Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters

Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters

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by Michael J. Nelson

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Why do some people retain cute baby-talk names for their relatives (like "Num-Num" and "Pee-Paw") well into middle age? How should a reasonable person respond when Olivia Newton-John sings, "Have you never been mellow?" Who's responsible for the sorry state of men's fashion, and is it the same guy who invented the jerkin? Is there any future in being a Midwesterner


Why do some people retain cute baby-talk names for their relatives (like "Num-Num" and "Pee-Paw") well into middle age? How should a reasonable person respond when Olivia Newton-John sings, "Have you never been mellow?" Who's responsible for the sorry state of men's fashion, and is it the same guy who invented the jerkin? Is there any future in being a Midwesterner? Can you really enjoy your lunch when the restaurant is decorated to look like an African plain? How come women keep dozens of bottles and jars of moisturizers, unguents, and lotions around -- all of them half empty?

In more than 50 hilarious all-new essays, one of America's brightest young humorists -- the head writer and on-air host of the legendary TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000 -- finds the fun in all aspects of the human condition, no matter how absurd. Join Mike Nelson on an angst-filled visit to a health spa; shopping sessions at Home Depot and Radio Shack; adventures in the very amateur musical theater; a gut-busting discourse on the history of television; ruminations on his roles as husband, father, and citizen; and much, much more.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Stepping out of the shadows once again, former writer and host of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Mike Nelson is casting his sharp eye on the world beyond the darkened movie theater. Following on the heels of Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese, the actor, director, musician, and writer returns with a collection of more than 50 essays on the absurd amenities of modern living.

From the perspective of his home base in Minneapolis, Minnesota, modern life has not been kind to Mike Nelson. Whether faced with offending views of the towel-less older gentlemen embracing "man's natural state" in the health club locker room, or trying to get service at Home Depot ("Some of the best advice I ever got was, 'Start climbing on the shelves' "), nearly every aspect of daily life is fuel for exasperation. In Mind over Matters, Nelson has his whip poised over everything from leaf blowers to men's fashions to Radio Shack -- and he's not afraid to use it. Whether providing a provocative view of the history of television ("Naming a psychedelic show H. R. Pufnstuf is a barely coded way of saying, 'The producers of this program would like you all to know how very, very much we enjoy smoking rope' "), a heartfelt plea for sanity ("Please stop scolding and shaming me, syndicated human interest stories"), or a venture into the purely bizarre in an interview with his One-hundred Dollar Linen Shorts (bought on sale for $28), Nelson illuminates a world that -- with each bright, clean step toward convenience and normalcy -- just keeps on getting weirder.

In an essay titled "Rethinking the Backside," Nelson writes, "It seems the gluteus maximus's major function is to get tired at plays and make airplane flights seem longer than they actually are. I suggest that we could do without them." Whatever the backside's failings, Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters will give you good reason to put yours to the test -- so, sit back and enjoy it. (Elise Vogel)

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Read an Excerpt

Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters

Chapter One

Do Not Disturb
(I've Got That Covered)

Faced with a choice between two doors, behind one of which is a pack of ravenous tigers and Siegfried—and Roy (!)—and behind the other a pleasant stay in a hotel room for several days, Id have to say, "Bring on the big cats—just please keep those German guys away from me."

My illustration, which started out as a simple device to show my dislike of staying in hotel rooms but ballooned into a complicated and overpunctuated attack on Siegfried and Roy, should not distract from the fact that I don't like to stay in hotel rooms. Not by myself, anyway. And please don't take that to mean that I like spending time in hotel rooms with Siegfried and Roy, because nothing that you could conceive of, ever, could be further from the truth. All right, I could conceive of, I suppose, a room large enough, a suite, with locking doors between all the rooms, where I might be able to spend time with Siegfried and Roy—under duress, mind you! And without their opening act. That guy's the real troublemaker.

Back to my main point: without the privilege of having my wife and family with me, staying in pleasant hotel rooms is something akin to a sweat-soaked nightmare, a never-ending treadmill of horrors.

It starts the moment you arrive and the person brings your bags up into the room. The door closes behind you both with a vaguely obscene click.

"And sir, where may I put your bags?" he asks, applying pressure immediately. I don't know the layout of the room at all, having only been in it for three seconds, tops, so I gesture vaguely.

