Sunday, August 31, 2008


Remember I told you how blighted students bless us with their nightly detritus? Today I picked up something from the yard that I do not believe was dropped by one of our local collegians. It was a button roughly the size and shape of a political button, white with blue font, all caps, stating "GO TO **** OLE MISS," except the central word was spelled out in letters much bigger than the other letters and named a place where, were you to believe in its existence, like John Milton, for example, you would not wish to go as instructed! And lying not far from it was something that looked like a tourniquet.

Sorry, Decatur!

My apologies to everyone (if anyone) who comes out to see me in Decatur later today. I got all the way to the lobby of the Decatur Holiday Inn when I received an urgent phone call that required me to get right back in the car and leave. Please go see the wonderful Sheri Joseph at her (now) solo event.

Friday, August 29, 2008

That Cloud Is Still There

"That cloud is still there," McNeil writes several hours later.

Today's Weather: A Weird Cloud of McNeil

McNeil saw a weird cloud today. Here it is, via modern day camera phone. McNeil was at work and could not talk. "I saw a weird cloud. I'm sending you a picture," was the entirety of McNeil's breathless phone message. Perhaps later on we will get an eyewitness account of the cloud from McNeil. Yes, it certainly seems weird at first glance - a tornado-shaped cloud that is not a tornado? Somewhat like a snake that resembles a poisonous snake for defensive reasons, but is not (see the coral snake and the king snake)? - but perhaps there are unexplored layers of weirdness yet to be recounted. This has been the glorious return of our "Today's Weather" feature.

The Abominable Dr. Lippman

Laura Lippman relishes the idea (put forth even in the title of the aforementioned article) of David Simon as her "prized conversion." She states on the record for the "blog": "Isn't that kind of Dr. Moreau? Like, I'm walking around this strange old house with all these odd creepy mutants who read Pendarvis, but David is my favorite, the man-beast I cradle in my arms while stroking his pelt?"

Reporter Barely Survives Encounter With World's Surliest Man

The gory details.

Holiday Unicorn Series

I may not be able to "blog" very early on Labor Day, as I'll be traveling. So I decided to go ahead and do my traditional holiday unicorn "Google Image" search. When I typed in BASTILLE DAY UNICORN, you may recall, I found the best image EVER, though it bore scant relation to Bastille Day, as far as I could see. Our Labor Day Unicorn does seem labor-intensive at least. It is made of hay (a previous "blog" preoccupation). If you would like to read more about hay, I suggest "clicking" on this "link" to the "web" site about hay where I found our Labor Day unicorn. It contains this memorable snippet: "Every year Montana hosts What the Hay, a festival that features creative hay bale sculptures."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Chicken Is a Bird. Get It?

Somehow I missed this article for a few days. But it turns out, according to the New York Times, and I quote, that "crows and their relatives — among them ravens, magpies and jays... can recognize individual human faces." For the whole article, "click" here. Looking back, I see they're attributing the talent only to crows. Pardon my misleading ellipses! In any case, I thought of how nice such news must be for the Dear Bird Correspondent, because it means that all the birds she has helped over the years probably think of her from time to time. And it was only THEN, I SWEAR, as a SIDE EFFECT, that I recalled my commercial duty to "plug" my upcoming appearance alongside said DBC (real name Sheri Joseph) at the Decatur Book Festival this Sunday. Witness this rare in-person meeting for yourself! Sheri would be the first to say that our books are not much alike and neither of us can figure out why people want to put us on the same program all time. BUT! We enjoy hanging out with one another and do have a secret entertainment bonus surprise, or S.E.B.S., to unveil at our reading on Sunday. I'll be so mad if Sheri "chickens" out. Get it? Because a chicken is a bird! Yuk, yuk, yuk! Whoopee! "Click" here to see the time that the DBC "scooped" the New York Times' on their assertion (above) that jays and crows are related.

The Strange Case of the Vanishing MGMIEET

Yes, there was an episode of McNeil's Gold Medal International Emergency Exit Theatre on display here all day. McNeil had provided some lively and charming footage of a dancing troupe from the Red Army (I believe) overdubbed with Run DMC's equally lively and charming hit "It's Like That." Great number, great cossack-style dancing - together again for the first time. An all around delight. BUT! When I got home today, I noticed that the person who made the video (not McNeil; McNeil is innocent in this matter) included a secret "link" embedded within it to a crasser video (the "internet" is rife with strategically camouflaged sauciness, it turns out), a production not in keeping with the "blog's" strict policy of unreasonable prudery (despite the fact that the "blogmaster" is a writer of dirty books. A dichotomy to be sure! Who can understand the ways of the human mind? Not me!). So anyway, that's where the video went. You're not crazy! Go listen to Run DMC! They do not need a "cute" video to bolster them, anyway. They don't need anything! They are Run DMC!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reformed Thief

