Monday, April 27, 2015

While Not Devoid of Talent

Just read in this book about the Middle Ages: "Wenceslas was commonly regarded as lazy (he was given the nickname 'the Idle'), and while not devoid of talent was nevertheless politically maladroit and, as far as we know, an alcoholic, too." Whoa, medievalist Johannes Fried! No need to get personal.

Bridge Column

"It was with much sadness that I learned The New York Times has decided to eliminate its bridge column," writes the guy who writes the New York Times bridge column today, in his final bridge column. Well, I feel bad for him! Let's think back to the time he wrote about the guy who fell down and then bravely played bridge with a broken rib.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sloppy Kings

Reading in this book on the Middle Ages about "one occasion, in 1463, when two kings met who, though not openly in conflict with one another, nevertheless didn't particularly like one another... Without any words being exchanged, their apparel made it abundantly clear what they thought of one another. As the French diplomat Philippe de Commynes reported, 'The king of Castile was ugly, and his clothes displeased the Frenchman... our king dressed himself in great haste, and as badly as he could.'"


Last night I watched JULIUS CAESAR, the version with Marlon Brando, and I don't even know why. I've watched it before and can't recall being much of anything but bored. This time I was really into it! I was like, "WHAT!" I was like, "These characters are really in a pickle now!" Also, Casca says, "And yesterday the bird of night did sit even at noonday upon the marketplace, hooting and shrieking." So I've decided that's an owl. Sure, there are night birds that are not owls, but what bird other than an owl hoots and shrieks? MY DECISION IS FINAL. Edmond O'Brien (pictured) is really good as Casca. Usually you think of him as a guy in noir or westerns. He's one sweaty assassin! Maybe that's why they hired him. He's especially good when he's acting at John Gielgud. He really shows up Gielgud's silvery vibrato. Ha ha, what a terrible description of Gielgud's voice. It does quaver dramatically, though. I think. I remember when Megan Abbott asked me for an adjective to describe John Huston's voice and I said, "Growly?" and Megan said, "I'd say the opposite! But I always use caramely." Anyway, Gielgud's voice is good for this one line where Brutus accuses him of taking bribes and he says, "I, an itchy palm?!!!???!!!!!??!!!!????!!!!!!!" And I'll add that the most sarcastic thing I've ever heard in a movie is the way Brando says, "Oh... NOW you weep." That's how he says it. "Oh... NOW you weep."

Friday, April 24, 2015

Proust Dog Hug

WARNING! THIS "POST" CONTAINS SALTY LANGUAGE. I saw the word "hump" on twitter just now and had a Proustian flashback to a time many, many years ago that my friend Ward McCarthy and I were at someone's house in Los Angeles and she was showing us a photograph of Richard Dreyfuss and herself with the pope (!) and suddenly her dog began to "hump" Ward McCarthy's leg. She turned around from the photograph of Richard Dreyfuss and herself with the pope (!) and saw what was going on. "Were you two hugging?" she asked us. "He does that when he sees people hugging." We said, "Uh, no, we weren't hugging." The dog continued its business.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

This Is Happening

McNeil emailed to say that Jerry Lewis is going to play Nicolas Cage's father in a movie. That was half an hour ago, and I have already thought about it too much. I used to think Oliver Platt was the ultimate son Jerry Lewis could have in a movie.

All Day Suckers

Remember the time Dr. Theresa and I were eating steak and we saw Morgan Freeman? THE SAME THING JUST HAPPENED AGAIN. He was at the same table again, in the same seat, and - though this part may be my imagination - he was wearing the same clothes! The first time it happened, we were like "WOW!" This time we were like, "Oh." How jaded! On our walk home we saw a tyke with golden, curly hair standing in the bed of a (parked) pickup truck eating not one but TWO all-day suckers, as I believe those enormous lollipops are called. First he'd lick one, then the other. One, then the other. "That's the life," said Dr. Theresa.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Alone and Funky

