Monday, April 30, 2012

Larry King is No Fool

Now Larry King is on twitter saying "The Bananna is the perfectly named fruit." Yes, he spelled banana wrong. But he knows just what he's doing. Larry King is beyond good and evil now. His last few tweets are like something from a dangerous robot gaining sentience or an alien virus that has learned to take on human form. DON'T LOOK DIRECTLY INTO HIS EYES.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Oh You!

I was just reading in the New York Times today that there is a Rachmaninov song called "Oh You, My Corn Field!" (exclamation point Rachmaninov's) but I guess that isn't too funny or interesting and of course the guy is emotional about his corn field, why wouldn't he be? Let's pretend we never discussed it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

No Kudos for Kudos

Larry King's latest twitter thing says, "Kudos to the inventor of the straw." At first I liked it but after one moment's reflection I thought sadly, "He's trying too hard to be Larry King."

A Gourmand of Adulation

Did you miss me? What? You didn't even notice I was gone? Okay! That hurts. I went to Baltimore to read my story "Sex Devil" to an auditorium full of teenage boys at a prep school, I guess you call it. John Brandon set the whole thing up and it was great to get to hang out with him again. And let me say that if you ever want to read my story "Sex Devil" out loud, an auditorium full of teenage boys turns out to be the best place to do it. As usual, I jotted down a few things that happened to me on my little trip and I hope you will find them entertaining. 1) You know I don't like to fly. But the flight attendant on the first plane I took made me feel better. As he was making his announcements over the loudspeaker he said of the pilot and co-pilot, "They're going to fly this tube like they stole it and land it like they own it." His confidence cheered me up! Overpriced gin at the airport bar also helped a lot. 2) On the airplane I read passages from a book called NEW YORK DIARIES: 1609-2009, which consisted of excerpts from New York City diaries from 1609-2009. One guy called Andrew Jackson "a gourmand of adulation." I thought that was pretty good. Dawn Powell had some nice things to say about MAD magazine in her diary. She seemed to be a big fan, which I never would have guessed. She said it was good that they underpaid their writers to keep them "bitter and irreverent." She said a lot more stuff about MAD magazine but too bad I accidentally left the book on the airplane when I got to Baltimore so I can't tell you what they were. Nor can I be too specific about the diarist who went to George Washington's inauguration and was so disappointed and whining about George Washington's stupid hand gestures, which the diarist hated. He also made fun of John Adams for seeming to forget what he was going to say and just standing there gawking at George Washington. This guy was full of complaints about Washington's inauguration, that's how I remember it, but I lost the book. 3) As we strolled around the grounds of the prep school, John Brandon said, "Look at these foggy, wistful athletic fields." 4) John took me to a nice restaurant which was perversely serving as an appetizer special a duck egg in which a baby duck had begun to form! Egads! We did not order it. "One guy got a couple of feathers," our server said encouragingly.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rump Statement Worrisome

I immediately started worrying about this statement from my copy of THE BEHAVIOR GUIDE TO AFRICAN MAMMALS by Richard Despard Estes: "Fighting hyraxes defend themselves by presenting their rumps." What kind of defense is that, hyraxes? That might be fine if you are trying to fight another hyrax who is also presenting his rump, but gee it seems like a bad strategy if some other manner of creature is after you. "Hyraxes have many predators, including snakes, eagles, owls, jackals, and cats from servals up to lions; even mongooses may take babies." I am sorry to be a downer! And how do hyraxes defend themselves? By "growling and gnashing their teeth at dogs from the safety of a cranny." Yeah, that's great until it's time to come out of the cranny. "Since their clawless feet are also useless for digging, hyraxes are utterly dependent on natural cavities." Oh it just gets worse and worse. And they're not good at hiding! At least that's the way it seems to me. They "urinate on vertical rock faces; crystallized calcium carbonate in the urine makes a highly visible white stain that advertises colony sites." Why not just put up a sign? Man, I am worried about these hyraxes. On the other hand, I am excited, because in case you didn't notice, THE BEHAVIOR GUIDE TO AFRICAN MAMMALS can go on our big thrilling list of books with owls in them. But come on hyraxes, get it together.

Hyraxes in Early Morn

I looked up hyraxes in my BEHAVIOR GUIDE TO AFRICAN MAMMALS because what else am I going to do with my life? I learned a few things, such as "Hyraxes move in a creeping walk and are especially sluggish in early morn... They need an hour or 2 to warm up before becoming active..." Sounds familiar! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh my. Also, "Hyraxes defend themselves by presenting their rumps... Fighting hyraxes back into each other..." I like the vocabulary of my BEHAVIOR GUIDE TO AFRICAN MAMMALS, words like "rump" and "morn." Finally, I like the last line in that article about hyraxes I told you about earlier. A scientist says, "They're pretty well liked, even when they're hated." Hyrax!


