Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hilarious Witticisms

Our annual Halloween film festival concluded in its second half with Vincent Price in THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961), THE HAUNTING (1963; adaptation of "blog" "fave" novel THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE), and SWAMP THING (1982). The scariest thing about SWAMP THING was the enormity of Louis Jordan's glasses (pictured). Louis Jordan is not to be confused with the great Louis Jordan, pioneer of R&B, but I think the movie would have been fantastic with that Louis Jordan in it, even though the Louis Jordan who IS in it seemed to be turning into what Theresa called "a giant baked potato" after drinking a magic potion at one point, which was fine. There was this kid who helped Adrienne Barbeau navigate around the swamp, and though he was a little kid, his glasses were as big as Louis Jordan's, so that was exciting. Sometimes it was hard for me to understand what the Swamp Thing was doing. Like, I'd say, "Did the Swamp Thing just tear that guy's head off?" and Theresa would explain, "No, I think he squeezed his brains out." I guess it was mildly interesting that THE HAUNTING featured Russ Tamblyn and SWAMP THING featured Ray Wise, and they were both later in the cast of TWIN PEAKS, or maybe that was not interesting, what do you think? For me, the crowning glory of this year's festival was THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. It has almost nothing to do with Poe's story, but a lot to do with Poe's fascinated terror of being buried alive. Vincent Price as Don Medina is afraid that his wife Mrs. Medina may have been interred prematurely, giving rise to many witticisms on my part revolving around the song "Funky Cold Medina." Oh what joyous laughter rang through our little home on such occasions! But mostly we were scared, because THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM is scary! And all my humorous witticisms came to an end and I just shut up and watched the movie, flinching frequently. Speaking of Poe, you know how I am skimming a book flap every day for a year? Today I skimmed the flap of POE: A LIFE CUT SHORT by Peter Ackroyd. The book looks good, but the flap is anemic. So why does the book look good? I'm not sure, because that's the job the flap should be doing. It said we were going to learn about Poe's "bumpy academic career" and I was like, "Ooh! Scary!" That's what I was like.

The Search for Stanley Myron Handelman

Phil confirms that - as we guessed - he knows who Professor Irwin Corey was. In fact, Phil will SEE your Professor Irwin Corey and RAISE YOU a Stanley Myron Handelman. He writes: "I was searching Prof Irwin Corey no more than two weeks ago! I wanted to make sure he was doing well after I found out that Stanley Myron Handelman had died (uh, two years ago; reference below). There's no connection between the two, other than in my faulty neural wiring." Phil then provides a "link." If it makes you feel any better, I have no recollection of Stanley Myron Handelman, so I guess I'm not such a big shot after all. I like that he had three names! You never see that anymore. Just Oliver Wendell Holmes and Stanley Myron Handelman. Those were the only two. PS: Hey, Phil, look what I found. It's a "web" site by Robert Goulet's son-in-law, on which he says that he's sorry he and Stanley Myron Handelman didn't stay in touch. There are lots of behind-the-scenes candid show biz shots on the "web" site of Robert Goulet's son-in-law. Here (above) is a picture of Robert Goulet's son-in-law with the actress Gloria DeHaven, for example. It has nothing to do with Stanley Myron Handelman, but what does? Hey, remember when I was only going to use random illustrations from the "blog's" past in order to save room on my computer? Lately I seem to be kissing my noble intentions goodbye. PPS: When Jerry Lewis first came to Hollywood, he had a wild fling with Ms. DeHaven. Here's Jerry as quoted in the Levy book: "I never had fifty bucks in my pocket at one time; now I'm walking around with thirty-five hundred in hundred dollar bills, and I got a starlet on my arm. It's fantasyland." So somehow I brought it back to Jerry.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flap a Day

I almost forgot to skim a book flap today because I was having such a good time not skimming book flaps. But here we are. Today's flap comes from JAPANESE GOTHIC TALES by Izumi Kyoka, whose "decadent romanticism," according to the flap, "led him to envision an idiosyncratic world - a fictive purgatory - precious and bizarre though always genuine." And I was like, "All right!"

Frankie Avalon Gets Stabbed In a Place

I know you always care what movies Theresa and I watch for Halloween! This year we have been busy, so just three so far: THE RETURN OF DRACULA (1958), NIGHT MONSTER (1942), and THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR (1969). The latter takes place at a party at a "flat" decorated by the same people who did THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP. Everyone is wearing a turquoise velvet jacket and a canary yellow shirt with ruffles or some variation thereof, just like in DRACULA A.D. 1972. (I am starting to think we need some non-random pictures to illustrate this "post.") Well, nothing happens for about 40 minutes (they just put on some records and dance in a bored way at their mod pad) and then - SPOILER ALERT! - people start getting stabbed. I guess I have already ruined it for you in the title of this "post," which is something I try hard not to do, but I suppose I thought the title was just so cute I couldn't help it. Because, you know, at first you think Frankie Avalon is going to get out of the haunted house relatively okay (oh, after the party they go to a haunted house) but then he gets stabbed in an awful place you would never believe, a place in which you never thought you'd see Frankie Avalon get stabbed, and I can't bring myself to tell. I must say (more spoiler alerts) it's nice that no ladies get stabbed. All gentlemen for a change. I also found out that stabbing makes me nervous even in a bad movie. Stabbing is not funny, people! Plus the colors were nice, and some ambitious shots were undertaken, so maybe I detected a little Bava influence. I'll let you know if we end up watching any other scary movies for Halloween because I know how much you care. I love you! Goodbye!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Tainted Motives

"Their purpose was to observe, on its native heath, that biological phenomenon, electrophorus electricus, the electric eel, and to determine if possible the 'why' of its peculiar power." So proclaims the flap of ELECTRIC EEL CALLING by Shelby Shackelford, with illustrations by the author, which cost $3.00 in hardcover when it came out (in 1941), also according to the flap. As you know, I skim a book flap every day with tainted motives.