Speaking of Funk! I was supposed to bring over some food to Lee Durkee's because we were gonna watch BARRY LYNDON. (Last time I watched BARRY LYNDON it was with Megan Abbott and Kent Osborne. What a combo!) Some place in town - which shall remain nameless - said, "We're not doing takeout right now." So I called Lee and told him so and he said, "Three people have told me that Funky's has the best pizza in town." Okay! FIRST! Understand that Oxford, Mississippi, is not the pizza capital of the world. The only person in town who makes good pizza is Bill Boyle. SECOND! "Funky's" is a "college bar." I've never been there before. I don't want to go to no "college bar." It's not where a self-respecting grown man such as myself would go! It's where Katy Perry went when she was in town. Look: So I was walking up the square to order some pizza from Funky's when I ran into Kaitlyn and her good friend the poet Caroline Randall Williams, and I said I was going to Funky's and Caroline Randall Williams said, "Order the Taylor Swift. While you're waiting!" And who am I to question the wisdom of youth? And so I did. I was the only customer. I guess it was early. I sat entirely alone at the long wooden bar. The "Taylor Swift" tasted like cotton candy and smelled like rubbing alcohol. Two boys in the kitchen were beating a big glob of dough into submission with their fists. Everybody was nice. Lee and I found the pizza acceptable, more than acceptable. Reader, we ate it.

The Stump, the Candle and the Pencil Sharpener

Read in this book about the Middle Ages about Francesco Dantini. "Orphaned when still young, he began trading everything that could turn a profit: weapons and spices, cloth and silk." Upon his death in 1410, "he bequeathed his entire estate" to a charitable trust he had founded, called "the poor people's stump." By doing so, he "hoped to avoid punishment in Hell." His charity "still exists today, a miraculous survival," the author calls it. So that's pretty good! I hope he got into Heaven okay. Speaking of the Middle Ages, didn't they believe in unicorns back then? I'll check one of my many reference books about unicorns. Yes, yes, I see in THE LORE OF THE UNICORN that the legendary figure Prester John (in whom a lot of people believed, according to my book about the Middle Ages) was supposed to have plenty of unicorns running around in his kingdom. Oh yeah, and I forgot William Davenant got a job fetching powdered unicorn horn for a duchess way after the Middle Ages, even. So! Rhea sent me this picture of some cupcakes she had made, and as you can see, she placed them decoratively around a golden unicorn. Who wouldn't? But then she had second thoughts! She felt, perhaps, that the makers of this unicorn had improperly given it a horn, when, as you can plainly see, the candle sticking out of its head should have cleverly served in that capacity. The horn is redundant! Or so Rhea feared. And I believe that Rhea is right. Take, for example, this pencil sharpener (below) given to me by Beth Ann Fennelly. Here we have the unsharpened silver pencil properly representing the unicorn's horn. I can only hope that future manufacturers of unicorn novelties will take a lesson from Rhea's tragedy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The World Was Young

My friend and former ADVENTURE TIME coworker Emily Quinn made this portrait of Marceline. I tweeted it, but couldn't think of the proper name for the technique employed. Maria Bustillos helpfully tweeted back at me: "it is called pyrography, remember you could buy those kits of it when the world was young." And just minutes later my friend Judge of Chicago independently confirmed via tweet: pyrography. Somehow Maria's tweet reminded me of something you could order off the back of comic books when I was a boy: a shrunken head kit. A curious child was encouraged to make grotesque heads out of apples! At first I didn't even tweet to Maria that Vincent Price was on the box, though that's the way I remembered it, because it could't possibly have been that perfect. BUT IT WAS. Maria Bustillos, by the way, wrote a good, long article about ADVENTURE TIME, which I'm sure I've "linked" to you before, but just in case, here it is. You'll hate yourself if you don't "click."
And now, unless I'm crazy, I am recalling that there was (is) a song called something like "Ah, the Apple Trees! (When the World Was Young)" which brings everything together, but that can't possibly be a real title, can it? Pretty melodramatic! But then of course you remember what Bellini - dead at 34! - said: "Carve into your head in adamantine letters: OPERA MUST MAKE PEOPLE WEEP, FEEL HORRIFIED, DIE THROUGH SINGING." Speaking of which! Yesterday was Record Store Day and we played some records. We played a record Jimmy gave us a long time ago, back when he lived in town. It's called NIGHTINGALES AND CANARIES, and to oversimplify, it has some songs sung by immigrant women in New York in the 40s and 50s and songs recorded by women in Istanbul in the 30s. The first couple of numbers are sung by Virginia Magidou, which is, as the liner notes say, probably a pseudonym used because of the "disreputable, underworld style of some of her songs." One song she sings goes
(and the liner notes apologize because it's actually in "Greek slang that can't be precisely translated"): "I was born a tough chick, I'll die a tough chick... I like the tough life, and if I'm lucky I'll be rich./ In this lying world, I'll live even tougher... I would like to have a man who feels, a tough guy, or gangster./ To be the love of crazy guys who are a little troublesome... This false world, I just want to party in it."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Don't Think

