Saturday, August 31, 2013

Jimmy Possum Party

Just went to a party where Jimmy told about trying to feed a hot dog to a possum. "It was a mistake," Jimmy said. Also, Tom Franklin's 12-year-old daughter did that trick where you repeatedly stab a knife between your fingers really fast without hurting yourself. I thought it was called "Mumbly-Peg" but Megan Abbott (who was at the party) looked up "Mumbly-Peg" on wikipedia and I guess that is something else.

Two Things I Don't Care About or Apparently I Do

"Winner Declared in Chimpanzee Art Contest," goes one headline in today's New York Times: a headline to set your teeth on edge with whimsy and invite no perusal of the accompanying story (though see also). Which reminds me, this phrase was tucked into the New York Times the other day: "rump-shaking among dancing bears." (See also.) I almost told you but then I didn't but now I did. ("Click" here for a related story about two things I didn't "google." And for further contemplation of the hoary dumb old "Why, a chimpanzee could make better art than some of these so-called modernists" gag, which I am not sure has any bearing on the article, avoiding it as I did, "click" here. Ha ha, I know you won't "click" there. You never "click" anywhere. How I hate you!)

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Dead of Night

Just back from a wonderful lunch with Richard Howorth. Among other things, he told me about the time an insidious city official chopped down a magnolia tree in the dead of night to put up a statue of William Faulkner ("click" here to see me making out with it!) that no one in Faulkner's family wanted, and Faulkner would have wanted least of all. By coincidence, I was sitting in Square Books just the other day, reading the collected letters of William Gaddis, and Gaddis quoted Faulkner on his wish (I will get this wrong) to have himself thoroughly eradicated from history as a person, and let the books do all the talking. (Faulkner said it better.) I would quote it directly, but I merely leafed through it in the store - which is like stealing! - and don't have it on hand. Richard also told me about a defrocked Baptist minister who became a furniture salesman but didn't find it fulfilling, so then he became "a hell of a bookseller." One of the main things I love about Richard, which are many, is that he can still identify "a hell of a bookseller" when he sees one.

Secret Powers

I shot the balloons from a different angle this time to make it interesting, ha ha, just kidding, it is not interesting, it is not interesting at all, nothing is interesting. Coming up on eight weeks and those birthday balloons are still floating. It has almost stopped being cute and whimsical. There's a sinister aspect creeping in. It makes me wonder if you notice what is missing from the picture. That's right: the fish. The balloons are where the fish used to be. The goldfish died in April (though Dr. Theresa briefly brought it back to life with her secret powers - for real!) and I didn't have the heart to tell you. Is the ghost of the fish cursing the balloons? That seems like a pretty feasible possibility. Or is their malevolence unrelated? Right now the single deflated balloon (draped blasphemously across my Geneva Bible, already desecrated by savage claw marks [!] from when one of the cats used to try to jump up and capture the fish) is hiding a Yorick skull that Lee Durkee gave me and a statue of a chimpanzee eating a banana that Dr. Theresa gave me and an owl that Ryan brought back from Iraq (where I sent him; long story) and an origami swan that a nice waiter in a terrible sushi restaurant made me out of a candy wrapper on the night I became deathly ill like President William Henry Harrison - tokens of affection, luck and remembrance I may never see again! The balloons begin to oppress me! WHY WON'T THEY FALL? What terrible cataclysm is in store when they do (see the song "Grandfather's Clock")? Or will they just keep their silent watch, grave sentinels, mocking me - always mocking me! - for my myriad failings? I am overtaken by dread. All is lost.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Dramatically Titled Brochure

Today while I was standing in line at the drugstore I was staring at a brochure called SHINGLES: THE INSIDE STORY.

Tweaking Twerking

I keep tweaking my "post" about twerking, ha ha ha, ugh, oh boy, is it too early to start drinking?

