The First AI Thanksgiving
ChatGPT dinner grace, an Albert Brooks documentary review and cartoons either inspired by or made using my artificial intelligence
I received a lot of feedback from my issue about AI, with heaps of praise topped with a trickle of “UNSUBSCRIBE NOW!” from those firmly in the AI camp. So I decided to lean into it with a ChatGPT dinner grace called, Thank you, Lord, for the Gift of Social Media. This will be our first AI Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a time for family. It’s about avoidng political landmines and showing off, by showing off 1) weight loss or 2) new boyfriend/girlfriend/pet. I’m usually regulated to just bragging about my latest book. With AI that’s over. My nephew wrote two books this year, thanks to AI. He’s four. And as far as the kid’s table goes, that’s actually been renamed the Genius Bar. AI evens the playing field for everyone. We have that to be thankful for.
From Brian Carso, historian and author of the new Gideon’s Revolution, a novel about Benedict Arnold:
A True Thanksgiving Story
“When I was in high school, my family moved from a pleasant Long Island suburb to some remote land in upstate New York because my dad wanted to be a gentleman farmer. Along with chickens and a few sheep, every year we raised a dozen turkeys. One night during the summer, a fox or some cruel beast got into the turkey coop overnight and brutally killed 11 of them, but oddly left one turkey completely untouched. I suspected that the surviving turkey was culpable, or at least knew something. My dad treated the surviving turkey like royalty, letting it roam free on the acreage, and everyone in my family, grandma included, could feed the turkey from their hand. But the #$%ing bird knew that I was on to it, so whenever it saw me, even from hundreds of feet away, its face turned bright blue and it charged at me in a spastic gallop, flailing it legs up and down like the North Korean Army on parade. This reached the peak of absurdity when, one late autumn afternoon, I jumped in the car and headed down the country road toward town, when I spied the crazed turkey in my rear-view mirror, running down the middle of the road at the verge of cardiac arrest, Satan's hellfire in its eyes, fully committed to kicking my ass, whatever it took.”
Thank you Brian for that touching Thanksgiving story.
Now the following is the dinner grace, Thank you, Lord, for the Gift of Social Media, generated by Chat GPT —I only edited it down for clarity and it was too long.
Dear Lord, We come before you today to lift up our dear nephew, Shawn, who is going through a difficult time. We pray that you would bless him and provide him with comfort and peace in this season of his life. We ask that you would give Shawn the strength and courage he needs to face the challenges he is currently facing, help him realize that his girlfriend walking out on him is really a blessing and that you would help him to trust in your goodness and love. We also lift up Shawn’s sick cat, Catapult, and ask that you would provide healing and restoration to their body. We thank you for this food, some of which will be brought home to Catapult and act as leftovers for Shawn’s undoubtedly emotional week ahead. Amen.
So there you go. A lot of repeating of prayer catchwords, as expected, but does anyone know anyone who talks like this? When prompted, I provided some personal information about my family and how to buy my books, but there was obviously some mix-up as there is no Shawn in my family nor does anyone recall a cat named Catapult. Nevertheless, I will use this on Thanksgiving and let you know how it goes over.
From the 2023 NPR Gala at the Plaza Hotel, Master of Ceremonies, comedian Roy Wood, Jr. and Chair of the New York Public Radio Board of Trustees and occasional doubles partner, Tim Wilkins.
I want to first recommend two items for comedy geeks, each featuring a favorite comedian of mine. First is the recent Blocks podcast with Neal Brennan interviewing Carrot Top (about his “the things that make him feel lonely, isolated…and how he is persevering despite these blocks.”) I always see Carrot Top (a.k.a. Scott Thompson) at the Luxor anytime I am in Vegas and contend he is not only underrattedly (not a word) funny but complex as this episode proves. There are parallels to Michael Jackson you can make if you ignore all the Gloved One’s kids stuff.
The second item is the new documentary on Albert Brooks by Rob Reiner. It is now available on MAX.
