Hey look that guy wasn't kidding when he referred to "My friend Granville Squiers, who made a study of secret hiding places."
Friday, September 12, 2014
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Ace took when we went to Memphis today. He called out of the blue and off we went. On the way we talked about John D. MacDonald some. I thought I had detected a single similarity between MacDonald and Charles Willeford, two extremely different writers. But I noticed that they are both willing to stop their plots in what I find to be a really pleasant way, and just dally over some other subject for a whole chapter or two, say: not what you expect necessarily from a "crime novel." I asked Ace - who was a newspaperman in Florida, you know - whether he thought it had anything to do with the fact that MacDonald and Willeford are both considered "Florida writers," as stylistically different as they are. Ace gave me a good history lesson on Florida crime writing and the particular idiosyncrasies of John D. MacDonald, and the ride to Memphis whizzed by. Ace was going there to speak at a branch of the Memphis Public Library. When we pulled in I could not help but notice that people were selling barbecue from a tent in the library parking lot. Because we were in Memphis! So I let Ace go in to "speak" and had some barbecue instead. I was drawn to the welcome sight of baloney. Not your thin Oscar Mayer-style slices. Nice thick honest rounds of real baloney, my friends. And they put two on a sandwich, as I now know from experience. I finished my sandwich - a real bargain at $3! - and was about to walk into the library when I overheard the library security guard say to a bystander, "The slaw is exceptional." I asked if he were referring to the slaw they put on the barbecue sandwiches in the library parking lot and he said yes and I quite agreed with him. So I said that I was almost tempted to go back and try the smoked sausage. He revealed that he had first had a smoked sausage and then gone back for the baloney! So we bonded over that. So did I go back and have a smoked sausage sandwich? It is really none of your beeswax. THAT KIND OF PERSONAL DECISION IS BETWEEN ME AND THE LIBRARY SECURITY GUARD. I saw no signage, so I asked the barbecue guys whether they had a restaurant and the main guy said, "No, we ride around." Then he said that his regular spot is on the corner of Winchester and Elvis Presley Boulevard. Go visit! And tell 'em "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot sent you. Finally I went in the library and was very pleasantly surprised to find that Ace's fellow speakers included Scott Phillips and Jedidiah Ayres. We were able to catch up a little bit. Then Ace and I had some Gus's Fried Chicken (SIDE NOTE! When Kent sent me the photo to use in my "Kent Eating Chicken" "post" I promised in return to take him to Gus's next time he visits... and he told me he has already been, of course! He has even been to a second secret Tennessee chicken location that John T. Edge told him about! You can't get ahead of Kent Osborne when it comes to chicken). Over chicken, thinking back on the speaking engagement I had just enjoyed, I speculated that our friend Scott was the first person to use the phrase "a pile of genitals" in the Memphis Public Library and Ace responded, "I THINK NOT." Then Ace said, "Have you ever had the Costco experience?" I had to answer in the negative. Turned out, Ace had to go to Costco and renew his membership and buy one million items from Costco. It also turns out the "Costco experience" is pretty much the same as the "grocery store experience." BUT! Then I passed a whole stack of kayaks in the Costco. Kayaks stacked to the skies! And Ace said, "You know they also sell coffins at Costco." He wasn't kidding! They really do. But the final part of the Costco experience is that when you leave they kind of frisk you! Well, they go through your stuff like you're smuggling uranium. There's your Costco experience. We drove back to town and dropped off the frozen stuff and one of Ace's kids hit me with a light saber. (PS Ace's kids are the best! I am recalling the incident with fondness and good humor!) "Chicken, kayaks and coffins," Dr. Theresa said, summing up my own summary of my day. It sounded like the title of a memoir! Maybe of the founder of Costco! When Ace brought me home we found Dr. Theresa and Megan there. They had just finished watching the old live-action Disney chiller THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS, inspired by Jimmy's thesis defense, in which he cited it, and they were still a little freaked out by the apparently traumatic alternate endings with which the DVD had come supplied. So I gave Megan her first ever belt of rye. A 13-year-old rye! Oh, this day has been coming.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Saturday, February 22, 2014
I was rather grouchy and irritable at the beginning of the night; I asked Megan Abbott to look up querulous in her dictionary because I was pretty sure that's how I was feeling. And I was right! But then we went to see a Frank Sinatra impersonator - Ace, Angela, Dr. Theresa, Megan, and me - and when he sang "Buddy, you'd never know it, but I'm kind of a poet," I believed it! I believed that this computer programmer from the space center in Huntsville, Alabama (as he finally revealed himself to be) WAS kind of a poet! He wasn't kidding around. He had figured out how to express himself. It was like I was hearing the words of that song for the first time. Here are Theresa and I dancing to the dulcet sounds of the Sinatra impersonator (photo by Megan Abbott). I learned something! (PS: The next morning I remembered that he doesn't work for the space center; he works for the army. I thought he was going to finish his sentence with "space center" but he said "army." But my brain erroneously retained "space center.")
