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Ed Page's Links and Thinks

Updated: 2018-03-05T23:27:46.496-08:00



Duck: A Version


It was late summer, 1986. I'd soon be starting ninth grade. But, more important, Howard the Duck was now, finally, in theaters. For weeks, I'd been eagerly awaiting the film's arrival. I plunked down my money and attended a screening. Afterward, the disappointment I felt was roughly the size of Lake Huron. Why had I so looked forward to seeing this famously terrible movie? I'll tell you why: earlier that summer, I'd read the novelization of Howard the Duck, and, I'll be honest, I loved it.

Fifteen to twenty years later, in a used-book store, I found a book called Decade of the Year, a collection of funny essays by a guy named Ellis Weiner. The book, published in 1987, featured blurbs from Veronica Geng and Paul Shaffer. That was good enough for me, and I snapped it up. I enjoyed Decade of the Year, and I became curious about this Ellis Weiner fellow. As it turns out, he used to be an editor at National Lampoon and a columnist for Spy, and he's published several other books, including the novelization of Howard the Duck. More recently, he wrote this Shouts & Murmurs piece, which appeared in the October 19, 2009, issue of The New Yorker.


Photo, Finish


This photo of S.J. Perelman was shot by the great photographer Irving Penn, who died yesterday at the age of 92. Perelman, who died in 1979, displayed a dazzling command of the English language in his humor pieces, which appeared in The New Yorker for 45 years, starting in 1930. He also contributed to the scripts of two of the Marx Brothers' best movies: Monkey Business, which was released in 1931, and Horse Feathers, which came out a year later. Woody Allen once called him "the single funniest human of my lifetime." The Paris Review interviewed Perelman in 1963; that interview can be read here.


Gates of Heaven I wouldn't really be me if it weren't for Woody Allen, not just because of his own work but also because of the work of others he's led me to. When I was in high school, learning about Woody led me to discover some of my favorite things: Robert Benchley's funny essays, Buster Keaton's silent comedies, the Marx Brothers. (In Eric Lax's 1975 book On Being Funny: Woody Allen and Comedy, Woody says that the Marx Brothers film Duck Soup is the only funny movie he can think of that doesn't have any slow spots. In Hannah and Her Sisters, seeing Duck Soup leads Woody's character, who's been fretting about his mortality, to decide that life isn't so bad after all.)In the summer of 2008, I listened to this interview with Woody, in which he discusses his love for the early jazz recordings of Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, and Jelly Roll Morton. I'd heard the interview before, but this time I thought, "You know what? I should listen to those old recordings. If Woody likes 'em, I bet they're great." So I immediately set about finding as many of those old recordings as I could. Those three guys and their music became my new obsession. I'm always obsessed with something or other. I've always been that way. My childhood was one long string of obsessions: Disney animation, magic, the Beatles, juggling, breakdancing, the Rubik's Cube. I'll get interested in something and it'll take over my life. Then one day something else will catch my attention and suddenly I'll have a new obsession. A couple of years ago, I was obsessed with Stanley Kubrick. Now my days are spent listening to, and reading about, Armstrong, Bechet, and Jelly Roll.I've been obsessed with this music for over a year now, and in that time I've heard a lot of recordings. I've collected 37 of my favorites in a playlist, Playlist 2 it's called, on my MySpace page, which can be found here. From Playlist 2 I selected 10 songs for my profile playlist. They are listed below, with notes to enhance your enjoyment.1. "Everybody Loves My Baby" by Clarence Williams' Blue Five(Recorded November 6, 1924, in New York City)On this song, the cornet (an instrument almost exactly like a trumpet) is played by Louis Armstrong, who was 23 at the time. On some Blue Five recordings, the soprano sax is played by Sidney Bechet, but on this one it's played by a fellow named Buster Bailey. The vocalist is Eva Taylor. She was married to Clarence Williams, who played piano on the Blue Five records and organized the recording sessions. 2. "Lazy River" by Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra(Recorded November 3, 1931, in Chicago)This is one of just a handful of recordings Armstrong made in the early '30s. During that time, he was on the run from gangsters, so he largely avoided Chicago and New York. In Chicago some months prior to this session, a gangster pulled a gun on Armstrong and made him agree to be on a train to New York the next morning for a gig. Armstrong wasn't on that train, and ended up spending much of the next few years in Europe. He returned to America in 1935, at which point he hired as his manager his old friend Joe Glaser, a tough cookie who, it was said, had worked for Al Capone. Glaser resolved Armstrong's problems with the gangsters, and remained Armstrong's manager until he, Glaser, died, in 1969. Armstrong died two years later.3. "Cake Walking Babies From Home" by the Red Onion Jazz Babies(Recorded December 22, 1924, in New York City)The Red Onion Jazz Babies and Clarence Williams' Blue Five were basically the same band. Both were organized by Clarence Williams and they featured most of the same musicians. Alberta Hunter, rather than Eva Taylor, sang on the Jazz Babies records. (On this tune, she's joined on vocals by Clarence Todd.) And, instead of Clarence Williams, the pianist for the Jazz Babies was Lil Hardin, who'd recently become Armstrong's second wife. (His first wife was an insanely jealous New Orleans prostitute named Daisy Parker. Daisy always carried a razor and wasn't shy about pulling it out.) Sev[...]


