Friday, January 29, 2010

Where's J.D.?

It's come to my attention that J.D. Salinger, the recently deceased author of The Catcher in the Rye, was notoriously camera shy and left very few photos behind.

I'm getting rather tired of seeing the same three pictures over and over and over again, so The Velvet Blog decided to do a little detective work to find a few more.

If you decide to eulogize Mr. Salinger on your blog, perhaps you might consider using one of these.






Thursday, January 28, 2010

Suckage, hatred, and bad karma

Part of an occasional series in which try to soften the sting of particularly harsh reviews by appending the phrase: "Garnish with Fluffernutter."

Why? Because we can.
"Edge of Darkness," a thriller boasting Mel Gibson's first starring role in eight years, elicits a gigantic wow -- as in "Wow, does this movie suck." Garnish with Fluffernutter.

"Legion" is an absolute mess, a masochistic disaster with an overly-aggressive score, mediocre, uninspired acting and a subject matter it both wholeheartedly embraces and mocks without repute. It's one of those movies you just want to hate, you just have to hate, because deep down, you know it hates itself. Garnish with Fluffernutter.

One wonders what sins Jackie Chan could have committed in a single lifetime to warrant having an abomination like this pathetic excuse for a movie weighing down his karma. Garnish with Fluffernutter.

Hm. Well, there's only so much Fluffernutter can be expected to do.

Monday, January 25, 2010

And the reviews are in!

Concerned reader God Is My Codependent points out that the last book noted in the post below, Embalming Is Not a Sport, is sold on Amazon (as are, I believe, many titles published by vanity press AuthorHouse).

Let's take a look at the reviews:

--This book could have used a good editor. While the grammatical errors were distracting, and the writing needed a lot of tightening up, it told an entertaining story with some information about embalming and other aspects of funeral service. ... The descriptions of embalmings were coarse and often left out important details, so I would recommend anyone exploring this field as a career option read an actual textbook to get an accurate picture of what embalming involves.

--... But much more surprising to me was the extremely poor writing which comprised the entire work and even worsened as the end approached. From the beginning, this book contained numerous grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, misspellings, and even ommitted capitalization on virtually EVERY page. The last name of the main character even was inconsistent throughout the book. I could not believe that it got past editing and into print in this shabby fashion.

--This is an interesting novel, for mortuary students or the funeral director. Children should not read this book as it is somewhat sexually explicit and appears to reveal funeral directors as alcoholics. Indeed some funeral directors lean towards alcoholism. Three stars because at times the book is offensive and needs an editor.

--I have been very interested in the field of mortuary science and I thought it would be great to read about someone's experiences with embalming. He wrote more about drinking alcohol than actually embalming. The reader does not get a good view in the life of embalming at all. Besides that, the fact this book was published with so many errors is a joke.

--This unique book eloquently explains why embalming is game, not a sport. Rather like Darts and Tai Chi, there is a physical element to it, just not enough for it to become a full Olympic event. This last point is of personal importance to my Uncle Bruce from Australia who - rather pathetically - has been busy practising his embalming technique for the past four years in expectation of competing in Beijing and lifting his country's paltry medal count.

And yet, after 12 reviews, it gets an impressive rating of 3-1/2 stars out of 5.

I should point out that someone I know published a book with a small publisher (I think a "real" publisher, not a vanity press, though it's hard to tell), and the first Amazon review is a 4-star recommendation, which begins:
This book, which was recommended to me by a family member, was quite a revelation.

Problem is, the review is written under the guy's real name, and I know him to be the author's brother-in-law. Would be odd for the book to be revelatory, as they even live in the same town.

So, to recap:

--Don't trust a publisher that doesn't even spell check.

--If you're going to self-publish, be realistic. And spell check. (By realistic, I mean: If you want something to hand out at business conferences or to your extended family at a reunion or the like, fine. Otherwise, not so much.)

--If you're thinking of going into embalming, it's probably better to read a textbook than a novel about embalming.

