My last Simpsons post for a while… swear to D’Oh!

I promise… this is going to be my last Simpsons post for the foreseeable future. As suddenly as it arrived, the FXX Simpsons marathon came to an end at midnight on Monday. I enjoy the show. I find it clever in many spots, and overall not a bad show. Am I a superfan? Or even a regular fan? Meh. I like my animated features a touch more edgy and/or weird, but the Simpsons comes pretty close. Close enough for me to take part in the national experience of having the Simpsons playing on the TV for nearly two weeks.

Now don’t think I spent the entire time on the couch in front of the tube. I worked as usual and did other things. But the Simpsons was usually on in the background. A subversive and surreal soundtrack for life. Oh, and we did switch the channel a few times. Auburn football is back, for one thing. Priorities, man.

I think what it came down to was that the whole marathon thing was an absurd event we got to share as a nation.

But now that it’s over, here are some random observations:

resizedimage600337-BartOnBench01132419In nearly all of the “what does their future look like episodes”, Bart has been divorced at least once, and typically has two sons–one kinda nerdy looking, the other more Bart looking but with more self-control. What Bart needs in the future is to successfully woo and settle down with Mary Spuckler–one of Cletus and Brandine’s daughters. She’d be good for him. He’s probably be good for her as well. Maybe. There are hints in one episode that Bart might still have a chance.

Maggie Simpson is criminally underused as a character. She’s begging for some proper character development. The few peeks we get into the interior-Maggie are fascinating and we want more. I swear… she will save that family.

Hank_a13538_537843We want Scorpio! We want Scorpio! We want Scorpio! Seriously. Hank Scorio was the best one-off guest character ever. I had high hopes he’d feature big in The Simpsons Movie, but the closest we got was the same actor for the voice–Albert Brooks as Russ Cargill.

Speaking of the movie… whatever happened to Colin? Seemed like he just disappeared without a word.

With 552 episodes and counting, the Simpsons just might be the first television show that could get away with its very own channel. All Simpsons, all the time. Whoever gets to be programming manager for that channel would have it easy. It looks like FXX might be thinking the same thing as it looks like their future programming is looking very Simpsons-heavy.

300px-Moes_Tavern_2Noticed a major goof in the opening credits. I’m sure others have noticed it as well, but I don’t recall seeing it mentioned anywhere. During the opening credits, Bart skateboards through Springfield. Along the way he passes in front of Moe’s tavern, and then a store that sells TVS. In the show, however, the store next to Moe’s has always been (since season 1) King Toot’s Music Store. There are no TVs in their front window.


Opening sequence in first episode after movie.

Finally–I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I hate the Halloween specials. Pass.

And that’s it… for now. No more Simpsons talk from me.

Your long nightmare is over.


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Jay Lake Challenge Week #13 – Dr. House Meets the Simpsons

The Simpsons Meet Dr. House, M.D.
(a rather short play)

SCENE: Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital morgue. Four tables hold four shrouded figures. Situated around the room are DR. GREGORY HOUSE, DR. CHRIS TAUB, DR. CHI PARK, and DR. ERIC FOREMAN.

Reg.11658.17FOREMAN: These four individuals arrive in our hospital and immediately die. We have the whole hospital under lockdown until we can determine the cause of this. What do you think?

HOUSE: Pff. What do I think? What do you think? What do I think, you ask. It’s perfectly obvious. Taub?

TAUB: Well, their yellow skin condition suggests catastrophic liver failure–

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Friday Mail: The Sacred Lodges of the Mysterious Vole

Woodland_Vole_Microtus_Pinetorum (1)

Mysterious! Oooooooo!

Today’s letter arrived in a brindle-brown envelope. The addressee’s name is obscured–as is often the case with this mis-delivered mail. There is no return address. Merely an animal print of some sort. It reads:

Dear Brother or Sister,

Welcome and congratulations regarding your impending initiation into the Sacred Lodges of the Mysterious Vole. You are fortunate and honored to join one of the world’s oldest secretive organizations whose members have included Egyptian pharoahs, Russian czars, hangmen, leaders of professional dentist organizations, presidents, Irish authors and kleptomaniacs, and at least one major prophet to one major world religion. (Try to guess who. We think you’ll be surprised!)

Enclosed are two pair of official initiation ceremony pants (one size fits all). Please bring both pair to your initiation ceremony. You’ll know why when it happens. [note from John: I don’t see any pants. Just as well.]

