Friday, August 31, 2007

Leacock Fever Sweeps U.S. Mainland

Inspired by the "blog," McNeil visited his local library. "All out of Paley...but chock full of Leacock," he reports. He checked out a Leacock, on Phil's recommendation. See how the "blog" works? It spreads culture throughout the land, like a horrible virus.


Is there no end to the happiness provided by our "fave" Aquaman "blog"? That's where we found this "link," with all its obvious import. Somewhere Woody Woodbury is "smiling."


Yesterday afternoon I had three emails about the "blog." A record! I hardly know how to keep track. The FBIL wrote in to say that "blogging" circles should be called "blircles." All I can say in response is, "Welcome to the family!" McNeil would like to see Phil Oppenheim nominated for a "blog" award in recognition of his Cash U. Nutt reference. "And I am not a man who is easily awed," McNeil concluded. Finally this from Barry B.: "Yeah man, hummingbirds are tiny."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mel Shavelson

McNeil writes to tell me that I missed an important passing: that of Mel Shavelson. Now you know I don't want the "blog" to become a list of interesting people who have died, but McNeil is right... Shavelson is of particular interest to the "blog," and not only for his long association with Bob Hope. The GILLIGAN'S ISLAND theme song was recorded in HIS HOUSE! And he created MY WORLD AND WELCOME TO IT (I had no idea before reading his obituary) a forgotten sitcom that introduced me to the work of James Thurber and sparked my first real intention of becoming a "writer," back when I was just a little kid. Thanks, Mel Shavelson!


Hey, look, everybody, Jim Whorton was in Washington, D.C., researching his next novel, and was kind enough to snap this photo of a photo on display at the Library of Congress because he knew in his heart we would like to put it on the "blog." As you can see, it involves two previous subjects of "blog" concern, or "blog"cern as we call it in "blogging" circles. That was thoughtful, Jim! Thanks!

What Phil Is Reading

Phil Oppenheim has written to ask, "Am I correct in assuming that the Nutt Auditorium was named in honor of the Fire Chief Cash U. Nutt (the fellow on the right, of course)?" We thank him for our most obscure "blog" reference since "I'm Dickens, He's Fenster," as well as the accompanying illustration of said Nutt. Phil goes on to ask: "Is the Decatur Book Festival really as great as you crack it up to be? I’ve never been, and am interested in seeing The Kinkster and Chris Raschka." Go, Phil, we say. Go! Phil concludes: "I bet our reading lists no longer coincide. We went to Vancouver a couple of weeks back, and I’ve been (slowly) reading Stephen Leacock, who is pretty ******* hilarious (in my opinion); also, I’ve been reading the Three Line Novels of Felix Feneon (one the NYRB reprints). What about you? I looked for some Grace Paley stuff on your recommendation at the (newly moved) Atlanta Book Exchange, but they were plumb out of them (or is it 'plum'?)." Once again, we see that the "blog" is our nation's most reliable cultural arbiter. We used to say that if the "blog" could only convince one single person to read Grace Paley and go to the Decatur Book Festival it would have done its job. So now it has done its job and everything from here on out is gravy. Useless gravy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Aquaman & Co.

Something I learnt from the "internet" today: Even Aquaman has to take a shower once in awhile! Hey, speaking of which, remember this "post"? It has nothing to do with Aquaman aside from a slim titular similarity, but gosh I was just thinking of it fondly today and sighing and all. Speaking of sighing, Theresa saw Morgan Freeman on the street corner last night! That has nothing to do with Aquaman either. But it's a tidbit! We are a tidbit machine. I feel like I'm writing Larry King's old column... and doing a fantastic job.

