Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tonight a friend told me that Flannery O'Connor once said (I'll paraphrase madly) that her mother would name a dog "Spot" without irony and she (Flannery) would name her dog "Spot" with a full complement of knowing irony but in the end it would amount to exactly the same thing, which is JUST WHAT I HAVE SAID about unicorns.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Verdell has taken it to the next level and put "Stang," the great new word for money, on the "Urban Dictionary" "web" site, where it currently languishes at number 6. From my understanding, it needs votes to move up the list. I see that the number one slang definition of "Stang" is "a robbery." I like it for the monetary connotations, but what does it have to do with Arnold Stang?
Monday, September 28, 2009
Verdell would like all of us to remember on this happy occasion that "Stang" is the great new slang term for money because we say so. I hate to break it to the rest of you saps, but Verdell is the only one keeping it real anymore. (Hey, look! The randomly assigned illustration turned out to be my birthday party which is totally weird because today is Arnold Stang's birthday and the guy who told me it's Arnold Stang's birthday was at my birthday party! I'm freaking out.)
According to a friend of the "blog," it is Arnold Stang's 84th birthday! Our "blog" hero is still going strong. For him and him alone, we'll risk adding a brand new photo to our sputtering computer. You've been Stanged!
"Many have tried to track the unicorn's progress, and a few have glimpsed madness along the way." So warns Chris Lavers in the introduction to his NATURAL HISTORY OF UNICORNS. So watch out! Also, I hope there is more in the book about bearded unicorn scholars reduced to frothing wrecks by their terrifying unicorn discoveries.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
You know what picture I really wish would show up in the random picture generator? The unicorn who is playing the trombone. But you can't force these things! Spent all day watching a spider, by the way. One time a leaf got caught in its web and it was like, "D'oh!" And it went down and knocked the leaf loose (small spider, big leaf). But the leaf just dropped a little bit before it got caught in a lower part of the web and I bet there was a look on the spider's face like "Oh, brother! Here we go again!" But the spider went down and dislodged the leaf a second time, and in general it turns out in case you were wondering spiders seem to have a lot of responsibilities. In the grand tradition of "Bible Unicorns Are Doing It For Themselves" I am naming this "post" after a pop-feminist anthem.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Here is another thing I like from A NEW LITERARY HISTORY OF AMERICA: Mary Gaitskill's third-person description of her fifteen-year-old self watching the famous contretemps between Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer on the Dick Cavett show. Mailer, she writes, was "like a bear trying to fight a snake on the snake's terms. At one point he spluttered, 'You know very well I'm the gentlest person here,' which made the audience laugh while Cavett and guests made ironic faces - but (horribly enough) Gaitskill sensed that this was quite possibly true, even if Mailer did head-butt Vidal in the dressing room, even if, yes, he did stab his wife in the dim past of a drunken party. For a gentle person who has been stung by clever, socially armored people adept at emotional cruelty may respond with oafish brutality..."
McNeil sends in a "link" proving that SCIENTISTS CAN READ THE SECRET THOUGHTS YOU ARE HIDING IN YOUR BRAIN! This is the hottest thing in scientific breakthroughs since the time McNeil became afraid of invisible soldiers. The mind reading story, in which guys in white lab coats "translated recorded patterns of neural activity into pictures of what test subjects had seen," reminded me of the case of Ted Serios, probably because I was reading THE JOURNAL OF PARAPSYCHOLOGY in the periodicals room yesterday. (Here's an eerie coincidence [cue organ music]: I just dug out my copy of THE PERFECT MEDIUM: PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE OCCULT [Yale University Press], and the article on Ted Serios was written by Stephen E. Braude, who must certainly be the same Braude I mentioned yesterday.) Anyway, Serios was "an elevator operator in a Chicago hotel" who "found that he could use his mind to project images onto film." He underwent "thousands of trials," which "yielded around one thousand anomalous Polaroid photographs, the entire collection of which now resides in the Special Collections section of the library at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County." I'll bet people were like, "You can't be Serios!" Ha ha ha! Get it? I'll also bet that Ted Serios has a wikipedia page. Yep. Now I will use my psychic abilities to choose a random picture to go with this "post."
Friday, September 25, 2009
Killed more time in the periodicals room, where in the past I have enjoyed thumbing through THE JOURNAL OF SEDIMENTARY RESEARCH, MOTOR CONTROL: THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR THE MULTIDISCIPLINARY STUDY OF VOLUNTARY MOVEMENT, THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CLINICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL HYPNOSIS, and so many more. Today it was THE JOURNAL OF PARAPSYCHOLOGY, which included this passage: "The phenomenon that Braud is primarily studying with Katy has to do with the appearance of 'gold foil' on her skin at apparently random times. The protocols of the observations made are presented in excellent detail, and an analysis of the foil itself is included, showing that it is not in fact gold at all but ordinary brass foil." I even spotted a typo in THE JOURNAL OF PARAPSYCHOLOGY, because the name of the parapsychologist under discussion was Braude, not Braud. Yes, this is how I spend my days. What do you care? Shut up! Leave me alone!
