Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dear Bird Correspondent

Dear Bird Correspondent, No question today! Just a report. I counted more than 40 robins hanging out in the yard this morning. Many of them were gathered in the branches of a gnarled, leafless tree, like something out of the Hitchcock film THE BIRDS. Anyway, that's a lot of robins! More than I saw the other time I saw a bunch of robins. Today, some of them were eating red berries off a bush. Thought you would like to know!

Scooping McNeil

After an invigorating and impressive two whole days in a row, McNeil's UFO column, "Way... Way Out," appears to have withered on the vine. I hate to scoop McNeil, but the "blog" has just learned that the next collaboration of Dan Brown and Kent Osborne will be a UFO feature film, to be shot on location in Roswell, NM and other UFO-friendly spots. You heard it here first, UFO fans! (Pictured, Kent Osborne and Dan Brown.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Purdy, People

"Teaching" again. I assigned my young charges some James Purdy. During my recent contemplations of Purdy, I found this interesting "web" site about him. Get to know your Purdy, people. I found the "autobiography" section particularly fascinating. You're welcome!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

From Whence I Could Not "Blog"

Did you miss me? I missed you! I've been in Jackson, from whence I could not "blog," but where I did enjoy the treat of hanging out with Pia Z. Ehrhardt. What was the occasion, you ask? Watch this space. Details to come.

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Merry Christmas, Honey!"

Barry B. says his wife gave him THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG for Christmas. We're going to race to the end. Wheeeeee! (Illustration via Mark Childress.)

I Do Things

Where have I been today? You tell me! There's a lot going on. I may not be able to "blog" tomorrow! Don't faint! The day after that, Wednesday, Tom Franklin and I are participating in the "Brown Bag" series on campus. What does that mean, technically? It means you bring your lunch and come stare at us as we try and fail to make sense. No, I'm sure we'll do fine. And even if we crash, we promise to do so entertainingly. Then, next week, it's our local film festival. I'm happy to tell you that "The Pipe" will be showing. Even happier news, Kent Osborne (who plays the paramedic in "The Pipe") and director Dan Brown are visiting Oxford for the screening. We'll answer questions for all of you who are still awake afterward. See? I do things.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

What? Cheer, Cheer, Cheer

We love the bird correspondent! She is never stumped for tidbits! Here is what she says about our most recent inquiry: "Jack--Interesting you should bring up the rufous-sided towhee, which IS one of those birds that 'says' something, that being: 'Drink your tea' (or as I say, 'Drink yer tea'--to me the bird has a definite accent). Some others, which happen to have been discussed previously on this blog, include the cardinal ('What? Cheer, cheer, cheer') and the great-horned owl ('Who's awake? Me, too.'). The barred owl, by contrast, says 'Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?' The white-throated sparrow, another common southern yard bird, says, 'Poor Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody.' It would help if I could sing all these for you... I have no idea who decides on the words, but they all sound quite appropriate. And of course that's in English. In other languages, words meant to imitate the sound an animal makes (like meow for cat, or cock-a-doodle-doo for rooster) are all different. In Spanish the rooster is kikiriki; in Dutch it's kukeliku." Thanks, B.C.! We seem to recall that our friend Caroline once informed us that in France, pigs say, "True! True!" But we can't recall whether they say the French word for true or if what the French hear when a pig speaks is a homonym for the English word "true." Perhaps Caroline will contact us and let us know.


I'm reading THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG by Norman Mailer. Do you care? Not likely! The first 20 pages are stunning. Just 1,036 pages to go! In some ways, THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG is the opposite of THE EYE. In other ways, it is probably NOT the opposite of THE EYE. I'll let you know when I finish. Okay! See you in a million billion years!

Two Words


Oh Yeah!

Last night we walked to a neighbor's house and you KNOW what I dug out. Come on! OH YEAH! My flannel pants. The flannel pants are back, baby! Flannel pants! I love you, flannel pants. Last night I called them "flannel PLANTS" by mistake about ten times in a row. Theresa smiled patiently. I'm sorry, flannel pants!