I just read in the New York Times about the hyrax, which looks like a rabbit, has toes and tusks like an elephant, and sings. Hey everybody. Check out the hyrax.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again

Got my copy of the new McSweeney's (issue #40) in the mail yesterday. In fact it arrived mysteriously on the front porch in the middle of the night! I have a little piece in there which is secretly an excerpt from Chapter 10 of my cat book. You're the only one who knows! Speaking of which, I am currently reading an advance copy of Ace Atkins's latest novel, THE LOST ONES. Just ran across this sentence: "There was a little corral down next to the Scrambler, where they set monkeys on the backs of dogs and let them race." In case you forgot, my cat book also contains an allusion to monkeys riding around on the backs of dogs! So I have that going for me. (This illustration cribbed from Brian Z. [he found it in a Chicago train station] represents just one of the many reasons my fake cat book will never be published: the kind of irony-free experience that renders fiction such as mine pale and obsolete. Coincidentally, it is - as you can see - written by "MARY DANIELS author of MORRIS," a cat with whom Ace has some personal experience.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pineapple Owl Cookie

Here is a New York Times article that has an owl in it and also contains this enjoyable sentence: "By that point the pineapple had 'lost all human traits,' said Geoffrey Cowling, 13, so eating it did not seem so bad." Less enjoyable is Frank Langella's description of himself and some romantically inclined friends - quoted in tomorrow's New York Times Book Review - as a "pulsating Oreo cookie."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tony Orlando Outer Space Death Quote

As Ben Greenman has noted over there on the twitter, Tony Orlando had this to say about a recent celebrity demise: "Only God has been responsible for making more stars than Dick Clark." It reminds me of the outer space thing Tony Orlando said about Bob Hope that time. All right. Goodbye! Goodbye forever.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pardon Me, Your Majesty

Say, do you have one of those "iTunes" everybody is talking about? You should know that the Kelly Hogan song I wrote "with" Andrew Bird ("We Can't Have Nice Things") has just come out as a single, available for purchase. What's that you say? You're sick of me yammering on and on about this? WELL PARDON ME YOUR MAJESTY! Just purchase it and shut up. It's $1.29, what, it's going to kill you?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Elementary School Noir

Watched three Val Lewton movies over the weekend, including my favorite, CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE. Look at this shot. It's like elementary school noir! But so is the whole movie. Nabbed it from a site that examines all of Lewton's movies, plus the one below from THE 7th VICTIM, my other favorite. Watch them all today! You could. They're only about 70 minutes apiece.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Elevator Bones

In that Shirley Jackson bio it says that she told an interviewer about the ghost in her attic and boasted of her magical powers: "my most interesting case so far is a young woman who offended me and who subsequently fell down an elevator shaft and broke all the bones in her body, except one and I didn't know that was there." Her interviews made her feel funny when she saw them in the paper and eventually she stopped saying stuff like that.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I used to "blog" all the time but now I only "blog" almost all the time. Yeah, so, I was in Square Books yesterday and I glanced at a blurb on the back of a Muriel Spark novel and I thought it referred to her as "taper-witted" but I had misread it and it said "rapier-witted." After I put the book down, still not realizing my mistake, I stood there and pondered what "taper-witted" might mean. It seemed more like an insult than anything, but I knew it couldn't be an insult, not printed on the back of a book like that, so I tried to rationalize how "taper-witted" might be interpreted as praise. Finally I looked again and it was "rapier-witted" which is a terrible old meaningless cliché - is that why my brain refused to accept it? Man is this dull. I feel sorry for you. But this is what a "blog" is! Nobody forced you to read "blogs." I was also flipping through the book NO HEROES by my pal Chris Offutt and everything in it seemed so good I kind of thought I ought to buy it, but here's what clinched it, brother: I came across a chapter entitled "Burying an Owl." And then there was this sentence: "Owls are so much like humans that we are afraid of them." And you know the rest. Maybe I should mention that Chris is casually holding a possum under his arm on the cover and that automatically became my new standard for author photos, yeah, maybe I would have bought that Muriel Spark book if only she had appeared on the cover holding a possum under her arm as she was wont to do.

Monday, April 09, 2012

In the Bag

Just picked some lottery numbers for McNeil. I feel pretty good about this!

Something on the "Blog" Reminds Me of the "Blog"

That still from TWIN PEAKS I "posted" yesterday reminds me that everyone who covers a Beach Boys song on the internet does so in a David Lynch-inspired "family room" as I have pointed out before. I'll "repost" one of my favorites below. It didn't seem especially Lynchian to me until yesterday when I rewatched the episode in which Donna's little sister reads a poem about Laura Palmer while her even littler sister dressed as a princess or something plays an ominous accompaniment on the piano in the background. (Please "click" here for my original annotations. I know you won't!)

Sunday, April 08, 2012

So Much Learning

I watched TWIN PEAKS all day on Easter and I thought that was kind of weird but then I watched the "making of" documentary and learned that the pilot FIRST AIRED ON EASTER! Wow! Aren't you glad you read "blogs"? I also learned that Queen Elizabeth (the current one, of course) watched TWIN PEAKS - once she was upstairs at her castle watching it while Paul McCartney was downstairs playing a concert for her birthday and she didn't even care - and then I learned a third thing but I can't remember what it was.

