Sunday, June 30, 2013

Big Fat Huge Giant

Plucked a big, fat, huge, giant book off the shelf: THE HINDUS: AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY. It's been daring me to read it for years now. So within the first few pages the author quotes Garrison Keillor. And I thought, WHOA. Do I really want to read a gigantic book about Hinduism that quotes Garrison Keillor right off the bat? Nothing against Garrison Keillor! So I kept plugging along listlessly and Chapter Two began "50 million years ago." That tore it! I can't read a book that covers 50 million years worth of material! I'm getting old and I just don't have the time. So I threw it on the table where we keep the cat food, by the back door, because that's also where I pile up the books I take to Off Square Books to trade in for store credit. But you know what? I had a couple glasses of wine and now I feel like I can handle it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pity and Scorn

"Owl in it! Owl in it!" shouted the madman, tearing in vain at his restraints as they carted him away. By now you are familiar with my sordid addiction to noticing that every book I read has an owl in it somewhere. So I hope it is with an admixture of pity and scorn weighted toward the former that you will tolerate this announcement that the protagonist of AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD lunches at a restaurant called Wit & Wisdom, "depicted [in its logo] as a fox and an owl." I can't help myself. I mean, I could stop reading books, that's not a terrible idea.

Sometimes Hilary Duff

Yesterday I turned on the TV and it happened to be tuned to one of these here movie channels, so I saw part of a Hilary Duff movie. See, Hilary Duff was helping out a street musician. This young woman was busking with her violin but it wasn't going well - maybe she was playing uptight violin music that only squares and eggheads could love! (I hasten to add that I have no idea if I am interpreting the scene correctly; I came in at the tail end of it.) Anyway, Hilary Duff and some harmonizing buddies of hers convinced the violinist to play a Four Tops song instead, and Hilary Duff and all her friends sang along, and then suddenly everybody was thrilled. The music faded out and the scene went into slow motion and then it was just Hilary Duff laughing and clapping in slow motion while a mime in a beret and a red-and-white striped shirt waved sparklers in slow motion! This went on longer than you can imagine. I think the filmmaker's intent was whimsy but instead it really seemed that the sparkler mime was horning in on the street musician's turf. He just popped up and started waving his sparklers like a jerk, hoping to cadge some of that sweet Four Tops money, in slow motion, forever and ever, waving his sparklers, while Hilary Duff laughed and laughed, so slowly, kind of terrifying, HA... HA... HA. Then we cut to Hilary Duff on the roof of a building, saying to a boy, "Sometimes I come up here to think." I wonder how many movies that line has appeared in: dozens and dozens, I bet. Later in the day as I was attending to a mundane chore I turned on TCM for company (see also and also) and the movie MRS. SOFFEL was just coming on - a prison romance between Diane Keaton and Mel Gibson. I saw that one in the theater. It doesn't bother me anymore that movies I saw in the theater routinely come on "classic" movie channels now. All I remember about MRS. SOFFEL is walking out afterward and saying to my companion, "They should have called it MRS. SO AWFUL." Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ah, the thoughtless barbs of youth. I am sure Diane Keaton and Mel Gibson worked hard to provide an enjoyable experience, and maybe they did, maybe I was dumb back then, I guess we'll never know. Hey let's keep going with our theme of "movies." As you know, the homepage of my email provider has been illustrated lately with photos of "satisfied customers," I guess they are supposed to be, but they look more like deranged maniacs. Take this guy (above). He's the latest! I don't know if you can see the fine print, but he is supposed to be writing a screenplay... I don't know what that has to do with email. But here is what he has written: "The South Pole. Ext. Yves is sitting on a hill, sobbing. In the distance, Elliott shivers in the cold." He's grinning demonically at the human suffering he depicts in his incorrectly formatted masterpiece! It's obvious my email provider is TRYING TO DRIVE ME CRAZY. Sometimes Yves goes up there to think.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Mail Tree

I borrowed a shovel from Blair because guess what I got in the mail. A tree. I hardly ever get a tree in the mail. I never get a tree in the mail. Until now. McNeil mailed me a cashew tree! Now to plant it. I looked up "how to plant a cashew tree" on the "internet" and read this, in bold print, with exclamation point, "Their shell is full of a horrible, caustic liquid that will burn holes into you!"

