Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chicken Was My Specialty

McNeil just read me a passage from the Mickey Spillane novel I, THE JURY, in which a wealthy Park Avenue socialite/psychiatrist (I think) in her luxurious penthouse feeds Mike Hammer a fancy dinner of fried chicken and french fries. This is the same passage that made Barry Hannah laugh so hard. He didn't have much use for Mickey Spillane as a writer, but that dinner made him almost love Spillane, Barry told me, "because he can't think of anything better than fried chicken and french fries." And then he laughed hard some more. McNeil likes the part where Mike Hammer's friend tells him she has "already held supper an hour waiting for you." We had a nice discussion about how you hold fried chicken and french fries for an hour. Another thing McNeil likes is the thing Mike Hammer thinks approvingly to himself upon seeing the fried chicken: "Chicken was my specialty." And these lines: "'There is an angle,' she said casually. 'Let's have it,' I said through a mouthful of chicken." Now to the good part of writing! I am reading STICK by Elmore Leonard on the recommendation of Laura Lippman. Here is some of why Elmore Leonard is so magical. I read it to McNeil in turn. Notice the sly punctuation, just for starters: "Stick didn't say anything right away. His first impression, Chucky was one of those poor miserable slobs everybody picked on when they were kids, washed his face with snow, and he'd slink off rubbing his tears and snot, to go eat some candy." Look! Here is a picture I found of Barry Hannah and Elmore Leonard standing on the sidewalk right in front of Square Books. You can't see Square Books because it's behind the photographer. Hey! I've used that mailbox.

Butterflies Going Crazy

I don't know what these little flowers outside our window are, but the butterflies go nuts for them. You can tell the butterflies are thinking, "Oh man! That's the stuff!" You know, when they're sipping the nectar or whatever butterflies do. That's it, sip nectar, right? I mean, this stuff makes the butterflies go absolutely crazy. These butterflies are getting out of control. They're looking to make trouble, that's my fear.

Don't "Google" Your "Magic Hands"

I heard Theresa laughing really hard in the other room. She was watching a commercial for something called "Magic Hands." A word of advice for the "Magic Hands" people: make your product easier to find on the "internet"! How will you create a "buzz" and go "viral" if "bloggers" can't find your commercial and poke goodnatured fun at it? Trust me, you don't want to "google" for the phrase "magic hands." Or if you do, you want to "google" carefully. I could not find a "web" site devoted to the "Magic Hands." These people do not have the savvy of the folks at Ninja Blender. On the plus side, I did find this video which has nothing to do with the "Magic Hands" in question.

Buy a Doll

I used to read a magazine named GIANT ROBOT all the time. It is not their fault I stopped! I don't know what happened. I got old, maybe? It was a scrappy upstart (to use a phrase from last week's episode of MAD MEN) when I was reading it back in the 90s. I believe Kent introduced it to me in Los Angeles, then I started buying it at Criminal Records in Atlanta. Isn't this a great story? It keeps going! Well, now I "follow" Giant Robot on "twitter" and "like" Giant Robot on "facebook" but who knows when I am going to "read" Giant Robot again in "real life"? I should subscribe! Maybe I will. But here's the point. I see on the "internet" that the good people at Giant Robot have come up with a doll you can buy. It is called an "uglycorn." It seems to be part unicorn, part something with wings, and part cyclops. Rhea would kill me if I didn't alert her to its existence. It has been so long since I mentioned Criminal Records on the "blog" that 1) it has moved since then (I mean the actual, physical store) and 2) the "link" I had up no longer directed you to its "web" site. It went to a place where you can actually search for people's criminal records! I had to fix that. The "internet" gives only the illusion of permanence. In conclusion, please buy an uglycorn to make up for all those years I have slacked off on buying Giant Robot magazine. (Note to the government: I receive no compensation from sales of the uglycorn.) Ha ha! When I was doing a "Google Image Search" for the uglycorn, I found a "blog" "post" in which a woman is unhappy with the corn she bought at the store because it is ugly, and she wonders whether she should return it.

Book Club Newsletter

Ace thinks I have "backed out" of the Sturm Und Stang Book Club just because I happened to mention that the most interesting thing in the first half of the book is the passing reference to a painful neck boil suffered by a certain young man... and the name of that young man was Don Ameche. And now you know... THE REST OF THE STORY. But Ace Atkins is wrong. Dead wrong. I can't wait to see who has a painful boil in the second half of the book. Maybe Margaret Dumont!