The bird correspondent, otherwise known as Sheri Joseph, sometimes affectionately dubbed "B.C." for short, has come through as usual. She sends along an audio "link" to the possible "dooby dooby dooby" sound which was the subject of our previous question. I could not properly "upload" the "software," so I was not able to hear for myself whether or not the bird correspondent had matched the sound to the bird - but I am going to say, "Yes." Because the bird correspondent is on the ball, people. She gets the job done. And this (the attached illustration, a visual representation of the possible "dooby dooby dooby dooby doo") looks like what I imagine those birds sounded like. Case closed. The bird correspondent chalks up the "dooby dooby" to the Carolina wren. Before I received her message I wondered if it might possibly be a rufous-sided towhee (of whose existence I am aware only because of the bird correspondent). What made me think this? Well, I wondered if the rufous-sided towhee might have been named for the sound it makes. What sounded to me like "dooby dooby dooby" may have struck someone else as "towhee towhee towhee" (sheer speculation on my part; I have no idea what sound a rufous-sided towhee makes, or even how his sides got so rufous). Which reminds me of another question I wanted to ask the bird correspondent: Is there some official arbiter of what birds "say"? I mean, we all know that the cuckoo says cuckoo. And, if I am recalling my Mikado correctly (although my COMPLETE ANNOTATED GILBERT & SULLIVAN was left for safekeeping with my sister in Atlanta), a "little tom-tit" says "willow, tit-willow, tit-willow." (See the clip at the bottom of this "post" for confirmation.) So. Is there an official guide or officiating committee that assigns specific "official" human syllables to specific bird calls? Or do we just reach these conclusions by folksy consensus (in addition to the cuckoo, the bob-white and the whip-poor-will leap to mind)?

Phil's Auspices

Phil often recommends music, whether through the auspices of his "Radio Korner" or hidden asides in another conversation. Today's recommendation comes in the form of what Phil calls "the best page on the internet." Enjoy, Phil-style!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dear Bird Correspondent

Dear Bird Correspondent, There are two birds. One of them goes, "Dooby dooby dooby dooby dooby." Then the other answers, "Dooby dooby dooby dooby dooby doo." Over and over. Thoughts?

Friday, January 25, 2008

McNeil's "Way... Way Out"

Welcome to the second installment of our exciting new series of investigative reports on outer space and the people who live there. "Am I still watching the skies?" McNeil writes in to ask. "You be the judge..."


What am I reading now? Thanks for asking! Hey, remember last year when I used to care that no one cared what I was reading? I thought it was impolite and presumptuous to burden you, or so I said! But now I don't care. I feel so free! So, I'm reading THE EYE. No, not the comic book about a giant floating eye who goes around defeating criminals by looking at them. It's THE EYE, a short novel by Vladimir Nabokov. I originally bought it because I had been informed that it is a "farcical detective story" (that's what it says on the back of the book) and I supposed that it might do me some good, writing a "farcical detective story" as I am at the moment. It's moot because I already have way more pages of my book than there are in THE EYE (104, as I have previously reported) and sadly, to my detriment, it's just too late for this one to be influenced by Nabokov. I did find something that would work as an epigraph: "In respect to myself I was now an onlooker. My belief in the phantomatic nature of my existence entitled me to certain amusements." Phantomatic! Oh Nabokov, you rascal! But I already have an epigraph. See how much fun it is to read "blogs"? Now I'm going to shut up about my book, which has been neither finished nor sold, because I've already put a huge jinx on it. Just because I can, I'm going to put up this old picture of the Phantom that I've used before. Phantomatic!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Phil's T-Shirt

McNeil wants to know all about Phil's t-shirt in the recently "posted" photo. As you know, McNeil worships the idea of Phil without ever having met him. He claims to be building an altar based on the objects visible in the photograph. I thought the shirt appeared to promote the John Woo film HARD-BOILED (which may place the photo at an earlier date than previously reported, given the pristine quality of the shirt, but who cares? This is a "blog"!). Phil was able to confirm the shirt's connection to HARD-BOILED. "That shirt is now immortalized in a t-shirt quilt that my mother-in-law made for me," Phil went on to report. When I relayed that information to McNeil, he expressed a desire to buy the quilt. "I could sleep with Phil's smell," were his exact words on the subject.

The Corrections

We should have mentioned that one of the "links" in the previous "post" came to McNeil by way of good old Secondhand George. Speaking of McNeil and things that need to be clarified, we took his advice and checked out the Arctic Circle section of LOLITA in Square Books the other day. But here's the thing. The Arctic Circle appears in Chapter 9, not Chapter 8. It should also be noted that there are a couple of "parts" to the Nabokov book, so that more than one Chapter 8 appears. Likewise with Chapter 9. The Arctic Circle appears in Part One, Chapter 9. I have corrected things on the "blog" before (see this or this or this or that) but in general, I try to remind myself that this is a "blog" and no sane person expects it to contain anything valuable or true. For example, for several days I have been sitting on the fact that the Terminator's new television program actually airs on Monday nights.

