Friday, May 31, 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's Fun to Read About Cashews

Mom was here and we were eating cashews and I decided to read about cashews in the OXFORD COMPANION TO FOOD to show my mom how smart I am. She was so proud! Friends, I was astounded by my findings! Did you know that cashews grow out of a fruit called the "apple" of the cashew tree? Oh, you did? Well, good for you. I guess I'm just an idiot. Anyway, look at this crazy cashew fruit. Wait: "In fact the 'nut' is the true fruit, and it is only after the 'nut' has reached its full size that the 'apple' develops, as a fleshy expansion of what is called the receptacle of the nut." Do you know what else the OXFORD COMPANION TO FOOD says about cashew "apples"? "Monkeys like them." Full quotation: "In some countries the fruit is prized, for immediate consumption, or to be preserved in syrup or dried and candied; and the nuts are discarded. In other countries the emphasis is on the nuts, and the fruits are left on the ground for animals to eat. Monkeys like them."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Personal Problems of Radioactive Glop

Hey but you remember the Doom Patrol, don't you? I was just talking to Tom Bissell about them, and he didn't. But he's a lot younger than I am. Everybody is. Hey! Wait! Let me give you that comic book history lesson you've been craving. See, DC's characters were kind of... well, they weren't prone to navel-gazing. And the characters from the rival comic book publisher, Marvel, had a lot of personal problems and brooded all the time. I oversimplify! Not really! So when DC brought out the Doom Patrol, they took a dip in that Marvel territory, what with all the crabbing and whining. DC's Doom Patrol were kind of like Marvel's X-Men. The leaders of both teams were in wheelchairs! Both teams felt like misfits in the eyes of the world! But one comic book wasn't ripping off the other. They came out at about the same time, if I am recalling correctly, and see, I just don't care enough to google it. I can barely keep typing, I care so little. But yeah, the Doom Patrol felt like DC's attempt to do Marvel. Like, everybody called Robotman "Cliff" and Negative Man "Larry." The human aspect! And here I am reading this old comic book from 1966 in which the Doom Patrol teams up with the Flash. Within the first few pages Elasti-Girl is crying and saying to Robotman, "YOU'RE NOT DOOMED TO AN EARLY DEATH BY THE CRAZY ELASTIC POWERS THAT MADE A FREAK OUT OF HOLLYWOOD'S HOTTEST GLAMOUR GIRL! BUT -SOB- HOW COULD YOU UNDERSTAND, YOU -- YOU HEARTLESS JUNKPILE!" And Robotman replies, "I'VE GOT A HEART! A NICE PLASTIC PUMP! I HEAR IT ALL NIGHT LONG, WHEN NORMAL FREAKS LIKE YOU CAN SLEEP AND SHUT OUT THE WORLD FOR EIGHT HOURS!" Then Negative Man comes in and everybody says, "LARRY!" and he says, "IN THE FLESH... I MEAN -- IN THE RADIOACTIVE GLOP I'VE BEEN TURNED INTO UNDER THESE MUMMY WRAPPINGS!" Ha ha! Gee! Wow, it goes on and on. They never stop complaining. No wonder they call him Negative Man! Whee! Oh boy! Good one, Pendarvis. DC is trying so hard to be like Marvel that it turns into a parody. All right, that's it, goodbye forever. (Panel from the Silver Age Comics "Blog," as usual.)

Comic Books May Not Be Believable

Here's a line from one of those old comic books I bought: "I'M NOT USUALLY UP AT DAWN... BUT I PROMISED MY CUSTODIAN FRIEND DEXTER MYLES THAT I'D CHECK THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE NEW EXHIBITS HE'S PLACED IN THE FLASH MUSEUM!" That's the Flash talking to himself as he runs down the street at super speed. Which made me wonder: does he talk at super speed too? Because that's a mouthful, and he's running really fast! How could he even finish the sentence before he arrives? And isn't everything about it kind of formal for something you'd say out loud to yourself while you're running down the street? When the Flash gets to the Flash Museum, some guys are robbing it! One says, "HOLD IT... TH' FLASH!" and the other says, "WHY'S HE HERE -- THIS TIME O' DAY?" Ha ha! I love the repeated implication that the Flash is known for lazing around in bed past noon or something.

