Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Work Is Done

One of my undergrads is writing her final paper about - in part - the Jerry Lewis film THE ERRAND BOY. This does not necessarily mean an automatic A.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shall We Say a Baby's Head?

It is none of my business how the Cheetos people wish to run their Cheetos corporation, but I suppose I should note for the sake of continuity that the disturbing trend in Cheetos commercials (noted here before) continues. I just watched one in which - thanks to special effects - a woman opens her mouth wide enough to accommodate, let us say, the head of a human baby. Then her mouth is measured with a caliper and a gigantic Cheeto is produced, a Cheeto too large for even her grotesquely extended orifice. To be fair, the commercial seems to argue in the end - if I understand its message correctly - for a slightly smaller Cheeto. I suppose this is a commercial for young people who are too smart to be tricked by a commercial. But the mood and tone suggest that Cheetos is aiming for a rather more antique demographic who appreciates the suicidally bored character actor George Sanders (pictured; their mascot mimics him) and the Mario Bava film DANGER: DIABOLIK (set and costume design leads me to this conclusion) as well as possibly HOSTEL PART II (which, granted, the kids are all crazy for, I know, but is that what you want them to think of when they think of Cheetos? I mean, will it make them hungry? Gosh, one hopes not). As I say, it is none of my business. I have to come to terms with the fact that the art of selling Cheetos has moved beyond my poor old mind's capacity. More to my taste is a commercial I saw last night for a product that claims to solve all the problems of the common wallet. First the commercial shows why you shouldn't carry a wallet, with a repeated image of a man sitting down and issuing forth a heartfelt groan of pain because he has a wallet in his pocket. He also grabs his back because his wallet has injured his spine. Then another man opens his wallet and everything in the wallet flies out like one of those trick snakes in a peanut can. This happens every time you open your wallet, the commercial explains. So then they reveal what their product is, and it turns out to be a money clip you can order over the phone. Now that's a commercial!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Your Quotations For Today

Here is your daily quotation from BIRDSONG BY THE SEASONS: A YEAR OF LISTENING TO BIRDS by Donald Kroodsma: "Once again I'm reminded of a fellow student in my ornithology class over 40 years ago. She had decided she was going to study frogs or lizards, I forget which, because everything was already known about birds. She scared me, as I thought that perhaps there was no future in birds." And now a quotation from today's New York Times: "their bodies cleave violently together, aflame with urgent need." Yes, that's from a respectable, sober theatre reviewer in the stately New York Times, and allow me to repeat: "their bodies cleave violently together, aflame with urgent need."

Not Like Everybody Says

I noticed over on how they "linked" to somebody asking John Ashbery what's important about poetry. Its "impracticality," he answered. And I was like, "Hey! Remember when I said the same thing about the 'blog'? I'm smart!"

Sans Groundhog

Well, it has been over two weeks since the last sighting of the groundhog in the neighbor's backyard. As you will recall, said groundhog was posing nobly in the rain. How potentially valedictory, but I can't let myself think that way. My sister was here over the weekend with her camera phone at the ready, but no groundhog. Don't count the groundhog out! I have done as much before and learned my lesson. Here is a cake in the shape of a groundhog.

Monday, April 27, 2009


That was John King, the ukulele virtuoso who passed away recently. I found out about him from the respectful obituary in today's New York Times. In other music news, Barry B. has a new favorite band: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. I looked them up on youtube and they scared me real bad. Finally, THE SAMMY DAVIS JR. READER is not all roses and sunshine. Some blistering critiques are included. Last night I read one by Gary Giddins, I writer I enjoy and admire, but who seems to have, in the representative article, an almost helpless loathing for Davis. (He manages to get in some extraneous shots at Bob Hope, too, just because he's feeling mean and saucy, I guess - "his prehistoric witticisms memorized and spun out like ticker tape" - and just for a second we'll forget journalistic accuracy; I mean, even as a toddler I realized that Bob Hope never MEMORIZED anything. In fact, I may have scientifically deduced the existence of cue cards from his delivery.) Giddins's piece - a review of a Davis TV show featuring jazz musicians - comes from 1975, a time at which criticizing Bob Hope and Sammy Davis Jr. was about as daring and interesting as rolling a tortoise over on its back. But the really fascinating thing is the nature of Giddins's main complaint, which is about the state of televised jazz: he is bitterly offended that the only jazz musicians he ever gets to see on network TV - live or in archival footage - are (among those he names) Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, John Faddis, Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Gerry Mulligan, Jim Giuffre, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, Cecil Taylor, Sonny Rollins, etc., etc., etc., etc. Hey, where's Freddie Hubbard? he wants to know. What's the matter TV execs, are you afraid of Freddie Hubbard? (I'm paraphrasing, slightly.) If they weren't afraid of Cecil Taylor, I have a hard time imagining they were afraid of Freddie Hubbard, but this is Giddins's sincere and not in the least ironic complaint as a network TV viewer of 1975. I wonder if he imagined a future in which there would be hundreds and hundreds more channels and no jazz musicians on TV at all.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bad "Blogger"