Presenting McNeil's "Way... Way Out"

Welcome to a brand new regular feature. It has become apparent that McNeil is never going to crank up the old MGMIEET, so we are grateful for his recent impulse to become our "official outer space correspondent," as he puts it, in a feature he has named after the Jerry Lewis film of the same title. (He might have just as easily named it after the Lewis film VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET, but we agree with McNeil's more playful and insouciant choice.) Here is today's communique from McNeil: "Yesterday, the United States Air Force, protector of liberty and freedom the world over, stated that on the night of the Stephenville, TX, UFO sighting they had, indeed, despite almost daily claims by the Air Force to the contrary, sent 10 fighter jets on a training mission to the Stephenville area. The base commander said they forgot all about it until today. Uh-huh. Be afraid, people." This newly paranoid McNeil also sends several "links," such as this one and that one and this one:

Lives of the Crooners

Welcome once again to our increasingly sporadic yet beloved feature "Lives of the Crooners." Today's sketch comes to us by way of old "blog" friend Tom Junod, who related it the other night at the City Grocery Bar (which has been a rich repository of crooner stories). One night in Los Angeles, reports Mr. Junod, he and the writer James Ellroy (who has "blurbed" Megan Abbott - see how the "blog" is the center of the universe?) were hanging out in a bar when they saw Dean Martin being helped in by two large assistants. Mr. Martin was wearing a Members Only jacket. There is more to the story, including Mr. Martin taking out his false teeth, but now we are much too sad to continue. This has been very possibly the last installment of "Lives of the Crooners."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


By coincidence, I have recently received two emails on the same subject - one from a stranger, another from a guy I haven't heard from since high school. The stranger has been mentioned on the "blog." He is the person who showed one of my undergrads the episode of STAR TREK in which Mr. Spock is feeling frisky, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. This person writes in to say that he reads my "confusing blog." He doesn't REALLY like it as much as some other, much better "blogs," but appreciates the fact that it is updated often. The guy I knew in high school says that he likes the "blog," at least the parts of it he CAN UNDERSTAND (my caps). So: is the "blog" really that confusing? Let me explain it. I like Jerry Lewis. I am trying to sell books by pretending to be a happy-go-lucky joe who just happens to enjoy "blogging." The end. Hope this clears everything up! The great thing about this "post" is that it gives me an excuse to pull out my good old picture of Mr. Spock playing his guitar.

Another Picture

People keep sending us pictures. Here's one I received from Eli Horowitz, the McSweeney's editor, who I believe is located out San Francisco way. The weird thing is that this was taken a few days ago right here in Oxford and I'm a little fuzzy (Eli claims to be too) on how it slipped by me and made it out to California before bouncing back to its town of origin. But it's me and Joey Lauren Adams sitting over at Square Books, reading one of my stories for an upcoming McSweeney's audio book. It's a slightly earlier, slightly different version of the first story in YOUR BODY IS CHANGING. Joey reads the part of "Farrah." If you've read the book (I'm talking to BOTH of you!) you may recall that Farrah only has a couple of lines near the beginning. It's really a waste of Joey's talent and voice and I ponder the people becoming more and more disconsolate as I drone on and on and on (it's a long story!) and they slowly begin to realize that Joey is never coming back. Sad!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Phil 12 Years Ago

And here is a picture of Phil from 12 years ago, also courtesy of my ex-boss Lisa. The careful observer will note a large cut-out of Arnold Stang's head tacked to Phil's wall. Yes, "blog" icon Arnold Stang - who once dated Phil's mom!

12 Years Ago

Here is a picture of me as I looked 12 years ago, standing in front of a wax statue of Jerry Lewis as he appeared in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR. So you can see that my infatuation with Mr. Lewis, about whom I ramble constantly, is no upstart of a hobbyhorse. This picture comes to me from my ex-boss Lisa. She had it taped to the filing cabinet in her office for many a year, and it is nice to see that she held on to it. The person who took the picture is none other than Mark Osborne. O delicious irony! Mark, of course, is the person with whom I have had a friendly debate about the virtues of Jerry Lewis. We were in California at the time of the photo. I seem to recall that we had to drive a good way out of Los Angeles to get to the wax museum. I seem to recall that it was across the street from a Medieval Times theme restaurant. I believe I took one of Mark pretending to be amused by a wax figure of Whoopi Goldberg in SISTER ACT, but that photo is lost to the mists of time.

One Year Ago In "Blog" History

One year ago, I drove past the bank. This has been One Year Ago In "Blog" History.

