Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Unicorn Series

Here it is, your New Year's Eve unicorn, as determined by our simple Holiday Unicorn Series selection methodology.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


As promised, here's a picture from the Darwin-themed Christmas panto. People "in the know" say it's being turned into a radio play. Updates as they occur.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Through the Rollers

Yesterday's Polaroid article spurred the "blog's" Polaroidologist "El" to send this "link" to a "web" site about the work of Jamie Livingston, who took one Polaroid a day for nearly two decades of his life. (Here is another interesting way to view some of the pictures.) "El" tells us that the filmmaker Tarkovsky (one of "Blog" Buddy Lynn Shelton's "faves") carried a Polaroid camera wherever he went. Writes "El," "I actually find the SX-70 to be the most convenient camera ever, and each little shot of Time-Zero contains a concentrated pack of poetry to be released when it goes through the rollers." "El" is a member of "Save Polaroid." "El" calls them "Polas." She doesn't like it when people call them "'roids." A schism in the Polaroid community? (Pictured, a Polaroid by Tarkovsky of his mother. Find his Polaroid work in a book called INSTANT LIGHT.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

His Frenzied Convulsions

Today's New York Times contains subjects of interest to the "blog": Polaroids and Jerry Lewis. "Click" here for the Polaroid article. As for Jerry, his "frenzied convulsions" receive passing mention in an article about Jim Carrey, the thesis statement of which seems to be that while the "antics" of Chaplin and Keaton and Jerry are, well, OKAY, Carrey is a "master of the metaphysical" (!). I am not turning up my nose at the reference or the article; the Times has been uncharacteristically stingy with its Jerry references lately. And toward the end of the piece, Carrey is quoted as telling Larry King, "Movies are made by people in pain for people in pain." When I read that, I thought, "Wow! Maybe he IS something like Jerry Lewis." Because it's exactly the kind of weird, world-weary theory Jerry would espouse. As for the unicorn - if you're wondering - it was the very distant runner-up for yesterday's edition of the Holiday Unicorn Series. I'm not crazy about it, but as you know I hate to see a unicorn go to waste.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday Unicorn Series

How could I forget the Holiday Unicorn Series at this important time of year? It's my own fault that just to catch up I am forced to employ a single unicorn in the service of two great holidays. So here is your Hanukkah-Christmas Unicorn, located using our famous secret formula. I found it attached to this fascinating "web" entry ("click" here).

The Dreadful Spikes

The NBIL was here. He had a little reference book my sister had given him, a very little reference book yet packed with knowledge. There were many weights and measures, varieties of police code, knots of the sailors of the world, and as his middle name is Henry, the NBIL was happy to find recorded therein a unit of electricity (?) called a henry. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what a henry is. It seems to be almost the same thing as a volt (maybe?) but one thing is sure: there are one thousand millihenrys in a henry. Nor could I begrudge the NBIL his henrys as the night before I had discovered my own namesake - something called the jackfruit - in a reference book of my own, THE OXFORD COMPANION TO FOOD. Now, your jackfruit grows on a tree like an apple, only rather than weighing whatever an apple weighs, a single jackfruit weighs 90 pounds and is covered in spikes most dreadful to behold.

From the Desk of Kelly Hogan

From the desk of Kelly Hogan comes this evidence of Howe Gelb (Giant Sand) playing William Faulkner's piano, as first revealed in my Oxford American article on Neko Case. Hey, if I ran Howe Gelb's career, I'd get him to make some solo albums with puns for titles, like "Howe in the World" and "Howe's Tricks." Why, under my guidance, he'd be a modern-day Greg Kihn ("Kihnspiracy," "Citizen Kihn").

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Notable Sandwich

I have eaten a sandwich worthy of your reflection. Here are the conditions which allowed it to come into being: 1) We had some leftover Christmas ham. 2) Theresa arrived at the James Food Center in Oxford, Mississippi, this morning just as they were completing a fresh batch of pimento cheese. So what I did was put some ham and pimento cheese between two pieces of bread, forming a sandwich. Then I "grilled" said sandwich in a pan with some butter. Oh, and 3) My parents had come from the east, bearing the special pickles I like. Thus was the sandwich completed - yes, the greatest sandwich ever known to man.

Lost Belt

I've lost my belt.

"Blog" Goes "Bloast" to "Bloast"

According to famous newspapers the L.A. Times and the New York Times, "Blog" Buddies are making headlines coast to coast - or "bloast" to "bloast," as we call it in our special language of "blogging." Look! Here's "Blog" Buddy Verdell, in a recent photograph from the L.A. Times. Meanwhile, the unassuming young fellow with the notepad at the party turned out to be from the New York Times, just as he said. I was wrong to doubt him! Here's the article he turned in to the "Home & Garden" section.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 25, 2008