The story of how I found this image is boring. I wasn't looking for it. Gosh, I know I haven't been "blogging" enough lately. Can one truly ever "blog" enough? Well, now you know what Superman did for fun as a boy: carved a statue of himself out of the world's largest diamond. Does it sound like fun? Think again. To me it sounds like the act of a desperately lonely and insecure young man. What am I saying? It has something to do with "blogging," probably.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Shark Recites My Epigraph

Just look what these people in Canada have done! They have made an awesome painting of the epigraph to my novel AWESOME and hung it over their bed! And a shark is saying it! This represents a staggering responsibility! No doubt these words guide their every move from the time they wake in the morning until they return to bed at night, to slumber beneath the protective glow of the wisdom I have provided. "Click" here for their account of how my epigraph inspired the painting. I would like to remind everyone that I got the epigraph from an article about Las Vegas by "Blog" Buddy Mark Childress. He is the real hero of this story!

The Dog Who Solves Mysteries

Hey, remember when my friend from Hubcap City was so upset with Christopher Buckley's author photo because Mr. Buckley was chewing on the stem of his glasses AND wearing a hat, which seemed excessive? Well, I was just reading the New York Times the modern way, on the "internet," and a huge ad kept distracting me. It was for Alexander McCall Smith, who has written a book about a dog who solves mysteries, I think, which is fine by me! It's none of my business! I think it is about a dog who solves mysteries because there is a prominently displayed dog in the ad. Also, Mr. McCall Smith is wearing a kilt (not a hat) and holding his glasses, not wearing them. Is he about to raise them to his mouth to chew on the stem? I DON'T KNOW! But it seems possible. The main thing is that the ad is one of those computer ads that jumps around. Mr. McCall Smith will suddenly give a jaunty little jerk. A few minutes later, the little dog hops up and down mechanically. I just wanted to tell you so you will not think you are crazy when it happens to you. Here (left) we see Mr. McCall Smith NOT in the photo discussed above, but wearing a hat (not a kilt) and holding his glasses, once again refusing to chew on the stem. I don't know if it is an "author photo" or just a regular photo, so he can do whatever he wants. Anyway, he loves to hold his glasses!

Monday, July 26, 2010

When Jerry Met Stanley

Hey! Remember when McNeil suggested that the movie 2001 would have been better with Jerry Lewis in it? Turns out that while Kubrick was editing 2001, Jerry was in the same facility, editing one of his movies at the same time. And they used to take turns watching one another work! This information comes from Scott Phillips. Here's a "link" with all the details. As I mentioned to Scott, it sounds like a perfect set-up for one of those two-actor off-Broadway shows everybody loves, where one famous guy meets another famous guy and they discuss something famous, like the nature of time. (Pictured, Jerry looking very Stanley.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

But We Were Intelligent People

Speaking of Bob Hope, old Dave Kehr says of clip below, "The sequence, built from two sustained shots with a sparing use of close-ups for dramatic emphasis, remains one of the privileged moments of 1930s filmmaking, a blend of humor and feeling that seems to compress the entire emotional range of a classic romantic comedy into four minutes of screen time." And he's right. It's a little piece of art! ("Click" here for his longer assessment.)

Book Club Newsletter

Book Club is going coo coo bananas. Look at this! We all have our copies now, only Scott Phillips's copy has been signed... BY JOE E. LEWIS HIMSELF! Makes me think of the time my ex-boss Lisa got her book signed by Bob Hope. No name for our book club yet. McNeil suggests "Soulstang" or a variation thereof.

Manohla! Manohla!

As far as I can tell, Manohla Dargis has not had an article in the New York Times in over a month. Somebody tell me she is only on vacation! She is possibly the equal of Dave Kehr when it comes to Jerry Lewis worship at the New York Times. What will we do if she has gone elsewhere? Maybe her absence has something to do with the switch to robots as the main thing they write about and never Jerry, no, never Jerry anymore. Manohla! Come back, Manohla!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Biggest News Ever

Hey! Remember yesterday when I mentioned Bill Murray and various people named Elvis in the same "post"? Sure, that is probably all you have been thinking about from then right up until this very moment. Well, I just saw Bill Murray on the David Letterman program talking about the time he went to Elvis Presley's funeral! This is undeniably the biggest coincidence that has ever happened to anybody ever in history and I thought you needed to know about it at once so I dropped everything and ran to the computer and started typing away.

