Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Look At Kent

During the ADVENTURE TIME meeting the other day, Kent - dressed in normal Kent clothes - left his office to pee. When he came back he was dressed like this:
Adam didn't care. Adam was sitting there looking at a storyboard or something and he glanced up when Kent walked in and then he went back to the storyboard AS IF NOTHING HAD HAPPENED. Hey, look, there I am on the computer screen.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Watched the Laurel and Hardy movie WAY OUT WEST for research. About halfway through, Laurel, having lost a bet, eats part of Hardy's hat. And for the rest of the movie there are big bites missing from the brim of Hardy's hat! This is noteworthy only because "realistic" continuity is never much of a concern in Laurel and Hardy's world. I think it's funny and noble (and tragic, illuminating the human condition?) that somebody on the set decided to make a real commitment to this one thing.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Flashes of Light in the Forest

Was reading FLAUBERT'S PARROT by Julian Barnes and becoming pretty certain there would not be an owl in it. I mean, on page 46 there is a list of dozens of different kinds of animals, but no owls. And I was like, "Oh, well, if there were to be an owl in this book that was the spot for it." As much as I complain about my sick compulsion to list every book I read that has an owl in it (which is every book), I felt kind of let down. Just a few pages later, though, from a summary of a Flaubert story: "Flashes of light in the forest... prove to be the eyes of watching beasts: wild cats, squirrels, owls, parrots and monkeys." Tell me, what did I feel? Here's a picture of an owl Megan Abbott just sent me, coincidentally. "It's a purse!" Megan exclaims.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Please, No Applause

Just watched the movie BRIGHT LEAF as research for my cigarette lighter book and I know you don't care and I got some good stuff but here's part I'm not going to use in the book because why would I? Jack Carson is in a starry wizard robe selling snake oil, and at the end of a triumphant chorus of "Golden Slippers" the crowd looks at him with silent, stony-eyed disdain and he says, "Please, no applause." Jack Carson! It's like I've always said, old Jack Carson could really put it over.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Amazement That Can Only Be Imagined

I don't care what anybody says, I really enjoy that old "Symphonie fantastique." I guess it's one of the warhorses I like to complain about, but guess what? I'm a hypocrite. I like how the theme of the piece is - and allow me to paraphrase wildly - "Gee, why can't I get that girl to like me? They'll all be sorry when I'm dead! What if they cut my head off? Some witches will probably dance on my grave!" When I was a boy I read somewhere, "Berlioz says nothing in his music, but he says it so beautifully." I thought it was probably in my MILTON CROSS' ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSIC, because you remember how Milton Cross loves to pour salt in composers' wounds. But I just leafed through and couldn't find it. On the "internet" I see it attributed to James Huneker. When I was a kid I was probably like, "Ouch! Zing! Take that!" But today I think James Huneker just sounds like a big smart aleck. Meanwhile, the MILTON CROSS makes Berlioz sound like Charlie Brown: "As a boy of twelve Berlioz fell in love with a girl six years his senior, carrying on in a way to amuse his neighbors and embarrass the innocent object of his adoration... Berlioz was to see her only once in the next fifty years... Now a white-haired woman of sixty-five, the mother of four grown children, she was to hear from Berlioz' lips - and with amazement that can only be imagined - that she had been the only love of his life."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Weird Bags Are Amazing

Saw Jimmy at City Grocery Bar last night. He was visiting from his new home in New Orleans! We were talking about the first sentence of my cigarette lighter book and it caused Jimmy to say, "Weird bags are amazing!" - none of your beeswax why! I guess you'll just have to buy the book, ha ha ha, don't lie to me. Jimmy went on to talk about a "witch bag" he had seen in Oxford, England. He said it was a bag you catch witches in! "Like, their souls?" I asked. Jimmy was vague. But he did say, "That was the first time I saw a human skull." He said the skull was next to the witch bag. "I was glad it was behind glass!" he exclaimed of the witch bag. I expressed my doubt that a pane of glass could save you from the evil contents of a witch bag. "But there was a cork in it," Jimmy explained, referring to the witch bag in question.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Strangest Surprises of All

