Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Game of Bob

Hey look Megan Abbott sent me this picture of Bob's head being taken somewhere in a truck. I was just thinking about Bob Hope the other night as I watched GAME OF THRONES. Like, "What this show needs is Bob Hope!" You know, how he used to be the only nervous, modern-seeming guy in a period setting. The example below isn't exactly what I was looking for, though his expression after he has a pinch of snuff does exemplify what I think he could bring to GAME OF THRONES, and the women in this scene are treated more or less like most of the women in GAME OF THRONES, and the boring dialogue about plans we don't understand is like GAME OF THRONES, and ha ha, sure, the part where the stalk of celery he's holding goes limp, they need lots more stuff like that in GAME OF THRONES, but what I really wanted here and couldn't find was the kind of quip Bob makes after running into a large, mean henchman or a guy with an executioner's axe, or while breaking the fourth wall after sneaking away from a battle, you know what I mean, no you don't.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Scintillating Lox Incident

In the Caro biography, LBJ tries to do "a new, hip-swiveling dance called the twist" with "the scintillating Helen Chavchavadze" but falls on her, "knocking her to the floor... 'He lay on her like a lox,' one of the other guests reported." On page 233 we learn that Bobby Kennedy kept a sea lion in his swimming pool "for a while." I may be focusing on the wrong parts of this book.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

McNeil Has Been Reading

McNeil's been reading the "internet" again. I guess he read that after death "for $3,000.00 your body can be cremated and then turned into a diamond (1/4 karat)." And now he wants us to "rob graves and make diamonds out of the bones." It's another one of his crazy schemes!

Friday, May 25, 2012


From THE GHOST WORLD by T.F. Thiselton Dyer (1893): "In the neighborhood of Leeds there is the Padfoot, a weird apparition about the size of a small donkey, 'with shaggy hair and large eyes like saucers'... to see it is a prognostication of death." I'm quoting that in the new thing I'm writing, so don't steal it!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hay Opera

I was listening to Purcell's KING ARTHUR and there came this part where the chorus seemed to be chuckling bawdily I suppose and it sounded like the kind of song where there should be some tankards clanking together though I didn't hear any, but I thought it deserved further investigation and the name of the air turns out to be "Your hay it is mow'd" so there's an opera song about hay for you, I thought you'd want to know. Another in our investigative series on cultural representations of hay. Libretto by Dryden! "For prating so long like a book-learn'd sot,/ Till pudding and dumplin burn to pot." Ha ha, take that book-learn'd sots, I guess. Gets 5.8 out of 10 on something called "poem" That strikes me as hilarious for some reason - the idea of angry people on their computers voting against it. Like, "I give this seventeenth-century opera hay song two stars!" Also contains corn.

Champ of Dying

I was speculating on twitter whether Kirk Douglas might be the Hollywood leading man who most often died in his movies (it's easy to think of five examples right away) and another guy on twitter immediately, like immediately, came up with four Leonardo DiCaprio movies in which he dies in a leading role, one in which he dies in a smaller role, and two upcoming films in which he certainly dies. Leonardo DiCaprio may be the champ.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Things Meeting Things

Last night when I couldn't sleep I watched a crazy western on TV - THE LAST SUNSET. Kirk Douglas sings at least two songs and horribly tries to choke a friendly dog! And that's only the beginning of the perversity. It was like SHANE meets Brian De Palma's OBSESSION and if you can guess what I mean by that I just ruined the movie for you. Sorry! Really I have oversimplified because there are elements of RED RIVER and THE NAKED SPUR too. Really it's like SHANE meets OBSESSION meets RED RIVER meets THE NAKED SPUR meets a couple of other things I can almost put my finger on. It's like a bunch of things meeting other things is what it is.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Silkiest Legs Around

This obituary for a croquet champ in the New York Times includes the quote "Women say he has the silkiest legs around."

Something to Do in New York City

I guess this is a regular feature now! I didn't realize it. So far there has been only one other thing to do in New York City. But on Friday you can go to the Museum of Modern Art and get my friend Jason Polan, who illustrates my BELIEVER column, to sign his book for you. It's his book in which he has drawn a picture of everything there is in the Museum of Modern Art. Plus he will draw in your book for you - the piece of art of your choosing. "Click" here for the details. You may remember Jason as the person who is busy drawing everyone in New York City.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mr. Ward's Presidential Korner 9

Welcome once again to our popular regular feature "Mr. Ward's Presidential Korner." Mr. Ward recently wrote to ask me about that book I accidentally left on an airplane. It is composed of diary entries by New Yorkers, stretching all the way back to 1609. Writes Mr. Ward, "I found a review of the book (which I've now lost) that mentioned a guy who had dinner with George Washington and said he had the habit of drumming on the table with his knife and fork. Kind of hard to picture. I mean was he all serious and military about it or did he stick his lower lip out and kind of bob his head to the beat?"