Here it is! "Click" here for last year's full and satisfying explanation of this culmination of your "blog" advent calendar fun. Our story so far: 1) Aboriginal art made, I think, from a hollow log. 2) Home page of the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 3) A fellow playing "High Hopes" on his organ. 4) A performance of the song "Millionaire" by the Mekons. 5) Unicorns in space. 6) Your handy catalog of folk dance instructions. 7) A guy practicing his Saint Saens. 8) Every cover ever of the comic book HERBIE. 9) More Saint Saens for some reason, this time on theremin. 10) The old TV show LAND OF THE GIANTS - in bubble gum card form, that is! 11) Actual footage of Annie Oakley from the Edison studio. 12) "Cute cat pictures make the world a warm and fuzzy place." 13) "A camel made out of peanut butter" 14) An elaborate handout from the 13th annual Bigfoot conference. 15) A performance by Sinatra of a song by the Beatles. 16) I think this is a physics paper. 17) Squirrel holding pear. 18) A clip from the 1959 film SANTA CLAUS. 19) Elis Regina! 20) Enjoy this nice clip please of Jerry Lewis in CINDERFELLA. 21) The long poem "Julian and Maddalo by P.B. Shelley. 22) Some nice kids in the middle of singing "Sleigh Ride." 23) Robot instrumental. 24) Accordion Rossini. Now, before we commence with your final surprise of this year's calendar, may I please ask you to note that all of the preceding material is completely new to the "blog"? That's because we like to go the extra step for your pleasure. I was tempted to include a couple of things you have certainly forgotten, such as Bob Denver singing "Ho, Daddy!" as originally presented here by McNeil, or these foolproof plans for mastering time travel, first "linked" to via this "post." But I resisted! And as we bid you a fond goodbye from this year's "blog" advent calendar, we leave you with this large and final surprise.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Blog," Using Royal "We," Finds Reasons for Celebration, Self-Loathing in 2,000th "Post"

We are pleased that our 2,000th "post" happened to feature the singing of Sally Timms. But we are upset that we have "posted" 2,000 "posts." Isn't there something we're supposed to be doing? We can't remember. On the happy side, the dubious occasion reminded us of this illustration we found on the "internet." At around the time of our 900th "post," we pretended it showed the staff of the "blog" and this idea still gladdens us in our time of woe and funk. Furthermore, having "posted" 2,002 times, we now understand how to supply the photograph for your delight without "stealing bandwidth," so we guess we've learned something after all, yes, something barely useful and something we still don't understand - something which rouses in us no desire to understand. And now the pendulum swings back the other way. We're going to lie down in the dark.

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 23, 2008

Today's surprise comes to you courtesy of John Currence. Thanks, John!

Monday, December 22, 2008

"A Pathetically Erupting Volcano (Which Was Perfect)"

Director Sally Timms reports another rousing success with the third annual Hideout Christmas Panto. She cites "a pathetically erupting volcano (which was perfect)" and promises photographs to come, but she promised that last year as well. And now for your pleasure here's our Sally singing a lovely song:

You're Welcome, Elvis Costello!

It has occurred to me that Elvis Costello would sound great singing the Hayley Mills number "Let's Get Together" from THE PARENT TRAP. It even has that descending "Oh-oh-oh-oh" figure he often incorporates into his vocal stylings. I'm going to get John Currence to pull some strings on this one. Speaking of Currence, did you know he's "blogging" now? It's true!

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 22, 2008

Every day something new from the "blog" advent calendar.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 20, 2008

"Click" here if you have forgotten what the "blog" advent calendar is. Or simply "click" here for today's installment.

Last Chance Ever For Fun

Don't forget, people of Chicago! Tonight is your very last chance to see MUTINY ON THE BEAGLE, this year's Christmas panto (with which I helped a little) at your favorite bar the Hideout. Pictured here is Jon Langford as the "panto dame" (it's a tradition! I promise!) with his costar (wait for it!) Moby Duck. And two little Langfords, unless I am mistaken. Remember, the 7 o'clock show is relatively safe for the young ones. The ten o'clock show is another matter entirely, I do believe.

Today's Weather: Suede Boots a No Go

Welcome once again to our regular feature "Today's Weather," where we help you cope with today's weather. If you're thinking about putting on those suede boots you bought for the faculty Christmas party last weekend but couldn't wear because it was too damp, well, think again! It's still damp. No suede boots today. Sorry! You probably won't be able to wear your suede boots all winter.

A Serious Mathematical Error

Hey, remember *******, my novel I promised never to bother you about by name again? Well, I am happy to say that the adding machine at the San Francisco Chronicle is on the fritz - or maybe it was sabotaged! - and somehow ******* was named one of the 50 best fiction and poetry books of 2008. Wow! And because I had the foresight to begin the title with the letter "A," it appears at the very top of the list. My secret plan is working! All this fake self-deprecation is part of it, too. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Strawberry Milkshake

Dig if you will these few lines of poetic expression: "Strawberry milkshake,/ Put in the cream,/ Put in your ashtray,/ Turn out the light,/ Cos we're having a milkshake - " Frank O'Hara, you guess? Or no. Maybe Ashbery? Wrong again! It's Jerry Lewis, baby. I finally got hold of ENFANT TERRIBLE!, that academic compendium on Jerry. One reason I like it is because it's the only scholarly work I can think of offhand with an exclamation point rather than a colon in the title. I also like the article by Frank Krutnik, in which we find the fragment above. It's a ditty Jerry improvised on the COLGATE COMEDY HOUR, in a role as a soda jerk. I've written in the past about how hard it is to duplicate the pertinent aspects of Jerry's voice on the page. Turning it into poetry doesn't do it, quite, but there is something revelatory about Krutnik's technique. I'm sorry to say it's the only passage he treats in such a way. (He lays it out nicely on the page like a real poem, and it's a real pleasure to read. It's my own fault I never figured out how to do line breaks on the "blog.") I want to see more, Krutnik! Maybe it's time for a new volume: FOUND POEMS BY JERRY. Let's get some interns working on it.