Thanks to McNeil I am listening to these old tapes of this old conspiracy theorist on old youtube. You know, Dr. Peter Beter, who says that Jimmy Carter was replaced by a series of robots. "The strangest surprises of all have been caused by the Jimmy Carter robotoids," says Dr. Peter Beter. Oh, McNeil! What have you done to me? Dr. Peter Beter (ha ha ha!) explains that "the holographic computer brains in the robotoids include instabilities which were present in the real Carter brain." You know how that goes! So the Jimmy Carter robots are going rogue and screwing things up for their Russian masters. Dr. Peter Beter points to the time that Jimmy Carter told the press he was attacked by "a swamp rabbit" on a fishing trip. (That really happened, as I well remember.) So the Russians, according to Dr. Peter Beter, decided to kill the malfunctioning Jimmy Carter robotoid by entering him in a footrace! Ha ha ha! Oh, I shouldn't be laughing. The man obviously has problems. But that is a funny way to kill a robotoid. "Carter Robotoid #14 was programmed to run like the wind," says Dr. Peter Beter. Ha ha ha ha ha! Again, sorry. He also asks us to check SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for photos that will prove Jimmy Carter has been replaced by a robotoid. Oh, here's the "link" to Dr. Peter Beter, I guess it won't kill you.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Zero Laughing Matters

Had to email McNeil to tell him Anita Ekberg died. Her obituary was sad; let's not think about it. Let's think about a weird hour-long youtube clip McNeil sent me. A monotone diatribe from a conspiracy theorist with the unlikely (but real!) name of Dr. Peter Beter. Ha ha ha! And yet Dr. Peter Beter is no laughing matter. He starts off on how Russia is manufacturing blizzards in the United States. Then he calls Reagan our "alleged" president. That's by three minutes in and that's about as much as a person can take, especially as Dr. Peter Beter manages to sprinkle a little anti-Semitism in there at the same time. Peter Beter is really into "manmade earthquakes," which is why I think McNeil chose to foist him on me: to rib me about what I said about those mysterious earthquakes in Oklahoma (no laughing matter, either). On wikipedia I learned that Peter Beter thought Jimmy Carter had been replaced by a robot. So there you go. There are a lot of Peter Beters out there, and leave it to McNeil to find them. So I have given you two things not to think about today: the lonely death of Anita Ekberg (pictured here with Jerry in happier times... I guess) and the sick ravings of Dr. Peter Beter. I'm sorry.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Imaginary Research

So I was reading in this paean to the cigar called HOLY SMOKE by G. Carbrera Infante, which I picked up at the used book stall the other day, about the movie MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE, in which, according to Infante, David Bowie "smokes a cigarette that isn't there: he lights it, he draws, he enjoys the smoke..." Oh boy! I thought. Maybe David Bowie uses an imaginary cigarette lighter! That's just what my cigarette lighter book could use. Hot stuff! Gee, I hope he doesn't use an imaginary match. What a bummer that would be. So I watch it, and despite what Infante says, David Bowie doesn't light his imaginary cigarette at all! He just smokes it. David Bowie's imaginary cigarette is pre-lit! If you want to know what I do every day, this is what I do every day. Thanks for nothing, G. Carbrera Infante.

Friday, January 09, 2015


Well, I kind of hate to say this, but I just watched FOUR ROOMS as research for my cigarette lighter book. Why do I even mention it? Because I'm always saying everything was influenced by Jerry Lewis's THE BELLBOY but you never believe me, and most of the time it's not even true, plus you don't exist, yet in this case they WANT you to know it from the beginning and then at the end the character played by Quentin Tarantino makes a long, impassioned speech about Jerry Lewis, of course he makes a long, impassioned speech, it's one of those roles he writes for himself in which he just spews a lot of stuff out of his mouth, like a human "blog." FOUR ROOMS presented no real worth in terms of my book. Maybe I got a sentence out of it. Two? Two, I think. And it's an omnibus film sliced into sections, and the cigarette lighter section is the last section, so I could have just skipped to the last section instead of watching the whole thing - what I learned, as a matter of fact, I might have discovered in a crummy wikipedia article. BUT THAT'S NOT HOW I DO. So I watched the whole thing. I conclude with the following fascinating remarks: the final section of the movie takes place in an open, Lewisian space where there is a white couch dotted with Jerry-style multicolored pillows, Jerry-style wall-to-wall carpet and huge orange curtains, Jerry-style.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