Thursday, November 21, 2013
I told you it would be silly for me to keep a list of books I have read that have Jell-O in them? I was an idiot when I said that. Hey so this Adrienne Barbeau autobiography has Jell-O in it. She is great with conjunctions! I mean, she can put a sentence together that has balance and electricity, defining a personality or a moment simply by placing two seemingly unrelated thoughts on either side of an "and." She describes being 15 this way: "I read Ayn Rand and went to ballet class." There's a lot about being 15 packed in there! Of an artsy older guy (he's in his 20s): "He ate cubes of Jell-O with his fingers and wrote everything in lowercase letters." These are economical sentences that really do the trick for me. I guess what I admire is the choice involved, Barbeau's instinct that these details on their own, separated by periods, would be lifeless (except for picking up Jell-O with your fingers; that stands up on its own - "cubes" a nice distinction too), but linked together, without even a comma, they are allowed to spark. Like making a fire with pieces of flint! I guess. It also tickles me that her acquaintances so far (I haven't read much of it) include "Martha Raye's brother-in-law" and "Kaye Ballard's nephew." Now, I know those names mean nothing to you, dear reader, which makes you no more to me than a common gutter punk. Kaye Ballard's nephew "had a gallery of his blown glass pieces and owned a royal poodle who carried his cigarettes for him." A use of the conjunction perhaps lacking the same compact appeal, perhaps utilizing a lower level of contrast, but good, with some satisfying twists. I'm not kidding when I say that it's akin to the old Hemingway line about knowing what to leave out: how exactly the poodle carried the cigarettes. That omission might be what makes the sentence. Here are two pictures of Kaye Ballard - sad Kaye Ballard and happy Kaye Ballard - for you to study until you earn my respect. (See also.)
Thursday, May 09, 2013
John Currence and Bess Reed-Currence and John whipped up a delicious dinner on the spot. He can do that! Afterward, as we sat around talking, John magically produced a Biscoff. That's right: THE GREATEST COOKIE EVER SERVED ON AN AIRPLANE. When he saw how my little eyes lit up and heard my rhapsodic odes to the Biscoff, John said, mysteriously, "Then I have something you're going to love." And he did! Friends, he had a jar of something called BISCOFF SPREAD. It had the appearance and consistency of peanut butter, but PEANUT BUTTER IT WAS NOT. It was as if someone had smashed together thousands of Biscoffs into a single tablespoon of creamy goodness, the way Superman used to squeeze a lump of coal until it became a diamond. (See also.) And bear in mind, dear reader, the Biscoff is no lump of coal. The Biscoff is THE GREATEST COOKIE EVER SERVED ON AN AIRPLANE. And yet my analogy stands and the Biscoff is to Biscoff Spread as the lump of coal is to the diamond. So you can imagine. I checked the ingredients of the Biscoff Spread and I am not kidding, here is the primary ingredient listed: "Biscoffs, 57%." Also on the label: "PRODUCT OF BELGIUM." And that is all I remember. Perversely we spread the Biscoff Spread on the Biscoffs themselves, which I think should have caused the universe to fold up, but we're still here, I guess. (Image from the Silver Age Comics "Blog," natch.)
