Friday, December 30, 2011

A Very Pleasant and Fragrant Odor

Hi! Remember when I told you about the saintly Padre Pio and his mystically good smell? Well add THIS to your holy smell file (I know you have one!): I just read in SABBATAI SEVI: THE MYSTICAL MESSIAH by Gershom Scholem that "after 1648 a very pleasant and fragrant odor exuded from Sabbatai's body... The matter caused some gossip, and people found fault with the use of perfumes by a rabbi. Finally a Smyrna physician, Dr. Baruch, reproved Sabbatai, who thereupon took him home and stripped himself so the physician could smell the odor. Sabbatai then told him of the vision of the patriarchs, who had anointed him with oil, and commanded him not to reveal this mystery to anyone until the proper time." (See also.)

This Really Happened

Ace Atkins came over last night to watch his bootleg of BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS. Don't judge him! A man has to find pleasure wherever he can in this horrible world. BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS was a TV show in the 70s. Network stars battled each other on it! ("Click" here to be reminded once again what we thought of as entertainment back then. You'll be surprised, kids!) We watched two episodes, lasting an hour and a half apiece. They were intense! Host Howard Cossell prodded his celebrity guests with searing psychological interviews! I'm not kidding. Cheryl Ladd, in an electric blue terry cloth sweatband, spoke with shocking bitterness about how glad she was to get out of Utah and how everybody who told her she could never make it sure was sorry now! Michelle Phillips from the band The Mamas and the Papas (and apparently a TV show called ASPEN [?]) injured her ankle on the obstacle course yet still made an admirable showing in the relay race ("She didn't even feel it," commented Ace, going on to make a wry observation about the recreational drug use in vogue at the time. DON'T DO DRUGS!). Michelle Phillips's show of determination caused Dan Haggerty from the show GRIZZLY ADAMS to come over and PUT HIS HANDS ALL OVER HER in a very creepy manner by way of congratulations. (GRIZZLY ADAMS was a show about a big hairy mountain man with a grizzly bear friend. Dr. Theresa recalled a schoolyard legend about his beard catching fire with tragic results, and I remembered it too. But I couldn't remember what Grizzly Adams and his friend the bear did on their show every week. "Solved crimes?" I said. Angela [Ace's bride - I hesitated to incriminate her by mentioning her involvement] disagreed: "There were orphans involved," she insisted.) Finally Howard Cossell had just about enough of watching Michelle Phillips trying to writhe out of Dan Haggerty's inappropriate grasp. "If you don't get your hands off her, I'll break your arms," he said. He really said that! Afterward, Dan Haggerty's penchant for groping became noticeable, though it often happened in the background. We all felt bad for Ben Murphy, star of television's GEMINI MAN, because none of us had ever heard of Ben Murphy or television's GEMINI MAN. Ace asked whether I had a copy of THE COMPLETE DIRECTORY TO PRIME TIME NETWORK TV SHOWS 1946-PRESENT by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh. I was so happy to be able to say yes! I raced to the bedroom to retrieve it. But by the time I got back Angela HAD ALREADY TOLD EVERYBODY EVERYTHING ABOUT GEMINI MAN thanks to her fancy electronic iPhone. That's one for you, technology, curse you! GEMINI MAN lasted barely a month on the air, which explains why Ben Murphy was on episode one of BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS and not on episode two of BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS. Telly Savalas accused Ben Murphy of cheating in the relay race. As the evening concluded we all imagined Ben Murphy sitting somewhere in a bar at THAT VERY MOMENT saying "I used to be the Gemini Man!"

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Still Draggin'

"Such are the deeds of men, forgotten like the coiled horgabulons of yore." The fourth chapter of my sprawling fantasy epic THE DRAGON'S HUMP is up for your "pleasure" at VICE magazine. SPOILER ALERT! Cats dressed in adorable outfits walk on their hind legs! I'm pretty sure that's standard content for VICE magazine. CAN YOU HANDLE IT?

A Bath of Chocolate

"Mr. Gingrich and his wife, Callista, made their way to the kitchen and received a lesson in hand-dipping cookies into a bath of chocolate."

Profiles in Courage

This sentence I read in the New York Times today is funny out of context: "'I have the courage to come to the chocolate factory,' Mr. Gingrich told a packed crowd." It's also kind of funny in context. (See also.)

Chimp Psychic

Even though I don't care about "facts," I guess I am obligated to tell you that some scientists are saying NO WAY was that deceased chimp I told you about yesterday really Cheetah from the Tarzan movies. "Click" here for an article about it since you care so much. The article has some hilariously defensive quotations from the experts, like, "I'm not a chimp psychic" and "All chimps basically look like George Burns to me."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up

Welcome once more to "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up," your one place on the "internet" for all the celebrity entertainment stars. THIS JUST IN! According to Ben Greenman's twitter account, Cheetah the Chimp from the Tarzan movies is DEAD at age 80. I really thought that our celebrity correspondent Mr. Ward had worked with Cheetah in the past, so I emailed him right away for comment. His disappointing response: "Sadly I never did get to meet Cheetah. Maybe you're thinking of the time I did a shoot with Flipper's daughter." On the plus side, maybe we'll get some juicy tidbits about Flipper's daughter soon! Or, if you will settle for a story about the time Mr. Ward and I worked with a lesser-known chimp, "click" here. MORE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS FROM THE WORLD OF THE CELEBRITY STARS! Another thing Ben Greenman does with his twitter account is collect and critique newspaper headlines. A recent favorite of mine: "Jim Belushi Champions Gout Treatment." That's it for this edition of "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up" - until next time, keep reaching for those stars!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Word Report