I was casually "clicking" through the "blog's" various references to Pia Z. Ehrhardt today when I noticed a few things. One was a reference to "Bloggy" the "Blog" mascot. This character is a good idea! But apparently I thought of him (her?) one day in 2006 and never again... until now. On another of my "clicks," (a leap from Pia Z. Ehrhardt to Tom Franklin), I saw a picture of Plastic Man (re-"posted" here for your reference). And it made me remember something I need to address. Until recently, I have been putting illustrations on my "blog" by "stealing bandwidth"! I didn't know what that was! And to tell you the truth, I still don't. BECAUSE I'M OLD! I can't understand things like this. I don't even know what bandwidth is! I used to get uptight. Once I "stole bandwidth" somehow with a picture of Jon Lovitz that some fellow had scanned off his television. It was removed from the "blog" (by that guy, I assume). And I could not understand (and still cannot to some extent, I'll admit) why it was okay for that guy to steal a picture of Jon Lovitz from his television set yet he was so stingy about letting me use it on my "blog." Things started to become clearer to me when I was providing you, my loyal "blog" readers (Ha ha ha! Wheeeee!) with a "link" to one of my previous "posts" about the movie DEVIL DOLL. And I saw that the people whose "web" site I had (unknowingly) "stolen the bandwidth" from had replaced a still from the relevant scene with a picture of a nude young woman! As punishment for stealing! This aggravated me! Though I began to understand that I had been "stealing" something (though I still can't figure out what - BECAUSE I'M AN OLD, OLD MAN!), I thought it was rude of those fellows to plaster an objectionable image on my "web" site when a stern warning would have worked just as well. (Also, you should note, there may be other naked women, of which I am unaware, festooning older "posts" without my knowledge. I found one replacing a photo of the character actor Wilfrid Hyde-White the other day - quite a contrast!) I hope to undertake a mammoth project soon, in which I replace any "stolen bandwidth" with "rightfully acquired bandwidth." As an example, I have included the Plastic Man comic book cover here, and I have done so in the approved fashion. (Hyde-White has also been replaced by a properly ______ [see? I don't even know the correct word. BECAUSE I'M OLD!] image.) Hey, you know what's funny? It just occurred to me as I was typing this (having already chosen the illustration) that Plastic Man's secret identity, Eel O'Brien, is that of a reformed thief! I must be the greatest "blogger" ever.

McNeil's Champion

Our "internet" pal from "She Blogged By Night" leaps to McNeil's defense re: the Goofy dust-up. "McNeil is confusing Goofy with Pluto," she asserts. "The cartoon dog, not the planet which isn't actually a planet anymore. Common mistake. They're at least cousins, hence the resemblance." She also kindly includes the present illustration to bolster McNeil's cause. Yes, yes, "She Blogged By Night," it's a fine theory. And at one point in our conversation, McNeil even said, "Maybe I'm thinking of Pluto." BUT! Thereafter, I took great pains to explain the difference between Goofy and Pluto to the stubborn McNeil. And he PERSISTED in his claim that Goofy does not wear a hat. "Goofy's the one with the teeth, right?" said McNeil. This I affirmed. "He doesn't wear a hat," McNeil stated with an air of calm finality.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

McNeil's Gold Medal International Emergency Exit Theatre

Welcome once again to MGMIEET. Here is today's selection.

Goofy's Hat

On the phone with McNeil. Something prompted me to say, "You should wear one of those hats like Goofy wears." McNeil's response was adamant: "Goofy doesn't wear a hat." And no matter what I said, McNeil wouldn't believe me that Goofy wears a hat! At one point I started trying to describe Goofy's hat and then I realized something: Goofy's hat is difficult to describe! "Look, I'll just find a picture of it and 'post' it on the 'blog,'" I said. "Goofy doesn't wear a hat," McNeil replied. Anyway, that would be a good writing assignment for school, maybe. Describe Goofy's hat.


"Hey, Bartok looks a lot like Bill Gannon!" Jim Whorton writes to inform the "blog." "Bill Gannon was Jack Webb's sidekick on [the olden TV show] 'Dragnet,'" Jim continues. "I should have said Harry Morgan, I guess. But no, because Bartok only resembles Harry Morgan AS Bill Gannon. Remember, he was always trying to get Jack Webb to try some of his sandwich. Incidentally, did you know Jack Webb was an author? I got a 1st ed. of [one of his books] the other day. It is called 'The Badge' and reportedly includes all the true stories that were too racy for the original version of 'Dragnet.'" Thanks, Jim! This just the sort of "hip" reference to thrill all my new students when they flock "en masse" to my "blog." Or should I say "broken hip" reference? Ha ha! Wheeeeee! We're having fun now! (Pictured, Jack Webb and Bela Bartok.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Michael Caine

When I was looking for that Michael Caine song yesterday I ran across this fellow doing a brief Michael Caine impression in his own home and for whatever reason I found it most enjoyable. I believe it exemplifies the true spirit of the youtube and it is my pleasure to share it with you right now.

Position on Toast Unwavering

Today we had toast with orange marmalade. "I love toast," Theresa reaffirmed.