The secret and mysterious handshake for members of the Sacred Lodges of the Mysterious Vole is as follows:

  • two high fives
  • cracking of knuckles
  • simultaneous punches to left shoulder, then right shoulder
  • a loud guffaw
  • gentle kiss to forehead (elder member initiates)
  • two low fives

Yes, the handshake doesn’t lend itself well to secrecy, but it’s still plenty mysterious.

There is a lodge here somewhere.

There is a lodge here somewhere.

As members often have to move around a lot, we do not assigned individual members to individual lodge locations. Lodges exist in most major cities and national parks. Just look for the numbers 1, 6,and 7. The password of the day will be whatever color I’m thinking of right now. (Hint: It’s not red.)

With membership come responsibilities. Such responsibilities include providing alibis, comfort and succor, pocket change, proofreading, and the occasional back shave.

But with responsibility also come privileges. Among the many privileges you’ll enjoy are: horse racing tips, low deli numbers, free usage of the term “raison d’etre”, boxing gloves on demand, and 10% off admission to all zoos. There are more (and like-wise more responsibilities), of course. You’ll be introduced to these by your lodge mentor.

Member since 1534 BC.

Member since 1534 BC.

Your lodge mentor is a ghost. Deal with it and try not to bring it up too often.

Welcome to a road to adventure and knowledge. Approach membership with an open mind. It makes it easier.


–Ron Bothright
Membership Secretary
Sacred Lodges of the Mysterious Vole


And back work. A lot of projects underway. Here’s but a sampling:


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Twenty Nuggets of Knowledge Gleaned from the Simpsons Marathon (thus far)

FXX (who has been getting a lot of free advertising lately) has been running a Simpsons marathon—all 552 episodes (and counting). An absurd event which, of course, I highly approve of. I can’t say I’m a rabid Simpsons fan, although I do enjoy the series overall.  I am a big fan of the absurd, though.  We’re a little over halfway through the marathon and I thought I would share with you twenty nuggets of knowledge I’ve learned along the way. (Or maybe have dreamed.)

  1.  homer7Mr. Burns was never shot. It was all staged in order to distract from the stealing-the-sun plot. Yes, the baby was in on it.
  2. One out of every ten chalkboard gags contains either an obvious typo or grammar mistake.
  3. The alien language used in Futurama first appeared on The Simpsons. Look at the alphabet chart in Lisa’s classroom.
  4. Over the course of the series, Homer is seen reading a total of 93 books. There is only one visible bookshelf in the Simpson household. It’s Lisa’s and is much too small to hold that many books. At least five times, a book has ended up in the fireplace. Three times in the trash.
  5. While Krusty is supposed to be of Jewish ancestry, his actual last name, Krustofski, is a common Catholic surname in Poland.
  6. Sideshow Mel is Sideshow Bob’s third cousin. There is a genealogy chart showing this which briefly appears in Sideshow Bob’s prison cell. It is suspected that Sideshow Mel is not aware of the relation.
  7. Moe, the bartender, is colorblind.
  8. Maude Flanders had a crippling shoe fetish. This is one of seven reasons why her character was killed off.
  9. Maggie Simpson has fewer spoken lines than Santa’s Little Helper (the dog), yet is tumblr_lobol2FC3O1qgkai1o1_500 paid twice as much.
  10. Cletus (the slack-jawed yokel) was based on George W. Bush from when he was a managing general partner for the Texas Rangers baseball franchise.
  11. Tim Burton, a longtime associate of Danny Elfman, was to guest-direct an episode. The project was cancelled when the producers realized that was a really, really, really, really dumb idea. Tim Burton should never work with someone else’s creation.
  12. The Simpsons theme music is the most popular marching band tune in America and Japan not composed by John Philip Sousa. In Russia, it tops Sousa.
  13. Hans Moleman is based on L. Ron Hubbard.
  14. As of 1990, Simpsons trivia competitions are more popular than Star Trek trivia competition.
  15. 421408943_smallMilhouse’s appearance and personality were based on the appearance and personality of Richard Milhouse Nixon as a child.
  16. Matt Groening has said that hidden behind every plot is the possibility of a nefarious CIA experiment.
  17. Judging from climate conditions, racial and economic demographics, and architecture, the “real” Springfield is situated in Luxembourg.
  18. There are no limes in Springfield.
  19. The term “beer goggles” was first coined on The Simpsons, although its meaning was more literal, i.e., a pair of goggles made using beer bottles.
  20. Marge Simpson’s hair is said to weigh nearly 50 lbs. Aside from the hair itself, one must include the added weight of conditioner, blue hair dye, and raven eggs.