In EL DORADO, which we watched the other night, John Wayne uses the word "charivari" (variant spelling "shivaree"), a word I don't think has occurred to me since almost five years ago, as I'm sure you recall, when I encountered it in a Dostoevsky translation. Pretty fancy company, Duke! Words! I learned a new word from SABBATAI SEVI: THE MYSTICAL MESSIAH by Gershom Scholem: chiliastic. It DOES NOT have anything to do with especially delicious chili, as I originally assumed. Also in SABBATAI SEVI we meet "Nathan Shapira, chief rabbi of Cracow (died 1633)" (who, as a helpful footnote informs me, is "Not to be confused with the kabbalist Nathan Shapira of Jerusalem, who also lived in Cracow") - he once "presented one thousand explanations of the letter aleph in the first word of Leviticus." A thousand explanations of the LETTER, not the word! You might just say that Nathan Shapira of Cracow was the original "blogger," but don't. Don't say that. I found this bit of the book comforting somehow: "In a world of homiletical and allegorical interpretations there are no incompatibilities and contradictions. According to an old rabbinic adage, 'Scripture has seventy faces.'" Words! Our friends Chris Offutt and Melissa Ginsburg were over a few weeks ago and we were all speculating about the relationship of the phrase "in lieu of" to the word lieutenant. Then I remembered! When my mom visited for Thanksgiving, she brought me this enormous old dictionary I used to love. It's the WEBSTER'S NEW TWENTIETH CENTURY DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, UNABRIDGED, SECOND EDITION, from 1974. I spent a lot of time with that dictionary. I read it so much that the covers came off and my grandmother rebound it with the same contact paper she used to line the kitchen drawers. The dictionary proved very helpful to our discussion and the contact paper is still holding everything together! When I was looking up "lieu" and "lieutenant," I flipped to a page on which one of the "guide words" at the top was lipostomosis. I didn't even have to glance at the definition. How well I recalled it from the times it terrified me as an impressionable child thumbing through the enormous dictionary. I was fascinated by that word. It means "absence of a mouth." It occurs to me all of a sudden that we also ran across "mimp" in the old dictionary that night: "an affected puckering of the mouth or lips." So those are your words for the day: charivari, chiliastic, lipostomosis, mimp. Chris Offutt demonstrated his impressions of both lipostomosis and mimp. A better title for this "post" might have been "An Affected Puckering." Or maybe that's my NEXT next novel, the sequel to "A Fresh Rupture." Words! Goodbye from words.

Movie Report

"You can do it, clammy Mitchum!" Dr. Theresa shouted encouragingly at the screen during a viewing of EL DORADO. Robert Mitchum is very clammy during much of the latter part of the film (see photo). Later he cleans up and puts on a fresh outfit, though not to great effect according to Dr. Theresa: "He looks like a Russian dancer!" I had always vaguely and dismissively thought of EL DORADO as a pale imitation of RIO BRAVO. But drawn in by Dr. Theresa's commitment ("He put that horse in reverse!" she remarked approvingly of John Wayne's equestrian skills) I found out it was good. EL DORADO was good. We particularly liked the philosophical hired killer played by Christopher George. Don't know much about him. According to the "internet" he subsequently appeared in a movie called THE DAY SANTA CLAUS CRIED, which seems unfortunate.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Book Report

On Christmas Eve I was sitting in a chair at Square Books leafing through a $50 hardcover bio of Mahler which I DID NOT BUY. I read about Mahler and his wife Alma visiting a New York City opium den as a lark, in the company of a "detective with a loaded revolver"! Then I looked at an "Ethnobotanical Dictionary" of "Native American Food Plants" which I also RESISTED BUYING. BECAUSE I HAD NO MONEY. I noticed that my famous recommendation shelf had sold its 39th volume: ANGELA SLOAN by James Whorton, Jr.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Patently McNeil

McNeil sent this patent application for "A method to create a human robot with psychic abilities, as well as enabling a human robot to access information in a time machine." I almost saved it for tomorrow's climactic "blog" advent calendar revelation, but my typing fingers got itchy. Also courtesy of McNeil, here is the patent for instant oatmeal. (Panel from the "Silver Age Comics" "blog" as usual.)

A Yuletide Reflection

It behooves us upon this reflective time of year to recall the Justine Bateman rock-and-roll movie SATISFACTION. Justine Bateman was the star! Julia Roberts was naught but the piddling sidekick of a sidekick. Oh, life. Truly your ways are most wondrous. Liam Neeson was the leading man who fell in love with Justine Bateman. His dog made comical expressions whenever something comical happened! Like, "Wuh-woh!" Such is the thought that the dog's expression conveyed. If you had to guess the "breakout star," you would not say Julia Roberts. You would say Britta Phillips. She got all the wisecracks. I guess she went on to do the voice of Jem in the cartoon program JEM, so don't you worry about Britta Phillips. Wikipedia tells me that she was in an Atlanta band during our time there, the name of which I recall from many a flyer, so maybe Dr. Theresa and I saw her play. Yet we never knew! WE NEVER KNEW! I have certainly given you a lot to think about during this holiday season.

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 24, 2011


Friday, December 23, 2011

Marshmallow Field

Lee Durkee sends me some guy's UFO footage, but what he really likes is the narration. It's easy to see why! ("Click" here.) Dig the super mellow tone when the guy says the UFO is "south of Marshmallow Field... back of the cemetery." He calmly suggests that skeptics can "go eat fish." That's the most anger he can muster in his super mellow way! Lee found the guy's "blog," too, and sent a "link," but I can't "link" to it... not JUST because it might be from that part of the "internet" from which no one ever returns. Also, whenever I "click" on it, my computer grinds to a halt. Maybe it's just me! But I'm trying to save you the trouble. His design choice is this: dark purple font over a black background. Hard to read! But Lee says he "blogs" about his buddy, an alien space commander who happens to look like a sultry Swedish actress. All right!

