Friday, March 29, 2013

Scary Wow Word

Hey did you know I am going to Hollywood to act in something? That is no lie! It is for real 100%. Well, I am going to Burbank, to be completely truthful, so I have already lied to you. But one of my lines starts with the word "Wow," and I have been going around the house saying "Wow" and coming to the terrifying realization that there are thousands upon thousands of ways to say "Wow." I'm in over my head, people! Twice I have said "Wow" in such a way as to make Dr. Theresa respond. That is, she thought I was actually astonished by something and wondered what it was. So I am trying to remember how I did that. Okay.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sad Dead King Zinger

I guess I am done reading about Henry VI because he died. "It was said that he had expired of melancholy, but the truth is no doubt more prosaic," writes Peter Ackroyd. His eulogy for Henry VI goes on: "There has rarely been a wise king in England, let alone a good one. But it is still possible to concede a certain amount of sympathy to a man who seems to have been wholly unsuitable for the duties of kingship." Ouch!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Ruin It

Last night's ADVENTURE TIME episode ("Simon and Marcy") was so good! I don't know if it's a good way "into" the show if you haven't seen it before ("Simon and Marcy" takes place almost 1,000 years before the other episodes do), but it's especially good at everything I love about the show. AND... the plot hinges weirdly and most unexpectedly on Tom Franklin's own favorite TV show... SPOILER ALERT. I AM ABOUT TO RUIN IT FOR YOU. LIKE I RUIN EVERYTHING. From the AV Club review ("click" here): "he starts to sing the Cheers theme song, which serves as his tether to sanity." Let me say that it shouldn't work at all - it's nothing like anything the show has done before. If you'd asked me whether ADVENTURE TIME would ever include a CHEERS reference, I might have even been offended and scoffed at you! Scoffed at you in your face! But it works perfectly. HOW? I had absolutely nothing to do with this episode - the ones I worked on don't air until much later - but I'm really proud to be involved with people who can do something this good and audacious.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Big Arboreal Rice Rat

You know I have a book about weeds and a book about seahorses and an "ethnobotanical dictionary" and a waterlogged set of BUTLER'S LIVES OF THE SAINTS and elsewhere on the "internet" I have written about my love of reference books so it is no surprise to you that I picked up MAMMALS OF THE WORLD: A CHECKLIST and ALABAMA WILDLIFE VOLUME TWO: IMPERILED AQUATIC MOLLUSKS AND FISHES at Off Square Books the other day, but my purchase afforded much amusement for those gathered, including Lisa Howorth, who was moved to take a picture of it (above - see also). Only Melissa Ginsburg, who was there, truly "got" why these books are so interesting, although one other person said (unconvincingly), by way of compensatory sympathy, "I do want to know what's going on with that anteater and that skunk," referring to the cover of MAMMALS OF THE WORLD: A CHECKLIST. MAMMALS OF THE WORLD: A CHECKLIST is a checklist of the mammals of the world. That's all it is! Page after page. No illustrations. Font, font, font, closely packed. There are even little boxes next to the names of the mammals so you can check them off right there in the book when you see them! "And it tells you where to go," Melissa observed. Sure enough, I now know that I might have to go to Peru to see a "big arboreal rice rat." As for the book about imperiled mollusks, I am sorry the mollusks are imperiled but they have great names, presented in all caps and illustrated by beautiful color photographs. Just now I opened the book at random and found ORANGEFOOT PIMPLEBACK and DELICATE SPIKE and PINK MUCKET. (See also.) And oh yeah a while back I thought it would be a great idea if I had some unwieldy facsimile editions of HOLINSHED'S CHRONICLES - from which Shakespeare got a bunch of his ideas - but I could only get hold of volume three and volume six. Still, volume three has the reign of Henry VI in it, so recently, when I was reading about Henry VI elsewhere, I thought: "At last! A use for HOLINSHED'S CHRONICLES! I bet there's some hot stuff in there!" There is not. (See also.) But volume six says that Irish people are "religious, franke, amorous, irefull, sufferable of infinit paines, verie glorious, manie sorcerers, excellent horssemen... Their infants, they of meaner sort, are neither swadled nor lapped in linen, but folded vp starke naked in a blanket till they can go... otemeale and butter they cram togither... they let their cowes bloud, which growne to a gellie, they bake and ouerspread with butter, and so eate it in lumps." Whoa I got carried away typing there.

Now I Know Everything About Kings

This book says that Edward IV "possessed a toothpick made of gold, garnished with a diamond, a ruby and a pearl."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

More Fun Facts About Kings

"It is said that above all else he enjoyed sleeping." That's what it says about Henry VI in this Peter Ackroyd book.

