Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trick Or Treat!

My friend the Duchess was passing through town and she has a child who is two years old so we met up at Square Books Jr., the kids' book annex of Square Books. I don't go in there too often! But do you know what I saw in there? A kids' book by actor Treat Williams. What? I guess if there is something I never expected to see it's a kids' book by Treat Williams, but there it was. That just goes to show you! Who cares? Leave me alone! I am sorry I always confuse you with Powers Boothe, Treat Williams!

Birds Birds Birds

Speaking of nests, there are three baby birds poking their heads out of one on the balcony at Square Books. Right now! Get over there. This could be the tourist attraction of the summer. A friend who works there says they are finches. In an aside, she told me that crows hate owls! I need to look into these shocking allegations. But I don't want to end this on a negative note, so please think instead about the adorable baby birds. PS: There's something wrong with the "blog's" search thingy again... it's telling me I have never "blogged" about Square Books or birds! Therefore, this "post" had to be completed manually, and I hope you appreciate it. I am seen here forging "hyperlinks" by hand, a time-consuming and thankless process.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Vicar's Exclamation

Since I have been thinking about the robin's nest, I thought I would look up robins in that book by that vicar, you know the vicar. He doesn't have much to say about American robins, but of the European variety he notes, "They are adept at making their nesting sites in unlikely places: in hats, kettles, hosepipes, the pockets of coats, and many more. Perhaps the oddest was a human skull!" I approve of your exclamation point, vicar!

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Think About the Darkened Conference Room

I am probably not telling you anything you don't know. But there is a commercial in which a grimly determined George Washington drives a car straight at a bunch of startled British soldiers. And the car commercial boilerplate at the bottom of the screen says DO NOT ATTEMPT. Ha ha! Except there is no ha ha intended, anywhere. If there is any hint of irony in the commercial, it has been thoroughly sublimated by jaded professionals. Or maybe it is some kind of special irony that goes all the way around the irony globe and secretly kisses the point at which sincerity ends - that delicate and tingling borderline! Maybe that's just what they want me to think with their smartness and I am falling right into their clutches! Or maybe it is like the thing that happened to me with the unicorns - maybe the guys who made the commercial could identify with that. Like they started out all, "Ha ha ha! This is clever!" And when they screened it for their bosses they kept winking at one another in the darkened conference room. But then later - or perhaps at that very moment! - they realized they had become the thing they thought they were above and fell weeping into one another's arms. But mainly I think it is what it seems to be and that's all there is to it and all there ever was. Or maybe it is like that stupid quotation I gave that guy in that interview that time. Now for the inevitable "Google Image Search."

Robins Probably Know What They Are Doing

A robin built a nest on a branch RIGHT OUTSIDE the window I gaze through as I "blog." The robin has been there all day, as if guarding something important. Such as eggs! And the branch does not seem sturdy! But Theresa and I discussed it and decided that robins probably know what they are doing. Still, seems like there could be a big storm coming up! WHAT THEN? Hang on, robin! You know what you are doing!

There are things on the "internet" you shouldn't "click." Innocent things, seemingly! But you know in your heart they are but two or three "clicks" away from a fog-enshrouded part of the "internet" from which NO ONE HAS EVER RETURNED. Oh, we have danced around such things here at the "blog," flirted with them, but always with caution and warning. What leaps to mind? Let's see, just off the top of my head: the people who think President Kennedy is George W. Bush's father, the Emin, the boy from Mars, the women who believe their thoughts are controlled by Bob Hope, the guy who is hunting the Lizard Man, the underground civilizations, the man who wants you to put a green light at your house, Lady Gaga as part of a Masonic plot, the bigfoot convention and so many more. Oh, "internet"! And oh readers! How often I have tempted you down the path to destruction. So imagine my anxiety - and titillation! - when I was reading CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS last night and came across a passing reference to the APOCALYPSIS NOVA, an "'Amadeist' manuscript" from 1502, "which still has its devotees, especially in the wilder corners of the internet." Am I going to look it up? Am I going to "click" on something about it? I am not! I might! I don't know! I won't! Will I? No! Get thee behind me, Google.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Welcome once again to the "blog's" special column about foodstuffs. We call it "Foodstuffs!" THIS JUST IN: Finally! Andy Hopkins has a new picture of a can of food on his "blog" where he shows pictures of cans of food. SPOILER ALERT! It's green beans.

Nebulous Wabenlotnee Precedent

As I have mentioned, CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS gets its subtitle from the fact that it begins by exploring the centuries leading up to the founding of the religion. In that spirit, I plan to write a book called THE "BLOG": THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS, because surely many historic forces have combined to culminate in the mighty edifice of learning and knowledge you see before you. For example, ask any sane person to list the "blog's" three main preoccupations and that person will say 1) Unicorns 2) AUTHOR! AUTHOR! 3) the "Mr. Wabenlotnee" gag from the Jerry Lewis film THE ERRAND BOY. Now I would ask you to thoroughly examine the clip from that old bit of programming I used to work on with Mr. Ward, Kent, and Mike Mitchell. Yes, examine it again and again with an archaeological eye! You will be alarmed and amazed to discover that even then, in the 1990s, an era that is shrouded in mystery, back before anyone knew what a "blog" was, the images and notions that were later to become "blog" staples remarkably existed in nebulous form. Observe! At the :37 mark, the actress Jennifer Grant is mentioned. She is the daughter of AUTHOR! AUTHOR! star Dyan Cannon (and father Cary Grant). At 1:46, Clint Eastwood is described riding a unicorn. And finally, at 2:32, Kent and his puppet friend do a variation on the classic Wabenlotnee bit. The roots of the "blog" reach far, far back into the misty mists of time. Have fun discovering your own exciting facts about the "blog's" incredible pre-history. You don't have anything else to do! Look at you!