Foreign CorrespondentPaul Simms was a writer for the funniest talk show in history, the late, great Late Night With David Letterman. More recently, he wrote the following humor piece, which appeared in the September 21, 2009, issue of The New Yorker.Attention, People of EarthWe are on our way to your planet. We will be there shortly. But in this, our first contact with you, our "headline" is: We do not want your gravel.We are coming to Earth, first of all, just to see if we can actually do it. Second, we hope to learn about you and your culture(s). Third—if we end up having some free time—we wouldn't mind taking a firsthand look at your almost ridiculously bountiful stores of gravel. But all we want to do is look.You're probably wondering if we mean you harm. Good question! So you're going to like the answer, which is: We mean you no harm. Truth be told, there is a faction of us who want to completely annihilate you. But they're not in power right now. And a significant majority of us find their views abhorrent and almost even barbaric.But, thanks to the fact that our government operates on a system very similar to your Earth democracy, we have to tolerate the views of this "loyal opposition," even while we hope that they never regain power, which they probably won't (if the current poll tracking numbers hold up).By the way, if we do take any of your gravel, it's going to be such a small percentage of your massive gravel supply that you probably won't even notice it's gone. You may be wondering how we know your language. We are aware that there's a theory on your planet that we (or other alien species from the far reaches of the galaxy) have been able to learn your language from your television transmissions. This is not the case, because most of us don't really watch TV. Most of our knowledge about your Earth TV comes from reading Zeitgeisty think pieces by our resident intellectuals, who watch it not for fun but for ideas for their print articles about how Earth TV holds a mirror up to Earth society, and so on. We mean, we'll watch Earth TV sometimes—if it happens to be on already—but, generally, we prefer to read a good book or revive the lost art of conversation.Sadly, Earth TV is like a vast wasteland, as the Earthling Newton Minow once said. But, for those of you who can understand things only in TV terms, just think of us as being very similar to Mork from Ork, in that he was a friendly, non-gravel-wanting alien who visited Earth just to find out what was there, and not to harvest gravel.Speaking of a vast wasteland, you might want to start picking out and clearing off a place for our spacecraft to land. Our spacecraft, as you will see shortly, is huge. Do not be alarmed; this does not mean that each one of us is that much bigger than each one of you. It's just that there were so many of us who wanted to come that we had to build a really huge spacecraft.So, again, no cause for alarm.(Full disclosure: each of us actually is much bigger than each of you, and there's nothing we can do about it. So please don't use any of your Earth-style discrimination against us. This is just how we are, and it's not our fault.)Anyway, re our spacecraft: it's kind of gigantic. The deceleration thrusters alone are sort of, like ... well, imagine four of your Vesuvius volcanoes (but bigger), turned upside down.We don't want to hurt anyone, so, if you could just clear off one continent, we think we can keep unintended fatalities to a minimum. Australia would probably work. (But don't say Antarctica. Because we'd just melt it, and then you'd all end up underwater. Which would make it virtually impossible for us to learn about your hopes and your dreams, and your culture, and to harvest relatively small, sample-size amounts of your gravel, just for scientific study.)A little bit about us: our males have two penises, while our females have only one. So, gender-wise, if you use simple math, we're pretty much identical to you.And, as far as protocol g[...]


