Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Persons who do not enjoy classiness need read no further! Ah, is there anything classier than listening to NPR? Okay! Now that all the "eggheads" have "clicked" on NPR, I'm going to tell you about a burger commercial that made Theresa and me laugh last night. The slogan went, "A famous Dudie burger sounds good!" Yes, though the restaurant is named with the possessive - Dudie's - the burger was called a "Dudie" burger, sans "s." Come on! You KNOW why that made us laugh! But this is one of those times when the "blog" will slow down for a few days, and I hate to leave a "Dudie" joke at the top of the page for any newcomers who stop by the "blog." So I am going to look for a bust of Beethoven to illustrate this "post." It's called camouflage. The NPR reference at the top will help, too. And just to round things off, I'll "link" to a bust of Apollo and one of Aristophanes. Don't you feel better now? I do!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Decline and Fall of the Maltese Bippy

Boy! Our friend at "She Blogged By Night" sure does hate THE MALTESE BIPPY! Indeed she mounts an uncompromising and persuasive argument which convinces me that her hatred is appropriate, though I have never seen the film and despite our desire never to express negative opinions on the "blog." Poor McNeil managed to struggle through a few minutes of the movie (he made it to the mock "intermission" that happens almost immediately) and seemed to end up in SBBN's camp without the benefit/curse of her admirable perseverance (she seems to watch everything all the way through). I must say, though, we here at the "blog" feel that SBBN is a little too harsh with Jo Anne Worley and her magnificent boa (pictured). Why drag the innocent Ms. Worley into it? She is perfectly lovely and amusing. We have always thought of her as the female Charles Nelson Reilly (a high compliment around these parts!), at least insofar as they both made a noise like, "Mnrrrrrrr." (We will give a special prize to the person who comes up with the best phonetic spelling of the noise in question, because "Mnrrrrrr" really doesn't do it justice at all.) In closing, I suppose we must grudgingly note the cigarette holder for old times' sake.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I'm sorry for skipping a day again. I know you kids are eager to hear more about Walter Winchell, so let's get right to it. McNeil writes via email: "In regards to Walter Winchell...apparently he had a big crush on Lauren Bacall when she was married to Bogie, and once took her out to dinner and then dancing at Jack Warner's behest, I believe as a promotional stunt - Bogie didn't like it, but he knew good press when he saw it. A few days later Winchell wrote a column called 'Bacall of the Wild.' Which is one of the best titles ever," McNeil concludes. We have no idea where McNeil gets his information. He's a lot like Winchell that way. Remember, keep watching the "blog" for the latest in topical subjects!

Friday, April 25, 2008

References Galore

Barry B. and I were always big fans of the beautiful, obsessive magazine Video Watchdog, founded by Tim Lucas. So we were happily surprised when - back in the day - an issue referenced our kids' show (Rudy & GoGo). Well, now, with the launch of the Rudy & GoGo "web" site, Mr. Lucas has seen fit to pay tribute to the show on his "blog." I have received three emails telling me about the "post" - one from Barry, one from my ex-boss Lisa, and one from the poet Graham Lewis - the only person I have ever met who spontaneously brought up the little-known Rudy & GoGo Show in conversation without realizing I had anything to do with it. That was a real shocker! And the beginning of a beautiful friendship. In closing, I also "link" for your pleasure to a Video Watch"Blog" "post" on the subject of "Blog" Hero Jerry Lewis. Speaking of Jerry, there was an appreciative (I'm pretty sure!) reference to him in the New York Times today, hidden in a review of BABY MAMA. And speaking of references, the NBIL draws our attention to a reference to THE WIRE in last night's episode of THE OFFICE. References! What would we do without them? Yes, I'm cramming everything into a single "post" today. Sue me. And if you expect another simpering apology about "paragraph breaks," forget it, bub! In fact, I will, at this moment, succumb to my temptation for more cramming. I will say, for example, that if you wish to find out what I mean by "beautiful [and] obsessive" in that first sentence, "click" here to check out Mr. Lucas's exploration of the strange relationship between Jerry Lewis, THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, and the comic book version of Dobie Gillis. Finally I will remark that the past tense of the first sentence may have given an incorrect impression. The print magazine, Video Watchdog, is still going strong. (Note to the purveyor of our favorite Aquaman "blog": the newest issue features Dr. Who.) I suppose I might have gone back and corrected the grammar but I'm in a cramming mood. I will note also that Graham Lewis is not to be confused with the bassist from the great band Wire, which is not to be confused with the aforementioned TV show THE WIRE. Cramming! Cram, cram, cram! I'll be disappointed in you if you don't quit your job and spend all day "clicking" on each and every "link." Now if you will excuse me.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Great Minds Think Alike

You will never believe this. But I will tell you. I was talking to Barry B. on the phone. He said, "I can't understand what they're saying in that Bob Dylan and John Lennon video. I think Bob's rambling and Lennon is just being real sarcastic." WHILE BARRY B. WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF EXPRESSING THAT VERY SENTIMENT, I received an email from McNeil. Ordinarily, I would have ignored it until my conversation with Barry B. was over. But the subject header was "Lennon." Do you hear me, people? THESE SEPARATE COMMUNICATIONS HAPPENED JUST MINUTES AGO, SIMULTANEOUSLY. I asked Barry to hold on. I "clicked" on McNeil's email, which read: "I can't understand a thing they're saying in that Dylan/Lennon video." In celebration of this mighty coincidence (and defiance of my own moratorium), I present a much shorter clip in which understandable phrases are uttered:


In the video featuring Robert Benchley and Dostoevsky, so recently mentioned, the voice of some old Walter Winchell type dude is admirably performed by "blog" stalwart Mr. Ward. (Pictured, the original old Walter Winchell type dude, Walter Winchell.) Move over, Arnold Stang! There's a new gold standard for capturing the youth market's interest... and his name is Winchell!

