Sunday, July 31, 2011


I'd hate to tell you how many hours I've spent today searching the "internet" for a picture of Huey, Dewey, and Louie saying "Awk!" When they were startled, they would kind of recoil and exclaim "Awk!" and their caps would pop off (the latter third of that effect demonstrated above as they encounter some sort of shirtless elf, though those aren't their regular caps - PS I am the most boring man on earth!), which (the "Awk!" part anyway) is something Richard Howorth and I have been discussing a lot lately for some reason. (Coincidentally, I believe that Huey, Dewey, and Louie were the first characters I encountered who said "Natch!" - the meaning of which it took me many years to figure out.) Despite my immense talents as a "Googler" I am sorry to tell you I could not find a panel of Donald Duck's nephews saying "Awk!" I even ventured into the actual physical world and got out my hardcover edition of the Scrooge McDuck comics by Carl Barks (who did the painting above), in which Huey, Dewey, and Louie often guest-starred. I did have fun rereading a few of the stories - but no "Awk!" That accounted for some more hours of my day. And now it is time to go to sleep. There is something deeply immoral about this way of life. It is reported that Dr. Theresa and Richard were recently spotted doing a dance based on the "Awk!" move, but I can scarcely credit such rumors.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Finally! The New York Times is back in the business of Jerry Lewis references. It has been too long! Today's example comes from A.O. Scott, natch. Why natch? Manohla Dargis would perhaps be even more natch. But it was A.O. Scott and I am not complaining! Good for you, A.O. Scott! Or as your friends call you, "Tony," as I know for no apparent reason. Why does my stupid brain need to know that? Make room for something else, brain! Anyway, the Jerry reference comes in a review of a movie about Saddam Hussein's son, natch! Because when you think of Jerry Lewis you think of Saddam Hussein. Scott's case is compelling. The movie is about a guy name Latif who is hired as Uday Hussein's double. "To become Uday, Latif pops in prosthetic teeth, hunches his shoulders and turns his voice into a stammering screech," Scott writes, comparing Dominic Cooper's performance to Jerry's in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR. Natch!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gimlet Time!

Look everybody! It's Megan Abbott and me having gimlets in honor of Philip Marlowe at the City Grocery Bar.

Is Superman an Elf? I'm Just Asking.

I am certain with all my heart that you recall how yesterday I checked out the "fact-based" 1925 Theosophical Society tract FAIRIES AT WORK AND PLAY and also read about Alvin Schwartz, the Golden Age comic book writer who claimed to have had a mystical encounter with Superman himself, whose body and costume were "all made of one substance." So you can understand my surprise when I discovered what FAIRIES AT WORK AND PLAY has to say about elves: "their bodily construction appears to consist of one solid mass of gelatinous substance." Of course, the author, Mr. Hodson, admits, and I quote, "My experience of the elf is very limited." But still, the natural question on everyone's mind has got to be, "Is Superman an elf?" The evidence is strong indeed!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bright Buttons

Today I had the great privilege of escorting Megan Abbott around all the scariest parts of the library. She picked out a book for me, gentler than the ones I've been checking out on my own: FAIRIES AT WORK AND PLAY, Observed by Geoffrey Hodson. It's from 1925, and published by the Theosophical Society. And yes, "Observed by." There's nothing "postmodern" going on here. This guy is just telling you about these creatures he has studied in the sort of matter-of-fact prose you'd find in a bird-watching guide. Of the brownie, Mr. Hodson writes, "A medieval style of attire is invariably affected. A short brown coat, sometimes with a wide scalloped collar, bright buttons and facings of green, brown knee breeches, rough stockings, and two distinct kinds of boots: sometimes a large heavy 'agricultural' boot is worn; at others a long pointed shoe of lighter make." This reminds me of something else Grant Morrison said about Superman. He tells the story of the Golden Age comic book writer Alvin Schwartz, who claimed to have met and talked with Superman by using a Tibetan meditation technique that has been discussed right here on this very "blog" in the past. Superman was "all made of one substance: hair, skin, costume... like a creature formed of resplendent talking clay."

A Message to the World

You know what's exciting? Listening to somebody read. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Just kidding. That is the most boring activity on earth. But TONIGHT ONLY it is going to be GREAT! Be sure to come out to Off Square Books at 5 PM to catch a rare appearance of Doomed Book Club members Megan Abbott and Scott Phillips. They will knock your socks off and make you faint with a thrill ride of reading out loud! DO IT you goons! DO YOU THINK I AM KIDDING? I AM NOT! I'm only going to tell you once. (Pictured, Alice the Goon [receiving orders] from the great Popeye comic strip "Thimble Theater" by E.C. Segar. That's you if you don't show up! On the other hand, the goon always obeyed orders! So maybe she's better than you! But if I am recalling correctly she fell in love with Wimpy and that's when the Sea Hag's plans were foiled. Gosh I bore myself. I'm pretty sure Segar came up with the words "goon" and "jeep." If he didn't, who cares? Leave me alone! I say whatever I want to because this is a "blog." Don't cite it in your scholarly papers! Are you stupid? Hey, when Joe Matt was here, he asked me, "Who's the Faulkner of comic strips?" and I said, "I don't know, Walt Kelly?" And Joe shook his head. He was always giving everybody pop quizzes! He said, "E.C. Segar." And I said, "Oh!" And he said, "Why?" He wanted me to tell him why! I told him why. What was I talking about? Oh yeah! Go see Megan Abbott and Scott Phillips or you are so dumb and awful. Does this approach work? You will fall in love with them just like Alice the Goon fell in love with Wimpy! There, I brought it all back together. Where am I? Who am I?)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hello, Bizarro!