Bird Trouble

My sister will be horrified to learn that pigeons can do math! They can do math at monkey levels! Which is more than I can say for myself. The other day I read on Maud Newton's "blog" that parrots understand the concept of zero. I'm telling you, something sinister is going on. In fact, looking back at that Maud Newton piece, not only do crows develop grudges against specific people, THEY TELL ALL THEIR CROW FRIENDS. Like, "This guy's a jerk. Let's get him!" Now put that together with pigeon math! This is science, people! For more on the pigeon monkey math story, "click" here. IF YOU DARE! PS I see that gawker has already reported on this (the pigeon part), using much the same tone and including the same "monkeys are better than I am at doing math" joke. But I wasn't copying them! As you know, my fear of birds taking over the world goes back for years.

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 23, 2011

Your daily surprise.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 20, 2011

What you get for today.

Goober's Light

I just remembered something about Goober. I read in his autobiography that he always travels with his own light bulb, because the light in hotel rooms is too dim. Minnie Pearl gave him that tip. I think I'm remembering all this correctly. If I'm not, who cares?

All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up

Welcome once again to "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up," your ONE spot on the "internet" for all the latest news of the entertainment celebrity stars. The stars were out in full force last night: Billy Barty! Goober! Slim Pickens! "Ma" from THE GRAPES OF WRATH! William "Blacula" Marshall! Mr. Haney from GREEN ACRES! Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane from THE DUKES OF HAZZARD! What could bring together this luminous constellation for one spectacular evening? Why, a fascinating and disturbing episode of the old TV show THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR that Dr. Theresa and I watched, of course. It came on one of the Encore channels. They must cater to a peculiar demographic. Blacula has a long speech about the origins of humanity while Mr. Haney sinks in quicksand! Goober delivers a harrowing, tormented monologue, one long take in close-up. Harrowing Goober! I will not hesitate to say that it was Goober's finest moment. I have probably told you this before, but Mr. Ward was once tasked with driving Goober around in a car, never mind why. And Goober kept complaining that he was trained to perform Shakespeare but nobody cared. That's it for this edition of "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up." Until next time... keep reaching for the stars!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vanishing Gin Frog

I am very upset that my "blog" advent calendar entry for December 5 has DISAPPEARED! It was a novelty apron featuring a frog reclining in a martini glass, of course. Looked like some kind of beadwork, maybe. But now if you "click" on it, it is BLANK! I don't want you to think I was trying to be "postmodern" or something. I'm not "into" blank advent calendars. CHRISTMAS IS RUINED!

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 19, 2011

Might be anything.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Caught in the Foothills

My favorite quotation in that Jerry Lewis documentary came from Richard Belzer: "Some people get caught in the foothills of him but you really have to scale the peaks."

50 Ways to Love Your Lewis

Maybe you want to love Jerry but you don't know how! I have decided to help out the Encore movie channel by supplementing its day-long Jerry marathon and tonight's Jerry Lewis documentary with 50 "blog" "links" suited to various interests. Remember, these are JUST THE FIRST 50 WAYS TO LOVE JERRY OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD. They MAY NOT ALL BE RIGHT FOR YOU. Please feel free to browse among them, "clicking" away on your exciting search for YOUR OWN PERSONAL PATHWAY TO JERRY. 1. Read the great Jerry monograph by Chris Fujiwara. 2. Do you like Philip K. Dick? Well, Jerry Lewis appears in his EXEGESIS - which is ONLY HIS ECSTATIC VISION OF THE MEANING OF THE WHOLE UNIVERSE! THAT'S ALL! 3. Speaking of authors, do you like authors? Maybe one of your fave authors has included Jerry Lewis in a book: Tom Franklin has! So have Don DeLillo, Lynda Barry, Lorrie Moore, Frederick Barthelme and many others! Classy! 4. Let's keep going with this author thing. How is Edgar Allan Poe like Jerry Lewis? "Click" here to find out! 5. Yeah, and what would Kierkegaard say about Jerry Lewis? 6. Maybe you are from the "dance world." Did you know that many highbrow choreographers turn to Jerry Lewis for inspiration? 7. Jerry thought Dean Martin smelled great! That's a nice detail. 8. Similarities between Jerry and the great Italian giallo director Mario Bava, if that's your thing. 9. A trusted method of immersing yourself in Jerryness. 10. Don't believe me? Take it from bestselling novelist Laura Lippman! 11. Don't believe Laura Lippman? Perhaps famed method actor Edward Norton is more to your taste. 12. Consider Jerry Lewis as the forefather of David Lynch. 13. Jonathan Rosenbaum knows a lot about movies and he LOVES Jerry Lewis! 14. Tough-to-please James Wolcott likewise! 15. When I was listing authors who have included Jerry in their work I forgot John Hodgman. 16. And Michael Kupperman! 17. For that matter, Jerry is in my novella JUNGLE GERONIMO IN GAY PAREE. 18. Jerry a hero to Michael Palin of the Monty Python comedy troupe. 19. Jerry an inspiration for the British version of THE OFFICE that everyone loves so much. 20. Jerry makes me think of the French painter Henri Rosseau. 21. McNeil's Theory of Potential Energy. 22. Do you like Godard? Well, Godard based some of his scenes on Jerry Lewis scenes. Like this and that. 23. Some maintain that 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY would have been better with Jerry in it. 24. Jerry's spectacular use of color. 25. How about that prescient scene in THE BELLBOY that anticipates Scorsese's THE KING OF COMEDY? 26. The Cinderfella dance! 27. Jerry frequently appears in THE BELIEVER magazine. 28. I intuit a connection between Jerry and J.D. Salinger. 29. And supposedly Salinger considered Jerry to direct the movie version of CATCHER IN THE RYE, maybe! I said maybe! 30. Jerry's influence on GOODFELLAS. You like GOODFELLAS! 31. Jon Stewart of the popular DAILY SHOW often does Jerry Lewis impressions, but if he is too hep for your taste, crusty David Letterman also impersonates Jerry from time to time. 32. Speaking of which, maybe you should watch lots of Jerry Lewis so you can practice the fun habit of saying things like Jerry Lewis. It's fun! 33. Even nature itself aspires to sound like Jerry Lewis. 34. Do you like singing? Jerry Lewis is a good singer! I guess he can do it all. 35. Maybe you identify with Jerry's world-weary attitude. 36. He hung out in a diner with Marilyn Monroe, so that's cool! 37. Blair Hobbs detects an aesthetic kinship between Jerry and the photographer William Eggleston. 38. Jerry inspired Bruce Springsteen. That's right, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN! 39. Think of Jerry as a poet. 40. Need a dissertation topic? How about "Medical Ethics in the Films of Jerry Lewis"? You're welcome! 41. In a hilarious practical joke, Jerry ruined Dick van Dyke's meeting with the queen! 42. Jerry was instrumental in getting the great Stan Laurel his honorary Oscar. 43. Jerry is handsome! 44. Maybe you are a "conspiracy theory buff." Well, for real the CIA tampered with one of Jerry's movies. Brood on that for a while! 45. Maybe you're an animal lover. Well, Jerry bought a hearing aid for his dog! 46. Jerry is subversive! 47. Quentin Tarantino + Jerry Lewis = True Love 4ever. 48. When everybody was dumping on Arthur Penn's BONNIE AND CLYDE, Jerry was one of the first to proclaim its greatness. 49. Does he irritate you and make you uncomfortable? MAYBE THAT'S JUST WHAT JERRY WANTS! 50. For example, he once stuck his nose in Frank Sinatra's eye.