All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up

Welcome once again to "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up," where we report all the latest in sparkling entertainment news from the sparkling world of entertainment. Mr. Ward read in the New York Post that Professor Irwin Corey "had to be removed from the podium [at the memorial service for Soupy Sales] after his eulogy turned into a diatribe about health-care reform." To which Mr. Ward responded, and I quote, "Professor Irwin Corey? PROFESSOR IRWIN COREY?!!?!! How can he possibly still be alive?! He was a thousand years old back when he was famous... well, maybe 'famous' isn’t the correct word. But seriously, he’s complaining about our health care system!? If that guy’s still breathing and moving I think our health care system must be working pretty d*** well." Mr. Ward emailed me about this matter because, as he noted, we are the last two people alive who remember Professor Irwin Corey. Well, maybe Phil. Still, perhaps Mr. Ward (and the New York Post) are being a little hard on Professor Irwin Corey, who was in CAR WASH, a movie I love, and certainly has a right to his opinions - and his long, healthy life! I will include a non-random picture of Professor Irwin Corey so you can be doubly sure you have never heard of or seen Professor Irwin Corey, as if I had to ask. That's it for "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up!" Until next time, keep "reaching" for the "stars!"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Do As the Flap Asks

As you know, I am skimming a different book flap every day for a year to prove what a great guy I am and get enough material for a book called something like THE YEAR I DID SOMETHING FOR A YEAR. Today's flap comes from HAWTHORNE'S LOST NOTEBOOK 1835-1841. The flap asks you not to confuse this book with the "bowdlerized excerpts" published by his widow Sophia in the late 1860s. Restored are passages "revealing Hawthorne's unshocked observations of the shapes of girls' legs and of such improprieties as public drunkenness," brags the flap.

Projects of Jason

Speaking of Jason Polan, who sent me a drawing of an accordion yesterday, I don't know why I have never put his "blog" over there in my list of "blogs." I'm going to fix that right now. In addition to Jason's regular "blog," he has one in which he is drawing every person in New York City. Good luck, Jason! (Hey, look. Verdell herself popped up as the subject of today's random picture.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Flap a Day

As you know, I skim a different book flap every day for profound reasons that I no longer recall. Today's book flap is from the Oxford University Press series of Mark Twain first edition facsimiles. The volume in question: Twain's treatise CHRISTIAN SCIENCE. According to the flap, the book begins with "Twain's description of a man who falls off a cliff and finds his bones projecting from him like the arms of a hat rack." Awesome!

Nice Drawing of an Accordion

Jason Polan found out that I play the accordion, so he sent me this fine picture he drew of an accordion. Jason has two accordions from flea markets but doesn't know how to play them. Obviously, this is not the kind of "random picture" we usually use. This is the very accordion of which I was just speaking, the accordion that Jason Polan drew! Enjoy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Flap a Day

Who "collected and published reliable accounts" of "colored rains, living things falling to earth, unknown objects in space and in the oceans, people who have mysteriously appeared and disappeared"? Charles Fort, that's who, as you can learn from the flap of the biography CHARLES FORT: PROPHET OF THE UNEXPLAINED by Damon Knight, today's entry in my admirable and ambitious plan to skim a different book flap every day for a year.

Just For Fun!

Every day, just for kicks, I like to check to see whether the behemoth is still selling a completely unauthorized electronic version of my new novel - which does not yet exist in its proper form as an actual book - and whether they are still advertising it incorrectly as some kind of military-based erotica. The answers for today: Yes! and Yes!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Posits the Flap

Inspired by the "internet" woman who is reading a book every single day, I continue against all odds to skim a book flap every single day. Today's flap is from Theresa's edition of the poems of Catullus, translated by Peter Green. Some of the poems, posits the flap, were secretly dedicated to "a femme fatale ten years his senior and the smart adulterous wife of an arrogant aristocrat, who Cicero later claimed she poisoned." Oh, brother! This poetry racket is hot stuff!

Be Still

Don't be afraid! Just because I am dedicating my life to skimming a book flap every day and making sure people stop making witty cracks about the French loving Jerry Lewis, and just because the behemoth is wrecking my mind, I will never forget that we are still finding every person on the "internet" covering every Beach Boys song ever recorded. Now, as the catalog becomes more and more complete, perhaps a few of my strict rules will be broken: for example, this young man (#35 in our series) introduces the song before playing it, whereas I much prefer straight performances with no distracting chitchat. But he keeps it brief, and besides, we are running out of Beach Boys songs and people on the "internet."

Also Some Bob

I should also mention that there are a couple of Bob Hope references in today's New York Times, including a letter to the editor about THE ROAD TO HONG KONG (!), which the letter writer (Jonathan D. Reichman) argues "foreshadows the United States’ future confrontation with its industrial rivals."

