Sunday, May 24, 2020


In THE LOVE PARADE, Maurice Chevalier marries the queen of a country and then he gets sad because he doesn't have anything to do. So anyway, the queen takes out a cigarette and Maurice Chevalier leaps up to fetch a lighter. He tries several times, but the lighter doesn't work. Then he begins to beam with joy! He declares that he has found a purpose in life, yes, he is going to fix this lighter. Anyway, there was a whole part of my cigarette lighter book about how lighters that don't work are symbolic. Symbolic! Right again, Pendarvis. You know, my cigarette lighter book came out four years ago, and I don't care about cigarette lighters anymore, and I don't care about my cigarette lighter book anymore, but these are crazy times.

Friday, May 22, 2020

My Job

My job for the DUNE book club (not to be confused with the Doomed Book Club) is to count up to the epigraph where we're going to stop each week. You see, the author of DUNE did not see fit to number his chapters! Each chapter does start with an epigraph, so, for example, this week we're going to stop at the epigraph that begins "There is no escape." Let it be said that I've never once counted the correct number of epigraphs in all my tenure as the official epigraph counter of the DUNE book club. I flip a page too hastily and miss an epigraph, or something distracts me, or something. This time I forgot how many epigraphs I had counted because as I rapidly made my way, an owl caught my eye! You are by now well aware of my conviction that every book has an owl in it, and my compulsion to record the evidence. Not only did the owl in DUNE catch my eye, but in that split second as I raced past the page, the number of epigraphs I had already counted lost to me forever, I recognized that the owl in DUNE comes from a Biblical owl quotation we have discussed on this "blog" before!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Hot News From Providence

I'm sure you remember my friend Judge. She used to tell me how surprisingly big softballs are in Chicago! Maybe she moved to Rhode Island! I'm basing that on the title of her email. You know, back when I used to "blog," she would send me snapshots that captured the very vibrancy of life itself. And she's back at it! Just take a look. Here is an image, intriguing even in ordinary circumstances, that can be read in a number ways in our strange modern times, about which I offer no further comment at this juncture.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Cigarettes and Monocles

As you know, I don't "blog" anymore, except in times of worldwide emergency, which seemingly will be all the time now, and also there is nothing else to do anymore. So Megan and I are reading a bio of Ernst Lubitsch, which led me to watch Lubitsch's early silent film I WOULDN'T WANT TO BE A MAN, in which our protagonist must disguise herself as a man in order to smoke cigarettes publicly. This sort of backs up a thesis I put forth in my cigarette lighter book, about how before World War I, cigarettes were generally considered "feminine," whereas after World War I they had become "masculine." Or maybe it doesn't. And maybe that's not even what I said. I know I have a copy of that book somewhere. Oh well. I believe that in the same slim volume I also went off on the subject of monocles for some reason (I know why, but it's boring)... including the brief craze for wearing monocles with plain, non-magnifying glass in them just for the hell of it. Anyway, she does that in the movie, too! So I could have had a big time with I WOULDN'T WANT TO BE A MAN in my cigarette lighter book if only life had worked out differently.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Strange and Unwitnessed Circumstances

I'm reading the novel DUNE with Kate and Hanna. Sometimes Adam chimes in about DUNE because he read it years ago. He thinks it's funny there's a character named Duncan Idaho. Anyway, today he idly remarked, "Idaho probably means something." I decided to check! And that's when I found out this amazing story I read about on two different general-interest websites so now I'm an expert. It seems as if some guy wandered into a meeting where they were trying to name Idaho. He wasn't even supposed to be there! He pretended to be a delegate from someplace or another. (I am telling this story very loosely. Please do not cite it in any of your accurate historical dissertations.) He was like, "I've got a great name: Idaho! It's a real word and it actually means something cool." And everybody was like, "Whoa! Idaho! I like the sound of it! Who is this guy? I love this guy! Get over here, you!" Then later it turned out the guy was just full of beans. He had totally made up the name Idaho! He said was inspired by a little girl named Ida. But nobody knows for sure. Anyway, you don't believe me? Take a look at the wikipedia page of the guy who claimed to have made up the name Idaho ("click" here). There, now I've looked at three different webpages. What a day! So while I was reading his wikipedia entry I thought, "Holy mackerel! I think I saw a whole movie about this guy starring Vincent Price!" (See above.) But I was wrong. Our guy, George M. Willing, was just a conman pal of the conman played by Vincent Price. I'm not even sure they bothered to make him a character in the movie. Mr. Willing died of "strange and unwitnessed circumstances," the newspapers said.

Sunday, May 10, 2020


As you may not recall, I have a compulsion to list every book I read that has an owl in it, which is pretty much every book I ever read, because all throughout history people have never figured out how to stop themselves from putting owls in books. Anyway, in this new Stephen King book there is a speakeasy called the Black Owl, which is a cool name for a speakeasy, way to go, Stephen King!

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Where Were You

No doubt you remember exactly where you were that day in 2014 when McNeil and I watched the Jerry Lewis movie THE BIG MOUTH and noticed that Jerry and his leading lady wore nearly identical outfits in every scene. Well! Mark your calendars, because last night I was watching THREE ON A COUCH, and in Jerry and Janet Leigh's first scene together, their jackets appear to be made from closely related bolts of cloth. I leapt up and took a photo of my TV screen! Pardon the greenish reflections in Janet and Jerry's hair - the fault of a reflection on this end, not the frankly sumptuous color design of THREE ON A COUCH. Postscript! My friend Juan Martinez, author of the top-notch short story collection BEST WORST AMERICAN, tells me the pattern on the jackets is a Prince of Wales check, AKA Glen Plaid. Write it down!

Monday, May 04, 2020

Slightly Late

There is a whole section of my book about cigarette lighters in which I yammer on and on about how easily a lighter is passed from owner to owner, whether through theft or absent-mindedness. An interesting illustration occurs in the movie SLIGHTLY SCARLET, when Arlene Dahl nearly makes off with John Payne's cigarette lighter. She says she'll give it back later, but he doesn't go for that line. He wants his lighter back pronto! So he holds out his hand and she impishly burns it with the lighter! Well, he said he wanted it! Anyway, that should be in my cigarette lighter book, but it was published four years ago; also, nothing matters anymore.

Friday, May 01, 2020

The Educated French Poodle

Yesterday on twitter I found out about this website ("click" here) where you can read old movie magazines. Idly typing the name of Doris Day, the first person I thought of for some reason, into the search bar, I came across this photo, the caption of which begins, "Smudgie, the educated French poodle, begs prettily for a peppermint stick." Every word choice in that caption was so interesting. I was like, that's one anonymous magazine intern who could really slap together a thought-provoking caption! Stories just spin out of it.