Still slowly, slowly reading this book about the Middle Ages called THE MIDDLE AGES. And you know what? This is the absolute truth. As I was reading it today, I was LITERALLY thinking, "At least this won't have anything about lighters in it. I've turned in my cigarette lighter book and I'm not going to see lighters everywhere I look anymore." And then I turned the page and immediately came to a detail that MUST go into my cigarette lighter book. MUST! So that just shows you where thinking gets you. Nowhere, baby. Hey! I guess Jimmy is in town for Record Store Day. Saw him over at The End of All Music. We talked about monkhood. A famous monk came up. In conversation, I mean. I offered my (completely unsubstantiated!) theory that this monk secretly committed suicide. "He wouldn't be the first monk to commit suicide," Jimmy said soberly. Jimmy has a knack for saying things! Bill looked up the details of the monk's death on his cell phone. Some people left the room. Sorry to bring everybody down on Record Store Day! Anyway, Dr. Theresa and I are listening to this LP we bought on Record Store Day by the new-wave band Yachts and it's pretty great. See, not everything is about monks hypothetically committing suicide.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Be Sure to Include Dana Andrews

In another ASTONISHING COINCIDENCE, I hear from McNeil that he watched the old movie FALLEN ANGEL today. Here's what! Dr. Theresa and I came EXTREMELY CLOSE to watching FALLEN ANGEL today! OF ALL MOVIES. I don't even know what made me think of it. A vibration from McNeil's mind? That is the only reasonable answer! But for whatever reason we turned on MIRAGE instead, something I had recorded from TCM. We got a few minutes in and our brains hurt already from Gregory Peck's mysterious identity predicament. Don't we have enough problems with our own mysterious identity predicaments? "Maybe I'll take a nap instead," I said, and promptly fell asleep for four hours. Ain't life grand. So anyway, if you do a "Google Image Search" for the movie FALLEN ANGEL, don't just google the term "fallen angel" or all you'll get is a lot of scary fan art of scary looming demons with big scary wings. Add Dana Andrews to your search terms.

The Middleman

Well, it's been a real ADVENTURE TIME type day here in Oxford, Mississippi. I was on my way to lunch with Tom Franklin when I spied Jesse Moynihan's FORMING II prominently displayed in the window of Square Books. THEN! Tom had some comic books with him at lunch: OMAC comic books he wanted me to mail to Pendleton Ward with his compliments. I don't know what kind of deal they worked out when Pen was in town! I'm just the middleman. BUT HERE'S THE ASTONISHING COINCIDENCE! Just earlier this week in an ADVENTURE TIME meeting, Adam Muto used OMAC as an example of some action he wanted to get across to us. OMAC! More relevant than ever, I guess.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Hey look it's me with a Decembrist, or two Decembrists... I guess Hogan is a Decembrist. How do you know for sure? I feel like there's a ceremony with robes. Do they have business cards? Like, maybe, "Kelly Hogan, Associate Decembrist"? Do you get tenure? Is Kelly an adjunct? Or is it like the end of THE WIZARD OF OZ and one of the Decembrists puts a gentle hand on her shoulder and tells her, "Don't you see, my dear, you were a Decembrist all along!"? What are the mysteries of rock and roll? Anyway can you believe this nice gentleman's name is CHRIS FUNK? It's like he was BORN to be a guitarist. Certainly this is not a fresh observation.

The Incident of the Family with the Ball

Hey look what Lee Durkee found. "Click" here to read the whole story. Here are some of my fave excerpts if you are too lazy: "Back in their home, when Terry was playing his guitar, the first incident of the family with the ball took place." I also like the numerous typos and syntactical errors that lend this paragraph such pleasant heft: "Doors started slamming without any reason in the house and filled with organ music, even though no such music instrument around the resident. When Terry hit the ball with a metal object, the family members heard a ringing sound." Another nice fragment is "When the family had enough, they contacted the media." Lee thinks the guy who is presenting the ball to the public in this photograph (in front of a banner saying what appears to be something like "National Enquirer Blue Ribbon Panel of UFO Investigators") looks like Mandy Patinkin from THE PRINCESS BRIDE. In fact, Lee's email said, "Hey look Inigo Montoya found a magic outer space ball!" Myself, I see a touch of Father Guido Sarducci.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Big Times