Twice the Jerry

You know how I have banned everyone in the world from stating the pseudo-fact and supposedly witty, barbed quip that people in France love Jerry Lewis? Today the New York Times ignores my advice again, this time on the opinions page. I won't bother to "link" to it. I will "link" to Manohla Dargis's Jerry reference. She's always good for one! Here it is. So that makes two Jerry references in today's New York Times, though one of them is the kind I don't like - an inert cliché. Plus it always seems to suggest a snickering, hidden insult to both France AND Jerry Lewis, but only succeeds in making me love both of them more.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Your Behemoth Update

In case you are wondering whether as of today the behemoth continues to violate my copyright and confuse my novel with military erotica, yes on both counts!

The 13th Flap

I have been skimming book flaps for almost two weeks now and I can safely say that skimming a book flap every day is the most difficult and important job that anyone has ever had, as I will make clear when I finish my book about how I did something every day for a year, in this case skimming book flaps. This part of the book will be very moving, because it will tell all about the emotional damage I have inflicted on myself and others by choosing to skim a book flap every day for a year, and the complete breakdown I suffer upon my rueful discovery that most flaps aren't worth talking about. But don't worry, there is sure to be humor aplenty as I chronicle one man's obsession with skimming a different book flap every day for a year and all the zaniness involved when an innocent habit gets out of control. We do have an exceptionally fine flap for today. It comes from THE WEREWOLF by Montague Summers, and the first paragraph of said flap is worth quoting in full: "Firmly convinced of the literal and enduring reality of the werewolf, the late Reverend Montague Summers, disarmingly learned and literate author of classic studies of witchcraft and vampires, here again has a wonderfully contagious good time recounting, in English so arcane as to seem freshly minted, so Churchillean as to make Churchill seem dull as Eisenhower, the fantastic European history of 'that most terrible and depraved of all the bond slaves of Satan.'"

Friday, October 23, 2009

Flap a Day

We're really throwing out the random picture rule today, aren't we? Yet who else but "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot can properly celebrate today's flap of choice in my fascinating year-long project of skimming book flaps for some reason? According to the flap of 44 IRISH SHORT STORIES, edited by Devin A. Garrity (of course! Whoever he is!), "The Irish have always had a way with words." Well put!

Frasier, Briefly

Much as we have chosen to do for the late Soupy Sales, we include a new (to the "blog") photo with this edition of our popular regular feature "Frasier, Briefly," despite the "blog's" recent ban on wasteful new illustrations and the fact that Frasier is still very much with us. (Hey, look! It's Frasier hanging out with my best friend Elvis Costello! I wonder if they talked about me!) For you see, this is a special occasion: Kelly Hogan is pleased to announce that she has finally watched each and every episode of FRASIER. "I'm done with Frasier," as she tersely puts it. But I don't believe that for a minute! No one is ever done with Frasier. Hogan reports that she thought of our long conversations about Frasier's frequent shirtlessness as she viewed a show from the final season. "He's EXTRA naked in that one!" she said, referring to an episode in which Frasier is forced to wear a diaper for hilarious reasons.


Just thought I'd check to see if the behemoth is still selling the unauthorized (and, I hear, sloppily formatted) kindle version of my new novel. Answer: yes! Also checked to see if it is still consistently mischaracterized in the customer reviews section as military erotica (I am not joking). Once again: yes! So there's that. I feel bad for the people who are trying to order some military erotica and end up with my boring book instead. (Please note: I am not linking Queen Elizabeth with military erotica: the "blog," for conservation reasons, has been trying to recycle random images.)

Last of the Pie Throwers

Phil was the one who broke the news to me: Soupy Sales has passed away. His New York Times obituary tells about the time he hit Jerry Lewis in the face with a pie. It also includes pie-throwing advice from Mr. Sales: "You can use whipped cream, egg whites or shaving cream, but shaving cream is much better because it doesn’t spoil. And no tin plates. The secret is you just can’t push it and shove it in somebody’s face. It has to be done with a pie that has a lot of crust so that it breaks up into a thousand pieces when it hits you." In honor of Mr. Sales (pictured), a non-random illustration for this "post."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Flap a Day

Boasts the flap of my OF PLYMOUTH PLANTATION by William Bradford: "for the first time the difficult abbreviations and contractions used by Bradford have been filled out." And I was like, "Stop right there! I'm sold!" Because you know how I love my filled-out abbreviations. I can't get enough! This has been another step in my remarkable journey of periodically skimming book flaps.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Flap a Day

I continue unwavering in my famous quest to skim a book flap every day. Today's flap is from KA by Roberto Calasso. It puts forth some interesting questions, this flap does: "Who is Ka? And who is the immense eagle asking the question, filling the sky, elephant and giant turtle dwarfed in his claws? ... Who are the tiny folk he eats? ... How is man reduced to an eye in an ant's nest?" Well, book flap, these are all just terrific questions and I'm going to get back to you on them.

Free Matches!

Today's New York Times has a big story about how bars are giving away matches... for free! You heard me right. Free matches!