If I were to describe to you a tight-lipped old writer who somberly goes about the business of typing out revisions on his much-delayed fifth novel, what would your reaction be? Probably you would say, "Wow! That has all the makings of an exciting movie!" But we don't have to worry about getting the financing together, because this movie already exists! It was on one of the movie channels late last night when I couldn't sleep and suddenly I found myself able to sleep.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nominalists and Lollards and Hussites, Oh My

CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. Reading a section called "Nominalists, Lollards, and Hussites." Wow! Those nominalists and Lollards are something else, let me tell you! They're like the Sex Pistols and Ramones of 14th-century Catholicism, respectively. I haven't really thought out that comparison, but it feels solid, doesn't it? It really does. "Lollards" was a "contemptuous nickname" meaning "mumblers who talked nonsense." That was "the man" trying to get the Lollards down because they were so punk rock. "The man" even dug up the Lollards' founder's bones SEVERAL DECADES after his death and burned them! Well, I suppose if you have to be burned for heresy, that's the best way to do it. I can't compare the Hussites to a band yet, haven't read enough about them. Don't worry, I'll get back to you.

Friday, June 25, 2010

All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up

Welcome once again to "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up," the only place on the "internet" for the latest and greatest in entertainment news! UNEARTHED! This rare footage (below) from the forgotten decade of the 1990s. Who is the cheery young fellow with the puppets? None other than "Blog" Buddy Kent Osborne, back when he used to host movies on the TBS cable channel. Because back then, movies needed a host! It was before they figured out how to make movies right. Mr. Ward and I were Kent's "producers." We hung out near the snacks a lot. And once some of us locked ourselves in a room because we were afraid of a character actor. The puppets talk and move and exist courtesy of Mike Mitchell, who drew the cover for my novel AWESOME. Do you like puppets and hosting and things that happened before you were born? Then this is the clip for you!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


This edition of "Foodstuffs!" opens with a question: Where will you find thousands of pig ear sandwiches tomorrow? WRONG! It's not Mississippi. Try New York City! That's where you can see Joe York's film SMOKES & EARS (nice ampersand, Joe!) at the New York Food Film Festival. And there will be pig ear sandwiches galore - at least 2,000 of them, to feed the sold-out crowd, says Joe. Makes me think of a particular Bible story! Not the one where the pigs run off the cliff. I am talking about when the multitudes get fed. Okay!

An Ant In His Moon Boot

McNeil called to say how much better the movie 2001 would have been with Jerry Lewis in it. In McNeil's opinion, those guys on the moon plod around the monolith in silence for far too long. "If one of them were Jerry," McNeil said, "an ant would get in his boot." Then McNeil described Jerry Lewis trying to get an ant out of his boot on the moon. McNeil was showing one of his college classes some of 2001. Then he stopped it and showed a party scene from the Jerry Lewis space movie WAY... WAY OUT, by way of contrast. The class preferred Jerry, McNeil reports.

Life Is Full of Choices

McNeil is always complaining! Now his computer isn't loading his youtube clips fast enough, so he wants me to watch them and issue "a full report." This assignment, should I choose to accept it, represents nearly twenty minutes of my young life! So far I have managed to ascertain that the first clip ("click" here) is from an old sitcom about a man whose father is frozen in an untimely glacier accident. So get this: when the father is discovered and unthawed many years later, he is just 33 years old... and his son is 67! In the TV biz, we used to call that the old switcheroo. Opportunities for zany mix-ups abound! Now I just have to watch the other nine minutes and twenty seconds of that clip. As for the next one ("click" here), a small plane lands and then a car drives and then Burl Ives walks into a hotel smoking a cigar. (No, grammarians, the hotel is not smoking a cigar, but that was a good one! Good for you!) That part takes 44 seconds! Forty-four seconds of my precious life! Burl Ives introduces himself as "OK Crackerby, Stillwater, Oklahoma." He says, "These are my kids." One of the boys looks familiar. But the girl looks very familiar. I can almost swear that she is Brooke Adams, who starred in the awesome 70s remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (pictured). I also want to say that she is married now in real life to Tony Shalhoub. Why do I know these things, assuming they are correct? Assuming they are not correct, why do I think I know them? Was Brooke Adams a child actor? So many questions. So many ways to run out the clock! If I can work up some energy later today, I will watch McNeil's two clips in their entirety, so you don't have to.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Apart From His Outsize Head

Today in CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch, we meet "Big Cap," a "holy fool" of the Russian church "whose specialty apart from his outsize head was apparently intimidating people with gnomic innuendoes." Gnomic innuendoes! In my opinion, the phrase "gnomic innuendoes" is IN ITSELF a gnomic innuendo! Am I blowing your mind?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Suddenly Vikings