A Pile of Logs

The other night when I couldn't sleep I turned on TCM and saw the last little bit of JEREMIAH JOHNSON. Then TCM host Robert Osborne came out, the way he does, and said that in the original script, Robert Redford was a cannibal! I ain't lying. Robert Osborne said the original title of the script was LIVER-EATIN' JOHNSON. For real! And when Redford brought it to director Sydney Pollack, Pollack was like, "Hmm, are you sure you want the hero you're playing in this movie to be a cannibal, Robert Redford?" (I paraphrase.) So they changed it. I'm sorry to tell you such a horrible thing! But how do you think I felt? So I switched over to a Freddie Prinze Jr. movie but it had been on for eight minutes already and something very vital must've happened in those eight minutes, because I COULD NOT FIGURE OUT WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THIS FREDDIE PRINZE JR. MOVIE! So I changed channels again and there was JEFFERSON IN PARIS, and Thomas Jefferson was trying to impress a woman by jumping over a pile of logs! He literally said, "Why, I'll jump over these logs for you!" (If I paraphrase again, it is but slightly.) And Thomas Jefferson leapt over this pile of logs but his foot caught on something and he took a tumble straight out of "America's Funniest Home Videos." But kind of incredibly it was not supposed to be funny! His wrist (or something) was broken and we cut to scenes of Jefferson wasting away in a feverish delirium because of the injury he sustained trying to jump over a pile of logs to get a woman to like him back. So certainly this must be a real historical fact, huh? It's just too dumb to believe otherwise. I have a book of Jefferson's letters, including many to the woman in question, but I'm too lazy to look it up.

Monday, January 05, 2015

I Say It To Your Face

Do his too-short pants, his black shoes with white socks, his slicked hair, his hotel uniform, and the antic manner in which he abdicates his post early in the film mark Jason Schwartzman's character in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL as a tribute to Jerry Lewis? Almost certainly not! And yet I'm going to sit right here and say it to your face.

Big Doings

Hey! Did you know I'm interviewing Patton Oswalt about his new book SILVER SCREEN FIEND at Square Books on February 11? And then on the 19th Dr. Theresa's organization, The Sarah Isom Center, is bringing the great independent producer and actor Maggie Renzi - co-maker of all those amazing John Sayles movies - to the Overby Center to discuss her work. Not long after that - March 6 - Joey Lauren Adams will be coming back to town to show the film she wrote and directed, COME EARLY MORNING, at the Powerhouse, once again thanks to the Sarah Isom Center, who are ALSO bringing David Simon and John Waters to Oxford (!) at the end of March. David Simon is the keynote speaker for the Isom Student Gender Conference, and his event will also be part of the Oxford Conference For the Book, during which I'll host a panel featuring my ADVENTURE TIME coworkers Seo Kim (author of CAT PERSON) and Kent Osborne, AND my former ADVENTURE TIME coworker Nathasha Allegri, who has gone on to create the wildly popular and extremely gorgeous BEE AND PUPPYCAT (pictured). So! That's Patton Oswalt, Maggie Renzi, Joey Lauren Adams, David Simon, John Waters, Natasha Allegri, Seo Kim, Kent Osborne, what else do you want? Everybody on my panel likes cats. Get out a big magic marker and mark up your calendars! Do it now! I'm sick of telling you.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Only Explanation Was Offered By Our Dentist