Decatur Book Festival

Everyone should go to the Decatur Book Festival this Labor Day Weekend. I had a lot of fun the last time I was there. I was supposed to be there this year, but we ended up moving and the time just wasn't right... much to the consternation of Tom Franklin, who will driving down there by himself now. Sorry, Tom! Lots of other "Blog" Buddies will be there, too - Amanda Stern (pictured, left), for example, in one of her rare appearances outside of New York. Her panels are a "must"! It pains me that I'll miss this chance to see her. I've only seen her when I've had a new book come out and I go up to the Big City for her reading series... I can't write books fast enough, and that's why! Every time I knock off a new book I think, "Oh boy, I'll get to hang out with Amanda." So go to all her panels and find out why. Got an email from Wesley Stace (pictured, right) last night, promising all sorts of shenanigans in Decatur. Alas, I had to tell him I would not be there. Go see him read and/or play music. He can do both! It's really not fair. If you go see Sheri Joseph read, as you bloody well should, be sure and ask her a bird question afterward... that's right, she's our beloved bird correspondent. And then there's Jamie Allen, who's one of the people who puts the whole thing together every year, and a fine job he does. Well, tell everyone I said hello and sorry I couldn't make it. I'm probably forgetting some other "Blog" Buddies. Check out the full schedule and see how many "Blog" Buddies YOU can spot! It's easy and fun for the whole family. For instance, I just "clicked" on it and saw pictures of Natasha Trethewey and Kinky Friedman, and although the latter is by no stretch of the imagination a "Blog" Buddy, the fact remains that Dan Brown, who directed the movie version of my story "The Pipe," also made some campaign videos for Mr. Friedman when he was running for governor of Texas. So you see, the "blog" has its fingers in all pies. Go to the Festival and represent! Do it for the "blog"!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Yes, I Said the Nutt Auditorium, What About It?

I'll be reading on campus tonight at 6:30. Come on by the Nutt Auditorium.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Nature Walk

Tom Franklin stopped by to direct my attention to an old stump in the yard. There was part of a snakeskin in it. Tom had retrieved most of the snakeskin yesterday, as a curiosity for his daughter. But the main thing Tom wanted to show me was a yellow jacket nest next to the stump. He had been crossing our yard yesterday to swim in the neighbor's pool when he noticed both the snakeskin and the nest. Tom gave me several tips on how to deal with the yellow jackets, and also wished to clear the record on wasps and the nature of evil. Stephen Jay Gould, said Tom, had been writing about a specific kind of wasp in the essay to which Tom had referred during our recent conversation on the subject. Tom did not mean to paint all wasps with the same broad brush!

Guest Editorial

Today's rebuttal comes from McNeil, who writes in protest to an earlier post: "at no point did i ever dispute the vast knowledge or easygoing prose style of the bird correspondent...over which there can actually be no disputing whatsoever. I was just tired of it on the blog. The blog was turning into a birdblog. I am trying to help you be a man again. Not a birdman, but a manlyman who blogs about crooners intstead of cranes. By having you look things up, I was trying to get you to get out of your chair and walk over to the shelf, or to the bookstore or wherever you need to go (the street corner perhaps), and do something for yourself for a change. I, as a FRIEND, am a helper. These others (and I am not necessarily singling out the bird person here) who hand you stories like you're some small-time newspaper rag ripping stories off the wire and calling it a day. These people are ENABLERS. I am a helper. I am trying to get you to become the Charles Foster Kane of the Blogiverse. my pain pills are wearing off."


"I can't stop eating pistachios," reports Jim Whorton. More on this breaking story as it develops.