Monday, August 26, 2013


Hey Joey Lauren Adams is in town! I saw her at the City Grocery Bar tonight and she told us all about the monster movie she just wrapped, the first monster movie in which she has ever starred. So, based on Joey's description of the mayhem, Lisa Howorth (who was there) invented the portmanteau word "blerking," based on blood and twerking, and decided the movie should be called BLERK! It is not called that. Joey Lauren Adams had never heard of twerking, by her own account. We were stunned and amazed! We had heard of twerking. Lee Durkee, who was on hand, had heard of twerking. My grad student Lizzie, who comes from New Orleans, where twerking originated, provided additional scholarly twerking details. A doubtful Joey Lauren Adams looked it up on her iPhone and was unimpressed. "I saw this in Clarksdale ten years ago," she said, stifling a yawn at the twerking. Later, though, she organized a party to "go twerking," though some of us declined. We were also drinking with an FBI agent who, when some freshman girls asked about his occupation, drily claimed to be "a soybean farmer." So it was some night. The freshman girls (who I suppose were not freshmen, as they were legally drinking alcohol, though they had a freshman aura) were from Houston and kept apologizing for harassing Joey because, as they repeatedly explained, "there are a lot of lookalikes in Houston." So they pretended - with real, continuous commitment! - that they thought Joey might just be someone who looked like herself professionally.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Historic Preservation Society

Bill Boyle and I have been hanging out at the City Grocery Bar a lot lately, mainly with an eye toward the preservation and documentation of the drawing of Kent Osborne's cat that Kent did on the men's room wall in March of 2011. As you can see from this updated photo, taken just last evening, there is a slight marring of the tip of one ear and a considerable slash through the shoulder (do cats have shoulders?) but these are incidental and appear to be made without malicious intent - rather as a byproduct of the hasty scrawling of some urgent message or another. But not too hasty! In fact, you could say that the other graffitists have shown remarkable respect for Kent's cat, apparently going out of their way to touch it as little as possible. By way of contrasting example, see the grotesquely obscene Spider-Man on the selfsame wall, his startling anatomical irregularities rendered by an artist unknown to us in meticulous, almost comic-book quality detail, now barely visible under a torrent of incoherent scratches and scribbles. The cat, meanwhile, continues to attract something we must define as veneration. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever!" In other happy news, Bill's first novel is going to be published soon, meaning that I can officially put GRAVESEND by Bill Boyle on my big long list of books with owls in them.

Diamond Jerks

When I couldn't sleep at 4AM I got up and decided to see what kind of crazy mix-ups they were getting into on the Gem Shopping Network. This dude was barely trying to sell gems! He was showing vacation photos. It went on a while. He took pictures of everything! Like the street in front of his hotel, for example. Just the street, lying there being a street. Then he tried to sell some opal rings, but his heart wasn't in it. So he showed another picture. WARNING! WARNING! I am about to tell you something awful, so don't read it if you are feeling squeamish, or are squeamish by nature. It is similar to the last time I gave you a warning. This dude suddenly showed his vacation photo of SOME PEOPLE BARBECUING A DOG. I'm sorry. Now, perhaps you live somewhere where it is a regular matter to barbecue a dog, and I'm not putting forth any judgement. So be it! But I did not expect to see it on the Gem Shopping Network at 4 in the morning. I fumbled for the remote - too late! too late! - and switched over to a movie where Keanu Reeves was being a World War II soldier and he had these lines of dialogue: "I don't want to sell chocolates anymore... in the war, I had time to think." So I switched back to see what this guy on the Gem Shopping Network might possibly do next. He was reading gem quotations he had printed out. Slow night on the Gem Shopping Network! One was (this may not be exact), "You can learn to grade diamonds in an afternoon, but it can take you 25 years to learn to grade a sapphire." This sapphire expert was really sticking it to those hoity-toity diamond jerks.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Hey I bet you've been worrying about whether those balloons are still floating.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Miracle Helium of Love

Kent and Adam and Pen sent me these balloons for my birthday. That was July 8, like six weeks ago, and they're still floating! They sent me a dozen red roses too. Those guys! The roses died. Flowers die! Flowers must fade and die, the poets tell us. Yet the balloons just keep going. "Tight seals," mused Adam, ever the pragmatist. "Did you tape them to the wall?" asked a suspicious Pen during a recent writers' meeting, during which, as always, the balloons were visible behind me thanks to the miracle of skype. No such chicanery! All natural, this floating. These balloons are the wonder of the age. But I don't know, maybe it is no big deal, maybe our modern balloons are built by cold, pedantic experts to float forever, maybe all of you have some balloons that have been floating in your house for six weeks, maybe six years, maybe you are laughing at me, that's right, go on, laugh at the old fool with his misty eyeballs and feeble dreams. Full disclosure: one of them stopped floating almost immediately (see photo below). Still tethered to its luckier brothers as a reminder that glory is fleeting!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Pregnant Phrase

Article in the New York Times about a man who "began to learn English partly from watching Jerry Lewis movies." The phrase is incidental and left there to dangle without elaboration, which makes it all the more beautifully pregnant. Way to go, phrase!