I have neglected to "blog" on several days over the past few weeks, and the lack of outcry has been striking. But I might owe you an explanation. Having acquired BIRDSONG BY THE SEASONS: A YEAR OF LISTENING TO BIRDS by Donald Kroodsma and THE SAMMY DAVIS JR. READER, edited by Gerald Early, I find that all other books - indeed all human activities and endeavors - suffer in comparison. No more "internet" or "meals" for me! The former volume comes with two CDs - 126 tracks! - and I wish the latter did as well. Just to show you there are no hard feelings I searched for a long time and found Sammy Davis Jr. taking a picture of himself and Jerry Lewis in a mirror.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Too Radical!

My parents are coming to town so I was making a little playlist of songs they might like to have on in the background during their visit and when I came to "Wooly Bully" I found myself thinking, "Oh no! This music is too radical! TOO RADICAL!" Then I had to take a deep breath and think about things.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Novelty Mug Encourages Useless Reflection

Hi! I am drinking coffee from an enormous Wonder Woman mug belonging to Theresa. I believe it is an art object, and not meant to be used as a cup in the real world - it's like a prop for a hobbit movie - yet that never stops me. It was made in China and the inside is painted, and isn't that where all the lead paint came from that time - China? Oh well. It is far too late to worry about that. Now for my point. Remember yesterday, when we were discussing what SHAZAM stands for? Inside the enormous Wonder Woman mug are inscribed these words: "BEAUTIFUL AS APHRODITE, WISE AS ATHENA, STRONG AS HERCULES, AND SWIFTER THAN MERCURY." Most of the letters in SHAZAM are represented, and they retain Hercules and Mercury from the acronym, adding something from the distaff side - and it seems to me they could have thought of a few other goddesses or heroines to paint on the inside of the Wonder Woman mug because there's really no need to associate the letters from SHAZAM with Wonder Woman, although I do recall that Captain Marvel had a sister named Mary Marvel (pictured) and when she said "SHAZAM" Aphrodite and Athena were probably invoked, in fact I'm going to look it up because my life has lost all meaning.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The What of Zeus

Tom Franklin writes in from Brazil, "depressed," he says, that the grad students are unaware of Captain Marvel. Cheer up, Tom, you're in Brazil! Not only does Tom know about Captain Marvel, he remembers what all the letters in the Captain's magic word "Shazam!" stand for, and which powers they denote. I give you the list as Tom gave it to me: "the strength of Hercules, the wisdom of Solomon, the speed of Mercury, the stamina of Atlas, the invincibility of Achilles, and the, um, what of Zeus? Thunderboltness?"

Shazam Indeed

It is my sad duty to report as an old man with nothing left to cling to that not a single one of my graduate students is familiar with Billy Batson (pictured earlier on the "blog" without an identifying caption, unthinkingly accepting a soda fountain treat from his disguised nemesis Dr. Sivana) OR his alter ego Captain Marvel. I explained that when young Billy Batson said the magic word ("Shazam," of which they had also not heard) the magic lightning struck and he was transformed into the World's Mightiest Mortal. "He turns into a MAN?" one of them blurted. In all her years of graduate school she had never heard something so preposterous.

Breaking News: Bird Changes Tune

Today the bird is whistling a descending triad with a slippery third, really a lot like the guitar lick at the beginning of "I Can't Be Satisfied" by Muddy Waters. It's driving me crazy but in a good way.