Lives of the Crooners

"I do not think I am alone in requesting that you drop all this nonsense about birds," writes McNeil. "Enough with the tweeting - more with the crooning." In fact, you are quite alone, Mr. McNeil. In a way, aren't birds nature's crooners? As Messiaen said, well, I don't know. He said a lot of nice things about birds. I'm too tired to walk over to the shelf and get the biography and flip through the index. I suppose it is easy for you to criticize the vast knowledge and easygoing prose style of the bird correspondent. But wouldn't it be more constructive to submit some tidbits about crooners instead? The bird correspondent seems to be holding up her end of the workload! As I recall, the last time you started to tell me a story about a crooner, I asked for more details and you told me to look it up in a book! If I bothered to look things up in books, this would not be a "blog" (see Messiaen, above). By coincidence, however, I received the following message on my myspace page today, from a stranger who is designated my "friend" in the strange world of the "internet." I present it here to assuage your avian agitation: "Sometime in the 70s, when my mom was little [!!!! - ed.], her parents took her on a tour of Universal Studios. They were looking at the set from the scene in 'The Ten Commandments' where Charlton Heston parted the Red Sea. Her dad, a theologian, took a couple of steps back to better admire the separating walls of water, and he bumped right into Jerry Lewis." Allow us to interject that the studio was probably Paramount, not Universal. Lewis did the majority of his work under contract to Paramount, and we believe that THE TEN COMMANDMENTS was a Paramount production, if we are remembering correctly. We count Lewis as a crooner because in addition to his many other accomplishments he was(and is) a crooner. Also, to get McNeil off our back.

Dear Bird Correspondent

"Present-day birds do not have teeth, though prehistoric ones did," replies the bird correspondent. "Your readers might be interested to know that, due to this fact that birds once had teeth, geneticists are hard at work creating a toothed chicken for our very own world, not because we need more vicious chickens but because getting a chicken to do this is step one in the fight against male pattern baldness. Seriously. [Here the bird correspondent generously provides a "link" - ed.] You’d think if doctors were going to help people grow things they no longer have, they’d come up with something better than hair on a bald dude. It’s that powerful comb lobby at work again. Ever yours, The Bird Correspondent"

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dear Bird Correspondent

Dear Bird Correspondent, Are there, or have there ever been, birds with teeth? signed, Needs To Know

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Sandwich To Remember

Would you like to eat the greatest sandwich in the world? Why of course you would! Well, then, I recommend the "Big Easy" at the Ajax Diner in Oxford, MS. It is chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, butterbeans, pickles, and something that may be green - I'm going to go out on a limb and say chopped cabbage, or maybe I was imagining that part. But let me make it clear that NONE of those other ingredients I just listed are side items. They are ON THE SANDWICH. Butterbeans... ON THE SANDWICH. Mashed potatoes... ON THE SANDWICH. EVERYTHING I listed is ON THE SANDWICH. And it's not too messy because it is put together with sweet love and consideration. With all due respect to Savage Pizza's marinated chicken sub, which will always hold a place in my heart, the two sandwiches are not even in the same universe.

Today's Weather: No Apples

Welcome once more to "Today's Weather," a continuing public service of the "blog." McNeil phones in a report from Charlotte, North Carolina. "We have a green apple tree and a red apple tree in the yard," he says. "Neither one is producing apples this year. It's too hot and dry. And that's a shame, because those are some tasty apples. The green ones make good pie."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dear Bird Correspondent

Sheri Joseph, our bird correspondent, is still going on about that dang rufous-sided towhee. She went to dinner last night at the home of the friend where she first saw the bird in question repeatedly attack a glass door. Her friend, the bird correspondent writes, "reports that the same bird hangs out on their car all day and beats himself up in the side mirrors. I'm attaching a picture of the male, who sports a jaunty black jacket (your other pic was a female). Megan [the bird correspondent's friend - ed.], who lives sort of between Decatur and Fernbank, also has a very bold neighborhood pair of great horned owls that swoop in front of people's cars and land in low tree limbs or on roofs, and also (I told her) probably eat cats and small dogs that are let out at night." Witness, for a second time, the bird correspondent's latent hostility toward cats, which is endangering her continued role on the "blog."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Again With the Sad