Fave Clown Flavor

Both Ace Atkins and Brian Z. have kindly written to remind me about the BIG NEW JERRY LEWIS DOCUMENTARY coming on the Encore movie channel TONIGHT. PLUS THEY ARE RUNNING JERRY MOVIES ALL DAY. Time for your immersion therapy! Brian Z. included this "link" to a NEW YORKER article about Jerry, which says that the documentary "unfolds the pathos of the comic performer, which emerges from his ability (and need) to plumb depths of his being that would remain closed to him but for the chaos of comedy." Wow! That's deep! And it has sad clown all over it, my favorite clown flavor.

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 17, 2011

Today's treat.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Grog Quaffing

"The handsome brigand quaffed his grog from a tankard of marvelous heft." Chapter Two of my sprawling fantasy epic is "up." Oh, it's really starting to sprawl. Mark Childress claims it sprawled all over his floor.

Pillow Vigilante

I never get tired of telling you about my trouble sleeping. Ironically! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Wait, is that ironic? Who cares? So last night I watched some of the pillow infomercial again. This time a guy from the studio audience got up and told the pillow genius, "I met you at the State Fair last year." And the pillow guy was like, "I remember." And the studio audience member said, "I didn't even know I was looking for a pillow. You saw me and said, 'I need to talk to you.'" There are so many things I love about this story! The hero of the pillow commercial is some kind of pillow evangelist, going around the country with a van full of pillows or something, helping people in need! Plus he has the super power of magically telling WHO NEEDS A PILLOW! Then I switched over to an informercial in which a guy was trying to sell me a public domain book from 1925. So that's crazy! It's all about the secret of getting rich, which explains why everyone since 1925 has been rich and nothing bad happened economically EXCEPT THE GREAT DEPRESSION FOR STARTERS. The book was written by somebody named Napoleon Hill (!), but "The Napoleon Hill Society" says that this scamming TV dude's version of the book is nothing but a BIG RIP-OFF. PS One of the secrets of getting rich is having "A Pleasing Personality." I should try that! PPS I see on the twitter that Kelly Hogan had insomnia last night, too. She watched TURNER & HOOCH.

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 15, 2011

Every day a new surprise here at the "blog" advent calendar. Today's surprise was inspired by Dent May. To find out what it is, "click" here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sapphire People

Last night when I couldn't sleep I turned on the Gem Shopping Network, but my favorite Gem Shopping Network personality Tracey was not there. It was some guy who was the opposite of Tracey, YELLING at and BERATING the home audience. When I flipped to the channel, he was yelling "SHAME ON YOU! SHAME ON ALL OF YOU!" because no one would call in to bid on this sapphire he really liked. He yelled "THIS SAPPHIRE IS NUTS! THIS SAPPHIRE IS NUTS!" And then he swore that if no one bid on it, he would punish us all by never selling us another sapphire again no matter how much we begged him. Finally it was time to stop selling the sapphire and he put it away, saying in a voice dripping with disgust, "Obviously, we don't have any sapphire people watching."

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 13, 2011


Monday, December 12, 2011

I Like Sentences

Here is a sentence I like from Gershom Scholem: "Symbols express in human speech that which is properly inexpressible."

We Report, You Decide!

In SABBATAI SEVI: THE MYSTICAL MESSIAH, Gershom Scholem writes that "the ouroboros, the circular serpent biting its own tail... is one of the best-known symbols of the unity and eternal renewal of life," but in THAT IS ALL, John Hodgman says it is "just a picture of a really dumb snake."

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 12, 2011

It might be anything!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mumps Monkey

You know I am not morbid, but I do enjoy a good obituary headline. Like, in today's New York Times there is an obituary for a reporter who "Brought Down [a] Scheming Texas Tycoon." That's a good thing to have in your obituary headline! And that obituary has a good sentence in it, too, which I will give you out of context: "A monkey climbed the trees until he got mumps."

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 11, 2011

Here you go.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Deadly Rainbows of Science

McNeil sent me an article about scientists creating rainbows in a laboratory but I don't have time to tell you about it because I'm grading papers. PS The rainbows aren't deadly - I just put that in the headline to make it more dynamic.