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

No Comment, The Hulk

Are you tired of reading about me reading old comic books? Too bad. This is your life now. So I was reading this Metal Men comic book and it sure looks like that by 1968 DC's normally carefree and goofy Metal Men were trying to get all dark and broody and "relevant" like the X-Men and other Marvel characters. (Yesterday I read a 1970 Marvel comic in which the Hulk decides to battle some young protesters on a college campus. My favorite panel shows the Hulk smashing his way through a concrete wall as he shouts, "THE ONES CALLED -- STUDENTS! THEY ARE THE ENEMY THAT HULK WANTS TO CRUSH!" Ha ha! No comment, Hulk. When the leader of the student protesters hears that the Hulk is approaching, he says, "I'M TELLIN' YOU, PEOPLE -- IF THE HULK IS HEADED THIS WAY, IT'S GOTTA BE TO JOIN OUR PROTEST! THAT GREEN BROTHER'S AS MUCH ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT AS ANY OF US!" Then the Hulk lands and he quickly changes his mind. "THAT'S RIGHT -- RUN! RUN LIKE ANTS -- LIKE SCARED RABBITS!" suggests the Hulk.) Anyway, in a Marvel-like twist, the cops are after the Metal Men! Orders come over the police radio: "IF YOU FIND OUT HOW TO KILL A ROBOT -- SHOOT TO KILL!" And in the end, after the Metal Men save the city from a giant fly (!) whose weapon is flypaper (!!) - sort of a counterintuitive approach for a giant fly - everyone still hates them! The robot named Tin, who is made of Tin, says, "L-LOOK! EVEN THE CATS OF THE CITY H-H-HAVE TURNED AGAINST US!" Sure enough, a cat in an alleyway where the Metal Men are hiding hisses like so: "PHFSSSSTT" and the end of the story has our heroes backed up against a brick wall. "THE PEOPLE STILL DON'T TRUST US!" says Lead, who is made of lead. "THEIR SUSPICIOUS EYES HURT WORSE THAN BULLETS!" says Mercury, which seems out of character for him (he was always the grouchy one). By the way, look, I took this picture for you (above) - it's Lead saying, "STOP FIRIN', GUYS! I'M THE SAME LEAD YOU LET YOUR KIDS PLAY WITH --!" ha ha, is that funny? I don't know.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Red Rubber Bag

Goaded by McNeil, I watched part of THE BIG MOUTH on TCM yesterday. Don't get me wrong, I would have watched more, but I had a meeting. Time, however, has not mellowed my opinion on seeing Buddy Lester in a skintight wetsuit, it turns out. The accompanying still (Mr. Lester is center) barely does the experience justice. The shocking redness has faded here, for one thing, nor is Buddy Lester squatting and looking like, I don't know... a bag of groceries? I don't know. After the meeting I spent several hours thinking about how to "tweet" successfully about Buddy Lester for a hip modern audience of twitter sophisticates such as yourselves, I really did. Then I gave up. Still, I entreat you, and not for the first time, to "click" here for the most wondrously dedicated analysis of THE BIG MOUTH on the entire "internet."

Big Shoe Drop Any Minute Now

Finally getting around to reading AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD by Laura Lippman. It's not fair to call it my favorite Laura Lippman novel because I'm only on page 86 but I THINK IT MIGHT BE. You know that expression "waiting for the other shoe to drop," right? NONE OF THE SHOES HAVE DROPPED. But there is every indication that somebody is holding tons of shoes over our heads and those shoes, some with spikes on them, are going to start dropping like crazy any minute. I refuse to compare AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD to Balzac, mostly because I have no idea what that means. I barely know what "waiting for the other shoe to drop" means. But AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD has a sharp eye on society from its first mesmerizing page. And were I asked to blurb it - ha ha! on what planet? - I'd rank it all the way up there with MILDRED PIERCE as a novel about business.

Eye Miseries

Reading another old comic book, this one from 1968. You can see the actual cover above. It's Captain Marvel, yes, but not the REAL Captain Marvel for whom I have oft professed my love. This is a cheap, fake, knock-off Captain Marvel put out by Marvel Comics, although he really was a captain (in the Kree army) and his given name was Marv-Ell (I think), and his publisher was Marvel, so when you really think about it... What? What's that? You're not reading this anymore? Neither am I! But anyway, there is a two-page spread crammed with tiny rectangular advertisements in this here Captain Marvel comic book. One grabs my attention with its big bold headline: "Eye Miseries?" it ominously inquires. On the opposite page I am promised "YOU CAN HAVE A HE-MAN VOICE" - all I have to do is send my name, address and age to the "PERFECT VOICE INSTITUTE" of Chicago, Illinois. Below the eye miseries ad is one that says "IDEAS? WE PAY YOU. SEND US YOUR IDEA ON ANY SUBJECT, THE WILDER THE BETTER..... IT COULD MAKE YOU RICH."