Grace Paley has passed away. Have you read her stories? Do! She is a musician of words, as musical, scientific, progressive, and adventurous as Max Roach, our other recently departed genius. By coincidence, the writing class I am teaching at Ole Miss will discuss one of Ms. Paley's stories a week from today. It's called "In Time Which Made a Monkey of Us All" and it has an actual monkey in it. I also seem to recall some sharp and sparkling conversations about writing that Ms. Paley had with Donald Barthelme. I believe I came across them in a book called "Not-Knowing." Look it up! Okay, we don't want to become just a list of wonderful people who have passed away, but still. Maud Newton has a lot of good "links" where you can find out more about Grace Paley.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lives of the Crooners

Welcome once more to our continuing series "Lives of the Crooners." So the other night I was in that same bar and I met a fellow who had coached high school women's basketball in Nevada. Once his team played the Lake Tahoe team. And the short, extremely talented guard on that rival team was none other than the daughter of Sammy Davis, Jr. "Her mother was in the stands, that Swedish actress," he said. "May Britt," I replied, earning the lifelong respect and admiration of all present.


I saw a hummingbird out our front window. Know what? They're small.

Farmer Alert

Attention persons in the Atlanta area. The "blog's" "fave" farmer will be unmasked tonight, in an appearance on Fox 5 News. The subject of the report is sustainable farming. We'll let you know if they put up a "link."

The Bird Correspondent Was No Help At All

Last night at a bar, Tom Franklin chastised me for what he perceived as my timid and ambivalent relationship with Goldie the Wasp. Wasps, he declared, are the personification of evil, and cited an article by Stephen Jay Gould to back up his claim. I should swat them with a badminton racket, he suggested, bunting them onto the roof, where they would bake in the sun. He laughed off my suggestion that his method might be considered harsh. "They came down from the attic and stung me on my neck! In my own home!" he bellowed. I quoted the Godfather Part II back at him, "In MY HOUSE! Where my CHILDREN play with THEIR TOYS!" and oh the jolly warm chuckles we shared at our mutual shenanigans. When I got home, I had an email from the bird correspondent, who had the nerve to suggest that we put our cats in harm's way by training them to kill and eat wasps! She refused to give me the name of a bird that could do the trick - so protective of her precious birds, though their tough beaks are much more suited to the task than the soft pads of a cat. I appear to be alone on the wasp matter. I believe I shall next consult Aristophanes (pictured), who wrote a play about wasps, and I am sure it contains a lot of good tips on getting rid of them.

"Blog" Takes Over New York Times

Well, today in the New York Times there is a nice review of Kent's movie. And yesterday there was a nice review of Jon and Sally's new CD in that same august publication (they're in the Mekons - see the final review in the article). Not only that, but I received an email asking me to write something for the Sunday New York Times Book Review. That's what I'm supposed to be working on right now, instead of "blogging." Yes, as predicted at an earlier date, the "blog" is becoming the cultural arbiter of the nation through its subsidiary, the New York Times. Hooray for everybody!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Real Stories of Danger

To everyone who has written in to ask, "So, the wasps are for real?" Answer: Yes. There's still one left - I call him Goldie on account of his golden hue. We are maintaining a respectful distance as I type this. And yes I've tried everything. I need to ask the bird correspondent: are there any birds who enjoy eating wasps? Where can I purchase one?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Lives of the Crooners

Our entry on my brother's encounter with Robert Goulet has gotten such an amazing response (or SHOULD HAVE!) that we have decided to turn it into a recurring feature entitled "Lives of the Crooners." Like, what about the time that Tony Bennett criticized my brother's shoes? They were at a fancy shindig and Will overheard Tony Bennett saying, "The kid's wearing sneakahs!" in a disapproving tone of voice. Speaking of which, once upon a time, when Barry B. was working in the mailroom of a mammoth corporation, an entourage came marching down the hall. Barry B. was talking to a friend of his, who was wearing camouflage pants. When the leader of the pack breezed by, he said to Barry B.'s friend, "Nice pants, man." And the fellow who liked the pants was none other than... Sammy Davis, Jr. And now you know... THE REST OF THE STORY! Send your tidbits about crooners to "Lives of the Crooners," c/o the Pendarvis Amphibious "Blogging" Command Module, Oxford, MS.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Robert Goulet