Monday, January 21, 2008

One Year Ago In "Blog" History

One year ago today, we rented THE ILLUSIONIST and ate some leftover roast. Things were so much simpler back then. This has been One Year Ago In "Blog" History.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Hey, remember the Terminator? Well, he's back with all his buddies - in TV form, that is! Last Sunday, Theresa and I watched the new TV show all about the Terminator and his irrepressible antics. It proved to be so enjoyable that we're going to watch the second episode when it airs tonight. "I'll bet you're glad Summer Glau is in it," said Theresa, "so you can say her name like Jerry Lewis when you see it in the credits." To which I replied, "Yes!" As I have mentioned on the "blog" before, Summer Glau's name is one of the things I most enjoy saying in my famous Jerry Lewis voice. Theresa would also like to see the PBS production of Jane Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY tonight, but only if it does not conflict with her Terminator show or, most especially, THE WIRE. Don't forget to watch THE WIRE! Oh, TV, your bounty is so great! Our eyes are filled to overflowing with your goodness. (Pictured, Glau.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Old-Timey Book Report

Hey, remember when McNeil thought Phil should have a regular column on the "blog," in which he recommends "old-timey books"? Well, here comes McNeil himself with his own recommendation: Chapter 8 (sic) of LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov. He's rereading the whole book for the third time, but it's Chapter 8 (sic) that gave him a surprise he wishes to share: "There's this strange page-and-a-half," McNeil reports, "where Humbert goes to the Arctic Circle!! [The exclamation points are McNeil's - ed.] I don't remember that from the first two times I read it," McNeil continues, "and it's hilarious. It's really a forerunner to Charles Portis and everything we hold dear." Our copy is packed away in storage, but - at McNeil's cheap and sensible suggestion - we're going to thumb through it next time we're over at Square Books. The idea of Nabokov influencing Portis makes us kind of woozy in a good way.

Friday, January 18, 2008

UFO Report

McNeil has been enjoying recent accounts of a UFO flying around Texas. (The Aquaman "blog" has touched on this story as well.) McNeil is particularly taken with some cell phone video. You can see it on, but I'm not going to "link" to it because they make you sit through an antacid commercial or something before you get to the UFO, and you know how I feel about "The Man" telling you what you can and can't do! It's not so much the video that McNeil likes ("It just looks like a headlight," he says) as the voices of the guys in the background. "They're drunk," claims McNeil. We can neither confirm nor deny McNeil's assessment of their state. We can, however, report that one of them says "Close encounters for the third kind!" (sic) while the other says, "Woowoowoowoowoowoowoowoo."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It Is Funny

The title of this book (pictured) made me laugh because it is funny. I found it "linked to" on my "fave" Aquaman "blog." You know we try to stay above this kind of thing, but sometimes we can't help it because it is funny.


I have received an anonymous note! For real! It is signed, "Everyone." Here is the note in its entirety: "Everyone wants to know when the blogmaster is going to make a comment on the economy or endorse a candidate. Sincerely, Everyone" Well, Everyone, in recent days I have endorsed both juice and guanciale, and I'm not sure what more I can do. I believe my feelings on the subjects of juice and guanciale are quite clear! I am for them! About other subjects, I am too stupid to speak. Some cynics will take comments I made almost a year ago out of context and claim that I have had difficulties with juice in the past but as I pointed out at the time, that was my own fault, not juice's, and I take full responsibility. Say, do you like Van Morrison? I do. He has a good song called "Everyone." The chorus goes like this: "Everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone."

Today's Weather

Welcome once again to "Today's Weather," our occasional look at the weather. I just opened an email from McNeil. The title of the email was "YeeeHaaa!" and the content of the email was this: "Snow Day!" I believe those three words and two exclamation points sum it all up, people. I really believe they do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

All In a Tizzy Over Guanciale

The New York Times was all in a tizzy over guanciale today. They said there was hardly anywhere in America to lay your hands on some sweet, sweet guanciale. But they forgot to mention L&M in Oxford, Mississippi. At L&M, they make their own guanciale! I ate it for dinner tonight, as a matter of fact, in L&M's signature bucatini all'Atriciana. When you need guanciale, please think of your friends at L&M. That's L&M, for all your guanciale needs. Guanciale!


Do you know what I like? Juice. What's wrong with juice? Nothing! Some people say it has a high sugar content. To those people, I say, "What's wrong with you? Don't you like juice?" I was going to save this "post" for tomorrow but it was just too good.