Sunday, June 23, 2013


By sheer coincidence my brother-in-law David started reading THE THREE MUSKETEERS just before I did. He finished a couple of weeks ago and promised "no owl spoilers." I must admit I was giving up all hope of finding an owl in THE THREE MUSKETEERS. The musketeers constantly ride around the countryside at night, totally owlless. So here I am, all the way on page 658 (see also), and the chapter starts like this: "It was approaching midnight. The moon, cut away by its waning and bloodied by the last traces of the storm..." And I swear, friends, I stopped right there and said to myself - said aloud, practically - "If this paragraph doesn't have an owl in it, none of them will!" Yes, yes, this is what it has come to: my theory, advanced half in jest - at least! - that every great work of literature has an owl in it, has reduced me to some kind of verbal scavenger - a monster! a wretch! - barely able to enjoy a book like a normal human being. But I was right! "To the left rose an old abandoned mill with motionless sails, in the ruins of which a screech owl uttered its sharp, recurrent, and monotonous cry."

Friday, June 21, 2013

Prune Weirdo

From the OXFORD COMPANION TO FOOD entry on prunes: "There was a time when the less knowledgeable people in the English-speaking world would snigger at the mention of prunes, which they associated with old age and laxative qualities, but such unsophisticates are nowadays rare." Calm down, weirdo! Nobody's laughing at your precious prunes.

Currant Events

I went crazy and bought some kind of black currant juice at the grocery store. Must be a midlife crisis! Then I was thinking WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH CURRANTS? So I decided to look them up in the old OXFORD COMPANION TO FOOD. But now I'm just confused, because currants "have nothing to do with currants" according to the OXFORD COMPANION TO FOOD... I exaggerate through selectively truncated quotation! Still, one kind of currant is nothing but a dried grape. But were the juice made of that, I guess they'd call it grape juice, or raisin juice (the latter not so farfetched! Consider prune juice [Oh God, is this what has become of me?]). Anyhow, turns out there's nothing interesting about currants. Normally when I "google" a terrible pun such as "Currant Events," I do so with fear, anxiety, despair and remorse. In this case, however, I am almost gleeful to find out how many times such a terrible pun has been made on the "internet" (though this one might, to a significant percentage, be a typo rather than a pun). There were 17,200 matches, you will be happy to know, including a "Currant Events Festival" in La Valle, Wisconsin, and a "Currant Events" newsletter from a troupe called the "Red Currant Collective" who appear, based on the picture at their homepage, to do interpretative dance in a breezy glade. In conclusion I will mention this morning's email from McNeil, in which he has a brilliant idea about getaway cars in case we ever decide to commit a crime. I can't reveal McNeil's astonishing plan! (See also, McNeil's surefire system for winning at craps.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Quicksand Face and the Space Wolves

I tried to take a picture of Jimmy Olsen for you yesterday, but there was too much glare on it or something. Anyway, old Jimmy Olsen had got himself stuck in some quicksand and pretty soon only his face was poking out and he was thinking, "MAYBE SUPERGIRL WILL SAVE ME... THE WAY SHE RECENTLY SAVED ME FROM THE SPACE-WOLVES!" Yep, that's Jimmy Olsen for you, just sinking away in the quicksand, doing absolutely nothing but dreaming away the few moments he has left. His eyes are closed and he looks so pitiful. But then again I guess we're all like Jimmy Olsen from time to time... oh how I despise myself for "blogging." My other favorite panel from the old comic books I read yesterday was Dr. Mid-Nite getting punched in the gut by a four-year-old kid. Spectacular! First he sees this kid pulling a lamppost out of the ground and thinks he must be hallucinating. But then the kid gives him a good whack. Says Dr. Mid-Nite, "PARDON ME, SONNY -- WOULD YOU MIND -- OOOF!" And he realizes within his thought bubble, "THAT SETTLES THAT! I COULD NEVER FANTASIZE SO MUCH PAIN!" Ha ha, that's a weird way to put it, Dr. Mid-Nite. The way I recollect it, Dr. Mid-Nite used to hang out with Hourman, and even as a kid I wasn't much impressed with either of them. I was trying to describe Hourman (pictured) to Dr. Theresa the other day, causing her to make a bawdy contemporary cultural reference which you will perhaps soon understand as you continue reading and think about it. For you see, in order to have superpowers, Hourman had to take a pill every hour! And he wore an hourglass around his neck to remind him when to take his pill! So his name and his costume and indeed his very identity are based on his weakness. He wears his own mortality as a decoration around his neck! But gee aren't we all a lot like Hourman when you think about it? And now goodbye forever.