Sunday, April 07, 2013
No sooner had I asked Burke for some encouragement about reading THE LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON than here it came, through the ether: "I just flipped through it now" (wrote Burke) "and I couldn't remember why I loved every page - and just today I got the unabridged copy in the mail. No kidding! But here's one thing: I see it as a comedy of hero worship. Johnson IS a pill!" Burke goes on to praise "the funny formal way [Boswell] tries to rationalize Johnson's shortcomings. So that's one of the main things I liked about it... I also liked anything having to do with Johnson's blind female roommate/best friend. That's all the encouragement I have!" And sure enough, just after receiving Burke's email, I reached a point in the book where Boswell is really excited to have tea with Samuel Johnson and Samuel Johnson's friend Mrs. Williams, but then he (Boswell) is grossed out when blind Mrs. Williams, who is serving, appears to stick her finger in his tea to make sure the cup is properly filled. (A footnote informs me that Boswell was mistaken on that point: "She had acquired... such a niceness of touch, as to know, by the feeling of the outside of the cup, how near it was to being full." The same footnote says that Johnson could drink 12 cups of tea in a sitting and claimed to have once enjoyed 25.) And Burke was right: the lift I received from Mrs. Williams propelled me through 22 more pages but I'm slowing down again - Samuel Johnson keeps being a sour old jerk. It's like looking in a mirror! Maybe that's the problem.
Monday, December 03, 2012
Jane Eyre calls 'em like she sees 'em! I guess that's why I love her! What else can I tell you? The novel - like the John Wayne movie EL DORADO and at least one translation of THE IDIOT - contains the word "charivari." I still haven't come across the expected owl, though "the widest-winged condor on the Andes" makes a metaphorical appearance. Nice try, but not good enough, Jayne Eyre! Also, it's getting pretty crazy now. Still not WUTHERING HEIGHTS crazy, but kind of crazy. SPOILER! If you are my sister, don't read this next part. One dude says, "She sucked the blood: she said she'd drain my heart," and he ain't kidding! Pictured, the climactic scene from JANE EYRE. Not really! It's from the live-action Disney film CONDORMAN. My deepest apologies to Jane Eyre and everyone else, everybody in the world.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
So I started this massive LBJ book by Robert Caro (the most recent volume) just like I promised you. Only 72 pages in but I guess so far the indelible image is Bobby Kennedy sending a guy to the hospital by smashing a beer bottle over his head for no good reason. I'm not kidding! Did everybody know about this but me? And then he walks around law school accompanied by these "colossal dogs" that terrorize everybody. And oh yeah, he almost strangles a dude. Here's a quote: "Bobby would have killed him if we didn't pull him off."
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Here's a headline I saw in the New York Times today: "Squashed Eyeballs Are a Danger for Astronauts." Now called me old-fashioned but gosh darn it I say that squashed eyeballs are a danger for everybody! I sent Ben Greenman that headline because he likes headlines, and to no one's surprise he had already read an article on the subject some time back, which included the information, says Mr. Greenman, that "prolonged space time also distends your brain. YOUR BRAIN!" So watch out. On the plus side, the article indicates that getting your eyes squashed in space may cure certain cases of nearsightedness. No kidding! Read it. And consult your physician to see if getting your eyes squashed in space is right for you! Side effects may include distended brain and dying in outer space. Ruth Buzzi retweeted an item from a Buffalo, NY, news service, which I found charming for its laconic prioritizing: "It's 73 degrees in Buffalo which set a new record high temperature for this date. Also, a gorilla escaped from the zoo earlier." Finally, this week's LAFA SHOPPER contains a column called "Thoughts On Wind" in which the columnist lists her thoughts on wind.