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 16, 2008

Every day another fun surprise courtesy of the "Blog" Advent Calendar.

I Hope Everybody's Happy

Well, today I did it. I cut the Richie Rich soliloquy by more than HALF! And I put it in a different chapter, in the mouth of a different character, one for whom it makes "sense." I hope everybody's happy now! And by "everybody" I mean my heartless editor. Although I'm pleased that part of my detective novel will now make sense. I've never tried that before and I think it will be a refreshing change of pace. Oh, Richie Rich! The shame of the nation! How I blanch at your profligate ways.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 15, 2008

Who knows what your surprise will be today?

Ha! Jerry!

Allow me to lay on you just a few of Jerry's liner notes for his all-singing album MORE JERRY LEWIS: "There are billions of albums sold each year, and not because of the contents but because of the sexy pictures on the cover. For example, last week I bought an album because the cover was a picture of a beautiful girl in a negligee draped across a leopard skin couch. And what do you think the record in this album was? Harry Truman's acceptance speech. I don't know from nothing. I paid three bucks for the album - I danced to it anyway." Ha! Jerry!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Advent Calendar That Never Was

To find out about a whistling orangutan, "click" here. The NBIL (we've decided we can call him the NBIL at least until March), knowing of my affection for monkeys and apes and so on, sent me footage of the orangutan who has taught herself to whistle, and I wanted to make it today's advent calendar entry... but she's behind bars, which makes it too depressing, all the more when it sneaks up on you in that exciting patented advent calendar way. Although I'm sure she's well taken care of, especially now that she has taught herself to whistle! Right? Right? There's always something going on behind the scenes here at Advent Calendar Headquarters. It's called quality control. Just yesterday, I had to switch out my advent calendar "link" (this picture of a kitten pawing at a galaxy or something) for technical reasons that made it disappear, robbing you of your holiday fun. I present it here today in non-advent calendar format as a little bonus for your enjoyment and edification, via

The Best Christmas Ever?

Just opened a package from Barry B. It contained, I am thrilled to say, a long playing vinyl recording on the Decca label entitled MORE JERRY LEWIS. This is the serious side of Jerry! He sings the work of Porter and Gershwin and other such composers of popular American standards. The package contained several loose bubble gum cards as well, including one of Elvis in THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS, wearing that very same suit of estimable snazziness on which we have remarked before. Yes, folks, if this is any indication, it's shaping up to be the best Christmas ever!

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 13, 2008

What will it be?

These Kids These Days

Ha ha ha! Look at these cats eating ice cream! Silly kitties! Hey, that reminds me. Some smart kids around here are putting together one of those "literary magazines" you've heard so much about. They're calling it "Kitty Snacks." These guys, unless I am mistaken, are all in Dent May's band and at least one of them works at Square Books and they just couldn't be more enterprising or nicer young men. They're putting a lot of time and energy into the magazine to make it special and just right. Well, they've asked McNeil and me to be in the first issue but despite that I think it's going to be a great magazine. So keep your eyes peeled for "Kitty Snacks." And tell 'em "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot sent you.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Today's Weather: Icy!

Welcome once again to our beloved yet neglected regular feature "Today's Weather." Let's take a look at what's happening in today's weather. Kelly Hogan says there's a six-foot icicle hanging off her eaves. When pressed, she says, "Five feet, for sure." Hogan lives in Wisconsin.

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 12, 2008

It might be anything!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 10, 2008

"Click" here if you need a reminder about how to enjoy the "Blog" Advent Calendar. "Click" here if you are already prepared for enjoyment.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 9, 2008

"Open" the "link" to reveal the "surprise."

The Willeford Revival

Looks like everyone is reading Charles Willeford these days. And by everyone I mean McNeil and me. Last night I told McNeil I'm reading PICK-UP, a yellowed, pocket-sized, typo-riddled Black Lizard reprint I picked up years ago in the used mystery section at A Cappella. McNeil (inspired by the "blog," it turns out) is reading THE MACHINE IN WARD 11, a Willeford story collection, which he obtained by his preferred method of the inter-library loan. So, in PICK-UP, the narrator and the eponymous "pick-up" go to a nightclub called the Dolphin. There's a trio playing. "The trio," says the narrator, "consisted of chimes, theremin, and electric guitar." Crazy! I tried to imagine it. It's even stranger than the nightclub with the harp and bongo duet in TEACHER'S PET. Now I want to go to a nightclub! Somewhere with a bassoon, a triangle and a wind machine.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 8, 2008

Welcome once again to the "Blog" Advent Calendar. If you would like to participate in today's edition, please "click" here. It's just that easy!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Ironic Deployment of Bunting in Westerns of the 1950s