"Justput 'em over there, that'll be fine."

"Here, sir?" he asks.

"Yep, that's fine."

"Okay," he says, setting them in the bathtub. "And this small one in the sink, sir?"

"Yes, that's fine." Everything is just fine, as far as I'm concerned.

"Have you stayed with us before, sir?"

"Fine. I mean, yes; yes, I have," I say, though I have not.

"Then you know about our [something unintelligible]."

"Hmm? Oh, yes. Yes, fine," I say.

"Very good, sir. I've marked you down for a one-hour buttocks massage in the main lobby at noon."

"Fine," I say.

"The health club is on floor three, the mezzanine is in the main lobby, the pool is out on the deck, the first floor is accessed through the skyway, and of course you have to dial 38-928-3423 to get out of your room in case of a fire. Is there anything else I can help you with, sir?"

"Fine," I say, and, trying to get rid of him quickly, hand him forty-seven dollars, some loose change, my bike key, and the parking ticket for my car back in Minneapolis.

"Thank you, sir."


And mercifully, he is gone. Now I am free to nose about the room like a captured ape upon introduction to a new habitat. The first thing to check on is which side of the "golden barrier" your hotel is on. That is, does it have a minibar? I seldom take advantage of them myself, preferring to comparison-shop for my Mr. Salty Pretzels. Invariably, I can come up with a better price than $8.50 per ounce. But the presence of the mini-bar is a good sign, meaning that the staff is keeping an eye on your room, making periodical checks to see if they can gouge you for cranapple juice or Mrs. Dreisen's cheese straws. If there happened to be a skunk in your room, they'd probably catch it on one of those visits.

Since my tendency is to say yes to business offers to fly places and then immediately forget everything that was told me by the offerer, I am somewhat at the mercy of that person. They'll call me back at some later time to confirm travel arrangements.

"Mike, you've got just the one event on Tuesday evening, and it's a lot cheaper to get you in there on the previous Wednesday and then stay over through the Saturday a week and a half after that. How's that sound?" they'll ask.

"Fine," I say, not listening at all.

"And I've got you staying at the E Terminal Hotel, which is actually in the airport. You'll be staying at Gate 23A. How does that sound?"

"Great. And this is New Orleans?" I manage to ask.


"And I'm speaking to Elks?" I ask.

"Signing books for Cub Scouts."

"Okay, well, thanks, John," I offer warmly.

"I'm Linda."

"We haven't met. I'm Tom," I say politely.

"You're Mike."

"Right. See you in Omaha," I say, and sign off.

So always, I have too much time in the destination city, which would not be a problem at all if I weren't by myself. Sightseeing, theatergoing, and dining out are not half as fun by oneself. Half as fun would make logical sense, but it turns out to be perhaps one one-hundredth as fun, so I end up taking a walk and nosing around hardware stores (they're never that crowded). I'll tell myself that there's no shame in eating alone and start looking for a good restaurant. Peering into a window, I see a crowd of happy-looking, nonjudgmental people, laughing, having a great time that is obviously not dependent upon their being with a partner, so I open the door and stride confidently in, knocking over a bus tub. Twenty-five minutes later, when the clattering has subsided and the bus tub juice has been sponged up, the hip-looking hostess pulls me aside and announces, "Sir, this is a private party. I'm going to have ask you to go back to your hotel room . . .

Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters. Copyright © by Michael Nelson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Michael J. Nelson is an actor, writer, director, and musician who served as head writer for ten seasons, and on-air host for five seasons, of the television series Mystery Science Theater 3000. He was also the composer of most of MST3K's original music, and is coauthor of The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide (1996). Nelson lives in Minneapolis with his wife, writer-performer Bridget Jones, and their two children.

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Mike Nelson's Mind Over Matters 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For years mike nelson proved he was capable of being funny while mocking bad movies. Now he proves that he is just as funny mocking everything else.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book in a Barnes and Noble in Minneapolis. I hadn't read more than about three or four paragraphs before I started laughing so hard I had to set it down and head for the store's restroom! I bought it as soon as I could and I still find it incredibly hilarious.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I am a huge fan of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. This book follows the humor style of the show and make it a hilarious read from start to finish.
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