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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Jay Lake Challenge Week #8 – Fulton’s Monster

So I’m a day late in posting this week’s story. Sorry about that. Been supra-busy. This was a story that sat half-finished for a while. Now it’s finished. Set in the deep woods of Maine…



IMG_4864_1The rain fell in thunderous sheets outside the cabin, ruining Noah Jackson’s vacation. On the radio, a weather bulletin interupted NPR’s broadcast of “Music of the Ancients” and announced a heavy period of rain for northeastern Maine which would continue late into the evening with severe flooding in rural areas. A supply of firewood sat safe and dry on the back porch, but he wished he had thought to bring along a satellite radio. The regular radio worked okay, but not great–at least there were books. The university English department owned the timeshare, and occasionally lent it out to other members of the faculty as the season and schedule permitted. Unfortunately, Jackson’s taste in literature ran more toward Michael Crichton novels rather than Ulysses or The Bell Jar.

Jackson was sourly considering his chances at getting the deposit back for his kayak rental when the cabin phone rang. Surprised and startled by the sudden noise, and the presence of a land line, he answered it.

Continue reading

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Friday Mail – North Hill Neighborhood Association vs Gastrum Gneez

Good morning, one and all! Welcome to the Friday mail delivered, as usual, by Corwin… a black-furred fox. Today’s mail comes not in an envelope, scroll, or other formal enclosure, but as a balled up piece of paper. After reading it, I fear that the letter was not met with approval by its original recipient. Either that, or this is a rejected draft by the writer. In any case, here are the contents of said balled-up piece o’ paper, verbatim:

From: North Hill Neighborhood Association

To: Mr. Gastrum Gneez of #7 North Hill

Dear Mr. Gneez,

We know that when you purchased Number 7 here on North Hill that an official homeowners association did not exist. We are, however, filing official paperwork to form a proper homeowners association now and invite you to join. Unfortunately, not all members are happy with some aspects of your “lifestyle” here on North Hill and we would like to address the following issues:

We need an icon to represent the opposite of this.

We need an icon to represent the opposite of this.

First, we would like you to start wearing pants when gardening. This seems a reasonable request. Please wear pants.

Second, we don’t know how you came across a full-sized replica of the HMS Bounty, nor why it was parked in front of your house one weekend, but we’d appreciate you not parking your full-sized sailing ship on the side of the road. It causes traffic issues and attracts beavers, barnacles, and shipworms.

Third, please stop asking all of us to spit into a test tube. In fact, those residents of North Hill who acquiesced would like their samples back.

Fourth… the pants. We can’t stress this enough. Wear them.

Fifth, would you mind repainting your house so it doesn’t glow in the dark? The current glow-in-the-dark paint, while whimsical, attracts an unwholesome number of moths at night.

Sixth, we’re not unhip to ironic holiday decorating ideas. We all chuckled at the Halloween decorations at Christmas, and the Christmas decorations around Easter, but the Easter decorations at Halloween went beyond the borders of acceptable taste. No, we’re not talking about the zombie Jesus. That’s funny the first few times you see it, but it gets old fast. Our concern was more focused on the overly biological Halloween bunnies and the… “secrets of the egg” diorama.

Seventh, the mailman tells us you’re planning to build a moat. We’d like to inform you… no moat. Yeah. No moat, please. We don’t know what you plan to do with a moat, but given your past eccentricities, we believe a moat would not lead anywhere good. (Oh, and the mailman has asked us to pass on to you his repeated requests to stop leaving mousetraps in your mailbox. Once it funny. Twice is cute. The third time is legal action.)

Eighth, please stop inserting the word “titillating” into every conversation you have with us. It’s unsettling.

Ninth, while we’re on the subject of appropriate language, it’s ‘supposedly’, not ‘supposably’, ‘regardless’, not ‘irregardless’, and no, the French do not have a word for schadenfreude–at least not one that can be used in polite company.

Finally, we applaud the idea of your little lending library bookcase mounted next to your driveway, but suggest stocking something, anything, other than your Dawson’s Creek fan fiction. Really… even you have to admit that’s kind of creepy.