Friday, March 22, 2013

King Stupor

This book has too many kings in it. Or maybe it's me. But I'm tired of reading about kings. Peter Ackroyd does have a way with a phrase, even phrases involving the dreaded kings: "In the summer of 1453 the king fell into a stupor" or "Five doctors had been appointed to watch over the ailing king. It was believed that the dung of doves, applied to the soles of the feet, induced healing sleep." And Ackroyd has an endearing habit of dropping a richly mysterious and allusive sentence into the middle of a paragraph with no warning and no further comment: "A man who called himself 'Queen of the Faery' preached in the towns and villages of Kent." And that's it for the Queen of the Faery. Now there's a dude I need to google.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Above and Below

Ace Atkins has been traveling a lot and he sent me this picture (above) from somewhere. Natasha Allegri saw it on twitter and drew this speculative illustration (below - "click" on it to see a larger version you can actually read):

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

His Tumultuous and Awkward Fondness

Hey did I tell y'all that Michael Bible is back in town, at least for a brief spell before he goes off on another of his adventures? I spied him in the coffee-drinking section of Square Books the other day, where he seemed to be working on some writing. He saw that I was carrying THE LIFE OF JOHNSON and began chatting knowledgeably and eagerly about it, which did not surprise me, though Michael is a "modern" writer and I have always thought of his tastes as "modern" (I oversimplify). I read him out loud the paragraph about how when Johnson was a schoolteacher his "oddities of manner, and uncouth gesticulations, could not but be the subject of merriment" to his students. "In particular, the young rogues used to listen at the door of his bed-chamber, and peep through the key-hole, that they might turn into ridicule his tumultuous and awkward fondness for Mrs. Johnson." He called her "Tetty or Tetsey... which to us seems ludicrous," Boswell writes, going on to describe Mrs. Johnson as "very fat, with a bosom of more than ordinary protuberance, with swelled cheeks of a florid red, produced by thick painting, and increased by the liberal use of cordials..." Okay, Boswell, lay off! Gee.

Some Big Lord

Man I can only make it through a page or two of this LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON at a time. It's not Boswell's fault! It's just the way my life is shaking out right now. The other day I was reading about how Johnson was going to dedicate his dictionary to some big lord or whatnot but then one day he was sitting around waiting to see the lord and the lord never came out and Johnson was getting peeved and finally the lord came out with this dude Colley Cibber that nobody liked, and Johnson was all, "Dude! I can't believe you left me sitting here while you were hanging out with that jerk Colley Cibber!" And so he was like, "You can forget about having my dictionary dedicated to you! I hope you have fun with Colley Cibber, your NEW BEST FRIEND!" The name Colley Cibber seemed familiar to me so I looked him up on wikipedia, which is what you do nowadays. Colley Cibber!

His Old Life of Wide Ties

Rereading the Portis interview that Burke told me about a long time ago. Portis is talking about a house where he lived during his newspaper days: "Some previous tenant of that house had left a lot of very wide and garish neckties hanging in a closet. I like to think he had turned his back forever on 21st street and his old life of wide ties. I wore one to work one day - a big orange tie with a horse's head on it, with rhinestone eyes."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Owl Party

Why do I keep a big long list of every book with an owl in it? Well may you ask! I don't know. It started as a way to support my supposed theory that "every great book has an owl in it," later revised to "every book has an owl in it." So I am rereading MASTERS OF ATLANTIS by Charles Portis for class, not a terrible way to spend the last day of spring break, and I come across the question of why Mr. Jimmerson's son never visits him: "any excuse would serve - a flute lesson, a head cold, his tummy hurt or he was having a tea party for his dolls and his baby owl." So, to lay out Mr. Portis's novels chronologically for you, NORWOOD has an owl in it and TRUE GRIT has an owl in it and THE DOG OF THE SOUTH has an owl in it and MASTERS OF ATLANTIS has an owl in it, so if GRINGOS turns out to have an owl in it, EVERY CHARLES PORTIS NOVEL WILL HAVE AN OWL IN IT. Is it too early to start drinking?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Snake Frenzy"

Just read a chapter entitled "SNAKE FRENZY" in this Joyce Carol Oates book. The delightful quotation marks are Oates's. Yes sir, I guess this book has everything, including "snake frenzies."

