Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Harlequin in the Middle of Them

John Waters told me (that's right!) that I had to see the Keane painting of Jerry Lewis and his family. Somehow, I didn't know it existed! "He's a harlequin in the middle of them," said John Waters. And so he is!

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Scourge of Kings

In this book about the Middle Ages I found out about Bohemond, "the belligerent Norman and the scourge of kings." His gravestone says that "he could be called neither a man nor a god." Pretty braggy, even for a gravestone!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Over Easy

I forgot to relay an amusing remark. We were at Lamar Lounge and they brought out some "heirloom beans and pork" with an egg over easy gracefully lying atop. Kent, his fork aloft, said, "Am I supposed to break the egg?" And David Simon said, "No, you're supposed to return it to the kitchen intact as a sign of prowess."

Kent 8, Chicken 0

Left to right, here's Pen and me and Kent at Gus's yesterday afternoon, on the occasion of Kent's seventh meal of chicken in a row. Later that night Kent had a steak, but made sure to have a bite of Natasha's fried chicken to keep his record going.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

John Waters Kissed My Wife

John Waters just kissed Dr. Theresa on the lips. Thanks to her, I got to talk to him tonight. I asked him about Norman Mailer (they were dear friends!) and Jerry Lewis ("He was probably a monster!"). As far as Lewis goes, Mr. Waters likes the Tashlin movies best. And he said that Jerry, in the old movies, looks incredibly like a "modern-day Brooklyn hipster." That's what John Waters said!

Time Enough For Chicken

"The only way I survived winter in Iowa was glamour." So said Melissa Ginsburg last night. The occasion of this wonderful remark was our unseasonable drop in temperature. Just earlier in the day Kent Osborne had said that the weather gets a bad rap as a topic of conversation. "It's supposed to be boring to talk about the weather," Kent said. He disagrees! And Melissa is living proof. Kent and Seo Kim and I went to see Dr. Theresa introduce David Simon yesterday afternoon. He gave a talk! Just a few days ago he was hanging out with President Obama in the White House. And now here he is giving a talk. After the talk, there was just half an hour before an ADVENTURE TIME video conference Kent and I were required to attend. Time enough for chicken, thought Kent! "This will be my fourth chicken meal in a row," he said. "Oxford is a chicken town." It may be the highest form of compliment Kent can bestow. We went into Gus's. Kent ordered one chicken wing, which I found amusing. Kent had no qualms. It was just what he wanted. But it made me think of the scene in WAITING FOR GUFFMAN in which Parker Posey is poignantly turning over a single chicken wing on a grill. An image included in large part for its absurdity! Or so I have always assumed. Seo laughed unreservedly when the chicken wing came out. There it was, shining, in its own little basket. A funny sight. Pitiful! Exquisite with mortality. Kent consumed it without irony. He reviewed the most recent chicken dishes he had enjoyed. The wings at another place were different than on a previous trip, bigger, and of a lesser quality of chicken, Kent thought. He suspected that the establishment - which shan't be named here - had gone with a new, cheaper supplier, which started me thinking about THIEVES' HIGHWAY, the great old movie about the crime surrounding apple orchards (!). I jokingly suggested that we should create a TV show that starts out on a free-range chicken farm and follows the chicken to the shady gangsters who push out the good chicken farmers with their bad, poorly raised counterfeit chicken, which they force restaurants to buy... and as we had just seen David Simon, we suddenly knew: "We could call it THE CHICKEN WIRE!" We were very amused. VERY amused! But we both resisted the temptation to tell David Simon about it when we saw him later that day, as Kent consumed his fifth chicken meal in a row. At one point, far across the table, I heard David Simon say something about the Visigoths and I slammed the table and yelled, "I'll tell you something about Visigoths!" THIS WAS IT! Reading that book about the Middle Ages was finally going to pay off. "They killed the Romans but preserved their knowledge!" I screamed. That's all I had. Is the action over? It is not! Just a couple of hours ago Dr. Theresa called our friend Ron Shapiro, who is driving John Waters here from New Orleans. "They're on the road!" said Dr. Theresa.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Kent's Delightfully Obscene Pantomime