Thank you for your consideration of these requests. We hope that we can all come to an agreement and become a productive and cohesive neighborhood association. We don’t like the idea of issuing threats, but Mrs. Magnavox insists that we inform you that failure to consider these requests may result in you not being invited to the annual block party and you will be missing out on her famous jell-o surprise cake. (In all fairness, her jell-o surprise cake is pretty awsome.)

We look forward to hearing from you. Oh, and please remember… pants. For the love of god… pants!

Yours sincerely,

[signed] Chesterfield Humsalot
Secretary, North End Neighborhood Association


How did it get to be Friday? Oh, yeah. It follows Thursday. Fascist calendars!

zombiejIn any case, I’m busy at work wrapping up various loose ends, working on film journals and film books. Editing a writing guide. Finishing a painting. Filling in a moat. That sort of thing.


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Wednesday Trivia: Rock and Roll Edition

Welcome to Wednesday and today we dish out trivia on rock and roll. Belt in, kiddos. Some of these facts may startle you.

  • The White House social office has confirmed that the band, The Presidents of the United States of America, has been blacklisted by the Secret Service from all White House events. The reasoning is that, because of their name, the potential for confusion constitutes a security risk. That, and Agent Johnson just can’t seem to keep himself from dancing whenever the song “Peaches” is played.
  • 1374_the_residents_c_the_residentsLikewise, The Residents were also blacklisted from White House events. This was not due to any potential confusion over “residents” and “presidents”. It was more due to both Presidents Carter and Reagan found the whole eyeball thing kind of creepy. (For the record, Vice Presidents Mondale and Bush were both fond of the album Duck Stab!)
  • No Beatles rumor has ever been completely confirmed or debunked. None of them. Think about what that means. Unsettling, isn’t it?
  • boingersIf book sales were taken into account, the floppy record inserted into the Bloom County collection Billy and the Boingers Bootleg would have been the top selling album of 1987–easily surpassing album sales by Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and U2.
  • The first rap music video ever aired on MTV was “Rapture” by Blondie. Three years later they next aired Run D.M.C.’s “Rock Box”.
  • bonhamLed Zeppelin is an anagram for Peed Zen Pill. Zen Pill was John Bonham’s first band. He was ejected from Zen Pill for urinating off the stage. Creating the name Led Zeppelin as a roundabout anagram for this incident was Jimmy Page’s idea. True story.
  • Zen Pill would rename itself Yes with Alan White taking over on drums. The song “Close to the Edge” is about the John Bonham/Zen Pill incident.
  • Bored at work? Here’s a list of celebrities who were in popular rock and roll bands from the late 60s to early 80s. Some may surprise you. See if you can find their old band pictures on Google images. Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi, David Ogden Stiers, Steve Jobs, Morgan Freeman, Dame Edna Everage, Paul Frees, Warren Beatty, Carrie Fisher, Isabel Sanford, Judd Hirsch, James Cameron, George Will, Liu Xiaoming (Chinese ambassador to the UK), and (yes!) Buzz Aldrin.
  • Gene-SimmonsTechnically, Gene Simmons is not a washed-up rocker. He’s merely irrelevant.




Where my nose is, lately.

Where my nose is, lately.

And it’s back to work. Seems that’s what I do a lot these days. I pound out these usual trivia bits on Wednesdays, lost mail on Fridays, and odd stories for Mondays, but it’s the bills what gots to be paid, so it’s back to the grindstone. I just finished up another issue of Film International and am working on another Directory of World Cinema. I also need to finish up a trivia book for Bearmanor as well as some smaller projects, and some editing for Merry Blacksmith projects.

Hey, keeps me off the streets, right? You wouldn’t want me on the streets. That’d be a traffic hazard.

Too ra.


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Jay Lake Challenge Week #7 – Eugene Mirman vs. an Ice Cream Sundae (a one-act play with special guests)

I’m back to writing absurdist plays. Sue me. These are fun. To Eugene Mirman, H. Jon Benjamin, and Kristen Schaal: please note that I’m a helluva nice guy and too poor to sue. To readers who don’t know who these three people are, that’s okay. They don’t know who you are, either.