I Hate Myself, New York Times

"Where Better to Play a Theremin Than on a Boat?" asks a headline in the Arts Section of today's New York Times. Oh no, I thought: I am going to read this article. The skin-crawling whimsy of that headline dovetailed so precisely with my interests and encapsulated my love-hate relationship with the Arts Section of the New York Times. Or do I mean my love-hate relationship with MYSELF? Does the gross, precious New York Times Arts Section hold up a horrible mirror to my own empty soul? I guess so!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Frasier, Briefly

Welcome once again to "Frasier, Briefly." Lots of prune commercials during these FRASIER reruns. I feel bad about myself. This has been "Frasier, Briefly."

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Giant Mirror Fixes Everything

Hey my first order of olden comic books came in, so, as promised, I can tell you why Supergirl was throwing spaghetti at the Batmobile on the cover of ACTION COMICS #388. Spoiler alert! See, some scientist created a "world duplicator" but it went crazy and made a crazy world where Superman, for example, is vulnerable to Brussels sprouts (see above) instead of kryptonite. But don't worry, folks, Superman fixes everything with a giant mirror in space. If there's one thing I learned from the comic books of my youth, it's that any cosmic problem can be solved by a giant mirror. See? This wasn't a waste of time and money!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sweet and Savory and Psychotic

Some years ago Dr. Theresa and John Currence discussed the creation of a hot dog bread pudding, combining two of Dr. Theresa's favorite things, hot dogs and bread pudding. Why this plan never came to pass is a subject shrouded in mystery. But today Dr. Theresa stopped by John's office for a chat and she came home with two delicious and insane sausage cinnamon buns, fresh from the oven - perhaps the closest thing this troubled world has seen to the hot dog bread pudding it so desperately needs. (Pictured, Cinnamon Bun, one of my favorite ADVENTURE TIME characters. I tried to find a shot of him from last night's episode, which seemed fitting because Cinnamon Bun was possessed by a demon in it. But I failed.)

Is This Guy Being Sarcastic?

This is the guy I see every time I go to my email's homepage. Does he seem like he's being aggressively ironic? Like, maybe the director of the photo shoot kept yelling, "No! Be happier! Be happier!" And this guy was thinking, "I'll give you happy, jerk." And maybe he thought, "Ha, they'll never use that shot." But then they did! Or maybe the trouble lies within my own joyless soul.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Spaghetti Supergirl

Hey so you are probably desperate for more info on how I started buying old comic books. Well okay if you insist! I was looking through one of the Jerry Lewis comic books that Tom Franklin gave me and I saw an ad for an issue of ACTION COMICS. On the cover, Superman was wearing his Superman suit AND his Clark Kent glasses. WHAT? You heard me. And Supergirl was throwing spaghetti at the Batmobile. For real! And I was like, WHOA. I was like, WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? So this ad, over 40 years old, did its trick. I checked to see whether the place where Tom Franklin buys his old comic books had this particular issue of ACTION COMICS in stock, and friends, they did, and that is how I started buying old comic books and brought shame and ruin to my family.

Entertainment Reporter

Hey I was flipping around on the old television set when I came across an entertainment reporter saying to Morgan Freeman, "What's it like to be called an icon? It's pretty humbling!" That's right, this guy was so excited that he answered his own question, swiftly, without taking a breath, and I think he answered it incorrectly! Life sure is crazy! Gee I sure love telling you all the many ways life is crazy. I don't know what Morgan Freeman said because I kept flipping.