I just watched a really good, compact western called SILVER LODE. I picked it up because of an interesting passing reference in Chris Fujiwara's book JACQUES TOURNEUR: THE CINEMA OF NIGHTFALL (though it was directed by Allan Dwan, not Tourneur). After watching the film, I also seemed to recall Martin Scorsese, in a documentary, mentioning the use of bunting in SILVER LODE. Yes, that bunting is ironically deployed, no doubt about it. SILVER LODE clocks in at 80 minutes, I believe, which as you know is right in the ideal running-time range as defined by Barry B. One of the nicest surprises was discovering that Lizabeth Scott is in it. Ms. Scott was a staple of the "blog" for a long time. Lately we have neglected her. Why, we used to "post" a new picture of her every week. Of course, this was back in the olden days, when I unknowingly "stole bandwidth" to "post" pictures because I didn't even know what that meant (and still don't, by the way, but at least I know how to "post" pictures properly now). Here is a picture of Ms. Scott presented in the correct and aboveboard manner. Unfortunately, she does not play what I consider the "Lizabeth Scott role" in SILVER LODE. She plays the much tamer character I like to call the weeping bride. Someone ELSE gets to play the part that Ms. Scott would usually play: Dolly the "saloon girl" (as I suppose would be the production-code appropriate euphemism), who smokes cigarettes and makes with the wisecracks. Dolly has lines that really belong in the mouth of Lizabeth Scott as much as that cigarette, such as when the hero says, "I'm not going anywhere" and Dolly replies, "If you don't, you'll be a real dead cowboy." A little later, Dolly gets the classic, "So long, sucker," but it is a quiet and rueful line reading. The only trouble is that it's not Lizabeth Scott saying it. Nothing against the woman who did play Dolly the saloon girl. She did a fine job. A small complaint! Also, the DVD was not formatted to the correct screen aspect ratio, or whatever you call it. That's life! Sometimes you can't have everything. Sometimes you can only have two-thirds of everything. Try to enjoy it and stop being such a crybaby.

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 7, 2008

"Click" here for today's random secret surprise from the second annual "Blog" Advent Calendar. See you tomorrow!

What I Was Like Inside My Head

How did I spend my weekend, you ask? Oh, I don't know. Just hanging out with Laura Lippman and David Simon, that's all! I do not believe it would be too unseemly or gossipy to report that I dined with them at City Grocery and Taylor Grocery (not to be confused with City Grocery) and the Ajax Diner, at the latter of which I had the privilege of hearing a disagreement between them over the meaning of a specific line of dialogue from THE WIRE. And in my head, I was like, "Wow! I'm having the privilege of hearing a disagreement between Laura Lippman and David Simon over the meaning of a specific line of dialogue on THE WIRE! I have never been happier and also I am freaking out!" But on the outside, I was all, "Hmm. Interesting point." But I didn't say it with words! I used the method of concerned and thoughtful nodding. (I will also mention that at the City Grocery bar, David Simon wrote down something John Currence said on a napkin!) We went to Rowan Oak as well, where we were allowed to manhandle Faulkner's personal possessions with obscene abandon. For example, I found a copy of the Italian literary magazine BOTTEGHE OSCURE, which at one time was edited by my friend Eugene Walter. I opened it up and sure enough there was Eugene's name on the masthead. I showed it to Tom Franklin (who also knew Eugene, and who was hosting Lippman and Simon for the weekend) and we stood there and marveled for a minute and thought about deep stuff. I can't speak for Tom but he was probably thinking something like, "Isn't life interesting!" (though he is not inclined to use exclamation points). Hey, do you know someone else with whom I went to Ajax and Rowan Oak? Neko Case, that's who! Remember, she took a picture of me sitting at Faulkner's typewriter? Read all about that, and more, in the brand new Oxford American 10th Anniversary Music Issue, which should be at your local newsstand right now. I could not possibly list all the fine writers and musicians paired up in this extraordinary package of wholesome goodness, which has a great cover photo of Jerry Lee Lewis (not to be confused with Jerry Lewis) looking as if he's on the set of the final episode of TWIN PEAKS. So what I will do is just list any musician or writer in the issue who has been mentioned on the "blog" before. There are lots of musicians and writers in there that I SHOULD HAVE mentioned here before, but to list them now would be cheating, and anyway I do not want to spoil the fun of discovery. But here, let me whet your appetite for the brand new Oxford American 10th Anniversary Music Issue by tossing out these names: Roy Blount Jr. -- William Gay -- Elvis Presley -- Greil Marcus --Peter Guralnick -- Kevin Brockmeier (wait until you read his piece!) -- Michael Martone. Well, I don't know what to say. That's not too many, and nearly all writers. May I cheat and mention just three perennial "blog" "faves" that have never been mentioned here before? Mose Allison, Little Walter, and Love....With Arthur Lee. And there are so, so many more. So many you won't believe it! Many you and I will hear for the very first time and with whom we shall fall in love. And I believe I forgot to mention that a double CD comes with the magazine so you can hear all the music you've been reading about. Down below, Jerry Lee. Up above, Love. (But not the same Love. It's complicated! Read the magazine.)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 6, 2008

Need instructions or more information about the "Blog" Advent Calendar? "Click" here. Or to enjoy today's surprise, "click" here.

Friday, December 05, 2008

McNeil's "Thoughts I've Been A-Thinkin'"

Welcome once again to our folksiest regular feature. Today, McNeil writes: "I've been thinking - every time I look at my hand! - that the human hand should really have more fingers ... probably a couple more after the pinky." Once again, we're going to look for a picture of a folksy and thoughtful type of fellow to represent McNeil.

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 5, 2008

Here you go.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 4, 2008

Today's little treat. (Shot and edited by Barry B. unless I gravely mistake his unmistakable fingerprints.)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

You Are Familiar No Doubt With My Boundless Affection

You are familiar no doubt with my boundless affection for the sidebar of one Maud Newton. Well, I'm on there today, so that's exciting! Right now I'm fourth from the top, but new material accumulates at a goodly clip (which is just one of the great things about Maud Newton's sidebar), so I may be gone tomorrow. Or sooner! Speaking of Ms. Newton, she placed me into some sort of recipe chain letter or pyramid scheme in which one emails a recipe to another person - and the letter itself to 20 friends - and somehow begins to receive many, many delicious recipes from strangers all over the world, in theory. But there's a bug in the system! Ms. Newton put both Laura Lippman and myself on her list, and Laura and I put each other on each list of our own, producing a recipe vortex or wormhole or something and if my math is correct, I am now required to send the original email to an infinite number of people.