I am still getting a great big kick out of SUPERGODS by Grant Morrison. At one point he's at a comic book convention, talking to a friend about some problems he's having writing a new Superman comic book. Then suddenly he sees a stranger who is very much like the REAL Superman. Yes, one of many Supermen who have been strolling around the grounds, but somehow this one is different: "the most convincing Superman I've ever seen... It occurred to me that this was exactly how Superman would sit." Morrison and his friend ask Superman a bunch of personal questions, and he answers them the way Superman would. It really helps Morrison get unblocked! Quote: "By choosing to frame my encounter as a pop-shamanic vision quest yielding pure contact with embodied archetypal forces, I got much more out of it than if I'd simply sat there with Dan sniggering at the delusional fool in tights." Now. You remember Bizarro, right? He's the opposite of Superman and lives on the square Bizarro World, where everything is the opposite of here. Okay! So here's the hilarious part. A few years later, Morrison is back at the convention with another friend who is writing a Bizarro comic book. They see a Bizarro! And the friend hopes to have the same kind of mystical encounter that Morrison had, so he invites Bizarro to a party. HE INVITES BIZARRO TO A PARTY! Never invite Bizarro to a party! Bizarro gets drunker and drunker and acts like a jerk... just the way Bizarro would! So Morrison and his friend finally tell the guy that to Bizarro, a "party" would mean being alone. "Other people, in fact, would ruin a party," they argue. Bizarro is convinced! He "marched backward up the stairs, blind drunk, while we all waved and yelled, 'Hello, Bizarro!'" Also hilarious is Morrison's description of a 1949 Batman movie serial in which Batman and Robin "have a thuggish, sozzled, and aggressive air." Morrison compares this Batman to "late-period Dean Martin... With his tousled hair and hooded eyes, his was a grown-up, manly, and possibly alcoholic Batman." This makes me think of my favorite Donald Barthelme story, "The Joker's Greatest Triumph." To quote: "'Press that button on the dashboard,' Batman said. Fredric pressed the button and a panel on the dashboard slid back to reveal a little bar, with ice, glasses, water, soda, quinine, lemons, limes etc." All right! I have given you much to think about. There are some real nuggets in there, I promise! Goodbye!

UFOs For Every Mood

Okay. Let's compare a couple of the self-published UFO conspiracy books I keep checking out of the library for some reason: THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND SAUCERS vs. that weird document in a loose-leaf binder. In the former, the aliens are always happy and smiling widely and speaking words of comfort to the author (Calvin C. Girvin) when he is feeling low: "We Space Men have a way of 'getting around' as you would say and making friends in a great many different ways in different places." When the author is not hanging out with "Space Men," he is usually walking around enjoying the beauty of nature: "I encountered several rabbits and other wild animals frolicking around in the snow, as small animals like to do on such a night." The overall tone is cozy: "We found a secluded corner in the lobby of the hotel and talked about flying saucers till well past midnight." Though Mr. Girvin's heart is so full, a hint of gentle melancholy hangs over his self-published book: "I saw much of the girl Helen... She possessed a kind of beauty that is difficult to put into words... her big expressive eyes made me fall deeply in love with her at once. I spent many evenings with her and thought I wanted to be with her always, but strangely, in my silent moments when I pictured my future she did not seem to be in it." And sure enough, after he buys a diamond ring, his alien chums sadly inform him that marriage is not in their plans for him. And the book ends with him sobbing! So it is not all fun and games. Okay, now let's move on to the weird "book" in the white vinyl binder. It's like rummaging around in someone's brain, a feeling both unpleasant and compelling. Hey, remember that guy who wrote that manifesto about how fiction is for suckers? I think this is what he has in mind as a replacement, this sort of found object or mad collage. It's the work of a highly focused and very angry man, including news clippings he has scrawled his opinions on and photocopied. You're not going to get this experience with your "kindle," brothers and sisters! (By the way, speaking of the fiction manifesto guy - not the UFO guy - I recently found out that a story from my first book will be in an anthology he is co-editing, which just goes to show you how unlike fiction my fiction is.) But back to the UFO guy! He's not a UFO guy! He's just a really angry guy who wants to get back at some people who have wronged him, and he has put it all in an "affidavit" in a three-ring binder like a homework assignment that can somehow be checked out at the University of Mississippi library! He is not shy about naming his enemies, but I won't do that here. A sample sentence from page 1: "Despite ______'s cultivated image as a swashbuckling pilot and serious UFO researcher, he is, in my opinion, and others', an irresponsible, self-centered, loutish thrill-seeker who truly has no business in the latter field, and questionable competence in the former, given his record of hard-drinking and womanizing." Later the author fights back against the way his enemies are trying to discredit him: "For the record, it is true that I was arrested for 'soliciting a prostitute' in 1982 in Seattle in a police 'sting' operation - I have told the story many times to friends with gusto... For a huge percentage of international travelers and businessmen, journalists, and covert operators, it is not at all uncommon to purchase the services of a female escort to 'maintain appearances' when necessary... But I have been blessed with an appealing countenance and have never yet had to pay directly for the 'services' of a female." Soon, the UFO angle shunted aside, we're smack dab in the middle of the Kennedy assassination! And so on. Features a cameo by aging huckster and object of "blog" curiosity G. Gordon Liddy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Might Be Tired

You know, folks, I might actually be tired of checking out self-published UFO books from the University of Mississippi library. Today I got one with a plastic spiral binding like a regional cookbook might have, and another one in a white three-ring loose-leaf binder such as kids carried to school in 1979. That's a "book" I checked out of the library! Photocopied pages - some letters and newspaper clippings mixed in. But somehow I didn't feel happy. I also got three more publications from the Saucerian Books company of Clarksburg, West Virginia, including FLYING SAUCERS ARE WATCHING YOU by John C. Sherwood. Saucerian Books look practically professional compared to those others! I don't know what kind of deal Saucerian Books had going with the library - evidently it was pretty amazing, because the library is admirably stocked with a panoply of Saucerian Books. But in a telling sign of my malaise, I abandoned at least three or four other Saucerian Books publications on the study table today, including one (I think it was called SAUCER WARNING) with a full-page illustration of a space monster resembling a large, threatening pickle. My heart wasn't in it. I did get a small spark from the romantically titled paperback THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND SAUCERS, from Understanding Publishing Co. of El Monte, California. Like all the books I enjoy most, it has no blurbs or description on the back. I've only read the introduction so far, which is done in that certain style I find so much better than anything I could ever write, and often try to emulate: "Flying Saucers is a strange subject. For a long time it was treated as though it were immoral. Most people refrained from discussing it in public. Those who did were often considered brave, radical or foolish."