Shut Up, Kindle

Have you heard about this thing called the kindle? All the kids are saying it is the hip new thing and you can read books on it and everything. Supposedly my interminably delayed new novel SHUT UP, UGLY has been put out in kindle form, if no other form, but no one will tell me. Probably for my own good! They are probably sitting around a big table saying, "It's for his own good! What he doesn't know won't hurt him! Let's light some cigars with these hundred dollar bills!" But it's odd because I don't remember anyone asking me if I wanted my book to go on the kindle. To make things extra confusing, they have goofed up again, like the time they said my prior novel was about how Emperor Justinian "failed to establish good relations with the kings of the western Mediterranean," which it was not, but gosh did that look exciting in the description section. The kindle version of SHUT UP, UGLY is receiving customer reviews like, "This earnest book has everything from suspense, drama, action and even some comedy that will have your cheeks hurting from laughing," and "This debut by Mike Warren has all the elements that make for a steamy novel. Sex, sex and more sex, also lie's, deceit, cheating along with some mayhem," and "I didn't realize there would be SO much sex in it. Seems like 40% of the book," and "I was disappointed in the infidelity, adultery, cursing, foul language, fighting, cruelty, lying and general lack of any morals. And then he'd pray. ? ? ?" (that one was a five-star review!) and "It wouldn't surprise me if Mike Warren gained a few enemies after writing the intense military drama, A Private Affair. I mean, what would you expect after writing a novel exploiting the undercover homosexual love affairs of men in the United States Armed Forces?" And that all sounds fine except not a word of it has anything to do with my book (every trace of which has been weirdly removed from my "author's page" at the place where kindles are sold, though it supposedly - by their own account! - exists at least in kindle form). I am filled with confidence that things are being handled, though by whom and to what end I cannot say.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Flap a Day

Inspired by a woman I read about in a newspaper (she is reading a book every day for a year), I continue to skim a book flap every day for a year, at the end of which time I will have collected enough material for my runaway nonfiction bestseller UNFLAPPABLE: ONE MAN'S INCREDIBLE YEAR HE SPENT DOING SOMETHING EVERY DAY FOR A YEAR, IN THIS CASE SKIMMING BOOK FLAPS. But enough about me. Let's get to the real heroes: the book flaps. Today's flap comes from the 1995 edition of THE OXFORD COMPANION TO PHILOSOPHY. "Interspersed throughout," the flap promises, "are short explanations of particular philosophical terms (qualia, supervenience, iff), puzzles (the Achilles paradox, the prisoner's dilemma), and curiosities (the philosopher's stone, slime)." As has been noted here, a book flap will often tempt you to open the book to which it is connected. Try to avoid this at all costs! Today, for example, I was tempted to look up the philosophical connotations of slime, which have to do, it turns out, with Sartre's views on the subject. "The disgustingness of slime," paraphrases THE OXFORD COMPANION TO PHILOSOPHY, "seems to have an objective quality, neither physical nor psychic but transcending both." Okay!

Famous Omelet

Someone told me that I get a mention in the current issue of GQ. To be more precise, John Currence created an omelet named after a novel I wrote, and the omelet receives a mention in GQ, and I am noted incidentally for my vague association with the omelet. Naturally, I wanted to check out this story for myself! So I picked up the issue after Josh Gaylord's reading yesterday (and the story is true: the omelet and I appear on p. 78), and was standing in line to purchase it when the girl who eats dry oatmeal hurtled toward me, giddily chortling, and took what she supposed to be a monumental photograph of me because, as she conjectured, it was hilarious and remarkable to see me "with a magazine like that," as she called it, by which she meant a magazine on the cover of which January Jones has neglected to button her shirt. Well, I became so embarrassed that I put the magazine back on the shelf, and the picture, through some fortunate miscalculation on the part of the girl who eats dry oatmeal, disappeared to wherever digital things disappear, and the picture doesn't exist, and there remains no photographic record of this troubling event.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Double Purpose Flap

As you know because I tell you every day, sometimes more than once, as a person of learning and culture I feel it behooves me to skim a different book flap every day. Today's flap will fulfill that obligation and perhaps it will intrigue you and compel you to go see Joshua Gaylord read from his new novel HUMMINGBIRDS at Square Books today at 5. For you see, today I am skimming the book flap to HUMMINGBIRDS by Joshua Gaylord. Ten words for you, kids: "popular and coquettish Dixie Doyle, with her ironic pigtails, battles" - a tantalizing fragment! I hope it makes you curious. Come find out what it's all about today at 5. And be sure to tell Mr. Gaylord that "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot sent you! (Pictured, "Bloggy." For "Bloggy"-approved items we forgo the "random picture" rule.)

This Is Not a Flap

Attention, people who do my bidding! Today is the day for you to go see the brilliant and affable Joshua Gaylord read from his brand new novel HUMMINGBIRDS at Square Books. Five PM Central Time. Got it? Mr. Gaylord arrived in town yesterday evening, bearing a gift from New York City - specifically, from Megan Abbott, and more specifically, if I am to believe the bookmark, something Megan Abbott picked up for me at the American Association of University Women Dearborn Branch 59th Annual Used Book Sale. So although Ms. Abbott lives in NY, I suppose Mr. Gaylord came bearing a gift from Michigan. It is a paperback from 1955, costing 35 cents when first published in "a genuine Cardinal edition": HAVE TUX, WILL TRAVEL, BOB HOPE'S OWN STORY by Bob Hope. On the front there is a humorously smirking Mr. Hope, captioned thusly: AT LAST! THE FACTS ON HOW A REGULAR, ORDINARY BABY GREW UP TO LOOK LIKE THIS! And on the back (now, this cannot count as my book flap for the day, because paperbacks do not have flaps) in bright blue font: "What is this man's cobra-like fascination that drives readers mad?" One might also ask what kind of University Woman of Dearborn could bear to part with suchlike treasure? Whoever she is, God bless her and keep her!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Flap a Day