Oatmeal Tips

Welcome once again to "Oatmeal Tips." Today's oatmeal tip does not come from one of you loyal readers. It was vouchsafed to the "blog" by fate! Surely I am not wrong to see the Hand of Providence at work. I happened to change the channel to David Letterman last night just as famous actor Jeff Goldblum was delivering a celebrity oatmeal tip. He was explaining how hard it was to order oatmeal from room service in Germany. His tip? I'll paraphrase: if you are planning a trip to Germany and you love oatmeal as much as Jeff Goldblum does, learn to say oatmeal in German or cross-cultural hilarity will ensue. Want to be like a famous movie actor? Simply send your oatmeal tip to "Oatmeal Tips" c/o "Writer" Oxford, MS 38655.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Enjoyable Bird

There's a bird I like to listen to every day. It employs three clear, high-pitched whistles in descending tones, very close to the first notes of "Three Blind Mice," followed by a rhythmic reiteration of the final note, with some impish sliding effects. I have now briefly glanced at two "web" sites about birds and become a bird expert. So I believe my tuneful friend is a sparrow of some kind. If I am understanding correctly (and perhaps the Dear Bird Correspondent will do me the favor of setting me straight) each individual sparrow has its own personal and varied repertoire, which may account for what I could swear is the same bird occasionally going up the scale in a minor key (actually it starts with an interval of a minor third in those cases). So on a site called "Nature Bits" I heard this sparrow that someone recorded in Alaska. Pretty close, I guess, but the sparrow in our yard is a lot more talented in the melody department, and with a purer, slightly higher tone. Here is the other place I found on the "web" where you can listen to birdsong if that's your idea of a good time, which it should be. (Pictured, a golden-crowned sparrow, the kind that was singing in Alaska. Look at his golden crown! If I saw him in person I'd be like, "You've got a little golden crown, don't you? Yes you do! Yes you do!")

Friday, April 17, 2009

100 Cashmere Sweaters

So far I've read about the time Jerry bought 100 cashmere sweaters and a hearing aid for his dog.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Right About Airlocks

Hey, remember that Battlestar Galactica character who was unhappy in an airlock? We just saw another episode in which - SPOILER ALERT! - something even worse happens to her in an airlock. I was right about airlocks! And I don't care who knows it. (Pictured, Sad Airlock Lady in happier times.)

Oatmeal Tips

As you know, "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot (pictured) has been visiting San Francisco, where she has gathered lots of oatmeal tips for our popular regular feature "Oatmeal Tips." "Bloggy" claims - and I believe her - that the McSweeney's tutoring center 826 Valencia is a veritable hotbed of oatmeal tips. I turn it over to "Bloggy" now. She writes, "When I was there visiting the other day, the topic of oatmeal came up and I pounced for details! Jory John, Programs Director, starts every single busy day at the tutoring center with some instant oatmeal. His tip is this: a plastic knife works as a perfectly acceptable substitute for your missing plastic spoon. Ryan Lewis, National Ops Mgr, also insists on daily oatmeal. And finally, 826 Valencia intern Maddie Oatman (her real name, I swear), blogs about oatmeal on her food blog. Wow!" Wow, indeed, "Bloggy." Wow, indeed. Be like "Bloggy"! Send your oatmeal tip to "Oatmeal Tips" c/o "Writer" Oxford, MS 38655.

A Good Student

One of my grad students (the same one who told me about the Charles Portis interview) photocopied a profile of Jerry Lewis for me. Peter Bogdanovich wrote it. Said the student, "You might not want to read it right away. It's twenty-seven pages." Said it apologetically! With apparent rue! As if in warning! When of course the only thing that made me sad was that he didn't say 270 pages, or 2,700. I expect this article to contain some of Jerry's patented pronouncements, the kind I love. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fun Time Tax Day Party Gag

Imagine in this "post" that I have made an amusing quip about taxes. Laugh! Sit at your desk in your cubicle and laugh! Now forward it to all your friends. Thank you for participating.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Breaking News: Rain Doesn't Bother Groundhog

The groundhog came out in the middle of a big rainstorm yesterday. Groundhog didn't seem to mind it. Maybe the groundhog liked it. Hard to tell with a groundhog. There is a dramatic aspect to a groundhog in the rain.