The New York Times has a whole op-ed today about how "the French love Jerry Lewis," that's right, the meaningless, miserable old cliché blasted to smithereens years ago by Jonathan Rosenbaum and others. And the op-ed is written by a French person! I think! And Lewis's humor is defined as "nonverbal," which is crazy ("click" here). Nor does the author fail to call Lewis a "depressive clown." Oh no! Is this the kind of stuff I care about? What's wrong with my life? Brian sent me the message that there's an owl in GRAVITY'S RAINBOW and McNeil wanted to remind me that Harvey Lembeck (pictured) and Arnold Stang are in the Tony Randall vehicle HELLO DOWN THERE. What kind of monster am I?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Green Velvet Nothing

When I was watching the odd movie TOP BANANA on TCM last night it seemed very important to mention to you that Phil Silvers wore a green velvet smoking jacket with a black beret while standing in an elevator with leopard-skin print covering the walls, and that later he was wearing a leopard-skin beret with matching ascot (or was the ascot zebra?) but you know what? This morning it seems almost completely unimportant. Sorry! Hey in case you want a list of some other people who have worn green velvet jackets on the "blog" I can think of Charlton Heston, Katt Williams, Smokey Robinson and King Edward III off the top of my head. You're welcome! Is it too early to start drinking?

Friday, May 17, 2013

I'm Ruined

Tom Franklin kindly bought me some Jerry Lewis and Son of Satan comic books (those are two different sets of comic books; at no time do Jerry Lewis and the Son of Satan team up, but wouldn't that be great?). So Tom found this place on the "internet" where you can buy old comic books and it's all he wants to do and now it's all I want to do. Today I bought one where the Silver Surfer battles Dracula (!) and one where Bob Hope encounters a beatnik reciting poetry on the beach (!!) and a few more, and by a few more, I mean I bought all the comic books. Well, not MOD LOVE (above) which was out of stock, and I'm not even sure it's a comic book, but I wanted it, I wanted it so much, and I still want it. Thanks for ruining me, Tom Franklin.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

This Is Normal

Hey! Remember how I was reading that memoir by famed comic book writer Grant Morrison, and how surprised and amazed I was when he started all of a sudden talking about his "darker magical operations" and the time he met some angels, or possibly space people, he wasn't sure? And what about the "Golden Age" comic book writer Alvin Schwartz, who met Superman, who was "a creature formed of resplendent talking clay"? All right! Well, people, I just got my June BELIEVER magazine, and there's an interview in there with famed comic book writer Alan Moore, and here, let me quote him for you: "I did have an encounter with something that at least told me it was a demon, and it seemed rude to question that." Don't be rude to a demon! That's my takeaway. Anyway, I guess this is normal for comic book writers! I guess! All right! I am surprised again. (Pictured, the Demon, no relation, a comic book character whom Tom Franklin and I were discussing at lunch just the other day.)

Cold Gloves

"... gusts of wind storming the treetops... and the two dead birds that were laid on the bonnet, for plucking, coming alive, their breast feathers unfolding as they lifted off and did a small circuit that simulated freedom, simulated life. When she caught them they felt soft and furry, like cold gloves that had been left outside." Cold gloves! That's pretty good. From WILD DECEMBERS by Edna O'Brien. I am sorry the birds are dead in that example.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bob, Birds, Brontë, O'Brien

I was standing in Square Books the other day thinking, "Should I read a book by Edna O'Brien? She had a fling with Robert Mitchum!" That is a terrible reason to read a book but maybe no worse than lots of others. I picked O'Brien's novel WILD DECEMBERS because they compare it to WUTHERING HEIGHTS, my personal fave, on the back. Of course you can't always trust the back of the book to give you the best information. But O'Brien's epigraph is from Emily Brontë, and the title of the book comes from it, so okay. And it's really good so far! The book, I mean, not the epigraph, although the epigraph is just dandy. As soon as the second paragraph of the first chapter I thought we were going to get an owl: "There were birds always," writes O'Brien, and then she lists some birds, but owls are not among them. Still, I'm only on page 22 and there have been tons of birds so far and much talk of birds. I believe there is a fair chance of owls.