Saturday, May 19, 2012

McNeil's Movie Korner

Who cares what Little Orphan Annie says? Tomorrow is "a drag, man, tomorrow is a king-sized bust," according to the beatnik in the clip of HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL ("click" here) thoughtfully provided by McNeil. McNeil also dug up a "blogger" on the "internet" who spent two years researching the obscure performer for a projected 15-part bio in "blog" "posts" - of which, as far as I can tell, only nine were ever "posted." Thank you! This has been another edition of "McNeil's Movie Korner." (See also.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Norman Mailer Punch Party

Hey I was just at the City Grocery Bar and Chris Offutt told me about going to a party with Norman Mailer and at the end of the party Norman Mailer punched him hard in the chest and Chris Offutt said, "Why?" and Norman Mailer said, "You look like the only guy here who could take a punch." Also, Don Adams came up twice tonight! Chris Offutt mentioned his role as Maxwell Smart in the TV series GET SMART and later, independently, John Currence brought up the cartoon character Tennessee Tuxedo, voiced by Don Adams. WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

Classic Hogan

The Chicago Tribune has an article about "Blog" Buddy Kelly Hogan AND a review of her new record (pictured), which they call a "classic... works as both a career summing up and a fascinating introduction to one of the most accomplished, underappreciated vocalists of the last two decades." Yep! I was in John Brandon's car playing it for him on the old iPod and he kept yelling, "This is gonna be big! This is gonna be big!" I think that's what he was yelling. I had had a bunch of gin because I was on the way to the airport, so who knows? He had to yell because I kept turning it all the way up. Anyway I feel like we were having a swell time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reminiscent Saucer Intimations

I am also reading THE SUNDIAL by Shirley Jackson. I'm sure you recall my sound advice to have a small book and a large book going at all times. Today I was reading THE SUNDIAL and I thought, "This reminds me of Charles Portis." I was thinking particularly of MASTERS OF ATLANTIS. And then I thought, "I wonder if anyone has ever compared the works of Shirley Jackson and Charles Portis." Yeah, that's right, I think a lot of things you don't care about. I seem to recall that Jonathan Lethem, in his introduction to WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE, compares Jackson's narrator Merricat Blackwood to TRUE GRIT's Mattie Ross. As I was thinking all these interesting thoughts I turned the page and SUDDENLY there were intimations of flying saucers reminiscent of Mr. Portis's novel GRINGOS. Here's some dialogue: "Once that saucer with your name on it leaves, it's gone. And remember, they won't take you if you're wearing metal or been indulging in fancy wines." This leads another of Ms. Jackson's characters to respond: "I am sorry, but I am afraid that we will not be able to qualify for your space ship. I myself cannot do without my fancy wines."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Little Surprises of Bedtime Reading

So I started this massive LBJ book by Robert Caro (the most recent volume) just like I promised you. Only 72 pages in but I guess so far the indelible image is Bobby Kennedy sending a guy to the hospital by smashing a beer bottle over his head for no good reason. I'm not kidding! Did everybody know about this but me? And then he walks around law school accompanied by these "colossal dogs" that terrorize everybody. And oh yeah, he almost strangles a dude. Here's a quote: "Bobby would have killed him if we didn't pull him off."

In a Nice Way

You know I always like to alert you when the New York Times mentions Jerry Lewis. I let one slip by. They called Philip Roth, Vincent Gallo and Jerry "kindred maestros of self-loathing and self-absorption." But they meant it in a nice way! The young "indie filmmaker" being interviewed emulates these complicated fellows for the stated reason.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Great Big Sunflower Glowing in the Dark

While at The End of All Music I also picked up the awesome Chris Connor LP WITCHCRAFT, the liner notes of which are freaky in a different way. Let's play a game! See if you can spot all the problems (of so many various kinds!) with this introductory sentence: "People who make a habit of listening to Chris Connor have come to remember her as a great big sunflower glowing in the dark of a usually smoky room as she idly picks up a lyric in one hand, makes it do a double flipflop in midair, and just as idly catches it in the other hand, the way the chefs did who used to stand in the windows of the Childs restaurant and made pancakes." Okay! Go!