I am exactly one half of the way through CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. I know, I know, it's taking me forever. So many colorful distractions! Such as the abusive pierogi! In any case, we find ourselves in Kiev, the year 1015, with a saint named Gleb, which would add up nicely had the book been called CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST TWO THOUSAND YEARS (by the way, it starts many centuries before Christianity and builds up to it, in case you were wondering about the title). But as I have mentioned, the book jumps around in time a lot. For example, just a few pages ago I was in the 17th century, enjoying "the first cup of coffee ever witnessed in the University of Oxford." And then, suddenly, back to the ninth century for Vikings! What a bunch of nogoodniks. We took care of the Vikings in like two pages.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What McNeil Has Been Doing

Mcneil has been watching youtube videos of the boy from Mars being interviewed. "Martians are boring!" McNeil reiterated several times in a phone message.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Case of the Violent Pierogi

John Currence was over here today, telling a story about some mascots dressed as pierogi who chase one another around the ballpark and beat each other up! There was some discussion about whether this is a real thing from real life or something John Currence dreamed, but I don't believe we ever settled the matter. I'll look into it and let you know. It'll give me something to do tomorrow! Hooray, a reason to get out of bed! WELL DANG IT! I went to "google" pieorgi for you, in case you don't know what a pierogi is. I was going to "link" to a recipe or something. Because I care about you! AND THE FIRST THING THAT POPPED UP was a picture of these little pierogi running around. That's because one of them was recently fired for criticizing the Pittsburgh Pirates management on his facebook page, or something. I'd try harder to get the facts straight but I'm too upset because now there's no reason to get out of bed tomorrow. Thanks for nothing, "internet"!

No Raisins For Larry

Larry King opened a box of Raisin Bran today and there were no raisins in it, or so he claims! I am not maligning the Raisin Bran corporation! I am just telling you what Larry King said on his twittery place. But I'm not "linking" to it because his current choice of wallpaper for the site features the oil spill, which is not humorous for "linking" purposes, plus it reminds me that I shouldn't make fun of Larry King's twitter account anymore because he is hosting a telethon to help my hometown and others like it along the Gulf Coast. Still, I am not sure I believe him about the raisins. It doesn't seem possible! But why would he lie? I am going to toss and turn and think about this all night.

Happy Father's Day From Mars

I was starting to fret that June, 2010, would be the "blog's" first month ever without a contribution from McNeil! Thank goodness, then, right under the wire, he's back with a report about a little boy from Mars. One of his daughters found it on the "internet"! So it is an appropriate Father's Day contribution from Team McNeil. When the boy in question was two years old, "he would sit in a lotus position and start telling us detailed facts about Mars, planetary systems and other civilizations, which really puzzled us," says his mother. Kids!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sorry, Larry

Why am I always acting like such a punk where Larry King is concerned? He's going to help my hometown! I see in the paper that he's hosting a telethon to raise money for the United Way, the National Wildlife Federation and the Nature Conservancy, to help them take care of the people, land, and wildlife hurt by the horrible oil spill. And here I am just a big jerk who loves to make fun of his twitter account all the time.


Welcome to a special all-beverage edition of "Foodstuffs!" - the "blog's" great new column about foodstuffs! And beverages! I was just at the wine store and they were selling chocolate wine! What can I say? It made me feel bad inside to look at it. The slogan on the label proclaimed it to have "the great taste of Dutch chocolate and fine cabernet wine." Oh, I feel so bad just typing this. The stuff on the inside of the bottle looked like Yoo-Hoo. That's not a euphemism! Although it is also a euphemism. But the chocolate wine appeared to resemble in color and consistency a Yoo-Hoo brand chocolate drink. Now onto some more positive beverage news! The New York Times Sunday magazine is featuring our local dairy heroes the Brown Family Dairy (just bought some of their milk, cream, and butter this morning - and the milk was milked just yesterday!). Now, for my money, John T. Edge's article, to which the "blog" has "linked" in the past, is the final word on the Brown Family Dairy. But it's a nice article in the Times and I'm glad to see the story getting out there.

Extra Bissell

Do you like the video games, with the noises and lights and the video stick and the red button you push and the monsters and ghosts and the cha cha cha? I don't understand them because I am an old man with a lot of physical and mental problems. New experiences frighten and upset me! I'm like the people who screamed and fainted during THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (1903) when the guy (spoiler alert!) shot his gun right at the audience. But I will read EXTRA LIVES, the new book by "Blog" Buddy Tom Bissell, which gets a great review in the New York Times. I didn't know anything about Uzbekistan either, before I read Tom's masterpiece CHASING THE SEA. Trust Tom Bissell, people! Put yourself in his hands. The whole Bissell thing is that you start by saying, "Now, why would I care about _____?" And then at the end you are like, "Thanks to Tom Bissell, I care very much about ______!" Besides, the "blog" feels proprietary about EXTRA LIVES, having "published" an early reflection on the video game Marvel Ultimate Alliance by Mr. Bissell. Still, I have to admit that for me the video game book will be but a mere (though surely delectable!) sorbet to tide me over until his book about the burial places of the twelve apostles comes out (from the writing of which - ironically? - I think Mr. Bissell was playing hooky in his Roman quarters as he indulged in Marvel Ultimate Alliance!). I read in an interview that he has 1,500 pages of the apostle book, and I guess the implication is that he's in the process of whittling it down, to which I reply: DON'T! I'm in training with CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS, and it's just warming me up, so I can take whatever you dish out, Tom Bissell!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pacino Fixes His Hair: A Remembrance

I won't lie to you, my reading of CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch is slowing down a little bit because I spend all my time now thinking about the 1982 Al Pacino vehicle AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Just look at this supplemental material from "Blog" Buddy Mr. Ward, who reports, "I was going to NYU while they were shooting 'Author! Author!' in the area. One day I watched for 2 hours as they filmed Al walking up to a building and fixing his hair in the window's reflection. I stayed for 12 takes then got bored. Al seemed really agitated or maybe he was just 'in character.'" Thanks, Mr. Ward! In conclusion, sorry for the piece of velcro or whatever it is partially obscuring Dyan Cannon. Turns out there are not a lot of images from AUTHOR! AUTHOR! to choose from on the "internet."

