Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Slips My Mind

"There would be no ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE without GREEN ACRES," Lee Durkee said last night. He was reluctant to go so far as to say outright that Marquez had "ripped it off" but I think I could have pried a more assertive contention along those lines out of him with a little more effort and/or liquor. Lee also made a compelling case for the Buddha-like characteristics of Lisa Douglas (pictured) on the show, though the details somewhat elude me now. I think it mostly had to do with her clear-eyed, peaceful acceptance of her unusual neighbors, in contrast with Oliver's prickly resentment. I informed Lee of the New York Times's chronic and utter inability to grasp the subtleties of GREEN ACRES and he responded with appropriate indignation and shock. Meanwhile, through the medium of email, Ace Atkins informed/exhorted me "Eb lives in Laurel. We should go meet him!" That's Laurel, Mississippi, for those unacquainted. And if you don't know who Eb is, I'm just sad for you. The occasion of both conversations was the arrival of my GREEN ACRES box set, the entire series. As you know, I don't "blog" anymore, but I'm afraid this acquisition is going to force me to have to "blog" some more as time goes on. But that's also what I thought about THE BIG VALLEY.

Friday, October 13, 2017


You know I don't "blog" anymore unless it's firmly in the national interest, such as what I call "McNeilileaks," in which I reveal the private contents of my friend McNeil's emails without his permission. So I emailed McNeil about my surefire scheme to make a fortune by crossbreeding an apple with a lemon, producing a sweet lemon! Just think how much easier it would be to make lemonade, among other uses for this versatile fruit of my creation. McNeil shut me down succinctly! "What you will end up with is a sour apple - which already exists. What you might end up with is a lemon-sized sweet fruit, like a tangerine, which already exists." Ouch! The truth hurt. But remember, this is the same McNeil who wanted to steal people's skeletons and make diamonds out of them.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Possessed of a Cat, Surpassing in Beauty

I was standing around in Square Books yesterday, killing time before Beth Ann Fennelly's reading, and I picked up a book about animals, but I'm ashamed to say I can't remember the title even though it had an owl in it. What chiefly surprised me about this particular owl is that it appears, according to the book I picked up, in Fragment B of Christopher Smart's JUBILATE AGNO, a fragment from which I have often read, but I have never noticed the owl. In my defense, that is a long fragment! And it starts with letting a lot people rejoice... like, hundreds? People or angels or saints or something. All rejoicing. Or being allowed or encouraged to rejoice. I guess. "Let Bukki rejoice with the Buzzard" is one example. "Let Hur rejoice with the Water-wag-tail." Okay! Whatever you say, Christopher Smart. Hundreds of those, maybe. And eventually we get to Shephatiah, who is supposed to "rejoice with the little Owl, which is the winged cat." I never thought of owls that way before, but I'm buying it. And Christopher Smart adds, "For I am possessed of a cat, surpassing in beauty, from whom I take occasion to bless almighty God."