There are several pages in Kierkegaard's REPETITION (tr. M.G. Piety) on the subject of farce, and let's face it, he's actually talking about Jerry Lewis. It's easy to see! All you have to do is replace the word "farce" with the name "Jerry Lewis" and everything Kierkegaard says is 100% accurate. He starts by explaining Jerry's appeal (I mean, farce's) to a wide audience, from the "shouts and shrill laughter" in the gallery to the "applause of a sophisticated and critical audience," and postulates that Jerry Lewis (I mean, farce) cannot be imagined without "the constant accompaniment" of both. Jerry Lewis, claims Kierkegaard, allows a study of "the pathology of laughter in a variety of estates and temperaments... Every ordinary aesthetic category fails when it comes to [Jerry Lewis]... because with [Jerry Lewis] the effect depends largely upon the observer's own energetic contribution... To watch [Jerry Lewis] is, for the sophisticated, like playing the lottery, only without the unpleasantness of winning money [great line! -ed.]... [Jerry Lewis] can put one in the most unpredictable mood. One can thus never know with certainty whether, while in the theatre, one behaved as a respectable member of society who has laughed and cried in the right places... No effect of [Jerry Lewis] is brought about through irony, but through naivety. The spectator must therefore become involved as an individual... It is precisely the relating of the spectator to [Jerry Lewis] from which much of the amusement comes, and he must be willing to dare to risk this, though he will seek vainly to the right and to the left and in newspapers for a guarantee that he has actually been amused. For a sophisticated person, on the other hand, who is still unembarrassed enough to dare to be amused all by himself... [Jerry Lewis] will perhaps have a very special meaning." I could go on and on. In fact I think I have.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I can't believe myself. Here I am with two more "Literary Matters." I didn't even realize they were literary matters until I finished typing them up. But I can't lie to myself. I apologize for inflicting more literary matters on you so soon. I'm a monster! 1) I have been looking through A NEW LITERARY HISTORY OF AMERICA, co-edited by Greil Marcus, who may disapprove of me. My favorite part so far, by leaps and bounds, is the article on Hank Williams (he's from Alabama!), and it appears that Maud Newton feels the same way. She includes a lengthy excerpt on her "blog." And as a bonus, it turns out that she loves Roger Miller, one of my favorite singer-songwriters. (Please recall our shared affection for Peter De Vries and Charles Willeford.) My favorite part of the excerpt (and the original article) is Harlan Howard's analysis of the first verse of "Cold, Cold Heart," which is "invisibly held together by fifteen internal r phonemes." Observes Mr. Howard, "Once these words are put together this way, they don’t come apart.” A nice goal for a writer in there. 2) Speaking of which, I am reading REPETITION by Kierkegaard, and the plot is a lot like a THREE'S COMPANY episode, no kidding. This guy wants to break up with his girlfriend, but he wants it to be HER idea, so the narrator (Kierkegaard's stand-in) hires a seamstress to PRETEND (for a year!) to be the guy's other, secret girlfriend to make the real girlfriend jealous. Hilarity ensues when Kierkegaard's friend chickens out. Or philosophy ensues, I guess. At one point, the Kierkegaardian narrator explains why he is keeping his descriptions short, why he is not bringing in "a mass of unrelated things, parlours and dress and beautiful scenery, relatives and friends." He says, "I like lettuce, but I eat only the heart; the leaves, it seems to me, are for pigs." So think about that, too. (This "post" cries out for a brand new illustration - or two! - of Don Knotts as Mr. Furley. I don't know how much longer I can keep up my big artsy "random picture" idea.)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Well, you know where I had to go tonight. I had to go over to Square Books and order the new unicorn book. I used the power of the "internet" to check some of its contents. In particular, I was interested to see whether Mr. Lavers acknowledged the work of Odell Shepard, the author of the used unicorn book I stumbled on in Little Rock the other day. Indeed he did. In one little excerpt I uncovered on the "internet," Mr. Lavers claims that Mr. Shepard "over-emphasizes the rhino" in his account of the origin of the legend of the "horned ass" (!). Chill out! It means donkey. And when I read that, I was like, "All right! Feuds of the unicorn scholars! I need to get in on this hot action!" And the rest is history.
Hey, have you ever noticed that whenever your brother-in-law tells you about the unicorns of the Bible you start noticing Bible unicorns everywhere? No, it really happened again. Today I was killing some time in the periodicals room of the library when I came across a very short NEW YORKER review of a new book called THE NATURAL HISTORY OF UNICORNS by Chris Lavers. In the paragraph devoted to it, the reviewer brings up the unicorns of the Bible, of all things, and notes that King James's translators used that word when they "needed to describe a horned creature that was 'crucially not a cow.'" I love that phrase, "crucially not a cow," and I almost named this "post" "Crucially Not a Cow," but then I opted for the above reference to the 1985 hit by the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin.
Here is what McNeil had for lunch. No word on whether he used Paul Lynde's famous diet waffle recipe. These are McNeil's actual waffles, by the way, not some cheap "grab" off the "internet." Last night McNeil had Froot Loops for dinner. He sent me a picture of the box at the time. But we're putting fewer new pictures on the "blog" now so you will just have to imagine McNeil's Froot Loops for yourself.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
In Maud Newton's famous sidebar she "links" to a Joyce Carol Oates piece about the Shirley Jackson novel WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE. It made me want a copy. But when I made it over to Square Books, they had sold out of WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE, so I bought THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson instead. All I have really read of Shirley Jackson before now is "The Lottery," a short story that terrified me nearly to death in the fourth grade, and you have to ask yourself, what kind of country were we living in when they used to make you read "The Lottery" all the time in fourth grade? But now I have read the first 22 pages of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and am prepared to say that it is THE BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN. One thing leads to another, usually because of Maud Newton, and this is the only good thing about the "internet."