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 2, 2008

"Click" here to "open" the "door" for your daily surprise.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The "Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 1, 2008

Hi! I just got back from a place where John Currence was plying some of us with delicious Popeye's brand fried chicken. I can say no more! The point is I almost forgot that it is time for that blessed brainchild of Dr. "M.," the second annual "Blog" Advent Calendar. You may "click" here if you need a refresher course on what the "Blog" Advent Calendar is and how it works. Or you may simply "click" here to "open" the first "door" of this holiday season.


I ran across a good one today in the periodicals room: THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CLINICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL HYPNOSIS. I tried to read an article called "Effects of Vestibular and Neck Proprioceptive Stimulation on Posture as a Function of Hypnotizability." Here's what I gathered, or sort of gathered, or may not have gathered: 1) People who can be hypnotized easily are called "highs;" people who cannot be hypnotized with such ease are called "lows." 2) It is easier to hypnotize a subject who is standing up than one who is sitting down, or it may be the other way around. The other way around seems to make more sense. Anyway, I read that paragraph five times and I can't tell you. 3) "Highs" allow their bodies to sway more freely while under hypnosis. 4) "Highs" might adapt to microgravity more easily, making them better candidates than "lows" for the astronautical profession. OKAY! There was also a great appendix at the back of the magazine, laying out a "Hypnotic Induction" translated from the French, which I now quote in part (the ellipses are original to the text): "The floating hand ... on its own ... perfectly still ... With your permission, imagine that I am covering it with a glove ... a glove that anesthetizes and that I pull on ... over the fingers ... the palm of the hand ... cool and comfortable ..." I woke up three hours later, having missed my class. Ha ha! Not really! But wouldn't that have been something? Wheeeeeee! What fun we're having now.

How Could I Forget

And speaking of Phil Oppenheim and Arnold Stang, how could I forget to mention that Phil's mom dated Arnold Stang?

Stang Alert

Phil Oppenheim, best known as president of the "Stang Spotters Club" Eastern Chapter, has issued a communique entitled STANG ALERT. "Drop what you're doing!" Phil advises, and goes on to strongly encourage all Stang devotees to examine a brand new WFMU "post" about Arnold Stang. In the past, we have celebrated WFMU's "blog" as your best bet for Stangformation. What attracted Phil most was the following Arnold Stang & the Sunshine Kids novelty record, featured on the WFMU "post":

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Don't Read This

Welcome once again to one of those "posts" you shouldn't read, in this instance because a boring old "cinephile" "blogger" is going to tell you about his trouble sleeping and the movies he watched instead. You have been warned. Last night's double feature, brought to me almost at random by the dvr, was PHFFFT! (the exclamation point is theirs) followed by CONTEMPT. A profitable and instructive double feature! Watching PHFFFT! prepared me to view CONTEMPT in a whole new way. There are many similarities between the two films, aside from the big marital themes - little things like the use of books and scripts within scripts, and the particular sleaziness of the characters played by Jack Carson (in the former film) and Jack Palance (in the latter). See! I told you not to read this. And in each film, an apartment functions as an important supporting character. All I'm saying is that PHFFFT! allowed me to zero in on the extremely old-fashioned plot of CONTEMPT so that I was free to enjoy thoroughly and with fresh eyes the way Godard's cinematic language enhanced and commented on his film's own mechanics. Speaking of mechanics, I will conclude this thing that I hope you are not reading by mentioning that while PHFFFT! contains both a round bed and a motorized bed, it curiously does NOT contain a motorized round bed such as we often enjoy in the movies. And finally I will mention that Godard originally wanted to cast Kim Novak (who appears in PHFFFT!) as the female lead in CONTEMPT. This is the Most Boring Old Man in the Universe, bidding you adieu.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Hot Dog Diaries

When I was looking for that image of McLean Stevenson, I found a "blog" on which some guy has recorded his entire diary from 1976-77, when he was 13 years old. Here's a sample: "Hung around his house to 4:30, when we went to see 'The Big Bus' and 'Logan's Run'. 'The Big Bus' was funny, but very dumb. 'Logan's Run' should have been rated R, but it was a very good movie. 8:30 - Left there, ate a hot dog at his apartment." As you know, this is what the "internet" is FOR, in my opinion.