Look at Bunnies

Look there are bunnies in McNeil's yard

Friday, August 16, 2013

Because I Like to Party

A nice note from Leslie! And I quote: "I recently went to a natural history museum and saw all kinds of owls in dioramas of their alleged natural habitats. The placards were very funny to me. I took bad pictures of them to send to you. I imagine you are like 'Andy' in Pretty in Pink in one of my favorite self-improvement montages in which she uses weird crappy old dresses to make one magic prom dress. I tried to find the video of the montage. It's not there. No one cares. Oh well. I do. Maybe these weird crappy owl photos can turn into to one magic owl dress." But I care, Leslie! Thanks! Yet there is something perverse about my choice of an example here; it's the owl arrangement I find most offensive and unsettling. Like, "Let's stuff these dead murdered owls full of sawdust and line them up on a branch like a cute little family, aren't they cute." Maybe the best thing about the plaques is that they give each owl its own dramatic subtitle. "Great Horned Owl: Ruler of the night." "Snowy Owl: Ghostly visitor from the north." The hapless short-eared owl just gets "An unusual owl." That smarts! Poor short-eared owl, just like Cyndi Lauper, she's so unusual, but in that case it was a compliment. (Was the "Andy" segment in PRETTY IN PINK inspired by Lauper at all, or has my shaky sense of the past reached its next level of muddy blur, just preceding the abyss?) Hey but I want to tell you, that great horned owl is one scary customer all right. His plaque lists all the things he loves to kill. I don't even want to tell you. "They will even usurp the active nests of eagles," is another terrifying thing from the plaque. Usurping the nests of mighty eagles! WHAT! A while back Leslie sent what I believe is her all-time favorite self-improvement montage, featuring Michael J. Fox as the TEEN WOLF. I didn't "post" it. It was around nine minutes long, like those youtube clips McNeil likes to send, and there was lots of padding around the montage. Plus whoever put it on the youtube did some editing of his or her own, flipping the images from black-and-white to color for some expressive personal reason, a touch Leslie really enjoyed. ("Why is it black and white and color?" asks one plaintive youtube commenter. "Because I like to party," answers the "poster.") None of this is any excuse. On her last visit Leslie had us in stitches quoting from memory the TEEN WOLF montage song ("You gotta go with the flow, Joe... way to go, way to go.") and told us about showing the TEEN WOLF montage to a bunch of students who said, "Why are you showing us this?" I can't remember the answer.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Chicken Connection

"If you recall, we stopped and got a bucket of KFC on the way to the mountains that day - ate it in the car," writes McNeil.

Broken Heart Spree

There was this little debate in the novel J R by William Gaddis about whether or not the composer Bizet "died of a broken heart," and that made me want to look up Bizet in my MILTON CROSS' ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSIC, because if there is anything they love in MILTON CROSS' ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSIC, it is a composer dying of a broken heart. So I looked him up. And to my surprise, I became convinced - and this is speculative, unfounded, and fruitless as a subject, just the way I like it! - that Gaddis must have relied on MILTON CROSS' ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSIC while writing J R. At the very least, Gaddis and MILTON CROSS' ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSIC share a certain deadpan attitude toward tragedy. That reminds me of something else nobody cares about! When I was having my wild spree of buying old comic books, I bought the issue of BATMAN that inspired the Donald Barthelme short story "The Joker's Greatest Triumph." I was like, "I can read the comic book and then write an erudite essay comparing it to the short story!" But then I thought: "1) somebody has already done that, I bet; 2) nobody cares anyway; 3) writing is hard." I haven't even cracked the comic book. I can't make myself! That's how lazy I am. Too lazy to read a comic book.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Eating Chicken in the USA