Sunday, March 04, 2012
Dent May's house to see Grimes (pictured) play. I had never been over there before and, I don't know, I pictured people scrunched up together in a living room with the furniture pushed back against the wall, but you go down this dark country road and suddenly there's a sprawling compound, no kidding, and Dent's house includes a cavernous room with a nice stage and huge dance floor and I sat on a couch in the corner like a creepy old weirdo as scores and scores (literally!) of young people flooded in. Dent kindly ushered me into a secret room ("The McConaughey Lounge") wherein I thank goodness found Michael Bible who walked around with me thereafter and conferred upon me an air of legitimacy so that no Grimes fan felt threatened by my wizened and stooped figure sulking there alone in the darkness rubbing my hands together. The furnishings were delightfully INLAND EMPIRE and one of Michael's friends expressed surprise that I was drinking out of a pink Solo cup imprinted with a camo motif, but I have never been to Dent's house before and I was not surprised by that so I am not sure where the surprise came from. Dent's house seems like a great place to hear music - it felt like to me maybe the best place in Oxford to hear music - but it was 11:30 and the opening band had not started yet and both toilets were stopped up so I - unlike the youngsters, so rightly undeterred - went home and never saw Grimes, well, I didn't see her play, but I saw her loading in heavy pieces of equipment with her fragile-looking limbs that I feared might break.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Jack Kerouac from the library. It's by a guy named Paul Maher Jr. Says Kerouac contacted his agent right before ON THE ROAD came out. Kerouac had thought of a better title! He said they could make a lot more money if they called it ROCK AND ROLL ROAD. Ha ha ha! He wasn't kidding. All right! Jack Kerouac, you're all right. He also had a problem with ghosts. Like one Halloween some ghosts scared his cat and he stood in the yard holding the cat and yelling at the ghosts. I mean, like, real ghosts, not kids in costumes. "I look around, I see ghosts everywhere. I have to do the sign of the cross." The house had "a poltergeist in the dining room cupboard," he said. When he was a kid he lived in a former funeral home. He told his friend Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty) "My mother opened a closet door, something white flew at her, she screamed, and the thing whapped her on the head with terrible vehemence." They thought it was a ghost. But it was an ironing board.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Ace Atkins came over last night to watch his bootleg of BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS. Don't judge him! A man has to find pleasure wherever he can in this horrible world. BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS was a TV show in the 70s. Network stars battled each other on it! ("Click" here to be reminded once again what we thought of as entertainment back then. You'll be surprised, kids!) We watched two episodes, lasting an hour and a half apiece. They were intense! Host Howard Cossell prodded his celebrity guests with searing psychological interviews! I'm not kidding. Cheryl Ladd, in an electric blue terry cloth sweatband, spoke with shocking bitterness about how glad she was to get out of Utah and how everybody who told her she could never make it sure was sorry now! Michelle Phillips from the band The Mamas and the Papas (and apparently a TV show called ASPEN [?]) injured her ankle on the obstacle course yet still made an admirable showing in the relay race ("She didn't even feel it," commented Ace, going on to make a wry observation about the recreational drug use in vogue at the time. DON'T DO DRUGS!). Michelle Phillips's show of determination caused Dan Haggerty from the show GRIZZLY ADAMS to come over and PUT HIS HANDS ALL OVER HER in a very creepy manner by way of congratulations. (GRIZZLY ADAMS was a show about a big hairy mountain man with a grizzly bear friend. Dr. Theresa recalled a schoolyard legend about his beard catching fire with tragic results, and I remembered it too. But I couldn't remember what Grizzly Adams and his friend the bear did on their show every week. "Solved crimes?" I said. Angela [Ace's bride - I hesitated to incriminate her by mentioning her involvement] disagreed: "There were orphans involved," she insisted.) Finally Howard Cossell had just about enough of watching Michelle Phillips trying to writhe out of Dan Haggerty's inappropriate grasp. "If you don't get your hands off her, I'll break your arms," he said. He really said that! Afterward, Dan Haggerty's penchant for groping became noticeable, though it often happened in the background. We all felt bad for Ben Murphy, star of television's GEMINI MAN, because none of us had ever heard of Ben Murphy or television's GEMINI MAN. Ace asked whether I had a copy of THE COMPLETE DIRECTORY TO PRIME TIME NETWORK TV SHOWS 1946-PRESENT by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh. I was so happy to be able to say yes! I raced to the bedroom to retrieve it. But by the time I got back Angela HAD ALREADY TOLD EVERYBODY EVERYTHING ABOUT GEMINI MAN thanks to her fancy electronic iPhone. That's one for you, technology, curse you! GEMINI MAN lasted barely a month on the air, which explains why Ben Murphy was on episode one of BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS and not on episode two of BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS. Telly Savalas accused Ben Murphy of cheating in the relay race. As the evening concluded we all imagined Ben Murphy sitting somewhere in a bar at THAT VERY MOMENT saying "I used to be the Gemini Man!"