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I've been thoroughly enjoying Grant Morrison's SUPERGODS, a swift, personal, and very funny history of comic book superheroes (well, that's what it seems like at first), including perceptive and hilarious asides on such old "blog" "faves" as Jimmy Olsen and The Red Bee: "for Rick Raleigh, only one thing guaranteed his crucial edge over the violent underbelly of society: the hive of trained crime-fighting bees he kept confined in the buckle of his belt... the lead bee and chief offensive weapon in Raleigh's apian arsenal was somewhat endearingly named Michael." But Morrison isn't content merely to poke fun at The Red Bee. He finds it sweet how the Golden Age of comics rediscovered that "Bees could be special, just as they were in medieval illuminated texts and mysteries." There was an early passing reference to George Adamski in the book and I thought, "Hmm, where did I just hear that name?" And then I remembered: JIM MOSELEY'S BOOK OF SAUCER NEWS! Uh-oh! I put the coincidence out of my mind. But about 250 pages in, Morrison suddenly starts going all John Dee on me, laying out autobiographical details about "the darker magical operations I was undertaking" (!) and throwing around sentences worthy of HOW TO CONTACT SPACE PEOPLE, like "Now there were what I can describe only as 'presences' emerging from the walls and furniture. Perhaps someone else would call these rippling, dribbling blobs of pure holographic meta-material angels or extraterrestrials." Perhaps! Can't I get away from this stuff? Remember, he's not talking about comic books anymore. THIS IS HIS REGULAR LIFE. He meets some aliens who seem to be made of neon tubes, then his "silvery blob" friends show him "the secret of the universe," which I don't feel is my place to spoil for you here. Later - in an episode very similar to one that Barry Hannah wrote and talked about a great deal - Morrison gets very sick and goes to the hospital and has a mystical vision of Christ! Anyway, I didn't see that coming. Did you?

Some Sentences

Here are half a dozen random sentences from HOW TO CONTACT SPACE PEOPLE: 1) "Then the local medical fraternity accused me of 'practicing medicine without a license' and we had to leave Ft. Worth." 2) "I produced eight terrible, rocking thunderstorms complete with tremendous lightning displays, within a period of three weeks." 3) "I told him I wouldn't blame him if he unceremoniously threw me out of the CIA offices, because it seemed so fantastic." 4) "A lightning bolt struck a man who was counting chicken eggs 10 feet beneath the earth, in a cellar." 5) "Miss Van Acker, who goes to a beautician school here, has a black eye she says was inflicted by the monster Friday night." 6) "A woman reported she saw the monster and it smelled moldy."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Trials of Dr. Theresa

I'm sure that Dr. Theresa, while not having expressed an opinion on the subject, is thrilled that I have walked around all day in my pajamas, muttering to myself, clutching a copy of JIM MOSELEY'S BOOK OF SAUCER NEWS under my arm.


Another inimitable caption from JIM MOSELEY'S BOOK OF SAUCER NEWS: "For the second time in just under three years, the glass protecting the screen of the T.V. set in your Editor's apartment has shattered mysteriously into thousands of tiny cracks, as shown in the pictures above." This comes just after an article in which "your Editor received a phone call from a man who gave his name only as Alexander... that evening my wife Sandy and I went to the Dixie Hotel in New York City, where Alexander was eating dinner with two companions... the woman in particular was a rather unusual person, dressed in old-fashioned clothes... [Alexander] had unlimited funds from some unknown source, and wanted to finance your Editor on a series of saucer lectures around the world... but he never got down to details... that was the last time I saw or heard from Alexander!" Later, Alexander visits a friend of Moseley's, a "UFO enthusiast" in St. Louis. This friend reports that Alexander "would disappear into thin air on certain occasions when other people were around" and "believes Alexander to be indirectly responsible for the crash of a police car." Moseley concludes: "Is he really a spaceman? I certainly doubt it, but I can't be sure!" Brian Z. has urged me to keep "blogging" about this stuff even as I descend slowly into madness. And I said, "Sure!" Hope you're happy, Brian Z. I will say it's a lot more fun than reading another "well-crafted short story." Ugh! (Pictured, the dining room at the Dixie Hotel. This is where it all went down, people! Help me look for clues! Is this significant? According to wikipedia, the former Dixie Hotel - now under a new name - has been cited as "the dirtiest hotel in America four years running." WHAT CAN IT MEAN? Why are our spacemen staying in dirty hotels?)

Thanks, Flying Saucers!

Jim Moseley has a lot of people to thank in the introduction to his BOOK OF SAUCER NEWS, including "the many contributors of the original material; my staff... the CIA agent (?) who has an office down the hallway from my office and who lent us a roll of Scotch tape... and, of course, the saucers themselves, for just flying around..." The parenthetical question mark is Moseley's. I needed to make that clear, because let's face it: he and I have the exact same style. In his review of a book about an alien abduction, he quotes the author: "They massaged every part of my body without exception." Then he adds, "WOW!"