I was up at the City Grocery Bar regaling everyone for the millionth time about that thing James M. Cain said when the interviewer asked him what he thought about what the movie studio had done to his novel MILDRED PIERCE and he said something like, "Why, they didn't do anything to it, it's sitting right here on the shelf." And Kent said, "Why, my dear, they didn't do anything to it, it's right over... WHAAAAA??????" And then he pantomimed the unspeakably obscene thing that he imagined James M. Cain might have seen being done to his book at that moment. We ate at Gus's Fried Chicken yesterday and that reminded Kent of the time that he was in another city wolfing down awful cubed-chicken hotel nachos and when he walked outside there was A GUS'S FRIED CHICKEN RIGHT THERE! RIGHT OUTSIDE THE HOTEL! But it was too late. Kent was already full of terrible nachos. "It was heartbreaking," Kent said.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Great Tubercular Milk Scare

Tonight I started talking to a writer who told me about "The Great Tubercular Milk Scare of 1892." I think! I think that's what he said. He said that before that, peanut butter - or "peanut mash" - was only served to people in sanitariums. I'm pretty sure.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pendleton Ward's Toilet Devils

THIS JUST IN from Pendleton Ward: "I just watched a commercial in Japan about toilets where a tiny man and a tinier little boy were dressed up like devils, they stood on the rim of the toilet and held their nose." Here's the proof, straight from Pendleton Ward's TV in Japan.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

People Love Synods

Reading this book about the Middle Ages, people really enjoy calling synods! They called a synod on this one guy and DUG HIM OUT OF HIS GRAVE and put him on a throne and YELLED AT HIS DEAD BODY or something.

Seven Deadly Recommendations

The state of the recommendation shelf is... strong. Katelyn (not to be confused with Kaitlyn) took this pic for me just moments ago. You will note that David Simon (speaking at the Courthouse at 1:15 PM on Friday) and Seo Kim (speaking at the Overby Center at 10:30 AM on Thursday) are currently represented. Go to Square Books and get their books and MAKE DAVID AND SEO SIGN THEM WITH HEARTFELT PERSONAL MESSAGES. Did I ever tell you that David Simon's HOMICIDE: A YEAR ON THE KILLING STREETS has my favorite last sentence, but I think you have to read the whole 600 pages first for it to work, so I'm not even going to tell you and please don't peek or you'll ruin it for yourself? I mistakenly showed it to Kate (not to be confused with Katelyn) at the counter today without setting it up properly... by making her stand there and read the entire book first, I mean. (Then there's an epilogue and stuff, but I don't count that.) I was pretty happy to notice that SOMETHING HAPPENED by Joseph Heller had sold from my recommendation shelf. Now that's a book that has been unfairly forgotten. Has it been forgotten? I don't even know. Maybe I'M the one who forgot it! I probably read it last when I was in my 20s. Who do I think I am? Why don't I just shut my fat thought hole? I think during the brief time when Richard Ford lived in town the one conversation we had (that can't be right; it could be right) was about his approval of SOMETHING HAPPENED's placement on my recommendation shelf. I recall Richard Ford saying, "Well, Joe and I were..." and I don't know what they were doing because my brain snapped off. But I kind of think they were doing it in Paris, whatever it was they were doing. I was filled with rage and envy and maybe... sloth? I was like (silently), "OH I GET IT, YOU CALL JOSEPH HELLER 'JOE!'" What a petty, curdled soul I have. Hey, Katelyn has her first short story coming out soon! I'll keep you posted.

My Dream About Horses

Dang! I have to clean up my filthy office because next ADVENTURE TIME meeting, Kent will be here LIVE! I don't want him to see the kind of squalor I live in. Mostly it's shoes and wine corks and cat hair and "scrap paper" and library books about cigarette lighters and the prehistory of fire stacked on a scratched-up ottoman and a bunch of coats just thrown over the door and piles of old comic books that have fallen down and an old TWIN PEAKS soundtrack CD I use as a coaster. There, I said it! And now I see some wool hats that are almost falling off a table. And some curling-up pictures of Jerry Lewis I haven't figured out what to do with yet. (Kelly Hogan gave me this one YEARS AGO!) During the meetings, the camera on this computer is carefully angled away from the worst of the mess. Kent and I have vowed to eat Gus's fried chicken all through the meeting, much to the very apparent dismay of Ashly Burch and Adam Muto, who DON'T EVEN REALLY KNOW WHAT GUS'S FRIED CHICKEN IS. I guess they think we're just gross and probably eat chicken in a gross way that will be horrible to witness during a video conference. Or maybe it's just plain unprofessional to eat fried chicken in a business meeting! WHO CARES. Anyway, at lunch the other day with Melissa we were talking about dreams and I was saying I LIKE hearing people's dreams, counter to the popular affectation of whining that other people's dreams aren't interesting. And then I told Melissa four or five boring dreams that were probably humiliatingly revealing. What a jerk! So anyway, last night I dreamed that somebody gave me a horse for a present. I was okay with it! But I didn't know how to take care of it. So the guy who delivered the horse said he'd show me an instructional video. And the "instructional video" was just a feature length film he had spent all of his own money to write, direct, and produce, about a group of young friends who are trying to make it in show biz. Ha ha! It was a wacky comedy. There was one scene during a wedding rehearsal when across the way from the gazebo where the wedding was being rehearsed there were a bunch of horses going for a swim! And the young rowdies decided to play a trick on the guy who was taking the horses for a swim. And SOMEONE WAS ACCIDENTALLY SHOT. But luckily the victim was wearing a mascot costume and though his baseball head was mostly shot off, he was okay inside there. And I kept looking at this guy like, "When am I going to find out what to feed my horse?" AND I NEVER DID. He just packed up his stuff when the movie was over and left me with the horse. As he left he said, "Maybe you'll want to keep this press packet with a full-color pull-out poster!" And he laughed warmly like he was doing me a big favor. And now that I think of it, he resembled a serial killer.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Leopard

