Monday, November 20, 2017

The Money Store

1. If we know anything about Bill Boyle, it is that he suggests decadent or disturbing books to me AND he sometimes gives me something to read on an airplane. This time he recommended a decadent book and I took it upon myself to bring it on the airplane. "I don't want to tell you anything about it," said Bill. "There's a tortoise encrusted with precious jewels." Well! I knew that much from the back of the book. And if that's on the back of the book you have to wonder what else is in there. The book is AGAINST NATURE - no, that's the title - by Joris-Karl Huysmans. 2. Lee Durkee gave me a ride to Memphis. See, the closest airport is in Memphis and my flight is always so early and this time I thought I'd stay overnight closer to the airport... for convenience! But! The last time I tried that, I found my "motel by the airport" experience disenchanting. So I decided to stay somewhere "nicer." I recalled that Elvis fan Ace Atkins had once stayed at an Elvis-themed hotel in Memphis, which sounded like a diverting choice. After my no-refund advance booking (it was cheaper) I read that the place had been shut down temporarily some months ago due to an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease. "Oh, I'm sure they've taken care of it," Ace assured me with the casual air of the physically fit. My room was on the second floor but somehow the ground came right up to the window anyway. So the second floor was also a ground floor. I'm not sure I'm being clear. Some grass and dirt came right up to my window, and just beyond that, the dark, forbidding woods. Woods in Memphis! With naught but a pane of glass betwixt me and them. The window reached the ground, I mean. Something could stroll right through it. It looked like "Young Goodman Brown" out there. I vaguely recall from that Elvis book I was reading that Gladys was frightened by some bushes growing outside the Presley home. Now I know how she felt. 3. Two tiny spots like dried ketchup on my nice gray jacket that I am not actually sure is gray. Is it blue? Back at home, Dr. Theresa and I dismissed these spots as "a shadow" or "a fold in the material" but now I can see in the vast hallway mirror near the swirling white staircase at the Elvis-themed hotel that they are definitely spots of uncouth ketchup. 4. Sitting in the airport reading "he had gone to those unconventional supper-parties where drunken women loosen their dresses at dessert and beat the table with their heads." (!) 5. Flight. Beastie Boys came on the iPod, amiably rhyming "cellular" and "the hell you were," which I noted to tell Jon Host on my return. 6. The airplane food was something I'd never seen before. I might call it "an open-faced breakfast pie." In the center was a slurry composed of everything you've ever had for breakfast. Some of what I think was the egg portion was colored pink for reasons I never managed to grasp. I ate it. 7. An early impression, though the book was first published in 1884, is that AGAINST NATURE advocates for Pen Ward's pet mode of existence, virtual reality: "Nature, he used to say, has had her day; she has finally and utterly exhausted the patience of sensitive observers by the revolting uniformity of her landscapes and skyscrapers. After all, what platitudinous limitations she imposes, like a tradesman specializing in a single line of business; what petty-minded restrictions, like a shopkeeper stocking one article to the exclusion of all others; what a monotonous store of meadows and trees, what a commonplace display of mountains and seas! In fact, there is not a single one of her inventions, deemed so subtle and sublime, that human ingenuity cannot manufacture." 8. A new bartender at my hotel in Burbank asked where I was from and when I told him, a guy at the other end of the bar shouted, "A lot of great writers come from Mississippi!" This is a true fact, but I must tell you from my travels that this is never the first thing a stranger will say upon hearing the word "Mississippi." And I hasten to add that Mississippi has brought endless negative reactions on itself. But it was nice to hear something milder for a change. This guy, who did not hail from the South, I should say, was not up to speed on some contemporary Mississippi writers so I pitched him Mary Miller pretty hard. 9. Went back to Dan Tana's and got the same table! Been there three times, got the same table three times. Let's call it "my table." Let's call it that! I'm scared to ever go back in case I don't get it again. 10. Reading the paper the next morning I see that our friend and former neighbor Jesmyn Ward won another National Book Award, and it felt doubly right after hearing what the nice man at the bar had said about Mississippi writers. 11. My brother sent a pic of us at Dan Tana's. As he remarks, my face is vampirically blurred, as if photography cannot quite capture it. Here we see me in the preparation stages of jotting in my famous book of jottings, no doubt about the fact that we are getting our "regular table." A rare appearance of the jotting book in action!