Free Books

I have told you about the shelf of free books in the coffee shop of the university library, haven't I? I picked up a couple of mass market paperbacks today. I have no idea who is discarding them. They don't seem like former library material, at least these particular volumes don't. One is a novelization (in pristine condition, I might add) of the Peter Sellers film I LOVE YOU, ALICE B. TOKLAS! (Exclamation point theirs.) Though I didn't name it at the time, that's the one I was trying to watch so I could further our discussion of repressive desublimation. Remember? I had to turn it off after five minutes, as you may recall. But I'm sure the novelization is fantastic! Here's some of what it says on the back cover: "Harold was - like - blocked, a square. He was a $40,000-a-year LA lawyer and he was set up with a nice, dull type named Joyce. Then this groovy free spirit named Nancy comes to his pad. She's so beautiful and so cool, like a wild vision... So Nancy bakes him some way out fudge brownies filled with love... And Harold freaks out! ... He and Nancy hold the grooviest love-in ever staged - a non-stop multi-colored trip to the Moon!" (Cap theirs.) The other free book I found today ALSO has an exclamation point in the title, sort of, though it appears only on the cover and the spine - not the title page, sadly, so it doesn't count, not really. You recall that I like it when old paperbacks have a lot of promotional copy on the front cover. Well, this one allows the title to emerge from the description of the book, like so: "'I didn't come here to study anthropology,' the girl whispered huskily to the young college professor. 'Just... TEACH ME TO LOVE!' A pipe in his mouth - a book under his arm - hate in his heart for being overworked, underpaid and under-loved... He was a menace to every girl on campus!" Yeah, so that's just the front cover. Turn to the back: "Here is a novel for every parent with a child at college - a novel for every adult fooled by the tree-lined campus and the book-lined library." So I thought that was a pretty funny free book to find at the library. I can't stop typing: "As Peter Waring said bitterly after his wealthy wife walked out on him, 'Maybe I'm a college teacher - but damn it all, I'm also a man! I want to live like a man... love like a man...'" Free books! (Pictured, Harold freaking out.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You Have Been Warned

Barry B. sent me this neat trailer (below) for a film that has been discussed on the "blog" before. Now I want to see it more than ever! WARNING: Though the groovy accompanying song contains such deceptively happy lyrics as "Down the rainbow I'm sliding," trailer may contain upsetting material, such as a severed head that is laughing and someone being consumed by a piano.

Elvises I Have Known

Speaking of nights of 100 things, back in August of 1994, Mr. Ward and I put together something for TBS called NIGHT OF 100 ELVISES. Yes, the name was a clever "take-off" of NIGHT OF 100 STARS. We went to Las Vegas and shot a bunch of footage at an Elvis impersonator convention and edited it to complement an evening of Elvis movies. (Note to "blog" fans [Ha ha! I know you don't exist!]: this is the same trip [first described in this "link"] during which we discovered the robot version of Foster Brooks, of which the "blog" has provided the "internet's" only pictures!) I remember standing at the top of an escalator and clapping my hands together and yelling impatiently, "Elvises! Elvises!" because they wouldn't be quiet and line up properly. Mr. Ward and I met the "Cherokee Elvis," the "Diabetic Elvis," the "Swiss/Hawaiian Gospel Elvis" and many others, including a charming and petite British woman we took to calling Elfis. The only small, passing mention I can find of our majestic effort is this article (I am sure you will "click" here) from a Baltimore paper, in which you can also find out what was happening in that night's episode of MODELS INC.! So anyway it turns out that there is an annual charity event called NIGHT OF 100 ELVISES. It's for a very good cause and has been going on since December of 1994... IN BALTIMORE! Coincidence? Do the math! In a very real way, I suppose you could say that Mr. Ward and I are the real heroes of this annual charity event I just found out about. Not really! But we named it, apparently. Maybe! Oh, and I found some more glory to steal today, involving another man named Elvis, but not Elvis Costello, with whom - as I never tire of reminding everyone (speaking of stolen glory) - I once had dinner. Wait, did I just mention that again? Silly me! I was about to tell you that there's an interview with Bill Murray in the current GQ. He says some funny and interesting things, of course. He calls film critic Elvis Mitchell the "world's smartest man." I once had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Mitchell, who stated upon that occasion that he had read and enjoyed my books. And he really had! I couldn't believe it! In fact, I assumed someone was playing a trick on me at first, putting him up to it, because I had never met anyone who had read and enjoyed my books. Here's what I am trying to say: the world's smartest man has read my books. I am going to use that in my new slogan, which will be affixed by special sticker to everything I write from now on: "Good enough for the world's smartest man... why not you?" As a special bonus, "click" here for an episode guide to MODELS INC. Pictured, a dramatic scene from MODELS INC.