Once Robert Goulet hit my brother in the chest. It was all in good fun, but it hurt! That's an old story but today I've got nothing.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Disgruntled Red Wasps

The "blogging" area has been invaded by wasps. Expect light to no "blogging" today - but lots of high-pitched yelping and comical running around.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Great Max Roach

We see in the paper today that the great drummer Max Roach has died. He could really make his drums sing, worry, and discuss important things. He could play! He is the kind of musician who gravely concerns the famous intellectual because Max Roach never stopped trying to figure things out. One interesting place to start listening to Mr. Roach, if you don't know him, might be the trio record he made with Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. It's called MONEY JUNGLE. Max Roach, everybody!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Attention People of Hubcap City

To my friend in Hubcap City I say: check this out. It's right up your alley. Also, we got the secret 1974 Bruce Springsteen recordings. Thanks! It's fun to get mail (see "link" above).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dear Bird Correspondent

On today's episode of Dear Bird Correspondent, the DBC respectfully disagrees with Pia Ehrhardt's fanciful ideas about why birds run into glass. "That sounds like a pretty lethal way to go about getting ****!" writes our bird correspondent. "Male birds will sometimes hit a window because they think the reflection is another male in their territory, but in that case the bird is usually leaping from a few inches off and not hitting very hard. I've seen a rufous-sided towhee try to beat itself up at a patio sliding glass door for about half an hour. Avian amor, on the other hand, requires a whole getting-to-know-you process that can't be accomplished with one's reflection the way trouncing an aggressive-looking invader can. Birds that strike a window at full speed do it because they don't see the glass." Notice how the bird correspondent manages to offhandedly toss out the fact that she has seen a "rufous-sided towhee." What does she take us for? By the way, our non-bird correspondent Dr. "M." has ventured off her usual beat to also write us on the subject of birds crashing into windows. "I once heard Charles Seabrook of the AJC give a talk about the high rate of bird deaths in downtown Atlanta," she reports. "He was working on some sort of campaign to get the office buildings downtown to turn off their lights at night." We hope it did the trick! (Okay, we guess that rufous-sided towhees exist after all, because here's a picture of one.)

The Joker's Wild

Speaking of game shows, McNeil is at it again, looking up more clips on the YouTube. Today he got some enjoyment from this snippet of "The Joker's Wild," and he hope you will, too.

Today's Weather: Almost Too Hot to "Blog"

Here, in our long-awaited new installment of "Today's Weather," we send greetings from our new town, where the high was 104 or, as the locals call it, "almost too hot to 'blog'"... ALMOST!

Dr. "M.'s" TV Korner: Jeopardy!

Welcome once again to Dr. "M.'s" TV Korner, where anonymous college professor and holder of a doctorate in *********, Dr. "M.," reports all of her thoughts about television. The recent uptick in "blog" talk about Alex Trebek has prompted Dr. "M" to write in with some surprising details about her family's TV past. Her mother, it turns out, was a contestant on JEOPARDY! (exclamation point theirs) in 1965 (though of course Mr. Trebek did not host the show at that time). We hope that this scant information will be the subject of much elaboration, possibly in the form of "Dr. 'M.'s' Mother's TV Korner." Please start mining your mother for tidbits, Dr. "M." Tidbits are the lifeblood of any "blog"! Note: this "post" takes on a certain poignance given the recent passing of JEOPARDY!'s creator, Merv Griffin.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Whorton On Rollers

Jim Whorton chimes in about McNeil's HIGH ROLLERS segment: "Did you notice how at one point, when the contestant starts to use a calm voice, Alex Trebek says 'Don't go quiet on us now, Gene!' That took me back to junior high when I was in the marching band, and getting in trouble simply for not being excited."