Dr. "M.'s" TV Korner

It is almost time for LOST to come back on the air, as a recent email from Dr. "M." reminds us. And you know what the return of LOST means: the welcome return of Dr. "M.'s" celebrated but too-long-dormant TV Korner, where you learn to watch TV the Dr. "M." way! " offers an interactive narrative adventure which you can get to by clicking find 815 on the Lost website/menu," writes Dr. "M." She goes on: "You will then have the option to go to Look for the link! Once there, you may choose to involve yourself in this interactive adventure...which has become quite addictive for yours truly: Dr. M. Enjoy, blog readers!" EDITOR'S NOTE: We have not yet checked out this "interactive narrative adventure" but we trust Dr. "M." She is always right! For example, the time she said Harold Pinter was alive and I vehemently insisted he was dead.

A Delicate Position

Hey, remember back when I would "blog" about something and it would always end up on THE DAILY SHOW a day or two later? Well, last night I caught a few minutes of that show, and the host, Jon Stewart, was going on about an advertisement for leg medicine - in particular the side effect of "increased gambling urges" that the leg medicine is said to cause. I can only assume that because of the writer's strike, Mr. Stewart just sits alone in his office, going through my precious "blog" archives for material. Unless Mr. Stewart owns a TV set, which I highly doubt, it is the ONLY possible explanation. Yes, I "blogged" about those same gambling urges back in July. I had to join the WGA when I wrote that movie with Kent, so you can imagine the delicate position I am in!

"Spell Check" Check

Well, this seems to be turning into a regular feature, so I'm going to give it a name: "Spell Check" Check. It's where we look at the dubious cultural assumptions of "spell check"! Today, for example, I learned that my Microsoft Word "spell check" recognizes the surname Backus, as in "Jim Backus," but does not recognize the surname Bacall, as in "Lauren Bacall." Meanwhile, "Comic Book Villain" writes in to claim that the "spell check" feature on Barack Obama's own campaign web site does not recognize the name Barack Obama. "I know my website would recognize MY name if I had anything to say about it...and I probably would," concludes "Comic Book Villain."

The Particulars

I found a nice epigraph for my new book last night. It's from John Berryman. I can say no more! I am probably jinxing the thing by talking about so many particulars. As I have pointed out before, the detective novel - unlike the giant novel, which comes out this summer - may never be finished, may never exist, so the wisest thing would be to shut up. But if everybody just shut up and behaved like decent, modest, responsible human beings, there would be no "blogs"! And then where would we be? We would live in a world without "blogs"! Unthinkable! I can make room for some more writing advice here: Say you have set yourself a goal of writing five pages a day. If you find a good epigraph, that takes care of one whole page! The epigraph sits on a page by itself. That counts! And you didn't even have to write it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

McNeil's Movie Korner

Welcome once again, dear friends, to the cozy environs of McNeil's Movie Korner. McNeil reports that he watched TOKYO DRIFTER on TCM the other night. TOKYO DRIFTER was the subject of much enjoyment when McNeil and I watched it together several years ago during an early precursor to the McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival. "Robert Osborne gave it a long introduction," said McNeil, referring to TOKYO DRIFTER's recent TCM airing. "What did he say?" I asked. (As you know, I no longer have access to TCM, and sorely miss Mr. Osborne's commentary.) "I didn't listen," McNeil replied. I was floored, people! Stunned! Oh that I were in such a position as McNeil, though the thought of taking Robert Osborne for granted appalls me to my very soul. McNeil doesn't know how good he has it! I hope he never has to live like me.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Big Discovery of the Day

In much the same way that spell check knows Elvis but does not know Sinatra, it knows Batman but not Aquaman or Squanto. This is what I have learned today from working on my novel. (And yes, my detective novel contains references to Batman and Aquaman, as well as Richie Rich, Deathlok, Squanto, and Jerry Lewis.) Furthermore, while my Microsoft Word spell check recognizes Batman, the "blog's" spell check does not. Do with this information what you will. I contend that there is prime academic fodder to be made from the blithe cultural assumptions of spell check. P.S. I guess Squanto's real name was Tisquantum, so maybe I should think about my own cultural assumptions before I jump all up in spell check's grill.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Don't Forget to Watch THE WIRE

Every Sunday, as a public service, the "blog" will remind you to tune into THE WIRE. Who knows, maybe tonight the dialogue will be peppered with "Stang," the great new nickname for money.

The Return?

"keep groovin'," today's email from McNeil was titled. In the body of his message, McNeil had this to say: "saw a clip of chocolate watchband doing a show at something called the Purple Weekend 2005 - it seemed to be somewhere in Latin America...but I couldn't figure it's the clip." While the "blog" cannot vouch for McNeil's fanciful notions as to the time and location of the performance, we are happy to receive the clip, representing for us, as it does, the breathlessly anticipated return of MGMIEET (though, for purists, McNeil's exposition clearly violates several MGMIEET rules and bylaws).