So Many Stars

Okay, I don't think this NIGHT OF 100 STARS has anything to do with that NIGHT OF 100 STARS after all. And the more I look at the "internet" the more nights of more stars I see. There have been so many nights of 100 stars. We are probably talking about thousands of stars! So many stars. I wonder what other things besides stars there have been nights of 100 of!

Eternal Night

Don't worry, everybody, the NIGHT OF 100 STARS is still going on. I assume it is the same NIGHT OF 100 STARS we have been discussing, or at least gushes forth from the same wellspring. There is a whole "web" site about it, where I found this picture of Lanie Kazan, Patrick Stewart, and Luis Guzman enjoying their NIGHT OF 100 STARS. Sponsored by Bacchus Energy Drink!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Awesome Fashionable Ladies

There are these awesome fashionable ladies going around making people disappear with the help of their identical silent henchmen (one example pictured here). Spoiler alert - he has cat eyes behind those shades and an extra set of baby arms with claws! That's THE WILD, WILD PLANET! I love it! In the movie THE WILD, WILD PLANET, we also get to see the entertainment of the future, which is people in tights impersonating butterflies while the audience stands around in a big circle (below). People go to a show twice in THE WILD, WILD PLANET, and both times the show consists of people in tights impersonating butterflies while the audience stands around in a big circle. If you think THE WILD, WILD PLANET is "bad" or you are too "smart" for it, or maybe you would get your kicks eating candy and making wisecracks about it with your other "smart" friends, maybe you don't know how to enjoy life properly. But that's okay! It is none of my business. You probably think there's something "wrong" with the deer in ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, too. Whereas I say if you want a vision of the future in which people in tights impersonate butterflies while the audience stands in a big circle, you are going to get a certain movie all around it, and isn't it totally worth it? Plus it ends in an explosion of bloody pink water that will make you think of THE SHINING. People just keep making crazy artifacts and there is nothing you can do to stop them. Why would you want to? You should be thanking them! Isn't the world great? And also it is possible to enjoy the deer in ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS with very little effort. Meet the deer halfway! Are you too "good" for that? Remember what Keats said about "things semireal." You may think you could do "better." Here's a camera, go for it! Who knows? Maybe you are right and I am wrong! Who are you? Did I make you up? Why am I arguing with you? Why am I so defensive? You didn't do anything to me! Can't you see what I'm trying to tell you? I love you! Let's never fight again!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The News From Citrus County

Here is the news you have been waiting for: John Brandon's novel CITRUS COUNTY will be on the cover of the New York Times book review this Sunday. Daniel Handler says that Brandon gives us a little of what conventional (or conventionally "subversive") novelists give us, "but only the way a firing squad gives you a cigarette before it kills you." Great! And true. Handler also remarks upon the strange combination of beauty and page-turning anxiety which was the thrust of my overly exclamatory - if accurate - exaltation.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Club Newsletter

It has been moved by Kelly Hogan and seconded by Scott Phillips that the book club should have "Stang" somewhere in its name.

Win My Love

For those of you who missed the reading that John Brandon and I did at Square Books yesterday... I hate you! I hate you so much. But you can make it up to me by listening to the very first "podcast" that Square Books has ever done. "Click" here. Do you know what a "podcast" is? Me neither! But in this one, I read my latest BELIEVER column and John reads from his awesome new novel CITRUS COUNTY. Big news coming about CITRUS COUNTY, so watch this space! PS: It occurs to me upon listening that my spontaneous bit near the beginning is just a pale parody of the great Simpsons parody of PHC.


This is the photograph of Kelly Hogan (center) we should have used yesterday. The "blog" regrets the error.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Club Newsletter

Ace Atkins is in! Yes, Ace Atkins has joined our special book club for winners. And get this, kids: Kelly Hogan (pictured) is soon leaving for Europe as part of her life as a famous singer - so she worked hard to find a bookseller who could guarantee putting THE JOKER IS WILD: THE STORY OF JOE E. LEWIS in her hands before she leaves - a frantic race against time! It is this kind of GRIT and DETERMINATION that brings HONOR and GLORY to the greatest book club ever.