I Have a Little List

Ha ha! Wheeeee! My headline is a quote from THE MIKADO. Sometimes I just stink with culture. Whoopee! Just popping in to tell you that I know the next seven books I'm going to read... but I'm not going to tell you! Yes, that's the way it's going to be. I'm flip-flopping again. An unaccustomed sense of quiet modesty has overtaken the "blog." Here's a tidbit to tide you over, though: Theresa is reading WHAT THE DEAD KNOW by Laura Lippman. Last night she pronounced it a good recommendation, my first one in months that has stuck. Finally, I'll "link" to a recording of Shirley Henderson singing "The sun whose rays..." from THE MIKADO, by way of the motion picture TOPSY-TURVY. The amateur video is awkward - completely weird, in fact - but the song is so nice. Shirley Henderson, ladies and gentleman.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Meet McNeil's Shirt

As you know, McNeil is perhaps the world's foremost analyst of photographic representations of Phil. Like many scholars, McNeil has become obsessed with his subject. In the attached photo, for example, McNeil struggles to find his own "Philness," duplicating as closely as possible the compositional aesthetics of the recent photograph of Phil's shirt, which also happens to be the subject of McNeil's latest analysis. We present McNeil's findings for your delectation: "I've sent the photo of Phil off to the lab for 'blow-up analysis' as we call it (up-close squinting), and have determined that Phil has a goatee, and that there is possibly a Dunkin Donuts (?) sign behind him in another room, perhaps a break room. Over his left shoulder is a whitish painting, and over his right a darkish painting - representing, no doubt, the good and bad little devils that whisper naughty and nice things into Phil's ear all day long. Hey, I'm just analyzing what the techs in the lab give me - filtered through what I read on the John Milton chat rooms."

The Ravages of Old Phil

This just in from Phil: "Speaking of Mekons, I'm wearing my well-worn 'I [heart] Mekons' shirt in a meeting right now. Consensus among the attendees is that Mekons is one of the smaller Virgin Islands, maybe. My shirt is older than half the people in this room." Strange that Phil should bemoan the ravages of age through the mod medium of a portable device employed youthfully during a meeting - perhaps under a table - AND MOREOVER casually demonstrate his ability to take a picture of himself WITH HIS PHONE, I GUESS! Watch out, kids. Looks like this "old dog" has some "new tricks" up his "sleeve" after "all"!

My Favorite Part

... is when the camera pans over at the end and *** SPOILER ALERT! *** THERE'S ANOTHER CAT WATCHING THE SHOW! Classic.

Phil Chimes In

Phil chimes in, confirming McNeil's astute surmise that he (Phil) knows all about Ornette Coleman. As evidence, Phil provides a "link" to a "blog" where there is an account of an Ornette Coleman concert attended and enjoyed by Phil in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, in the year 2003 A.D. I am starting to think McNeil is right. Are we getting a little Ornette heavy here at the "blog"? I leave you with this, and then Ornette (and YouTube, for that matter - our favorite crutch?) can rest for a spell:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Am Also Fairly Sure

I am also fairly sure (go to the "More Clips" section and "click" on "TaterHole 2, Segment 1") that we were the only kids' show in the 1990s to introduce the kids to Robert Benchley and Dostoevsky. (Which one looks gloomier, by the way?)

Untold Riches

Hi! There is now a "web" site about that kids' show that Barry B. and I used to make. "Click" here to go there. Now, I believe there are still a few "bugs" in the system. For example, I had to scroll down to the bottom of the page and "click" quite a few times on the word "Home" before I could see the home page. But be patient! Keep trying! It's worth it! You could spend hours examining this site. If you look carefully, you will find many connections to the "blog." Off the top of my head: If you "click" on the section labeled "RRKC" (which stands for "Rudy's Rockin' Kiddie Caravan," a CD we made), you can see a video of "Blog" Buddy Jon Host singing lead on the ABC song. Scroll down a little and you can see the Mekons singing a scary children's song they recorded especially for our show. Who's that gent in the background? Why, it's none other than our connection in Hubcap City. Scroll down a little more and you will see an appreciation that the renowned - lionized, even - social critic Greil Marcus wrote for the highly classy ArtForum magazine about Kelly Hogan's contribution to our show. Scroll down a little more than that to read about the fax we sent to Bruce Springsteen or the time I woke up Andy Garcia at 5 in the morning L.A. time. On another page, you can find out that Tim Lucas was a fan of the show - yes, the very same man who wrote the twelve pound book about Mario Bava. If you "click" on the "More Clips" "link," you might see cameos by Kent and Mark Osborne, or hear Mr. Ward doing the voice of George Washington, or see Caroline Young as the Evil Queen of Noise. If you can make the "Home" page work, and scroll ALL THE WAY down to the bottom, you can see the time that Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith appeared on our show, not entirely willingly! Keep "clicking"! "Click" and "click"! Almost any picture on the site will start moving and talking if you "click" - if you "click" and truly believe, that is. If you look carefully, you will see the things that got Barry and myself cancelled and fired! Favorite quotes from the "web" site and show - On music: "I don't want to hear any more talk about practicing! You know what happens to people who practice? They get really good at practicing!" (Are you paying attention, class?) And I like it when Gus Jordan, as marionette Jesse B., ad libs a line about his "double-jointed companion Tiberius." They don't make 'em like this anymore!