Charlotte With An S

Welcome once again to "Charlotte With An S," our regular feature with a name I'm too tired to explain. It's all about our friend McNeil and the adventures he has in his hometown. Here is McNeil's report for today, in his own words: "Today outside a local market, one which hands out free balloons to small children, a little boy in a stroller ahead of me lost his balloon. As it floated skyward I leapt in an attempt to save the balloon, but I could not close my fingers fast enough and the ribbon slipped through my fingers. A split second later, a younger, taller man crashed into me, jumped into the sky, and grabbed the tail end of the ribbon, saving the balloon - much to the glee of the child and the child's attractive mother. I went home and rubbed Ben Gay on my shoulder."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Groundhog Drama

Remember when I told you how I found one of the burrows of the groundhog? Well, today we saw a neighborhood cat duck into the hole! The very same hole near which we had observed the groundhog loafing earlier in the day! Recalling the numerous claws depicted on our Groundhog Chart, we dreaded the bloodshed that was certain to occur. We successfully tempted the cat out of the burrow by placing some cat food near the entrance. Yet we were also unsuccessful: upon the completion of its snack, the cat returned to the hole, where it vanished. There have been no further developments. This brings to mind something I have often thought but never said aloud: there really is no "good" or "happy" ending possible for the ongoing groundhog saga. I mean, is there?

"Bloggy's" Vacation

"Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot is visiting San Francisco, where she "snapped" this photo of a Dean and Jerry poster. When visiting San Francisco, be sure to drop by the poster shop - and tell 'em "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot sent you!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Charlotte With An S

As promised, here is our new regular feature wherein McNeil attempts to prove he can have as many adventures in Charlotte, NC, as Tom Franklin is having in Brasil (where they spell it with an S). For instance, this morning McNeil was required to pour and eat his bowl of breakfast cereal in the secrecy of the laundry room to ensure that his four-year-old twins would not be jealous. Intrigue! Suspense! That story has everything. (Pictured, the new buds on McNeil's apple tree.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sonnets From the Portuguese

Tom Franklin has seen Jerry Lewis dubbed into Portuguese on his Brasilian television set! More on this breaking story as it develops. We are assembling a team of forensic experts, and as soon as Tom lets us know what was happening on the screen, we feel we will be able to inform you exactly which Jerry Lewis film was showing in Brasil. I call this "post" "Sonnets From the Portuguese" because it is National Poetry Month and Jerry is like a poem to me.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

An Unhappy Character

Watching a little Battlestar Galactica... an episode that reemphasized what it - and other futuristic entertainment - has already taught me. I pass this advice on to you, children. If you are ever on a spaceship STAY OUT OF THE AIRLOCK! Something bad is bound to happen if you go in the airlock, I'm just saying. It is the most valuable thing I have learned from science fiction since how to put out a fire in zero gravity. (Pictured, from the very episode, an unhappy character in an airlock.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Exciting Times

McNeil feels left out, I think. He wants me to start a regular feature called "Charlotte with an S" and claims to have para-glided off the roof of a minivan. Speaking of excitement, we saw the groundhog today. "All he does is eat," I said. "He also listens," Theresa pointed out. It's true. Occasionally he stops eating and listens to something for a second. Groundhog, your moods are many!

Brazil With An S

Tom Franklin has done two exciting things since last we left him in Brasil: read and immensely enjoyed UP IN HONEY'S ROOM by Elmore Leonard AND para-glided off the top of a mountain and landed on a beach. Wait, is that four things? As for the latter, not since he took off his shirt to send e-mail has there been such excitement for Tom in Brasil. He was, in his words, "ushered up the slick wet mountain roads by suicidal motorcyclists who veered in and out and around trash heaps and potholes and each other; saw that giant spread-armed Christ [pictured - ed.] and drank copiously in his shadow... Riding up to the mountain we leapt from, I was in the back of a TR-7 (remember those little cars?) [no - ed.] with no seatbelt, riding on the trunk, looking up at the jungle and was happy indeed. There were monkeys everywhere and a cool wet feeling." Monkeys everywhere and a cool wet feeling! This is our favorite phrase about monkeys since Laura Lippman referred to a man turning to a monkey for support and "the monkey being cold to his pain."

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Everybody Starts Rocking

I was just listening to a T. Rex song. I like it when he yells "Rock!" and everybody starts rocking.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Sometimes He Picks Up Something With His Forepaw

The groundhog made his appearance in the neighbor's backyard today. He is rotund and confident! That was my impression. You know what he was doing? Eating. That's what he does. He eats. And I found myself - though I admire the cut of his jib! It is admirable, his jib, the cut of it - thinking, I wish he would do something else. Like what? I don't know. What is this, groundhog backlash? I should remind myself of how anxious I felt when he vanished for days. Yes, all he does is eat. So what? Sometimes he picks up something and holds it in his forepaw and sort of mulls it over before he eats it. That's what we call excitement in the world of groundhog observation. He didn't do that today. But don't worry, groundhog! I'm not going to start taking you for granted.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Pit

I think I swallowed part of an olive pit the other night. I forgot to tell you.