The Book Harvest

It's official! The __________ Book Club has grown by one member: Scott Phillips, who wrote the novel THE ICE HARVEST, which was made into a film starring "blog" fave Oliver Platt (pictured). I wanted to call this "post" "The Platt Harvest" but couldn't think of a real justification for doing so. Speaking of titles, in the intro to our book club selection, THE JOKER IS WILD: THE STORY OF JOE E. LEWIS, we learn that Joe E. Lewis lobbied for the title THE WORMS ARE WAITING AND LAUGHING. So we know he wasn't great at titles, that's one thing we know about Joe E. Lewis. But I can say no more! The book club convenes after all members have read exactly 1/2 of the book, and it wouldn't be fair for me to start giving my two cents before everyone else.

I Am the New Oprah

Do you like out-of-print biographies of obscure comedians who are threatened by gangsters? Then have I got the book club for you! It's the __________ Book Club. Soon the blank will be filled by a cool, clever name for our book club! Play along at home, won't you, as Megan Abbott, McNeil, Kelly Hogan and I (and possibly two crime writers who are on the fence) read THE JOKER IS WILD: THE STORY OF JOE E. LEWIS by Art Cohn. Order your copy now, before the prices skyrocket when used booksellers see how everybody is going crazy for it. Did you know that Joe E. Lewis was portrayed in a movie by Frank Sinatra? Did you know that he is NO RELATION to Jerry Lewis? There are so many interesting facts about Joe E. Lewis, probably. Let's find out together! Better yet, let the book club do the work for you, and just sit back and enjoy as "minutes" from our "meetings" come rolling in. PS: Hmm, maybe Joe E. Lewis isn't as obscure as I thought. He provides the "favorite quote" for one of the members of the University of Richmond Women's Club Rugby Team (Spring 2006 roster), as I discovered while doing a "Google Image Search" for him. That quotation? "You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on." Goodness! Megan told me that one of his big lines was "I get up every day at the crack of ice." Gosh! What kind of book club have I gotten myself into?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Celebrity Mind Reader

"Imagine the gallons of Johnnie Walker Red that must've fueled that 'extravaganza' from conception to next-day newspaper reviews," writes Kelly Hogan, speaking of the clip from NIGHT OF 100 STARS I so thoughtfully provided. She says it charred her retinas. Yet she watched all the way to the end - "all the way to Michael Caine's sour face," as she put it. Hogan's comments made me think a number of things. Number one, that I am going to dedicate the rest of my life to studying NIGHT OF 100 STARS. Number two, that it GETS A STANDING OVATION AT THE END. How is that possible? Number three, that it was probably all for charity or something, so I am a jerk for thinking mean thoughts. Number four, yes, Michael Caine IS making a sour face at the end, which makes me want to rank all the participants according to how much above it they thought they were. Obviously, none of them REALLY thought they were above it. And Michael Caine would do anything, as he has openly admitted. Robert Urich (pictured) sure seems to think it is beneath him, though! I am not a celebrity mind reader! But it seems that way to me. On the other end of the scale, Bob Fosse is a pro, trying to inject some style into his brief appearance. I thought Matt Dillon looked like a good sport, but Hogan compares him to Frankenstein. I can't tell whether Burgess Meredith is really into it or if there's something wrong with him. Hogan agrees: "That Rockette is lifting him right off the floor!" She concludes, "And when the credits rolled, I swear I misread them as 'emotional consideration provided by...'"

Robin's Nests Are Where It's At

The young robin seems eager yet nervous. I am not a bird psychologist! I am committing one of those fallacies you hear about all the time in your various English classes. So much action going on up there in the robin's nest! Some real suspense too. Wish I could write a book as jam packed with thrills as this robin's nest. Who am I kidding? It ain't happening. Robin's nests are where it's at!

Report: Baby Robins Love Food

You know what baby robins love? Food! Man, they go nuts for it. And one of them is standing at the edge of the nest flapping a little. I think she's getting ready to go! I mean, it looks as though she may take off while I am typing these very words. She's straining forward... Nah, nothing. It's imminent, though, I tell you. Imminent!

"Blog" of 11 Stars

Let me be clear! When I said that "you" have never heard of the stars in the NIGHT OF 100 STARS, I did not mean to imply that I have not! I have heard of all of them, because that's what I do. I sit around and hear of stars and years later they are still in my head where they belong, these stars - long after a cold world of youths such as yourself has passed them by. Why several of the stars in the NIGHT OF 100 STARS clip I presented have been mentioned by name on this very "blog": Cab Calloway, Michael Caine, Yul Brynner, Dabney Coleman, Richard Dreyfuss, Ben Gazzara, Marvin Hamlisch, Rock Hudson, Jim Nabors, Vincent Price, and Jimmy Stewart. I mean, didn't you always want to see those guys in a long line doing Rockettes-style kicks? No? Well, what if I told you they were joined by Bert Convy (pictured), Charles Bronson, Jim Henson, Rod McKuen, Matt Dillon, Tony Randall, and David Frost? Yeah, that's right, you're paying attention now! Because brother, that's a chorus line. Man, TV used to be weird and cheap. They made a big, obvious typo on Cab Calloway's name and didn't even bother to fix it. That's the way we did things back in the 80s!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bad Reference