Monday, June 17, 2013


NPR hops on the ADVENTURE TIME bandwagon today in a nice little piece you can hear by "clicking" here. They compare ADVENTURE TIME to Balzac, which is something high-toned media outlets do when they want to feel comfortable about liking something... I noticed this tendency so long ago that it appears in a short story ("The Golden Pineapples") in my first book. Not to say they're wrong! They interviewed the novelist Lev Grossman as their (very insightful) literary spokesman for the piece, which is a funny coincidence, because many years ago he (sort of) put Rudy & GoGo (the kids' show I worked on in the 90s) into one of his novels. What is my strange psychic connection with Lev Grossman?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

One Chicken Leg, One Lightning Leg

Reading another old comic book: MYSTERY IN SPACE #104, from December, 1965. It's all about this guy Ultra the Multi-Alien, who I guess was a human until four aliens shot him with ray guns at the same time! They show it in flashback, and when the guy is getting shot by four ray guns he is saying, and I quote, "YIIIII!" And who can blame him? Anyway, one of the aliens shooting him looks like a chicken, and one looks like a bolt of lightning, and another guy is smooth and blue and a fourth guy is furry and green. And for some reason, when they get through shooting him, this former human has one chicken leg and one lightning leg, while up top he is half smooth and blue, half furry and green. WHAT KINDS OF GUNS ARE THESE? And also he is suddenly and magically wearing a diaper. And thus he has become... ULTRA THE MULTI-ALIEN. He is tickling me so much! The narration box informs us: "LATER, A GRIM FACT WAS REALIZED..." Love that passive construction! Ultra is shown studying a couple of sheets of paper and saying, "THESE SCIENTIFIC PAPERS STATE I CAN NEVER REGAIN MY HUMAN FORM AGAIN -- I'M DOOMED AS THIS AWESOME... MULTI-ALIEN! BUT I MUST GO ON LIVING... HAVE A PURPOSE... AN IDENTITY!" All right, I can dig it. And now his ex-girlfriend, who thinks he is dead, mournfully gazes at his picture, as Ultra peeps and creeps around outside her window, moaning, "OH, BONNIE... BONNIE..." I don't know why this is making me laugh! But just look at his face in the next panel. (He's still lurking right outside Bonnie's window.) His thought balloon, which I have cropped out while taking this photo for you, says, "OH WHY... WHY DID THIS TERRIBLE THING HAVE TO HAPPEN TO ME?" Look how mopey he looks! The mopiest! The champion mope. Arguably, a superhero should not place his hands on his face in such a frail fashion! Somehow he makes me think of Tom Chaney, the villain of the novel TRUE GRIT, who is always saying things like, "Nothing is going right for me," and "Everything is against me. Now I am shot by a child." Well, I'm only on page 3 of this story about old Ultra the Multi-Alien. Maybe I'm misjudging him.

Never Been Happier

Just read an old comic book story in which some people are in outer space hunting a monster called the loborilla - part lobster, part gorilla! Part lobster, part gorilla! That's right, you heard me. I have never been happier. Life isn't a pointless waste of time after all. Plus there's a twist ending (spoiler alert!): the loborilla turns out to be smarter and more civilized than the hunters! That old loborilla really turns the tables on them, ha ha! Loborilla!

I Do What Captions Tell Me

A caption on the New York Times "web" site today said, "Get ready for a summer of light. Shimmering, disorienting, indescribable light." And I was like, "Okay! I will!" So now I'm just sitting here waiting.