Little-Read Writing: "Hood"In 1925, Ring Lardner published a handsome little volume called What of It? Here's that book's preface:PrefaceReaders of this book, if any, may get to wondering before they are through with it, why it was named What Of It? instead of What For? Well, the name was not selected by the writer, but by Grantland Rice, the poet, and the circumstances were as follows:We were waiting for something to eat, at Nassau or somewhere, and the conversation had sort of flopped, so I said I was about to publish another book. Mr. Rice started to say something, but didn't. I went on that the publishers were after me for a suitable title and I couldn't think of one."It ought to be on the order of 'Hash' or 'Melange' or 'Medley,'" I said. "The stuff in the book is miscellaneous magazine and newspaper stuff, on all kinds of subjects."Mr. Rice seemed to be pondering, after which he said: "Didn't you write a thing for 'Liberty' called 'What of It?'""Yes," I replied."Well," said Mr. Rice, "I think 'What Of It' would be a good title for that kind of book."So the suggestion was sent in and approved, and the boys at Scribners' thought Mr. Rice ought to be congratulated for what they considered a stroke of genius. But it wasn't much of a strain on my mind to figure out that when I told Mr. Rice I was publishing another book, the thing he started to say and politely didn't was "What of it?" and that's how the phrase happened to be in his head.It has been my favorite phrase since back in 1913 or '14, or whatever year it was that Hank O'Day managed the Cubs. A modern big league baseball manager is supposed to observe the social amenities, but Mr. O'Day had been an umpire so long that the chip on his shoulder had become a permanent growth.The Cubs were making their first eastern trip of the season, and with them went their owner, Charles W. Murphy. Mr. Murphy and Mr. O'Day were standing by the desk in the Aldine Hotel at Philadelphia one evening when the hotel's genial manager, whose name I have forgotten, joined them."Hello, there, Mr. -----!" said Mr. Murphy cordially. "Have you met my friend, Mr. Henry O'Day?""I haven't had that pleasure," replied Mr. -----."Mr. -----," explained Mr. Murphy to Mr. O'Day, "is the manager of this hotel.""What of it?" said Mr. O'Day.R. W. L.March, 1925.Here's a story from What of It? It comes from a section called "Bed-Time Stories."Red Riding HoodWell, children, here is the story of little Red Riding Hood like I tell it to my little ones when they wake up in the morning with a headache after a tough night.Well, one or two times they was a little gal that lived in the suburbs who they called her little Red Riding Hood because she always wore a red riding hood in the hopes that sometime a fresh guy in a high power roadster would pick her up and take her riding. But the rumor had spread the neighborhood that she was a perfectly nice gal, so she had to walk.Red had a grandmother that lived over near the golf course and got in on most of the parties and one noon she got up and found that they wasn't no gin in the house for her breakfast so she called up her daughter and told her to send Red over with a bottle of gin as she was dying.So Red starts out with a quart under her arm but had not went far when she met a police dog. A good many people has police dogs, and brags about them and how nice they are for children and etc. but personly I would just as leaf have my kids spend their week-end swimming in the State Shark Hatchery.Well, this special police dog was like the most of them and hated everybody. When he seen Red he spoke to her and she answered him. Even a dog was better than nothing. She told him where she was going and he pertended like he wasn't paying no tension but no sooner had not she left him when he beat it up a alley and got to her grandmother's joint ahead of her.Well the old lady heard him knock at the door and told him to come in, as she thought he must either be Red or a[...]


Sacha Barin' Baron Cohen

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Sacha Baron Cohen's grandmother, a ballet dancer, fled Nazi Germany in 1936. Years later, Sacha studied history at Cambridge University and wrote his thesis on the American civil-rights movement. In this Fresh Air interview, originally broadcast on January 4, 2007, he discusses his characters, his comedy, and prejudice. His new movie, Brüno, opens on July 10.


Benny Ha-Ha


This photo shows the stars of Jack Benny's radio program, which debuted in 1932 and ended in 1955. From left to right, we have Eddie Anderson, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Mary Livingstone, Jack Benny, Don Wilson, and Mel Blanc. You can listen to many, many episodes of the program here.


Addendum: This episode, from May 9, 1943,features the great Louis Armstrong.



Addendum: This episode was broadcast, on April 30, 1944, from the Puget Sound Navy Yard, in Bremerton, Washington, the city where I was born. My dad worked at the navy yard from 1957 to 1992.