Quips 'n' Clips II

Well, I suppose McNeil and I will never see eye to eye on Ornette Coleman, but I'm here to bring the healing with a clip everyone in the world can get behind: a cat playing a theremin. (Thanks, "fave" Aquaman "blog"!)

Quips 'n' Clips

"Great choice on the movie clip from Road to Hong Kong," writes McNeil, "but I have to disagree with your opinion of Road to Singapore. I think the duo is fresh and, in a sense, 'raw' (though that may not be the right word for it) and you really get a sense of their freewheeling spirit because of it. I think in the later movies, you might get a sense of that spirit despite the constraints of a formula they (producers, directors, etc) feel the need to stick to. It's true [Bob and Bing] improvise [in the later films], but they improvise in Singapore, too, and it seems more organic. Of course, maybe you think it's funnier when it's obviously not organic, as in the later pictures." McNeil adds, via phone message, "Quit 'blogging' about Ornette Coleman and Charles Ives. Nobody knows what you're talking about, except maybe Phil." Got it, McNeil. No more Ornette Coleman. The kids would rather dig on Bing Crosby. This one's for you, kids! Get ready to relate... McNeil style! But hold onto your hats, because it gets pretty wild.

Joshes McNeil

"What does Ornette Coleman have to do with Burl Ives?" joshes McNeil. McNeil's josh makes me wish those two had collaborated on an album. But Burl is no longer with us. However, with our modern digital technology we enjoy today, perhaps this dream may become a reality. I almost deleted this "post" but then I didn't, because nothing matters.

McNeil's Movie Korner: Norman Panama Night

Welcome to an all-new edition of that perennial favorite, McNeil's Movie Korner. Last night, McNeil committed two films to his DVR, straight from TCM: THE MALTESE BIPPY (co-starring "blog" fave Carol Lynley) and THE ROAD TO HONG KONG. "Maybe it was Norman Panama night," McNeil speculates. "He directed both of them." Aside from having an awesome name, Norman Panama belongs in the "blog's" directorial pantheon, which includes George Marshall, Jack Arnold, and Fielder Cook, all of whom we admire for their strange, unremarkable proficiency. Now, the "blog" cannot endorse THE ROAD TO HONG KONG. We recommend the older ROAD movies (not the first one, THE ROAD TO SINGAPORE, not at first, because the formula hasn't quite jelled yet. But you can go back and watch that after you've seen a few others. You're welcome! Okay, I'll shut up about Bob Hope now.) In defense of HONG KONG, McNeil has nice things to say about Joan Collins. We must admit that in the "clip" above, featuring Ms. Collins, one may detect the famous Hope influence on Woody Allen's composition and delivery of a certain kind of one-liner (see a parallel scene in Allen's LOVE & DEATH). So I didn't shut up about Bob Hope after all! All right. This is what a "blog" is. I'm sorry! To that end, and because I'm too tired after typing all this to start a new "post," I'll mention that I'm re-listening to Ornette Coleman's SKIES OF AMERICA, struck again by its definite Ivesian spirit. Goodbye. I'm going to go away and rethink what I'm doing with my life.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Phil's Radio Korner

Welcome back to "Phil's Radio Korner." Today's recommendation from Phil is short and bittersweet: "Check out the two radio shows archived here," he writes. "Guaranteed to make you happy/sad." Of special interest to Clash fan McNeil, the "blog's" only reader.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Complaint Department

I didn't "blog" yesterday, which upsets McNeil - as my sole reader - very, very much. He has written several times to reiterate how sick he is of looking at that pangolin. He asks me to "post" something, anything, just "not something from the *&%^$& bird correspondent." (Mr. McNeil's typographical euphemism, which we can only assume stands for "dear.") Yes, Mr. McNeil, how manly. You have made it quite clear in what contempt you hold nature, especially in the form of pangolins, birds, and (in the distant past) groundhogs. And yet was it not you who wished to inform me of the deer in your parents' yard? Aha! Hoist on your own petard, to quote (or misquote) your precious Shakespeare. But very well. Enjoy this recipe for my famous sausage and peppers, which appears today on Maud Newton's otherwise exemplary "blog."

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Pangolin

Whorton replies: "McNeil has the last word. But may I bring up a new subject? The pangolin." (This is a pangolin.)

McNeil Has the Last Word

McNeil called to talk about Whorton and his belt. McNeil said, "I don't bother with a belt, not even when I tuck in my shirt!" He said, "Gee whiz! Whorton must be rich. He has an upstairs!"

But Aren't

One time we were all at City Grocery enjoying a wonderful plate of oysters with various condiments - among them, what the menu called "gin-macerated fennel." I kept bellowing, "Boy, this fennel sure is macerated!" I said, "I don't think I've ever seen fennel so thoroughly macerated." I found many different ways to say the same thing. They sounded amusing, the clever things I was saying, that is, they sounded amusing and clever as I thought them in the privacy of my head. But then I said them. Some things sound funny but aren't.