All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up

Welcome once again to "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up," where we keep you up-to-date with all the latest trends and happenings in the fast changing world of entertainment. THIS JUST IN: McNeil has come across an incomplete episode guide to HELLO, LARRY. "Don't ask how," advises McNeil. And remember when I said that someone should write about THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY and several other movies in a scholarly examination of medical ethics in the films of Jerry Lewis? Remember that? Well, look what I just found: a tome - yes, a tome! - of academic articles on Jerry, including one by Lucy Fischer called "Sick Jokes: Humor and Health in the Works of Jerry Lewis," which examines the relationship between THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY and Jerry's guest role as a doctor on the TV series BEN CASEY. Not exactly what "the doctor ordered" but pretty darn close. This has been "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up." Until we meet again, keep reaching for the "stars"! (Pictured, HELLO, LARRY's McLean Stevenson.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Holiday Unicorn Series

It's Thanksgiving around these parts, and you know what that means. Time once again for our popular Holiday Unicorn Series. We put the name of the holiday and the word unicorn together in the "Google Image Search" machinery and press the button and that's how we find our holiday unicorns. Enjoy your Thanksgiving Unicorn and have a pleasant day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Can you believe the editor wants me to cut the speech about Richie Rich? And I was like, "No way!" I was like, "Never!" I was like, "This will not stand!" I was like, "Maybe you have a point." I was like, "Okay." I was like, "Whatever you say, sir." Look at this picture of Richie Rich. He has to wear sunglasses when he feeds the dog, because his dog lives in a golden house encrusted with jewels. And his dog wears sunglasses, too! Sunglasses probably manufactured at great expense specially to fit Richie Rich's dog! I'm surprised he's not feeding his dog a filet mignon. Richie Rich! I hate him so.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Today In Bob and Jerry News

ITEM: Mark Childress sends word that the National Park Service is mad at Bob Hope. Can't Bob catch a break? First there was that author who blamed everything bad on Bob. And we suppose this will encourage the belief espoused at "Emulsion Compulsion" (and recently reported here) that Bob is controlling everyone's thought patterns. Guess what, everybody? I still love Bob! I am going to comfort myself with my May-June 1979 issue of FILM COMMENT magazine, and I suggest you do the same. ITEM: Dave Kehr has issued a brief but titillating "blog" description of Jerry's recent live event. It's the only account I've found so far. Here's my favorite part: "It was a full house and one that skewed surprisingly young, raising hope that the Lewis legacy has been passed on to a new generation." Mr. Kehr, to quote Smokey Robinson, "I second that emotion." Also, the people who leave comments on Kehr's "web" site are something else. People like Jonathan Rosenbaum, for example. But I REALLY love the people who are knowledgeable and sincere and obsessive and often enraged and leave dozens and dozens of ever more intricate, violently passionate and Ouroboros-like comments. You can't tell it with the Jerry "post" (yet) but go back and thumb through some of Mr. Kehr's "posts" with hundreds of addenda. I leapt in on the Jerry "post" myself, replying to James L. Neibaur's comment (he wrote a book called THE BOB HOPE FILMS, by the way), by expressing some of my reservations about THREE ON A COUCH. I also worked in a seemingly offhand reference to McNeil, part of my plan to turn him into a one-name celebrity phenomenon like Cher. Anyway, after that some other person wrote in and took up for THREE ON A COUCH, warded off the blow I had dealt to its honor, which made me love that person. Finally I have found a place where I belong. Goodbye forever.

Monday, November 24, 2008


But no, I can't go to bed without giving proper credit to the person who produced the previous Polaroid (and this current one, too). She's one of my oldest friends. She goes by many names, but on the "blog" we're going to call her "El" (not to be confused with our corporate spy "L." - or is she? I'll never tell!). "Click" here to read the interesting story about the expired film she used to make both photographs. The film is called Time-Zero, which is a name so good I'm going to stick it into my upcoming detective novel. I just got the final editorial comments today, so this is good coincidental timing, finding out about Time-Zero on the same day. I'm going to rewrite a speech about Polaroids already in the book. It's given by a sinister character who I think will make good use of the phrase "Time-Zero." I can say no more! No milk for free! One of El's Polaroids is in a European gallery exhibition! "Click" here to read about that.


I didn't "blog" on Sunday and now the "blog" material is piling up. This is to remind myself to "blog" about Jerry Lewis, Polaroids, and Bob Hope tomorrow. Oh, and a Baltic snowstorm. And I'm already forgetting something. That's what I get for not "blogging"! That's what I get for, what do you call it, "writing" instead. I'll never make that mistake again! Here's a Polaroid to whet your appetite. I'll tell you about it tomorrow.

Say Plate

You know what word I like? Plate. Say it. Plate. Plate. Plate.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm a Woman

Mark Childress has run my "blog" through something called the "Gender Analyzer," which says there's a 76% chance I'm a woman. I like those odds! (Pictured, me.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bissellmania Is Back!

Look who's on the book "blog" over at the New York Times today: "Blog" Buddy Tom Bissell. He says, "My relationship to the Web is probably very similar to being in a profoundly unhappy marriage with someone you really love and care about. You hate it; you love it. You want to leave; you know you can’t." I believe we broke this news here on the "blog" back in 2006! Oh, we're scooping the New York Times all over the place these days. Hey, last time I was in the periodicals room, I ran across Tom Bissell's recent article in the New Yorker. Read it by "clicking" here. It's got Bissell all over it! Bissell!

McNeil's Movie Korner

Welcome once again to McNeil's Movie Korner, which comes to us today in the form of a telephone message. "Just finished BLAST OF SILENCE," reports McNeil. "If it's not in your top ten after you watch it, my name's not [here McNeil uses his secret nickname, known only to select members of his inner circle]."