As I have mentioned before, mascot news is one legitimate excuse for the "blog" to overturn temporarily its ban on new images. Hence the fetanut seen here, more of which later. Although the trend toward unicorn paraphernalia remains strong, there has been a noticeable uptick in mascot ephemera as the gift of choice to yours truly. I am happy to say that I received the promised sticker representing the Fighting Okra of Delta State to put on my accordion case. I also received a nice postcard from "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot, showing a big green mascot head (not "Bloggy's;" she has a regular head) with arms and legs sticking out of it. The head seems to be terrorizing people on a city street. The fine print on the back of the postcard refers to "Big Nazo," which I assumed was the name of the ambulatory head, until I found the Big Nazo "web" site, where Big Nazo is revealed to be (in their words) "an international performance group of visual artists, puppet performers, and masked musicians who unite to create bizarre and hilarious larger-than-life sized characters, environments, and spectacles." They also advertise pizza, it seems. Here is a character, the fetanut, I found on the site (I couldn't find the image "Bloggy" sent me), and I don't know, the poor, beleaguered fetanut doesn't make me want to eat pizza. It wears the expression of a lost soul from Dante. Is it supposed to be made of feta cheese? I am not sure "feta" is a great word to use in a compound character name, especially when you are trying to sell pizza and your character is a misshapen, clearly forlorn glop, because it looks so much like "fetal." "Click" here to see the "Church Group Super-Hero Project" created by Big Nazo as "commissioned work." I want to know more about what's going on there!
Monday, September 21, 2009
Remember how I used to have a big office I never went to? Well, they got wise and now I have a smaller office I never go to. Today I went. I found something the previous tenant had left behind: a self-published book called ALLEGHENY MOUNTAIN. The copyright page says that it is "based on a previously published book called Allegheny Mountain," which is an attribution I believe I have never seen before. On the back of the book, where the tempting summary goes, there is a descriptive paragraph containing the line, "The world can be a big bad place and sometimes we are on our own." The long bio on the back flap describes the author, Mr. Hesselbein, as "a brave soldier and an honest and competent roofing contractor... Love came easily to his heart... Near the close of his life he is quietly proud of having lived a life of manly virtue." There is a chapter called "Savage Girlfriends." All of this makes me want to drop everything and read ALLEGHENY MOUNTAIN. May I tell you about something else I found? In the campus coffee shop there's a shelf where the library places free discards. The other day I saw a gigantically fat (but not particularly tall) book with the imposing title GUIDE TO PRODUCTION. When I opened it, there was a card inside, perhaps a bit larger than an ordinary business card. There's the black-and-white picture of a smiling man on the left side of the black-and-white card, a thin, clean-cut young white man with a modest pompadour, like if you looked in the dictionary under "1950s white guy" you would find this picture. The card is printed with the message "ALEXANDER JESSE For Arts & Science Representative EXPERIENCED & QUALIFIED." Two ampersands! I hope he got the job.
Here is a great icebreaker to use when you want to engage a stranger at a cocktail party about repressive desublimation. You can say, "Hey, do you know what's worse than repressive desublimation?" When the person says no, you answer, "DEpressive REsublimation!" A few good laughs and a new friendship is born. Here's how the joke works: "depressive" sounds sad, and "resublimation" sounds as if you sublimated something, and then you finally opened up about it and acknowledged it and the healing process began, and then for some reason you had to sublimate it again! What a drag! It's a play on words. I just "googled" it to see if I was the first to think of switching up the first letters to create some hilarity with depressive resublimation. I was not. Jean Baudrillard said it once, apparently, on one page of one book. According to wikipedia, he was a "French cultural theorist, sociologist, philosopher, political commentator, and photographer." So we have a lot in common! Now, maybe you think that it sounds as if, in the joke, you are "putting down" repressive desublimation. But don't worry! It is a great way to get the conversation rolling as we head into 2010, "The Year of Repressive Desublimation."
Gearing up for 2010, which the "blog" has named "The Year of Repressive Desublimation." Have you used the phrase "repressive desublimation" today? If not, why not? Please do your part. Together we can make 2010 "The Year of Repressive Desublimation."
Sunday, September 20, 2009
When you "blog" habitually, unreasoningly, about certain things, and then two of those things coincide, you are obliged to "blog" about it by the laws of the universe. This is called a "blog"ligation. It is how you realize your life is not your own. For example, I am required to mention that Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were referenced within the first ten minutes of tonight's episode of MAD MEN. By the way, I can also predict what Dyna Moe's next MAD MEN illustration will be... SPOILER ALERT! It will portray several of the eponymous "mad men" colorfully speckled with blood. I can say no more!