Leonard Grew Philosophical

I dreamed I was writing a novel last night. With a pencil! Here was the first sentence: "After his brother died in World War II, Leonard grew philosophical." Terrible! What a terrible sentence, and what an especially terrible first sentence for a novel. Why can't I dream something cool like the woman who wrote TWILIGHT? Remember how I told you it all came to her in a dream? I will quote again from the newspaper: "she had a dream about the characters, who then inhabited her mind and dictated the novels to her." Where's MY big dream payoff? When I woke up this morning my thoughts were muddled and I thought for half a second, "Hey! Maybe I dreamed a great novel!" I was wrong. My dreams have tricked me as usual. The novel I was writing in my dream also had this sentence in it: "Mary was a pretty girl." Ugh! Come on, dream brain! The next sentence: "She was as beautiful as margarine." WHAT? I think that came from the MAD MEN margarine subplot the other night. Why else would I be dreaming about margarine? In my dream I was working on a scene where Leonard goes back (?) to his job at the gas station. They don't have a uniform that fits him, exactly, and he's embarrassed. He's gained weight since he last worked there. Mary comes to the gas station and he fills up the tank and checks the engine. And here's his line of dialogue as she drives away: "Your hair is so yellow!" Dear God. I will let you know if I continue to write this awful historical novel in my dreams. Thanks for nothing, dreams.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Tiny Beatnik

Finn and Jake have a tiny beatnik living in their wall! That's what we learn on tonight's ADVENTURE TIME. Here's a sample of his beatnik poesy! Is this related to the film HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL ("click" here for evidence)? Oh, probably not.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Facile Comparison Contemplated

Contemplating a facile comparison of Lauren Graham's novel to DRACULA.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Product of Belgium

Last night we dropped by the home of John Currence and Bess Reed-Currence and John whipped up a delicious dinner on the spot. He can do that! Afterward, as we sat around talking, John magically produced a Biscoff. That's right: THE GREATEST COOKIE EVER SERVED ON AN AIRPLANE. When he saw how my little eyes lit up and heard my rhapsodic odes to the Biscoff, John said, mysteriously, "Then I have something you're going to love." And he did! Friends, he had a jar of something called BISCOFF SPREAD. It had the appearance and consistency of peanut butter, but PEANUT BUTTER IT WAS NOT. It was as if someone had smashed together thousands of Biscoffs into a single tablespoon of creamy goodness, the way Superman used to squeeze a lump of coal until it became a diamond. (See also.) And bear in mind, dear reader, the Biscoff is no lump of coal. The Biscoff is THE GREATEST COOKIE EVER SERVED ON AN AIRPLANE. And yet my analogy stands and the Biscoff is to Biscoff Spread as the lump of coal is to the diamond. So you can imagine. I checked the ingredients of the Biscoff Spread and I am not kidding, here is the primary ingredient listed: "Biscoffs, 57%." Also on the label: "PRODUCT OF BELGIUM." And that is all I remember. Perversely we spread the Biscoff Spread on the Biscoffs themselves, which I think should have caused the universe to fold up, but we're still here, I guess. (Image from the Silver Age Comics "Blog," natch.)