Riding Around

Mere minutes ago I heard John C. Reilly on NPR, describing what he referred to as "bootleg footage" of John Lennon and Bob Dylan riding around in a car. Mr. Reilly said it was like watching a meeting of Superman and Batman. I wondered, of course, if the footage was to be found on YouTube. It was. Everything is. So here it is. I have not yet vetted it for saucy language. Mild persons like myself must beware! There's a lot more where this came from, if you like it.

Whorton's Father's Belt

Remember those trick questions they used to give you in middle school? Well, this "post" has a trick title! For you see, Whorton's father does not wear a belt. Writes Whorton, "[My father] is trying to convince me to wear suspenders. He puts on his suspenders and then he is like, 'It is such a good feeling to be able to breathe, and know my pants are not going to fall down!'" This has been the latest in our series of reflections on belts and aging. I intend to nominate this series for a Peabody Award.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Whorton's Belt

Whorton reports: "Today I didn't forget to wear my belt but I just didn't feel like going upstairs to get it." Point taken, Mr. Whorton. I suppose this "belt fatigue" of yours, as I hope I can convince the medical journals to call it, may be a sign of aging, but it doesn't hold a candle to forgetting one's belt entirely. Still, your attempt at solidarity was welcome.

The Poplin Consideration

If Robert Ludlum were alive today, he'd be mining this "blog" for novel titles! Anyway, today I was thinking about my shirt. I was like, "What is this? Poplin? Is this poplin?" Then I thought, "What's poplin?"

The New Brother-In-Law Comes Through

Look at this comic book the new brother-in-law found. It's Spider-Man on Saturday Night Live! Somehow I missed it when it came out. The "post" on which the NBIL found it led him to discover this ("click" here): an AVENGERS comic co-starring David Letterman. (Heads up, Jason Headley!) This is all part of a grand tradition, such as when Jerry Lewis met Superman (for visual evidence, "click" here) and Don Rickles hung out with Jimmy Olsen ("click" here).


Let's talk some more about literary magazines, or "lit mags" as I call them for short. When I was in Atlanta recently, I saw a magazine in the automobile of John Holman, the man responsible for bringing me to Georgia State University for a reading. It was the newest issue of MISSISSIPPI REVIEW, and contained a story by Mr. Holman. A quick glance at the table of contents revealed some other contributors of personal interest to the "blog": Tao Lin (he and I were once interviewed in the same edition of "Word Riot," plus he is my "myspace" friend!); Kim Chinquee (whose work I have long admired; once we happened to end up in the same issue of Smokelong Quarterly - she's also a "myspace" friend!); K. Kvashay-Boyle (an excellent writer whose connection to the "blog" has been noted in a previous "post"). But here's the part that made me the happiest, with all due respect to those other fine authors: James Whorton, Jr., has a story in the issue! It's always a welcome occasion, coming across new work by the modest Whorton, who never blows his own horn. Like him, his fiction tends to be quiet and modest, the better to galvanize you with its sparks of genius and deep undercurrents of ... well, I was going to say humanity ... I'm horrible at describing why writers are good! Just trust me. I am not the sum of my mangled figures of speech! Whorton is one of the best, that's all I'm saying. Of course, I didn't have time to read any of the stories in the car. So when I got back home, I went to pick up my own copy of Mississippi Review, but the clerk (none other than Dent May) explained some trouble with the distributor, which went over my head. I am sure the issue will soon be available locally (we're in Mississippi! We should have ready access to the Mississippi Review). In the meantime, I ordered a copy straight from the MR "web" site (where you can be introduced to Kim Chinquee's new book as well, or read an archived short story by McNeil or a piece by Theresa). Can't wait to get the issue. I am sure it will be tops. And now, I present Square Books' Dent May, the aforementioned clerk, singing an original song of his own composition:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I found out today from Maud Newton's "blog" that Tom Bissell has a new story in the VIRGINIA QUARTERLY REVIEW. Even better: his story is about a superhero. So I ran down to Off Square Books (where such items may be had) and picked up my very own personal copy. And here is what I found out. There are other superhero stories in the same issue! And one of them is by George Singleton! I suppose that if there is anything that would make me just as happy as reading a superhero story by Tom Bissell, it is reading (or just imagining) a superhero story by George Singleton. Then I opened the front cover and saw that online, in the "VQR vault," you can read "Dozens of manuscripts and letters [including] his first rejected submissions" of John Berryman! Oh, "internet." I'm sorry I ever doubted you. (Pictured, Ben Affleck, whose movie DAREDEVIL directly inspired my own superhero short story "Sex Devil" [which has been reprinted in its entirety on the NPR "web" site]. For more on my complicated relationship with Daredevil, check out my "comment" on "Paper Cuts" [the book "blog" of the New York Times], wherein I recall the time I accidentally walked out of Schambeau's grocery store in Bayou La Batre, Alabama without paying for my Daredevil comic book. Hey! How did this get to be all about "me"? Is it a "blog" or something?)

The Moral of the Story

Our newest correspondent, "H.," writes in to comment on a recent "post": "I'm so glad to know that I disturbed you - or at least disturbed 'blog' you. There is not a moment of that clip that is not creepy and awkward - my favorite part is right at the beginning when all the dancers look poised to dive into a pool (which frankly would not have surprised me if they actually had done so). And the moral of the story is, be careful what you blog...it just might come true."