Oxford! Come on! Bill Boyle ("William Boyle" for book cover purposes) is reading from his new book at Off Square Books on Wednesday, the usual time. His book is called DEATH DON'T HAVE NO MERCY, which is easy to remember because it really don't. I'm on the last story, and they've all been great. Kent Osborne bought a copy when he was in town. I think he read the first couple of stories while he was waiting at the counter for some Gus's Fried Chicken, and he was blown away, as the vernacular would have it. In yesterday's ADVENTURE TIME meeting Kent started describing one of Bill's stories to everybody and I was like, "Stop! I haven't read that one yet." But later I realized (while reading it with THE BIRDS on in the background) it's one I had the privilege and honor of hearing Bill work over at Good Idea Club. "He's like Bukowski," Kent said of Bill's work yesterday, "but with more..." "Stabbing?" I suggested. We agreed, too, that there were moments of the highest, darkest humor in Bill's grim world. AND THEN! On Saturday, head over to The End of All Music for Record Store Day. They've made
a vinyl LP (pictured) of our late pal Barry Hannah talking up a storm. Please muster the energy to "click" here for some fascinating details. I know it's hard! It's hard for you to "click" on things, you poor little baby. But there are only 500 of these precious gems so get there early. I really don't ask much of you.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Hug for David

Hey look here is Dr. Theresa hugging David Simon. You know, I have to say he was positively buoyant on his visit and really nothing like the - what's the word? - the thundering Jeremiah portrayed in the popular press. Hugs!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

You Can't Beat Burrata

I went to Atlanta! But I forgot my precious jotting book. So I jotted nothing. I'll try to remember what happened anyway. See, I noticed that Kelly Hogan was playing there, in a band called the Decembrists. And I knew that my sister and brother-in-law love that band (as an old, out-of-touch person, I know the name but had never heard their music somehow - except I think they once used a Decembrists song on MAD MEN! That's something an old person can really get behind), so I thought it would be fun to go to Atlanta and see Hogan onstage with the Decembrists and maybe my sister and brother-in-law could go backstage after the show, and so could I, and that's what we did. Oh yeah, and Abby was there! Abby took this picture of Hogan and her friend Nora singing. Abby knows the Decembrists' road manager (I think) so she went backstage too. Yeah, Abby used to live in Chicago and go to the Hideout back when Hogan was tending bar there, and they never even knew it... it's a small world I tell ya! So guess who I saw backstage. That's right, Andy Hopkins, the greatest "blogger" ever on the subject of canned food, who hasn't updated his blog since 2011. So I upbraided him for depriving the world of pleasure, but I thanked him for all the pleasure he has given us already. HASN'T HE DONE ENOUGH? And I met this one guy who said (I thought), "I'm in a band with Kelly," and I said, "Oh! Which one?" And he said, "Uh, the one that just played." Ha ha ha! See how old I am? I had already forgotten him from mere moments earlier. He was very nice about it. We gave Hogan a ride to Manuel's. My sister went home (they live across the street) but my brother-in-law stayed out, and I would say a majority of the Decembrists came over and everybody had a good time at Manuel's. Kelly and I particularly wanted to go because neither of us lives in Atlanta anymore and as you know they are probably going to ruin Manuel's soon. Then everybody went to the Clermont Lounge, another old stomping ground. (I must say that my brother-in-law went home instead! He did not set foot in that disreputable spot.) The Clermont was packed to the gills! Is that an expression? You couldn't even move around in there. I said to Hogan, "I don't remember it being like this." And she said, "I blame Anthony Bourdain." It is true that Mr. Bourdain did a televised segment on the Clermont, although I have never seen it. BUT HERE IS A TRIVIA FACT! Remember when I was on the Anthony Bourdain television program? There is some "B-roll" footage on the show of Anthony Bourdain and Bill Griffith and me standing around in the front hall of William Faulkner's house. And you can't hear us talking, but what we are talking about is the Clermont Lounge! It was what gave rise to Bill's memorable aphorism, "Dirty places are getting harder and harder to find." Speaking of which! I had lunch with Shana the day after the show, and she said that at the same time Manuel's is going to be shut down for nefarious "improvements" the Clermont will be shut down for the same reason! So for some period of time Atlanta will be without the Clermont Lounge and Manuel's. WHAT WILL HAPPEN? I assume the city will sink into an abyss. Oh, Atlanta! How you love to shoot yourself in the foot. One new thing was hot dogs for sale in the Clermont Lounge parking lot. A PREVIOUSLY UNTHINKABLE OCCURRENCE. Abby had one and so did I. Mustard and sauerkraut! The following evening, Bill Taft wanted to meet up for a drink at La Tavola for old times' sake. I went back and checked the wall of photographs of "regulars," which had been neatened and straightened and purged of dead weight. Dr. Theresa and I were among the casualties! Our picture is gone from the wall. Sic transit gloria mundi! All the old faces are gone. I didn't see anybody I knew at La Tavola. Except Bill! He wanted an appetizer and I saw burrata on the menu. I told him the story of the time everyone knew what burrata was except me. Bill ordered it, and I am happy to say that he was just as thrilled with the burrata as I was when I first had it. You can't beat burrata! Bill said that he had once entertained fantasies of making La Tavola his "family spot." His intention was to be "the cool dad who drinks grappa." But then he brought his family there and his three-year-old son threw up. So that didn't work out! Anyway, his son is about ready to go off to college now. I AM JUST TELLING YOU HOW LIFE WORKS.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Entranced Cowherd