Now you know I love to make references! There is nothing more enjoyable than a reference, as I am sure you will agree. Yet I fear my most recent reference ("Night of 1,000 Grishams") was faulty on every level. First, there was only one Grisham, seen in but two places. So at most it was a night of two Grishams, and even that is stretching it. Second, the reference was to something everyone has forgotten but me... a TV show called NIGHT OF 100 STARS. So third, I should have called it "Night of 100 Grishams" if I wanted my reference to be accurate. NIGHT OF 100 STARS was this thing where these "stars" marched around for some reason I can't recall, and as far as I can remember that was pretty much the whole show, these people you have never heard of ("stars" we called them then) marching around. That's what we thought entertainment was! Here is a sample if you think I am exaggerating:

Night of 1,000 Grishams

Went to Square Books and saw Claudia Smith, Mary Miller and Kevin Sampsell. They were all fantastic. I mean, such a satisfying bunch of readers is a rare thing. And guess who else read? John Grisham. This really happened. He just popped out between Mary Miller and Kevin Sampsell and read. As far as I know, this is something he NEVER DOES. But he did on this very eve. So that's why you should go to readings on Monday nights. Because everything goes crazy. Then Theresa and I went to dinner at Snackbar with our friend Leslie, who is passing through on her way back home to Iowa. And John Grisham WAS THERE TOO! So that is my story about seeing John Grisham all over the place and I bid you a good night.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What the "Internet" Is "For"

You will be pleased to hear that I have been doing some important research on this Iron Man villain the Unicorn (much of it via the Silver Age Comics "web" site) because that is why God made the "internet." Turns out they call him the Unicorn because he can blast mighty rays from a protuberance on the top of his head. Also, he is a communist! But not a very good one. For example, we see him here explaining that he has "no intention" of using his magical horn to "serve the state." PS: Isn't it odd that the sound effect is "whom"?

Death By Exclamation Point!

I am somewhat - but not entirely! - mortified to learn that something from this "blog" is being used as a review of John Brandon's great new book CITRUS COUNTY over on the Powell's "web" site. Don't misinterpret my mortification! I am not sad about appearing at Powell's, which is a wonderful bookstore, nor am I ashamed of praising John's novel. But you have noticed how many exclamation points I use on this "blog," right? It is part of "blog" me! It is not necessarily part of "real" me, though "real" me has been known to toss about an exclamation point or two in the spirit of good clean fun. Still, my brief "blurb" at Powell's contains five exclamation points, which is five more than "real" me would have used in a more polished and thoughtful (though equally enthusiastic) assessment. "Oh, what is identity anyway?" is a question that many drunken philosophers have been overheard asking. The lines have been blurred! Perhaps forever! PS: How could I not know that Iron Man has an enemy named the Unicorn? No, we are not going back to random illustrations... this comic book cover popped up kind of inexplicably when I was doing a "Google Image Search" for this "post."

Gaga Blues Museum

Yesterday I was at an Oxford American event at the Delta Blues Museum. Peter Guralnick made a Lady Gaga reference. Do y'all understand what this means? I don't think you do. As the French historian Paul Veyne once wrote, "When one does not see what one does not see, one does not even see that one is blind." And that's okay! I don't know what anything means either! It's that way for everybody all the time, including Paul Veyne, is Paul Veyne's point, I think. I can't speak for Paul Veyne! But if you think I am implying it is a "bad thing" that Peter Guralnick is talking about Lady Gaga in a blues museum, allow me to quote T. S. Eliot: "That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all." There, have I quoted enough things? Maybe museums are the problem! Did you ever think of that?

Are Robots the New Jerry Lewis?

Remember when the New York Times used to mention Jerry Lewis ALL THE TIME? I was so happy then. But now all they talk about is robots. Just earlier this week, you will recall, a robot sent an ominous message from the future via the New York Times. In today's paper, there is an article called "Students, Meet Your New Teacher, Mr. Robot." And in it, one guy is quoted as worrying about the day when robots will become our "masters." And he is serious, because this is the New York Times! Yet overall, the Times seems to be playing right into the hands of the robots, I am sorry to tell you.