Hey I should tell you about some chicken I ate this weekend when I was on a road trip - I felt like a regular Kent Osborne, ha ha! He loves chicken! I stopped at a buffet restaurant in or around a town called D'Lo, Mississippi. Isn't that an odd name? According to a section of wikipedia with zero footnotes, there are a few theories about the origin of the name, including this one: "old maps from 16th-century French explorers show that they labeled the D'Lo area around the Strong River with the words 'De l'eau sans potable.' This translates as 'bad drinking water.'" That's what it says on wikipedia! So I chose chicken and green beans and macaroni and cheese with peach cobbler for dessert, and I also threw in some fried chicken livers at some point, or so I thought, in honor of Dr. Theresa, who loves chicken livers but was not there, but I am not sure after all that those things I put in my mouth were chicken livers. I just don't know what they were. The consistency was mysterious. Everything else was great, though! Every table had a napkin holder on it, and to every napkin holder was affixed a homemade ad for stun guns you could buy out of somebody's house! All right, let us move on to this photo that McNeil sent me. Look, it is me being young in that dumb hat I told you about, of which I was so proud. And there's McNeil, proving his existence once again. "I'm actually rosy-cheeked here," McNeil notes wistfully.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Jerk Tomato Kid

By the way, Kent tells me that thing about the Olsen twins putting junk on a pizza "went viral" God knows how long ago, and here I am presenting it like it's the latest news, what a sad old fool. But still, what about that part where that kid holds up some tomatoes and says he's going to put "these fried green tomatoes" on the pizza? Those tomatoes are raw! What a jerk.

Belated Chicken Alert

I can't believe I forgot to tell you! I had a video conference with Kent Osborne and Jesse Moynihan yesterday and Kent was EATING A CHICKEN SANDWICH. I kind of want to update the "blog" every time Kent eats chicken but I don't think I'm man enough. You recall how I was going to keep you informed about McNeil's nap schedule. I can't do anything right. :(

Today's Musical Jamboree

Hey, I'm listening to that psychedelic compilation NUGGETS and there's a song with this chorus: "I just can't accept an invitation to cry." Pretty formal! In other music news, my grad student Lizzie sent me a video of the Olsen twins putting gross crap on a pizza and singing about it. Only get this! It has been slowed down considerably by some madman so the Olsen twins and their buddies sound like the creepy gnome who chastises John Lithgow in RAISING CAIN. It's horrifying for more reasons than I have gone into, or feel capable of going into. I have to warn you now not to "click" on it.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Vera Miles

Tonight's ADVENTURE TIME episode was the first I ever worked on. Yes, I worked on the one that aired last week, too, but I worked on it later, though it aired earlier, get it? Sometimes they air in a different order than the order in which you worked on them. I know there must be a clearer way of putting that, but I don't seem inspired to figure it out. Anyhow, when I was organizing the stuff that had been said in the writers' room into a first pass at an outline, I added this: "[Finn] bites his knuckle like Vera Miles watching the boys fight over her in THE SEARCHERS." At a later date, Kent emailed me the storyboard you see here as a gracious gesture, marking the very first time my words had been turned into a picture that would be used on the show! Tonight's episode was written and storyboarded by Somvilay Xayaphone and Luke Pearson. I'm not sure which of them drew this particular image. I don't see the finished episodes until they're on TV, and the most exciting part is discovering how the original story has been heightened, shaken up, fleshed out and transformed by a team of magnificent artists and storytellers. Hey, I know I was bragging about a passing movie allusion in last week's ADVENTURE TIME episode too, but that's it, I promise not to do that anymore, I got that out of my system, there aren't anymore allusions to be made, I ran out, we're fine.

Still Breezy

They're showing Clint Eastwood's 1973 groovy free spirit movie BREEZY again. Breezy is strolling along a pier in her bellbottoms, eating cotton candy. Breezy!