The Finish MasterRobert Benchley (pictured) wrote the following essay in 1930, for the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate. It can be found in the 1949 collection Chips Off the Old Benchley, where it's accompanied by the Gluyas Williams illustration seen below.How to Get Things DoneA great many people have come up to me and asked me how I manage to get so much work done and still keep looking so dissipated. My answer is "Don't you wish you knew?" and a pretty good answer it is, too, when you consider that nine times out of ten I didn't hear the original question.But the fact remains that hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country are wondering how I have time to do all my painting, engineering, writing and philanthropic work when, according to the rotogravure sections and society notes, I spend all my time riding to hounds, going to fancy-dress balls disguised as Louis XIV or spelling out GREETINGS TO CALIFORNIA in formation with three thousand Los Angeles school children. "All work and all play," they say.The secret of my incredible energy and efficiency in getting work done is a simple one. I have based it very deliberately on a well-known psychological principle and have refined it so that it is now almost too refined. I shall have to begin coarsening it up again pretty soon.The psychological principle is this: anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.Let us see how this works out in practice. Let us say that I have five things which have to be done before the end of the week: (1) a basketful of letters to be answered, some of them dating from October, 1928 (2) some bookshelves to be put up and arranged with books (3) a hair-cut to get (4) a pile of scientific magazines to go through and clip (I am collecting all references to tropical fish that I can find, with the idea of some day buying myself one) and (5) an article to write for this paper.Now. With these five tasks staring me in the face on Monday morning, it is little wonder that I go right back to bed as soon as I have had breakfast, in order to store up health and strength for the almost superhuman expenditure of energy that is to come. Mens sana in corpore sano is my motto, and, not even to be funny, am I going to make believe that I don't know what the Latin means. I feel that the least that I can do is to treat my body right when it has to supply fuel for an insatiable mind like mine.As I lie in bed on Monday morning storing up strength, I make out a schedule. "What do I have to do first?" I ask myself. Well, those letters really should be answered and the pile of scientific magazines should be clipped. And here is where my secret process comes in. Instead of putting them first on the list of things which have to be done, I put them last. I practice a little deception on myself and say: "First you must write that article for the newspaper." I even say this out loud (being careful that nobody hears me, otherwise they would keep me in bed) and try to fool myself into really believing that I must do the article that day and that the other things can wait. I sometimes go so far in this self-deception as to make out a list in pencil, with "No. 1. Newspaper article" underlined in red. (The underlining in red is rather difficult, as there is never a red pencil on the table beside the bed, unless I have taken one to bed with me on Sunday night.)Then, when everything is lined up, I bound out of bed and have lunch. I find that a good, heavy lunch, with some sort of glutinous dessert, is good preparation for the day's work as it keeps one from getting nervous and excitable. We workers must keep cool and calm, otherwise we would just throw away our time in jumping about and fidgeting.I then seat myself at my desk with my typewriter before me and sharpen five pencils. (The sharp pencils are for poking ho[...]