Tardy Thumb Acknowledgment

Cut my thumb last night. Can't believe it took me so long to "blog" about it. My apologies.

Milwaukee Groundhog Alert

This just in from "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot (pictured): "OMG JACK I SAW A GROUNDHOG IN MILWAUKEE YESTERDAY IT WAS SO EXCITING I ALMOST CRASHED MY CAR!!" (Caps and exclamation points are "Bloggy's.")

Everybody Stop Saying This Now

As you know, I always give you a "heads up" whenever Jerry Lewis is mentioned in the New York Times. Today is such a day. It's an op-ed piece with an aside about the French: they "think Jerry Lewis is funny." I am not sure why this is a clever remark or why people make it over and over and over again. It reminds me of that part in THE PRODUCERS when the guy says, "Pardon the pun," and Gene Wilder says, "What pun?" and Zero Mostel says, "Shut up, he thinks he's witty."

Saturday, April 04, 2009

By the Twilight's Last Gleaming

O say can you see? I'll say I can! A groundhog, that is. The groundhog was out tonight right before it got dark. Like a trick! Like, "I bet you thought I wasn't coming out today." Good one, groundhog. I almost called this "post" "By the Groundhog's Last Gleaming" or "By the Twilight's Last Groundhog," but both seemed too ominous for the groundhog.

Arts, Briefly

Welcome once again to Arts, Briefly, our occasional and brief look at the world of the arts. McNeil writes, "Check out this guy's page on IMDB...he hates everything but, apparently, the Best of Charlie's Angels." Thanks, McNeil. On to Art Clokey. Hey, if we had another guy named Art in today's batch it would give a whole new meaning to "Arts, Briefly." But we do not and it does not. Anyhow, I just watched a fascinating documentary about Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby. It's called GUMBY DHARMA. It is not all happy, but it will BLOW YOUR MIND, guaranteed. In it, Clokey says that CGI animation is an attempt to imitate real life, whereas stop-motion animation IS real life. It made me think of something Donald Barthelme said about how a piece of fiction should be "an object in the world rather than a commentary upon the world." Finally, when I was looking for images of Droopy Dog, I came across this (below). (Note to the uninitiated: this is not Droopy. It is his nemesis Spike, as realized by master animator Tex Avery and artfully looped by someone on youtube.) This is incredibly similar to something Barry B. used to do on our kids' show (on which, in fact, we showed Droopy cartoons) and it drove people insane. Enjoy!


1) To that "post" about my jowls, I should have appended a picture of the cartoon character Droopy Dog as my proxy. 2) The "post" about Jerry Lewis's granddaughter should have included a picture of an embarrassed monkey to reflect the inner shame of the anonymous soul who does not wish for me to mention that he or she watches the televised program "Millionaire Matchmaker." 3) For the most recent groundhog "post," the word "ascendant" would have been preferable to "triumphant." For one thing, it nicely implies the action of the groundhog rising from beneath the ground. 4) Re: the latter "post," I should have pointed out how happy it makes me that the Groundhog Festival mascot's name seems to be Groundhog Festival Mascot.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Breaking News: I Have Jowls

Finally shaved. Turns out I have jowls!

I Won't

This just in from a trusted source: "Jerry Lewis's granddaughter was on Millionaire Matchmaker last night. You wouldn't have wanted to see it. Don't tell anybody I watch that!"

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Groundhog Triumphant

My heart was so empty and desiccated I was going to make you "click" on this. But I was stopped at literally the last second. And now I am bursting with joy because the groundhog has returned! Groundhog, I know the last time we spoke I told you I wasn't going to give up on you. But I gave up on you. You showed me, groundhog! You came back to feast on the greenery in the neighbor's yard as of yore. Maybe I was missing you. Maybe that's why the "blog" began to show signs of strain. Welcome back, noble groundhog!

The View From the End of the Tube

Yesterday, as I "posted" (and removed) a video of a stranger's vacation photos set to the strains of a popular old "easy listening" staple, I realized that I had run out of youtube. Oh boy! I hope I get real sensitive and start questioning the purpose of "blogging" again.