Thursday, October 05, 2017

McNeil Month By Month

I know a lot of you are worried because I don't "blog" anymore, so how am I going to do my annual birthday tribute to McNeil, in which I give you "links" to the things he has done every month? Well, smooth your furrowed brows and put your troubled minds at ease! Remember, ever since the "blog" officially ended, on the day (coincidentally, or maybe it demoralized me) our TV blew up in April 2016, I have kept a physical log of McNeil's activities, on which I intend to draw here. Naturally, this new style of entry will not lead you back to a particular "link." I guess I will mark them with an asterisk. With such limitations casting a shadow over the proceedings I am delighted nonetheless to present our usual timely tribute to the continued existence of McNeil, yes, I give you "McNeil Month By Month": September 2006: McNeil contends that he does not enjoy the "Little Dot" comic book. October 2006: McNeil furnishes a memorable quotation. November 2006: McNeil recalls playing Aerosmith on a jukebox. December 2006: First appearance of "McNeil's Movie Korner." January 2007: McNeil's system for winning at craps. February 2007: McNeil doesn't see what's so hard about reading a newspaper and eating a sandwich at the same time. March 2007: McNeil and I are talking about Bob Denver when HE SUDDENLY APPEARS ON TELEVISION! April 2007: Wild turkeys roam McNeil's neighborhood. May 2007: McNeil gets in touch with an Australian reporter regarding a historical chimp. June 2007: First McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival announced. July 2007: Medicine changes McNeil's taste buds. August 2007: McNeil's trees not producing apples. September 2007: McNeil pinpoints a problem with the "blog." October 2007: McNeil presents a video entitled "Jerry's pre-defecation chills." November 2007: McNeil's Theory of Potential Energy. December 2007: What is McNeil's favorite movie? January 2008: McNeil explains why the wind blows. February 2008: McNeil admires the paintings of Gerhard Richter. March 2008: McNeil comes up with an idea for a Lifetime TV movie. April 2008: McNeil's shirt. May 2008: McNeil's apple tree doing better (see August 2007). June 2008: McNeil is troubled by a man who wants to make clouds in the shape of logos. July 2008: McNeil's apples are doing great. August 2008: McNeil refuses to acknowledge that Goofy wears a hat no matter what I say. September 2008: McNeil's grocery store is permanently out of his favorite margarine. October 2008: McNeil on the space elevator. November 2008: McNeil comes across an incomplete episode guide to HELLO, LARRY. December 2008: McNeil thinks the human hand should have more fingers. January 2009: McNeil discovers that gin and raisins cure arthritis. February 2009: McNeil gets a big bruise on his arm. March 2009: McNeil wants a job on a cruise ship. April 2009: McNeil attempts to rescue a wayward balloon. May 2009: McNeil visits the Frogtown Fair. June 2009: McNeil dreams he is watching an endless production number from LI'L ABNER. July 2009: McNeil sends text messages from his cell phone while watching a Frank Sinatra movie. August 2009: McNeil disagrees philosophically with a comic book cover that shows a mad scientist putting a gorilla's brain in a superhero's body. September 2009: McNeil resembles famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach. October 2009: McNeil wears a surgical mask. November 2009: McNeil reports that a bird broke the large hadron collider by dropping a bread crumb on it. December 2009: McNeil advises me to like the universe or lump it. January 2010: McNeil eats soup. February 2010: McNeil tells of the hidden civilizations living deep beneath the surface of the earth. March 2010: McNeil recalls a carpet of his youth. April 2010: McNeil starts wearing a necktie. May 2010: McNeil's DNA sample fails to yield results. June 2010: McNeil thinks up some improvements for the movie 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. July 2010: McNeil reads to me from I, THE JURY. August 2010: McNeil finds a hair in his crab cake. September 2010: McNeil has a cold. October 2010: McNeil sends a nine-minute clip of a nice old man speaking at a UFO banquet. November 2010: McNeil sits in his car and looks at pictures of Jennifer Jones. December 2010: McNeil fears a ball of fire in the sky. January 2011: McNeil watches DYNASTY. February 2011: McNeil sees clouds that look like guys on horseback. March 2011: McNeil composes a "still life" photograph. April 2011: McNeil is upset when I interrupt his viewing of MATCH GAME. May 2011: McNeil pines for some old curtains. June 2011: McNeil eats Lucky Charms brand breakfast cereal. July 2011: McNeil investigates the history of the Phar-Mor drugstore chain. August 2011: McNeil compares Dean Moriarty to Dean Martin. September 2011: McNeil learns a lesson about pork and beans. October 2011: McNeil finds an article describing Robert Mitchum as "Bing Crosby supersaturated with barbiturates." November 2011: McNeil did nothing in November. December 2011: McNeil discovers scientists creating rainbows in a laboratory. January 2012: McNeil impersonates Paul Lynde. February 2012: McNeil dreams of matches. March 2012: McNeil's Theory of Potential Energy (see November 2007, above) used to chart the influence of Jerry Lewis on Carson McCullers. April 2012: McNeil disturbed by the art in his hotel room. May 2012: McNeil considers grave robbing. June 2012: McNeil's idea for "music television." July 2012: McNeil holds his negative feelings in check out of respect when the man who invented electric football dies. August 2012: McNeil reads me an old obituary of Charlie Callas over the phone. September 2012: McNeil concerned about T.J. Hooker's big meaty hands. October 2012: McNeil eats lunch at Target. November 2012: McNeil loves it when Bob Hope slips on a banana peel. December 2012: McNeil sees rocks that look like squirrels. January 2013: McNeil looks at an old, faded photo of a dog gazing into a Bath and Tile Emporium. February 2013: McNeil watches a video in which a hooded figure talks about "our criminal overlords." March 2013: McNeil wakes up at 6:40 in the evening, momentarily thinks it is 6:40 in the morning. April 2013: McNeil sees a singer who looks just like Bill Clinton. May 2013: McNeil is ashamed of himself for not realizing that Ida Lupino directed some episodes of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. June 2013: McNeil mails a cashew tree. July 2013: McNeil watches GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN. August 2013: McNeil recalls being rosy-cheeked. September 2013: A fairyland goes on in McNeil's head. October 2013: McNeil recalls tucking in his t-shirt. November 2013: The cover of a book McNeil buys says it is about Jerry Lewis, but on the inside the book is about Willie Stargell! December 2013: McNeil wants to visit an orgone box factory. January 2014: McNeil did nothing in January. February 2014: McNeil wonders whether Tom Franklin puts his hair in curlers. March 2014: McNeil takes a nap in the car. April 2014: The subject of McNeil pops up in an interview. May 2014: McNeil's emails on the "hollow earth" recalled (see February 2010, above). June 2014: McNeil looks forward to getting drunk and making insensitive remarks as I lie on my deathbed. July 2014: McNeil watches Jim and Henny Backus play themselves in DON'T MAKE WAVES. August 2014: McNeil tells about Robert Mitchum's hangover cure. September 2014: McNeil exaggerates the fate of some owls. October 2014: McNeil is incensed that a candy apple costs eight dollars at the airport. November 2014: McNeil's heart overflows with joy. December 2014: McNeil continues his 7-year chimp investigation (see May 2007, above). January 2015: McNeil listens to a conspiracy theorist who says Jimmy Carter was replaced by a series of robots. February 2015: McNeil recalls doing a report about matches in the eighth grade. March 2015: McNeil takes to bed with the flu! April 2015: McNeil and I establish an amazing psychic link. May 2015: McNeil bitterly recalls the time he brought a John Wayne movie to my apartment and we never watched it. June 2015: McNeil dreams about a bearded Dean Martin. July 2015: McNeil has a disappointing encounter with the Grand Canyon. August 2015: McNeil sees a squirrel holding a stick. September 2015: McNeil is saddened by the news of Dean Jones's death. October 2015: McNeil watches STARFLIGHT: THE PLANE THAT COULDN'T LAND. November 2015: McNeil sends video of Joe Namath making and eating a sandwich. December 2015: A coincidence of the type McNeil especially loves. January 2016: McNeil is in a grocery store and they start playing "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea" over the speakers! February 2016: McNeil watches Don Rickles eat in a bathroom. March 2016: McNeil is duly thrilled when Megan Abbott goes to see CRACKING UP (pictured, above) on the big screen. April 2016: McNeil swallows a gnat. May 2016: McNeil recalls the details of a screenplay we wrote in our twenties. June 2016: Destruction comes to McNeil's apple tree! July 2016: McNeil spots Dabney Coleman in an I DREAM OF JEANNIE rerun. August 2016: McNeil points out that Dean Martin had granddaughters named Pepper, Montana, and Rio. September 2016: McNeil is called a "filthy troglodyte." October 2016: McNeil advises me on what to do now that ADVENTURE TIME has been canceled. "I say take it easy for a while... just pretend to write when Theresa's around and then sleep or watch movies when she leaves. Oh hell, you know how to work it," writes McNeil.* November 2016: McNeil sees an owl while walking his dog at midnight. December 2016: McNeil finds an Airbnb listing by "eccentric millionaires" for a treehouse featuring "whimsical taxidermy."* January 2017: McNeil notices that there are lots of ants in his writing.* February 2017: McNeil roots for the guy who stole a bucket full of gold flakes.* March 2017: McNeil reads an article suggesting that all the gold on Earth came from the collision of dead stars and says, "Let's go get us some of this!" seemingly suggesting a trip to outer space.* April 2017: McNeil recalls that he was washing dishes in 2015 when the thought of Gene Gene the Dancing Machine (pictured, above) came into his head. Then he discovered that Gene Gene the Dancing Machine had just died!* May 2017: McNeil watches ISLAND IN THE SKY with his dog.* June 2017: McNeil is happy to see a movie with rotary phones and "people looking up stuff in a filing cabinet for a change." July 2017: McNeil begins alerting me to weather situations in my area like he's my mother.* August 2017: McNeil connects heavenly signs and portents with the death of Jerry Lewis. September 2017: A critique by McNeil inspires a choice of airplane reading material. October 2017: McNeil contemplates buying a stranger's home movies on eBay, including "Trip to Juarez w/Frank and Irene."*