As you know and admire me for, I am dedicated to skimming a book flap every day for a year, no matter what hardships stand in my way. Today's flap is from the Everyman's Library edition of three Beckett novels in one volume. From the flap we learn that the third novel is narrated by - SPOILER ALERT! - "what might or might not be an armless and legless creature living in an urn outside an eating house."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Reader's Digest Was Right About Unicorns

However, by using the index ("unicorn body parts") in the Lavers, I was able to confirm the curative powers of unicorn liver in the fight against leprosy, as first postulated here by READER'S DIGEST. The recipe comes from Hildegard of Bingen, who also says, "If you make a girdle from the hide of a unicorn and gird yourself with it, no plague however severe and no fever will harm you." It's called preventative medicine, McNeil! Get with the program.

On Vital Subject, Unicorn Experts Have Nothing to Say

I own two books by unicorn experts but can find nothing on winged unicorns in either.

The Bird

The bird is back, the one who sings the beginning of a Muddy Waters song. Today she got stuck on the first note and repeated it a lot, but it's her all right, her or one of her cousins.

From a Bright Purple Jacket

I continue to skim a book flap every day as part of my impressive plan to skim a book flap every day. Today's flap is from the bright purple jacket of a 1970s edition of the first volume of Edward Gibbon's DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE. Proclaims said flap: "eventually Gibbon 'hit the middle tone between a dull chronicle and rhetorical declamation.'" Wow! I can't wait to start reading. Now here is a book flap that does not stoop to drawing in the reader, a complicated and heroic flap tormented by self-doubt!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Curse of the Titillating Gimmick

One trouble with skimming book flaps (as I am doing every day for a whole year as a titillating gimmick) is that occasionally you will be tempted to read part of a book. This is a real danger! And it can cut into time better spent gathering book flaps to skim. But I must say that my most recent book flap certainly got me curious about what Jackie Gleason might have to say about Plato. So I violated every principle I hold dear and opened a book. All I had to do was look in the index of TV GUIDE: THE FIRST 25 YEARS under "Plato," and guess what? There was only one entry. Page 108. Says Gleason of Plato, "He completely forgot human desires in building his system. It was the stupidest thing he could do." Gleason also calls Plato "one of the stupidest men in the world." I didn't see that coming! Thanks for nothing, books.

A Whole Big Thing

Please, I invite you to regard this fanciful picture of an itsy bitsy teeny weeny darling little unicorn with wings. The original "post" on which it can be enjoyed in its proper context was sent to me by a facebook friend, and in the comments section you can find a whole big thing again (see the frantic cries transcribed in "Please Don't Say Pegacorn") about how to refer to an animal that exhibits qualities of both Pegasus and unicorn. On a side note, one person says that the plural of Pegasus is Πήγασοι (Pégasoi), which I believe because it looks smart.

Flap a Day

The flap for TV GUIDE: THE FIRST 25 YEARS promises an interview with Jackie Gleason in which he discusses "sin, music, Plato" and "pity"! When I first decided to skim a book flap every day, I had no idea what a huge responsibility I was taking on and how it would rip asunder all the most important relationships in my life. Read more about my struggles in my forthcoming nonfiction bestseller, FLAPPING IN THE BREEZE: MY UNFORGETTABLE YEAR AMONG THE BOOK FLAPS. I hope this random picture will take your mind off my troubles.

Feeling Better

McNeil is chugging prescription cough syrup so don't worry about him! He is probably feeling better than you.

This Is Not Getting Old

Today's representative phrase from the New York Times arts section ("evocative puppet play") is as brief and evocative as an evocative puppet play. And now we fold it into our poem comprised of representative lines from the New York Times arts section: "A footman approached Ms. Minogue,/ who was fretting glamorously/ on a couch flanked by panther statues./ After some conversation and homemade sorbet,/ I watched a world of wonders unfold./ Bass was played, largely superfluously,/ by Mr. Brenner, evocative puppet/ play an unlikely mix/ of Shamballa and shoo-be-doo./ The crowd for the most part swayed/ in reverent silence."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Flap a Day

As you have no doubt been informed, I continue to skim a book flap a day as part of my ambitious program to skim a book flap every day. I plan to do it for a year and then write a book about how I did something for a year. I must say, the flap of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TRAINS & LOCOMOTIVES starts out with a bang, declaring, "There has always been something awe-inspiring about the spectacle of an onrushing train." In fact, I became so excited and tired that I could not skim the remainder of the flap.

The Footman Approacheth

"A footman approached Ms. Minogue, who was fretting glamorously on a couch flanked by panther statues," is today's representative phrase from the New York Times arts section, so now the poem we are building goes like this: "A footman approached Ms. Minogue,/ who was fretting glamorously/ on a couch flanked by panther statues./ After some conversation and homemade sorbet,/ I watched a world of wonders unfold./ Bass was played, largely superfluously,/ by Mr. Brenner, an unlikely mix/ of Shamballa and shoo-be-doo./ The crowd for the most part swayed/ in reverent silence."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Medium Report

Time for another timely "Media Report," or as we call it on days like today, when but one medium is involved, the "Medium Report." Today's medium is photography. FIRST: my uncredited author photo, which appears at the top of the Boston Phoenix article, was taken by Neko Case. I like to remind everyone because 1) credit should be given where credit is due and 2) I never want anyone to forget that Neko Case took my picture. NEXT: You remember my brother, right? You may recall the time he ate at a condemned restaurant, or the time he attended Michael Jackson's memorial service with Anderson Cooper. Well, someone has given him a camera and now what he does, apparently, is walk around Los Angeles taking pictures of the mournful city in the rain, this misty shot of Kermit the Frog, for example.