Most Dedicated Consumer

Dr. Theresa and I had a late lunch at Ajax yesterday. When we sat down, Randy Yates, the owner, came over and asked whether we'd like "an Olsen sandwich." Seeing our baffled looks, he said, "What's that guy's name?" He meant Kent Osborne! Yes, friends, we are that much closer to getting the grilled chicken po-boy at Ajax renamed for Kent Osborne, its most dedicated and evangelistic consumer. PS Dr. Theresa ordered "The Osborne" with a side of delicious, chilled corn-and-tomato salad, the vegetable of the day.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Awful Monkey Lollipop Thoughts to Share

Reading one of these old comic books: a TALES TO ASTONISH from 1967. One of the ads is for a "Sensational COLOR-V screen" that "instantly changes dull, dreary black & white pictures to brilliant, eye-filling colors. Attach it yourself in a few seconds. You, your family, your friends will really enjoy the color effects which, while not to be confused with genuine color TV will afford a wonderful treat to the eyes!" As much as I like the formality of "will afford a wonderful treat" all I could really think about was a bunch of disappointed families. Like, just a crushing sense of doom, dead-end jobs, childhood innocence blighted, marriages torn apart, this cheap screen a symbol of some secret rot settling into the American dream... too much? (See also.) Next page - and as I recall, this one was still being run in the 1970s, when I started reading comic books - offered a pet monkey through the mail. Every thought about that made me feel horrible, but somehow worst of all was the ad's promise that your hypothetical monkey "even likes lollipops." Sad monkeys with lollipops and mange. I can't go on. Those are just the beginnings of the terrible thoughts that haunt my very soul. The Hulk story was pretty good, though. See, the Silver Surfer was about to cure the Hulk of being the Hulk, but the Hulk misunderstood and tried to punch him, so the Silver Surfer flew away in kind of a silver snit.

McNeil Sees the Future

Hey remember October 3, 2010, when McNeil said that Stan was his favorite MAD MEN character? Wow, that just seemed crazy. My derision was strident and unequivocal. But now McNeil's stand is imaginable. We were so dumb back in 2010. McNeil is a visionary! (See also.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I watched the most recent ADVENTURE TIME episode the other night - more great work from Ako Castuera and Jesse Moynihan - and thought about how Plastic Man is the spiritual forefather of Jake the Dog. Okay, you can stop reading now. I can actually feel you not caring through my computer screen! The episode, ONE LAST JOB, explores Jake's past as a criminal. You know who else started out as a criminal? That's right! Plastic Man. And of course he was the first superhero to stretch and change shape the way Jake does. The connection isn't intentional, but I like it. It comforts me! What sad straws I cling to for an illusion of order in our troubled world. Above, Plastic Man turns himself into a milk carton to advertise milk cartons. Buying all these old comic books has made me consider what kind of comic book stories I was drawn to as a kid. I liked the lighter superheroes, I guess, the ones with some humor - Plastic Man, the Metal Men, Captain Marvel... what? Are you still reading this? Don't you have something better to do? Because I don't. DON'T GET ME WRONG! I read lots of "edgy" Marvel comic books, too, not just square old DC, and I liked some of the "darker" DC characters, like the Phantom Stranger... ah, but revisiting this stuff... so Batman and the Phantom Stranger have teamed up to fight a persecuted religious sect (!) that has taken over Gotham City. And a hypnotized Robin causes cobblestones to fly up magically from the street and bonk people in the noggins. And Batman says, as I have previously reported on twitter, "THOSE COBBLESTONES... HAVE BECOME... CLOBBERSTONES!" Ha ha, yes, that's DC's idea of "dark," I guess. But let me say that the Plastic Man story I bought, an issue of POLICE COMICS from 1946, still feels really fresh and new, while Marvel's "sophisticated" and "allegorical" WARLOCK comics from the 1970s, for example, come off as pompous and silly, at least the couple of issues I have here. In fact, the "darker" the Marvel comic, the more overwrought and ridiculous it seems to me now, while I can still get a non-ironic kick from the Metal Men and the Atom teaming up. And yeah, the Metal Men were lighthearted, but they sure got melted and blown up a lot. I can't think of any superheroes who died as often as the Metal Men. Okay, go about your business and leave me alone with my thoughts.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Official Nickname

I'm looking through some more of these old comic books that came in the mail. Did not remember that Ragman's official nickname was "The Tatterdemalion of Justice." Catchy! I'm telling you, that's how we did it in the 1970s and we just didn't care.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Harry Matthews