Oh Brother!

The New York Times gossip columnist is up to her old antics again. Here is some of a party conversation she supposedly had: "People are obsessed with death. They approach it like a moth approaches a flame." Party! There's also a Samuel Beckett reference and it all starts like this: "Lantern-bearers led the crowd through the darkened streets of Fort Greene, Brooklyn, on Tuesday night to a lavish dinner..." Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Lantern-bearers. Oh my.

Bill Boyle Dressed as an Owl

Also, here is Bill Boyle dressed as an owl for the Oxford Christmas parade, natch. Hint: his wife works for the Audubon Society!

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 10, 2011

Your surprise for today.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Promised Disappointing Photo of George Hamilton

This is the promised disappointing photo of George Hamilton, which doesn't live up to the exciting way I described it. But he IS squinting in a somewhat angry way as he sips his iced tea... isn't he?

Old-Timey Taxi Cab Palace

Kent Osborne - who lives in Los Angeles just like my brother - sends in this second photo of a second old-timey taxi from the Sean Penn movie they are shooting next to my brother's place. Wow, this movie is going to be packed to the brim with old-timey taxis. And soon my "blog" will be THE place on the "internet" for modern-day photos of old-timey taxis! That's always been my goal. Meanwhile, my brother reports that Sean Penn was in a movie shoot-out last night. My brother took some video of it but I can't figure out how to download it because I'm an old idiot, to no one's surprise. Here's what my brother says the movie is about: "it's the 'true story' of some cops in the 40s fighting gangsters... and NOT by the book! These fellas know how to bend the rules, see?"

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 9, 2011


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Hipster Chimp Shoot

Mr. Ward writes to remind me that the time we saw George Hamilton eating lunch we were in Los Angeles for our "hipster chimp shoot." Don't ask. Okay, I will tell you. I think you could win a lot of awful pizza by watching SAVED BY THE BELL. So Mr. Ward and I made this contest spot featuring various tattooed youngsters having a swinging dance party on a helicopter pad on the roof of a downtown office building with their baby chimp sidekick, just like in real life. I forgot to tell you, our main hipster character LIVED on the roof of the building, apparently. He had a couch and a lamp and a TV set up there and everything. We dollied in a hipster angel who threw glitter and I am pretty sure she fell off the dolly and sued TBS. FUN FACT: It is cold and windy on a helicopter pad, and your teeth will chatter and you will shiver and shake, yet the sun will fry and burn your delicate flesh and poison your very blood! They finally had to wrap me in a blanket. It was very sad. Mr. Ward found the George Hamilton photo but he didn't send it in a format I could download here. While we wait, I will just warn you that it is completely disappointing.

Check Out the Dragon's Hump

The good (?) people at VICE magazine are serializing my sprawling fantasy epic THE DRAGON'S HUMP, book eleven in my beloved BRIGANDS OF THE BOG series (named by my brother-in-law David). Check it out.

Radio Needs Money

Citizens of Oxford! Be sure to come out to the Lyric Theater this very eve at Six of the Clock for a holiday-themed Thacker Mountain Radio fundraiser. Both Dr. Theresa and I will be reading. Dr. Theresa will present a touching memory of Christmas in Egypt. I will do something wildly inappropriate. Arguably! Also there will be music and fun. And all it costs is a great deal of your money.

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 8, 2011

I certainly hope you have been checking in here for a glimpse of the "blog" advent calendar every single day! Always a new surprise.

Sizzling Celebrity Gossip

Welcome once again to "Sizzling Celebrity Gossip," your one place on the "internet" to enjoy the kind of gossip about celebrities that sizzles! ITEM! A Sean Penn movie is being shot in my brother's neighborhood. It must take place in 1948 because they put up this poster of RED RIVER at the movie theater, and hey, get a load of this old-timey taxi (below)! What's that? You say that you don't consider an old-timey taxi to be sizzling celebrity gossip? Shut up, jerk! My brother is going to look out of his window a lot and tell me all the sizzling celebrity gossip that happens and then you'll be sorry.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Mr. Ward's Presidential Korner 7

Speaking of Mr. Ward, you will be glad to hear that it is time for another edition of "Mr. Ward's Presidential Korner." Today Mr. Ward sends us a video clip ("click" here) of an actual witness to the Lincoln assassination appearing as a contestant on a TV game show. He's a little shaky. As the host explains, "By golly, he got to the hotel and fell down the steps and gave himself a shiner." (To see John Cage on another episode of the same game show, "click" here. Game shows used to be different!)

My Much Anticipated George Hamilton Considerations

Just turned on TCM and saw George Hamilton playing Moss Hart. And I thought, "Huh, George Hamilton starred in biopics as Moss Hart and Hank Williams. That's weird." And then I kept thinking. I thought, "To whom will this be of interest? No one! Therefore, I will put it on my 'blog.'" And then, dear reader, I kept thinking about George Hamilton. I thought about all the brand-name top-shelf directors he has worked with, such as Vincent Minnelli, Woody Allen, and Francis Ford Coppola. In the latter case, I have always wondered whether there might have been a touch of vengefulness in the casting. Like, Francis Ford Coppola was thinking, "Oh yeah, Robert Duvall? You're not coming back for GODFATHER III? I'll get GEORGE HAMILTON to replace you and see how you like that!" Nor did my thinking about George Hamilton end there. I recalled a time that Mr. Ward and I were in Los Angeles, and for some reason the rental place had issued us a creepy van instead of a normal car. We were driving down Sunset Boulevard when we spied George Hamilton eating at a sidewalk café. So we turned the van around and parked on the street right in front of him and started yelling out the window: "George Hamilton! Hey! George Hamilton!" When he looked up, Mr. Ward took a picture of him and sped away. George Hamilton was mad! I wonder if Mr. Ward still has that picture; after all, he still has the picture of the Foster Brooks robot.