A Great Name For a Disease

I was thinking about Robert Browning - yes I was! - and trying to recall which poem has a line about a "scrofulous French novel" in it. Then I was like, "What's scrofula, exactly? Better look it up!" So I did. Then I found out that scrofula used to be called "King's Evil." What a great name for a disease!

World's Finest Hot Dogs

While I was searching the "internet" for a picture of Lex Luthor to go with that last "post," which is how I choose to spend the few precious moments the Lord has given me, I came across this gallery of covers from WORLD'S FINEST, which was (is?) a comic book in which Batman and Superman teamed up every month. These covers were almost as weird as the Jimmy Olsen covers I showed you a while back - ALMOST! The one I have chosen to represent here is not even the weirdest, maybe, though Superman is roasting hot dogs with his eyes (a shockingly common theme) and Batman is taking a nap on the ground in full costume. Speaking of Lex Luthor, even as a little kid I never bought the story (see previous "post") that he was Superman's mortal enemy because back when they were schoolmates Superman blew all his hair off. See also.

Sizzling Celebrity Gossip

Welcome once again to "Sizzling Celebrity Gossip," your one stop on the "internet" for sizzling celebrity gossip. Turns out John Currence is not the only "Blog" Buddy to rub elbows with the Iron Sheik! Last night's gambol about the square brought this intrepid reporter into contact with one Ace Atkins who used to work out at the same gym as the Iron Sheik. And occasionally Sting showed up. Just imagine Sting and the Iron Sheik and Ace Atkins all working out together. I know you have already imagined it! I thought Ace said that the gym was owned by Lex Luthor, but that's not what he said.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


It appears that the "blog" has thoroughly covered the oeuvre of Christal Kim, who portrayed Grunella in AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Her only other film was RHINESTONE, the poster from which is seen illustrating this "post" from 2008. Who cares?


Laura Lippman has been watching the blankety-blank out of AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Now she has nine things to say about it. Here is the "blog's" exclusive report. There are SPOILERS galore, so if you want to spend part of your life watching AUTHOR! AUTHOR!, you may want to avert your eyes. You also may want to avert your eyes while watching AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Or maybe you will love it! It is none of my business. And now we turn things over to Laura Lippman and her nine observations: "1) Elaine's! I had forgotten about Elaine's, where I actually was taken to dinner at age 20 and saw Philip Roth. 2) I guess a man could grab a woman and try to throw her in a cab in the '70s and the movie could still be a comedy. 3) How does a man come to have legal custody of his ex-wife's four children by three other men? It strikes me as unlikely. 4) Wait, the kid's name is Igor? 5) Cursing kids -- oh, how I've missed you in all your Bad News Bears inspired glory. 6) I just realized this must be an 80s film. But it feels like a 70s film. The bad kind of 70s film. Pacino is smoking a cigarette and blowing the smoke into face of oldest son (Igor? Could I possibly be right about that?) 7) The Greenwich Village townhouse that the Pacino character calls home must be worth at least $12 million in today's market. 8) Freeze frame as everyone literally jumps for joy. Now that's how you end a movie. 9) After checking imdb, I can report that the oldest son was named Igor, that Bob and Ray's appearances are apparently unbilled, but Andre Gregory's is not. There is also a character named Grunella." This completes the "blog's" multi-part investigatory examination of AUTHOR! AUTHOR! If you are not familiar with the great Bob and Ray, please do not let their appearance in AUTHOR! AUTHOR! dissuade you from enjoying their genius. Goodbye forever.


Our in-depth analysis of AUTHOR! AUTHOR! continues. Rhetorically inquires Laura Lippman, who seemingly - and bravely! - is watching it AT THIS VERY MOMENT, "You do realize that the song played over the credits includes the lyric 'Coming home to you/ Is like coming home to milk and cookies'?"

Nice Joe

A nice piece about "Blog" Buddy Joe York over there at THE ATLANTIC.

King of My Heart

As Keats was known to remark, you know, that thing he said about beauty. So who am I kidding? Larry King's twitter account will be a delight unto my senses forevermore and always. If it's good enough for Keats it's good enough for me! Did you know that Larry King had dinner with Ryan Seacrest last night? "Click" here to see who picked up the check! Hint: It was Ryan Seacrest! Also, "It's hard to sleep when you're laughing!" notes Larry King.