There you go. If you don’t believe me, watch the shows yourself.


I dare you.

Bonus fact: The National Egg Council is everywhere. Everywhere.

Meanwhile, in the real world, I’m keeping busy as ever with books, journals, and art.

Bills gots to be paid and all, right?


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Jay Lake Challenge Week #12 – In Search of Ira Plato [sic]

In Search of Ira Plato [sic]

A Short, Silly, Three-Act Play (more or less)


Dramatis Personae

Major “Hump” Hessel (NSA officer in charge of nationwide manhunt)

Lieutenant Robert “Rigamarole” Davies (Major Hessel’s aide)

Private Ernest “Earnest” Wilde (earnest young soldier)

Detective Molly Molly (A police detective)

Officer Dan O’Dannon (a man of Irish ancestry)

Barry (a barrista)

Ira (radio host)

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Friday Mail: The Richard Branson answers students’ questions


Richard Branson?

This week’s mis-delivered mail is a bit of a puzzler. It comes on airmail stationery, but the addresses are obscured by dozens of foreign stamps ranging from Tanganyika to Macedonia. The author of the letter claims to be the Richard Branson, but I imagine that anyone named Richard Branson assumes that they are indeed the Richard Branson.

Fair enough.

On with the letter…


Dear Fifth Grade Class of Cummerbund School for Unsettling Youth,

Thank you so much for all of your letters. I wish I could answer each and every one individually. Unfortunately, being a world-reknowned expert on all things means always learning and exploring. Busy, busy, busy! At this very moment I am studying arctic wildlife and running from a polar bear. (Please excuse the shaky writing. One of my snowshoes is loose.)

However, because you’re a relatively select class of the Cummerbund School for Unsettling Youth, I can give a quick answer to at least one question from each student who wrote. To begin:

To Geraldine Monkswapper: Yes, moonbeams have market value. It’s based on a combination of weight, brilliance, and tone. The value is set and updated daily by a government office in Bern, Switzerland.

To Tauxeth O’Malley: No, you are correct–despite what the rest say. There is something behind you. Always. Always

Loved frogurt.

Loved frogurt.

To Yasmine Tea: “Frogurt”, as a portmanteau of “frozen” and “yogurt”, was first coined by Kublai Khan in the 13th century. “Frogurt”, as a regional expletive, was first recorded by Sir Stanley Livingston (no relation) on the television programme “The Only Way Is Essex” in 2010. It is also the name of a minor character in “Jersey Shore”. Many scholars still debate which came first.

To Paul “Watering Can” Ryan: In summary… voodoo, twelve and thirteen, only when it rains, Evelyn Waugh, and yes… but not for the reasons most people think.

To Tyrell Waitingsworth: It is my expert opinion that what you are describing is a mild rash. Try a little hydrocortizone and mint. If that doesn’t work, burn it off.

To Alice [no last name]: My eyes are indeed blue on Monday, green on Tuesday, hazel on Wednesday, brown on Thursday, near black on Friday, and pretty much bloodshot on the weekends. I take some comfort in knowing I am not alone with this condition. Thank you for sharing.

To Paul “Garden Shed” Ryan: As I mentioned to your brother, Watering Can, the answer is yes, but not for the reasons most suppose. I wish I could go into further detail, but that would involve revealing the involvement of three recent US presidents, the US Supreme Court, and last year’s Grammy winner for Best Male Artist. I cannot, in good conscience, reveal those identities or their involvement.

Casts no reflection.

Casts no reflection.

To Rosalita Monster: I have it on good authority that the reason why David Walliams has no reflection in a mirror is not because he’s a vampire. It’s just that his reflection is very, very, very shy.

To Morganna B. Apiary: Thank you. My research has revealed some interesting melittological connections between the ancient Minoans and the YMCA. I believe that, with further study, we can solidify the connection of their practice of beekeeping through their bookkeeping. 

To Frankie Helpmybottomisonfire: The grass is always greener over the septic tank. If you are truly curious as to why, use a shovel.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to respond to you all, and thank you to your teacher, Mrs. “Smith” [sic], for arranging this correspondence. I wish I could stay and write more, but I see a post box ahead and that polar bear is gaining on me.