Some Blurb

So here's part of Cynthia Ozick's blurb for SABBATAI SEVI: THE MYSTICAL MESSIAH by Gershom Scholem: "There are certain magisterial works of the human mind that alter comprehension so unpredictably and on so prodigious a scale that culture itself is set awry... Obviously it is not possible to 'review' such a work, any more than one can review a mountain range." All right! That's all I want from a blurb. Is that too much to ask?

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 7, 2011

Your daily advent calendar surprise.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Frasier, Briefly

So I was eating a sandwich today while a rerun of CHEERS was on and Carla told Frasier that a bee had crawled into his shirt. So FRASIER IMMEDIATELY TORE OFF HIS SHIRT. So Frasier was doing that way back on CHEERS before it became a leitmotif on his eponymous show. By the way, Carla was just messing with him. There was no bee in Frasier's shirt. This has been another edition of "Frasier, Briefly."

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 6, 2011


Sunday, December 04, 2011

A Fond Farewell

And so we wish you a fond farewell on behalf of all the good folks at SKIN MAG, the human literary magazine. Until next time, keep your shirt on! Photos by Rachel Smith.

Addressing the Controversy!

There is no controversy. Tom Franklin was the winner of the SKIN MAG poetry contest. Yes, he is married to Beth Ann Fennelly, who did President's Challenge push-ups alongside SKIN MAG! So what? SKIN MAG cares not for your small-minded propriety. Still, contest judge Gary Short HAD NO IDEA who the contestants were. And in fact, when you think about it, what does Tom Franklin get out of this? Part of the big "prize" was being mentioned on this "blog," WHERE AN ENTIRE SECTION IS ALREADY DEVOTED TO HIM. It's all just sad if you really think about it. Look, SKIN MAG operates by word of mouth. When I suggested to SKIN MAG that SKIN MAG should have a "web" site, SKIN MAG replied, "NO 'WEB' SITE!" in a startled and offended tone. So maybe as word gets around about SKIN MAG, there will be a greater number of contestants who are not Tom Franklin. Submissions for the next issue of SKIN MAG will occur around "the solstice," says SKIN MAG ominously. Pictured, from left: SKIN MAG, judge, "blogger," contest winner, push-up doer.

How Poetry Works

Here we see poet Ann Fisher-Wirth applying the title of the winning poem to SKIN MAG, the human literary magazine. Below, SKIN MAG attempts to destroy the original copy of the poem through the medium of fire. But poetry refuses to be destroyed!

The President's Challenge

This is part three of our continuing coverage of SKIN MAG, the human literary magazine. If you need to catch up, please "click" here for part one or here for part two. Pictured: SKIN MAG scampering away down the sidewalk from the City Grocery Bar (not pictured). That extra set of legs? Why, they belong to none other than poet Beth Ann Fennelly, who accompanied SKIN MAG to the preordained spot for a series of President's Challenge push-ups. Reports say that Fennelly did 20 President's Challenge push-ups in a grand show of moral support. It is assumed that SKIN MAG went on to complete the promised number of 55.

Anybody Home?

Still waiting to hear whether I am allowed to show poet Ann Fisher-Wirth printing the contents of SKIN MAG in lipstick directly onto the medium. It may violate SKIN MAG's strict rule about reproduction! Reportedly, when SKIN MAG was read at Faulkner's grave (the culmination of its "publication"), latecomers asked if the poem could be repeated, and SKIN MAG replied, "No. It will never be uttered again." (To that end, Ann's husband Peter was not allowed to view the printing. Known for his prodigious memory, he once performed the entirety of KRAPP'S LAST TAPE for one of Barry Hannah's classes. The utter obliteration required by SKIN MAG could not be complete had the poem been allowed to live on in the amazing brain of Peter Wirth.) In the meantime, here is SKIN MAG discovering that Faulkner's house was closed to visitors by the time SKIN MAG arrived. So the planned shirtless tour did not happen! The next part of the plan did, though: SKIN MAG perpetrated a classic "ding-dong ditch" prank at the home of famed novelist Richard Ford. As the house did not appear to have a doorbell, SKIN MAG was required to bang frantically with a knocker before running away. Witnesses stated that a tall figure could be seen moving behind a window, and suddenly the front porch blazed with light. What happened next, nobody knows. SKIN MAG had vanished mysteriously into the gathering gloom.

Trash Pillows

While I am waiting, I will tell you about an infomercial I watched in the wee hours while I couldn't sleep. It was for a revolutionary new pillow that looks exactly like a pillow. ORDINARY PILLOWS SIMPLY DON'T WORK, the graphics kept proclaiming. Maybe they're right! I was awake! I think it is kind of clever when they run the "can't sleep" infomercials during the hours when people should be sleeping. Dr. Theresa's fave moment - that's right! She noticed I wasn't in bed and got up and joined me for a spell - came when an interview subject said, "The pillows you buy at the market are just trash, really." I liked the "neurologist" who couldn't help grinning broadly and even laughing every time he tried to make an outlandish, straight-faced claim about the pillow. It was his "tell," I think! The woman who hosted the infomercial had the appearance and mannerisms of Michelle Bachmann. She tried to tell a moving story about her little daughter saying she had become a better mommy since purchasing the pillow. I think she tried to tear up or choke up or something while she told it BUT IT DIDN'T WORK. She couldn't make herself go through with it.

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 4, 2011

I am waiting to hear whether a photo I want to "post" would violate the stringent rules of SKIN MAG literary magazine. In the meantime, don't worry! I haven't forgotten the "blog" advent calendar. You may "click" here to enjoy today's selection.