Time once again for "Foodstuffs!" Just like the last "Foodstuffs!" this one features John T. Edge, who has an article about hummus in today's New York Times. Among its many incidental pleasures is discovering the existence of the U.S.A. Dry Pea and Lentil Council. They're in Idaho! Now on to more sinister "Foodstuffs!" Though I alluded to John Currence's trip to the White House in the most recent edition of "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up," the lighter nature of that feature did not allow me to focus on the "cilantroversy" in the White House garden. John Currence calls it "the cilantroversy," but I am afraid I am going to have to insist on the more traditional - if less catchy and clever - "CilantroGate 2010." Currence says that the cilantro in the White House garden flowered early. If I am recalling his explanation correctly, the essential oils were not being produced, causing the herb to go bitter. "That cilantro is the only thing in the administration not leaking oil," Currence, a New Orleans native, jested bleakly.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Larry Belongs to Someone Else

Look. Someone else is starting to enjoy Larry King's twitter account as much as I do, which means I have to stop enjoying it right now. They list several of his ruminations that have appeared on the "blog," as well as a couple of great ones I have never seen before. I don't know what the "web" site is or what crazy things it may "link" to, so though it seems innocent enough on the surface I cannot vouch for it, but there it is.

All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up

Welcome once again to "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up," your only place on the "internet" to find out what is happening in the world of entertainment celebrity stars! ITEM: Which chef and "Blog" Buddy was recently one of 12 picked to cook lunch with the First Lady of the United States of America? John Currence, that's who! According to a source (me!) who ran into Mr. Currence at City Grocery Bar, Mr. Currence's impression is that the First Lady is "very tall." ITEM: Guess who is not tall? That's right, famed professional wrestler the Iron Sheik! As Mr. Currence was leaving the studio of a Martha Stewart radio show, he ran into said Iron Sheik in the hallway, and was excited to shake his hand. Or should we say "sheik" his hand? Ha ha ha! Because that is just the kind of wordplay we enjoy on "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up." The Iron Sheik is not as tall as you think he is, sources confirm! Is the Iron Sheik wearing John Currence's James Beard Award medal in this photo? Sources can neither confirm nor deny. And that's the "long" and "short" of it from "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up." GET IT? Because the First Lady is tall and the Iron Sheik is not. ITEM: Guess who is following me on twitter? Yoko Ono! The real, verified Yoko Ono for really officially real. She is following like 314,000 people at last count, so I am trying to keep it in perspective. That's it for this edition of "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up." Until next time, keep "reaching" for the "stars"!

Larry's Greetings

Larry King wishes Ice Cube and Jim Belushi a very happy birthday!

Monday, June 14, 2010


Do you wish you could see the Glagolitic alphabet? If you are reading CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS, you wish it so much! According to Diarmaid MacCulloch, that is one crazy alphabet! Or as he puts it, "to say the least idiosyncratic, with only surreal resemblances to any other alphabetic form in existence." Okay, MacCulloch! You're setting us up to be disappointed, but let's take an eager look at this wild Glagolitic alphabet of yours. One letter looks like an owl! I don't know! That's what I think! I am not a semiotician!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Digging the Creepy Curtain

I have to say I am digging the washed-out colors on that Pat Boone album cover, and especially the creepy curtain or whatever it is. Puts me in mind of INLAND EMPIRE.

The Universe Wants Me to Keep "Blogging"

Boy! I could have gone on and on with that last "post." But I stopped. The 70s Captain Marvel reference, plus the emphasis on dubious entertainment, almost made me reveal unto you a "link" that Phil sent me last night. It would have been perfect! So why did I stop? I guess I was feeling bad about myself! Maybe I was thinking it was dumb to "blog" about things that no one could or should possibly care about, including me! "I will seem like a lunatic!" may have been one of my thoughts. But when, oh when, will I learn never to forget what Chuang Tzu said about "blogging"? So look. If you dare! Here is the "link" ("click" here) that Phil sent me. Phil doesn't seem to think much of it. "If I can scorch my eyeballs, so you can you," he writes. He refers to Loretta Swit's singing via dismissive quotation marks. It's from a musical about Superman! Here's the thing. I recall specifically begging for permission to stay up really late and watch this on TV one night. It was being shown at some ungodly hour. This was before the dvr had been invented, if you can believe it! If you wanted to see a terrible musical about Superman you had to stay up late! And it only came on once and you could never, ever see it again. Until now, through the magic of youtube, where every shameful artifact of the cultural abyss from which my emotionally paralyzed generation sprang has been lovingly preserved. And though I saw it only that once - like 35 years ago or something! - I think I remember a joke from it (which I have not confirmed through further youtube viewing): a powerful laser (or something) burns Superman's hand and someone advises him to "put a little butter on that." Strangely, I also remember my brother and I going around the next morning chanting the first thing you hear in the clip Phil happened to send. So why the change of heart? Why the addendum? Well, when I was looking for a picture of Pat Boone with which to illustrate that last "post," I came across this illustration (above) featuring Pat Boone and Superman. And I was like, "It's an omen!" That's what I was like. Oh, and I remembered the name of the actor who played Captain Marvel - Jackson Bostwick - without looking it up. I always remembered it! Maybe I didn't use it in the last "post" because I was ashamed of my "blogging"! But I owe Mr. Bostwick the identical apology I recently offered Robert Walden. When will I ever learn?