VOLUME ONE: TOM FRANKLIN -- VOLUME TWO: PHIL OPPENHEIM -- VOLUME THREE: MOVIES -- VOLUME FOUR: THE MOON -- VOLUME FIVE: SANDWICHES -- VOLUME SIX: THE UNITED STATES. And now fate has determined that there should be another volume in our prestigious series of "blog"trospectives. It's like this: the search engine here doesn't work anymore and no one is ever going to fix it. So, now that I am elderly and forgetful, how can I stay true to my promise never to repeat a song or a performer in our famous "Amateur Beach Boys Cover Songs" feature? Why, there can only be one answer: a brand new "blog"trospective. And here it is. "409"---"Barbara Ann"---Barry B. confused about lyrics of "I Get Around"---basic qualifications for inclusion in Beach Boys cover feature---"Be Still"---"Be True to Your School"---"Busy Doin' Nothing"---"California Girls"---"Caroline No" (apparently retracted)---"Caroline No" (substitute version)---"Catch a Wave"---Chuck Berry's chords, style, arrangement, and melody; appropriation of---complex transparency of Brian Wilson's genius, the---"Country Air"---"Darlin'"---"Deirdre"---"Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)"---"Don't Worry Baby"---"Forever"---"Fun, Fun, Fun"---Funicello, Annette, and---"Girl, Don't Tell Me"---"God Only Knows"---"Good Vibrations"---"Hang On to Your Ego"---"Help Me, Rhonda"---"I Can Hear Music"---"I Get Around"---"I Just Wasn't Made for These Times"---"I Went to Sleep"---"I Went to Sleep" (pun on title of)---"In My Room"---"Karen"---"Kokomo"---"Little Deuce Coupe"---"Little Honda" (French version)---"Little Pad"---McNeil and my sister prompt reassessment of "The Monkey's Uncle"---"The Monkey's Uncle---"Our Prayer"---"Pet Sounds" (song)---"Sail On Sailor"---"Sloop John B."---"Surfer Girl"---"The Surfer Moon"---"Surfin' Safari"---"Surfin' Safari" (professional version)---"Surfin USA"---"Surf's Up"---TWIN PEAKS makes me think of these Beach Boys covers---"Vegetables"---"The Warmth of the Sun"---"When I Grow Up to Be a Man"---"Wild Honey"---"Wild Honey" (another version)---"Wind Chimes"---Wilson, Brian; biopic of watched on an airplane---Wilson, Brian; in Theremin documentary---"Wouldn't It Be Nice"---"Your Summer Dream"
Let's get back to our ambitious plan. Here is # 34 in our series of people on the "internet" doing Beach Boys covers, mostly in the privacy of their own homes, no two performers or songs the same. Here, I like the cacophony, compounded by the careening camera. There's a Christmas tree and a man with a string on his hat and a shirtless drummer. Some nice little filigrees on piano near the end. I like it! It's wild! What are they doing? Just having fun, that's what. You should try it sometime.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Part of me is sorry that people may find the "blog's" new policy of random, recycled illustrations upsetting and confusing. But another part of me doesn't care very much about anything. And why should it? Random illustrations can make your brain do exciting things! I believe your brain will try to connect the random pictures with the texts to which they are attached, producing stimulating brain thoughts from your brain. That's where the fun comes in! For example, is Herman Melville casting a sternly disapproving look at the idea of a man tickling astronauts? Or is he just sorry he didn't put it in BILLY BUDD? Is a barbershop quartet about to sing some of that "punk rock" all the children are talking about? Is George Lazenby going to shoot a garden slug with a real slug... from a gun? I hope not! But isn't it fun to pretend? I guess so. Sometimes. Other times it is better to be serious and think about what you have done with your life. Look, I've made my choice. But that doesn't mean it's too late for you.
Well, I almost had it. I believe this ("click" here) is the same syndicated story to which I just referred (though only the first few paragraphs appeared in the Arkansas paper). The actual quotation seems to be, "he plans to tickle the professional astronauts while they're sleeping." But here, let's let him speak for himself: "I'm a person with a pretty high spirit, who's there to crack jokes and make jokes to those guys, and while they're sleeping, you know, I'll be tickling them."
The paper delivered to my hotel door this morning was the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and on the front page was a tiny item about the founder (owner? I left the paper in the hotel) of Cirque du Soleil, who has bought a ticket to fly into outer space on a Russian spaceship. And he said in the little item that he plans to (and I believe this is an exact quotation, though I can't find the front page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette recreated on the "internet") "tickle the astronauts while they sleep." I can imagine all sorts of things going wrong with this idea.
Time once again for "Literary Matters" - terrible, horrible literary matters. Nobody likes literary matters but they keep happening anyway. Today we have a quartet of literary matters. That's fancy talk for "four"! 1) George Singleton writes in - spurred by the recent sad news - to say that a few weeks ago - before the sad news! - he was on a panel and an audience member asked him to name his biggest influence. He said Henry Gibson. "And it's true," Singleton avows. "I started writing little poems after watching that genius on Laugh-In... Who needs Faulkner?" 2) I picked up a big old sackful of books at a Little Rock used bookstore called River City Books & Gifts. One thing was a first edition of THE NEPHEW by James Purdy. At the top of page 1, some helpful person has scrawled a message in pencil: "THIS DOESN'T MAKE SENSE." Another thing was THE LORE OF THE UNICORN by Odell Shepard, so expect even more unicorn lore than usual! The NBIL will be glad to hear that Chapter Two is all about the unicorn as it appears in the Bible. Mr. Shepard writes a lot of things like, "If we were concerned in this book with the unicorn itself rather than with unicorn lore there could be no excuse for having postponed for so long the question concerning the animal's actuality." 3) I believe this is a literary matter because it concerns the book that McNeil and I intend never to write. An article in yesterday's New York Times ponders "what Herbert Marcuse called 'repressive desublimation,' which reroutes unruly and rebellious instinctual energies into politically harmless sybaritic indulgence, escapist entertainment and spiritual delusion." And I was like, okay, but the title of our book ("Hipster Hegemony," which refers to the same phenomenon) is a lot catchier than "repressive desublimation," though that's not going to stop me from saying "repressive desublimation" ALL THE TIME! (Once again, credit for the term "hipster hegemony" goes to our friend DJ Gnosis.) 4) This is from a blurb (by Benjamin Kunkel) on the back of a Robert Walser novel: "When Walser met Lenin in Zurich during the war, all he had to say was 'So you, too, like fruitcake?'" First, I love a blurb with an anecdote in it. Second, it reminds me so much of the single remark that James Joyce passed with Marcel Proust. Goodbye from your dreaded "Literary Matters."