So without further ado…


(a one-act play with special guests) 

SETTING: A complicated stage setting. Good luck. Maybe you should produce this as a radio play.

H. Jon Benjamin

H. Jon Benjamin

A deserted wharf off an un-named port city. Set in the middle of the wharf is a simple ice cream sundae with hot fudge and a small sprinling of nuts. The ice cream should be vanilla, but honestly… this is up to th director. The flavor simply represents the ‘everyman’.
Standing beside the sundae is RANDY GILL, a local reporter. He can be played by anyone, but MUST be voiced by comedian H. JON BENJAMIN. This is not optional.

RANDY: Good afternoon. I’m your on-the-spot reporter Randy Gill who is, for some reason, being voiced by H. Jon Benjamin. I think that’s the guy from BOB’S BURGERS and ARCHER. I think he was on some other stuff as well. I don’t know. I only watch the Game Show Network. Where was I? Oh, right…


I’m Randy Gill and I’m standing here beside an ice cream sundae who is scheduled to fight oddball comedian Eugene Mirman. What? Really?

Continue reading

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Friday Mail – Ace Appraisers On the Case!

Welcome to Friday… and welcome to Friday’s mail. I’m your host, John Teehan, and bringing in today’s mail is Corwin, a black-furred fox. Today’s mail comes from a New York address intended for a recipient here in Rhode Island. Close, but no cigar. I got the letter instead, and I’m here to share it with you…

To: Mr. Wynn Featherstone
Codswallop Road
Hope, Rhode Island

From: Barrymore Finkelstone
Ace Appraisers
New York, New York

Dear Mr. Featherstone,

We are returning the various items sent to us via bonded courier as agreed. To be perfectly frank, we wonder how bonded our courier needed to be after examining your items. We cannot give you any formal appraisals given that each item has certain issues which preclude us from doing so. Please note this summary:

  • vaseWhile Ming vases do indeed come from China, the one you presented us came with a sticker affixed to the bottom which reads “Made in China.” We do not dispute the country of origin, but the sticker suggests the vase is not of the Ming dynasty.
  • The skeleton labelled “The Elephant Man” appears to be a full elephant skeleton. No human elements are present. (N.B. The tusks were notably absent, but any value they may have had is negated by current international ivory trade laws.)
  • We are aware that Da Vinci produced several versions of The Mona Lisa, we do not believe he ever produced a version in which the lady is extending her middle finger to the viewer.
  • Your “genuine” South American fetish doll appears to be nothing more than the head of a 1970s Star Trek ™ Spock doll atop the body of a 1960s Barbie ™ doll. You should note that each doll in their original form and packaging would have been worth something. 
  • Your “first edition” copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit contains numerous references to McDonalds. The Hobbit was first published in 1937. The fast food restaurant chain wasn’t established until 1955.
  • Yes, the 19th century grandfather clock is possessed by evil spirits, as you claim. However, that very fact lowers its overall worth considerably. We suggest acquiring an old priest and a young priest to remedy the situation. Then you might be talking a little bit of money. Possibly
  • The wax cylinder recording of Thomas Edision reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is intriguing, but the constant in-line references to radio personality Howard Stern make us believe it is a very clever fake.
  • Your collection of corrspondence between Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee are highly questionable given that each letter signs off with the phrase “fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”
  • We are impressed with 18th century water pump. We would be more impressed if the handle was still attached.
  • Newsboy bottle 01We are sending back the ship-in-a-bottle without comment. The crew of the ship appear to not only be made up of living humans (albeit very, very tiny), but they also appear to be in some distress. You should know that we are consulting with our lawyers.

Under separate cover, we are sending you a check for a full refund. We would appreciate it if you do not contact us again.

Yours sincerely,


Barrymore Finkelstone
Ace Appraisers
New York, New York


No time to chat. Work to do, work to do. Alexander Technique, Canadian Wetlands, Comedian Trivia, painting!


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