Villains Love Franklin

"Comic Book Villain" writes in, intrigued by a recent "blog" reference to Tom Franklin. It seems that in reality "CBV" works for a Milwaukee bookshop where he and his coworkers worship Franklin like a god. The "internet" brings us all together once again.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dear Bird Correspondent

This just in from bird lover Pia Z. Ehrhardt: "My theory about birds repeatedly flying into windows is that they think they're mating with a bird who looks a lot like them and can't take no for an answer." We hereby place Pia's theory (though it is a little "saucier" than our usual "blogging" material) before the eyes of our loyal bird correspondent, and await her stern judgement.

We Must Ask

And what kind of messed up world do we live in when the HIGH ROLLERS segment gets 19,000+ viewings while the magnificent performance of Bob Denver's chin rates just over 8,000? Oh, what Hesiod said was right!

Klugman & Other Delights

"I was searching for Jack Klugman on YouTube," began yesterday's telephone call from McNeil. Ah, McNeil! Somehow, McNeil explained, he ran across this "clip" from HIGH ROLLERS, which has nothing to do with Klugman. You could say that a lot more happens in the ROLLERS segment than happened on the "clip" of APPLE'S WAY with which McNeil previously favored us. Still, the "clip" makes McNeil wonder. Who saved it for all these years? How did they record it in '77 or '78, when VCRs were not readily available (close analysis has led McNeil to the conclusion that the "clip" was made at the time of its original airing, not taken from a present-day showing on the Game Show Network)? Finally, why has it been the object of well over 19,000 viewings? Even more fascinating to McNeil is a YouTube PASSWORD appearance by Jack Klugman in which nothing happens at all (see APPLE'S WAY, above).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dear Bird Correspondent

Welcome to the latest installment of "Dear Bird Correspondent." In today's entry, the bird correspondent replies to a previously posed query. She writes: "I'm afraid Miss Young's question is outside the purview of the bird correspondent, as it seems to pertain to strange human behavior rather than anything specifically avian. I will say that, while I've seen cardinals do some unlikely things, like feed goldfish in a backyard pond, I'm doubtful that any of them would spend any significant time hanging out on the antlers of a live deer." The bird correspondent was kind enough to include a photo of a cardinal feeding a goldfish, which we attach here for your reflection.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


The "blog"trospective of Tom Franklin has now been updated to include his enjoyment of the film WHIFFS. Thank you and good night.


Dinner with Tom Franklin tonight. He complained that he has not been on the "blog" enough lately. Later he described a "fave" Elliot Gould movie of his youth, which he claimed was entitled WHIFFS. I argued that such a movie did not exist - the plot, according to Franklin, was something about Gould using his sense of smell to stage a crime spree. Furthermore, I decreed that if I found evidence of such a movie (which I highly doubted, as during my teenage years I considered Elliot Gould and Alan Arkin to be the greatest actors of all time and sought out all their features, and I still think they're not too shabby) I would restore Tom Franklin to his rightful place on the "blog." Well, not only did I find the movie WHIFFS on the "internet," I found someone auctioning off its novelization. And please note that the auction is centered in Mobile County, Alabama, where Franklin lived for many years. Coincidence?