Thursday, September 17, 2009
So remember, kids, if one day you see Guillermo del Toro and Freddie Roach walking around together and you can't believe your eyes, maybe you don't have to! It's probably just me and McNeil.
McNeil was in a Trader Joe's grocery store the other day and some guy who worked there kept saying "Freddie Roach" to him and snickering. McNeil had no idea what the guy was talking about. "You know who Freddie Roach is, right?" said the guy. "You look just like Freddie Roach." McNeil went home and looked up the famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach on the "internet" and it turns out that Freddie Roach is indeed McNeil's celebrity doppelgänger. Naturally, this has led to another rare instance of the "blog" adding a brand new picture to its rotation. In the past we have seen McNeil's shirt and McNeil's arm, but here at last is McNeil's face, in the form of famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach. See also: the time I looked like Guillermo del Toro.
Time once again for Your Jerry Roundup. This is when the Jerry references begin to accumulate. First, the sad part of Your Jerry Roundup. Jerry is mentioned in the New York Times obituary of Henry Gibson as the man who gave Mr. Gibson his break in the movies. (E-mail from Mark Childress on the subject of Henry Gibson: "If, like me, you loved him as Haven Hamilton in 'Nashville,' then you will probably also not be able to forget him holding up his little flower on Laugh-In.") Now for the mysterious part of Your Jerry Roundup. A nice person on the twitter told me that the CIA had a hand in the editing of a Jerry Lewis movie! It's true, people! Here is the article, if you care to "click." The movie in question was the Martin & Lewis vehicle MONEY FROM HOME, and the scene removed by an "operative" who was "planted... inside Paramount Pictures" sounds truly awful, so maybe they're not so bad after all. You know I am a HUGE fan of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, right? I even OWN a copy of MONEY FROM HOME. But let me tell you, in this case I don't think the CIA went far enough. There were a few other scenes they might have trimmed while they were in there, that's all I'm saying. Not because of any political content... just as a favor.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Henry Gibson died, reports the New York Times. I was always happy to see him on the screen. He was one of my favorite actors. He wasn't in enough movies. Henry Gibson was menacing, witty, pompous, or gentle, depending on the role. Underrated I think, but I hope not. Always something going on behind his eyes. Mainly, he was funny. Henry Gibson! For him, as for the mutant grasshopper, a new picture. Hey, I just "clicked" on the NYT obituary (by William Grimes) and it says what I said, except better: "In repose, his face had a sneakily bland expression that served him well. It could express pure innocence, bewilderment, fatuous self-delusion, a puckish sense of mischief or Machiavellian duplicity." Hey everybody, don't forget Henry Gibson!
Hey, remember how I wrote a new book? And it got reviewed? And there's a cover for it and everything? And it's completely finished and all? But it doesn't exist? Because it hasn't been printed? Remember? As this report, which was spotted by a friend, tells me, don't hold your breath! My, that was an interesting surprise. At least it was better than the extra scary initial report, sort of. Just letting you know I had to (very regretfully) cancel my appearance at City Lights. They were kind and understanding and promised to reschedule me in that dystopian future when the book actually appears (as predicted by Nostradamus), though I'm a bit worried because the Zac Efron reference on page 22 (it's really there; he was also predicted by Nostradamus) gets staler by the day. How long must a hungry world wait for my Zac Efron reference? I don't want to say anything official until I hear back from my good friends at Skylight, but you'll probably want to make alternate plans for that evening, too, California. Sorry, California! You have always been so good to me.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Today the New York Times tells us of an event starring Geoff Sobelle, a "rubber-limbed actor" who "shares the manic if slightly less desperate intensity of a young Jerry Lewis." As you know, I always alert you when the New York Times mentions Jerry Lewis. And I point out their subtle digs! Like suggesting that he's desperate! Sobelle trained in Paris as a clown, of course. The show features "aliens in blue elastic suits."
Monday, September 14, 2009
This is one of those rare occasions requiring a brand new picture to be added to the "blog." "Blog" Deputy Rhea has found the story of the little boy in Devon, England, who found a pink grasshopper while traipsing about in the woods. "Blog" regulars, of which there are none, will recall the pink dolphin first brought to our attention by the OBIL.