James Parker Gets Me

Hey, my book - which I suspect does not exist in a physical state, though I can't get anyone to call me back and confirm this because I suppose maybe there has been a gas leak in the building lasting for several months - has been reviewed kindly and perceptively by one James Parker in "The Phoenix" of Boston. Mr. Parker says of my main character, "His state of spiritual concussion... is somehow our own." Spiritual concussion! I really like that. The review is filled with similarly felicitous turns of phrase. Even when Mr. Parker mentions a passage for which he doesn't care, a conversation with a butler, he uses one ("P.G. Wodehouse with his head cut off") that I would be more than happy to accept as a blurb. I mean, I'm not kidding. If only the book would come out so we could stick some blurbs on it.

Flap a Day

As you know, I have vowed to take on the task of skimming a different jacket flap from a different book every day for a year, probably for charity, and to make a nonfiction bestseller out of it called something like ONE HAND FLAPPING: THE YEAR OF FLAPS. Today's flap comes from the Philip Roth novel THE HUMBLING, which the flap tells me is a "shattering account of inexplicable and terrifying self-evacuation" (to which I responded "!") with "a counterplot of unusual erotic desire" (to which I responded "!!"). Of all three book flaps I have skimmed this year, this is the most challenging and compelling, and I would like to congratulate the person who writes Philip Roth's book flaps on being nominated for a Flappy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Shoo-Be-Doo Revision

Wait! Today's representative phrase from the New York Times arts section is "an unlikely mix of Shamballa and shoo-be-doo." This is a startling upset for the "sketch of lush harmonies to come" one. I should really read the entire arts section before making my important decision. My apologies to the guy who wrote about the sketch of lush harmonies to come. The revised poem based on representative phrases from the New York Times arts section now goes like this: "After some conversation and homemade sorbet,/ I watched a world of wonders unfold./ Bass was played, largely superfluously,/ by Mr. Brenner, an unlikely mix/ of Shamballa and shoo-be-doo./ The crowd for the most part swayed/ in reverent silence." I know this turns Mr. Brenner himself into an unlikely mix of Shamballa and shoo-be-doo but that's how things are in poetry: weird and crazy like!

Mildly Ornery and Defensive

Today's representative phrase from the New York Times arts section is "a mildly ornery and defensive lyric over a sketch of lush harmonies to come." And now I will continue to build my epic poem composed of representative phrases from the New York Times arts section, like so: "After some conversation and homemade sorbet,/ I watched a world of wonders unfold -/ a mildly ornery and defensive lyric/ over a sketch of lush harmonies to come./ Bass was played, largely superfluously,/ by Mr. Brenner./ The crowd for the most part swayed/ in reverent silence."

Flap a Day

You will be glad to hear that I am continuing to read a different book flap every single day, and will no doubt compile my efforts into a nonfiction bestseller called something like FLAPPED: MY YEAR IN FLAPS. Today's flap comes from the dust jacket of CROW PLANET, that book about crows I was telling you about. "Haupt's graceful prose illuminates a world of surprising crow behavior," explains the flap. I don't really read the flaps. I just skim them. So maybe my ambitious project is to skim a different book flap every single day for a year, yes, that's what my ambitious project is. (For those who are concerned because there is a squirrel accompanying a "post" about crows, please recall that the "blog" is now illustrated almost exclusively at random. I try not to mention it anymore, but this one is just too close, I think. Squirrels are like crows, aren't they? Why do I think that? Maybe there's something wrong with my brain!)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Flap a Day

I read in the New York Times about a woman who reads a book every day and "blogs" about it. She has inspired me to read a book flap every day. Today's flap is from JACK KIRBY'S FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS, VOLUME THREE. The flap says it's a "massive, sprawling story" in which "Kirby could stretch his imagination without limits." I didn't have time to read the whole flap. I'll finish it tomorrow.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Phrase That Pays

As you know, I fairly regularly pick out the phrase from the arts section of the New York Times that best expresses the mysterious essence of the arts section of the New York Times for reasons I myself do not pretend to understand. Today's phrase, which comes from fellow Jerry fan Manohla Dargis, goes a little something like this: "after some conversation and homemade sorbet, I watched a world of wonders unfold." Now, were I to continue to build a magisterial lyric poem from these fragments, so far it would go like this: "After some conversation and homemade sorbet,/ I watched a world of wonders unfold./ Bass was played, largely superfluously,/ by Mr. Brenner./ The crowd for the most part swayed/ in reverent silence."

Friday, October 09, 2009

Espresso Bears

I just saw a commercial in which some bears drank espresso and then they had to go to the bathroom. Pardon my language.

