Saturday, April 25, 2020


Madcap, dizzying whirlwind of a day, by which I mean I received an email from McNeil, who inquired therein, "Did you once have an idea that put Shakespeare and Bob Hope on an island? Does that ring a bell?" It did not ring a bell! In fact, I had no idea what McNeil was talking about, and replied as much. McNeil responded: "I think they were on an island talking about each other's plays/films. I remember you sent it to me - this is when we were unemployed - and I can't remember what I suggested...putting them on separate islands? But that doesn't make any sense." Nor did it make sense to me, the recipient of the email and supposed author of this demented notion. I asked, searching my mind and finding nothing, was it a play? Were Bob Hope and Shakespeare in heaven? McNeil replied, "I'm pretty sure it was a short story and they were trying to make each other's stuff 'better'. Hahaha. That sounds funny now that I'm all jacked up on caffeine." When I again insisted I had never written such a thing, McNeil agreed that perhaps I had not. I began to think he was gaslighting me! "I could have dreamed it," he wrote. But he couldn't leave it there. He tracked down emails from a long-defunct account of mine, and produced documentary evidence that in 2005, I declared that he and I should watch every Bob Hope movie and read every Shakespeare play and have phone conversations about the process, which we would transcribe and publish. I think I was trying to invent the podcast, though I believe the podcast had, without my knowledge, already been invented at the time. Anyway, it depressed me to hear how little my ideas have changed... I have a column running right NOW for which I just talk into a digital recorder and transcribe my own words. When I noted as much with some chagrin, McNeil wrote back, "A diamond will always sparkle!!!!" with the four encouraging exclamation points you see before you. In actual fact, as it turned out, it was MCNEIL who wrote, "I've got it!" He then described, in that 2005 exchange, an elaborate framing device for an epistolary novel in which we both crash-landed in the South Pacific on adjacent islands, too treacherous to travel between, but with currents that made it possible for us to write each other messages in bottles about Shakespeare and Bob Hope. Thus was one mystery solved, while other mysteries, perhaps, presented themselves.

Thursday, April 23, 2020


Email from McNeil. He sent me an idea he had for a movie, and ended, on another subject, "Also, you have not blogged in a long time. Let's get on it." Maybe he hasn't heard I don't "blog" anymore... though to be fair, I have gone around telling everyone I'm "blogging" again in our time of national crisis. Anyway, I'm reading a book called THE LOST ART OF SCRIPTURE by Karen Armstrong. Now I'm on the part about ancient China! And I read this: "a choir of blind musicians sang an ode." There was a footnote appended to this phrase, and I was glad, because I was wondering about those blind musicians! "Why are the musicians blind?" I wondered. So I checked out the footnote. Here is the entire content of the footnote: "In ancient China, musicians were usually blind." That's it! And, well, I thought, "That's a frustrating footnote!" I felt the content of the footnote betrayed the promise of the footnote as as a medium. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized why it was there. You might read the passage and assume, as I did, that blind musicians were required for the particular ode under discussion. No, the footnote explains, they were blind just because if you hired a musician in ancient China, you were likely to get a blind musician. Huh! As long as I am here, I should tell you that I just saw Tom Selleck selling reverse mortgages on TV. He said that my retirement plan is "kind of wobbly, like this three-legged stool." Then he wobbled the stool he was sitting on and looked upset. "I've got a better idea!" he said. I changed channels. But as I flipped from channel to channel, I started to wonder if the plot of the commercial would pay off. I knew that Tom Selleck had a great way to augment my retirement plan, but I wondered if he would slip a coaster under the short leg of the stool or something. I prayed I wasn't too late to find out! I turned back just in time. Tom Selleck sat down with a grunt of pleasure in a velvet easy chair. "Now this isn't a three-legged stool," he said. "It's a reverse mortgage chair." Ha ha! That's what he called it. A "reverse mortgage chair." I am no doubt slightly paraphrasing some of the commercial copy, but not that part.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Enjoyable Captions

I got a book of Donald Judd interviews that Square Books delivered to me in our strange modern times! What I really like are the captions. I've already tweeted about this and nobody cared, so I thought I would "blog" about it, in which case at least I know in advance that no one will care. The captions are like "Hot-rolled steel and turquoise pebble acrylic sheets." The captions are like "Brown enamel on hot-rolled steel." They are like "Clear anodized aluminum and green acrylic sheets"... "Perforated 12-gauge cold-rolled steel"... "Brass and blue lacquer on galvanized iron"... "Maroon enamel on recto and cadmium red light oil on verso of wire-enforced glass"... !