You will notice that in the Biblical unicorn concordance provided by the NBIL, "unicorn" is next to "unicorns," plural. Check out this passage from Isaiah: "And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness." If I am reading it correctly, those are some scary unicorns! By the way, you will also notice, if you "click" on the translations provided, that the NBIL's original unicorn has been identified as a buffalo, a rhinoceros, a mountain ox, and some other animals. But we all know it was a unicorn. (Remember: all images on the "blog" are now chosen at random.)
"Unicorns in the Bible?" asks the NBIL. "It's true!" he answers himself. "Depending on which version you're reading," he qualifies. "I stumbled across Numbers 24:8 last night: 'God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.' On top of that, this prophecy is being spoken by a sorcerer! Wait, there's more! Here's an online concordance and here are all the translations." Thanks, NBIL! This is probably almost everything anyone will ever need to know about the fabulous unicorns of the Bible!
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Today a guy quoted in the New York Times called Bob Hope "smart" and "funny" and "dapper." But in the same article, there was a gratuitous slur upon the talents of Jerry Lewis! What an emotional roller coaster. I was like, "New York Times, you're tearing me apart!" Hey, so I was looking for a youtube clip of James Dean yelling "You're tearing me apart!" to represent my state of mind but I couldn't find one succinct enough to satisfy me. In my search, however, I ran across the following Pepsi commercial starring James Dean. He's the one who is dissatisfied with the tinkling music coming out of the player piano... so he slaps it, and thanks to his magic James Dean touch (spoiler alert!) the piano starts playing a hep version of the Pepsi jingle that causes all the kids to cut a rug. James Dean was the original Fonzie!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Once again I violate my own rule and add a new photo to the memory banks of my dangerously overstuffed computing machine. I hereby give you Laura Lippman's "heavy glass robot." But as you can see, he is not a robot at all! He is clearly some sort of space commander. Another correction: the same "heavy glass robot" "post" was poorly worded on my part, and I made it sound as if I would have poured the robot (sic) down the sink. Clearly, I meant the cough syrup. But ha ha! The confusion reminds me of an old James Thurber joke. See, a guy has a large, lurid bump on his head and his friend asks why. "My wife threw tomatoes at me," comes the reply. The friend is astounded and bemused! How could tomatoes cause such an injury? The first man says, "They were still in the can." Thurber told it better. The "blog" regrets the errors.
Over on her "blog," Laura Lippman is "blogging" about her penchant for collecting coin banks. Recently she picked up "a heavy glass robot that once was a container for children's cough syrup." And I was like, "Heavy Glass Robot would be a great name for a band!" Because I am one of those people I hate, one of those people who always says "that would be a great name for a band" no matter what anyone says. I believe there are other people who do this, but most of them stopped about midway through college in the 1980s. Apparently I never will. What else was I like? I was like, "Man, if I had had some children's cough syrup in a robot bottle I would have taken it all at one time so I could play with the robot! Or poured it down the sink at least." Which is why I am sure they no longer put children's cough syrup in a heavy glass robot. The end. For further reading: the time Laura Lippman and I talked about about mimes and robots.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Michael Kupperman found a magazine photograph of Andy Griffith relaxing at home WITH A JACKHAMMER! (This isn't it. This is one of the "blog's" famous new random illustrations. To see Andy Griffith relaxing at home with a jackhammer, "click" on the part that says "WITH A JACKHAMMER.")
Monday, September 07, 2009
Hey, over at VANITY FAIR James Wolcott has "blogged" nicely about my inaugural OXFORD AMERICAN column, which tickles me no end. Because you never know with James Wolcott! He is always a pleasure to read, but his wit is sharp and dangerous - which is a lot of fun when you have no inkling he might ever write about you. I am surprised and honored that he took notice of the piece and included a long passage from it in his "post." As for THIS "post," the one you are reading now, I think it is a fine example of what I do best as a "blogger": find out that someone has "blogged" about me and "blog" about that person "blogging" about me. And yes, I am aware that being self-aware about such self-promotion makes it no less boastful, shameful, or grotesque. Yet here we are. Have I mentioned the ouroboros lately? (Hey, do these randomly chosen pictures I have been using to illustrate my "posts" begin to seem oracular to you?)
Sunday, September 06, 2009
McNeil doesn't understand what's up with these video games these kids are playing nowadays. His nephews, he said, play one in which "they walk through a forest with their pet leopards" and "summon up a blue dot to help them." McNeil said he disapproved because "It has nothing to do with my daily life. That's why I love PERICLES and hate THE WINTER'S TALE." I was astonished by his strong opinions!