Ornithologist Love Interest

Last night I watched that movie where John Belushi learns to care about bald eagles: CONTINENTAL DIVIDE. I saw it in the theater when it came out in 1981 and boy was I disappointed. A restrained Belushi is required to say things like this to Blair Brown as his ornithologist love interest: "Why ornithology?" That is a line that John Belushi has to say. There are lots of scenes of him wearing a plaid shirt and a hat and jotting down his musings on a yellow legal pad, and that image, at least, must have been appealing to the teenage me, because I felt some sort of unidentifiable pang when I saw it last night. Is that when I started wearing hats? If so, then CONTINENTAL DIVIDE has that atrocity to answer for as well! (Flipping through an old photo album I see McNeil and myself in the mountains of North Carolina probably in the early 80s and I am wearing a fishing hat - "Just like the one Jack Lemmon wore in THE ODD COUPLE!" I certainly exclaimed at the time, and I almost got Dr. Theresa to take the photo to her office and "scan" it so I could "post" it here but the thought of all that effort was just so depressing, everything was so depressing.) The humor in CONTINENTAL DIVIDE, when it occasionally happens, is along the lines of the Hope and Crosby ROAD movies: city-dweller Belushi confronted by bears or a mountain lion. But then the mountain lion mauls him a little! Which would not have happened to Hope or Crosby. In fact, the mountain lion would have talked. That would have been funny. Even the one-liners were more Hope-like than anything else. After a mishap, Blair Brown says, "Are you all right?" and Belushi replies (I think), "Yeah, it's just my body." It was amazingly old-fashioned. Once, just once, Belushi deploys his eyebrows in the manner we all desired in 1981. But that wasn't enough for us! Written by Lawrence Kasdan and directed by Michael Apted and does that deserve one of these: (!)? I don't know. Does anything deserve a (!)? Doesn't everything just deserve a "..."? The structure of the film is very weird, with a bafflingly truncated second act and why am I typing this?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Glass Owl

I just came to a chapter called THE GLASS OWL in this Joyce Carol Oates book. And there was another owl, too, yesterday, I guess, about which I neglected to inform you, because don't you think I have better things to do with my time than compulsively inform you (whoever "you" are - I suspect "you" are me!) whenever I read about an owl in a book? Because I don't. Indeed it is my life's work. I wonder what this chapter - THE GLASS OWL - will be about! A glass owl?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Owl

Hey yeah but I was out of town so I couldn't tell you when I found out that the book I'm reading has an owl in it, or "a owl," I should say, because that's the awkward way the narrator puts it. No, wait, the narrator is quoting a diarist who is quoting someone else (Grover Cleveland's wife!) who is quoting Woodrow Wilson's daughter (!) who - spoiler alert - sees an apparition floating outside her bedroom window at night 'SALEM'S LOT style, its eyes "huge as a owl's." The Jersey Devil just made an appearance, too. Joyce Carol Oates! THE ACCURSED. This book has everything, including the Jersey Devil. Oh, you don't know about the Jersey Devil? I'm sure he has a wikipedia page. "... reputedly a seven-foot predator bird/reptile with a long neck and a long, very sharp beak and sharp talons. Historically, the Jersey Devil is said to be the thirteenth child of a witch named Mother Leeds," explains the narrator of THE ACCURSED. But in case you don't believe Joyce Carol Oates, here's the wikipedia page. Pictured, Grover Cleveland's wife, the former Frances Folsom.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Much Jollity

All right dang it I googled it for you and one thing I found out was "There must have [been] much jollity when the king appeared at one of the tournaments in 1348 dressed in an ingenious bird costume." Yes, if you are the king in 1348 and you are wearing a bird costume, you just know that everybody is like, "Wow, king! Great job! You look great! That sure is an ingenious bird costume! Please don't cut off my head." I also found out that he wore the motto "It is as it is" on a green velvet jacket. Pretty snazzy! And those are the things I found out.

Hey Hey Swan Jacket

Hey Edward III wore another jacket with another motto on it: "Hey, hey, the white swan, by God's soul I am thy man." What does that mean? Well, I'll tell you. I have no idea. Why don't you google it and leave me alone? Why do I always have to do everything around here?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Giant Hole in Bob Hope's Roof