Pop Rocks

There is a brand new spring menu at City Grocery! Hurry over. Theresa and I tried it out last night, to our immense satisfaction. Beforehand, as we sipped drinks at the upstairs bar, chef and owner John Currence entertained us with the story of a dinner he had recently prepared (not at City Grocery, but for a special event), the first course of which consisted of foie gras flavored Pop Rocks. He's a madman! He also happened to mention that he plans to spend the weekend hanging out with his old buddy Elvis Costello, at which point I secretly turned and bit clean through my knuckle with blind, unreasoning envy, my personal "fave" of the seven deadly sins. But why should I be so shaken? After all, Elvis Costello is my "myspace" friend, with all the closeness that implies. (By the way, Phil Oppenheim wrote in the other day with the news that John Currence is up for a James Beard award this year - as well he should be.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Belt That Wasn't There

McNeil's wife (a scholar and author of no small repute in the field of German art - therefore we refuse to damage her reputation by bandying about her name on the "blog" [a favor we have done for precious few others]) informs McNeil that he is not thinking of an umlaut. An umlaut was not what he was thinking of. An umlaut was not the thing of which he thought, does not do what he thought it did. This news fills me with happiness because I take it as a sign of McNeil's reduced powers caused by his advancing age (as you will recall, the "post" in question found McNeil youthfully trumping me in the area of Kutcher pronunciation). In other news of decay, I forgot to wear a belt yesterday. I just plain forgot!

Red State

Dr. "M." passes along, for the well known reasons, a video "link" ("click" here) of the Red Army Choir (and friends) performing "Sweet Home Alabama." The video picks up with the most politically unfortunate and terrifying of this magisterial anthem's lyrics, the ones that (as outlined in an earlier "post") make me feel bad inside and all confused as I bob my head along.

Behold the Invisible Umlauts of Your Hideous Future

Some things happen as you age. Like, I just realized that I cited the wrong poem as my first exposure to John Berryman. It dawned on me, as in one of those epiphanies you've read about in our finer literary magazines, that "L." introduced me to Berryman through Dream Song #14, which begins, "Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so." The mind plays tricks! You cannot trust your own memories. Another example of aging: Last night, during class with my graduate students, I pronounced the name of Ashton Kutcher incorrectly. O! the mirth that ensued! Now I know what certain relatives felt as I inwardly giggled (though the giggling of grad students, as befits their position, is outward and bold) at their pronunciation of Ronald Reagan with a long "e" or Jerry Seinfeld as "Jerry Steinfield." You see, I said "Kutcher" with the long "u" sound, as in "hoochie coochie," whereas (as McNeil informed me ruefully this very morn, though where he gets his information I can only guess, as he is as decrepit as I am - one of his daughters, perhaps?) Kutcher's "u" should be approached as if bearing an invisible umlaut. But you'll see. You'll all see! Just you wait. Just you wait and see!

I Must Be Like Psychic Or Something

Hey, did you notice that I mentioned taxes in that last "post"? And today is "tax day"? And I didn't even mean to! I swear! Holy smokes!

Bats Have It Made

About the epigraph for SHUT UP, UGLY: after my terse announcement, I know a lot of people are very concerned about where it stands! Probably! What's a book without an epigraph? A piece of trash, that's what it is! John Berryman is being replaced by Jon Host. This is the second time that I have started out with a Berryman epigraph and switched to something else later. Sorry, John Berryman! My novel AWESOME (due out mere months from now) ALSO once began with a Berryman epigraph which made very little sense for it on the first draft and none at all by the seventh. It was, "I am the little man who smokes and smokes./ I am the girl who does know better but./ I am the king of the pool./ I am so wise I had my mouth sewn shut." Wow! When you read the book now, you will think, "Man! The first draft must have been a lot better than this to have an epigraph like that!" After Berryman, Lorrie Moore briefly took a turn ("Plots are for dead people, pore-face.") before I settled on Celine Dion. (Lorrie Moore! Whom we love for taking an epigraph from Jerry Lewis.) Well, now that I have replaced the Berryman epigraph for the detective novel, I can go ahead and reveal it for your pleasure: "Bats have no bankers and they do not drink/ and cannot be arrested and pay no tax/ and, in general, bats have it made." Acknowledgment: Our "blog" corporate spy "L." first brought those lines to my attention. The poem from which they were drawn was my first exposure to Berryman, back in our college days. One more Berryman note: people in and around Oxford, Mississippi, would do well to come by Off Square Books at 5 PM local time on Friday. The poet Beth Ann Fennelly will be reading from her new book UNMENTIONABLES, a third of which (I believe) is written in her stunning approximation of/reflection upon the Berryman voice of THE DREAM SONGS.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Most Awesome Hall of Fame

I am reading THE DOOMSTERS by Ross MacDonald. As you will have immediately discerned, THE DOOMSTERS is the most awesome title for anything ever. "Most awesome" is not a phrase we toss about lightly here at the "blog." We have called many things "awesome," but only a select few "the most awesome." Here are the other things we have called "the most awesome": THE WIRE ("the most awesome thing ever created by human people"); "I'm Dickens, He's Fenster" ("the most awesome reference ever"); the last five minutes of DEVIL DOLL ("the most awesome final five minutes of any movie ever"). That's it! Until now. To our august list we now proudly add the title THE DOOMSTERS. Yes, the fact that I am reading THE DOOMSTERS means that I have finished ANOTHER THING TO FALL by Laura Lippman. Was it great? Well, let me put it this way. One night, when I was about sixty pages from the end, I went to bed and dreamed I was reading the end of the book. When I woke up I couldn't stop thinking about what was going to happen to all the characters - I was worried about them, as I might be about friends! Possible impediments to their welfare and happiness haunted my anxious dreams! - so I turned on the light at four in the morning and read the rest of it. Eerily, MY DREAM HAD COME TRUE, LIKE UNTO AN ANCIENT PROPHECY OF YORE! Except the real ending was great. It was much better than the ending I had dreamed, which, upon further reflection, was unlikely, as it involved unicorns. Ha ha! Not really! But truly, it didn't make any sense, the ending I dreamed. But it did reveal how much I had come to care about the characters. I'm very happy to know there are more books about private eye Tess Monaghan. Got me a copy of CHARM CITY fired up and ready to go.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

So Shiny

I leave you with this gentle reminder.