Literary Matters

Hold your nose! It is time once again to discuss "Literary Matters." Thank goodness that today we have only four brief literary matters, so it will be over before you know it. 1) Over at Square Books they have moved me - "promoted" me, they said, and I am mightily inclined to agree - to the "Mississippi Writers" section. Look at me, Ma! I'm a Mississippi writer! 2) More evidence: remember when I went to Jackson and met up with Pia Z. Ehrhardt for mysterious reasons and promised to tell you later? We were being taped for an episode of "Writers" on Mississippi's PBS affiliate. Pia and I were on a panel with New York Times bestselling author John Hart. Pia and I are not New York Times bestselling authors. Well, that show is on the air now. I haven't cringed my way through it yet, because for some reason the satellite only gives us TENNESSEE public broadcasting! I still love you so much, satellite! With an unconditional love! 3) I'm reading an earlier Ross MacDonald now. I think I like the later ones better. Or the middle ones. In any case, Lew Archer is more of a standard "tough guy" in the one I'm reading. I guess around the mid-sixties or so he becomes a little more bruised and sensitive, which I find appealing. So, in this early one, he walks in on a woman whose husband has been murdered and she says, "I've been sitting here listening to the Bartok." I guess that tickled me because it sounds like "the youtube" or "the Google" (the latter of which usage I pioneered BEFORE George W. Bush, you may recall). Now that I type it up, "the Bartok" doesn't seem as funny. In fact, it seems to function as a commonplace and reasonable shorthand for some particular work. But literary matters have to come from somewhere! So it stays. 4) I never properly thanked Katie Glasgow of Mitchell Books in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for placing me on the American Booksellers Association "Indie Next" list for August. She had extremely nice things to say, but as I am never "talking about ******* again," I can't tell you what they were. I checked the Mitchell Books "web" site to try to get in touch and thank her personally, but I see that they are closed for the summer. Wait, I just noticed that they hosted a reading on the 23rd, so I am confused. I'll try again! Hey, you can rent out part of Mitchell Books for your birthday party! That's how they rock in Fort Wayne and I am digging it. Well, I notice that though it is usually known for its wide ranging and mind-numbingly dull topics, this has been the most self-serving (though still admirably torpid) edition ever of "Literary Matters." And I'm glad, do you hear me? GLAD! (Pictured, the Bartok.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Blog" Pals!

My ex-boss Lisa and "blog" fan (???!!!???) James Sepsey have become "pen pals" thanks to the "blog." It seems that Mr. Sepsey grew up enjoying "The Family Film Festival" program on which Lisa worked in the days of yore. Host "Tom Hatten was one of the first 'movie experts' to provide commentary during a film," recalled Sepsey in an email message that was forwarded, by request, to Lisa. "He usually gave his keen insights from a chair just before turning the switch on an actual film projector. (Can you ask your ex-boss Lisa if that is how KTLA actually broadcast the films--with an old projector!)" Lisa was able to confirm personally to Mr. Sepsey that the theme song to "The Family Film Festival" was "Reminiscing" by the Little River Band.

How to Get the Most Out of My "MySpace" Page

Here is a fun project for your spare time. (Ha ha! Not really! Wheeeeee!) Go to my "myspace" page. First, wait for my "profile song" to stop. Next, scroll down to the "fave" movies section. See the youtube clip of Dean Martin lying on a cot from RIO BRAVO? "Click" on it. Step three: Commence scrolling down in a leisurely fashion, to the "heroes" section, as Dean continues to croon. Don't be in a hurry! Now, "click" on the Messiaen clip (it's the one at the bottom, showing a guy about to whack a gong). The resulting sound should be a pleasing if discordant aleatoric counterpoint that will put you in mind of Ives. If you time it just right, Ricky Nelson will begin to duet with Dino, singing a line about a whip-poor-will (to which Dean answers with a nonchalant snatch of whistled melody), just as the wind section in the Messiaen piece produces one of the transcribed birdsongs for which our man Messiaen is so famous. Fortuitous!

The Long Moment

This morning while I was sleeping (another excellent technique for putting things off), Theresa was out in the yard, picking up an assortment of the napkins and white paper bags, pellucid with grease from the fried treats served up at the Chevron station on the corner (actually quite delicious; I'll "blog" about that some day), damp with dew, trash with which happy-go-lucky college students tend to liberally deface our lawn every night as they bellow and rant and shriek along their merry way down the sidewalk in front of our house after the closing of the bars while we are tucked up shivering with fear in our bed for all the world like an elderly couple upon whom a strange new world is encroaching... where was I? Oh yes. This morning, Theresa was in the yard, muttering under her breath about environmentalism and such, perhaps cursing, she admits, and picking up litter, when she glanced up and saw a deer standing by our front window, ten feet or less away. Theresa moved closer. The deer did not seem frightened. In fact, it appeared oblivious. It took a second for Theresa to register that she was looking at a deer. The first image that popped into her head, she said, was the Hound of the Baskervilles. The general gloom of the cloudy, windy morning contributed to this impression, she reported. The deer remained unconcerned. It slowly walked across the road. Theresa walked behind it, still picking up paper. The deer vanished. The street was quiet. "It was a long moment," Theresa said. (Pictured, Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes in a publicity still from the Hammer films production THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES.)