Many Kinds of Salads

Hey, are you sick of hearing about these crazy books I keep checking out of the library? What? You are? I have an idea: shut up! Here's a humorous observation: you know how books usually have blurbs or descriptions on the back of them? The last four paperback books I checked out have NOTHING on the back of them. NOTHING! No printed matter whatsoever. Take for example FLYING SAUCERS AND SPACE MEN: A SCIENTIFIC AND METAPHYSICAL DISSERTATION IN INTERPLANETARY TRAVELING by Dr. John H. Manas. Nothing on the back! This one is barely more than a pamphlet, and reminds me of something a character in Charles Portis's hilarious novel MASTERS OF ATLANTIS might read. The dedication page says, "This book is dedicated to DAEDALUS, the great Cretan artificer, the builder of the Labyrinth for king Minos." Wow! And if there are no blurbs on the back of the book, there are a few on the last two pages. "Unsolicited Comments from Readers," they are called. Examples: "I read the book carefully and liked it very much." - "I thoroughly admire you for your industry." - somewhat more of a rave: "You are producing the works!" - and from the Chicago Public Library, "The book was received and has been reviewed by our Book Selection Department." I must say that it seems as though Dr. Manas and I share some interests. He reports buying a "mimeographed booklet" by a Missouri farmer. I understand the impulse! Dr. Manas writes, "In the introduction it is claimed that in his story 'every bit is True.' However, when such statements are made that the three men from Venus with a huge dog named 'Bo,' weighing 385 pounds! on the 5th of March, 1955, at Midnight, landed in their 'Space Ship'... and for one hour had a friendly conversation with the farmer in English, comparing the furniture of the house with that of theirs in the 'Flying Saucer', and so on... It is also stated that the twelve laws of God on Venus were given to him by these 'Space Men'. These laws are similar to those of Moses!" As we can see, Dr. Manas and I share an affection for exclamation points as well. Dr. Manas is a little skeptical about the Missouri farmer's report of eating dinner on both Mars and Venus, as the trip between the two planets was only twenty minutes long. So there's a hole in this guy's story! Dr. Manas adds, "The meals consisted of meat, milk, eggs, fish, many kinds of salads and of many cooked vegetables, among which was corn!" Once again, the exclamation point is Dr. Manas's. I could tell you more, such as the fact that one of the crewmen on the Venusian spaceship is named "Bucky," but maybe you're right, maybe I need some fresh air.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Okay, so I'm leafing through this stained and tattered copy of JIM MOSELEY'S BOOK OF SAUCER NEWS and it becomes pretty apparent to me that wikipedia stinks and John A. Keel DID NOT come up with the term "Men In Black." Here I find, I do believe, earlier examples! And now I think I've gone crazy because I felt the need to make this correction. What else? Here is part of a caption from JIM MOSELEY'S BOOK OF SAUCER NEWS: "Photo at left shows Andy Sinatra, better known as the Mystic Barber, together with his charming wife Giovannina. The strange devices on their heads are said to be some sort of psychic machines to keep the Space People from reading their thoughts. Mr. Sinatra claims to have made astral voyages to the Moon and to the center of the Earth." It goes on. You know, "googling" will get you a surprising number of hits for Andy Sinatra the Mystic Barber. Speaking of the internet, it's tough on Jim Moseley. The SECOND SENTENCE of his wikipedia bio quotes some dude as saying that Moseley "entertained just about every view it is possible to hold about UFOs, without ever managing to say anything especially interesting or memorable about any of them." Kind of mean! I suppose there is lots of infighting in UFO circles. Don't you imagine that to be the case? Also mean: in this library copy, someone has scrawled in pencil under Moseley's author photo, "What planet is this alien from? (answer on page 77)" - well! I didn't think he looked so bad. Just like a pleasant "square" in thick glasses. But I turned to page 77, and the same person (I assume) had written in pencil, "answer: Mississippi" (which doesn't even seem to be true). Curiously, there is nothing else about Mississippi anywhere on that page. What's everybody got against Jim Moseley? Smells like a conspiracy to me! (Photo at left shows Andy Sinatra, better known as the Mystic Barber.)