Saturday, September 05, 2009
Speaking of interesting old 45s, here I am violating my own rule again by adding a new image to my already dangerously overloaded computer. But it had to be done! As promised, I watched THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP all the way through to its closing credits, so I could find out for McNeil who sang "Arabella Cinderella." Here is the single, and as you can see, the performer is Mike d'Abo. I found the picture on Mr. d'Abo's "web" site, which he still maintains (I think; his last message appears to be from 2007, though the site itself was updated just a few weeks ago). The main page shows Mr. d'Abo with his family, and they look very happy and nice, and I admit that I somewhat regret my easy dismissal of "Arabella Cinderella," of which, after all, only snippets are heard in the film. And what kind of man judges a snippet? A hasty man, that's what kind. Please note that the 45 cover includes a shot of Goldie Hawn flung over Peter Sellers's shoulder, and I must admit that her underpants are showing, which is out of keeping with the "blog's" usual policy vis-à-vis raciness. But the "blog's" editorial board decided that the unexpected discovery of the "Arabella Cinderella" 45 was of sufficient interest to allow for an exception. (By the way, having at last seen the film all the way through, I must admit that it does not adhere to the socio-comedic tradition of a ritualistic affirmation of bourgeois norms, as McNeil and I originally speculated. In fact - SPOILER ALERT! - Ms. Hawn traipses off into a seemingly abusive relationship and the abandoned Mr. Sellers reverts to shallow hedonism, and the whole thing turns out pretty bleak if you ask me, so who's bourgeois now? Well, the movie still is, somehow. As Henri Lefebvre observes in his CRITIQUE OF EVERYDAY LIFE, "Protesting against bourgeois stupidity and oppression, the anarchic individualist is enclosed in 'private' consciousness, itself a product of the bourgeois era, and no longer understands human power and the community upon which that power is founded. The historical forms of this community, from the village to the nation, escape him… By following alienation to its very extremes he is merely playing into the hands of the bourgeoisie.") A final curiosity: Ms. Hawn's underpants are a bright, shiny green in the actual film. The 45 jacket has faded, perhaps, or there was a mistake by the printer, or perhaps the color was purposefully altered. Another mystery!
Whenever I talk about the "blog" of Andy Hopkins, I seem to emphasize the mom-and-pop grocery store angle and not the way he digs up old homemade novelty 45s and lets you listen to them RIGHT THERE ON HIS "BLOG." Recently, for example, he put up one called "Truck Drivers Don't Eat Duck." I don't want to give away too much of the story (SPOILER ALERT!) but this truck driver stops at a roadside cafe, where the waitress offers him "duck under glass" (!), prompting his memorable response. As always, the best part is Andy's thorough analysis. "The key changes are idiosyncratic, but the lead guitarist makes taste, not waste, when finessing the leaps," he notes. At the end of the song (MORE SPOILERS!) the truck driver vows to order chicken cordon bleu next time and fling it in the face of his hardworking server, which seems excessive to say the least. Surely the waitress did not choose the daily special. She is just trying to make an honest buck like anybody else. The source of the truck driver's rage is hard to pinpoint, and the object of it curious indeed! As Karl Marx observed, "This antagonism [of worker vs. worker] is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes." It is something to think about with Labor Day coming up.
Friday, September 04, 2009
I usually cut-and-paste Larry King's twitter messages for you, but this time I will just let you "click" on one, because I don't want to spoil it. It's sort of like a Lydia Davis short story! I call it "Irwin."
Over on therumpus.net they have "linked" to this information about exotic pigeons, including such old favorites as the "short faced English tumbler" and the "frillback." At this moment, my sister, whose loathing of pigeons is well known, is glad that I am no longer adding new pictures to the "blog" as a general rule. (I should give credit for today's recycled picture to the wonderful Jason Polan, who also illustrated my debut column in THE BELIEVER this month.) In conclusion, no one is forcing my sister to "click" on the pigeon "link"! I hope she remembers that! Tempting, though, isn't it? Like William Shatner peeking out the window of the plane in that TWILIGHT ZONE episode. You know, the faulty search feature here informs me that I have never before "blogged" about pigeons or William Shatner, which is absurd, because every single person with a "blog" has at some point "blogged" about William Shatner and pigeons. So this "post" took me about as long to complete as a novel. But it was worth it, wasn't it?
Occasionally a slug will get into the house. We've never had that problem before moving here. Never encountered a slug, somehow. I guess wherever you live, different kinds of creatures can get into your house. Slugs aren't so bad. They seem to have personalities. Maybe it's in the way they wag their stately heads to and fro. I'm not saying I'd recognize a particular slug if I ever saw it again, but they have the air of little individuals. I realize I am indulging in what is technically called the "pathetic fallacy." I take the slugs outside and toss them into the greenery. Do slugs enjoy greenery? They seem as if they might. If you have never read anyone's "blog" before, this is what a "blog" is. I'm not sure what you expected!
Thursday, September 03, 2009
You know how I love reference books. Had to go over to Square Books and pick up a volume called A CULTURAL DICTIONARY OF PUNK by Nicholas Rombes because according to therumpus.net it contains an entry on Barry Hannah, and I was like, "All right!" So therumpus.net was correct, of course. A footnote to the entry refers to Barry Hannah as "Barry Honnah" because that's the way you do it in punk! Proofreading is for squares. What therumpus.net didn't tell me was that A CULTURAL DICTIONARY OF PUNK also examines the Don Rickles sitcom C.P.O. SHARKEY (a frequent source of discussion with both Mr. Ward and McNeil). The specific episode under consideration is titled "Punk Rock Sharkey," which according to the book is all about Don Rickles "convincing a punkish girl to join the navy." The author goes on to make a good case for the punkishness of Rickles himself, who exemplifies punk as (quoting again) "above all, a stance, a way of carrying yourself in the world, a performance." Naturally this sent me scampering merrily for the L's, where I was sure I would find an entry on Jerry Lewis. I did not.