UFO Report

Also in today's New York Times, Dennis Kucinich once saw a UFO at Shirley MacLaine's house ("click" here for details). We don't usually report on "celebrity" UFO sightings (Jasper Johns being a notable exception) so why Kucinich? Why now? Well, we - by which I mean I - are/am supposed to be writing a book review and polishing my syllabus today. But if my syllabus gets any shinier it's going to blind me with its radiant light. I'm putting things off, there's your answer, are you happy? Are you happy now? Are you finally happy at last? This also gives us - I mean, me - a good reason to report that the 1967 Shirley MacLaine feature WOMAN TIMES SEVEN is coming out on DVD next month. As in the case of McNeil's Dean Martin DVD alert, the quality of the material is unknown. But promising! Perhaps we/I will end up enjoying it as much as HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE (one of the aforementioned Dino movies, with which it shares the theme of adultery). The huge supporting cast of WOMAN TIMES SEVEN includes such "blog" "faves" as Alan Arkin, Peter Sellers, Anita Ekberg, and Michael Caine (subject of Theresa's favorite Madness song). I leave you now with some guy from the youtube doing a "cover version" of "Michael Caine." Happy UFO hunting!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

That Thing That Might End The World

Hey, I was just noticing that the thing that might end the world, you know, that big machine they have over there in Switzerland, the one that McNeil is so worried about (and now I've started getting calls from Mom about it) anyway, I was just noticing that they're going to crank it up on Theresa's birthday. Talk about blowing out the candles. Baby! (Pictured, Switzerland.)


As promised, here is my last ever "post" about my novel AWESOME. What a relief! And as mentioned earlier, the occasion of this "post" is a summation of AWESOME by the New York Times Book Review. Here is the paragraph we're all going to concentrate on: "Pendarvis is a gifted, good-humored writer. He’s wry and silly, his language full of provocative puns, eloquent blarney and tips of the hat to the absurdity of modern culture. At his best, he is neo-Chaucerian. If you’re game, he’ll show you a rude, jolly time in a universe at once fantastic and familiar." Then the reviewer ends the paragraph like this, as if she were put up to a dare of some sort: "Fee fie foe fun!" (Exclamation point hers.) I will go out on a limb and say that "'Fee fie foe fun!' - The New York Times" is going to be plastered all over the cover of the paperback. So be it! The reviewer is less entranced by my "***** jokes" (WARNING: the "link" is full of racy quotations), of which she gives several examples, some of which, truth be told, appear kind of shameful when they're laid out there cold on the slab like that. As a counterweight, I'd like to "link" here to some kind words from a feminist (she starts out suspicious but I win her over by the last paragraph) who mentioned some of the same ***** jokes and seemed to appreciate what I was "going for" in context. Why do I feel the need for a "counterweight"? It's untoward! Nobody likes a whiny writer! No book review is ever good enough for a precious, precious writer like myself! The New York Times reviewer did a fine job! Also, the book should stand up for itself. But I can't stop typing, apparently. Until now. And as this is the last time I'll ever mention AWESOME (which is about a giant), I will sign off with an email on the subject from my ex-boss Lisa. Writes Lisa: "I'm sure the death a week or so ago of Sandy Allen, the World's Largest Woman, did not escape your notice. She was...awesome...there is no other word for her. Sandy seemed always to be good-natured and had a great sense of humor; she even went one-on-one with Howard Stern. I wrote something on her for the TCM blog," (Lisa continues), "but NOBODY has made any comments on it -- does no one realize what a treasure we lost? I also did something on her on my TV blog. As someone dedicated to the preservation of giants and their greatness, I know that you must have known and loved Sandy, too." No, Lisa, I didn't know about Ms. Allen, but I sure enjoyed your brief and warm essays. P.S. I just received a commiserative email from Tom Bissell about the New York Times review, so maybe it's not as nice as I thought!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Sad Little Book Club That Still Might Be

Just when I thought the THEY GOT ME COVERED book club was a total bust, here's a somewhat astounding message of "Hope" from my ex-boss Lisa: "I should respectfully like to apply for membership in the above club. I offer as prerequisite a picture of MY copy of 'They Got Me Covered' which, as you see, is actually autographed by Mr. Bob Hope himself. This was procured when Bob was a guest on KTLA's Family Film Festival, a hosted movie program in L.A., when Bob was a guest. I think we ran 'Road to Utopia' that day. I was in Programming and we used to get a lot of old movie stars to come on and talk with our host Tom Haten. The show ran in the early and mid-80s, when these guys and gals were still alive. I've had this copy for a LONG time, obviously! Hoping to gain membership to this exclusive book club! I am sure your mailboxes will be full with applications! Thank you, gentlemen! Oh, I loved that page from the 'Road to Utopia' script. Definitely one of my favorite Road movies! Hilarious and insane, and Robert Benchley, too!"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

