the cloud behind her," he goes on, "looks like a jaguar, in particular the jaguar from the Jacksonville Jaguars' helmet." Frankly, we don't see it. But we present his notions in the interest of cloud fairness. Everyone sees something different in a cloud. That's the way it is with clouds!

Our Goat Is Famous

Remember when I told you about Rudy & GoGo, a kids' show that Barry B. and I used to make? I am not sure I ever mentioned that GoGo was a live goat (not composed of archival goat footage as suggested on the inaccurate Wikipedia page). At one point, we ran GoGo Goat for president and had t-shirts made up: "GoGo Para Presidente," which inspired Jon Langford to write and record a campaign song of the same name. Anyway, Barry just discovered that someone wears a GoGo Para Presidente t-shirt on page 30 of a "literary thriller" called CODEX, written by Lev Grossman. Our goat is in a "literary thriller"!