My "googling" prowess is the stuff of legends. Yet no matter how diligently I "googled" I could not "google" up what I considered to be an adequate image of the comic book character Harry Matthews, so oft a subject of discussion here. So I took matters into my own hands and "snapped" the "pic" you see above. It's my kind of can-do spirit that made this country great!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

The Campari Decision

I was sitting at the bar at Snackbar and having dinner - soft shell crabs! - when I noticed that a young woman was drinking Campari. I almost said, "Hey, Richard Nixon's favorite drink was Campari and soda!" But I didn't say that, because I suddenly realized I have no idea whether that is actually true. Where did I read it? Did I read it? Who knows? I have been going around for years just casually saying it like it's true. THAT ENDS NOW. Randy Yates, the owner of Ajax, sat down next to me at the bar, and I told him how every time Kent Osborne comes to town he orders Ajax's chicken po-boy numerous times, and I petitioned Randy on the spot to rename the chicken po-boy "The Osborne" but I must admit Randy just didn't care.

Tell Me That, Randu!

Ha ha, oh boy, this old comic book character Harry Matthews really does like to call himself by his full name all right. "SO --- WHAT AM I, HARRY MATTHEWS, AVERAGE CITIZEN, DOING IN THE COMPANY OF DEMONS AND SORCERERS? TELL ME THAT, RANDU!" he demands in issue #5 of THE DEMON. ("THAT'S THE ROLE DESTINY HAS GIVEN US!" the turbaned Randu explains.)

Milady's Favorite Monkey

A while back I heard Nic Brown reading from his novel-in-progress and his characters were discussing THE THREE MUSKETEERS and I thought, "I need to read THE THREE MUSKETEERS," and now I am, in the Richard Pevear translation. Ah! My vaunted suggestibility! How I love to boast and brag of it - two character flaws working together, like the chocolate and peanut butter in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of human frailty. I'm over halfway through the novel and so far there have been no owls, but this sentence gave me comfort and satisfaction: "He had turned around to play with Milady's favorite monkey, who had pulled him by the doublet."

Friday, June 07, 2013

What Is Life

Hey look it's Anne Heche and me, working on our SECRET PROJECT. Hey, as long as I've got you here, I need to make a very important correction to the previous "post." I said that the Demon's friend Harry Mathews spelled his last name with one "t," like the great Oulipo writer Harry Mathews. But I was just reading THE DEMON #4 and he spelled it with two! Comic books are very convenient for the memory-impaired because characters are always using their own full names to refer to themselves. In issue #1, Harry Mathews suggests, "TRY HARRY MATHEWS IN A POKER GAME!" In issue #4 he exclaims: "A - A FRIEND WHO TURNS INTO A DEMON! A FINE FRIEND FOR HARRY MATTHEWS!" When I noticed the subtle change, I grew weary with despair. Is this all there is to life? Laboriously noting discrepancies in old comic books? As you can see from the photo, NO! But mostly, yes.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Tough Figure Inside

Hey so yeah I have something really important to tell you so you know how I keep a long and faithful list of every book I read that has an owl in it? And you know how I have been buying old, yellowed comic books through the mail in an embarrassing and public attempt to reconnect with my lost youth? Well here is something that combines both of those fantastic hobbies! In the first issue of Jack Kirby's THE DEMON, a beat cop discovers Jason Blood (the Demon's alter-ego) conked-out on the ground in front of some mysterious ruins. Theorizes the cop, "YOU POKED AROUND THE OLD 'WARLY RUINS'... HEARD A HOOT OWL... AND RAN 'TIL YOU HIT A TREE." My friend Brian said this owl thing of mine "turns all of human literature into 'Where's Waldo.'" He meant it in a good way! But I just don't know anymore. Now, this has nothing to do with anything, but Jason Blood has a wacky pal named Harry Mathews, one t, just like the famed Oulipo writer (see also). And when Harry Mathews goes to a party at Jason Blood's house, he puts on a musketeer hat with a big plume and starts dancing to some rock-and-roll records, saying, "LET'S GET OFF THE WEIRDIE JIVE, GANG! LET'S ROCK IT! AND SOCK IT! --- AND SEND IT FIRST CLASS MAIL!!" I just wanted to tell you that. I also got the first issue of the comic book KA-ZAR by mistake. I had it confused with something else. What a vomitous example of purposeless consumerism I am. But in the first issue of KA-ZAR, Marvel Girl compares Iceman to Jerry Lewis. So for a moment I felt whole again. And finally let me draw your attention to the portion of an advertisement reproduced above. I saw it in another one of these DEMON comics and I suddenly remembered seeing it all the time when I was kid. It's for some weird toy where you pretend to sculpt a statue but you're not really doing anything. The statue has already been sculpted for you! And there's some gunk around it that you lackadaisically chip off to make you feel you're accomplishing something with your life. Boy, that really makes you think, doesn't it? Furthermore, the ad portrays its protagonist wallowing in the self-delusion his pointless new toy explicitly encourages, to the mockery and derision of his friends... a strange selling point. "BILLY USES THE SAFE CHISEL TO SCULPT AWAY THE SOFT OUTSIDE," says the ad copy. "EVEN HIS HARDEST BLOWS WON'T HURT THE TOUGH FIGURE INSIDE!" Just like my heart.