McNeil's Movie Korner: Sweet Ride on the Road to Utopia

Welcome once again to our longest running regular feature, "McNeil's Movie Korner." McNeil, fascinated by my tale of the cab driver whose life was changed by the Bob Denver film THE SWEET RIDE, has located what he calls "the only clip of THE SWEET RIDE on YouTube." But before you "click" here, be aware of a few things: 1) It is a homemade video "tribute" to THE SWEET RIDE. 2) The theme song from THE SWEET RIDE, sung by the great Dusty Springfield, is looped so that it plays twice in a row. I admire Dusty Springfield very much, but listening to the theme song from THE SWEET RIDE twice in a row is not for everybody, not even for people who admire Dusty Springfield as I do. The homemade "tribute" is, then, perhaps twice as long as it needs to be. 3) There is some disturbing misogynistic material in the montage. On the plus side, you will likely become bored before that happens and disengage from the YouTube. In other movie news from the land of McNeil, McNeil has picked out his favorite item from that Library of Congress Bob Hope exhibition (see above). It's a page from the script of THE ROAD TO UTOPIA, with handwritten notes. "Both jokes are great!!" McNeil writes, referring to the penciled-in alternate gags at the bottom of the page. "How did they decide?!"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Object List

The best part of that Library of Congress Bob Hope "web" site is, I think, the part labeled "Object List." It contains a list of many objects for your friendly contemplation. I intend to spend the rest of my life, when I am not staring at my screen saver, looking at the various objects presented. I hope you will do the same. Above, one of the objects: an animation cel of Mr. Hope as he appeared in his guest role on THE SIMPSONS.

Exhibit B ... For "Bob"!

P.S. I found that image of the Bob Hope book on the "web" site for a Library of Congress exhibit about Mr. Hope. "Click" here to enjoy it for yourself. I must say, my copy of THEY GOT ME COVERED is a lot nicer than the government's! I'm not bragging, but theirs seems faded and slightly torn. Nothing against the government. I am sure they are doing the best they can. In fact, I was able to learn from the Library of Congress that the book in question was manufactured by Pepsodent and sold for a dime as a promotional novelty. Hence the lack of publishing information. You have much to teach us, "internet"!

The Sad Little Book Club That Never Was

McNeil received his copy of THEY GOT ME COVERED by Bob Hope (see item #14 on this "link"). "Did you notice there's no official publisher?" said McNeil, via telephone. "It just says, 'FIRST EDITION, Copyright, 1941, by Bob Hope, Hollywood, Calif.'" I replied that indeed I had noted just such an anomaly. "Now that you have it, we should start a book club," I said. McNeil replied that he did not have time for such nonsense. "It's only 95 pages and most of them are pictures," I pointed out. McNeil was unmoved.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

UFO Report

San Francisco wasn't the only stop on my recent trip where the subject of UFOs came up. Out in Los Angeles, I rubbed elbows with a certain Cartoon Network VP and her husband. Said husband has ties to Pascagoula, Mississippi. Being roughly of my age and enjoying a similar geographic history, he recalled all the excitement about the famous Pascagoula UFO. Today, in fact, at her husband's instigation, the VP forwarded a "web" site ("click" here).

No Word

Still no word from Mickey Rooney, Jr.

Monday, August 18, 2008

By My Troth

I pledge and vow and swear and decree and promise and take a solemn oath that I will never mention my novel AWESOME again after Sunday, when an assessment of it will appear in the New York Times Book Review. Someone has smuggled me an advance copy of the review, which is not the most glowing review I have ever read in the New York Times (it is nowhere near as astonishingly kind as the ones in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the New York Observer [see how he managed to sneak those in? - ed.]) but neither is it the most scathing review I have ever read in the New York Times. Unscathed is how I felt, in fact, after reading it. It is, I do believe, what people call a "mixed review." I'll take it! And I'll "link" to it for you as soon as it is "up" on the "web," at which juncture I believe you will discover that it contains one very generous and remarkable paragraph which I intend to milk for all it is worth. The paragraphs surrounding that one are rather more... tempered. And it is my intent to underplay them cleverly, thereby diminishing their seeming importance. As long as this is the next-to-last time that I'm ever going to mention AWESOME, I feel I should point out that the pledge and vow and decree and promise of the close reader who prominently referred to me as a "YA writer" to correct that mistake has been fulfilled... but not on the "web" site of the unnamed behemoth. Gee! That was a long sentence with insufficient punctuation. Spend some time with it! Often you will find an unpolished sentence in a "blog." That's part of the fun! P.S. Anyone who reads the New York Times Book Review will have a difficult time thinking of me as a "YA writer." Apparently my narrator mentions ******* a lot. As we wave farewell to AWESOME forever, I will conclude with my favorite anecdote from a reader, excepting, of course, the one who was compelled to finish the book by an insistent horse. "AWESOME made me spit coffee all over my shirt at the beach," one gentleman told me. I wondered, as you are now, why he was drinking coffee - not to mention wearing a shirt - at the beach. In fact, as you can see, I was unable to find a single "Google Image" of someone spitting coffee on his shirt at the beach. It is hot at the beach. The beach does not seem like a good place to drink coffee! And just look where it gets you. Let that be a lesson.