Hey, Tony Soprano self-identifies as "a sad clown" in the first episode of THE SOPRANOS and talks about Jerry Lewis in the second episode of THE SOPRANOS. I'm just keeping you posted.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Pretty Soon

Yesterday as we drove to Memphis, Dr. Theresa and I heard that song where Paul Young is threatening to tear our playhouse down. He says he's going to tear the playhouse down "pretty soon," which I suggested undercuts the intended menace. "I'm gonna tear your playhouse down... after I take a nap," said Dr. Theresa.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Gagutz & Gobaloon

Hey I was watching the last episode of THE SOPRANOS last night and Tony kept calling A.J. "the gagutz." (I've seen it spelled lots of ways on the "internet," and that's one of them. "Googootz" is another, actually closer to the way I heard it, but inelegant in print. There are others.) And the other day I was reading the Irish play THE SEAFARER by Conor McPherson and somebody called somebody else a "gobaloon." Well, you know what I like to say: the world is divided up between gagutzes and gobaloons. I don't really like to say that. Ha ha! For one thing, they appear to mean roughly the same thing. Still, Gagutz and Gobaloon could be one of those shows about a pair of mismatched cops. One is a gagutz and the other is a gobaloon! Together they solve crimes. In conclusion I don't want to spoil THE SEAFARER for you but here's a line I kept reading out loud to Dr. Theresa because it scared me, and it is certainly a spoiler about the surprise identity of one of the characters in the play: "We're going to play for your soul and I'm gonna win, and you're coming through the old hole in the wall with me tonight, Sharky." The scary part is "the old hole in the wall." But is it really a surprise? Who else are a couple of guys in an Irish play going to meet but the devil? Hey, that reminds me. I've been reading other stuff. At one point I seemed to be kind of trying to read the MAHABHARATA (the version put together by William Buck, highly recommended by Lee Durkee) and a William Gaddis novel and Norman Mailer's book about the moon landing all at once. And that big book about Hinduism might have been in there too. Talk about a recipe for brain tragedy! But this Gaddis novel, J R by name, has a hilarious early scene at a rehearsal for a high school production of DAS RHEINGOLD, and I thought I detected something. I thought I detected a Gaddis influence on the way George Saunders writes dialogue for dumb youngsters, something of which he (Saunders) is the absolute master so I try to rip him off all the time. The Rhinemaidens ask about Alberich, "Like if we're all so beautiful who would want to love this here lousy little dwarf?" I have no idea whether Saunders was influenced by Gaddis, but the specific syntactical, tonal and rhythmic glee induced in the reader is similar. And I'm into the lack of commas. Hey, you know how "Google" sometimes thinks it knows better than you? When I was looking up "gobaloon" it insisted that I wanted to "go ballooning" instead. "Google" is up in my biz and I don't like it. Don't tell me I want to "go ballooning." You don't know me!

Thursday, August 01, 2013


"Dean makes everything sound like peanut butter and jelly," Dr. Theresa said this morning. Then she did a little dance move. We had a Dean Martin album playing. What Dr. Theresa was expressing, much more vividly, is the point about Dean's style I made at the very end of yesterday's interminable "post." In other news, Kelly Hogan writes in to say that the sandwich we all enjoyed together was more specifically an "Italian beef combo." The combo has beef AND sausage! BEEF AND SAUSAGE. Likewise this "post" is a "combo" of various "subjects" for your "enjoyment."

Real Sandwich Talk

Kent Osborne took a little trip to Chicago. "I ate meat," he said of his visit. "DID YOU HAVE ANY CHICKEN?" I shrieked hysterically, because Kent never gets tired of me reminding him in a humorous fashion that he loves to eat chicken. "One day I had fried chicken for lunch and chicken wings for dinner," Kent replied. He loves chicken! We talked about a hot dog Kent ate, then he sent me a picture of it, seen here. I tried to tell Kent about delicious sandwiches that Dr. Theresa and Kelly Hogan and I had in Chicago in October of 2002, wondering if he had enjoyed a similar one during his visit, but I did a poor job of describing them because Kent said, "Muffuletta?" And I said, "No..." Wrong sandwich region! Coming from the Gulf Coast, I am quite well acquainted with said muffuletta! So I knew that wasn't it. Well, I sent a message to Hogan, asking her the name of the memorable sandwich (she was the one who guided us to it), the juiciness and flavor of which have stayed with me for over a decade now, but I haven't heard back yet so I did a little "internet research" and the type of sandwich I am thinking of is called an "Italian beef." You should get one! "Click" here for a wikipedia article about it. (See also. For further reading: "The Osborne Sandwich.") I want to recommend the novel MILDRED PIERCE to Kent if he hasn't read it: it is the novel guaranteed to make you hungriest for chicken! On the other hand, it could drive him into a dangerous frenzy. Because he loves chicken so much. Loves it! Chicken. He loves it. Kent loves chicken.