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Speaking of the Chocolate Watchband

It occurs to me how similar that clip of THE LOVE-INS is to the clip of APPLE'S WAY provided by McNeil so very long ago. Someone get to work on a paper about it!

McNeil's Movie Korner

Welcome to a new edition of McNeil's Movie Korner. It has been far too long between Korners. Which reminds us: McNeil is about two weeks past his deadline for cranking up the second phase of MGMIEET, in many ways the offspring of the Korner. In the meantime, you of course recall McNeil's affection for a certain kind of band with a certain kind of name performing in a certain kind of movie. Think back to over a year ago, when McNeil was cooking rice and singing a refrain by the Comfortable Chair. Well, McNeil has recently enjoyed a film called THE LOVE-INS on TCM, and reports that it contains a performance by the Chocolate Watchband (above). McNeil has never seemed happier.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Taffy Feelings Confirmed

Tonight at the famed City Grocery Bar, quite a ruckus broke out when someone produced a box of saltwater taffy fresh from the shores of New Jersey. It was through this fortuitous circumstance that I was able to confirm my warm feelings on the subject of taffy.

One Year Ago In "Blog" History

One year ago today, a friend of ours ate pretzels. This has been the latest installment of "One Year Ago In 'Blog' History."

Thursday, January 10, 2008


McNeil just called and explained to me where wind comes from. I feel a lot better now! Near the conclusion of the conversation, McNeil said what I thought was, "Feels awesome." I replied in the affirmative, agreeing that the wind does indeed feel awesome. "No," said McNeil. "PHIL's awesome."

Pictured, a Chifforobe

Today I learned from writing my five pages that spell check has never heard of chifforobes or the Baha'i faith!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

You Can Always Count on Phil

Phil Oppenheim has done it again! "The Sage of Atlanta" (a nickname I just made up for him this very second) sends an amazing "link" to the web site of paperback cover artist R.A. Maguire (that's a sample of Mr. Maguire's work accompanying this "post"). Good old Phil! We feel sure that McNeil's worship of Phil has now evolved into something for which there is no word in our human languages. Phil also includes a kind note "correcting the record" on what I portrayed as my inability to dole out decent advice. Though he obviously has problems with Robert Walser, Phil would like everyone to know that he was very satisfied with my previous personal recommendations of THE THIRD POLICEMAN, the Sonny Rollins album WAY OUT WEST, and the film HIGHBALL. He may even start watching THE WIRE, he says! "I certainly don’t mind your 'readership' thinking that I’m some sort of ingrate or misanthrope or crank," Phil concludes, "but I thought it was incumbent upon me to set the record straight."

Why I Read Faulkner

I hope you know by now how suggestible I am. I have mentioned as much on the "blog." I have revealed as much in interviews. I have strongly implied as much in first-person fictional narratives ("The Poet I Know," a story from my first collection) - though of course you should never confuse the narrator with the author. I now offer conclusive proof of my own suggestibility. A while back, you may recall, Theresa and I were watching the TV series FIREFLY. On FIREFLY, there are bad guys called "Reavers." And I was like, "That reminds me! I've never read THE REIVERS by William Faulkner." So the next time they mentioned "Reavers" on the show, I hit pause and walked up to Square Books and bought THE REIVERS and that's what I'm reading now. Unlike FIREFLY, the Faulkner book has nothing to do with cowboys in outer space ... SO FAR!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Today's Weather: Portentous

Just finished the Big Five and in the very nick of time! From all accounts there is a terrible storm a-brewin'. Hatches must be battened into the "down" position. An electrical strike of "lightning" may erase the "blog" forever! I must be brief. Speaking of weather, it sure has been windy around here for the past several days. And something occurred to me as a result: Do you know what I don't understand AT ALL? Wind. Thank you. This has been "Today's Weather," a popular regular feature. And I'll toss in some "writing" advice: Need to write five pages in a hurry? Try dialogue! Dialogue - the poor man's version of "writing." Like, what if you make one of your characters say, "Yes"? You've taken up a whole line! Economical! Better yet, "No," which has less letters to bother with. And as Melville made very clear with Bartleby the Scrivener, it's always more interesting if your character says "No." You'll save time on typing AND produce quality work for the ages. Win-win!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Dry Effervescence