Human Magazine Strips For Art

"This is for poetry all over the world!" he shouted from the balcony of City Grocery Bar. With that, SKIN MAG, the human literary magazine, ripped off his shirt and tossed it to the clamoring throng on the sidewalk below. The discarded garment landed in a trash can, from whence it was plucked by courageous young Bill Boyle, an avowed SKIN MAG fan. SKIN MAG - the contents of its first issue printed on its back in lipstick - sprinted through the bar, down the stairs, and out into the streets, off for a life of adventure and fun. Throughout the day, if I am not too tired, I will recount more tidbits from the first issue "publication" of SKIN MAG... its triumphs, its disasters, its legendary feats of derring-do. The "blog" has not seen this kind of continuing narrative since my brother went to Michael Jackson's memorial service! Now I am getting tired just thinking about it. SKIN MAG! (Above, SKIN MAG prepares for publication.)

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Music Issue

I can't sell you the annual music issue of THE OXFORD AMERICAN magazine with accompanying CD. It sells itself! The most I can do each year is list JUST A FEW of the musicians and "liner note" writers of "blog" interest, or "blinterest," who pop up. So here we are again. MUSICIANS: Wadada Leo Smith (article written by my neighbor Mr. Lonesome)! Bo Diddley! Syl Johnson! Guitar Slim! Milton Babbitt! All right! You get the picture. Anyway, the biggest treat every year is discovering performers you haven't heard of. WRITERS: My fellow BELIEVER columnist and very special facebook friend Nick Hornby! Benjamin Percy! Ben Greenman! Roy Blount Jr.! William Gay! Sandra Beasley! Rosanne Cash! Kevin Brockmeier! Peter Guralnick! Nicholas Rombes! Natalie Elliott! Jamie Quatro! Sheila Heti! Okay my typing fingers are giving out.

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 3, 2011


Thursday, December 01, 2011

"Blog" Advent Calendar for Dec. 1, 2011

Gee! I nearly forgot that today is the day we kick off - for the fifth year in a row! - that happy brainchild of Dr. "M.": The "Blog" Advent Calendar! If you would like a refresher course on how it works, please "click" here. Otherwise, to begin enjoying this year's excitement, simply "click" here. Could be anything!


Just a couple of days from the inaugural issue of SKIN MAG. Don't worry! It's not a "racy" publication! It's some guy with his shirt off, and he runs around Oxford with YOUR POEM written on his back in lipstick. So maybe it is kind of "racy." No, this isn't some koo koo make-em-up I'm pulling your leg with in funny land! It's a real poetry contest. And part of the dubious "prize" is that the name of the winner appears on this "blog" on Dec. 4. To quote from the official rules of the contest (it's too late to enter now, sorry!): "Record of the winning writer and poem will be archived for record’s sake, but the poem will not be printed, distributed online, or photographed by Skin Mag or anyone affiliated with the publication. No monetary 'reward' will be given." Plans for Dec. 3 include drinks for the poem's "medium" at City Grocery Bar, "fifty-five 'President Challenge' pushups" and a shirtless tour of Faulkner's house. That's not all! There's also plenty of grave desecration, just for starters! I guess you'll have to wait for the "blog" on Dec. 4 to find out more. The contest is being judged by legit poet Gary Short. Rumor has it that legit poet Beth Ann Fennelly will jog along with the poem for at least part of its route. Legit! This event has almost TOO MUCH legitimacy if you ask me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Patron of the Owl Shop

You recall my best and only piece of advice as a "writing teacher": "Put an owl in it!" Yes, an owl adds a lively dash of pizzazz to any piece of serious literature. Of course, John Hodgman doesn't need me to tell him! In his new book THAT IS ALL we meet "Mister Slither, a Patron of the Owl Shop." Of Mister Slither I can say no more.

Pigs Fly

I think I still miss Sam Sifton. The restaurant reviewer who took over for him in the New York Times gives a great review to a Greenwich Village restaurant where he ate "a half-pound of deep-fried bacon" and a fish skeleton. The butter there has been subjected to "notions of controlled spoilage." As Sam Sifton would have, Mr. Asimov compels me think of this as a good thing. But I'm afraid Sam Sifton would have made me hungrier for a fish skeleton. It is surprisingly hard to find an image of Sylvester the Cat eating a fish skeleton, so here is Tweety in a sandwich. I find myself thinking - perhaps unfairly - about how gawker, for example, would frame a story featuring carnival-goers, for example, eating "a half-pound of deep-fried bacon" in Mississippi, for example, as opposed to a restaurant critic doing the same in Greenwich Village. Related: John T. Edge - also in today's paper - on "Pig Wings."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

We Weren't the Boss

Hey, yeah, well, Mr. Ward and I were once charged with making a WHO'S THE BOSS promo for TBS but soon we realized there was nothing to say about WHO'S THE BOSS. So we "remixed" some footage from the show and the whole promo turned out to be video "sampling" and "scratching" - you know, like Tony Danza wouldn't just shout "Mona!" He'd go, "Mo-mo-mo-m-m-m-m-Mona!" in an exciting rhythmic way as he jerked back and forth through the magic of editing. So we turned in our promo and a roomful of dour executives contemplated it dourly before telling us we had committed the greatest atrocity in the history of humankind. The promo never aired, due to how mind-blowing it was. It might have hurt people! Well, friends, I want to tell you that I just saw a 30 ROCK promo on Comedy Central THAT UTILIZES OUR EXACT TECHNIQUE! I am not saying that our WHO'S THE BOSS promo was any good. I am just saying that we were UNRECOGNIZED GENIUSES, almost decades ahead of our time. ALMOST DECADES! How can I truly explain our astonishing innovations to you? Well, they were something like this:

Ken Russell Died

I don't like to mention it when someone dies but Ken Russell died and I guess I should mention it because he made a movie called LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, a personal "fave" of Dr. Theresa's and mine. I associate it with our old dating days. So long, Ken Russell, you crazy old weirdo! You're all right.