--Children should not read sexually explicit books about embalming. Stick with The Berenstain Bears Embalm a Family of Campers instead. It's much more appropriate, and the illustrations are adorable.

--People take the time to write joke reviews even on obscure self-published books that are only going to be found by (odd) people like me and embalming enthusiasts.

--Embalmers like to drink, and who can blame them, really?

--If you're reviewing your sister-in-law's book on Amazon, for Christ's sake, do it under a fake name.

P.S.: It's tough to get published by a legit publisher. Really tough--and getting tougher. (Link via Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

High jinks, wacky and otherwise

Part of an occasional series in which we improve depressing or odd descriptions of vanity press books by appending the phrase "Wacky high jinks ensue." Usually, we do this via ad copy drawn from The New York Times Book Review, but pickings have been so slim of late that The Velvet Blog has been forced to go to the Web site of vanity publisher AuthorHouse. All ad copy, though shortened, has not otherwise been altered (except for the high jinks). Consider typos to be [sic].

"Bitter Sweet Secret Assignment" is a book about a young, beautiful half blood Jewish journalist. She wanted to experience the revolution adventure in Suriname which ended in a different disaster. Her love for the business man Chris Nepal abrubtly ended in a horrible nightmare on their wedding night. Wacky high jinks ensue.

I hear a lot of wedding nights are like that.
"So, Here I Stand...." Is a tale centred in modern day America. A story of intrigue, deception, love and eventually revenge. With a main British character named 'Lila Arvoe' and a number of other American characters who revolve around her life throughout the diegesis. When introduced to 'Max' her best friend's swain, she lives to regret the debut. Becoming involved in a local bank robbery through a sequence of uncontrollable events only to discover the bank has previously been robbed! "So, Here I Stand...." Is innovative with a difference! With the choice of an ALTERNATIVE ENDING, the reader ultimately choosing the grand finale! Wacky high jinks ensue.

You had me at "diegesis."
Chaos wrapped around love, hate, and despair. Question what you can as each page aches and saturates beyond your eyes. Destiny can't be perfect, but continue to rely on faith as the surreal is explored and documented in Empire Nothing. This realm speaks from you and back at you, living in experience and movements of thought that drip, and continue to drip, up and back again in a collective spiral of angst, vanity, memories and visions. Spectrum after spectrum on the cusp of bliss and agony rip away the fabric of a society that puts the "individual" second. Wars rage. Propaganda becomes actions and images instead of words. People love fear. The memories of the past are used as opiates to sweeten the present and ensure the forgiving future. But once inside, you learn more about the conditions we feel and the emotions we endure to express. Wacky high jinks ensue.

Mmmmmmm ... sweet, sweet opiates.
This is the story of an embalmer. In the course of telling the story the reader is allowed into the never seen embalming room. The reader gets first hand knowledge of what an embalmer has to do and endure in order to prepare a dead human body for viewing and burial. ... Although this novel is not intended to be a text book on embalming, the reader will feel that he or she will almost have the training to embalm a dead human body. Wacky high jinks ensue.

Operative word in that last description: "almost." Other operative word: "dead." Really, I can't emphasize that enough.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Here, have a video

Loving the title track, "July Flame," from a new album by Laura Veirs:

Will be back with normal posting sooner or later. Probably later.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kinda busy

While I attempt to get through the coming few days without strangling anyone, you can spend your time watching Sita Sings the Blues, a remarkable, very entertaining animated film that its creator, Nina Paley, has posted in full on the Web. Just click on the "Watch It" tab at the site linked above. (It's the source of my current slogan, "Assemble the monkey warriors!")

If you haven't given already ...

Doctors Without Borders is an amazing organization.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Coming soon to a theater near you

According to the Onion AV Club, Hollywood is remaking Dune. I guess that's to be expected. It's a popular book (albeit one I failed to finish, despite two attempts), and David Lynch's version is widely reviled. (The made-for-cable TV version from a few years ago is decent, if obviously low budget.)