Megan Abbott sent me an article about the pending sale of Bob Hope's crazy futuristic house. Naturally I passed the "link" (you should really "click" it and see the wonders) to McNeil. McNeil responded: "I wonder how many golf jokes he made that involved that giant hole in his roof? We should dress up real fancy, fly out there with a big metal suitcase and ask to see 'the property what was Mr. Bob Hope's.' That way we could climb the big f****** rock in his living room." I have some other stuff I want to "blog" about too so why shouldn't I cram it all into this "post," because who cares? I loved the most recent ADVENTURE TIME episode and I'm very proud and happy to be associated with a show that can be summarized like this (spoiler alert!) on the "internet": "Remorseful, Xergiok removed his eyes again and walked into a lake, where he met a lonely mermaid and started a relationship with her." The episode, entitled "The Great Birdman," was written and storyboarded by Jesse Moynihan and Ako Castuera. Jesse wrote something about it on his "blog." Pictured, we see Xergiok, foreground, having a flashback to the old days when he used to enjoy spanking his fellow goblins. To conclude, I just read about King Edward III in FOUNDATION by Peter Ackroyd. He had a jacket with the slogan "It Is As It Is" woven into it. This was in like 1327! So I want to say that Edward III invented the ironic t-shirt. He didn't, but I want to say it.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Confused but Solemn

I have been meaning to clear this up! While Peter Ackroyd's statement that "he remained a staunch royalist for the rest of his life" seems to suggest that Samuel Johnson believed Queen Anne's touch when he was three years old cured him of scrofula, Boswell says otherwise: "The touch, however, was without any effect." There's also this detail, which I like: "Being asked if he could remember Queen Anne, 'He had (he said) a confused, but somehow a sort of solemn recollection of a lady in diamonds, and a long black hood.'"

Monday, March 04, 2013

McNeil's Encounter with a Young Clerk

McNeil asked a young clerk where to find the Spirograph. "He pretended he had heard of it, stared off into space with eyes full of wonder before I just told him I'd keep looking...for happiness!!! Anyway, I ended up picking up a Magna Doodle, which is a flimsy piece of plastic covering some metal shavings somebody swept off the floor of a machine shop," writes a disgruntled McNeil.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

McNeil's Sleepytime Korner

Already we're screwing up in our efforts to scientifically log all of McNeil's naps, any dreams occurring during them, and disorienting effects in the aftermath. In the previous "post" it was falsely claimed that McNeil did not nap yesterday. In fact, upon reexamination of the source material, prompted by McNeil himself in an urgent, profanity-laced missive, we see that it was the day BEFORE yesterday during which McNeil did not get a chance to nap. His nap yesterday commenced at 5:15 PM and concluded at 6:40 PM when his wife awakened him. McNeil, exhibiting signs of disorientation, thought it was 6:40 in the morning!

McNeil's Living Nightmare

Report from McNeil! "Watching All in the Family last night (Season 1, disc 3, ep. 2) when Meathead mentioned that Archie was 47! There was an uncomfortable silence in the living room, let me tell you... I headed to the IMDB and confirmed my worst fears. I am older than Archie Bunker in Season 1. I live in a nightmare." As you know, we are keeping track of McNeil's napping schedule. He didn't even have time for a nap yesterday! Jimmy, however, reports that he fell asleep during a French movie and missed his shift at The End of All Music.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Wow St. David

Wow man this set of BUTLER'S LIVES OF THE SAINTS I have is even more waterlogged than I remembered! And it smells weirder, I bet, than Kelly Hogan's copy of THE HUCKSTERS. There is deadly stuff growing on the volume containing St. David. Yet that shan't stop me from keeping my promise to look up stuff about St. David for you on St. David's Day: "he obliged all his monks to assiduous manual labor in the spirit of penance: he allowed them no use of cattle to ease them at their work in tilling the ground." Sounds like a fun guy! "St. Kentigern saw his soul borne up by angels into heaven." So that's cool.

Black Marble

It is St. David's Day and by coincidence I am reading a little about the brave people of Wales right now in FOUNDATION by Peter Ackroyd. In this part, Edward I wants to take over Wales. He claims kinship with King Arthur, the problem being that Arthur is often considered Welsh, and "It was rumored that he was not dead, only resting, and that he would come again to destroy the enemies of the Welsh." So anyway Edward dug up a couple of people he said were Arthur and Guinevere. "The corpses of Arthur and Guinevere, if such they were, were wrapped in silk by Edward and his queen before being placed in a tomb of black marble. Their skulls were retained for public display. They were definitely dead." Hey, I don't know anything about St. David. Later today I promise to look him up in my waterlogged set of BUTLER'S LIVES OF THE SAINTS and I'll tell you all about him!

McNeil's Sleepytime Korner

Email from McNeil: "Nowhere on the internet can I find a site where an adult chronicles his nap schedule (much less the quality of the nap or if there was a dream or not - and whether or not there was disorientation upon awakening [which is a fascinating experience in itself])." With that we inaugurate the "blog's" newest regular feature.