Joy and Wow and the Buboes of Yore

Last night I saw a commercial in which the narration went like this, and I am totally serious: "You are about to enter a place where time and space collide and breed wonder and joy and wow." Anyway, it's something to do with your computer. Your computer is represented in the commercial by a fancy woman in a fancy gold evening gown, and she is standing in a golden desert with a scowl on her face. She has a big, scary pistol which she shoots into the air expressing a desire for violence with her scowl, which becomes more pained at that point. But instead of bullets, thousands of rose petals come out of the pistol and it is raining rose petals all of a sudden. So that's what your computer is like, says the commercial. I hate and fear commercials because they are obviously smarter than me, like crows, and are in on a big, exclusive secret I know nothing about. So then there was a commercial in which some pepperonis on a slice of pizza sing a song about how much they love Tobasco sauce. I love Tobasco sauce, too, and ordinarily that kind of commercial would be right up my alley, and probably I would use it as an example of why it is better to have a singing pepperoni forthrightly praising your product than to show a scowling supermodel shooting off her rose gun in your stylized desert. But to tell you the truth, the singing pepperonis were scary. They were real human faces painted bright red. The lurid faces emerged from the pepperonis, which are usually flat, you know, so the effect was that your pepperonis had bloated or swelled for some reason, like huge red bloody blisters or sores, like the deadly buboes of yore, and now they had mouths and were singing to you. No random illustrations will do here.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Almost Broke a Glass

I almost broke a glass. But then I didn't! What a life.

World Driven to Panic as Swine Flu Strikes "Blog"!

McNeil has the swine flu! He called up to make sure he is "the first 'Blog' Buddy with swine flu." And he is. Above is an actual photo of actual McNeil waiting to hear the actual test results.

Don't Hold Your Breath

Apologies to Mike Bulington of Chicago, Illinois, who quite a while back "won" a copy of my new book, SHUT UP, UGLY, on the facebook, by being the first caller to correctly answer the question, "Who's that eating that nasty food?" (A: Nasty Boys.) As we have seen, no one really wants to tell me if or when my book is ever coming out, though some have hinted that it is out already, which others will neither confirm nor deny, or maybe they died. Hope you're not holding your breath, Mike Bulington!

How to Write an Awesome Poem Using Only a Newspaper

Maybe if I put them all together they will make a poem. So far the poem goes like this: "Bass was played, largely superfluously,/ by Mr. Brenner./ The crowd for the most part swayed/ in reverent silence." In today's random illustration, Cornel West doesn't seem to be buying it, and I can't say he's wrong. But that won't stop me from trying!

Arts Section

As you know, I like to go through the arts section of the New York Times every day or so and find the phrase that best expresses to me, for reasons I cannot wholly explain, the essence of the arts section of the New York Times. Today's winner: "Bass was played, largely superfluously, by Mr. Brenner."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


What was I going to tell you about? Was it the mug that went missing from McNeil's faculty lounge?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


"Stang," the great new slang word for money inspired by character actor Arnold Stang, has risen from #6 to #3 in the Urban Dictionary's rankings. This is a victory for Arnold Stang fans and new slang maker-uppers everywhere. I know we only illustrate with random old "blog" pictures now, but if this doesn't call for a magnificent new sunrise I just don't know what.

Who Are Ban Ban Bazar?

Who are Ban Ban Bazar? I'm not sure! But thanks to the randomness of the "internet" and the youtube, I found them, so sometimes I think there is something good about the "internet."

A Word I Hardly Ever Use


The Crowd For the Most Part Swayed In Reverent Silence

Maybe I'll start a new thing where every day I will give you an out-of-context phrase from the New York Times arts section which seems to me for reasons I cannot explain to best represent the general tone of the New York Times arts section. And of course it will be randomly illustrated. Today's winner is "the crowd for the most part swayed in reverent silence."

Is This Stealing?

I stood in Square Books and skimmed through all the Jerry Lewis references in Paul Shaffer's new autobiography. Is this stealing? Could be, but store owner and former mayor Richard Howorth was right beside me, implicitly encouraging my actions. As he pointed out, Jerry Lewis takes up a larger part of the index than Jerry Lee Lewis, which is probably surprising and unsurprising in equal measures.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Chimerical Safety Deposit Box of the Little Dog

There's this commercial where this dog is worried about his bone so he puts it in a safety deposit box but that's not good enough because when the dog gets home from the bank he goes to sleep and dreams about his bone and his safety deposit box, and the funny part is how worried the dog looks while he's sleeping in his dog bed and tossing to and fro worrying about his bone, which dances half-dissolved in a dream over his head, and then the empty safety deposit box appears in a similarly chimerical fashion and he (the little dog) even puts his little paws over his face in consternation. I like that commercial! Too often I focus on what I don't like in the difficult world of commercials, such as the people who dress as nature and wave their arms, and the staring terrifying angel of purification, full of a holy and cataclysmic flame of righteousness. But I did like the one about the money clip and the radio ad for the friendliest hardware store in Ohatchee.

No Twichell Was Forthcoming

Hey! I just read in a newspaper that the FTC is going to regulate the promotion of products on "blogs." I just want our friends in the government to know I have not been bribed nor have I been prodded for any "blog" endorsement. Once some people said they were going to send me a biography of the Reverend Joseph Twichell and I was like, "Easy Street, here I come!" I was like, "Soon I will be rolling in free galleys of biographies of the Reverend Joseph Twichell and all my problems will be over." But I never heard from them again.