Goodbye. My head hurts.

ERA (epigraph replacement alert)

I have changed my epigraph.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

McNeil's Gold Medal International Emergency Exit Theatre

McNeil persists in teasing us with the notion that MGMIEET may get itself up and running again. Here is today's featured attraction. Hey, if you "click" on the Edie Adams cigar commercial in the previous "post," try to bear in your wondering mind how McNeil once insisted that Edie Adams (with whom he had confused Shirley Jones) resembles Hillary Clinton (!).

"Blog" Me Vs. "Real" Me

What kind of impression does the "blog" give of "me"? On my trip to Atlanta I met some kindly grad students who had confused "blog" me with "real" me. I explained that 1) the "blog" tries not to address anything important as a rule and 2) "blog" me is a "construct" (in grad language) and a shaky one at that. Which leads me to this: Remember Sheri Joseph's friend who works for TCM? (She is not to be confused with my friend Shana [who also works for TCM], pictured above with DJ Gnosis on their way to visit Oxford.) Well, Sheri Joseph's friend (we'll call her "H.") is a writer and researcher at TCM, and in the course of her research, she came across Edie Adams playing three roles in a cigar commercial. Had I heard of Edie Adams (wife of Ernie Kovacs)? she wondered. Heard of her? Why, we've "blogged" about her! But that's not why "H." got in touch. The cigar commercial would not have made me question myself as a human being! But having seen one particular previous video clip on the "blog," "H." assumed that I would enjoy the monstrous spectacle of Debbie Reynolds singing "If I Had a Hammer." And so I asked myself again, what impression does the "blog" give of me? What have I become? Because she's right! Lord help me, she's right. It was all so very innocent when Bing Crosby sang "Eleanor Rigby." He was a good sport and acquitted himself pretty well. But it's a slippery slope, friends. A slippery slope!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Slackening Presumed

Brace yourself. This will be one of those times when the "blog" slackens. The happy part is, I will be at the Troy Moore Library on the campus of Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA, at 7:30 PM on Thursday evening. Come say hello! Get there early, as I tend to use up my "A" material pretty quickly, and I don't like to dawdle.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Missive From "L"

It has been some time since we have heard from our corporate spy "L" - no doubt because she is so deep undercover. Today she sends word that it is Billie Holiday's birthday. "You can blog that," reads the missive. Consider it done, "L"!

McNeil's Gold Medal International Emergency Exit Theatre

Don't get excited! MGMIEET will never really return, at least not in the glorious mantle of a daily feature. Nothing stays the same forever, as I have been informed by reliable sources. But once in awhile McNeil will toss us a bone. Here is today's bone.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


In that "post" about Iron Man and Henry James, I wanted the illustrations to give the impression that Iron Man was shooting some awesome energy bolts at Henry James's head, but it didn't work out that way, at least not on my computer. I never know what these things look like on other people's computers. The only time I really got something like this right was the juxtaposition of characters from MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO and MIDNIGHT COWBOY. The "blog's" finest hour! Although my favorite title ever for a "post" was "Languishment of the Weenie Whirl."

Today In Messiaen News

Every so often the New York Times newspaper likes to toss out a little article on Messiaen. That's how they roll at the New York Times! Here's your Messiaen article for today.

"Clicking" on "Links" "Redux"

I have mentioned before (in December of 2006) how much fun it is to "click" on "links." I am happy to report that my assertion remains true! Just today I "clicked" on my favorite Aquaman "blog," and from thence I "clicked" on a "link" about Iron Man's relationship, if any, to the song "Iron Man." In that article lurked a "link" about whether or not Henry James was secretly writing about chamber pots one time. He was not. I will not tell you what he WAS writing about that time because I don't want to spoil it for you. You will also note that I am not supplying a direct "link" to any of the articles or "web" sites in question. Isn't it more sporting that way? Go!

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Well, I just saw that Charlton Heston has passed away. A lot of people made fun of him for his politics, and I must say he was on the opposite side of things from me but I met him once and he could not have been more gracious and kind. When I happened to run into him, I thought I would just make a brief comment and scurry away - Theresa and I had watched TOUCH OF EVIL the night before, by sheer coincidence - but he engaged me fully, telling me how much better he thought he could have done in the film, and why, and what he thought he should have done differently, and it was a touching thing to hear. Theresa and I were thrilled with the film, of course, and I had looked it up in Peter Bogdanovich's book on Orson Welles, so I was able to remind him that Welles had a quite different idea about his performance, praising it unreservedly. Well, anyway, that was the time I met Charlton Heston. I don't suppose I'll ever forget how he began his first sentence to me: "Orson and I ..." That's certainly the last time anyone will ever start a sentence to me that way. As the obituary in the New York Times points out, he was an early and vocal supporter of Martin Luther King and I know we can all get behind that! So let's remember the good parts, not some of the stuff that came later. What do we want from our old men? Nobody's perfect! Not even young people, it turns out. And honestly it's just not polite to snicker at the old folks, even when they are wrong and you have everything figured out. Right, Michael Moore? (I like you, too! Isn't it all right if I like you both in different ways and for different reasons?) WILL PENNY (co-starring "blog" acquaintance Anthony Zerbe, who told me about - SPOILER ALERT! - spearing Heston in THE OMEGA MAN) is a great movie, too.