The So-Called "Internet"

If you "click" on the James Purdy "link" in the previous "post," you will be taken to another "post" with another "link," promising passage to an "interesting 'web' site" about Mr. Purdy. This is a lie! It was true when I first "posted it. But now when you "click" on the place where the interesting "web" site used to be you will find a generic spot that has been gutted of content. You may recall that something similar occurred with the "web" site where (as I swore, and as was true at the time) you could send an email DIRECTLY TO HEE HAW STAR ROY CLARK. I used to think the "internet" was forever. But now I see that it crumbles and falls like everything else. Marcus Aurelius was right! To try to make things up to you a little, I will "link" to a "wikipedia" article about James Purdy. Remember (as I know from the one "wikipedia" article featuring a subject I know something about), "wikipedia" is usually wrong (although it seems that someone has gone in and fixed most or all of the problems with that aforementioned article, so it could be the case that I have no idea what I'm talking about). But one nice thing about the Purdy "wikipedia" article is that it "links" you to a place where you can see an anonymous letter written by James Purdy (according to "wikipedia" he has been writing anonymous letters his whole life, almost). When you "click" here, on the anonymous letter, please be aware that the site has "pop-up" ads, just like that Christopher Smart poem I "linked" you to so long ago. I guess if it is good enough for Christopher Smart, it is good enough for James Purdy. My kind of guys!

Man In White Socks

In today's "Film Series and Movie Listings" section of the New York Times, Dave Kehr calls Jerry Lewis "The Man in the White Socks himself — and a plausible candidate for America’s greatest living filmmaker." Which reminds me. Somebody better go to that event for me tomorrow night! As we have seen, Mark Childress is out of town. Early word from Mr. Ward looked promising, but that was before he realized that the event is on a Saturday, which is family time. Hey, Mr. Ward! Remember what happened last time you were horsing around with those kids of yours? YOU FELL INTO A LARGE CLAY POT AND BROKE YOUR RIBS! And while there is a Jerry-ish touch to that story, Jerry would never break your ribs. Still, I grudgingly respect your decision. Last time I heard from Megan Abbott, it sounded like she was on the fence. She's my best hope. Come on, Megan! Come on, everybody. Jerry's right there in your backyard! I should jump in the car and go. But I am an old man with a nose full of dazzling white hairs and I don't jump in the car and go anymore. One of my students has been talking about jumping in a car and driving off to Brooklyn in search of James Purdy, and I have encouraged her in this pursuit. I'm like that creepy old man at the beginning of THE BIG SLEEP who likes to watch Bogart drink hooch because he can't have it anymore. PS: My poor old mind told me that you could see Jerry's white socks in the clip above, but as usual, my poor old mind was mistaken. And I'm pretty sure you can't see them here, either.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thinking Back On the Party

Thinking back on the party, I'm pretty sure I talked about werewolves too much.


Hi! I just got back from a party. It was the kind of party where some guy challenged me to arm wrestle... and I did! I'm still not 100% sure who that guy was. It was a party with John Hodgman and Roy Blount Jr. in attendance... and an 18 year old cat - I mean an actual feline - who was practically a skeleton (from age) but very sweet and loving. I spent most of the evening with the cat. I was also briefly interviewed by a reporter from the New York Times, or so he said. In any case, he had a little notepad with him, which conferred an air of legitimacy. Mr. Blount was a gentleman as always and a wonderful conversationalist. Mr. Hodgman, who I met for the first time tonight, was very nice and polite as well. He said things like, "Come over here, Camel Hair!" (because I was wearing a camel hair jacket) and "What's the Jack Pendarvis story?" Very polite and solicitous. Right before I left the party, Mr. Hodgman and I sang a little bit of "Tonight You Belong to Me" together (a song about which I've "blogged" before... and written about for the the Oxford American). Mr. Blount, Mr. Hodgman and I were all on the Thacker Mountain radio program tonight. Mr. Hodgman very much enjoyed the song stylings of Dent May, who was one of my undergraduate students and is now a ukulele player of no small repute (which fact spurred the conversation between Mr. Hodgman and myself about "Tonight You Belong to Me" and led to its abbreviated performance by us). But the craziest thing is that I sang "I Started a Joke" on the radio show tonight, and the pianist who accompanied me (along with a great band) was Jim Dickinson, who played piano on the Rolling Stones song "Wild Horses." The world is truly a sordid and meaningless place if such a thing can happen! But it did.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Good News

Chris Fujiwara writes in with good news about his Jerry Lewis book, and I quote: "It's all finished and should be out in 2009, if I can find a good still from The Big Mouth." He goes on to say something nice about the "blog." Best of all, he provides an intriguing resource about one of our subjects of abiding fascination, and I quote again: "You might be interested in my book on Otto Preminger which has some stories about Preminger harassing Arnold Stang during the filming of Skidoo." It's like he knows us!

Miracle Juice

I think it has been well established that I like juice. There can be no denying it! But did you know that some juice can work miracles? Today I drank some orange juice with a generous portion of ginger in it and MY COLD SYMPTOMS WENT AWAY! They might come back, but at least they went away for a minute, thanks to the miracle juice. And that miracle juice came from Ron Shapiro's Main Squeeze Juice Bar. That's Main Squeeze, right behind the Pizza Hut. Tell 'em "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot sent you! (Pictured, "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot.) "Bloggy" says, "It's got the 'Bloggy' seal of approval!" Ha ha! You "go," "Bloggy"! Wheeeeee!


I know what you're all thinking, but it's not quite time for the flannel pants. NOT YET! Don't worry, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It may be JACQUES TOURNEUR: THE CINEMA OF NIGHTFALL. What do you want from me? I'm just a "blog"!


The correct title of Fujiwara's book is THE CINEMA OF NIGHTFALL: JACQUES TOURNEUR.