A Corner Cold and Dark

So you just know I had to go back to the university library and see whether they have a UFO section. Do they? AND HOW! Look at this amazing thing I found (above). It is large and floppy with the size and texture of a children's coloring book. But it is no book for children. No, as you can see, it is about HOW TO CONTACT SPACE PEOPLE. Please let me emphasize that the author is not joking. Chapter Ten starts like so: "Well, dear readers, enough of all this. I hope you are convinced by now that I have, and can, communicate at will with flying saucers." When I checked it out, Bob (the librarian) said of the space person on the cover, "Oh! He looks like us... but not." How right Bob was. HOW TO CONTACT SPACE PEOPLE is published by Saucerian Books of Clarksburg, West Virginia (West Virginia again!) - a small outfit, I would imagine. I also checked out another Saucerian Books publication: JIM MOSELEY'S BOOK OF SAUCER NEWS. Same format as HOW TO CONTACT SPACE PEOPLE, even cheaper paper. I have to say, the UFO section of the library is extremely cold and dark! Some of the lights aren't working. COINCIDENCE? Also in Chapter Ten of HOW TO CONTACT SPACE PEOPLE, we find the author's illustration of his space friends "Twitter and Tweeter." COINCIDENCE? Or could the "twitter" we all enjoy today be a conspiracy from outer space? The answer is obvious. Oh, and don't think I neglected the old-fashioned magic and ghosts section. I came across an odd publication there with a plain white cover, black type. It purported to be "Extracts from 44 Recorded Tapes" of a medium channeling various spirits. No publication information at all! But an address of a psychic center in Wisconsin and a PHONE NUMBER! I called the number (just to see whether the psychic center is still there, and how a psychic center would answer the phone, I guess) and it was some poor old lady's house! And I woke that lady up from a nap! And I felt really terrible. The phone rang and rang and rang and rang and rang, no answering machine or voicemail or anything, and finally she picked up. I said I had the wrong number. She said, "I'm sorry, I can't hear you very well. I just woke up. This is _________." And she was one of the people credited on the book cover with transcribing the ghost tapes! I said, "I am so sorry, I have the wrong number. I'm sorry I disturbed your nap." And she said, "I just sit here and watch the world go by." That's what she said! You can imagine my strange stirring of sad emotions. But anyway, according to this book, do you know how the great blues singer Bessie Smith spends her time in heaven? Psychically communicating with a cat! Among other people from the "other side," we get messages from Thomas Jefferson, Gandhi, Chopin, "Bimbo the Clown," and... Lionel Barrymore. So that's weird.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Yes, that was me skulking around in the creepy part of the library where nobody goes. I figured since they keep the John Dee biographies up there I ought be able to find all sorts of other weird stuff. I was right! Brother, it's a gold mine! Like, the last time the "blog" discussed Upton Sinclair, we discovered that he was an old fussbudget who didn't want anybody to enjoy a liquor drink. But did you know he believed in telepathy? I guess he needed something exciting to do besides get drunk! So he would sit around trying to make people read his mind. He wrote a whole book about it called MENTAL RADIO. The library's got it! Libraries are fun! Within the first few pages ol' Upton declares "Telepathy is real" and specifies that it can work on you from up to 40 miles away. Pretty specific! That's good specifying. I didn't check out MENTAL RADIO. I just stood there and thumbed through it. A lot of it seems to be these cute little doodles that Upton Sinclair drew. Then he tries to get people to read his mind and draw the same doodles! All right. I DID check out a weird book called JADOO. I am assuming it is weird. The title is weird. What does it mean? I DON'T KNOW YET! But it comes from the secret "crazy section" of the library so I have high hopes. It was written in the 50s and seems to be about the author's "true" adventures in "exotic" locales. Dig these chapter titles! - "City of Snakes" - "Wizard of Cairo" - "Invitation From the Devil" - "Hellship to Bombay" - and so on and so on, culminating with "On the Track of the Abominable Snowman"! Wow! One of the first things he writes is, "Peddling adventure is my business." Yeah! I like a writer with confidence. Another chapter starts "New York, with its murders, muggings, street beatings, and undercurrent of sexual violence, is by far the most dangerous city on earth." He's opinionated! And you know, I thought I recognized his name - it's John A. Keel. Turns out it's because he's the guy who wrote a book about a famous West Virginia creature called "The Mothman." I might... have a copy???? They made it into a movie starring Richard Gere as the guy who battles "The Mothman." This I didn't know: according to wikipedia, Keel also came up with the popular slice of UFO lingo "Men in Black." And speaking of UFOs, the old wikipedia tells me that Keel didn't believe in aliens... that would be crazy! No, he maintained that UFOs were occupied by ghosts and monsters. Okay! That's more like it. Quote: "Keel coined the term 'ultraterrestrials' to describe UFO occupants he believed to be shape-changing, non-human entities." Gee I feel funny. Maybe this book dust is going to my head.


I went over to Square Books and bought a copy of SUPERGODS by Grant Morrison because I read a kind of bad review of it, and you know me. Bad reviews make me buy things in defiance! Just skimming so far, but pleased to see that like Elaine Dundy before him, Morrison emphasizes the connection between Elvis Presley and Captain Marvel Jr.: "by the time his own physique was somewhat less than slender, he had his costumes designed to recall Captain Marvel Jr.'s boyish, cavalier spirit. Take a look at the short capes and high collars Presley wore in later years and note how Captain Marvel Jr.'s tousled, jet-blue cut was re-created on Elvis's troubled head." Speaking of Square Books, I haven't mentioned my famous recommendation shelf in a while because IT STOPPED SELLING. But a couple of days ago I rearranged it completely AND IT SOLD ANOTHER BOOK WITHIN MINUTES. Check it out! Buy a book! It won't kill you! I don't get paid for this! I am just trying to keep the publishing industry alive. You're welcome! (PS - Please note that while I titled this "post" "Shazam," that is what Billy Batson said to turn into Captain Marvel, NOT what Freddy the newsboy said to turn into Captain Marvel Jr. What Freddy said was "Captain Marvel"! Which is kind of confusing when you think about it. He could never introduce himself to anybody! Because when he said it again, he would change back! Anyway I'm so glad I cleared that up. I didn't want you to stay up tonight worrying.) Hey, while I've got you here... what? You have somewhere to be? While I've got you here, I was thinking about that hilarious time recounted in the 1909 John Dee bio when Edward Kelley was having a seance with Dr. Dee and asked the spirit to loan him a few bucks. Then I remembered I have the 1659 facsimile of all the recorded seances, so I thought I would look up that particular one to see whether there was any other hilarious hilarity. Nope. The rest of it was mostly like this: "Here appear 14 of divers evil-favoured shapes: some like Monkies, some like Dogs, some very hairy monstrous men, &c. They seemed to scratch each other by the face." Shazam!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Knave!

So I was just reading in this book how John Dee and Edward Kelley were hanging out with this magical spirit and John Dee was all, why haven't you told me more stuff? And the spirit goes, "I told you more [than] all your Dog painters and Cat painters can do." Smith provides a footnote: "No explanation of this curious remark can be offered." I love footnotes! But the funny part is that Edward Kelley immediately asks the spirit to lend him "a hundred pounds for a fortnight." The spirit reasonably explains that she doesn't carry cash, or as she puts it, "I have swept all my money out of doors." Anyway, that Edward Kelley! Trying to mooch off the spirits. What a knave!