The Forced Whimsy of Liner Notes

Very much enjoying this LP (DEAN "TEX" MARTIN COUNTRY STYLE) I just bought for a cool $4 from The End of All Music, the new record store in town, despite the forced whimsy of the liner notes, which conclude thusly: "So look out, pard. Better hide the chitlins and stash Ellie Mae. There's a paisano loose in your hills, wearing a Stetson, followed by a gang of guitar-plunkers in Sy Devore suits and Dodger baseball caps and headin' your way."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Helpful Transcription

Hi! I have spent two days figuring out how to (very poorly) upload cassettes of my old band with Jon Host (right, leaping) to my computer for convenient listening enjoyment. Was it worth all the time and effort? Here! I will transcribe the lyrics to one of our songs so you can be the judge: "Get one for free/ Get one for me/ Get one for free, my love/ Get one for free/ Get one for me/ Get one for free, my love/ Get one for free/ Hey, get one for me/ Get one for free, my love/ Hey, baby/ Get one for free/ I'm talkin' get one for me/ I'm sayin' get one for free, my love/ Get it/ Get it/ Get it/ Get it/ Get one for free, hey!/ Get one for me, hey!/ Get one for free, my love/ Get one for free/ Get one for me/ Yeah, oh God/ Get one for free my love."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Big Book For Big Boy

Going around checking my bookmarks like a guy checking lobster traps (does that simile really hold up? Oh, who cares?) I see that I have so far made it a scant 283 pages into SABBATAI SEVI: THE MYSTICAL MESSIAH by Gershom Scholem (total 929 pages) and who are we kidding? I'm never going back to CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. That bookmark is stuck forever at page 635 of 1,016. See, what happens is I always start a big giant enormous important book and suddenly I have to start "teaching classes" again and I put it aside for when I have more time to "concentrate" on "my own reading." Ha ha, what a jerk. So now I have a little time and I guess I'm going to pick up this awful hurting brick called THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON: THE PASSAGE OF POWER. I think that's what it's called. I'm too tired to get up and look. So how am I going to read it? Great question! I remember when there was a documentary about some guy walking across the United States of America and my friend from Hubcap City liked to jest that somebody should make a documentary about HIM trying to read MOBY-DICK. That struck me as a magnificent idea and I kept saying things like "Let's do it!" and "Come on, let's do it!" and "Come on, let's really do it!" and "I borrowed a camera and I'm coming over on Saturday" until my friend patiently explained, "Sometimes it's more fun to talk about things than to do them." Now I get it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mr. Ward's Presidential Korner 8

That's right, kids! It's time for another edition of "Mr. Ward's Presidential Korner." Dig it! Mr. Ward just got back from President Kennedy's secret fallout shelter on Peanut Island and, as promised, he sent us some photos, along with this report: "The place was pretty small, yet was supposedly designed to house Kennedy, his family, and about 20 others. JFK actually went inside the bunker for a couple of dry runs. Two points of interest. They still had some of the cans of water that had been stored there in case of a nuclear attack. The cans were made of very thick lead to protect the water from radiation. However, it turns out that if they really had to drink the water everyone in the bunker probably would've gone crazy from lead poisoning in pretty short order. Also, the cardboard barrel you see is what they were supposed to use for sanitation. It comes with a toilet seat you put on top and is filled with a plastic bag and chemicals. They had four of them. I can't imagine Jackie Kennedy being too cool with that."

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I like this part of Nicholas Katzenbach's obituary in the New York Times: "His unflappability was on display early on, when as a bomber’s navigator in World War II he heard the bombardier announce over the intercom that the plane was on fire. 'That’s too bad,' Mr. Katzenbach replied."

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Escape to Peanut Island

As requested, Mr. Ward sent some precious "Goober Memories" yet even though they include an exciting incident of Thelma Lou freaking out I have decided I don't care about that anymore. What I do care about is Mr. Ward's postscript, which follows: "And speaking of goobers (sorry, but it really is a great segue) I'm in Florida right now preparing to do a shoot on Peanut Island. What is Peanut Island you ask? Well, it's a tiny manmade island off the coast of West Palm Beach where they built a top secret fallout shelter for JFK in 1961... The entrance looks kind of like the hatch in 'Lost.' I'll send you some pictures for your blog."

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Goober Died

Goober died. McNeil sent me an email that said "GOOBER" followed by six exclamation points. I will ask Mr. Ward for some Goober memories because as you recall Mr. Ward once drove Goober around in a car.

Cool Whip Executive

On tonight's episode of MAD MEN, Rory from GILMORE GIRLS played a woman who fears hobos. But that's not all! Then Mr. Belding from SAVED BY THE BELL had a cameo as a Cool Whip executive. So obviously this was a big night for me.