The Fujiwara Effect

Finally! I'm once again writing "posts" with titles that sound like Robert Ludlum novels. Anyway, spurred on by Chris Fujiwara's Jerry Lewis article, I just watched THE PATSY again. Yep: it's the greatest! Received a mid-movie call from McNeil, who says that Fujiwara also wrote that book NIGHTFALL of which he (McNeil) is so enamored. In another coincidence, I figured out that in the second "post" about Jerry I ever did, there's a "link" to another Fujiwara article. Fujiwara is everywhere and we didn't even know it! McNeil says there's another fascinating Jerry Lewis coincidence afoot (non-Fujiwara, I believe) but he doesn't want to tell me yet. He's digging deeper, he says. Look! It's Jerry with a beard. That's so you won't get bored with me and turn away. It's a change of pace to keep our "blogger"/reader relationship spicy!

A Valuable Appendix

I see that fellow Jerry Lewis fan Dave Kehr, with whom I so wrongly share the sidebar on the TCM "web" site, is talking in an appropriately giddy fashion about Mr. Lewis's upcoming New York appearance over on his "blog." Even more tantalizingly, Kehr provides a "link" to the "web" site of one Chris Fujiwara, who also mentions the live appearance AND gives a fleeting hint about his upcoming book from the University of Illinois Press. The title of that book? JERRY LEWIS. Put me down for a copy! I take it as a good sign that Mr. Fujiwara cites the very scene from THE PATSY that McNeil treasures as his favorite, as well as zeroing in on my favorite character (the shy zoologist) from THREE ON A COUCH and touching on (of all things) ONE MORE TIME, a highlight of the first (and apparently last) annual McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival, and a piece of work which McNeil and I assumed was otherwise forgotten. (Speaking of THREE ON A COUCH, Mr. Fujiwara also makes appreciative remarks (although in a more academic vein than McNeil's) about the scene that prompted McNeil's immortal question (and answer), "Are you at the part where Jerry dresses up like a cowboy? Some pretty ladies walk by and he does some classic Jerry shtick. Hilarious!" I can only hope that Mr. Fujiwara is familiar with McNeil's Theory of Potential Energy - a must for any true Jerry understanding. And finally, modesty almost forbids my suggestion that he investigate, at least for use in a valuable appendix, the fast growing field of Bava/Lewis comparative studies as pioneered here on the "blog" and bolstered by a note from actual film scholar Tim Lucas. (Pictured, "the part where Jerry dresses up like a cowboy.")

McNeil's "Thoughts I've Been A-Thinkin'"

Email from McNeil. It made me realize we need a feature wherein McNeil dispenses folksy wisdom. Here it is. McNeil writes: "I was thinking about that pic of Rob C. on your blog. Is that all one needs in life? An umbrella, a musket, some sort of basket, and a bit of curiosity? Perhaps. But what about love, Daniel D.? Is that just a myth (as Gordon Gekko notes in Wall Street - and perhaps many other characters in many other works of fiction. Maybe that's something for the Blogketeers to chime in on)?" Okay! Now I will try to find a good, random picture off the "internet" that we can all pretend is McNeil being thoughtful. Some guy smoking a pipe, probably. Or feeding a kangaroo. Or wallaby. Or whatever.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Literary Matters

Welcome once again to "Literary Matters." We have but two humble literary matters. That's all a human being can really stand of literary matters, I think. Let's begin. 1) Maud Newton likes Charles Willeford, as I have been excited to discover through her "blog." I like Charles Willeford, too! SIDESWIPE is my favorite. I have given Tom Franklin a copy of SIDESWIPE as a present. I have deduced while roaming around Square Books that Barry Hannah must like Charles Willeford; I've seen Willeford among the assigned texts for Hannah's noir class. If you will recall, Maud Newton and I also share an affection for Peter De Vries. And yet there may not be two writers any more different than Willeford and De Vries in style and sensibility. It really makes you think, I guess. 2) A day or two ago I read this in ROBINSON CRUSOE: "It would make the reader pity me, or rather laugh at me, to tell how many awkward ways I took to raise this paste, what odd misshapen ugly things I made, how many of them fell in, and how many fell out, the clay not being stiff enough to bear its own weight; how many crack'd by the over violent heat of the sun, being set out too hastily; and how many fell in pieces with only removing, as well before as after they were dry'd; and in a word, how after having laboured hard to find the clay, to dig it, to temper it, to bring it home and work it, I could not make above two large earthen ugly things, I cannot call them jars, in about two months labour." And I was like, "I hear you, Robinson Crusoe!" I was like, "I totally get where you are coming from." I was like, "Tell me about it, Robinson Crusoe." I was like, "I'm right there with you." I was like, "Welcome to my world." That's what I was like.

Pantomatic For the People

Sally Timms has spoken. It's almost time for the third annual traditional Christmas panto at the Hideout Bar in Chicago. And once again, I am honored to help out with the script. I was loath to divulge this year's theme, but I see it is already up at the Hideout's "web" site. As you may recall, we have assayed fish and Vikings. Now it is time for dinosaurs. Please prepare yourself for MUTINY ON THE BEAGLE: A DARWINIAN ROMP IN SEARCH OF THE JURASSIC ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS. Expect some hilarious Fletcher Christian references! Once again, Mekon and man-about-town Jon Langford will star as the "panto dame." I found this picture of him on the Hideout site. Just look how handsome he is! Though the picture may not help much because he will certainly be in drag when you see him. Pantomatic!