McNeil's Suggestion

"Check out this creepy commercial from Ford," suggests McNeil. Were commercials ever this long? Is this the director's cut? What sort of surgery will it take to get this deathly jingle out of my head? What's with the banjo? I assume it's the influence of BONNIE AND CLYDE and the very brief subsequent time in which banjos were associated with rebellion. Talk about repressive desublimation! I say if you need to write a dissertation, you can't go wrong starting with this:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sir Plugsalot

Square Books! This week! On Monday, my friend Claudia Smith, whom I have never met except in "internet" form, will be reading with two other readers (Mary Miller and Kevin Sampsell). On Wednesday, John Brandon reads from his super terrific new novel CITRUS COUNTY. I will serve as John's opening act with an ephemeral aperitif of my wooden prose for you to enjoy. Come see us! Events start at 5, as usual. Don't be shy if you're a little late. Come on in anyway! Hardly anyone at Square Books will bite you. I should mention that the events take place at Off Square Books, if you want to be technical about it.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Literary Matters

Time for everyone's least favorite thing in the world: "Literary Matters"! Usually I start off by warning you about how many horrible literary matters you will be forced to endure this time. But today's literary matters are all smashed up into one lump, which is either a good thing or a bad thing. To begin with, yes, you are right, it has been a long time since I have read any of CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. And I'm right at the Reformation, which is a big deal with lots of action! So I have no excuse. But I am "teaching" again, and for that purpose rereading the Toni Morrison novel BELOVED (which has some owls in it, once again proving my theory that all great books have owls in them), which requires a certain seriousness of attention. Who is to say that when I am able to read at pure leisure again Mr. MacCulloch will hold sufficient temptation? It would not be his fault were I to abandon him! For you see, there is the prospect of a tantalizing new book club. I can't say much until membership is nailed down - there is an apparent holdout! - and the club gives me permission to speak more. But I can give you some clues which you will never use to solve the puzzle because you don't care and even if you did care, the puzzle is too hard. All I can say is that the book is out of print, and according to its flap it is the true life story of a man who "knew plenty of mugs and could talk their language. At 25 he was... one of the few entertainers who could make Al Capone laugh. Yet Machine Gun Jack McGurn nearly succeeded in having him killed. He lost his voice... Gradually his confidence returned, his voice became audible again, and... he reached his peak as the gay, gregarious vagabond his audiences have loved ever since." That's what the 1955 book flap says! And I accidentally opened to a photograph of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, a kind of photograph I do not enjoy, but I believe you can see how the communal pleasures of this sort of book club might lure me away from my lonely pursuit of CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Sure It Can

Look at this book cover McNeil found! There is a monkey involved. Also, a rocket. Two great things that go great together! "Notice who did the illustrations," McNeil suggests. But it can't be the same Sergio Leone... can it? Let's say it is. We can say whatever we want on the "internet"!


The "blog" welcomes you once again to "Foodstuffs!" It's our regular column about foodstuffs: "Foodstuffs!" Do you know what an iPhone is? No you don't! You do? How about an "app"? I have heard of those! Yet I remain unclear about the whole deal as I wander the streets in my bathrobe and a single drooping sock. Yesterday, a couple of students showed me how their iPhones allowed them to take pictures of people and add a hundred pounds of weight to them through digital tomfoolery. It's an "app"! I told them that in my house I call it a "mirror." Then I made the sort of crack that old men relentlessly and predictably and boringly make about how everything is terrible now and oh boy I am so glad technology is being put to good use. What a jerk! They didn't care. They just looked at their "app" and giggled. Because it made people look fat! And today I find I have to "eat" my words. Ha ha ha! I put "eat" in "quotation marks" because none other than John T. Edge has just launched his very own iPhone "app"! It is called "Southern Belly" and opens up for you a world of deliciousness and you should get it right now if you are mod and "in the know." Read all about it!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

World of Birds

Caught a glimpse of one of the baby robins today. And rushed to tell you about it! So they do exist. Meanwhile, David (one of the Kitty Snacks editors) reports that the baby birds on the balcony at Square Books are doing fine. They're flying, he thinks.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Another Great Book With an Owl In It

Spent a large amount of time today discoursing upon the owl at the end of Chapter 3 of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, another great book with an owl in it.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Watch Out For Robots

In today's New York Times a reporter interviews a robot. Yes she does! And the robot is all, "Even if I appear clueless, perhaps I’m not. You can see through the strange shadow self, my future self. The self in the future where I’m truly awakened. And so in a sense this robot, me, I am just a portal." I when I read that, I was like, "Uh-oh! That robot is up to something!" And then I was like, "It's an ominous message from the future! I have to warn everybody, thanks to the powers of my 'blog'!"