There's Something About Vipers

Here's a line of dialogue from the most recent episode of the TV show REVENGE: "As you have been warned, revenge is a stony path." Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Also, something about vipers. Plus, the Jess character wears some clothes that resemble a gentleman's bathing attire from 1910.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


In today's New York Times, some choreographers are inspired by Jerry Lewis. It will not surprise you to learn that this is not the first time a choreographer interviewed in the New York Times has been inspired by Jerry Lewis. See? Jerry is classy like I keep telling you. Gosh, but sometimes I wonder what appalling insecurity keeps me scouring "higher culture" for Jerry justifications to pass along to you. Jerry is his own justification! "The subject matter is primal: matters of birth, death, grief, mourning and the gods," as one choreographer describes the dance. So, naturally, Jerry Lewis! "Jerry Lewis's and Elvis Presley's self-created regality" - that's what they were going for, these choreographers in the New York Times. (See also and also.)

Thwarted Nemesis/Galvanic!

What comes on at three in the morning, you ask? I will tell you what comes on at three in the morning: an action movie called RADICAL JACK. In the portion I saw, Radical Jack's nemesis is looking for him, so Radical Jack (Billy Ray Cyrus [!]) hides under a bed. Radical Jack's thwarted nemesis goes back and reports to the big crime boss, the kind of chief bad guy who seems to run the whole town, like Ben Gazzara in ROAD HOUSE, I think - didn't he run a town? I remember he had a polar bear in his house, which is a pretty good sign that you are running the town. In any case, RADICAL JACK seemed to be going for a ROAD HOUSE vibe from the little I saw of it. So the guy says to the crime boss, "He [Radical Jack] has definitely left town. We looked everywhere for him!" And the viewer is led to think, EXCEPT UNDER THE BED! Then the crime boss says of Radical Jack, "Even the CIA hasn't been able to find this guy for the past five years." And the viewer thinks, BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T LOOK UNDER THE BED! Radical Jack's love interest is played by Dedee Pfeiffer. I wondered if she might be Michelle Pfeiffer's less successful sister, so I checked the "internet" and the "internet" told me yes. In conclusion, I have been leafing through Stephen Sondheim's new book LOOK, I MADE A HAT. Mr. Sondheim writes, "Of all forms of contemporary pop music, rap is the closest to traditional musical theater." Later he calls the "Rock Island" number from THE MUSIC MAN "startling and galvanic... it is in fact the forerunner of rap." That has nothing to do with what I was talking about, but it is interesting and I thought I'd cram it in there for you anyway.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Jerry Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving I am most thankful that Jerry Lewis appears in another book I am reading - in this case, THAT IS ALL by John Hodgman. Jerry purchases the "silver brain cup" that up until that moment has been keeping Benjamin Franklin immortal, in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


In John Hodgman's new book THAT IS ALL (note to the government: I paid for it myself!), he explains wine: "if you drink a glass of red wine every day, you will become immortal! And also you will start to look like Francis Ford Coppola." White wine: "you feel like you are licking wooden furniture made out of headaches." How to pick wine: "Does the label have a kangaroo on it? GOOD. Does it have a quirky picture of the winemaker's dog on it, and is it named for that crazy, funny, ugly dog? Even better." Speaking of kangaroos, I watched the PBS documentary about Woody Allen. It features clips of some early TV appearances in which Woody Allen boxes an actual kangaroo and sings to a poodle. That is reality! In conclusion, Hodgman does not mention the horrible chocolate wine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Bitterant

We went to Walmart. Dr. Theresa gave me an assignment, which was to pick up one thing then go to the magazine and book section so she could find me. The thing I picked up is called "Ultra Duster - Industrial Strength." On the receipt it appears as "CANNED AIR," which I like. The front of the can proclaims that it is good for "Offices - Factories - Automobiles." But on the side of the can, in much smaller print, is a long list of other things you can dust with the Ultra Duster. The list starts with "Computers * Keyboards * Sewing Machines" and includes "Electric Razors" and "Guns." But then they run out of room on the side of the can, so the side of the can directs you to a "web" site with more examples of things you can dust with the Ultra Duster. The can also says, "Contains a bitterant to help discourage inhalant abuse." A bitterant! I am pretty sure I did not know that word before. So I waited for Dr. Theresa in the book and magazine aisle, leafing through Diane Keaton's autobiography. I only had time to read that she was on the TV show MANNIX when she was young, and that Mannix was really nice to her because she was nervous, and I guess she still keeps in touch with him! She writes that he is 86 and "going strong" (that's how she puts it, I believe) and still married to his wife Mary Lou. DVDs were next to the books and magazines and an employee was just PUNCHING and SLAMMING DVDs into a display one at a time with mighty and violent and punishing force, as if there were nothing so disgusting as a DVD. Like SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! Then a shrieking alarm went off somewhere in the store and just kept going. A guy was pushing a shopping cart and talking to himself but he probably had his reasons.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shag-Haired Devils

I like this description by Frances Yates of early productions of DOCTOR FAUSTUS: "Shag-haired devils with squibs in their mouths ran roaring over the stage." She says the special effects were so terrifying that the rumor went around "there had been a visible apparition of the Devil" during one performance.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Face Too Large

Just reading about Bruckner in my funny old "Milton Cross' Encyclopedia of the Great Composers and Their Music." Lots of stuff like "There was something both ludicrous and revolting about him physically. His face was too large for the body... he walked in the streets of Vienna - his ugly face tense, his eyes gleaming... Awkward and boorish in social behavior... he often encouraged intolerant gibes... perpetual self-debasement... he often made himself a ridiculous figure... the girl soon tired of the old, eccentric man and before long would not answer his passionate letters... his lifelong search for the woman to share his life was never successful." Hey! Milton Cross! Lay off, dude.