Computers Are Fine

My attitude toward computers is on the upswing, and not just because by saying I wanted to meet Robert Osborne on my "myspace" page, I unwittingly put the wheels in motion to make it come true. Speaking of "myspace," a guy on there who calls himself "Comic Book Villain" clued me in to a new series about the Metal Men which seems to echo happily the guileless Metal Men of my youth rather than being all modern and exciting, with Metal Men cussing and so on. So that was nice of him and not noticeably villainous at all. How would I have found out about it otherwise? I am out of that "loop." Or I was. But not anymore, thanks to the magic of computing. So the main thing that has improved my computer mood is the computer's role in the resurgence of old-fashioned penpalism, that is, correspondence with nice strangers, sometimes resulting in bartering. For example, thanks to computers I was able to swap books through the actual US mail with Megan Abbott, likewise two of my books for a DVD of WE GO WAY BACK by Lynn Shelton, a fine film director I have gotten to know through "myspace," where our shared affection for Ingmar Bergman and Jerry Lewis was made manifest through our mutual enjoyment of this "clip." Plus Ms. Abbott informed me with her computer that the novel NIGHTMARE ALLEY, upon which my "fave" movie is based, is still in print thanks to the Library of America. And that's what I'm reading and loving now. In fact, I just put Chapter One of NIGHTMARE ALLEY on my syllabus for Ole Miss. All thanks to computers and the people who use them.

Dear Bird Correspondent

We are hereby changing the title of our new regular feature to "Dear Bird Correspondent." Caroline Young emailed today with a question for Dr. Sheri Joseph, the aforementioned bird correspondent. We reproduce it here with Ms. Young's original punctuation, though not with her expressive line breaks, because we have never learned to do that on a "blog." And now, Ms. Young's question: "dear bird correspondent, what is the etiquette for stuffing a cardinal? is there ever an excuse? and what of "displaying" the aforementioned bird, wings spread, atop the antlers of a stag who noses out of the wall over the wares in a posh fine silver shop? is that considered gauche? or am i just being stuffy? c" We take it from the tone that Ms. Young has witnessed an atrocity of the kind she describes, and await the bird correspondent's thoughts with a bittersweet reserve. In a related matter, the bird correspondent has written in to say "I also do avian psychoanalysis." So there's that, if you own or know a bird with a problem.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Bird Correspondent

Welcome to our newest and possibly greatest regular feature, "The Bird Correspondent, Starring Sheri Joseph." I told Sheri Joseph that she could be the bird correspondent and it went to her head immediately. She wrote: "As bird correspondent, I should also say that your bird could have been a juvenile cardinal of either sex. You can tell by the beak, which is very peachy to red-orange on the adult females but dull brown on the juveniles." Okay, then, bird correspondent. I should also mention that Pia Z. Ehrhardt loves birds, apparently. Me, I was attacked by a bird under suspicious circumstances. But I share with Pia a love of the composer Messiaen (pictured), who transcribed and put to use many birdsongs. I feel that Sheri would also enjoy Messiaen, if she doesn't already. Good day to you all.

Squirrel II: The Reckoning

Dr. "M" reports seeing a squirrel in her own yard, eating corn on the cob in an endearing "typewriter" fashion.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

That Bird

Sheri Joseph writes in to say that the bird was probably a female cardinal. Dr. "M." files a report from Atlanta: several Bruce Springsteen sightings from many quarters - so perhaps I am not crazy. In related news, I saw a tiny squirrel carrying almost a whole big apple across the yard. Way to go, squirrel!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


A bird hit our window. He seemed okay. Looked at me for a second and flew off. Little brown bird with a dashing topknot and wide reddish tail. What kind of bird was that? Let us know.


Hey, remember when I read three novels in a row with Pernod in them? Wow! I don't think any of us will ever forget that important time in our nation's history. Well, now Theresa and I have watched three movies in a row with Chicago in them. I know what you're thinking: Uncanny! Significant! Yes. First came PARTY GIRL, starring Cyd Charisse (not to be confused with the Parker Posey film of the same name). It's set mostly in Chicago. After that, in HOLLYWOOD OR BUST, starring Dean & Jerry, with a special appearance by Anita Ekberg, the boys drive through Chicago and crack a few jokes about it. In TORRID ZONE, Cagney's plan is to quit the banana plantation and get a nice quiet job in Chicago. Okay, mull that over for awhile. Mull it, I said!

Happy Late Charles Fort's Birthday!