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Never Stop Cringing

Speaking of July 4th, I really enjoy the fact that the Uncle Sam costume in yesterday's "post" is advertised as coming with a "velvet jacket" and "shirt not included." A shirtless Uncle Sam in a velvet jacket! And now I am remembering that as a child I once went out on Halloween dressed as Uncle Sam. WHY? Nothing against Uncle Sam, but that is the worst Halloween costume ever. And it was a cheap plastic store-bought mask complete with phony hat. Why were they selling that at Halloween? From now on I will never stop cringing.

Volcanic Hee Haw

Of course this is the special day when we set aside some time to think about HEE HAW. I was happy upon receiving my brand new issue of THE BELIEVER to read an article involving HEE HAW by Entertainment Weekly editor Ken Tucker. Tucker argues (and I agree!) that the "much derided" show "deserves a lot more credibility, even for its vaudeville sketches (the volcanic comic performances of Gailard Sartain merit their own essay)." Yes, Sartain is great. But there was another volcanic comedian on HEE HAW, a guy named Don Harron, who inhabited a character named Charlie Farquharson (pictured). He deserves an essay, too! He didn't fit in with the rest of the HEE HAW gang. In fact, I don't recall him mingling with the rest of the HEE HAW gang. I think they mostly isolated him in the weird room with chickens seen above. He was like a beatnik! I don't know, at the time Charlie Farquharson made me think of a beatnik, which was thrilling. Maybe now his comedy would be called "alternative" or "experimental," and by "now" I mean 20 years ago, where all my phrases come from. I am going to look for a youtube clip of him. If it's not there below, don't worry. The Grand Ole Opry seems to own the HEE HAW clips, and they get taken down as fast as I can put them up. Or it could also mean that I didn't find just the right clip to show you. Or maybe I took a nap instead! I don't know what it means. I don't know everything there is to know! Speaking of the Grand Ole Opry, I was reading about Minnie Pearl on the "internet" the other day, which is what I do. Did you know that Minnie Pearl and Pee Wee Herman were the best of friends? I came across this interview where he speaks fondly and warmly of the gracious welcome he received from Minnie's friends when she took him to the Grand Ole Opry as her guest. PS, I see on the "internet" that Don Harron/Charlie Farquharson was Canadian! No wonder he didn't fit in with the HEE HAW gang. WHY AM I TALKING ABOUT HIM ON THE FOURTH OF JULY? PPS: Says youtube, "No videos matching Charlie Farquharson Hee Haw were found." So I can't confirm that he was actually as volcanic as I seem to recall. But you can watch him doing an Ottawa PSA about "assistive devices" for senior citizens if you want. But don't.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Sad Things Not Fun

I have been meaning to check into this thing about crows hating owls, but maybe I don't want to know! It is not fun to learn about sad things. And yes, if crows and owls are truly at odds, I find that sad. I glanced into my copy of CROW PLANET but there was no index. No index! NO INDEX! Every book should have an index. I love indices SO MUCH! Who's with me? And yes, that's the plural of index! Shut up!

Freedom Fries

Verdell is engaged to a dashing Frenchman! And on this, the eve of our nation's most patriotic of holidays! Ha! Through my inexact wording, I allowed you to infer that she has just become engaged this very night. Not true! But a good story, and that's how we do it on the "internet." The important thing is that Verdell and her husband-to-be are watching the 1985 Brigitte Nielsen spectacular RED SONJA. And get this! In France, they call it KALIDOR! What's up with that, France?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

I Call That Love

Lately I have been listening a lot to the song "Awake" by the Atlanta band Smoke. They have been on my mind. Did you know that Theresa and I met at a Smoke show? It's a "blog" fact! Cut it out and paste it in your homemade book of "blog" facts. I found this video (below) on youtube. Listen for the trumpet playing! That's my friend from Hubcap City blowing his horn. Maybe my favorite part of the song is the guys singing in unison in the background, away from the microphones. I don't even know if you can hear what they are saying, but from seeing them live so many times I can let you know they are saying, "I call that love... that's what it is." A Greek chorus! Oh, and PS, that is the famous Majestic Diner of "blog" fame. We used to live around the corner. "Blog" fact!