I love documentaries (I never miss an episode of True Story, even now with Tig Notaro gone) and I love reviews (one of my first writing gigs was I was the music critic for a music magazine. No, I had no musical background and I heard jazz for the first time reviewing jazz albums, sorry.). So here is my review of Albert Brooks: Defending My Life (and you will see why I am no longer a regular critic):
Albert Brooks: Defending My Life
Made by his best friend, Rob Reiner, who laid it on pretty thick with the accolades, the movie is a nice greatest-hits of arguably the funniest man alive. I know some of you are thinking, oh, that would be Mel Brooks, which I was what my mom was thinking. So, my mom swore up and down she knew who the movie was about and I said, “…no, you don’t have a clue about what you are talking about.”
“I certainly do. I remember all his best bits and I love that they are both best friends,” said Mom.
“Fine, Mom, go Google Albert Brooks while we’re on the phone because you’re wrong.”
I want to add right now that I am writing this on a flight back to NYC from the Miami Book Fair and I have already peered back over my seat THREE times during the three-hour flight to the family sitting behind giving them the glare, making it very clear that their daughter has been making this flight a living hell for me by sitting with her knees up against the back of my seat and constantly moving. I believe airline stewardesses have the jurisdiction to see the level of discomfort this causes and are obligated to speak up on behalf of the passenger (even though I got on as standby). I seriously considered violently thrusting my seat back into the reclining position but pettiness is beneath me. I don’t have kids but if I did they would be taught not to press their knees, or feet, into the seat in front of them.
“No, Mom. I knew it. You don’t know who Albert…” and for twenty minutes I explained Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner were not in Rob Reiner’s movie on Albert Brooks. Things got worse before they got better when I explained Albert Brooks’ real name is Albert Einstein.
Mom conceded, “I thought Oppenheimer was too long and it crossed the line—the nudity was totally unnecessary.”
“Mom, that is a different Abert Einstein. Albert Einstein changed his name to Albert Brooks. And his brother was on TV, too. Bob Einstein. That was Super Dave.”
“Okay, yes, I really liked him. He was very funny.”
I didn’t bother explaining to Mom that that was not the same person who smashed watermelons and the movie unfortunately did not mention Bob’s death nor the cause of the brothers’ falling out.
Finally, I recommend the movie with the sound on, which I did on the second viewing and that helped with a lot of the jokes. I’m also glad they made this movie while Brooks was still alive because a third of the movie is him being interviewed. I don’t consider that a spoiler.
Yeah, that was how I would write reviews, inspired by the brilliant writer, actor, artist, and Village Voice cultural critic Gary Indiana (born Gary Hoisington; 1950), who was a mentor and one of my biggest writing influences.
CORRECTION from previous issue: Joe Duffy’s new, fun Substack newsletter is called Substack Lightning. Be sure to check it out and give him some love.
Now I want to say thank you to a bunch of people who may be reading this…
I love always returning to the Miami Book Fair and want to thank Mitch Kaplan, Lissette Mensez, Nicole Swift and the staff. My event with New Yorker cartoonist, Roz Chast and Charlie Kochman at the Miami Book Fair went very well thanks to both of them. Huge laughs and it gave me opportunity to express to the crowd how much Roz has meant to me and my work. Her new book is I Must Be Dreaming.
I got a chance to meet the fascinating Heather Cox Richardson (her substack is the wonderful, Letters from an American) and saw old friends like Bill Griffith, Mark Kurlansky and Dave Barry.
Linda (Gassenheimer), I hope you like this drawing! Also really enjoyed hanging with Evelyn McDonnell, author of The World According to Joan Didion, from the old Village Voice days and Bob Kealing, Good Day Sunshine State: How the Beatles Rocked Florida. Both of these books I’m reading now and enjoying (I have 500 books on my night stand). Thank you both for putting up with me!
Patti, (McCracken — The Angel Makers) it was great to see you and sorry I didn’t speak to you longer, I meant to catch up with you more.