Jon Host

You remember Jon Host, don't you? No? Well, it's your loss. Jon has a "blog" now. So get to know him "internet" style! Here's the time Jon ate an old granola bar.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

We Were Also Lucky

We were also lucky enough to spend some time catching up with our old friends Tom Haney and Paula Joerling. Both are artists. Tom built all the marionettes for the Rudy & GoGo Show. Paula, who works in a number of media, carved and painted one especially important prop for us, "Cowboy Sally's Magic Box." (Cowboy Sally was portrayed by Sally Timms. She named one of her solo CDs after the character.) The Magic Box that Paula made is on our mantel now and if only I had a camera phone you could see it for yourself in all its glory and be so very happy. The sun shines in the window and causes the strategically placed rhinestones to sparkle. I don't suppose I could capture the effect anyway. It would be like that time with the ginger ale. Tom and Paula are the nicest people in the world and we are sorry we haven't seen them since moving out of the big city. But Paula says they have been "invited to a party in Arkansas," so they'll stop in Oxford on their way. Tom describes his work as "automata." Some of it, like the piece pictured above ("The Rainmaker"), is meant to be cranked by hand. We were happy to hear that Tom's work will be featured in a show at the Mason Murer Gallery in Atlanta. The opening is September 26. Mark it down! (Below, Cowboy Sally.)

The Bad Humor Man

But I should mention that the trip to Atlanta gave us a chance to see many old friends. Theresa and I had dinner with Phil Oppenheim on Friday night, for example. I mention this though it is sure to drive McNeil mad with envy. (Note to McNeil: Phil asked about you!) At one point, Phil said something disparaging about Jack Carson. My feathers were ruffled, you may be assured! But we soon smoothed things over and moved on to more cheerful topics. Upon our return to Mississippi, I checked the email and found that Phil had been kind enough to think up three things he enjoyed about THE GOOD HUMOR MAN, a Jack Carson vehicle that he had held up to particular scorn over dinner. In retrospect, Phil felt bad because I dvr'd THE GOOD HUMOR MAN but have not watched it yet. He was sorry he had ruined it for me! Phil is a softy at heart. That's the suspicion around here. So here are the three things he managed to dredge up out of compassion and pity, though his original argument was strong and I may just delete the film sight unseen to make more room on the dvr. Enumerated Phil: "(1) all of the Good Humor trucks, logos and uniforms look super cool, (2) the inappropriate moments of screwball comedy (thanks, Frank Tashlin) are weird enough to enliven the proceedings somewhat, and (3) there are more references (including key plot twists) to Captain Marvel in this film than in any other I remember seeing, which in my book is a very good thing indeed." Thanks for trying, Phil!

Big Changes Around These Parts

Under the tutelage of my sister and the NBIL, who are young people and understand "computers," I have learnt to make my screen saver more interesting. In fact, I did not even HAVE a screen saver before! But now my screen saver is so pleasant to look at that I wish to do little else with my time but ponder it. In fact, I feel I should let you know that from now on I intend to do a lot less "blogging" and a lot more staring at my great new screen saver.

Johnny Click

We're back from our trip. On the drive to Atlanta, when we were in or near Adamsville, Alabama, I saw a big sign that said "ELECT JOHNNY CLICK MAYOR." And I thought, you know, I WOULD vote for somebody named Johnny Click. It would be almost impossible NOT to vote for somebody named Johnny Click. Of course, I suppose I would have to agree with his policies and such. I SUPPOSE! (NOTE: I do NOT endorse the candidacy of Johnny Click for mayor of Adamsville, Alabama, if indeed that is where he is running. I know NOTHING about Johnny Click except his name, which I love. It sounds like the nickname of a character in some Martin Scorsese movie, a nickname he earned after his gun misfired at a crucial moment. But I have not looked him up on the "internet" and I cannot say where he stands politically. Please see my earlier, similar disavowals of fascinating entities of unknown affiliation such as the Emin and Pastor Melissa Scott.) If I had a camera phone, like my more sophisticated friends, I might have "posted" a photo of the big sign "ELECT JOHNNY CLICK MAYOR." Instead, here is something from Phil's camera phone. It is Phil's TV! He was watching a movie called TWISTER'S REVENGE. Here's what Phil said in an email: "I'm watching this monster-truck-meets-Knight-Rider dvd when this bat appears sitting at a bar for no reason whatsoever. Did I dream this?"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The "Five 'Click'" Game

I just made up a new game you can play if you start missing me too much while I am off entertaining the people of Atlanta. Here are the rules: Pick one of the "posts" on this page and randomly "click" on a "link." Do it without reading the "post." Keep doing that until you have "clicked" five times, very quickly, without thinking. Where will you end up? I am eager to hear! When I played "the 'five "click"' game" I was transported almost instantly to the time my favorite fork got stuck in the drainer and Theresa saved it. Yes, I know, what I am describing is not really a game. Also, it sounds tiresome now that I think about it. (Pictured, a game.)

And Still the Sea Is Salt. Know What I Mean?