Disturbin' Indeed

I was up at five in the morning for no good reason. The Fox Movie Channel was showing a movie called MARDI GRAS, starring Pat Boone, the go-to guy when you're making a movie about Mardi Gras. I didn't watch too much of it. Why not? Well, take a gander at these lyrics to the phony baloney ersatz blues song Pat was crooning: "Saxophones keep honking/ And I keep honky-tonking/ Trying to lose/ Those disturbin' Bourbon Street blues." Holy cow! Right before that, TCM was showing a Ken Berry movie. Ken Berry! Gone from my consciousness for lo these many years and suddenly he's everywhere - last night, costarring with First Lady of the American Theatre Helen Hayes. I know, you've never heard of Helen Hayes. OR Pat Boone, who is the OPPOSITE of Mardi Gras! I can't help it! You're probably better off. How can I put this? Ken Berry is NOT the First Lady of the American Theatre. Let's see. It's as if Screech from SAVED BY THE BELL starred in a movie with Meryl Streep. That example is not apt. Not apt! Plus you probably don't know who Screech is! You have moved beyond my orbit of references, and I salute you. You win. You win, world! I give up. I give up in general. Except to tell you that I took an acting class in college and one day the guy who played Captain Marvel on Saturday morning TV in the 70s was our special guest speaker and he told us he used to play cards with Helen Hayes. Now that's some sizzling celebrity gossip you can take to the bank!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Larry's Fave Suspenders

Q: Who gave Larry King his favorite pair of suspenders? A: Janet Jackson, of course! No, I'm not a psychic or some other kind of famous genius! It's on the twitter.

The Racy Way He Refers to the Empress

WARNING! This "blog" "post" will contain racy language and is not for the faint of heart! First of all, Diarmaid MacCulloch has tricked me with his CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS! Remember when I was bragging that I had finally reached 1100, and the quadruple-digit years? Smooth sailing from here on out, I thought! But no! Suddenly we have jumped back to the year 527. None of this is the racy part! Just wait! Here it comes! You won't believe it, but MacCulloch refers to the Byzantine Empress Theodora as "a former circus artist of dauntingly gymnastic sexual prowess." He does not go into detail! But he directs the reader to court historian Procopius's "gossipy account... THE SECRET HISTORY, whose rediscovery by the pope's Vatican librarian in the seventeenth century much enhanced historical enjoyment of the period." Diarmaid MacCulloch, you scamp! Is that a nice way to talk about an empress? (Hey, she was married to Justinian, who caused me so much trouble that time.) The thing is I picked up a copy of the Procopius at a yard sale a few years ago, though I haven't cracked it open yet. I feel positive it was the same yard sale where I got the Arthur Waley book I told you about a while back, and at the same low price! That was some yard sale! Next time you see a book at a yard sale and wonder if you should buy it, the answer is of course you should! It's probably just fifty cents! Is it going to kill you?

This Kid Is Doing Something

Okay! This kid is doing something to "Catch a Wave." It's the monumental 41st entry in our quest to find every Beach Boys song being covered by every person on the "internet." Go, kid, go!


Here is number 40 in our eternal survey of every person on the "internet" covering every Beach Boys song.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Know Your Friars!

Yes, yes, I am still reading CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. You needn't have worried yourself about it! Lately it's all friars all the time. You've got your Blackfriars, your Greyfriars, and your Whitefriars. FUN FACT: Greyfriars actually wear brown!

Larry King Wants to Know

Larry King wants to know how they make string cheese.

The Freak-Out Variations

Here is something for you. I found it on the twitter place of A.G. Pasquella, whose own new book has a cover by Michael Kupperman! See how everything is connected? But let's get back to what we were talking about. There is a creature riding one of those special bicycles often under contemplation here. And this guy's floating head is like, "Whatever." Also, if you can read the fine print, you will see that it is our second recently featured cover to use some variation on the term "freak-out." With a hyphen again! (Okay, I know that lettering is small. It reads, "A galactic newshound takes on a freaked-out planet.")

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Pickle Molecule

If there is one thing I don't care about, it is muscle cramps. Yet I read this whole article on a "blog" of the New York Times. Something in the first paragraph grabbed me: "In a 2008 survey, a quarter of the athletic trainers interviewed said that they regularly dispense pickle juice to cramp-stricken athletes." How did it come about, that widespread use of pickle juice? Who thought of it first, and why? Who was like, "Stay right there, I am going to grab some pickle juice"? Was there pickle juice handy the first time it happened? There must have been. Where did the original cramp occur? A deli? The article does not say. But it describes some scientists wiring up some people with gadgets to make them cramp and then feeding them pickle juice and then, I guess, standing around with clipboards, watching what happens. The whole scene makes me happy for some reason: guys in white lab coats "zapping" people (the article uses the word "zapped") and breaking out the pickle juice with, I don't know, these deadpan looks on their faces. Better still - and this is in the article, not my imagination - they are hypothesizing a miraculous pickle molecule! Look: "'The pickle juice did not have time' to leave the men’s stomachs during the experiment, Mr. Miller points out. So the liquid itself could not have been replenishing lost fluids and salt in the affected muscles. Instead some other mechanism must have initiated the cramps and been stymied by the pickle juice... Something in the acidic juice, perhaps even a specific molecule of some kind, may be lighting up specialized nervous-system receptors in the throat or stomach."

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

How Can I Resist a Vicar?

I bought another book at Square Books today. I can't help it! I'm a sick man! Have pity. But come on! One of the blurbs called the book a "slim, delightful volume" that says "nearly all that need be said about birds and humans." Come on! That's what the Wall Street Journal said! That if I buy this book I will know almost everything about birds and humans! PLUS IT WAS WRITTEN BY A VICAR. Did you hear me? A vicar wrote it! Or, well, now I see that he co-wrote it. But still. How am I supposed to resist? Of course I am speaking of WINGED WONDERS: A CELEBRATION OF BIRDS IN HUMAN HISTORY.