I have written my five pages and adhered to my plan for two days in a row. That is the longest amount of time over which I have ever adhered to anything, especially a plan. I offer myself my heartiest congratulations and will present myself with a medal later tonight in a quiet ceremony. Now for "blogging." You all recall the high esteem in which I hold Maud Newton. Well, that esteem just got even esteemier when I saw this photo of her with "Proposition Joe" from THE WIRE! For Ms. Newton's "post" about THE WIRE, "click" here. She points out that THE WIRE is "not a novel." That's right, Maud Newton. It's better! (Those interested in similar unsupportable [?] beliefs of mine, expressed amid a barrage of my trademark rage-fueled meaningless aphorisms, may "click" here). "Blog" Buddy Laura Lippman had a cameo on THE WIRE last night! She tossed off a masterfully constructed one-liner with dry effervescence! PS Anyone following the press coverage of THE WIRE will understand what Ms. Newton means about the "not a novel" comment. Even here at the "blog" we have succumbed to the Joycean angle. It is an easy temptation! The lure of lax analogy (and, by extension, all the various strains of laziness that go with it) is, I believe, what Ms. Newton is warning against - none of which should obscure the fact that THE WIRE is the most awesome thing ever created by human people!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Huzzah! Huzzah!

I'm so stupid! I got so caught up in the drudgery of "writing" that I forgot to tell you what's coming on TV tonight: THE WIRE! The beginning of a brand new season! As you know, I always "blog" in a long wizard robe that I had tailored expressly for that purpose and whenever something exciting happens, like THE WIRE coming on, I shout "Huzzah! Huzzah!" and wave my special scepter around. Only I spell it "sceptre" because I'm classier than people think I am.

Five Pages

I have a new rule! No "blogging" on any given day until I've written five pages on the detective novel. So I just finished my five pages, but it turns out I have nothing to say - on the "blog," that is! The novel is full of big, important things that need to be said, apparently. Or it will be. I plan to stick those in after I'm done with the good parts. Oh: McNeil would like everyone to know that BOEING, BOEING will air on TCM on March 12. Early notice if you ask me, but McNeil insists.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Boingo Postscript

Hey, remember when I used to sit in a dorm room listening to the Dead Kennedys with a French girl who smoked cigars? Oingo Boingo was one of her LPs as well. I must also mention that in the previous Oingo Boingo clip we presented for your enjoyment, you may see two previous "blog" subjects: Mr. Buddy Hackett and Mr. Bill Bixby. Thank you. I believe that this is all I have to say for today.


Phone call from Barry B. last night. After much discussion, we decided that the YouTube is the greatest thing ever. As evidence, Barry B. submitted a clip (below) of Oingo Boingo competing on the Gong Show. Now, I realize that some of you have never even heard of Lee Iacocca or Mr. Spock because you're tiny little babies, so I expect that you have never heard of Oingo Boingo or the Gong Show. Oingo Boingo was Danny Elfman's band. For an earlier "blog" reference to Mr. Elfman, "click" here; beyond that, I'm going to have to ask you to do a little homework on your own. Reading "blogs" is hard work! You knew that going in.

Friday, January 04, 2008

James Whorton, Jr.'s C-Spandemonium!

Welcome once again to James Whorton, Jr.'s C-Spandemonium! It has been too long. Whorton writes: "I feel a little guilty because I've been watching lots of C-Span lately and saying nothing about it to you. I saw the program on the Nixon Presidential Library, which included some video of Nixon doing a sound check in the Oval Office just prior to his resignation speech on August 8, 1974. He was affable except at one point when he told the White House photographer to stop taking pictures of him. He said, 'That's enough, Ollie.' Coincidentally, that is a phrase I often use too," Whorton goes on, "because we have a cat named Ollie who is always knocking stuff around and pulling on the upholstery. 'That's enough, Ollie.'" Mr. Whorton includes a picture of Nixon snapped by Ollie (the photographer, not Whorton's cat). We choose not to "post" it here because we had a shot of G. Gordon Liddy yesterday. It is kind of like the time we didn't "post" a photo of Ewan McGregor because we had already "posted" one of Rufus Sewell. Also, there have been plenty of pictures of Nixon on the "blog" ("click" here or here if you don't believe me) not to mention one of Magruder. I don't wish to give the wrong impression. The Ollie Atkins photo provided by Mr. Whorton showed Nixon playing the piano. In that spirit, we lift our McGregor ban and show him sitting on a piano for your edification.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Arts, Briefly