Atlantans of Atlanta! I will see you at the highly anticipated A Cappella Ballroom Book Bash tomorrow (Thursday) at 8 PM by the reckoning of your strange Atlantan clocks. Will you have a few laughs? Well, I was going to title this "post" with the vague pun "The Lost Continence of Atlantans," but it would have been misleading as well as vulgar. The best you can expect is a mild smirk at my expense. But it will be worth it if you enjoy smirking as much as I do! Plus the melodies of Hubcap City, the best band in Atlanta and much of the rest of the world, will entrance you. And there will be delicious snacks, from my understanding of it. Now this means that I will once again have to go without "blogging" for a number of days. What if my "blogging" skills become rusty? What if the "blog" withers on the "vine"? What if it comes to pass that there is one less "blog" in the world? Can you IMAGINE? Remember what A.E. Housman (pictured) said that time: "It rains into the sea,/ And still the sea is salt." Know what I mean?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Stop the Presses!

This is big news, everybody! Phil LIKES something! And that something is S.J. Perelman. Phil reports: "I'm reading [Perelman's] review of 'Captain Future' magazine, which begins: 'I guess I'm just an old mad scientist at bottom. Give me an underground laboratory, half a dozen atom smashers, and a beautiful girl in a diaphonous veil waiting to be turned into a chimpanzee, and I care not who writes the nation's laws.'" This is not fair to Phil, because he also likes Stephen Leacock. So that makes a grand total of two things Phil likes. (I am aware that Perelman and Leacock are people, not "things," but I am using their names to refer to their bodies of work. That's how I roll.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