I just watched a whole TV series that Godard made. And my main thought was WOW! This is what a TV series is in France! One part I especially loved was when Godard talked with deep love for Italian movies, and how they always shot the visuals first and added the audio later. This has never bothered me! My friend Eugene told me about it from personal experience! I was just thinking about it when I watched the movie version of THE LEOPARD. Because there is no way that dude sounds as magisterial as the actual Burt Lancaster. But I have heard a lot of dummies complaining about how the audio doesn't "match up" with the video in Italian movies. WHO CARES? That is just some fake rule some dope made up. And Godard put it beautifully, though I can't recall exactly: "The language of Ovid and Dante continued through the images." That's not it, but something like it! And at the very end of the TV series, Godard said, "If a man visited paradise in his dream, and received a flower as a sign of his visit, and he had this flower in his hand when he woke up, what can we say? I am this man." WHAT! I BELIEVE IT. I don't have that quite right either. And he was probably quoting somebody. He is always quoting somebody. Also, he uses the Jerry Lewis movie HARDLY WORKING as an important recurring touchstone, so go to hell.

Here Comes the Action

Chapter 5 of this book about the Middle Ages is called "The End of Days Draws Menacingly Close" and I was like, "Aw yeah! Things are gonna pick up now!"

Ceramic Shmoo

Megan Abbott and I were emailing a little bit about the "Shmoo" today and I told her that we nearly had some Shmoo-like creatures on an ADVENTURE TIME episode (Shmoos don't mind being eaten; in fact, they like it!) but the executives (wisely, this time?) put the kibosh on that... so anyway, Megan went looking at Shmoos on the internet and advised me not to look at any Shmoo images, and she is a person who recently sent me a crime-scene photo that included a ventriloquist's doll! So I looked anyway, and I found this ceramic (?) Shmoo with some of the paint rubbed off his face.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Reading in this book about the Middle Ages about "rich seams of copper and silver... resulting profits were considerable... Roads were built and bridges constructed... the number of marketplaces, coinage offices, and custom houses multiplied... People's spatial mobility also increased, even over long distances." This is around the year 1000. I like to think of those people saying, "BOO-YAH!" and "YOLO!" and "This is the life!" and "Get with the times!" and "It just doesn't get any better than this!" I'm not making fun of them. I'm kind of rooting for them. It's a little late.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Literary Matters