By Hook or by CrookThe following is from Love Conquers All, a 1922 collection of essays by Robert Benchley (pictured).Trout-FishingI never knew very much about trout-fishing anyway, and I certainly had no inkling that a trout-fisher had to be so deceitful until I read "Trout-Fishing in Brooks," by G. Garrow-Green. The thing is appalling. Evidently the sport is nothing but a constant series of compromises with one's better nature, what with sneaking about pretending to be something that one is not, trying to fool the fish into thinking one thing when just the reverse is true, and in general behaving in an underhanded and tricky manner throughout the day.The very first and evidently the most important exhortation in the book is, "Whatever you do, keep out of sight of the fish." Is that open and above-board? Is it honorable?"Trout invariably lie in running water with their noses pointed against the current, and therefore whatever general chance of concealment there may be rests in fishing from behind them. The moral is that the brook-angler must both walk and fish upstream."It seems as if a lot of trouble might be saved the fisherman, in case he really didn't want to walk upstream but had to get to some point downstream before 6 o'clock, to adopt some disguise which would deceive the fish into thinking that he had no intention of catching them anyway. A pair of blue glasses and a cane would give the effect of the wearer being blind and harmless, and could be thrown aside very quickly when the time came to show one's self in one's true colors to the fish. If there were two anglers they might talk in loud tones about their dislike for fish in any form, and then, when the trout were quite reassured and swimming close to the bank they could suddenly be shot with a pistol.But a little further on comes a suggestion for a much more elaborate bit of subterfuge.The author says that in the early season trout are often engaged with larvae at the bottom and do not show on the surface. It is then a good plan, he says, to sink the flies well, moving in short jerks to imitate nymphs.You can see that imitating a nymph will call for a lot of rehearsing, but I doubt very much if moving in short jerks is the way in which to go about it. I have never actually seen a nymph, though if I had I should not be likely to admit it, and I can think of no possible way in which I could give an adequate illusion of being one myself. Even the most stupid of trout could easily divine that I was masquerading, and then the question would immediately arise in its mind: "If he is not a nymph, then what is his object in going about like that trying to imitate one? He is up to no good, I'll be bound."And crash! away would go the trout before I could put my clothes back on.There is an interesting note on the care and feeding of worms on page 67. One hundred and fifty worms are placed in a tin and allowed to work their way down into packed moss."A little fresh milk poured in occasionally is sufficient food," writes Mr. Garrow-Green, in the style of Dr. Holt. "So disposed, the worms soon become bright, lively and tough."It is easy to understand why one should want to have bright worms, so long as they don't know that they are bright and try to show off before company, but why deliberately set out to make them tough? Good manners they may not be expected to acquire, but a worm with a cultivated vulgarity sounds intolerable. Imagine 150 very tough worms all crowded together in one tin! "Canaille" is the only word to describe it.I suppose that it is my ignorance of fishing parlance which makes the following sentence a bit hazy:"Much has been written about bringing a fish downstream to help drown it, as no doubt it does; still, this is often impracticable."I can think of nothing more impracticable than trying to drown a fish under any conditions, upstream[...]


Spouse MountainThe following is from Love Conquers All, a 1922 collection of essays by Robert Benchley (pictured).Noting an Increase in BigamyEither more men are marrying more wives than ever before, or they are getting more careless about it. During the past week bigamy has crowded baseball out of the papers, and while this may be due in part to the fact that it was a cold, rainy week and little baseball could be played, yet there is a tendency to be noted there somewhere. All those wishing to note a tendency will continue on into the next paragraph.There is, of course, nothing new in bigamy. Anyone who goes in for it with the idea of originating a new fad which shall be known by his name, like the daguerreotype or potatoes O'Brien, will have to reckon with the priority claims of several hundred generations of historical characters, most of them wearing brown beards. Just why beards and bigamy seem to have gone hand in hand through the ages is a matter for the professional humorists to determine. We certainly haven't got time to do it here.But the multiple-marriages unearthed during the past week have a certain homey flavor lacking in some of those which have gone before. For instance, the man in New Jersey who had two wives living right with him all of the time in the same apartment. No need for subterfuge here, no deceiving one about the other. It was just a matter of walking back and forth between the dining-room and the study. This is, of course, bigamy under ideal conditions.But in tracing a tendency like this, we must not deal so much with concrete cases as with drifts and curves. A couple of statistics are also necessary, especially if it is an alarming tendency that is being traced. The statistics follow, in alphabetical order:In the United States during the years 1918-1919 there were 4,956,673 weddings. 2,485,845 of these were church weddings, strongly against the wishes of the bridegrooms concerned. In these weddings 10,489,392 silver olive-forks were received as gifts.Starting with these figures as a basis, we turn to the report of the Pennsylvania State Committee on Outdoor Gymnastics for the year beginning January 4th, 1920, and ending a year later.This report being pretty fairly uninteresting, we leave it and turn to another report, which covers the manufacture and sale of rugs. This has a picture of a rug in it, and a darned good likeness it is, too.In this rug report we find that it takes a Navajo Indian only eleven days to weave a rug 12 x 5, with a swastika design in the middle. Eleven days. It seems incredible. Why, it takes only 365 days to make a year!Now, having seen that there are 73,000 men and women in this country today who can neither read nor write, and that of these only 4%, or a little over half, are colored, what are we to conclude? What is to be the effect on our national morale? Who is to pay this gigantic bill for naval armament?Before answering these questions any further than this, let us quote from an authority on the subject, a man who has given the best years, or at any rate some very good years, of his life to research in this field, and who now takes exactly the stand which we have been outlining in this article."I would not," he says in a speech delivered before the Girls' Friendly Society of Laurel Hill, "I would not for one minute detract from the glory of those who have brought this country to its present state of financial prominence among the nations of the world, and yet as I think back on those dark days, I am impelled to voice the protest of millions of American citizens yet unborn."Perhaps some of our little readers remember what the major premise of this article was. If so, will they please communicate with the writer.Oh, yes! Bigamy!Well, it certainly is funny how many cases of bigamy you hear about nowadays. Either more men a[...]