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


I am happy to be guest-editing the June issue of GRAVY, the magazine of the Southern Foodways Alliance. The theme is "food and crime" and you can expect contributions from a bevy of "blog" "faves": Abigail Greenbaum! Bill Boyle! Ace Atkins! Laura Lippman! Chris Offutt! Natasha Allegri! Jason Polan! Michael Kupperman! Kelly Hogan! McNeil! Also in June, after a long dry spell, short stories I wrote will appear in two magazines: "An Oyster Named Dan" in LUCKY PEACH and "Pinkeye" in PLEIADES. June! June is going to be big and filled with gravy.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

We Had Mime-O-Sass

Here is a sentence from the novel by Lauren Graham: "We had mimosas!" But typographically the word mimosas is broken up because it comes at the end of a line... mimo- + sas. So in my head I pronounced it "mime-o-sass." Like, I don't know, sass you get from a mime. Or maybe Mime-O-Sass is a troupe resembling Mummenschanz, except sassy. Ha ha ha oh dear Lord it is so funny when I read things wrong and tell you about it. Good for me! You earned that drink, Pendarvis!

Monday, May 06, 2013

More Owls For Lee

So when Ben Greenman was in town Lisa Howorth was bragging on me, telling Ben how "well-read" I am for some reason, and then Jimmy started saying something about the treasure in TREASURE ISLAND and I asked him not to spoil it because I'm not done yet, and Ben said, "Yeah, but you know there's treasure, right?" Ha ha! Well-read. I just got to this part: "'Clumsy fellows,' said I; 'they must still be drunk as owls.'" So TREASURE ISLAND is a book with an owl in it, and more than that, a book with a drunken owl in it, though I am no closer to understanding why owls are the supposedly drunken birds in the whole world of birds. This reminds me! Lee Durkee is sick of me "blogging" about owls all the time. He claims I only "blog" about owls and Jerry Lewis, whereas the subhead of my "blog" vainly promises "JERRY LEWIS - MONKEYS - UFOS - OATMEAL - OWLS." Where are the monkeys, UFOs, and oatmeal? That is Lee's reasonable question. In answer, I tried to suggest that the subhead of the "blog," is, I don't know, Platonic or something...? Lee wasn't buying it. Then I mentioned that I had gone the ENTIRE MONTH OF MARCH 2013 WITHOUT "BLOGGING" ABOUT JERRY LEWIS but Lee wasn't buying that either. He's a tough customer! I just "blogged" about monkeys the other day, but Lee is right, it had been too long between monkeys. And this much is true: I never "blog" about UFOs, really. But Dr. Theresa just listened to a phone message from my mom, and Mom's phone was breaking up, and Dr. Theresa said it sounded like Mom was saying, "I'm just calling my children about the aliens." But she wasn't. But we could easily believe that she was! (See also.) That's a true story, and it just happened! Also true: We just got back from lunch at Ajax to find in the mail a copy of Lauren Graham's new novel personally signed to me! I detect the handiwork of Ace Atkins, who shares an agent with Ms. Graham. I may also advance with some modesty that I have very nearly talked the entire Doomed Book Club into reading Ms. Graham's novel next. I trust and hope her book has an owl in it! You'll hear it here first.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