Successfully Creepy Goo

There's a good part in this ghost story by Oliver Onions when a guy is sitting alone in his cozy apartment and he starts to hear a "soft and repeated noise - the long sweep with the almost inaudible crackle in it... The silky rustle came again; he was trying to attach it to something..." Anyway, it turns out to be "the sound of a woman brushing her hair." Scary! I learn from the introduction to this collection that Mr. Onions was born George Oliver Onions "and, although proud of his unusual name, he was taunted at school because of it. In 1918 he changed it to George Oliver, partly to please his wife, who found it distasteful... However, by this time he had established himself as a successful author and so he continued to publish his work under the name of Oliver Onions." What I really like is that his initials were GOO.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Bloomy Bricks and Butter Tooth

I'm teaching a ghost class in the fall so yesterday I was reading an old ghost story by Oliver Onions, who has the best name for an old ghost story writer of old ghost stories. Mr. Onions used the adjective "bloomy" and I wanted to look it up. And I thought, "I know which dictionary will have bloomy in it: WEBSTER'S NEW TWENTIETH CENTURY DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, UNABRIDGED, SECOND EDITION from 1974." So I opened it up and looked up bloomy and yes bloomy means exactly what you think bloomy means and I was only confused because Mr. Onions applied it to bricks and I had to sit and think a minute about what kind of bricks "bloomy bricks" might be but sitting and thinking a minute never hurt anybody. While looking up "bloomy" I accidentally ran across "butter tooth," which WEBSTER'S NEW TWENTIETH CENTURY DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, UNABRIDGED, SECOND EDITION from 1974 defines as "a broad front tooth."

Friday, April 06, 2012

McNeil's Rest Stop Ramblings

Remember when McNeil took a trip in 2009 and we had a little feature called "McNeil's Rest Stop Ramblings" where McNeil would stop at a rest stop and ramble? Well, McNeil is on another trip now. The family stopped at a hotel at 11 at night, and their room had not been cleaned since housing its previous guests. McNeil reports: "So I went down to the desk and the guy says 'So what do you need? Sheets?'" As you can see from the photo above, McNeil was also incensed that there were two pictures hanging in the room and they were both the same picture.


I see in the paper that Rupert Holmes is writing the book and lyrics for the musical version of THE NUTTY PROFESSOR that Jerry Lewis is directing. That reminds me that Rupert Holmes wrote the novel WHERE THE TRUTH LIES. I didn't read it, but I saw the movie, and in the movie some characters an awful lot like Dean and Jerry get involved in some pretty dark shenanigans, yes sir. There's a dead body, for example. (See also, maybe, Megan Abbott's THE SONG IS YOU.) So I wonder if that ever came up in conversation! I wouldn't want to be the one to bring it up to Jerry. Kevin Bacon plays the "Jerry" character in the movie and perhaps that's the greatest tragedy of all. Nothing against Kevin Bacon.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Corn Fact of the Day

Thing I just learned from this James Brown bio: "He loved cream corn."

This is a "Blog"

McNeil found a box of paperbacks that had belonged to his grandfather. "New blog feature?" he inquired, thinking to send me a different cover every day from his grandpa's old box of books. "That's the dullest idea I have ever heard," I replied. "Let's do it."

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Either Way Is Good

Carrie mentioned a MURDER SHE WROTE episode called "Corned Beef and Cabbage" on facebook and I tried to "like" it (you know how you "like" things on facebook?) but facebook said "This object cannot be liked." Ha ha! This object cannot be liked. A portentous phrase! Something to think about. Who is facebook to tell me what I can "like"? Turned out it didn't exist and that's why I couldn't "like" it. Carrie had deleted it because she got the title wrong. It was "Corned Beef and Carnage."

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Celebrity Apple Disagreement

I have really slowed down on "blogging." Spending a lot of time brooding about a disagreement Larry King and his wife are having over which kind of apple is best. I read about it on twitter.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A Piece of Glass, a Redwood Tree

So Kelly Hogan put the funky theme song to the kids show VEGETABLE SOUP on her twitter the other day ("click" here to hear it). And that made me think of this other show I used to watch as a kid. It was called MAKE A WISH, and as you can discover by "clicking" here, the host, constantly checking his guitar frets, advises in the opening theme, "a piece of glass, a redwood tree, anything you wanna be, that's what you're gonna be!" That's really the way we thought then. And just to prove his point, he flies away! (See also.) And now I am remembering how another calm, psychedelic kids show theme ("click" here) freaked me out a little bit with its insistence that "the world's a big blue marble when you see it from out there." OUT WHERE? WHERE AM I? THE ENDLESS ABYSS? And then kids are knocking a marble around. Hey, that's the EARTH! It's NOTHING! It could just disappear at any moment! Or some smaller planet could crash into it and knock it out of the solar system! Like a marble! Which was not the point at all. Speaking of no point, I know you are not "clicking" on these "links" and I forgive you. "Blogspot" has now given me the capability to see how many times people have "clicked" on any particular "link" and NO ONE HAS EVER LOOKED AT THIS "POST" about how President William McKinley used to throw a napkin over his wife's face whenever she had a seizure at a state dinner! For shame!