Portraits of Madness

Hey remember that maniacal dude I used to see every time I went to my email's homepage? He's gone! Replaced by this young woman (above), seemingly meant to represent how I should feel when I read my emails. She appears to be so destroyed by soul-shattering grief that she has become delirious!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Sad Sad Superman

Having mentioned Superman's sad expression on that old comic book cover, I am reminded of the time he said, "'HEART OF STEEL' -- HUH? THEN -- WHY AREN'T THESE TEARS METAL? WHY DO THEY BURN SO?" and also the time that Jimmy Olsen provoked Superman until he burst into tears then collected his tears in a vial for reasons known only to Jimmy Olsen.

Hawkman Has Been Turned Into Salt

On the cover of this old comic book that came in the mail today, Hawkgirl is saying, "HAWKMAN HAS BEEN TURNED INTO SALT! AND THE WORLD'S GREATEST SUPER-HEROES ARE RESPONSIBLE!" Superman looks properly chastened. He can't even look Hawkgirl in the eye! The Atom, perched on Superman's arm, adopts a miniature simulacrum of Superman's melancholia.

The Many Cardigans of Bill Holden

Hey I used that "streaming video" to watch a movie that Clint Eastwood directed in 1973: BREEZY, a hippie-meets-bitter-craggy-old-square-and-teaches-him-a-little-something-about-life love story. BREEZY is remarkable for its series of striking cardigan/shirt color combos sported by craggy old William Holden. Here we see part of William Holden's back as he confesses his love to Breezy, in her trademark floppy brown hat. As you can see, Holden's muted pearl cardigan is offset by the splash of fire-engine red provided by his gargantuan collar. At one point William Holden stands in front of a tree, observing free-spirited Breezy from a distance, and this particular cardigan so exactly matches the bark of the tree that the cardigan-wearing portion of William Holden's body vanishes as if by magic. The magic of... BREEZY. I spent all day yesterday tweeting about this, yeah, the universe has no meaning. Speaking of which, remember when Philip K. Dick had an ecstatic vision that revealed unto him the meaning and structure of the universe? Well, something I misread on the "internet" yesterday, as I spent many hours of my dwindling lifetime contemplating the existence of BREEZY, made me think that BREEZY had something to do with the ecstatic vision that revealed unto Philip K. Dick the meaning and structure of the universe. Yet I could find no reference to BREEZY in the index of his EXEGESIS. I did, however, find this in VALIS, Dick's fictionalized account of his experience, which I have read before, and yet somehow this allusion slipped right by me: "One time I had gotten loaded and tried to get hold of Kay Lenz, who I had a crush on from having seen BREEZY. Her agent cut me off at the pass." BREEZY!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Hey Everybody This Is Great Yeah

Hey everybody I thought up another NEW YORKER cartoon. It's a plate of chopped liver saying, "What am I, chopped liver?" Existential! I'm not even going to "google" this to see how many other people thought of it first.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Pontoon Not Taken