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I Figured Out Richard and Linda

Spoilers for the new TWIN PEAKS! Spoilers or the ravings of a madman? You be the judge! But I took some Benadryl for allergies and it put me to sleep. When I awoke, I was thinking of a clue the giant gives in that show, telling our protagonist to remember the names Richard and Linda. I woke up with an anagram almost completed. And it worked better when I spelled Linda the way Lynda Barry does it. But it wasn't just right until I used the Spanish word for "and," making an anagram for "RICHARD Y LINDA" instead. And do you know what that anagram is? A signature! If you remove David Lynch's surname from "RICHARD Y LINDA" all you have left are double letters. Isn't that curious? And this show was all about doubles. Without "LYNCH," the only remaining letters are AA II RR DD. The AA means "Twin Peaks." Just look! Those are two matching mountains, with "twin peaks." Snowcapped, even! The II is "two I's" (two selves) or just the Roman numeral II, as in Twin Peaks 2. The RR is for the Double R and for Rancho Rosa, the production company/fictional subdivision. And the DD is for Dougie/Dale or the two Dales or David/Dale, or dreamer/dream (dissociative disorder?) or Directed by David... So: RICHARD Y LINDA = AA II RR DD LYNCH. One translation: "Twin Peaks 2, a Rancho Rosa production directed by David Lynch." Possibly. I apologize to the hundreds of people who have already figured this out. I tried to google it a little bit, but it's not so easy to google. This interpretation is especially hard on Mark Frost. Anyway, I'd like to say thank you to the makers of Benadryl.

Monday, September 18, 2017

I Explain Victor Marilyn to an Uncaring World

You know I don't "blog" anymore, but watching ADVENTURE TIME last night I was reminded that the recent episode "Son of Rap Bear" contains possibly the most obscure allusion to Jerry Lewis possible, which I would not even mention, seeing as how I don't "blog" anymore, but I thought it was a poignant coincidence, Jerry Lewis having recently died. Now this allusion is so obscure that even I didn't know about it, Mr. Big Shot So-Called Jerry Lewis Expert. In the meeting during which we were writing the outline for the episode - and I forget how the subject came up - Kent Osborne happened to mention a phone prank that Jerry had played on an unsuspecting sycophant. So we all listened to it... and somewhere, deep inside there, Jerry invents a nonexistent character named "Victor Marilyn" with which to bedevil his hapless dupe. I mean, I guess you have to sit through four and a half minutes of that phone prank before you even reach "Victor Marilyn." And that's why the devious Toronto (the ADVENTURE TIME character, not the city!) uses the pseudonymous business card you see above. I am glad to get that off my chest.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Karl Malden Wouldn't Sit Anywhere Else