A Merveylous Rage

I was in the library looking at a couple of biographies of John Dee. One was from the 1970s and the other was from 1909. So I thought I'd see if the 1970s book had anything to say about the 1909 volume. I was trying to decide which one to check out! ISN'T THIS FASCINATING? So the intro to the 1970s bio did mention the 1909 book by Charlotte Fell Smith: despite its "flaws, which are many," said the 1970s dude, at least Ms. Smith was trying to rehabilitate Dr. Dee's reputation to some extent. I guess before her, everybody was mostly interested in the time his friend Edward Kelley convinced him that angels wanted them to swap wives! And you have to admit that's pretty juicy! So the 1970s biographer went on to say that he still thought Charlotte Fell Smith spent too much time talking about John Dee's wackier adventures. And I was like, "Okay! I want the crazy 1909 book with its 'flaws, which are many.'" That's how I like my books! With their "flaws, which are many." Smith mentions the same old stuff about Kelley's ears being lopped off and the time he dug up a body. But she clarifies that Kelley just wanted to question "an evil spirit speaking through [the dead man's] organs." So that explains it! "After this savoury episode," she goes on, "Kelley is reported to have been wandering in Wales (it is suggested that he was hiding from justice) when he stumbled accidentally upon an old alchemical manuscript and two caskets or phials containing a mysterious red and white powder." Okay! Let me also add that the 1909 book is not a reprint. It's the actual book from 1909 and has those great thick pages with the ragged edges and smells great, like an old book, which it is. So that's another reason to pick it! It seems that Dee's wife couldn't stand old Edward Kelley moving into their house, even BEFORE he started putting the moves on her! Smith quotes Dr. Dee's diary from May 6, 1582: "Jane in a merveylous rage at 8 of the cloke at night, and all that night, and next morning till 8 of the cloke." That's 12 solid hours of wifely rage! Dee "carefully erased" that passage, apparently out of respect for his wife. "It is, however, possible to make it out almost entirely," Smith notes. Now, I don't know a single thing about Charlotte Fell Smith, but whoever she was, I like the thought of her in the early 1900s in some weird old room with a high window reading John Dee's diary, don't you?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Every Human Emotion

So there is this commercial for an online university and at the end of it, a recent graduate of the online university steps onto an elevator to start her new life as a businessperson. She is very composed as the elevator doors close (see the photo to the right). Then, as the elevator rises, in the last four or five seconds of the commercial, EVERY HUMAN EMOTION CROSSES HER FACE! IT'S THE ACTING PERFORMANCE OF THE CENTURY, I AM NOT KIDDING! Without a word of dialogue, in a matter of scant seconds (allow me to reemphasize), this young woman creates a full character who HAS BEEN THROUGH IT ALL. She's scared! She's proud! She's happy! But there is a hint of tears - just a hint! - to let us know it wasn't easy. She has had to give up so much! I don't know, maybe someone she loved DIDN'T MAKE IT to see this moment. That's how deep this woman gets into her character. BUT IT WAS ALL WORTH IT! That's what dawns on her in the closing split second of the ad. You practically see her becoming a new person. You think I am kidding but just look out for this commercial. I don't know, maybe the "university" is a scam. Maybe! But this actor is doing her job! So often I just complain about everything I see, but that's only because I'm a jerk. Several years ago I was talking to an actor who used to be on a sitcom called "227." At the time, he thought he was too good for it, so he didn't put much energy into his performance. He said that years later, when he would see reruns of the show on TV, he would yell at his onscreen self: "Commit! Commit!" Well, this young woman really is too good for the commercial but she commits. All right!

Monday, July 18, 2011

They Were Serious About Titles

From Lee Durkee comes word that some people think this is John Dee's birthday and some other people don't. So happy approximate birthday, John Dee! You know, a few weeks ago I read about an "indie rocker" who has just written an opera about John Dee but I didn't tell you because the very idea of it depressed me for some reason. I'm a complicated man! To celebrate John Dee's birthday, I checked out a book from the library: a facsimile of the 1659 edition of A TRUE & FAITHFUL RELATION OF WHAT PASSED FOR MANY YEARS BETWEEN DR. JOHN DEE (A MATHEMATICIAN OF GREAT FAME IN Q. ELIZ. AND KING JAMES THEIR REIGNES) AND SOME SPIRITS: TENDING (HAD IT SUCCEEDED) TO A GENERAL ALTERATION OF MOST STATES AND KINGDOMES OF THE WORLD. HIS PRIVATE CONFERENCES WITH RODOLPHE EMPEROR OF GERMANY, STEPHEN K. OF POLAND, AND DIVERS OTHER PRINCES ABOUT IT. THE PARTICULARS OF HIS CAUSE, AS IT WAS AGITATED IN THE EMPERORS COURT; BY THE POPES INTERVENTION: HIS BANISHMENT, AND RESTORATION IN PART. AS ALSO THE LETTERS OF SUNDRY GREAT MEN AND PRINCES (SOME WHEREOF WERE PRESENT AT SOME OF THESE CONFERENCES AND APPARITIONS OF SPIRITS:) TO THE SAID DR. DEE. OUT OF THE ORIGINAL COPY, WRITTEN WITH DR. DEE'S OWN HAND: KEPT IN THE LIBRARY OF SIR THO. COTTON, KT. BARONET. WITH A PREFACE CONFIRMING THE REALITY (AS TO THE POINT OF SPIRITS) OF THIS RELATION: AND SHEWING THE SEVERAL GOOD USES THAT A SOBER CHRISTIAN MAY MAKE OF ALL. See, now, that's a title! I have already found out one thing. Remember that picture I showed you of "Dr. Dee" once? According to the caption in the 1659 edition, that was actually "EDW. KELLY Prophet or Seer to Dr. Dee." BUT! Don't forget, as I have mentioned here before, saucy Edward Kelly (or Kelley) often wore a cowl because (as the 1974 intro to this facsimile puts it) "he had been stood in the pillory and had his ears cut off for forgery." So you can understand my confusion! The intro goes on (and this I didn't know about Mr. Kelly), "He had also been in trouble with the authorities over digging up a corpse from a churchyard." Oh well! Everybody needs a hobby. Today there was a large flying ant in the house and a shiny black snake slithered from under the garbage can and into the kudzu as I was passing by, and I didn't think much of it, but now that I know it's John Dee's birthday it all makes sense.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Little Cage