What Else Happened Last Night

I think I promised to take care of a goldfish... permanently! (Not to "whack" it or "put out a hit" on it, the way that sounded, but to feed it and protect it and tend to it and make small talk with it for the rest of its natural life.) And I walked away with a coaster with Rachel's face on it, which she had manufactured in a spirit of irony I suppose, but now it is just a weird souvenir stripped of irony. Ironically, that's what happens to irony.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Pizza Reading

You know I don't usually care for "readings" but tonight all the graduating MFA students read and it was pretty okay. Everybody was really good and then SKIN MAG read probably the second-best poems I have ever heard about TEEN WOLF and SEINFELD. Afterward there was pizza.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Earth Squirrel Wins

"Look, I'm busy," you say. "I don't have all day to sit around reading every 'post' you ever wrote about corn. I'm no purist! I'm just a guy or gal on the go and the pressures of my job are enormous. If I could read just one thing you 'blogged' about corn, what would it be?" First of all, let me say that is the trouble with this modern world! But okay. I suppose the third runner-up would be my discovery of the curious predominance of corn flakes in the index of Hal Needham's autobiography. And then of course no one can deny the excitement of reading about the corn they eat on Venus and Mars! What could possibly top that? No, not the erotic celebrity kernel-flinging of the glamorous Julie Christie. Sure, that is a good guess, but not everything is about action and thrills and eating corn in outer space with big Hollywood movie stars all the time! It may surprise you to learn that we have to "come back down to earth" - ha ha! - to enjoy the simple pleasures of the time Dr. "M." saw a squirrel eating corn on the cob. No sir, it just doesn't get any better than that. Now there's something to ponder while you sit in your skyscrapers worrying about your briefcases at your big business meetings: that adorable little squirrel just nibbling away without a care in the world! I wonder about the last time that cheeky little fellow had to put on a fancy "necktie" and meet someone in a conference room. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh my. Although the other day a particularly wiry and patchy squirrel came right up the front walk and onto the porch with disquieting urgency of purpose and leapt onto the screen door and glared at me malevolently with a large, black acorn jammed into its mouth and that wasn't adorable. It was ominous and terrifying. I looked into its eyes and the abyss stared back.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

And the Greatest of These Was Corn

I just read all my "posts" about corn. They were lively and informative. It was like reading a searing psychological novel and the main character was corn.

Cat Astrology Blurb

Hey I was just examining the blurb on that cat astrology book. Somebody has to! It says, "'YOUR CAT'S SUN SIGN AND HOW YOU TWO CAN BEST RELATE' - COSMOPOLITAN." That's not really a blurb. It reminds me of my other favorite, "The book was received and has been reviewed by our Book Selection Department."

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A Piercing

Hey I put MILDRED PIERCE back on my ol' recommendation shelf yesterday and by coincidence I find Laura Lippman and Megan Abbott chatting about MILDRED PIERCE over there on Laura's "blog." Check it out!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

My Dad Agrees With Werner Herzog

Come to think of it, my dad agrees with Werner Herzog. The last time he visited we were walking down the street and my dad said, "I always say somebody who eats chicken and crabs will eat anything."

Sizzling Celebrity Gossip

Welcome once again to "Sizzling Celebrity Gossip" - your one stop on the "internet" for gossip about celebrities that is of the sizzling variety that crackles and sizzles so much! THIS JUST IN! A frantic phone message from our correspondent McNeil: "WHERE ARE YOU? Jerry Lewis has a twitter account. All solid one-liners. 'Roscoe is the least common name for a panda.'" Our "Sizzling Celebrity Gossip" editorial staff visited the site at once, of course, hoping for some sizzling celebrity gossip. And boy did we find it! "Try prying a shrimp cocktail from Olivia De Havilland. Can't be done." THIS IS HOT STUFF! There's a small glitch: it's obviously a fake Jerry Lewis with a fake twitter account. How can I tell? Jerry would never choose that picture of himself! BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THE GOSSIP ISN'T REAL. Real gossip by its nature is probably fake and that is the great thing about gossip. Kelly Hogan recently got us excited about a FRASIER reunion but it turned out to be fake David Hyde Pierce tweeting to fake Kelsey Grammer. Here's the clue: THEY USED TOO MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS. The real Frasier would never end a sentence with three exclamation points. But sometimes it's fun to pretend! Speaking of twitter I think it is okay to say that singing sensation Neko Case had oatmeal for dinner last night. She put it on her twitter right there in public for the world to see. OATMEAL! IT'S WHAT'S FOR DINNER. THIS JUST IN! Werner Herzog may have a complicated relationship with turkeys but he positively hates chickens. Herzog is quoted in MAGIC HOURS, the new book by Tom Bissell: "Look into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity. It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in the world." Hey chicken lovers, send your letters to Werner Herzog, not "Sizzling Celebrity Gossip." We're just reporting the facts! And the gossip! In conclusion, WERNER HERZOG REALLY HATES CHICKENS! THIS JUST IN! Last night I couldn't sleep and I saw part of a live-action movie about MR. MAGOO. Malcolm McDowell was in it which should have been a little bit surprising but wasn't. Mr. Magoo was masquerading as an assassin. This is not an activity I associate with Mr. Magoo! And he seemed to have very little trouble with his eyesight in the portion I watched. What is going on? DOES EACH GENERATION GET THE MR. MAGOO IT DESERVES?