The Sounders, Drew, a Crowd

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Pete: Best


This show about Peter Cook features John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, Jonathan Miller, Eleanor Bron, Ronnie Wood, John Lennon, and Peter's widow, Lin.


Sky Writing



Rock Star

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Thar She Blows!
The following poem was written by the great George Meyer, who, according to The New Yorker, is currently at work on a novel. You can hear him read this poem on this CD, which was recorded in Los Angeles in 2003 at Beth Lapides's Un-Cabaret show "Say the Word."

Desperate Flapper

Shivering, thrashing,
Quivering, lashing,
Gnashing, and twisting askew;
Flapping profanely,
Snapping insanely:
Car-mounted red, white, and blue.

Whipping along
On a white plastic schlong,
The buffeted banner of dreams.
Fluttering madly,
Jittering badly,
Down San Vicente it screams.

When was our flag
So rapidly dragged?
When was Old Glory
So undulatory?

"Hey there," says Flaggy,
"I hate to be braggy,
But Americans don't run in fear.
You're not gonna budge us,
Flip us over and fudge us,
'Cause all of our stuff is here.

"You envy our freedom,
Our films by Hal Needham,
Like Hooper and Cannonball Run
And Stroker and Smokey.
You lie like Pinocchi-
O if you deny their good fun."

Now Flaggy's battered,
Ripped up, and tattered,
Trailing its star-spangled dreds,
Looking bedeviled,
Wild, and disheveled,
Just like Anne Heche off her meds.

Can't bear to chuck it
In the trash bucket.
That almost seems like a sin.
Ah, hell, let's face it --
It's time to replace it:
The new Lakers pennants are in.


Craft Superstar


I first encountered the work of Steven Millhauser about 10 years ago, and, ever since, he's been my favorite living writer of fiction. He's rather a mysterious fellow. When, in 1997, his novel Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer won the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Times reported the story under the headline "Shy Author Likes to Live and Work in Obscurity." Despite his penchant for spotlight-shunning, he has, over the years, granted a handful of interviews, all of which are well worth reading. There's this one, with Jim Shepard, for Bomb; this one, for Transatlantica; and this one, for

Here's how his conversation with Jim Shepard begins:

Jim Shepard: Perhaps as much as any American writer I can think of, you've been drawn to the novella. Are there aesthetic advantages and disadvantages peculiar to the form? Does it even have a form?

Steven Millhauser: Is it possible not to be drawn to the novella? Everything about it is immensely seductive. It demands the rigor of treatment associated with the short story, while at the same time it offers a liberating sense of expansiveness, of widening spaces. And it strikes me as having real advantages over its jealous rivals, the short story and the novel. The challenge and glory of the short story lie exactly there, in its shortness. But shortness encourages certain effects and not others. It encourages, for instance, the close-up view, the revelatory detail, the single significant moment. In the little world of the story, many kinds of desirable effect are inherently impossible—say, the gradual elaboration of a psychology, the demonstration of change over time. Think of the slowly unfolding drama of self-delusion and self-discovery in Death in Venice—a short story would have to proceed very differently. As for novels: in their dark hearts, don't they long to be exhaustive? Novels are hungry, monstrous. Their apparent delicacy is deceptive—they want to devour the world.

The novella wants nothing to do with the immense, the encyclopedic, the all-conquering all-devouring prose epic, which strikes it as an army moving relentlessly across the land. Its desires are more intimate, more selective. And when it looks at the short story, to which it's secretly akin, it says, with a certain cruelty, No, not for me this admirably exquisite, elegant, refined—perhaps overrefined?—delicately nuanced, perfect little world, whose perfection depends so much on artful exclusions. It says, Let me breathe! The attraction of the novella is that it lets the short story breathe. It invites the possibility of certain elaborations and complexities forbidden by a very short form, while at the same time it holds out the promise of formal perfection. It's enough to make a writer dizzy with exhilaration.


Brand Identity


Russell Brand talks about comedy and his autobiography, My Booky Wook, on this week's episode of The Treatment.