You may also notice that my hair is sticking up and so is my brother's. That's going to be our gimmick now: the brothers whose hair sticks up. 12. Disagreement with a bartender about Robert Walker's performance in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. 13. I went to the ADVENTURE TIME wrap party and danced with Andy Merrill. You may remember him as Brak from SPACE GHOST COAST TO COAST! As you can see below, we freaked out because Weird Al was RIGHT BEHIND US.
14. Laraine Newman and I saw Jeffrey Katzenberg in a grocery store. He's gotta eat too! We had lunch (not with Jeffrey Katzenberg). The young woman in charge of the host station spoke engagingly and learnedly to us of Chekhov and Ibsen and Shakespeare. She knew a lot about THE CHERRY ORCHARD and also a lot about actual cherries and how to grow them, and what mistakes not to make when growing cherries, and what the cherries mean in THE CHERRY ORCHARD. I mean WHY CHERRIES? This is the question she answered. Fascinating and delightful! But I don't think I'll tell you. From our outdoor table we could see a bridge that Laraine told me was featured in one of the old, original PLANET OF THE APES movies. I said that Sal Mineo played an ape in one of those and Laraine sort of doubted me! She texted famed comedian Dana Gould right then and there and he immediately confirmed it with his knowledge. Dana Gould is Laraine's version of Google! 15. As the sun was going down I walked alone in the unfamiliar part of town from whence I had parted with Laraine. I found a fancy restaurant tucked - nay, almost buried - in an unlikely location. The bartender had played Hamlet twice! 16. The next morning I went to the Starbucks where I have seen Andrea Martin and (on a separate occasion) the guy from Tenacious D who is not Jack Black. Got the last New York Times from the rack and discovered something small and green on it. Small, green, and sticky. Bright green, emerald, holding there fast, hard candy vehemently licked and rejected or a foul lozenge someone had coughed up? Anyway, I touched it. I've visited this Starbucks often enough to recognize some of the customers who have been going there for years. There's one guy who blows his nose a lot. There he was, blowing his nose! Just like old times. He's been blowing his nose in that Starbucks since at least 2012. 17. "... birds with rats' heads and vegetable tails." When I read that I was like, "Nothing as prosaic as an owl is going to be in THIS book!" But in the very next paragraph: "a patch of virgin forest packed with monkeys, owls and screech-owls"! 18. Breakfast with my brother and nephews at Musso & Frank, where they are breakfast regulars, received warmly by all. My brother adjusted the blinds like he owned the joint! 19. After breakfast, we went to what my brother called "the money store," which turned out to be a hot, cramped box specializing in old coins and old silver and smelling like old farts. My eldest nephew and I looked at some olden utensils. "Look, they have the nicest spork ever made," said my nephew. 20. Dr. Theresa called: the wind blew and a huge limb, itself "the size of a tree" crashed to the earth right outside our house. It was a calamity! Also a miscreant peed in our backyard and ran away hitching up his pants under a fiery barrage of Dr. Theresa's righteous scolding. 21. Pen and I ate at The Smokehouse. Pen audaciously ordered the "steak Sinatra" with salmon instead of steak! We pondered what Frank might have made of that. We summoned up Frank Sinatra's violent, indignant ghost. The waiter said he would have to check what sort of surcharges would be involved. "A million dollars!" Pen predicted. But the waiter came back and said that according to the kitchen, steak Sinatra with salmon instead of steak costs ONE DOLLAR LESS than steak Sinatra! Then another waiter came in bearing a chicken pot pie that astounded everyone in the room. It was as large as... a pie. Like... a whole, entire flaky pie you might see on display for its beauty and wholesomeness in a bakery case. I swear, every person at every table was marveling that such a thing as this could be a chicken pot pie. Everyone stared in wonder - and dare I say envy? - at the recipient of the flabbergasting chicken pot pie. I thought of Dr. Theresa, who loves chicken pot pie, and I thought of her again as Pen and I enjoyed wedge salads, Dr. Theresa being one of our nation's leading proponents of the wedge salad. 22. At the airport I sat right next to a guy who had a big jotting book in the exact color and style of my small jotting book! I waved my tiny version of his large jotting book at him in excited solidarity. His wife laughed merrily at my antics and did not call airport security. 23. I don't "blog" anymore.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Hoot Owls of East Tupelo