Oh, so what? I feel like wallowing in some literary matters. 1. Look at this sweet woman's author photo! I had to buy her book. Here's the story. When I was working on my cigarette lighter book I came upon the "hobbies" section at that used book stall I like, and I found a lot of useful sources. This book wasn't "useful." So I snubbed it. I snubbed it just yesterday! But then I fretted about it all night. It's about something called "Fairy Lamps." In fact it is called FAIRY LAMPS: EVENING'S GLOW OF YESTERYEAR. In the acknowledgments, the author says, "I especially thank Mrs. Pearl Darling." Come on! There is someone named Mrs. Pearl Darling. One chapter is called
"The Infinite Variety of Fairy Lamps." Here's a caption: "Three faced Fairy Lamp for use in a nursery. Faces of cat, dog and owl have conventional glass eyes. Mark on the bottom of base is KPM for Konigliche Porzellan Manufaktur. A rarity from the collection of Mrs. Darling." That's a good caption! I feel relieved that I finally have FAIRY LAMPS: EVENING'S GLOW OF YESTERYEAR. I passed it by so many times. There's actually another copy still over there if you want to run get it. The cover's torn. I got the good one. I bought this book today when I met Melissa Ginsburg for lunch. When Melissa and I were walking back to the square, we could not help but notice that there is a new store that sells nothing but olive oil. We went in. A young woman working on an olive-oil commission rushed at us! I do not blame her. She was doing her job as instructed by her so-called "superiors." She asked us eagerly, "Have you ever been in a store like this before?" I said, "I've been in a... store before." I was uncomfortable and my shifty reply was dismissive and rude. The hard sell made me nervous! But that's no excuse. 2. I told Ward McCarthy about my William McKinley book. Ward wrote back, "Not to freak you out, but I actually own a copy of that McKinley book, too. Bought it at a used bookstore in Massachusetts in the 70s." I should have known! 3. Shana and Kerri secretly left us a bag of candy in our mailbox on the way out of town. That's not the literary part. I had remarked the previous day on my fondness for this candy that Shana had in her car. I had never tried it before. It's a strange dark green color and each piece looks, as I said at the time, like a button off a 1970s sofa. Here's the thing! AND I DO NOT ADVOCATE THIS. Shana said that the door to the cottage behind Faulkner's house was unlocked. Now, look. I don't think anybody is supposed to go in there. DON'T DO IT! But Shana and Kerri went in there and took a picture of what was on the wall.
Here it is. I don't know the story behind it. The house is where Callie Barr lived. She was the basis of the character Dilsey from THE SOUND AND THE FURY, I believe. 4. When Caroline got back home she was going through some old computer stuff and found some pictures of her and Dr. Theresa and Bill Taft and me celebrating on the night I sold my first book! This must have been 2004. Here we are.
That's Dr. Theresa and Bill and me. I wish Caroline could have been in the picture too. As I recall, we (I) became so rowdy that I slammed a glass of anisette onto the table with enough happy gusto to break it (the glass) into a million trillion pieces, which I did.