McNeil Reports From Dreamland

You know all about McNeil's grand schemes. Well, the latest one came to him in a dream. McNeil reports from dreamland: "Last night I dreamt (or is it dreamed?) that there was a way to take a roll of film, send it off to get it developed, and have it come back in the form of eyedrops! You dropped the liquid in your eyes and that's how you viewed your photos. Incredible? Yes. Patented? Perhaps soon." (Pictured, Winsor McCay's seminal comic strip LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND.)

Fanciness Overwhelms

For some reason I received two emails about poetry this morning. That's just how unbearably fancy I've become. Maybe it's because National Poetry Month has rolled around again. One email was from the Man Who Hates "Blogs." Incredibly, considering that its sender does not read "blogs," this "link" to a 17th-century poem is followed by commentary referencing the DC comics superhero the Atom, who was mentioned here just yesterday in a poetic capacity. The second poetry email came from Phil Oppenheim. "Click" here to read the New York Times article that captured Phil's interest, all about a poetry exhibit at Emory University. My favorite line from the article: "We had to put up signs to ask people to literally not, like, hang on the cases." Heartening! (Pictured, Percy Dovetonsils, the poet regularly portrayed by Ernie Kovacs.)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Memoirs of a Big, Braggy Jerk

Would it be bragging to say that I just had a house-made moonpie and RC Cola sorbet at City Grocery with the food editor of the New York Times? Well, that's just the way I am - a big, braggy jerk. For example, I'll emphasize the fact that we briefly discussed Truffaut. That's just how classy I'd appreciate you thinking of me as being. I also had the pleasure of dining with Susan Choi and the poet and artist Blair Hobbs, both of whom are nice and kind and lovely and hilarious and sparkling and thoughtful and the opposite of me in every way. The sorbet was the hit of the table. "Fizzy," Blair proclaimed it, and the food editor agreed. Then we all threw back our heads and laughed and laughed in the most elegant way imaginable. Theresa couldn't be there, though, so the laughter was hollow on my part, masking a certain melancholy. That's how you do it when you're fancy.

Don't Fret

It has been a long time since I told you what I'm reading, and if I know you, you're beginning to worry and fret. On the night stand: ANOTHER THING TO FALL by Laura Lippman. Now if you ask Laura Lippman which of her books to read first, she will suggest one of the standalone mysteries, such as EVERY SECRET THING or WHAT THE DEAD KNOW, both of which are excellent. But for this reason (her own recommendation) it has taken me a while to get around to one of the volumes in her series about private eye Tess Monaghan. But what Ms. Lippman fails to mention is that series about private eyes are awesome! Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald leap to mind - not too shabby! And Monaghan measures up - a sharply drawn woman dropped as unwillingly into a fraught plot as Marlowe or Archer. I'm not too far into the mystery part yet, but the backdrop is wonderful and promising: a Hollywood production that has invaded Baltimore. All the characters know movies and movie history, which makes for extra fun. For example, a single sentence mentions both ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and CHILDREN OF PARADISE, both objects of fond "blog"templation. You don't have to love movies to enjoy the book - but if you do, you get a bonus frisson. Speaking of frissons, as I do so very often just to impress people, I was happy when a character fantasized about opening a high-end french fry restaurant. His harebrained idea dovetails so nicely - eerily perfectly [three adverbs in a row! A new record!] - with the hamburger delusion of my sort-of private eye Dud Durden in that story I recently recorded for the McSweeney's audio book. I believe Lippman and I were writing our pieces at the same time, and we did not know of one another then, so I cannot claim that she was inspired by me! But I will flatter myself with a claim of some sort of psychic compatibility, which is even better.

Speaking of That Thing of Which I Was Speaking

Speaking of "She Blogged By Night's" grand way with capturing a frame, as I was a couple of days ago, I meant to direct you also to her frame-filled "post" on the 1967 version of CASINO ROYALE.

The New Brother-In-Law's Consumer Report

The New Brother-In-Law (NBIL) claims to have run across an invention "even greater than Tater Mitts." It's a toilet paper dispenser that doubles as an iPod dock. The NBIL included a "link" and photos, but the "blog's" editorial board thought better of it.

Secondhand George

It's time once again for our regular feature "Secondhand George," when we hear cultural news and views of a guy named George secondhand via McNeil. According to McNeil, George saw something in either Esquire or GQ - possibly the current issue of one of those publications, but who knows. It was, in McNeil's vague recollection, perhaps a list of the greatest films of the 60s "or something like that." Well, whatever it was, it was illustrated with a publicity photo of Jerry Lewis wielding the most enormous fishing rod that Secondhand George has ever seen, or least that's the way McNeil tells it. The great thing about our "Secondhand George" feature is that precision counts for nothing.