Monday, June 07, 2010


I was trying to track down an old comic book story about Gyro Gearloose, panels of which keep popping into my head for no apparent reason - yes, this is what I do with my time! So what? - and that's how I found this ambitious "web" site ("click" here) about the great Carl Barks. I didn't find the Gyro Gearloose story that continues to haunt my very dreams, but I was reminded of something that had slipped my mind completely. Gyro Gearloose had a little helper named Little Helper, and Little Helper was a tiny light bulb with a metal body. Thank goodness that went back into my brain and nestled there and made a home forever. I hope it pushed out something less useful, like my pin number. "Why is this bird saying 'Piv'?" is a question you might ask yourself. Well, I think it's because the site is Danish. Maybe "piv" means something in Denmark. I don't know. Leave me alone.

About Me

For a long time now, over in the little "About Me" sidebar, the "About Me" has gone a little something like this: "Books I wrote: AWESOME (on the San Francisco Chronicle's 50-best fiction list, 2008) - YOUR BODY IS CHANGING (Entertainment Weekly raves 'B+'!) - THE MYSTERIOUS SECRET OF THE VALUABLE TREASURE (featured on NPR's 'You Must Read This')," followed by a mention of my fourth book, SHUT UP, UGLY. As you may recall, SHUT UP, UGLY was supposed to come out in August of 2009. It received a couple of reviews based on that assumption, even. Then horrible events transpired in the world of publishing. Today I'm going to take SHUT UP, UGLY off of the sidebar because I can hardly imagine it happening anymore. Even if it does, at some date in the future, it is unseemly for me to assume as much. So away it goes. I have a solitary galley and I will come to your house and read it to you. Somehow I imagine myself striding through a post-apocalyptic wasteland to get there, like a character in a Kevin Costner movie called THE NOVELIST.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Particular Quicksand

You know I pride myself on my expert Googling. But when I got curious about the subject of the aforementioned NPR interview, and entered the key words I thought would help me find the interviewee's name, I was led to conspiracy theories - as usual! Turns out the "internet" is full of them! The one to which Google led me claimed that George W. Bush's father was President Kennedy! But I am not going to "link" to it because I don't wish to lead you into that particular quicksand. So then I got the bright idea of checking the local public radio schedule instead. And I found the guy, whose name is Greg Cartmell. And I listened to a sliver of the broadcast. And I found that I had misled you in one respect! He did not paint Ken Wahl! He did, however, paint Ken Berry (as reported), Farrah Fawcett, and Mike Wallace (which I misheard somehow as Ken Wahl - that's how rumors get started!). And he does say (as I also correctly parroted) that he painted the official portrait of Barbara Bush. Nonetheless, his "web" presence isn't what it could be. (Hey, wasn't this more interesting in awkward fragments, when I had no idea what I had heard? Ha! That was a trick question. Nothing is interesting.) I found this gallery, on which there are not many portraits, though there are some nude fairies sitting on flowers. I listened to enough of the show to confirm that they did talk about knife-throwing, which arose because Mr. Cartmell is a knife maker.

The Two Kens

I was in the car for a few minutes and heard just the middle of an NPR interview with some guy, a guy who said he had painted portraits of Ken Berry and Ken Wahl and (I THINK he said) "the official portrait of Barbara Bush." And then for no reason for which I had any context, he and the interviewer suddenly started talking about the celebrated art of knife-throwing. And then the interviewer asked him why he decided to get out of the funeral home business. By this point I was where I needed to be so I turned off the car and sat there for a second in the silence like this: "!" I have no idea who the guy was and I sort of don't want to know. NPR! They're crazy over there! What are they doing? I realize you are a person who has never heard of Ken Berry or Ken Wahl. Look them up on wikipedia, you lazy bum. I'm tired.

Whether Or Not

David Markson died. I read that on the twitter account of THE BELIEVER. I haven't seen it in a newspaper. It's weird to hear that people died on twitter, but THE BELIEVER is reliable. You should check out Mr. Markson's books, whether or not he has passed away. I like THIS IS NOT A NOVEL and READER'S BLOCK, and there is a third one in that style... wait... it is called THE LAST NOVEL. I pulled that out of my brain. Some of the things he says will make you crazy, but so what? You can handle it.