Woke up still thinking about the "humor class" I "taught" at the university. "Humor class"! Can any phrase cause more wincing? I was recalling how I learned at the last minute that I was expected to teach a text by Garrison Keillor. I knew he was coming to speak to the Honors College, but I thought his appearance was slated for the end of the semester and did not, in any case, realize that I was required to teach some of his work to the kids (as you may remember from last night's "post," the class consisted almost entirely of young women: we'll get back to this). So anyway, it turned out he was coming at the beginning of the semester! Not the end of the semester! The beginning! The beginning of the semester, I said! Classes had already started. In fact, I believe some weeks had already gone by. So I dashed over to Square Books in a panic and asked what was the shortest book by Garrison Keillor they could order in the greatest quantity to arrive in the shortest amount of time. The answer to that question turned out to be LIBERTY, a novel by Mr. Keillor, and one I had never read. "Make it happen!" I cried. And the good people at Square Books made it happen. They always make it happen. Yet in this case it was my undoing! So here I am in a class full of young women, and it turns out I am requiring them to read a novel by Garrison Keillor all about an old man entering into a sexy carnal relationship with a young woman, the details of which are rendered with a level of sauciness and unseemly vigor unknown to Mr. Keillor's radio listeners. Oh dear. It just felt so wrong. Every day it felt so wrong. And then Garrison Keillor comes to talk to them. And all we have done is read pages and pages of his reflections on carnality with a young woman. I mean his CHARACTER's reflections. And here's the aging male creep who assigned it, out of all available Keillor works. What they must have thought! There we sat. It was my fault for not choosing the Keillor novel called PONTOON, which I believe was also available. Although for all I know it is about carnality on a pontoon. Anyway, Mr. Keillor was very nice and gave the class a good talk. My arguably poor choice of material - under the circumstances! - did not hinder him in the least and he rose to the occasion as you might expect he would, with all the elegance you can imagine. We were at a long table. Garrison Keillor sat at one end, a black curtain behind him. I sat at the other end and fell at once into a kind of trance, not dissimilar to the one I entered while having lunch with Robert Osborne that time. Mr. Keillor in front of the black curtain seemed to be floating in space. One student - the one who portrayed Richard Pryor in a class skit - reported afterward that Keillor had never stopped rubbing his eyes, not even once, during his entire lecture, but I cannot vouch for that observation, dazed as I was at the time. Someone else said he had huge hands, I think. As I recollect, I had a BELIEVER column due at the time, and ideas are always scarce for me, and I ended up writing one in which Garrison Keillor and I own a racehorse together and Garrison Keillor ends up eating my foot for reasons I no longer wish to recall - a nightmarish product of my own shortcomings.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Dean Martin Epiphany

I was just watching this Richard Pryor documentary on one of these movie channels and it said that when Richard Pryor was first working in Las Vegas he was doing his act and he looked down and saw Dean Martin in the audience and suddenly he saw himself through Dean Martin's eyes, and saw that Dean Martin knew he was a phony, and from then on he stopped doing his regular everyday stand-up act and started doing his Richard Pryor act, the act that let us know he was a genius. And that made me remember that I once taught a "humor" class at the university - ugh! what could be more useless and horrible? - and I divided the students into groups and made them research and write one-act plays about various comic geniuses, such as Richard Pryor and Dorothy Parker. And the class was two little dudes and 12 young women. So a young woman was obligated to portray Richard Pryor, and she was thoroughly committed and did a great job! And as I recall, the play that group came up with was Garrison Keillor interviewing Richard Pryor in heaven. So now I need to tell you that one of the young women was utterly obsessed with Garrison Keillor. She was a goodnatured and brilliant young person who was sometimes late for class because of her piano lessons. And then it turned out that she was trying to be Miss America! She was Miss Mississippi, and her piano lessons were aimed toward the national contest. She was awesome! And she played Garrison Keillor (in the Richard Pryor skit) with aplomb, which is more than Garrison Keillor ever did, ha ha. (Garrison Keillor came to speak to the class but that's another story. I didn't plan or ask for it! The "Honors College" made it happen. In fact, they asked me to design a class around the fact that Garrison Keillor was coming. Garrison Keillor was coming!) I guess that class had the most cross-dressing of any class I ever taught. In the Dorothy Parker skit, a young woman portrayed Parker's BFF Robert Benchley with such incredible verve that I had to ask whether she had ever acted before. She said, "I was in one movie. Have you ever heard of O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?" (That wasn't a rhetorical question; she was just extremely modest.) Turns out she was the middle-sized "Li'l Wharvey Gal" (see below). She gets to tell George Clooney he "ain't bona fide!" You remember that part.