Yesterday in class I read some Samuel Beckett out loud and then I read some Anita Loos out loud. The Samuel Beckett was like this: "I see then I had attributed to myself certain objects no longer in my possession, as far as I can see. But might they not have rolled behind a piece of furniture? That would surprise me. A boot, for example, can a boot roll behind a piece of furniture? And yet I see only one boot. And behind what piece of furniture?" The Anita Loos: "So now we are on an oriental express and everything seems to be quite unusual. I mean Dorothy and I got up this morning and we looked out the window of our compartment and it was really quite unusual. Because it was farms, and we saw quite a lot of girls who seemed to be putting small size hay stacks onto large size hay stacks while their husbands seemed to sit under quite a shady tree and drink beer. Or else their husbands seemed to sit on a fence and smoke their pipe and watch them." That's just a taste of each. And it turns out that the more Samuel Beckett you read out loud and the more Anita Loos you read out loud, the more Samuel Beckett starts to sound like Anita Loos and the more Anita Loos starts to sound like Samuel Beckett. Their rhythms, their repetitions, are similar. Their provisionality is similar, their unwillingness to state outright, not Beckett's and Loos's, I guess, but Malone's and Lorelei Lee's. But Lorelei Lee enjoys champagne and diamonds and was played in a movie by Marilyn Monroe (unlike Malone, but that would have been awesome), so we ignore the ambitious modernist stylization of the language. But wouldn't that make a nice long academic paper for somebody to write: Malone vs. Lorelei Lee? And the roles that gender and genre preconceptions play in the relative seriousness of critical energy expended and blah blah blah?
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Usually this space is reserved for a "Media Report," but once again we are looking at a single medium: in this case, movies of which I have recently watched portions. I had to call McNeil this morning while I was watching part of THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP. I needed to know whether he thought comedy was an essentially conservative genre. McNeil said that people could think of it as conservative because of how often it ends with a wedding, but he also thought that the wedding might be a device by which to disguise, justify, or excuse the anarchic or antisocial or subversive aspects of the comedy's main body. Yes, sometimes that's the way McNeil talks! THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP is a - what should I call it? - ideologically confused film, I guess, coming as it does near the end of the "Hipster Hegemony" period immortalized by McNeil and myself in the coffee table book we're never going to write. It could be that by reveling in the exciting, sordid details of "underground culture," the movie - like a lot of the ones McNeil and I discuss in our imaginary book - actually argues for the triumph of the "square," or of the "swinger" who learns that this "square" life isn't so bad after all, yes, the reformed, sanitized swinger. THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP should not be watched by newcomers to the "Hipster Hegemony" idea. Peter Sellers takes off his shirt a lot in it - he's a regular Frasier or Gordon Ramsay (in fact Sellers plays a restaurant critic) in that regard - and boy does he have a hairy back, which is perfectly okay. It is none of my business that Peter Sellers happens to have a hairy back! I have nothing against it. I've just never noticed before, that's all. I guess it also should have occurred to me that Peter Sellers might have had a makeup person apply ersatz back hair, being a stickler for character-defining detail as he was, but I certainly doubt it. But the main thing I needed to tell McNeil (and never did, sidetracked about philosophy and aesthetics and other grand things as we were) is that THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP contains one of those movie rock bands that he especially loves. I didn't catch the name of the band (maybe it's in the closing credits) but the song they keep playing goes, "Arabella Cinderella, what does she do?/ Turns into a pumpkin at the stroke of two." Terrible! And the accompanying music is that big movie studio approximation of what a groovy rock band should sound like. (For a later, more informed "post," "click" here.) Next, I would like to admit that I may have been too hard on the shady psychiatry in THREE ON A COUCH, because I just saw some even shadier psychiatry when I watched part of an old movie called MANHANDLED. It starts out with a guy telling his psychiatrist a recurring dream he has, in which he conks his wife on the head - fatally - with a "quart sized perfume bottle." That's a real quotation! Then the psychiatrist tells him not to worry, that people have crazy dreams all the time, and that everything he says will be held in the strictest confidence. This is funny, because there is a woman (Dorothy Lamour) in the room, taking notes on everything the guy says. "Oh, don't worry," says the psychiatrist (I'm paraphrasing), "she has been with me for four years and is very discreet." Then the guy leaves, and it turns out Dorothy Lamour has been working with the psychiatrist for no more than a few weeks, but the psychiatrist didn't want to make the guy nervous. That's not even the bad part! The bad part is that the psychiatrist IMMEDIATELY CALLS THE GUY'S WIFE! He invites her to his office in the dead of night, and says something like, "Hey, your husband keeps dreaming he's clobbering you with a perfume bottle, what do you make of that, huh?" And he says something like, "Do you think he's crazy?" I'm not kidding! I mean, isn't he asking the wife to do HIS JOB? And then he gets Dorothy Lamour to READ THE ENTIRE TRANSCRIPT TO HER. Some bad stuff happens after that, of course. But what did the psychiatrist expect? I turned it off pretty early, even though the great Dan Duryea was playing Dorothy Lamour's downstairs neighbor, a typically wonderful sleaze. Hey, do you know what? The search feature on the "blog" still isn't working correctly - it says I have never mentioned perfume before, for example - so it takes me forever to find the right "links." The "links" no one ever "clicks" on! And I know no one is reading this! It's too long! Yet still I try to get it right. That's how much I care about you, the leaders of tomorrow.