Aren't you sick of me telling you about all the commercials I see? Well, just imagine how sick I am of living with myself! So we all have our problems. Today I saw a commercial for what the announcer called a "food security system." It is a little cage and you put your food in the little cage and then you put the little cage in the refrigerator. It is a little cage for your food! Then the commercial wants to prove how secure your food will be in its little cage, so they bring a bear into the kitchen and the bear knocks the little cage around a little bit. I may have misheard, but I think the spokesman says the bear finds it difficult to get into the food cage. So maybe the bear succeeds? I may be mistaken. But when they introduce the bear into the kitchen, the print at the bottom of the screen says "DO NOT ATTEMPT AT HOME." So don't bring a bear into your kitchen, folks! Yes, I know, it's not even funny. Who cares? Maybe I'll go to bed now.

This Just In

Hey, remember how Megan Abbott is coming here to read on the 27th? Turns out that fellow Doomed Book Club member Scott Phillips is going to be at the same event, reading from his new book THE ADJUSTMENT. I don't think it's about a chiropractic procedure! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! But maybe it is. But there is a gun on the cover so I doubt it! This "adjustment" to the schedule - ha ha ha ha ha ha! - promises to make for an action-packed evening. Mark your calendar! Mark it!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Look at this Elvis Costello commercial that McNeil found.

Also, please NEVER FORGET the time I had dinner with Elvis Costello. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Greatest Teacher In America

Hey remember the clip McNeil showed us several years ago where Bob Denver's face is buried in the sand and his chin sings a song? Sure you do! Look in your diary from 2007. Today McNeil showed that little number to the class he is teaching. I have said it before and I'll say it again: greatest teacher in America.


I am happy to tell you that John Arrechea is finally back with his column in The Lafa Shopper, the local free circular that gets put into our mailbox. I was worried about him! He hasn't been in there for so long. But he writes this week of his wife's childhood memories, such as her pet pig Oinkee and the one-legged minister who baptized her (the wife, not the pig!). That's just the tip of the iceberg! Get a copy and read it for yourself. Goodbye.

Everybody Loves You, Robert Osborne

Watching a movie called SENIOR PROM on TCM. It's all about this extremely pale guy who wants to be a rock and roller. He sings at a party and plays his guitar by kind of gently patting it nowhere near the strings. His song goes, "The brighter the twinkle/ the nearer the star/ The closer I hold you/ the nearer you are." I guess that second part is irrefutable. Is it a tautology? I have no idea what a tautology is - I just enjoy acting like a big shot and saying fancy things. But the first half of those lyrics is pretty shaky, isn't it, scientifically speaking? I am not an astronomer! The singer's wacky roommate is supposed to be a Jerry Lewis stand-in, I think, which makes the singer an extremely pale Dean Martin, I guess. This "Jerry" is no Sammy Petrillo! He's really more like Jack Webb than Jerry Lewis. His eyes are dead. The serious thing about TCM right now is that the channel's great host Robert Osborne is taking some time off to recuperate from surgery, as I found out on "She Blogged By Night." Get well soon, Robert Osborne! We will not be happy until your return!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weird Medley of Weirdness

There is no way for me to explain adequately - in a way that will really make you FEEL it - all the weirdness of the Lawrence Welk Show zoo-themed medley that Dr. Theresa and I just witnessed... but this picture should help a little bit!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

How Did I Miss This?

Whoa! How did I miss this? I need to pay more attention to the "internet." From that same "web" site, the espresso machine again, this time with a man (woman?) dressed up as a cat (?). All right, "internet"!

A "Post" on the "Internet"

Look! I found a "post" on the "internet" with lots of images from ONCE UPON A COFFEE HOUSE, including this one of a guy showing off his espresso machine.

McNeil's Movie Korner

Welcome once again dear friends to "McNeil's Movie Korner." McNeil has been on a real beatnik kick. He highly recommends BEAT GIRL (pictured). There is another movie called ONCE UPON A COFFEE HOUSE, about which McNeil said to me, "You and I have a high tolerance for this kind of thing." But he is scared to recommend it amateurs! "It's just an excuse to get these folk acts together," McNeil says. "A millionaire [does something... I can't remember what McNeil told me about the millionaire in the plot]. Joan Rivers is terrible in it. The guy who made it has a whole youtube page about it. He's still plugging the movie." This I have confirmed. That gentleman writes in an introductory comment on his youtube page, "It only took me 42 years to find a distributor that actually did anything. How many more years before the public starts watching and buying it?" I know how he feels!

McNeil Reads Me Wikipedia Articles Over the Phone

More than twenty years ago, McNeil got me a gift certificate to the Phar-Mor drugstore for my birthday. He never mailed it. "It's upstairs with a ten cent stamp on it," he said in a phone conversation today. He promises to mail it next year. That's what he says every year. Phar-Mor is a long-defunct chain. The Mobile, Alabama, branch for some reason had a bizarrely vast and eclectic section of VHS tapes for rent for less than a dollar apiece, and they would let you keep them practically forever. It was a paradise on earth. Today McNeil read me the wikipedia entry about Phar-Mor over the phone. That was a real treat. McNeil focused particularly on the legal troubles of Phar-Mor founder Michael "Mickey" Monus. He seemed to enjoy saying "Michael 'Mickey' Monus."