Chandelier Hat

I was kissing everybody on the cheek. Everybody in town! I kissed Bill Taft on the cheek. "Punk rock!" he exclaimed in response. (I finally understood the time Barry Mills kissed everybody in New York City, did I ever tell you about that? I think he wrote a song about it that went "Come here, girl, I'm gonna kiss you/ Hey there, boy, I'll kiss you too") Indulge me. Or don't. I'm just trying to remember why I was so happy for the past few days. This "blog" now works as my substitute memory. You're free to go. Bill and Caroline and Will came to town. Look! Bill Boyle took this picture of Bill and Will playing at the Powerhouse while Caroline sits ready to spring to the poetry podium and read some poetry. Caroline read some poems about the time the awful tornado tore through Cabbagetown. And guess what? Shana came all the way from Atlanta just to hear it. And guess what else! Last time Shana visited we were sitting on the balcony of City Grocery Bar and she started getting a million texts because THAT WAS THE NIGHT THE AWFUL TORNADO TORE THROUGH CABBAGETOWN.
Shana came back for some of that emotion recollected in tranquility you always hear about. Here's Caroline laying down some poetry on the people, photo by Kevin from the Isom Center. Caroline! A benevolent being who appears whenever she is needed! Whether you know it or not! Why, she appeared in Ohio (was it Ohio?) in a hotel room with Bill Taft and Kelly Hogan and me and the band They Might Be Giants. Did I know Caroline at all? In any case, my extensive knowledge of THE BRADY BUNCH (much to the annoyance of They Might Be Giants, as Caroline and I choose to remember it) stuck in her mind and led Caroline, eventually, to get me my first job that a human adult would have. And she has led me from milestone to milestone ever since... introducing me to Dr. Theresa, for example, as I have repeated several times. IT BEARS REPEATING. (Late addendum: I just now recalled - I think - that the very first time I met Caroline, she was Kelly Hogan's next-door neighbor and Kelly and I were out in the gravelly yard drinking wine from her grandmother's red Jell-O glasses; Caroline and her boyfriend were returning - why do I remember this? - from some unwanted and socially enforced visit to a gimmicky restaurant owned by some reactionary Georgia politician, can that be true?) The night before the music and poetry show, Dr. Theresa and I took Bill and Will and Caroline out to dinner and the restaurant was dark and everybody was holding up the menus to their eyes and moving the atmospheric candle around because we're all old now and Caroline had the idea for a chandelier that is also a hat. Or a hat that is also a chandelier? It sounded like a great idea at the time. Before the Powerhouse show Bill and Will played on the Thacker Mountain Radio show, our live local weekly fun fest. Introducing one song, Bill said that when he read Hamlet as a youngster he thought Hamlet was a real cool guy, but now that he's a dad, he really understands Claudius! "A middle-aged man trying to get things done," Bill said, but not exactly. Bill said it better. I sat next to Melissa Ginsburg! SHE HAD JUST SOLD HER FIRST NOVEL THAT VERY DAY. It's a thriller! I think this is okay to "announce." I think everybody knows. Melissa can write poetry AND thrillers! An enchantress she is! She liked Bill so much she wanted me to make her a mix tape of the awesome Atlanta music of my callow young adulthood. Okay, I was in my 30s. I was a late bloomer for callow young adulthood. Melissa and I slipped out and had a drink to celebrate. A twin celebration! Because also on that very same day I had sent off my cigarette lighter book to my editor.
Finished! Until I get notes. NO MORE THINKING ABOUT CIGARETTE LIGHTERS ALL DAY EVERY DAY. After the poetry and music it was back to City Grocery Bar. Shana came along with her friend Kerri, who has an extremely detailed tattoo of Burt Reynolds on her arm! Needless to say, we became fast friends. The next morning I was sitting with Bill and Will at Big Bad Breakfast and Jill, who runs the place, came up to say hello, and there was a nice "Bill and Will this is Jill" moment. Then Shana and Kerri popped in! Will's macaroni and cheese looked so good they had to get a couple of side orders. Kerri told me about how she developed her first-ever crush, and it was Burt Reynolds,
and it happened when she was four years old and saw SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. Then she had a dream, the first dream she can ever remember having, and in the dream Burt Reynolds kidnapped her in the car from THE DUKES OF HAZZARD. But it was pleasant! In the dream. Sadly, Bill and Will had to hit the road (Caroline had vanished like a dewdrop - yes, let's say dewdrop! - early in the morning) but Shana and Kerri were up for anything! I took them across the parking lot to that used book stall I like. Below is a "selfie" of Shana and Kerri. Shana found an old red-and-white checked cookbook with a recipe for "Cinnamon Prunes"! And the previous owner had left little scraps of papers in the book with notes written on them.
Always a bonus! Shana and Bill and Caroline are the kind of friends that are FRIENDS FOR LIFE, even though I never keep in touch with anybody because I'm the worst. I mean, you see them, and all the love in your heart comes flooding out. I'm not leaving Will out! We never hung out with him quite as much, though he is fine and good and endlessly creative and interesting and someone we love knowing. He keeps his own counsel. Or maybe we do! Somebody's keeping it somewhere. SIDENOTE: I realize that I romanticize the past. My friends are unbelievably tough people who weathered unbelievably tough times. END SIDENOTE. Will walked through the woods near Faulkner's house holding a bowl of lima beans from the Oxford Canteen and made up a funny story we almost believed about a bear being attracted by the aroma. I found this used book:
As you can see, the front and back covers must have come off at some point, so they are held in place by silver tape. But other than that, the book is in fine condition. It has that severe polite formality I so enjoy: "When the President fell into the arms of Detective Geary he coolly asked: 'Am I shot?'" Geary unbuttoned the President's vest, and, seeing blood, replied: 'I fear you are, Mr. President.'" The book is, as the title page promises, "Superbly Illustrated." Here are some lovely photos of Mrs. McKinley, the former Ida Saxton. Now I'm not saying she's any Frances Cleveland! But in the bottom right photo, doesn't she look like Gaby Hoffman's character on GIRLS?
And of course the book is filled with fascinating, uh, what's the word for it? When you reveal stuff without meaning to, like a Browning character? For example, the bodyguards pay no attention to the actual assassin because they are busy checking out an "Italian, whose dark, shaggy brows and black mustache caused the professional protectors to regard him with suspicion." Talk about profiling! Eyebrow profiling! And see where that gets you. After the books, Shana and Kerri and I went to The End of All Music, which they were more than taken with. They were ecstatic! They kept saying, "We should move here!" Lots of people say that. Dr. Theresa and I used to say it. I'd be happy if Bill and Caroline and Will and Shana and Kerri moved here. But then what? You have to ask yourself. What happens to the magic? And just yesterday the dopes who can do such things suddenly dumped our fine, progressive university chancellor for their own shady reasons. What if Shana and Kerri and Bill and Caroline and Will come back and have to search for us in a dystopian wasteland?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Your Life Will Change