Thursday, October 13, 2011
REVENGE again. Yeah. I don't know. I think she is running out of people to get revenge on. If you think I am kidding, sorry, but I am just telling it like it is - like the makers of Argo brand canned peaches! That's the actual structure: she gets revenge on a new person every week. This time she got revenge by locking somebody in a storage unit for a couple of hours. For real. As revenge goes, it seemed pretty mild. I don't know. PS Don't forget Argo sweet peas! And tell 'em "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot sent you! (Pictured, "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot.)
Monday, September 12, 2011
our hated regular feature "Literary Matters" contains material of a graphic nature about the sex life of seahorses. I think! I am not kidding! DO NOT READ if you feel that would upset you. And now, a number of literary matters. 1) I was at Square Books today laughing at a book called POSEIDON'S STEED, because it seemed like such a hilariously overblown title for a nonfiction book about seahorses, which is what it was. Then I noticed that it was written by someone named Helen Scales! That made me laugh too. (The blurb on the back from THE ECONOMIST called her "an aptly named marine biologist." The blurb from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC referred to the volume as "A compelling book about seahorses," which also tickled me with its aggressive mildness.) I noticed that POSEIDON'S STEED had a "prelude" rather than an introduction, which again I found humorous in its pretension. And then I looked in the index for Aquaman, because he used to ride a giant seahorse. He was not in there... BUT! (bawdiness alert) "aquasperm" was. WHAT IS THAT? I DON'T KNOW! Finally I recalled that I had a sort of coupon for Square Books in my wallet... so, reader, I bought that seahorse book! Laughter at some point had turned to wonder. I will let you know any interesting seahorse information I find. 2) Another book with an owl in it! "a bannerman holding Ingtar's Gray Owl banner": what can that be from but one of those crazy Robert Jordan novels? WHY am I reading another one? Can it have anything to do with my supposed "sprawling fantasy epic," or is that a sad joke doomed to failure... LIKE MY LIFE? It's none of your beeswax. Leave me alone! Are you trying to make me cry? Because MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! 3) Speaking of Square Books, 22 books have now sold from my famous recommendation shelf! That includes, most recently, the great Bill Mauldin's post WW II cartoons WILLIE AND JOE BACK HOME and a Lynda Barry book, which, once it sold, I replaced with the SAME Lynda Barry book, a practice which is COMPLETELY against my strict recommendation shelf rules, but who cares? Because EVERYBODY SHOULD READ LYNDA BARRY ALL THE TIME. 4) Also speaking of Square Books, guess what Michael Bible is reading? That's right! CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS. Good guess! He is the only person other than I who has taken a stab at that book. So expect some enlightening discussions between fascinating idiots! 5) The other night I dreamed that Gore Vidal came over to the house to talk to me about a new book he had written called THE PEPTIDE DIARIES.