In the Land of Richard Dix

Let me tell you about my Tuesday. First, I saw Cher. Then I walked into a room and immediately started acting in a scene with Anne Heche. Finally I sang a song with Joey Lauren Adams and Mr. Belding from SAVED BY THE BELL. Tuesday! Yes, I went on a little trip and believe or not I didn't jot anything at first. I was like, "I am going to be too busy to jot down anything for the folks back home!" Such was my hubris! I did not jot for more than 24 hours! Twenty-four jot-free hours! But then I was sitting in the Starbucks where I once saw the guy from Tenacious D who is not Jack Black, and I was reading the New York Times, and I came across this first sentence of an article: "Forty five minutes of monkey impersonations?" A rhetorical question, I suppose, but one requiring a single answer: a resounding, Joycean YES! And that made me recall something I read in my new book about kings before I left on my little trip: "every chariot had a fierce great mastiff on a leash standing in a cart or walking behind it, and every sumpter beast had a long-tailed monkey on its back..." That's about a procession in 1158, and when I first read it I thought it was about monkeys riding dogs, a subject we have contemplated at some length on the "blog," but rereading it just now, never mind. Then (back to the New York Times) I read an article containing Robert Mitchum's pick-up line to Edna O'Brien (which totally worked): "I bet you wish I was Robert Taylor, and I bet you never tasted white peaches." Mitchum! What a smoothie! And that's when I started feeling bad for not jotting anything. I remembered something from the day before which I had not jotted, for example: we were driving down the street and Kent yelled, "It's the diner where Larry Crowne worked in LARRY CROWNE!" And so it was. We drove by it again a day or two later and Kent suggested that we stop and get a picture of me in front of it and at first I resisted, and Kent said "WHAT!!!!!" and stopped the car and took the photo anyway (below) and right he was to do so. I saw Kent eat a lot of chicken, as usual. He loves chicken! But I also saw him eat a pork chop and a steak. We ate big steaks at a restaurant where Bob Hope used to eat! Taking a stroll after one chicken luncheon, Kent and I observed a young woman communing with two tame rats, which were sitting on top of a Los Angeles Times vending machine. "Don't freak out," she was saying calmly and sweetly to the rats. As this actually very charming person put forth to us the argument that rats are among the most misunderstood of God's creatures, she was engaged in some sort of handiwork - she seemed to be, possibly, knitting some clothes for the rats. Let's see what else I jotted. I ate at a restaurant where they give you a coconut with a straw in it to drink! I guess this is a pretty common thing, but somehow this was my first time. I had previously seen such a way of drinking a coconut only on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. (Coincidence: upon my return home, I found an email from McNeil about the fact that Ida Lupino directed several episodes of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. McNeil seemed ashamed for not knowing this before!) One of the people at lunch was Ako Castuera, who used to sell coconuts for a living, and she regaled me with lots of amazing coconut lore, including something about coconut water and its use in blood transfusions during World War II, which led to a discussion somehow of the immortal jellyfish (or maybe that came up when we were debating the preferable place to visit: outer space or the bottom of the sea), and Ako - entirely different subject - told about a vacation she took on a cruise ship when she was a little kid and she spent all her time in the library. There was a library! Ako first discovered Edgar Allan Poe on that cruise ship, which put the endearing image in my mind of little Ako in the dark ship's library reading Poe while everybody else was up on the deck playing shuffleboard in the sun. Jottings! I saw my old friend Tom Bissell. He lives directly over the Hollywood Walk of Fame! In fact, he lives almost directly over Richard Dix's star. Oh, Richard Dix! Can I not get away from you? Your inexplicable stardom continues to haunt me. (Pictured, above, Richard Dix.) Tom and I talked about CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS and walked down the block to get a Mexican dinner and on the way back we witnessed a car crash! Everybody was okay, but the cars were smashed up. Okay! Now we are back to the fateful Tuesday. I was sitting in my hotel lobby when Cher walked through! I mostly saw the back of her head. Then my ride came and I went off to act with Anne Heche. FOR REAL! In what project, I am not at liberty to say. YOU'LL FIND OUT SOON ENOUGH. Anne Heche was more beautiful in person than you can possibly imagine! She was not "done up" in any fancy Hollywood makeup and finery. You got the feeling she just walks down the sidewalk being all radiant. After we acted in a couple of scenes together she gave me a big hug and discovered, I am certain, that I was covered in flop sweat like Albert Brooks in BROADCAST NEWS. Like Harrison Ford and Johnny Depp before me (a phrase I type with astonishing regularity) I played Anne Heche's love interest. Okay, and then a bunch of us went out to sing karaoke (including Natasha Allegri, the nicest person in the world!) and Mr. Belding showed up and everybody was like, "Oh my God! It's Mr. Belding!" and somehow the last thing I did was sing "Jolene" with Mr. Belding and Joey Lauren Adams. Before that, I saw Joey Lauren Adams and Pendleton Ward do Elvis's "American Trilogy" together, and I thought to myself, well, that is probably the most surreal thing I will see tonight, but I was wrong.