You HAVE to come to the Powerhouse Theatre in Oxford tomorrow (tonight? THURSDAY!) to have a life-changing experience. Once again, that's TOMORROW NIGHT (Thursday the 19th) at the Powerhouse Theatre. Did you hear me? I GUARANTEE it will change your life! I know firsthand. The people performing there LITERALLY changed my life, as you can see in this old "link" ("click" it, you lazy fool! It's much better than this). Dr. Theresa and I had dinner tonight with Bill Taft and Caroline Young and Will Fratesi (drummer for Cat Power; you super cool dummies have heard of that!). Tomorrow they'll be performing at the Powerhouse, as I said. You may recall Bill from the day we had a tornado and he blew all my students' minds anyway, more than a tornado. COME LET HIM BLOW YOUR MIND MORE THAN A TORNADO. Tonight we found out that Bill's daughter is at Yale and writing for the school paper there! WHAT! I thought she was a baby! (See also.) Tonight Caroline and I recalled when we were eating Chinese food in Washington, D.C., the night Bill's daughter was born, and taking bets on what her name would be. I said "Lily" and Caroline said "Veronica." I was closer. "You had more letters," Caroline admitted tonight. Caroline (as you will see if you "click" on that interview, you goober) has had perhaps the greatest influence of any human on my life... she introduced me to Dr. Theresa for example! Bill and Caroline were in our wedding. Patti Smith and Bill once played together! WHAT, are you better than Patti Smith? I kind of thought not! COME ON OUT. Will and I were talking about when he used to deliver pizza to Dr. Theresa and me. Those were good times! I think he was even playing with Cat Power then. Musicians have to hold down many jobs! Being a musician is hard! Will would come over bearing a pizza we had ordered and then we'd all sit down and watch THE SIMPSONS together. Here's the point: COME TO THE POWERHOUSE THURSDAY AT SEVEN. The hard-to-find and truly life-changing documentary BENJAMIN SMOKE will be playing then too! Once I rode illegally in the back of a furniture truck with Benjamin and we peed in a coffee can and he coerced me into stealing a shirt. I DON'T STEAL! Come see the movie and maybe you'll "get it." And there is free food THURSDAY NIGHT - made by the geniuses at Oxford Canteen! - and free vodka. I guess you'd have to be an idiot of the highest order to stay home. If your life doesn't change I WILL GIVE YOUR MONEY BACK even though IT IS ALL ABSOLUTELY FREE.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Vacant Lot

Sitting on John T. and Blair's front porch and the sun was going down behind some trees and there were kids playing baseball in a vacant lot, WHAT! COME ON! What century are we in? And I think I swatted the first mosquito of the season.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Dulcet Tones of the Fistula

Here is something I read in that book about the Middle Ages: "The king loved the dulcet tones of the fistula, a kind of pan-pipes; this was soon augmented by the powerful sound of a (water) organ." Ha ha! I thought it was kind of funny because I vaguely know the "fistula" as some kind of awful-sounding medical condition. Also, the cliche "dulcet tones" is kind of nice. And the unnecessary parentheses around "water" cap it all off for an enjoyable lark!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Beauteous Swamp Girl

Oh yeah! I meant to tell you about when I flipped to TCM yesterday and saw part of a movie I didn't even know existed, called A LION IS IN THE STREETS. It was one of those grittily realistic looks at rough-and-tumble Southern politics, by which I mean it was just a big ALL THE KING'S MEN rip-off. But it starred Jimmy Cagney as a Southern politician! Huh! And he takes his wife to meet some swamp folk he knows and a beauteous swamp girl tries to feed his wife to an alligator, as you can see above. And the wife is like, "Ah, don't worry about it, it was totally my fault." (I paraphrase.) You know, grittily realistic!

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Still reading THE MIDDLE AGES by Johannes Fried. I read about a guy who divided a kingdom "among his three sons Carloman, Pepin the Short, and Grifo." Don't they sound like a fun bunch? Like a comedy team, maybe. Grifo could be the lost Marx Brother. If you pronounce it "Griefo" he could be the sad one. That's what I was thinking last night. Today none of this jabber of mine seems too fascinating.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Vast Unholy Vector

That word "vellum" reminds me of the time that Jon Host and I wrote a song with a lot of V words in it, not on purpose, I mean, we didn't include a bunch of V words on purpose, as far as I recall. Vellum was one. We rhymed it with "quell 'em." And there was a "vast unholy vector/ that dominates this sector/ and desecrates the rectory." Move over, Sondheim! Anyway, you'll never hear it.