Everybody Loves Evagrius

I know you are worried because you haven't heard much from me lately on the subject of CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS by Diarmaid MacCulloch. I'm still reading it, so put your mind at ease! I'm all the way up to the year 1100, so there. Oh yeah! We're in the quadruple digit years now, baby! Feels like a milestone. I have a feeling it's smooth sailing for Christianity from here on out. But let's turn back the clock a little bit, just for a minute. One of the most captivating characters I have encountered in the book is Evagrius, a fourth-century Egyptian monk. Well, he was born in Pontus, wherever that is, but he moved to Egypt, where all the best monk action was happening. It's like when bands used to move to Austin, I guess. I like him so much - from MacCulloch's description - that I special-ordered a volume of his works (the one edited by Augustine Casiday, recommended in a MacCulloch footnote), which I picked up yesterday from Square Books. And it struck me as I stared at the cover that his name seemed oddly familiar to me, from somewhere else. Then I remembered that Theresa's kind and wise mentor at Emory University, Dr. Kevin Corrigan, had signed one of his books for us a while back, and sure enough, when I got it out and looked at the title, what do you think I saw? EVAGRIUS AND GREGORY: MIND, SOUL AND BODY IN THE FOURTH CENTURY. Yeah! Now I've got the Evagrius and somebody nice to explain the Evagrius! It's going to be all Evagrius all the time around here! Party! ("Hey, Pendarvis, what's with the person in the tiger mask standing in front of the aquarium? Have you gone back to random illustrations again?" No, but thanks for the question! For some reason, that's one of the things that popped up when I did a "Google Image Search" for Evagrius Ponticus.) I read FRANNY AND ZOOEY right after Salinger passed away, and I believe that some of the theories and practices of Evagrius are highly influential on an important subplot of that book, but I do not know whether Salinger got them from Evagrius directly or if his inspiration comes from some later follower (in the novel, they are attributed to "some Russian peasant" who "never gives his name... He just tells you he's a peasant and that he's thirty-three years old and that he's got a withered arm.")


Foodstuffs! That's a weird word. It looks like a typo. Like it should be two words, first of all. And you shouldn't be allowed to put an "s" on it. But it is a real word for real people. And I just decided it is the name of our newest regular feature here on the "blog." This "post" or that one could have been our inaugural edition of "Foodstuffs!" but neither was. This one is. Because I just saw a picture of "Blog" Buddy John Currence on the White House lawn. How did he get there? NOBODY KNOWS! And he has not been seen since. Ha ha! I am pulling your leg. He was there just the other day because the First Lady asked him to cook some stuff from the White House garden. John complains (jokingly, MAYBE!) that the cilantro in the White House garden has "gone to seed." If this is true, it is a national scandal and we vow to stay on top of it until we have the answers. In other "Foodstuffs!" news, I saw John T. Edge judging people on last night's showing of IRON CHEF AMERICA, whereon he proclaimed, "Funk is good." It is a worthy standard for food and for life.

As If Stricken By My Plaintive Wail

Fast work, Dave Kehr. As if stricken by my plaintive wail, Kehr steps up to the plate and mentions Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis TWICE (if in passing) in his column in today's New York Times. Best of all, it's in a review of that new collection of Bob Hope movies first brought to our attention by Brian Z. Kehr identifies the Bob gene in Woody Allen and Steve Carrell, writing that Hope combined "the quartz-crystal timing of a seasoned pro with the helplessness and vulnerability of a little boy."

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Atlanta Pizza Friends

Do you live in Atlanta and know what a twitter is? Then this is your lucky day. You remember how sad we were here in Oxford when L&M closed down and Chef Dan Latham moved away. Now he is in Atlanta, driving around in a truck with pizza ingredients and fire in it, and he will stop and make you a pizza if you want it. I am assuming that it is probably the best pizza in the world, knowing him. Here's where you go on twitter to "follow" him, which is what they call it in the twitter, though in this case it is also literal.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Estimated Hot Dogs

On the plus side, A.O. Scott's review led me to a "link" where I learned that "an estimated 15,000,000 hot dogs and 15,000,000 hamburgers were consumed" at the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair.

A Missed Opportunity

You know the first thing I do every morning is drink coffee and check the New York Times for references to Jerry Lewis. Friends, I am almost ready to give up. If you don't count their "blogs" - and I don't! - there hasn't been a substantial one since February. Why, this is an outrage! It pains me to say that formerly outspoken Jerry lovers Manohla Dargis, Dave Kehr, and A.O. Scott have let me down. Maybe there's a gruff cigar-chomping editor like you see in the movies on their backs! Take Mr. Scott's review of the new Russell Brand/Jonah Hill film in today's paper. Mr. Brand, in Mr. Scott's estimation, is "volatile in a cool, pseudo-self aware" way, while Mr. Hill "pleads, babbles, trembles, fulminates and — more than once — vomits, all with an expressiveness that is both alarming and strangely cute." Sound familiar? Obviously it is time to compare this team of cut-ups to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. It's what we do in the New York Times. But here's what Mr. Scott gives us instead: "The two of them are like the Trylon and Perisphere of comedy." WHAT? TRYLON AND PERISPHERE????? I hardly think the Perisphere (the round structure seen in the background here) pleaded, babbled, trembled or fulminated on its best day nearly as well as Jerry (though I must admit it is alarming and strangely cute). For shame, Mr. Scott! For shame.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

John T. Muskrat

John T. Edge ate a muskrat! I saw it on twitter! "Like anchovied duck" is his lovely way of describing the flavor. He can't help it! He's even a good writer on twitter! But somehow this undermines my constant reminders to everyone that I have never eaten a possum. On the plus side, the title I made up for this "post" has given me the name of the main character in my upcoming series of delightful children's books. I'm not going to add a picture of a muskrat here because I just can't under the circumstances. Maybe the characters from THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. (Hey, this is a great picture! I should plug the "web" site of the guy who made the awesome foam heads.) PS: THE OXFORD COMPANION TO FOOD has an entry for muskrat! It says that "an annual muskrat dinner is a fixture with certain gun clubs." It also says to be sure and remove the stink glands! That's your muskrat cooking tip of the day. Except THE OXFORD COMPANION TO FOOD is classy and says "scent glands."