When I go on a trip I still take my famous jotting book but I hardly jot in it anymore because I don't "blog" anymore, rendering the very act of jotting questionable. And besides, as Adam Muto rightly admonished me last time I won an Emmy (this is my subtle way of telling you that I just came back from Los Angeles with another one!) I should look up and experience the world directly rather than jotting about it while it's right there in my face. In fact, if you "click" on that previous "link" you will see a photo of me with my jotting book open and ready for jotting backstage in the immediate aftermath of the awards presentation two years ago. I'm the problem with America! But you know, I'm glad I brought the jotting book because I AM required to "blog" whenever I read a book with an owl in it, and on this trip there appeared in my path THREE books with owls in them. I couldn't believe it. It was a bonanza! Let's get right to them! Well, first I stopped by Square Books for something to read on the airplane, as I like to do. And I was drawn again to the Travis McGee novels of John D. MacDonald, though I never enjoy them the way I'm supposed to. But now I guess they say "airplane" to me because of some sick compulsion. I picked up this one called DARKER THAN AMBER and I was like, "This seems familiar." Because they all seem familiar. And the titles are interchangeable. So I put it back on the shelf and went home empty-handed. And I sat there and thought, why do I know that title? And I poked around on the "blog" and saw that my friend McNeil had mentioned DARKER THAN AMBER as being particularly sexist. But as far as I could tell from my own "blog" I hadn't read it, and perversely I decided to get it and see if McNeil was right. And McNeil was right! In fact, I would argue that Travis McGee goes beyond (?) mere misogyny into a psychotic fear of sex. Now, of course, we can't confuse the author with his creation, but I would argue that McGee is presented as an aspirational character. "Jake leaned back on his heels and stared up at me, like a man admiring a tall building," is a typically modest self-description by our narrator. And now please forgive me but I'm going to quote just a smidgen of the misogyny so you won't think I'm exaggerating. You have been warned. Here we find catalogued McGee's disapproval of women who have had too many boyfriends: "she suffers a sea change wherein her juices alter from honey to acid, her eyes change to glass, her heart becomes a stone, and her mouth a windy cave from whence, with each moisturous gasping, comes a tiny stink of death." What! What kind of writing do you call that? Moisturous! Moisturous? It has a certain purple tone that KNOWS it has a tone (A CERTAIN PURPLE TONE sounds like the title of a Travis McGee novel)... hmm... a tone approaching parody, but wanting it both ways... what is called in the business "kidding on the square," as I was once informed by Rob Schneider. Ha ha! But "tiny stink of death"? That's one of the grossest phrases I've come across. And later McGee refers to a woman's mouth as a "round horror-hole," okay? A ROUND HORROR-HOLE. Wow, I'm forgetting the owl. Weren't we talking about owls? McGee says that the eye of a corpse is "like a cheap glass eye in a stuffed owl." And you know what color that eye is? "Darker than amber," that's what color. So I was lying in bed reading this in the hotel room and Dr. Theresa was lying there too reading her own book - what a picture of contentment I am sure we made! - and she said, "Hey! This has an owl in it!" The owl in her book, she said, flew right into an inn and caused much consternation and dialogue. So! I finished Travis McGee and started a book of Sam Shepard short stories I had picked up at Skylight during one of our jaunts across the city. And in the very first story, some owls settle into a eucalyptus tree. So anyway that is a lot of owls in a lot of books for one trip. Speaking of Skylight Books! I ran into the actor Steve Little there, forced a copy of my most recent story collection on him (they had a couple of copies) and kind of harassed him until he fled the store. This is an accurate depiction of events. And speaking of Sam Shepard! So, T-Bone Burnett was one of the presenters at the Creative Arts Emmys, and I was determined to meet him at the ball following the show. And I did! Megan Abbott and I had been reading Sam Shepard's ROLLING THUNDER LOGBOOK, in which T-Bone Burnett appears, leading me to make the following brilliant remark to the distinguished musical icon of whom I have been a lifelong fan: "I saw a picture of you dressed up like a wizard!" (See above.) I'm getting everything out of order.
Let me check my jotting book and see which of my sparse jottings I've left out. Oh, went back to Dan Tana's and got the same booth. I was like, "Hey, I liked that booth when I was here before, can we have it?" And the maître d' was like, sure! "Karl Malden wouldn't sit anywhere else," he informed us. So here we are sitting where Karl Malden would be sitting were he still among the living. But he can't do a thing about it now! Photo by my brother. Well, I'm flipping through these pages and I hardly jotted anything, it turns out. I'm not sorry. On the plane ride to Los Angeles I was sufficiently convinced that my Biscoff cookie bore the face of a holy saint to request that Dr. Theresa take a photo of it, which she gamely did.