Mostly But Not Always Flowers

Speaking of the book conference, I just returned from an electrifying reading by the poet A. Van Jordan. You will realize that he hit the "blog's" soft spot when I tell you that he read one poem in the voice of the DC Comics superhero the Atom and one in the voice of Richard Pryor, featuring cameo appearances by Dean Martin and Don Rickles. See, kids? Poetry doesn't always have to be about flowers! Most of the time it does, but not always.

The Fabled Nutt

It's time for the Oxford (Mississippi) book conference. Come out and listen to people talk about books! Does that sound exciting? Then the Oxford Conference for the Book is probably for you! As for me, there's nothing I like better. Tomorrow at 3 o'clock local time I will be on a panel with Susan Choi, moderated by the extremely moderate Tom Franklin. Ms. Choi, by the way, wrote the novel AMERICAN WOMAN, which exerted profound influence on the Patricia Hearst chapter of Theresa's dissertation. Please stop by and say hello to Ms. Choi, Mr. Franklin, and myself. Help me mark my triumphant return to the fabled Nutt auditorium.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tales of Jerry

Into whom should I run tonight but Jim Dees, host of Thacker Mountain Radio (you can see him in this video "link," eating side by side with me at the Ajax Diner). Dees - my hand to God! - brought up Jerry Lewis without prompting, of his own volition! I was shocked. Usually I'm the one who brings up Jerry, to general derision. But Dees reflected softly on his youth, when 25 cents and an RC Cola bottle cap would get you into the Paramount Theatre in Greenville, Mississippi, where Dees viewed several Jerry Lewis movies on the big screen. "It was like Imax," he recalled of the impression the screen made on his childish eyes. "There would always be a woman who hated Jerry through the whole movie then fell for him at the end. He was acting like this..." (Here Dees demonstrated some of Jerry's patented high jinks.) "What woman could fall for that?" Dees continued. "Even as an eight year old - an eight year old who liked Jerry Lewis - I knew it was wrong." Dees went on to relate the story of a friend of his, a woman whose name happened also to be a saucy double entendre, unprintable on the decorous "blog." She eventually became an on-air weather forecaster in Phoenix, Arizona. Jerry Lewis came by the station one day. Dees' friend sent him a picture of herself with Jerry Lewis in front of a weather map, at the exact moment she told Jerry her saucy name and Jerry doubled over with laughter. "It's funny you should mention Jerry," I said. "Just today I put up a picture of Dean and Jerry salt and pepper shakers on my 'blog.'" Dees frowned. "Now you've gone too far," he said. "Hardware."

McNeil Still Thinking

McNeil is still thinking about those salt and pepper shakers from earlier today. He writes: "Dean's got his eyes cut over toward Jerry as if to say 'And why's your mouth open so wide? Ya big dope, ya!' 'Aw, Dean!' is Jerry's oh-so-obvious reply. I like the question mark after the 'guess who,' and the fact that it's so unbelievably shiny. I'd give a billion dollars to have that on my desk right now...or to have salt and pepper in that when company came over next...which would be never. What other things might Jerry be saying? That could be a contest for the blog. The winner gets a copy of something." McNeil! Always with the big ideas.

Something You Don't See Every Day, Probably

Look what McNeil dug up. That's right. Dean and Jerry salt and pepper shakers. And Jerry directed ONE MORE TIME, the sequel to SALT AND PEPPER. Just think!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Audio Jack

Hey, isn't there something called an audio jack? If so, I have just made the most delightful pun. Wheeee! That audio book I told you about, the one for which I read a story, is now available. That was fast! You can read more about it by "clicking" here. Please let me warn you: as they mention in that previous "link," I am loath to say bad words in a public reading though I have no problem happily typing them up to my heart's content. But the story that the nice McSweeney's people asked me to read has many, many bad words in it and at long last I decided to just let them spew in the name of art or something. So if you don't like bad, bad words, skip it, brother! P.S. I was happy to discover that the excellent Jonathan Ames story of which I have made note on the "blog" is included in the audio book, which is called "McSweeney's Notes From the Field #1." The Ames story, by the way, rockets past its seemingly ironical beginning to become an unwinking slab of glorious pulp. Wow! That was an awful sentence, though the sentiment was true. Sometimes I just can't help it.

There's a Story Behind It

There's a story about how I ran across this and why it's here but you wouldn't care. That's okay! I don't expect you to! It's not your job to care.

My 48 Problems

Just finished going through the galley looking for humiliating mistakes and instances of poor writing. I found 48 of them! They've all been scrubbed clean now, don't you worry! But here is a message for any reviewer who receives the galley: just remember, the novel is now better in 48 spots - or at least different, which is just as good as better, really. So I don't want to see a lot of wisecracks like this: "AWESOME is anything but." Or "AWESOME? Hardly." Or "Pendarvis might have more honestly titled his book MEDIOCRE." And there are tons of other things you might say that are even cleverer and wittier than those! But don't.

Dig This Frame

Dig this frame from OUT OF THE PAST, which is, as you know from memorizing the "blog," one of McNeil's two favorite movies. The frame is just one of many "posted" on the "web" site "She Blogs By Night." Go look at the pretty pictures!

Still No Word

Still no word from Mickey Rooney, Jr.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Everybody Loves Man-Bat

Hey, remember when I mentioned Man-Bat? Sure you do! Well, tonight Jon Stewart mentioned Man-Bat on THE DAILY SHOW, proving once again that Jon Stewart turns to this "blog" when he has run dry and the world is getting him down. You're welcome, Jon Stewart! Call me!


Socks are great. They really do the job for which they were intended. Come on, everybody, let's hear it for socks!