What I Jotted

I have a brief break in my long trip - just enough time to get down to the grim business of "blogging." I feel guilty, being away from you for so long! So while I was gone I jotted a few humble musings with my humble jotter. Here are the full, chronological transcriptions for your delectation: 1) It is not unusual to see someone driving with his or her arm out the window. On the way to the Memphis airport, however, Theresa and I witnessed a gentleman driving with his arm AND his leg out his window! There was something yogic about it. He was wearing a tube sock on the foot that he had strenuously managed to stick out of his window while driving. It made us think of when we saw that woman smoking a cigarette and eating a strawberry ice cream cone at the same time. 2) On the flight from Memphis to Phoenix, reading DIE A LITTLE by Megan Abbott (pictured) I came across this nice phrase: "rain pail eyes." The same hungry character steals from a candy store where she works: "a waxy cream, a brittle honeyed toffee, a dissolving coconut spume." 3) In a bar in Phoenix, listening to some locals complain about the heat. I'm GLAD! I didn't want to be the whiny tourist. I was relieved to find through eavesdropping that the locals were as distraught as I was. I took a short walk and got a SUNBURN! At some point in the walk I called Theresa on the cell phone to - only half in jest - put my affairs in order. I genuinely felt that I was going to swoon or do some other manly thing. When I got back to the room, the TV was reporting that the current temperature was 107. I'm no geographer and I hate generalizations about various regions but I am going to go ahead and state for the record that there is NO SHADE IN ARIZONA, which makes matters worse. On a non-heat-related note, I heard one of the customers at the bar say, "I have to move 5,000 pounds of rubber today." I don't know precisely what he meant but I was sitting there thinking, "That sounds like a hard job!" The bartender, with whom I had a friendly conversation, had lived in Oxford, Alabama, at one time, so I was able to converse knowledgeably with her on the pristine restrooms at that particular interstate exit. "Do you find it a different kind of heat here?" someone asked me later. "Yes," I replied. "A hotter kind." We shared a chuckle, you may be sure! 4) In Abbott (on the flight to San Francisco) we find an orange with a "glaring rind." 5) MY WORST FEARS WERE CONFIRMED. I met a bookstore events coordinator who, in his introductory notes, referred to me as a "YA writer," having been misled by a certain poorly vetted review. In the bookstore's newsletter, a jaunty red balloon appeared beside my picture, along with a notation that my event was a "Special for Young Adults!" (Exclamation point theirs.) Luckily, no young adults showed up. But my audience was nice. Their names were Pamela and Frances. Hi, Pamela and Frances! 6) California really is "cold and damp." Before, I had always pooh-poohed those particular Rodgers & Hart lyrics. California always seemed nice and warm to me. I thought, "What are y'all talking about, Rodgers & Hart?" But yes, I got up one morning to general coldness and dampness. 7) Looking for a new part of the book to use for a public reading, I glanced at the "hay information" chapter with which "The Farmer" had so graciously helped me. I was mortified to discover that the hay information is in Chapter 23, whereas in my elaborate and affectionate inscription in the Farmer's personal copy of the book, I had mistakenly thanked him for inspiring Chapter 25. That chapter is about foot odor. 8) I ate a large burrito in the presence of Eli Horowitz, whom I had not met before. I dropped many parts of the burrito on my shirt over the moments we spent together, confirming, I feared, his assumptions (as I supposed) about persons of my particular age, regional origin, and body type. Of course, Eli is nicer than that and appeared to bear the revolting spectacle with gracious good humor. 9) I met a San Franciscan who has seen a UFO in San Francisco "from fifteen feet away"! 10) Went to a wonderful party at which a magnificent accordionist was perhaps insufficiently appreciated (though not by me; I DID appreciate him sufficiently, which is to say, a bunch) because there was a lot of other stuff going on. Here's the "web" site of the magnificent accordionist, Rob Reich. 11) A satisfying conversation with a cab driver. He said the thing that made him decide to drive a cab was a Bob Denver (pictured) movie called THE SWEET RIDE. It changed his life, he said. It's unavailable on video, he said. In the cab with me was an editor (not my editor, but a nice one indeed) from MacAdam/Cage, my publisher. This editor hails from Bakersfield. I tried to explain to her how awesome Buck Owens (also from Bakersfield) is. She wasn't buying it, entirely. She kept saying, "The Buckaroos? The BUCKAROOS?" as if naming his band the Buckaroos made him a bad person. The cab driver expressed some profane opinions about Bakersfield. Then he explained that THE SWEET RIDE was about men with "low" or no jobs who managed to effortlessly "get" beautiful women. 12) Never thought I'd hear my editor sing "Tiny Dancer" at a karaoke bar. But I did. 13) Make that two consecutive mornings confirming the accuracy of Rodgers & Hart. 14) At a great little bookstore called Dog Eared Books I picked up a first edition of Bob Hope's first stab at an autobiography, 1941's THEY GOT ME COVERED (not to be confused with the Hope film of the same name). It's a weird little book, paperback, very plainly put together... a blank back cover with no promotional copy or anything. Lots of pictures inside and an intro by Bing, but still weighing in at a skimpy 95 pages. Like my first edition of THE TOTAL FILMMAKER by Jerry Lewis, it set me back just six bucks. Naturally, I had to call McNeil and brag about my find. McNeil almost immediately found a first edition of THEY GOT ME COVERED on the "internet" for 99 cents. But with shipping and handling it'll be $4.98, so I don't feel too bad. And mine's in perfect condition, looks brand new. 15) In a coffee shop, still reading Megan Abbott. Here is the kind of sentence I love. It's like the sentence by Jesse James, Jr., but artful and purposeful, which is what makes it special: the art of no (apparent) artifice. It's my favorite kind of sentence in the world: "The music is so beautiful I think I'll never hear such beautiful music again." 16) Bad news: the erroneous "YA" designation (see above) goes up as my book's official description on the unnamed behemoth and arbiter of all received opinion. Good news: PW agrees to fix it by taking out the two offending letters "YA." The rest of the reviewer's obviously close reading remains untouched. 17) Jason Headley's wife, it turns out, resembles "blog" fave Paula Prentiss. 18) Trouble on the flight to L.A.: When the time comes for electronic devices to be turned off, one passenger refuses, loudly and angrily explaining that an iPod can never be turned off. "You have to wait an hour, then it goes to sleep," he says. Five or six passengers and crew gather to help him turn off his iPod. "It's not really off," he says. 19) Oh, I forgot to mention: I had an early flight to L.A. so I was up before dawn in San Francisco, looking for coffee. On the street, it was just me and the "Space Age Jesus" (as he introduced himself). He said, "Don't be afraid. I bring the light to the darkness." 20) Just a few blocks from my Los Angeles hotel, a theater was showing "blog" fave THE APARTMENT on the big screen. So I got to see that. I was reminded how early the big secret is revealed (to us, not to Jack Lemmon), and how the power of the story derives from that tactic. 21) Ran into an old acquaintance in LAX. I believe the odds are remarkable. In any case, it has never happened to me before. This very nice man, Mike by name, is a rock drummer of no small repute. I believe it is not too bold or personal for me to assert that he was once linked on the gossip pages with "Blog" Buddy Kelly Hogan. The last time I saw Mike was in 2005, in Chicago, during my first ever book tour, where we went to his apartment, ate enormous, locally grown pickled mushrooms from a big Mason jar, ordered authentic Chicago pizza, listened to music, and watched a FRASIER rerun with Kelly. Three years later, that is, yesterday, it turned out that we had both "performed" on the same weekend and in the same vicinity, missing one another entirely until our paths crossed at the airport. On parting, I received a hug! I did not anticipate it! It was unexpected yet not unwelcome. Mike is big and bearish and therefore prone to hugging.

Friday, August 01, 2008

All At Once While Drinking Scotch

Yesterday in Time Out New York, I jokingly said, "I deal in emotional realism!" But it turns out that maybe I do for real! Because in today's very nice review of my new novel AWESOME in the San Francisco Chronicle, the reviewer says, "There's an honesty of emotion here that's not forced into being." But my favorite sentence recommends that AWESOME be "sampled in small bursts (or downed all at once while drinking scotch)." What a coincidence, because that's how I wrote it. Ha ha! Wheee! Just kidding! I also dug the reference to "The Faerie Queene." As for my former - and vastly noble - plan not to quote from reviews on the "blog," I guess that horse has already left the barn. My excuse this time is that I'm reading in San Francisco next week and need to trick a lot of people into coming. (Pictured, a William Bell Scott painting of an incident from "The Faerie Queen.")