Yesterday I picked up some good research items from that used book stall I like so much. It's in that strip mall across from Big Bad Breakfast, way in the back of the antique store. Check it out! One thing I found might be the most interesting self-published book I've come across since THE SCRAPBOOK OF A DETECTIVE. This one is by a livestock inspector named Dr. Harold Wallman, and it's a lavishly produced overview of his many collections of things. It's called 640 OF MY COLLECTIONS. They're put into alphabetical order and numbered. For example, collection #5 is "Alligators." The paragraph about his alligator collection begins, "The most intriguing alligator is controlled by two buttons." No set-up or anything, he just gets right to it. I don't think I'm getting across how unusual this book is. I'll keep trying. Collection #141 is "Cinema Photographs." He found most of these "in a Chicago alley. There were way more than I could take in a car, but I kept some... I had some fun with them by putting captions on them as to what I thought each character was saying. In one for 'Bed Time for Bonzo,' Ronald Reagen [sic] is standing there and he says, 'Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle.' The lady holding the chimp says, 'You mean father, Ha Ha Ha.'" Dr. Wallman also has a collection of newspaper articles and cartoons containing the name Arnold. The description is somewhat muddled, but they seem to be a tribute to his friend Arnold Cohn, and he put together a scrapbook that is partly (I think) about the real Arnold Cohn and partly about other people who happen to be named Arnold that he pretends are Arnold Cohn (?), including, writes Dr. Wallman, and note the quotation marks, "a picture of 'him' on a motorcycle, as a wrestler, and with a great body. It ends with his car accidents, death, services and auction. Many entries are completely anachronistic." Collection #155 is "Coffins." The descriptive paragraph begins, "One of my skeletons came in a rosewood coffin." So right away you know that he has a collection of skeletons, and indeed there it is, collection #507: "Skeletons - Human." Here we learn that his RV caught fire in 1986, and the only skeleton he owned at the time was destroyed: "I soon tried to replace it at dealers in Texas and Chicago, IL. I was told that human skeletons were no longer available." He finally got one but "it is light brown in color. The only explanation was offered by our dentist who said it got that way from being kept in the dark." And yes, I read between the lines that he was driving around in an RV with a human skeleton, and you'll have to trust me that it's only one of the disturbing things I've read between the lines - and in the lines - in this book. In a closing thought, Dr. Wallman regrets all the collections he couldn't include. "Too late to be more than mentioned are dolls, scout parapernalia [sic], bird feeders and houses, feathers, crutches, lead sinkers, enema cans, and cloth patches." Speaking of dolls, I believe he claims to have a pornographic Charlie Chaplin doll...? Details are vague, though the doll is mentioned in collection #432, "Pornography." Hmm, it seems that the thermos mentioned there is definitely pornographic (don't ask) and maybe the Chaplin doll is something he picked up in the same lot. "There is also a 'dirty' pocket watch and wrist watch," concludes Dr. Wallman. Such is the fascination of this book that only now do I find time to mention that Dr. Wallman's 392nd collection consists of owls, of course.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A Moment of Disorientation

Dr. Theresa and I are latecomers to this movie THE ROOM that everybody says is so awful, and it really isn't "good." But I have to say that while watching it I experienced one moment of bracing and unexpected disorientation worthy of David Lynch. It's near the beginning of the film (I think), after we have seen some of our main characters having interactions in their living room. Suddenly two people we've never seen before come into the same (now empty) room and start enacting their completely unrelated story. For a few minutes - before their situation is "explained" - they seem extra-dimensional or ghostly. I was pleasantly baffled and sort of had the creeps. One of them is this guy (pictured). He made a lot of funny faces and chewed food with his mouth open and exuded a cheerful banality I've seen in some Lynch characters. He also suffered a terrifyingly arbitrary pratfall. Okay, that's my take on THE ROOM, sorry I'm a decade late, goodbye, sorry for everything.

The Same Bill

Jerry Lewis just popped up in this Thelonious Monk biography. Jerry and Monk on the same playbill, come on, two champions of the avant-garde, okay, who cares, happy new year, goodbye, who asked you.