What caught my eye in AV's writeup, though, was not that news, but this:
[Peter] Berg, of Hancock fame, was previously set to direct, but has decided to work on the forthcoming adaptation of board game Battleship instead.

Yes, Battleship: The Movie. Furthermore, Ridley Scott -- the director of Blade Runner -- is attached to a film based on Monopoly. Clue may resurface as a film again. And a movie based on Candy Land is already in production. (Candy Land!)

Given my track record for suggesting ridiculously stupid reality show ideas that eventually come to pass, I've decided to turn to this lucrative market. Trouble is, I have no money to buy rights, so I'm stuck with the public domain.

My first project is Tic Tac Toe: The Motion Picture. First of all, who hasn't played Tic Tac Toe? 100% brand awareness! Globally! (I think, anyway! No time to check! Too busy using exclamation points in an attempt to create excitement!) Development work has already begun. TVB lurker Denise, associate producer, has already written the tagline: "X or O--The World Is Waiting." The movie isn't even made yet and already my throat is tight with suspense! Suspense and exclamation points!

If this works, I may option Pong. It's old, and I bet I can get the rights for a song. I'm thinking Johnny Depp as the left paddle. CGI Marlon Brando as the right paddle. Maybe Eddie Murphy in a fat suit as the ball.

Hey, worse movies have been made.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Why does the Styles section of The New York Times exist? Is it to bug the crap out of me with bizarre trend pieces? Because, if so, it is working.

From today's paper:
Like many New York bachelors, John Durant tries to keep his apartment presentable — just in case he should ever bring home a future Mrs. Durant. He shares the fifth-floor walk-up with three of his buddies, but the place is tidy and he never forgets to water the plants.

The one thing that Mr. Durant worries might spook a female guest is his most recent purchase: a three-foot-tall refrigerated meat locker that sits in a corner of his living room. That is where he keeps ...

His severed head collection? Andy Warhol's corpse? Organ meat and deer ribs?
... his organ meat and deer ribs.

Oh, dear God.

Anyway, the piece goes to posit that there's a NYC subculture devoted to "the caveman lifestyle," and I suggest we file this under "No, this is not an Onion article."

Idea for a title if they make a movie about the Underwear Bomber

Briefs Encounter

(Note: Sorry.)

Friday, January 08, 2010

What's wrong with the media

So, George Stephanopoulos has Rudy Giuliani on Good Morning America, and Rudy makes the interesting claim there were no domestic terror attacks under Bush, and there has been one under Obama. (The video is here.)

So what does Stephanopoulos do? Does he say something like: "Really? Last time I checked, 9/11 happened under Bush's watch. Same with the anthrax mailings. And wouldn't it be more accurate to say 'one failed attempt under Obama'?"

No. He lets the comment go and writes a goddamned blog post about it (same link as above, if you were avoiding the video) like it's a scoop or something. What the hell???

Former White House press secretary Dana Perino said the same thing a couple months ago (again, unchallenged--but this time on Fox News, so I wasn't expecting anyone to point out the fallacy). But this? I think my head is going to explode.

UPDATE: I guess I should point out that Rudy later said something like, "Well, of course I meant other than 9/11." I won't be the first (or last) to point out that saying Bush kept us safe other than 9/11 is like saying "Well, other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

And he still hasn't explained why Richard Reid (the shoe bomber) doesn't count while the undie bomber does.

Our hearts were young and, um, cheery

This New York Times correction (and change to the original text) cracked me up.

First, the correction:
An appraisal on Dec. 31 about David Levine, the caricaturist for The New York Review of Books who died on Dec. 29, may have left the incorrect impression that the Russian writer Aleksandr Pushkin, the subject of one of Mr. Levine's drawings, was homosexual. The description of Pushkin as "a gay man" was a reference to his demeanor, not his sexual orientation.