I see on our "fave" Aquaman "blog" that yesterday was the birthday of Charles Fort. I completely forgot to get anyone a present! Go to the library and look at old newspapers and if you find a good clipping, say "This one's for you, Chuck."

Monday, August 06, 2007

"Blog," Where Is Thy "Zing"?

Back when I "posted" my very first "post" I promised to "link" to something about The Metal Men one day. I'm working myself up to it, I promise. I can see it in my head, but my weary fingers won't type it. McNeil writes in to say that the "blog" has lost some of its "zing" since we moved away from Atlanta. He blames the dismantling of the Pendarvis Building. But our new Amphibious "Blogging" Command Module has its advantages, believe you me! I just need to get the feel of it. Then there's going to be "zing" all over the place.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Speaking of THE BELIEVER, the article about Fletcher Hanks makes a passing reference to Milton, dropping in a common interpretation of PARADISE LOST that really gets Stanley Fish's goat. It's the same thing that Blake said about Milton... that he was of the devil's party without knowing it. Fish says baloney! But in another little connection of the kind we contemplate here at the "blog," I was thinking that Hanks' visual style reminded me of Blake's (see illustration) in a crude way. I'm sure I'm not the first to notice it. Anyway, everything seems connected, doesn't it? We like to see patterns, we people do.


How could I mention the most recent issue of THE BELIEVER without alerting you to the interview that Nick Hornby conducts with David Simon?

Saturday, August 04, 2007


The FBIL is here. This morning he chuckled warmly as he leafed through our copy of I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS! (exclamation point not mine), which I had placed on the coffee table for purposes of just such entertainment. Later we went to our new neighborhood bookstore (see the "links" sidebar to the right) and found out that the author of I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS!, Fletcher Hanks, is the subject of an article in the new BELIEVER magazine. As faithful readers - who may or may not exist - know, I am now okay with my favorite secret things being disseminated to the public at large (anxiety over that kind of occurrence is coincidentally the subject of a letter to THE BELIEVER this month), so I have no problem with everyone enjoying the work of Fletcher Hanks, even though the depressing coda to I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS! explains that he was a terribly mean man. Let me just add that while reading Mr. Hanks' comic book stories of a superhero named Stardust, I couldn't help but notice a few details which put me in mind of my upcoming novel. For example, at one point Stardust gathers everyone on the planet (they have all unwillingly flown off into space for reasons that you need to find out for yourself) and returns them to the exact locations from which they were expelled into the ether. The narrator of my novel does not do that but - SPOILER ALERT! - he does do something else with all the people of the earth. Also, Stardust can grow his hand to an amazing size - or so it appears in the drawings - and clobber people. On his wedding day, my narrator turns his hands into the size of bulldozer scoops. I can say no more. But this is just a weird coincidence. And anyway, it is not for clobbering purposes. Plus the novel was finished long before I discovered Fletcher Hanks. Still, I feel a strange tingle of kinship (professionally but not personally, I hope, with such a nasty fellow) and my old familiar jitters about treading a worn path.

Friday, August 03, 2007


But I will say that the grandest present I have ever given myself was packing up that Stanley Fish book and putting it in storage for the length of our stay here. Nothing against Mr. Fish! His book was thoughtful and fascinating, at least the part I read. But while we were in the middle of moving it was the only readily available book in the house and I suppose I grew to resent the power it had over me as such. There are a lot of different things Milton meant by the word "low" and I realized with a certain gloominess that I was going to read about every one of them and that was all I was going to read for days and days. But Mr. Fish did prompt me to dig out my Milton and bring it to Mississippi - it's unpacked and sitting upstairs in my new office right now - and by the time we are done here and get our stuff out of storage I am sure I will be ready to give Fish's intriguing and stimulating book another go. That I wearied was a matter of circumstance. It was all my fault. But you know, sometimes the greatest feeling in the world is closing a book.


We are in Oxford! We saw a rabbit! Too dazed and blissful to "blog" effectively. Must lie down.