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
"Comics Curmudgeon" "blog." No kidding, it is all about the hero, Mark Trail, discovering a goose with a gold band around its ankle... a gold band inscribed with a Bible verse! So he goes and talks to a mountie about it. And after he leaves, the mountie spends a LONG TIME talking to his dog Princess about it. As we see in today's installment, the mountie may be PART OF the mysterious conspiracy (?) to put Bible verses on the legs of geese. The mountie says (to his dog Princess!), "He may have seen this framed Bible passage on my wall... I knew this day would come!" I am just telling you what's going on. That's what's going on.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Off Square Books at 5 PM to catch a rare appearance of Doomed Book Club members Megan Abbott and Scott Phillips. They will knock your socks off and make you faint with a thrill ride of reading out loud! DO IT you goons! DO YOU THINK I AM KIDDING? I AM NOT! I'm only going to tell you once. (Pictured, Alice the Goon [receiving orders] from the great Popeye comic strip "Thimble Theater" by E.C. Segar. That's you if you don't show up! On the other hand, the goon always obeyed orders! So maybe she's better than you! But if I am recalling correctly she fell in love with Wimpy and that's when the Sea Hag's plans were foiled. Gosh I bore myself. I'm pretty sure Segar came up with the words "goon" and "jeep." If he didn't, who cares? Leave me alone! I say whatever I want to because this is a "blog." Don't cite it in your scholarly papers! Are you stupid? Hey, when Joe Matt was here, he asked me, "Who's the Faulkner of comic strips?" and I said, "I don't know, Walt Kelly?" And Joe shook his head. He was always giving everybody pop quizzes! He said, "E.C. Segar." And I said, "Oh!" And he said, "Why?" He wanted me to tell him why! I told him why. What was I talking about? Oh yeah! Go see Megan Abbott and Scott Phillips or you are so dumb and awful. Does this approach work? You will fall in love with them just like Alice the Goon fell in love with Wimpy! There, I brought it all back together. Where am I? Who am I?)
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
commercial for an online university and at the end of it, a recent graduate of the online university steps onto an elevator to start her new life as a businessperson. She is very composed as the elevator doors close (see the photo to the right). Then, as the elevator rises, in the last four or five seconds of the commercial, EVERY HUMAN EMOTION CROSSES HER FACE! IT'S THE ACTING PERFORMANCE OF THE CENTURY, I AM NOT KIDDING! Without a word of dialogue, in a matter of scant seconds (allow me to reemphasize), this young woman creates a full character who HAS BEEN THROUGH IT ALL. She's scared! She's proud! She's happy! But there is a hint of tears - just a hint! - to let us know it wasn't easy. She has had to give up so much! I don't know, maybe someone she loved DIDN'T MAKE IT to see this moment. That's how deep this woman gets into her character. BUT IT WAS ALL WORTH IT! That's what dawns on her in the closing split second of the ad. You practically see her becoming a new person. You think I am kidding but just look out for this commercial. I don't know, maybe the "university" is a scam. Maybe! But this actor is doing her job! So often I just complain about everything I see, but that's only because I'm a jerk. Several years ago I was talking to an actor who used to be on a sitcom called "227." At the time, he thought he was too good for it, so he didn't put much energy into his performance. He said that years later, when he would see reruns of the show on TV, he would yell at his onscreen self: "Commit! Commit!" Well, this young woman really is too good for the commercial but she commits. All right!
Monday, June 20, 2011
You know that the "blog" is mainly about Jerry Lewis and sad clowns. In the first three minutes of THE DAILY SHOW tonight, Jon Stewart mentioned both Jerry Lewis and (on an entirely separate topic, no kidding!) sad clowns. I think what I'm saying is clear: the "blog" has its finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist.
Thursday, April 07, 2011
John Cage to the grad students: "Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating." This is helpful to dwell on in a number of ways! But it especially helpful at this moment while they are running a weird droning machine next door (from the back of a pest control truck [!!!???]) that is shaking the floorboards of the house while I am trying to listen to Sun Ra. I am not kidding, John Cage has given me a pretty good attitude about it! And I think Sun Ra would approve (of the sound. I am not sure how he would feel about the pest control truck). Did you know they (John Cage and Sun Ra, pictured) once played on the same bill at Coney Island? Have I told you that before? To quote from the Sun Ra bio by John F. Szwed, "When the day came, a pitchman and a 'snake woman' worked the crowds on the boardwalk to entice the audience inside, where pizza and beverages were being served." Why can't I go back in time and eat a slice of pizza at Coney Island while listening to John Cage and Sun Ra? Those people didn't know how good they had it! I bet at least one guy was sitting there just thinking, "Dang, this pizza is cold." Like, "I just came in here because the snake woman said there was free pizza." But that's cool too! Anyway, let's all learn something from what John Cage said. It is not just about noise!