Sea Minotaur

Hey everybody I'm reading a large book about the Middle Ages! It's called THE MIDDLE AGES. Let's see how far I get! So far I've made it to page 26. Here are three disconnected phrases I have enjoyed: 1. "(the 'Silver Codex,' thus called because it was written in silver ink on purple-stained vellum)" 2. "This historian also knew the legend that claimed that King Merovech was conceived by a minotaur who had risen from the sea" 3. "the former a long-serving general, and the latter a eunuch."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The President

Hey did you know my sister has been sick? Just like McNeil! Today she crawled out of her sickbed and went downstairs and sat on the steps of her apartment building in her pajamas and watched all the action because she lives across the street from Manuel's Tavern and President Obama was eating there! She didn't see him.

NYC Glam

I wish I could remember all the funny stuff Megan Abbott was saying on the telephone the other night. She was talking about winter in New York. I believe she referred to "ten feet of dirty, crunchy ice." Is that how she put it? She said, "At night it looks like a gem and in the daylight it's trash." I think I have that one right. She said people are throwing out their old porcelain toilets because of plumbing problems. She said the sidewalks of New York are lined with broken toilets. "It's a wonderland," she said. I know I have that right. Anyway, here's a photo she "posted" to twitter, entitled "NYC Glam."

Extra Junk

McNeil is in bed with the flu! He's watching movies. "A guy just ordered an old fashioned, left the bar, came back in and said (referring to his drink) 'How bout we freshen this up, hold the junk.'" That's something that happened in a movie McNeil was watching. I think it was Richard Howorth who told me that an old-fashioned will fight off disease, McNeil! Put in extra junk, for the vitamins.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

What Not to Read on International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day! It occurs to me that a Travis McGee novel is not quite the thing to read on International Women's Day. If you "click" on this "link" and scroll down to the part where I am reading Travis McGee in a bubble bath - ha ha! Gross! I know you won't - you will note Travis McGee's general attitude. Here, I'll quote myself and save you the trouble: "Travis McGee likes to explain life to the ladies. He likes to tell women what's what. 'Baby, nothing is easy... real people walk around in the foggy, foggy dew.' Okay, Travis McGee! That little speech runs about a page... By page 142 two women have literally purred at him - PURRED AT HIM, NOT METAPHORICALLY - because he's so awesome at giving them a squeeze if you know what I mean. Maybe one woman specifically purring in gratitude for his manliness every 71 pages isn't too many, I don't know, what do you think, don't tell me, I don't care." Okay! And in the book I'm reading now, Travis McGee is eating in a diner and a women's bowling team comes in and makes him feel dirty with their salacious gaze! "Brown-faced stranger, with shoulders big enough to interest them." Ha ha ha! That's Travis McGee, describing himself! Describing how irresistible he must be to the women's bowling team.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Literary Matters

I guess it has been almost exactly three years since we have had any "Literary Matters" and do you know why? Because everybody hates them! Literary matters are the worst. But somehow I have two. 1) I am still getting a lot of enjoyment from this book THE LORE AND LANGUAGE OF SCHOOLCHILDREN: "At present rude gestures seem to be in a state of flux, the following being currently regarded as the most offensive: 1. The first and second fingers, extended and slightly parted, are jerked upwards, the back of the hand facing outwards. 2. The nose is pressed upward with the thumb, and the tongue put out. 3. Ears are twisted, or thumbs placed in ear-holes and fingers fluttered, a gesticulation known as 'elephant ears'. 4. The nose is held while an imaginary lavatory chain is pulled. 5. Air is forced through the pursed lips to make a juicy noise known as a 'raspberry'." (Pictured, friend of the "blog" Sally Timms making rude gesture #1, accompanied by smirking friend of the "blog" Jon Langford.) 2) Remember when Ace Atkins revealed a spoiler that ruined EVERY SINGLE TRAVIS MCGEE NOVEL FOR ME? I am going to tell it to you now, so BEWARE! (Oh, wait, I already told you this.) Ace told me, "The woman always dies." So anyhow I was going to go eat a cheeseburger down at Handy Andy's and I didn't have anything to read so I stopped by Square Books and got a Travis McGee paperback called A PURPLE PLACE FOR DYING. That sounds like a weird place for dying! So this woman wants to hire Travis McGee and he's thinking about it and she gets killed a few pages into Chapter One, while he's still standing there thinking about whether or not he's going to take the job! That must be some kind of a record, even for Travis McGee.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Fried Gloves

Something else I read in this Altman book: Robert Altman had a special pair of gloves he prized highly. Paul Newman fried them as a "practical joke" and had them served to Altman for lunch! Altman brooded about it for years.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

If Your Secretary Could Check It Out

I picked up this glossy coffee-table book about Robert Altman at Square Books a while back. It includes a facsimile of a letter Altman received in 1983: "In talking with my daughter Julie recently, she told me that one of her all time favorite movies was your 'Nashville'. I did not get to see it and wondered if by chance it has been or will be released in a cassette. Don't go to too much trouble but if your secretary could check it out, I would appreciate it. With warm regards, Sincerely, Richard Nixon."