What did the paper do? Accidentally pick up an article written in the 1920s? It's possible. The Times recently published a report of the arrest of playwright/actor Sam Shepard. Only it was, oops, a year old.

But back to Pushkin. The original passage has been changed to read:
[Levine's] drawing of Pushkin in 1971 captures the impulsive, proud, independent quality of a cheery man whose "many affairs with women were a means of filling the emptiness of boredom," as the author of the piece it illustrated wrote.

Yes, I guess the original wording suggested Pushkin was "on the down low," as they say.

(Note: Go to Regret the Error for all your correction needs.)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Elusive man in the street, thought apocryphal, alive and well

Concerned reader God Is My Codependent and I have accidentally stumbled upon evidence that the legendary Heywood Jablome, long thought to be a mere urban legend though he is oft-quoted in man-in-the-street newspaper interviews, is alive, well, and maintaining his elusive status by shuttling between his eight (or so) homes in the United States. It is my theory that he is in the witness protection program--and I am therefore blowing his cover--but I think this story is simply too big to stifle. (Did Woodward and Bernstein shy away from Watergate because it made Pat Nixon cry? No. No, they did not.)

The whole, long-held "he doesn't exist" cover story began to unravel after God Is My Codependent (hereafter referred to as GIMC) read a piece on urban-legend-debunker Snopes about Mr. Jablome. Snopes reports several recent sightings of Mr. Jablome in the media and, obviously working with law enforcement agencies, dismisses them as a "jape" and compares them to Bart Simpson prank calling Moe the Bartender in "the animated TV series The Simpsons." (By the way, Snopes, thanks for identifying The Simpsons as "the animated TV series" because in 2010, surely no knows what The Simpsons is.)

Intrigued and vaguely suspicious, GIMC ran a Google search on Heywood (aka "Haywood"--and isn't it damning that he's using more than one spelling of his first name?) Jablome and was surprised and indeed alarmed when this ad came up on the list of results:

It's then GIMC called in the authorities: Namely, The Velvet Blog.

TVB immediately sprang into action, uncovering this information at people-search site Intelius (which, as a Web site located on the Internet, is undoubtedly dependable): Heywood Jablome has homes in Illinois, Texas, Ohio, New York, and several other locations.

Have I just blown your mind?

Well, sit tight as I continue blowing!

On a hunch, I also ran a Google search on Osama bin Laden, and was shocked to discover this paid advertisement:

That's right, ladies and gentlemen: Osama bin Laden is alive, well, and somehow hiding on

Anyone brave enough to order him? He comes with free two-day shipping.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Typo of the day

Hmmm. Saw the trailer for a movie called Leap Year over the weekend. It looks dreadful (and keep in mind that January is the dumping ground for bad movies), so I won't bother linking to it. But what got me poking around the Web looking for information is that it's clearly either a remake or a rip-off of one of my all-time favorites, "I Know Where I'm Going!".

In the trailer for Leap Year, the heroine's plane is diverted to Wales, where she falls in love with someone other than her boyfriend. Which provoked this subject line from an IMDb user:
Nothing like cheating on your boyfriend in whales

To paraphrase Groucho Marx: Outside of a dog whale, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog whale, it's too dark to read. So you cheat on your boyfriend. (Or something.)

If sock monkeys wrote Atlas Shrugged

sock monkeyThe most depraved sentence you can now utter is to ask: Whose reason banana? The answer is: Yours. ... Your mind is your only judge of truth ripeness -– and if others dissent from your verdict, reality is the court of final appeal a peel.

Now, give me that banana.

(Note: Good Lord, not even sock monkey-fying Atlas Shrugged can make Rand's drivel readable. Odd how well the "Now, give me that banana" tagline works here.)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Hereby resolved

Note: Yes, a rerun, from 2005. Now that the Food Network and the Home and Garden channel have been banished from Cablevision (which, by the way, sucks), I think The Banana Channel might have a shot.