I have just started reading FATHER OF THE BLUES, which is the autobiography of W.C. Handy. There is a lot of Messiaen-like appreciation of songbirds in the early portion of this fascinating book. Speaking of autobiographies, Jim Whorton recently finished G. Gordon Liddy's. I remarked to Whorton that my grandfather enjoyed the book when it came out, as I recall, and that on the playground at school everyone was excited about it because Mr. Liddy eats a rat in the book, and holds his hand over a flame. Yes, back in those days, kids on the playground talked about the autobiographies of shadowy political operatives. Whorton was able to confirm my secondhand memory of the book, and I quote: "Yep, that's the book. Liddy is clever because for example, he describes burning himself deliberately on several occasions, but he is always careful to downplay the pain and play up how shocking and frightening the people around him find it. I mean, I think that is clever or canny storytelling. He ate the rat in order to conquer his childhood fear of rats. That happens early, and then later in the book, when he is in prison after Watergate, some prisoners try to frighten him with a rat and they can't, because he used his will to overcome his rat fear as a boy." Meanwhile, Phil Oppenheim has moved on from Daniil Kharms to Robert Walser, ON MY RECOMMENDATION (!) because it seemed to me like the next logical step. I don't believe that Phil has taken my advice about anything ever before in history, and I do believe he regrets it somewhat. Here, allow me to quote Phil on the subject: "I'm working my way through some of his stories, and boy he sure got nutty towards the end. He's sort of a fellow traveller of Ford Maddox Ford and Hank Kimball's if you know what I mean. [I don't. - ed.] This line is giving me a (typical) headache: 'And I assure you, if it were up to me I'd hardly ever laugh.' One story (The Strange Girl) ended thus: 'I'm going to bed. Figure the story out for yourself if you like.'" Phil concludes by saying that he is not sure the headaches he receives from Walser are "the good kind or the bad kind." Just to tie up this portion of our "post" with a neat little ribbon, I would like to state for the record that Jim Whorton introduced me to the work of Robert Walser. Reading is a like a virus! A big, huggable, deadly virus! In other arts news, McNeil is practically beside himself with joy at the announcement that TCM will soon broadcast Otto Preminger's notorious but rarely witnessed psychedelic vaudeville debacle SKIDOO. (McNeil has "linked" to a scene from SKIDOO before; "click" for details.) To conclude, we apologize that today's edition of Arts, Briefly is not brief.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Two emails on the subject of food came through last night. The first, it should come as no surprise, was from Dr. "M.," who, as you very well know, is the "blog's" resident expert on food ("click" here for the most recent corroborative "post"). Dr. "M." writes on the subject of our recent "cabbage vs. collards" dilemma: "My mom fixed hoppin' john and cabbage tonight. But she commented at the dinner table that we should really be having collard greens. But the cabbage was divine. Also, you are supposed to hide a dime in the hoppin' john, but she was too tired to do that, she said. Actually, she said she was too tired to clean the dime so that she could hide it in the peas-n-rice. I am glad to know that all of those years of finding dimes in my peas (often once they were in my mouth!) that the money was clean and sterile. Whew!" The cabbage, we would like to note, was grown by Dr. "M.'s" husband the Farmer. Dr. "M." and the Farmer just returned from a trip to Chicago, and Dr. "M." also provided, in a postscript, a long list of restaurants they enjoyed while there, and which we reproduce here for your pleasure and edification: Cafe Spiaggia * The Green Zebra * Orange * Milk and Honey Cafe * Lovely Bakeshop * Hot Chocolate * Hopleaf Bar/Restaurant * Eleventh City Diner * Intelligentsia Coffeeshop. The second food email came from James Whorton, Jr., commenting on our recent lauding of Lobel's hot dogs. A student of Whorton's, it turns out, is the "webmaster" for the Lobel's "web" site! In a non-food-related coincidence, Whorton reports that as the new year begins, he is reading LITTLE BIG MAN by Thomas Berger, "originally published in 1964" (Whorton's note). On 12/31/07, I finished up THE FAR SIDE OF THE DOLLAR, which was ALSO ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 1964! Astonishing!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Pea Variations

I see that I have called them black eyed peas and black eye peas, but according to the bag they came in, they are "blackeye peas" and the bag they came in should know! Wow! This makes me want to write an experimental literary novel on the limits of human language! But I promise I won't! You're welcome!

Luck & Money

Happy new year! As you know, you must eat some black eyed peas with rice (hoppin' john) and collard greens today. The peas are for luck and the greens are for money. Or maybe you are from Britain or some other classy place and you do not know about this tradition! Well, have you asked yourself why you didn't have any luck or money in 2007? It is probably because you did not eat black eyed peas or collard greens on January 1, 2007. Also, it is bad luck to wash clothes today, so watch out! In the grocery store the other day, two different people tried to tell Theresa that we are supposed to cook cabbage today, not collards! Are those people out of their minds?