New York Gala

Last night Megan Abbott attended a gala at which our old pal Anthony Bourdain spoke ("old pal" - ha ha! But no kidding, Megan and I were on a TV show with him once and if you don't believe me you can "click" on this "pic" of Anthony Bourdain with part of Megan's face and my empty chair). Last night Bourdain was at a table so far away Megan could never reach him. She also ordered a French 75 that never came. It all sounds so symbolic!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Shiny New Garbage

Hey! Remember in early 2012 when I vowed to be "the kind of old man who visits the old neighborhood and looks around all disappointed in the world and says, 'That's where such-and-such used to be'"? I'm doing it! I'm really doing it! In an ADVENTURE TIME meeting the other day, Kent Osborne, of all people, sitting there in faraway Burbank, told me that something shady is going on with Manuel's Tavern, my old neighborhood watering hole in Atlanta. "That's where we saw Mark McGwire break his home run record," Kent reminded me. The way I remember it, Ward McCarthy and I were sitting with our backs to the TV screen and Kent kept trying to get us to look. Why didn't we look? I think we were just being jerks. I emailed my brother-in-law for more details about Manuel's. He says they're selling the property, which is going to be turned into some kind of "mixed use complex" (I'm not sure he used those exact words), but supposedly after everything is torn down and rebuilt Manuel's will remain in some refurbished form. Huh! Atlanta is kind of famous for "refurbishing" things right out of existence and replacing them with shiny new garbage that wouldn't fool the world's biggest chump. And I even wrote about Manuel's in a fancy "favorite bar" anthology last year. Now it's all a lie! Just like when I wrote a "think piece" about ice buckets and then months later there's the "ice bucket challenge." Everything I write immediately becomes obsolete. Like the time I had to change a Heath Ledger reference to a Joaquin Phoenix reference to a Zac Efron reference to no reference. Ha ha, everything is pointless. Boo! Boo to you, world. Boo, say I. Boo!

Monday, March 02, 2015

Skipped Owls

I forgot to tell you that there is an owl in THE LORE AND LANGUAGE OF SCHOOLCHILDREN. Also, I have been so urgently racing through Laura Lippman's latest nailbiter HUSH HUSH that I neglected to inform you when Tess Monaghan's young daughter was referred to as a "night owl," which, as I am sick of reminding you, COUNTS. Last night I dreamed I had figured out the mystery in HUSH HUSH, and now that I am awake my "solution" still seems viable... but this is not the first time my dreams may have fooled me about a Tess Monaghan story.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

No Sun Partisan He

Our friend Mark Baker was in town to install some rare old photographs of Atlanta's Cabbagetown neighborhood over at the Powerhouse. Why did he do that? I am happy to tell you! The Isom Center, the Southern Foodways Alliance, and others are hosting a Cabbagetown retrospective at 7 PM on March 19. You should attend! Among the other treats will be live performances from Bill Taft and Caroline Young, who will read her poetry about that place. There will be a rare screening of BENJAMIN SMOKE, Jem Cohen's lauded documentary about Bill's old band. Also: food! We walked up with Mr. Baker last night to see Jonathan Richman perform in the intimate setting of Proud Larry's. Many familiar faces in the crowd: Dent May is visiting from his new home in Los Angeles. Jimmy came up from New Orleans for the show. Mary Miller! Bill Boyle! A respectable crowd, but small enough that you could get to know every face in it. Jonathan Richman just walked in off the street and through the front door with his guitar case, stepped onto the stage and started playing with zero fuss. His stone-faced drummer hopped up from the bar and joined him. He sang a song thanking the sun for allowing us to grow peas and corn. Then, as if to prove he's not strictly a sun worshipper, he reminded us that sometimes (I think I have this right) "we want to paddle our own canoe into the sinister darkness." He sang a song about it. "He's a mesmerist!" said Dr. Theresa, trying to describe Jonathan Richman's crazy dance moves after the show. "It's like he's looking THROUGH us!" Will McIntosh reportedly whispered to Dr. Theresa during the performance. Jonathan Richman bridged each song with fancy guitar licks so that there were no pauses, no places to clap. We clapped anyway, when we could.