Sincerely yours,
The Richard Branson


And it’s Friday, at last. Lots to do today. Catching up, and preparing for the weekend.

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Russell Brand and Sean Hannity – a commentary and a list

russell-brand--1978243517-340x280I’ve been somewhat following the “spat” going on between Fox’s Sean Hannity and British comedian Russell Brand. I guess the reason I’ve been vaguely fascinated by the whole exchange is that the two folk in question seem such polar opposites. Hannity not only defends ignorance, but celebrates it, and comes across as a rather mean-spirited, compassionless person. Russell Brand, on the other hand, is pretty much the sweetest, gentlest person walking on the Earth who is not also currently the Dalai Lama, and who is not afraid of evolving. True… compare early Russell Brand to contemporary Russell Brand and you can see evidence of personal growth and integrity. Hannity has been pretty much the same jerk his entire career.

hannityWhere Russell Brand seeks to elevate a conversation to a meaningful dialogue, Sean Hannity seeks to tear down a conversation to a one-sided, meaningless rant. Is Brand perfect? No. Absolutely not. No one is, nor should anyone think they (or anyone else) are. Is Hannity perfect? He seems to think so… poor idiot.

So it’s with these obvious differences in mind that I sent my crack research team off to go find some other, perhaps less well-known or obvious, differences between the two that we could share with you today. Here is a list. I apologize for the lack of citations. Please note that my crack research team is made up of a dog, two cats, and whatever ate that candy bar what got left in the basement.

  • Sean Hannity eats babies. Russell Brand won’t even eat baby carrots because eating baby anythings is just wrong.
  • Noel Fielding, another really sweet guy, is a friend of Brand's.

    Noel Fielding, another really sweet guy, is a friend of Brand’s.

    Russell Brand’s heroes include Jesus, Mahatmas Gandi, Malcolm X, and Che Guevara. Sean Hannity’s heroes are Ronald Reagan (whitewashed for modern consumption), George Will (he’s not actually read anything by him), Sarah Palin (for unBiblical reasons), and Republican Jesus (not to be confused with Biblical Jesus).

  • Sean Hannity works for Fox News. Russell Brand’s hair sometimes looks like a fox.
  • When Russell Brand walks into a forest, he is often approached by all manner of wildlife due to his gentle nature. Think Snow White. When Sean Hannity walks into a forest, even the leaves won’t fall lest they accidentally touch him. Think wicked queen.
  • Both Sean Hannity and Russell Brand cast no shadow. In Brand’s case, it’s because his shadow is a mischievous sort and is off somewhere having fun. In Hannity’s case… well… we’re not saying vampire… but you know… maybe… vampire?
  • Brand listens to who he is sharing a conversation with. Hannity listens to his ego telling him how important and right he is.
  • These are Sean Hannity's friends. I think you see the problem.

    These are Sean Hannity’s friends. I think you see the problem.

    Sean Hannity would take candy from a baby. Russell brand wouldn’t even take candy away from a baby carrot because that’s just wrong.

  • Sean Hannity has over 1.5 million likes on Facebook. Russell Brand? Over 2.6 million. (Not bad for a “D-list celebrity”, eh?)
  • Sean Hannity wrote three books. Brand wrote four.
  • Russell Brand, even with a beard, would probably look pretty good in a dress. Sean Hannity still soaps up the fixtures of his tub so he doesn’t accidentally see his own reflection while taking a bath.

I think what it may come down to is addiction. The Fox News environment seems to create a weird sort of feedback loop where bad behavior is praised and even rewarded. This leads to an addiction to that sort of behavior. Well, the good news is that addiction can be beaten. Brand’s proven it. I’ve proven it. Millions of others have proven it. Sean, a lot of people have tried to bring this destructive demeanor of yours to your attention. We do it out of love and concern. I admit that sometimes we aren’t always nice about it. We make smarmy jokes and write lists like the one above. Maybe it’s because we think that it will get more attention. Maybe it’s because it’s Wednesday and this is the day I tend to write these sort of lists. In any case, I hope you take some of the more ridiculous comments in good humor.

Seriously… change is possible and brings its own rewards. If you ever want to talk, just drop me a line or give me a call. I’m not that hard to find.

As for you Brand… keep on doing what you’re doing. You loon, you.