Pretty Soon I Will Tell You Everything About Crows

Now I have a book all about crows and only crows and pretty soon I will tell you everything about crows.

"Blog" Numbers Beat Analysts' Predictions

Forgot the "blog's" anniversary... AGAIN! That can't bode well for "blog" morale. And yes, based on the statistics just coming in as part of the "blog's" annual report, "blogging" here at the "blog" remains in "blogging" decline. The good news is that it's down just a tenth of one percent from last year's disappointing numbers, to 2.4 "posts" a day. While this marks the third straight year of decline for the "blog," gloating analysts had predicted a much steeper drop.

McNeil Month By Month

It's McNeil's birthday, and you know what that means: an expanded edition of "McNeil Month By Month," the only place on the "internet" to see what McNeil has been doing month by month, via a "post" about McNeil from each month that the "blog" has been in existence. In keeping with the "blog's" new policy, we use a random illustration, but in honor of McNeil's birth, it is not as random as usual, because we will keep hitting the button until we find one that has something to do however slightly with some of the subject matter of "McNeil Month By Month." Well, it turned out to be the Wienermobile after it crashed into a house, which has nothing to do with McNeil, but we think McNeil will like it. And with that, we give you "McNeil Month By Month." From September 2006: McNeil contends that he does not enjoy the "Little Dot" comic book. October 2006: McNeil furnishes a memorable quotation. November 2006: McNeil recalls playing Aerosmith on a jukebox. December 2006: First appearance of "McNeil's Movie Korner." January 2007: McNeil's system for winning at craps. February 2007: McNeil doesn't see what's so hard about reading a newspaper and eating a sandwich at the same time. March 2007: McNeil and I are talking about Bob Denver when HE SUDDENLY APPEARS ON TELEVISION! April 2007: Wild turkeys roam McNeil's neighborhood. May 2007: McNeil gets in touch with an Australian reporter regarding a historical chimp. June 2007: First McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival announced. July 2007: Medicine changes McNeil's taste buds. August 2007: McNeil's trees not producing apples. September 2007: McNeil pinpoints a problem with the "blog." October 2007: McNeil presents a video entitled "Jerry's pre-defecation chills." November 2007: McNeil's Theory of Potential Energy. December 2007: What is McNeil's favorite movie? January 2008: McNeil explains why the wind blows. February 2008: McNeil admires the paintings of Gerhard Richter. March 2008: McNeil comes up with an idea for a Lifetime TV movie. April 2008: McNeil's shirt. May 2008: McNeil's apple tree doing better (see August 2007). June 2008: McNeil is troubled by a man who wants to make clouds in the shape of logos. July 2008: McNeil's apples are doing great. August 2008: McNeil refuses to acknowledge that Goofy wears a hat no matter what I say. September 2008: McNeil's grocery store is permanently out of his favorite margarine. October 2008: McNeil on the space elevator. November 2008: McNeil comes across an incomplete episode guide to HELLO, LARRY. December 2008: McNeil thinks the human hand should have more fingers. January 2009: McNeil discovers that gin and raisins cure arthritis. February 2009: McNeil sees a ****** ******* awesome rainbow. March 2009: McNeil wants a job on a cruise ship. April 2009: McNeil attempts to rescue a wayward balloon. May 2009: McNeil visits the Frogtown Fair. June 2009: McNeil dreams he is watching an endless production number from LI'L ABNER. July 2009: McNeil sends text messages from his cell phone while watching a Frank Sinatra movie. August 2009: McNeil disagrees philosophically with a comic book cover that shows a mad scientist putting a gorilla's brain in a superhero's body. September 2009: McNeil resembles famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach. October 2009: McNeil's birthday celebrated with an expanded edition of "McNeil Month By Month."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Terrifying Fact of the Day

Did you know that crows "exhibit self-awareness when looking into mirrors"? It's true! And terrifying! I read it in a book! Crows are up to something. The book is called BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA. From it I have also learned that if you ask me a lot of birds have names that would be great names for fictional characters. From now on all of my characters will be named with the names of birds: Montezuma Quail, Gunnison Sage Grouse, Sooty Grouse, Willow Ptarmigan, Gray Partridge - and those are just the gamebirds.

Home Hot Dog Cooker

Verdell sent me a picture of a home hot dog cooker.

A Good First Sentence

"He was a colicky baby." - the enthrallingly direct first sentence of Blotner's Faulkner biography. Have you ever read a better first sentence of a biography? It is authoritative and shines with implication. Maybe it contains a book. Do you know what I'm talking about? Neither do I.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Hilarity, Thy Name Is Me

Theresa and I were eating lunch when suddenly I began to sing as if divinely inspired, utilizing a melody by the Kinks: "It is time for you to eat/ All of your hummus." I have another part of my great song that goes, "Better eat your hummus right now." I just need Weird Al to fill in the rest and then I'll be rich! Rich!

More Pensive?

"Not enough pictures of monkeys!" comes the cry of some, or so I imagine. And I am sorry that the "blog's" new policies have affected in a negative way those (like myself!) who enjoy a steady flow of fresh new pictures of humorous monkeys. As I have urged you before, fear not! Michael Kupperman remains your one-stop online source for all your monkey picture needs. "Click" here for one in which a little monkey perches on the shoulder of a constable, or "bobby," both friends gazing down into what I suspect is the Thames. This one might be more pensive than humorous. We report, you decide!