The Long Pole

I am sure you recall when the Doomed Book Club read the autobiography of Mack Sennett. What? You don't? It's kind of hazy for me, too. In case you are interested, which you are not, the TCM "blog" has a nice introduction to Mack Sennett's oeuvre, which is a word I enjoy typing. So many vowels! Here is the way the author sums up the subtlety of the man's style: "if you hold a long pole horizontally, it will wallop people in the head." Ah! But he goes on: "if you do the same joke over and over for 10 minutes, it becomes something superlative." As you know, that is also my theory of writing (substitute "200 pages" for "10 minutes"), but sadly the publishing industry does not agree with me. Fools! Finally, if you read carefully, which I know you love to do, you will see that the author (without using our pet term) argues for silent film comedy as a major vehicle for repressive desublimation. So that's always loads of fun! Wow, it's like I've taken everything you don't care about and put it into one "post." You're welcome! (Pictured, my author photo.)

Friday, July 08, 2011

Birthday Report

Do you want to hear about my birthday? What? You DON'T? You are reading a "blog," stupid! Elizabeth took me to lunch and Anya gave me a painting she created with the jawbone of a cow and Richard Howorth spontaneously made me a root beer float (at Square Books, where a surprise gift certificate from my sister was waiting! AND my recommendation shelf has sold another book!) and Tom Franklin took me to a movie and Dr. Theresa made pork chops for dinner and Joey sent me this picture (above). Perfect! So I had a nice day. So sue me! Thanks, everybody!


As I was flipping around the channels last night when I couldn't sleep, I came upon Gene Hackman and Mickey Rooney sharing a prison cell. And I kind of went, "Huh." For some reason I never expected to see that. And yet for some other reason I am not using exclamation points to express my many emotions. Maybe I made the exact face that Gene Hackman is making in this picture. Huh. It's not much, but I haven't been "blogging" lately and I feel I owe you something. So this is something. I guess.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Leaping Werewolves!

Spent the Fourth of July in the traditional way: reading about werewolves. Is this is the service of my sprawling fantasy epic? I honestly don't know anymore. Here's some good stuff from OF WOLVES AND MEN by Barry Lopez: "Olaus Magnus writes... that at Christmas werewolves gathered together for drinking bouts and forcefully entered houses for the purpose of raiding the wine cellar." Go, werewolves! Later, they "gathered at the walls of an old castle where they engaged in leaping contests." In the book, the picture above is captioned, "The Livonian wolves at the leaping wall." Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, July 03, 2011


Thanks to Brian Z. I suddenly remember THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE - a movie (starring Pat Boone, I am almost sure) and a tie-in Christian comic book, the latter of which I owned as a kid. When I found the image of it above, that dialogue on the cover came back to me very vividly: "You could cut me up in a thousand pieces! And every piece will say I love you!" I found that weird and fascinating then, and I find it weird and fascinating now. There was also a mass-market paperback that we passed around the classroom because of the one racy page when some gals try to get frisky with the preacher!

Frozen Treats

I see that my famous recommendation shelf at Square Books has sold A WHOPPING THIRTEEN BOOKS, including, most recently, DIE A LITTLE by Megan Abbott. Yes, I am the greatest person ever, but that is not the only important lesson to be learned here. For you see, Megan Abbott is COMING TO TOWN! She'll be reading from her new book THE END OF EVERYTHING at Off Square Books later this month so START GETTING READY TO HAVE YOUR MIND BLOWN NOW. I cannot emphasize this enough: start preparing NOW by reading all of Megan's previous books OR ELSE! Otherwise, Megan's uncanny powers, which culminate in the current volume, will freak out your mind TOO MUCH and the good people at Square Books cannot be held liable for your personal catastrophe! It will be your own fault and you will incur ALL MEDICAL EXPENSES. Most importantly, Megan already sent me a birthday present. She is making the rest of you suckers look bad! It's a French advertisement for Popsicle brand frozen treats, featuring Bob Hope and suitable for framing! Top that, suckers! And don't forget that Megan will be here on July 27 with her own brand of chilly treats... her words! Much like Popsicles, they FREEZE YOUR HEART WITH EXCITEMENT AND TERROR! (Note: That photo is not the Popsicle ad, of course! It just seems to combine the spirit of Bob with the spirit of Megan Abbott... it is Bob and Paulette Goddard in what I assume is a publicity still from THE CAT AND THE CANARY.)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Giant Turtle Theme Song

"I TOLD you there was a giant turtle movie!" Dr. Theresa greeted me triumphantly this morning. Then she showed me this ("click" here): the incredible theme song to the giant turtle movie. I don't remember ever denying there was a giant turtle movie! But I could not have predicted such a theme song, which in its haunting introspection rivals the theme song to SOMEONE I TOUCHED. The title of the giant turtle movie is THE BERMUDA DEPTHS, and Dr. Theresa - not having seen it since her youth - recalls the plot this way: "There's a tragedy, and then a girl goes to live underwater, and later she comes back and wreaks vengeance on the town." While the theme song was playing, Dr. Theresa said, "Did you hear that? That was the giant turtle!" It sounded like a whale. Then she showed me a clip of the movie in which Carl Weathers fires a bazooka at the giant turtle, and the turtle indeed makes a mournful little whale noise, like "Oomf!" Pictured, the giant turtle who stars in THE BERMUDA DEPTHS.

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Debate

After yesterday's report on paint colors, the New York Times chugs right along with a "debate" about "wild nail polish." A debate! One of the people debating "wild nail polish" is an art curator named Angus Trumble. Dickens did not create him! Angus Trumble wrote a scholarly book called THE FINGER. I am telling you the true facts! "One thinks of Empress Dowager Cixi’s impossibly long, gorgeously chased golden fingernail protectors," writes Angus Trumble. One certainly does!