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Friday Mail – Rejection letter from Idol Hands Publishing

aliensWelcome to Friday. Today’s lost mail appears to be a rejection letter for a manuscript. I don’t see what their problem is. Seems like a perfectly reasonable manuscript to me. Mind you, I’ve been watching a lot of History Channel lately, so I may be fact-biased on Fridays.

Here we go…



From: Chamomile Fernbutter
Idol Hands Publishing, NY, NY

To: Mr. Ishmael Ramsbutt
Doughkeepsie [sic], NJ

Dear Mr. Ramsbutt

Please find enclosed your manuscipt “Trivia For Really Smart People”. It does not, in any shape or form, suit our needs. The first ten pages caused three fact-checkers to quit. We have numerous problems with your “factual” trivia. Below are just a few notes:

  • Iggy Pop was not an original member of The Three Stooges
  • Neither baby shampoo nor baby oil are made from real babies.
  • As far as can determined, King Tut’s tomb has no heiroglyphics that translate to “Made in China.”
  • Erwin Schrödinger has never, to our knowledge, been investigated for animal cruelty.
  • While possibly the delusion of one specific person, in general cultural terms, the “Men in Black” legend does not suggest a secret society made up of Johnny Cash clones.
  • “Frankenstein”, of the novel, refers to the character of Victor Frankenstein, creator of the monster, and not to the dog. We don’t know how you came to your original conclusion. Baffling.
  • The Bible does not start with the phrase, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” If you have found a specific edition in which it does, you have failed to properly cite your source.
  • The Irish do not bleed green blood. We cannot decide if this was supposed to be racist or not. In either case, it’s pretty idiotic.
  • Francis Scott Key penned “The Star-Spangled Banner”, not “Ice, Ice, Baby”.
  • Speaking of which, Vanilla Ice was never taken seriously as an artist.
  • Swedish is not Norwegian spoken backwards.
  • Yodeling is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Liking something on Facebook is not considered one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues.
  • The whole bit about cats having nine lives is not literally true. 
  • “Sean Hannity” is not an anagram for “total and complete bastard”. In this case, we can kind of understand the confusion. Perhaps you meant that it’s a ‘simile for’.

And finally…

  • “Happy thoughts” are not a critical factor in the workings of aerodynamics.

Given the above, we cannot, in good conscience, continue reviewing your manuscript for potential publication. We suspect the following 634 pages are similar in content. Frankly, this whole thing has been a disturbing waste of time on everyone’s part. We were going to fire the editor who allowed the manuscript to get this far, but when we went to his office, he was mysteriously absent but the office was filled with suspicious looking meat pies. The editor has, thus far, not been found. We have contacted the police. Do not be surprised if they contact you. We have given them your contact information.

Please do not reply to this mail. Ever.

Best of luck (not really),

Chamomile Fernbutter
Senior Editor
Idol Hands Publishing, NY, NY


Russia2And it’s Friday. I’ve just finished putting together the first draft of Directory of World Cinema: Russia 2, and am getting back to finishing a trivia book on comedians, a book on Ted Healy, a book on John Huston, and some edits to a book about Canada. O Canada.

And then it’s on to some Merry Blacksmith work–both in books and painting. This may all extend into the weekend. Sobeit.



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50 Questionable Answers Revisited

MoiApparently, my March 18, 2009 post “50 Questionable Answers To Questionable Questions” is one that gets visited quite a bit. No accounting for taste, I suppose, but in that spirit, I’ve decided to revisit the post and offer up 50 new questionable answers. Not guaranteeing any laughs here… just me being an off-the-cuff smartass. Why? It’s Wednesday. Wednesday is this day I post this kind of stuff.

So… here we go…

50 (Questionable) Questions (revisited)

1. If your doctor told you TODAY that you were pregnant, what would you say?
“It’s just gas. Bad gas. I’m naming it after Dick Cheney.”

2. Do you trust all of your friends?
To do what? Anything? Yes. Anything specific? Sadly… yes.

3. Would you move to another state or country to be with the one you love?
I have offered more than once to relocate to regions of this country where my kind wouldn’t necessarily be welcome, but my wife loves me and does not want to see me lynched. I think we’re both happy right where we are for now.

525135934. Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?
Yes, but the reasons are not what you’d expect and are, in fact, quite chilling. I’ve been learning a lot from the History Channel lately.

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