Also still reading this book about the Middle Ages. Just ran across Christine de Saint Trond, a cowherd who would "whirl herself to unconsciousness like a dervish." In her "trancelike state" she'd "clamber up into the rafters of churches and climb towers and trees, flirting with death. She also tried to replicate the torments of sinners in Hell by putting herself in ovens, plunging into boiling water, having herself lashed to mill wheels and hanged on gallows, and lying in open graves." Just another one of the fun loving characters from the Middle Ages!

The Margrave of Anspach, Subsequently Her Lover

Easter Sunday was cloudy and uneventful. To pass the time I picked up my old copy of THE NIGHT-SIDE OF NATURE; OR, GHOSTS AND GHOST-SEERS by Catherine Crowe. It's a first edition, I think. The front cover has become completely detached. Otherwise it's just fine. I opened it up and read, "Monsieur De S. had been violently in love with Hippolyte Clarion, the celebrated French actress, but she rejected his suit, in so peremptory a manner, that even when he was at the point of death, she refused his earnest entreaties, that she would visit him. Indignant at her cruelty, he declared that he would haunt her, and he certainly kept his word. I believe she never saw his ghost, but he appears to have always been near her... he signaled his presence at her bidding, by various sounds... Sometimes it was a cry, at others, a shot, and at others a clapping of hands or music... the margrave of Anspach, who was subsequently her lover, and Mr. Keppel Craven, were perfectly well acquainted with the circumstances of this haunting." So this guy follows her around after he dies and she makes him do tricks for her new boyfriends! I think that's okay. She's making the best of a terrible circumstance if you ask me. I mean, she can't have him arrested.

Friday, April 03, 2015


"But my absolute favorite thing about the Witch of Endor," writes Jimmy near the end of a good email, "is that, after she raises Samuel and he prophesies about Saul's doom and Saul collapses, the Witch of Endor cooks him dinner. He doesn't want it at first, but then she kills a calf and makes some bread and he eats it anyway. She's probably the nicest witch ever." Here's what she says in the Bible: "Let me set a morsel of bread before thee; and eat, that thou mayest have strength, when thou goest on thy way."

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Curtsy

Look! Here's Dr. Theresa curtsying as she prepares to introduce a packed auditorium to Mr. John Waters! Kent Osborne tried to capture the moment but he and his phone were so far away and Dr. Theresa was IN MOTION. Not to worry, though, because Natasha Allegri drew the moment (and the dress) from memory. Dr. Theresa says I have to get it as a tattoo for our 20th anniversary:

In the Neighbourhood of a Bovine Skull

Got a heavy used hardcover of the ILLUSTRATED ANTHOLOGY OF SORCERY, MAGIC AND ALCHEMY in the mail yesterday, on the recommendation of Jesse Moynihan. Here's what I can say so far: it has a lot of scary old pictures in it, many of them too scary to look at. This one isn't so bad. It's a seventeenth-century drawing of the Witch of Endor. "An owl, a toad, and a snake are moving at large about the circle in the neighbourhood of a bovine skull." That will give you some idea of the author's deadpan style. Here he is on some terrifying engravings of the Witches' Sabbath: "It is important to remark, on this point, that witches emphatically denied kissing the posteriors of the Devil. 'It is not a backside,' they said, with a holy - or diabolic - indignation, 'but a second face that he has under his tail!'"