And chatted with, who I contend is now the smartest person I ever met and someone I never had a chance to meet before, Adam Gopnik. Nicole Swift thank you for all your help –– you looked great on Henry Winkler night…
Susanna Hoffs was fabulous and performed a few of her hits, like Eternal Flame. She was there to promote her new novel, This Bird Has Flown, which I just started reading.
The Bangles was one of my first concerts. Unknown, they were opening for Mister Mister, a truly horrible band, who they would quickly eclipse. I had a backstage pass for one of the band member’s birthday party (I remember them saying they had no yet been to Liverpool despite just releasing Going Down to Liverpool.). This was during college when there was a nonstop barrage of great music everywhere. Going to clubs was as much a part of my life as was classes, homework and schlepping to Pearl Paint. Playing at Pratt Institute was an unknown group called the B-52s. Every week I learned the latest hits from recommendations in art school through mix tapes (a classmate of mine deplored me to try XTC. He was starting his own band called They Might Be Giants.). We dressed and styled our hair from these bands. Even their names were beautiful…The Psychedelic Furs and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. And I had front row seats to bands with the worst names go from nobodies at some party, to become U2 and The The. Other double name bands I saw explode were Duran Duran and Talk Talk. Can one feel very lucky and super old at the same time?
I shared with Susanna that my wife was named after her mom (as well as Tammy’s grandfather!). Tammy’s dad dated Susanna Hoff’s mom in Chicago (in a school for exceptional students). Both Tamars were at one time filmmakers and met years ago in California.
Okay, I have to lay down. My name-dropping is tiring. But apologies to anyone I left out, there were so many great people at the Fair.
I will also be signing books at the Hawley Library in Hawley, Pennsylvania for Hawley Winterfest December 9th from 10am to 1pm. Hawley. There will be LOTS of baked goods. There may be a big bonfire.
Looking forward to teaching in December at Yonsei University, South Korea. This is a Zoom event and if you would like to watch, the college is considering opening it to the public. Write me here if interested.
Atlas Obscura’s Winter Wonder: Exploring the History of Wintertime Traditions is this great new series I’m really looking forward to next month. It begins Dec. 18th (and I will be speaking Tuesday 19th 7–8:00 PM ET — The History of the Snowman). For details CLICK HERE.
My podcast The Cartoon Pad (co-hosted with Michael Shaw, produced by Marty Dundics & Weekly Humorist, house band 11 Acorn Lane) was selected this week in the Top 100 Arts podcasts. I hear from cartoonists how much they love the show. The new episode is about Substacks and our guest is James Breakwell (Xploding Unicorn).
I am going to do this issue’s Shop Talk in as few words as possible if you even made it this far.
This Cartoon of the Month is from one of my favorite cartoonists, Charlie Hankin. Check out his creative force on his Instagram account here and you will find more cartoon gems from him at the CartoonStock, here.
Either book solves any of your holiday shopping dilemmas––both look like you spent way more then you did. They are available to order in any bookstore. If you shop only online, Bookshop.org has my bestselling bookstore book and give back to independent bookstores. Just click on the book.
The snowman book is often sold out but any bookstore can special order it and Barnes & Nobles has it online. Just click on the book above.
Funny Times is getting into the Holiday groove with my Dancing Santas. The perfect Secret Santa gift can be found here.
To order online at Bookshop, CLICK HERE.
“Hilarious, humorous.” – The Daily Beast
“Bob Eckstein is rapidly becoming the Dean of American Cartooning.” – American Bystander
I also sell lots of fun merch (including iPhone covers, pillows, notebooks, mugs, wall art, totes, hoodies, pins, stickers, magnets, even tapestries of my designs.). Check them all out here
Thanks for reading and please share with a friend you think would enjoy this. The Bob has been selected as one of Substack’s favorite newsletters of 2023. Have a happy, safe Thanksgiving.
The Bob is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.