Regarding HenryThierry Henry is one of the greatest soccer players in the world. When he played for the English Premier League club Arsenal, the club went on a 49-game unbeaten streak, the longest unbeaten streak in the history of English professional soccer, which dates back to 1888. The previous record was 42 games. A Premier League season is 38 games. Arsenal's unbeaten streak included the entire 2003-2004 season. Soccer is a team sport, and Arsenal had several other great players at the time, but none was better than Thierry Henry. Like Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Louis Armstrong, he was simply an order of magnitude better than everyone else and everyone knew it. With catlike cunning and elegance, he'd dazzle and surprise, besting the world's best defenders and scoring astonishing goals. Henry left Arsenal in 2007 to play for what is probably the best soccer team in the world right now, F.C. Barcelona, a team that, if they manage to beat Manchester United in the Champions League final in Rome next week, will have achieved a historic treble, proving themselves to be the best team in all of Europe after having already proven themselves to be the best in their league (La Liga) and, by winning the Spanish Cup, the best in their country.Freddie Ljungberg left Arsenal the same year Henry did. Ljungberg had been with Arsenal since 1998, a year before Henry joined the club. Ljungberg now plays for my hometown club, Seattle Sounders F.C. On August 5, at Qwest Field, the Sounders will play a friendly against Barcelona. That means that in Seattle this summer, unless something unforeseen should happen, Freddie and Thierry will once again be sharing a soccer pitch.------Update: Barcelona did indeed beat Manchester United in the Champions League final, beat them 2-0, becoming the first Spanish team to achieve a continental treble.------Update: On August 5, Freddie and Thierry did end up sharing a soccer pitch. Here they are embracing before the game.[...]


To the Manor Airborne
George Meyer has written another funny essay for The New Yorker:

The Privileged Few

Good afternoon. This is your pre-boarding announcement for Flight 505 to Milwaukee. All first-class and business-class passengers, passengers needing special assistance, and families travelling with small children may now board the aircraft.

We also invite any Platinum Club, ProTravel Select, Apogee Plus, and Sigma Alliance cardholders to board at this time.

Thank you for waiting. We now welcome members of Skyline Advantage, Priority Partners, Front Row Preferred, Exclusa, Summit V.I.P., Head of the Line, A-List Connections, Imperial Privilege, InCrOwD, Icarus Prime Choice, Top Rank Silk, and Top Rank Crystal Reserve. You may now board the aircraft.

We appreciate your patience. We now welcome members of Focus^One, Altius PremierPlan, Silver Platter, Jet Pack Invicta, Above and Beyond, Screaming Eagle, Canadians of Distinction, e-Go Trip, Express Wishes, Superba/FasTTraKK, Freedom Rider Élite, ¡Por Supuesto!, The Circle of Enchantment, Hegira, Hegira Mach Five, Wanderlu$t, Godhead Supreme, Godhead Burnt Offerings, Qomfort Qlub, MeFirst, MeFirst Deluxe Rewards, Out of My Way, and VelourPass. You may now board the aircraft.

The rest of you? Beat it.


That's George's second New Yorker piece. His first, a little something called "My Undoing," was published almost exactly two years ago, in the May 28, 2007, issue.


The Joy of Sacks
Mike Sacks's "Whoops!," which was recently published on the McSweeney's website, is hilarious.


Handey Man
Today McSweeney's celebrates Halloween with a piece by Jack Handey called "The Legend of Me."


Buddy Love


Jerry Lewis has written a book called Dean and Me: (A Love Story).

He was recently on The Leonard Lopate Show to promote the book. You can listen to the interview here.

He was also on Fresh Air recently. You can listen to that conversation here.


Playing House


The brilliant English comedian Hugh Laurie (pictured above, on the left, with Stephen Fry) was interviewed on The Treatment recently. You can listen to the interview here.


The Little Match Girl


Scarlett Johansson will be starring in Woody Allen's next two movies.

The first one, Match Point, is a dark drama about infidelity and murder in upper-class London society and is scheduled to be released in December. The above image of Scarlett is a still from the film.

The second one is a comedy and is as yet untitled.

Here you can watch video clips of Woody and Scarlett discussing Match Point at Cannes.

Here is a stunningly beautiful photo of Scarlett from the August 2005 issue of Vanity Fair.