There are hoot owls in ELVIS AND GLADYS, Elaine Dundy's book about Elvis Presley and his mother, one of an endless series of celebrity biographies that Megan Abbott and I are reading together (see also), but I don't tell you about all of them because some of them don't have owls in them. In a footnote, Dundy finds it interesting that both Elvis and Marilyn Monroe had mothers named Gladys, which reminded me, although I've never seen it, of an infamous scene in BATMAN V SUPERMAN, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, that's fine. Okay, I guess Batman stops fighting Superman because he finds out they both have moms named Martha. Not that Elvis and Marilyn were ever engaged in some kind of cosmic battle (that I know of) but I would watch that movie.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Merry Meat Christmas

Some time after midnight I was watching FRASIER on the Hallmark Channel and they played an ad for a TV movie called MARRY ME AT CHRISTMAS, which, when the title appeared on the screen, appeared to my weary eyes as MERRY MEAT CHRISTMAS.

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

McNeilileaks

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.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Kinda Scary

I half-watched some of a Frank Capra movie on TCM last night and I'm not gonna say it reminded me of David Lynch, even though it did, but I am aware that everything reminds me of David Lynch now because I just watched a lot of David Lynch.
(Megan Abbott did point out the IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE quality of the recent TWIN PEAKS finale.) But the title of the Capra movie I half-watched is A HOLE IN THE HEAD, which isn't comforting, is it? So Frank Sinatra and his little son are trying to sleep and Carolyn Jones suddenly appears in their window, dancing in her swimsuit and long gloves. It was supposed to be funny! But it struck me as eerie. Once again, this is all my own fault. Then Carolyn Jones shows up with a whole apple in her mouth and strikes a Laura Palmer pose:
The way Sinatra expresses affection for his son is to say he's gonna sock him or punch him or "flatten" him. He's consistently violent in his love imagery, but we never think he's really gonna flatten his son. At one point he says wistfully, "He's a funny kid, you know? I could beat him up, anything, leave him someplace, and I bet he'd still love me. Kinda scary." KINDA!
The background (and foreground) is filled with strange, silent animals, for which I choose this monkey that blows bubbles as representative. The monkey that blows bubbles is next to a photo of Eleanor Parker's husband and son, whom she matter-of-factly describes drowning together before her eyes. Frank Sinatra's little boy is immediately taken with Eleanor Parker because (I think it's obvious) she is like his dead mother come back to life.
She catches the little boy staring at her because she reminds him so much of his dead mother (I believe is the subtext) and gives him a sultry wink as he peeps at her from behind a porcelain dog. Oh, and Dub Taylor works the desk at Frank Sinatra's hotel, where they use the same kind of keychains you get at the Great Northern.
You know, I really have more screen shots than I know what to do with. You should see the ones I'm skipping. There was this disturbingly infantile character (below), a very poor man's Jerry Lewis, who, in his father's words, "runs to the toilet" whenever there's a customer in the store (the same father, Edward G. Robinson, who complains about his "underwear crawling up" on him, a complaint I do not recall hearing expressed so bluntly - or indeed at all - in any other 50s movies; does he say "crawling" or "creeping"? Does it matter?) and you know how much Jerry Lewis reminds me of David Lynch, even though this is not Jerry Lewis, just a tulpa.
I hardly know what to end with.
Well, here's a guy in a white dinner jacket with a pistol on a diving board. Moments later he will pretend to shoot himself in the head with a blank for a laugh, but I don't think that's where the title comes from.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Angry Driver and Other Hot Dogs

Ace Atkins told me that Joe Mantegna owns a restaurant where they serve a hot dog named "the Fat Tony," after Mr. Mantegna's character from THE SIMPSONS. Never mind how it came up. You know what? It comes up a lot. I don't know why we talk about it so much. Anyway, I decided to look on Joe Mantegna's imdb page and help him think up other hot dogs that could be named after characters he has played. I came up with 18 hot dogs I think I might order: The Angry Driver. The Indian Psychiatrist. The Jerry Finkelman. The Mr. Pan. The Crooner. The Mr. Stack. The Jimmy Blamhammer. The Desalvo. The Rocco. The Il Magnifico. The Gomez. The Rube Richter. The Bucky Terranova. The Sparky Smith. The Joey Zasa. The Bandini. The Harry Flugleman. The Sheik. This is more in the nature of a tweet, but it is too long for a tweet, and that it is why I put it here even though I don't "blog" anymore.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Accomplishing Something

So my friend from "She Blogged By Night" was tweeting about the seventies version of THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, which she watched recently, and suddenly I was flooded by memories, just exactly like Marcel Proust! I remembered things that have been buried in my subconscious for forty years. Shameful secrets! Ha ha! They were not shameful. But I remembered THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU as maybe the first time I ever saw a movie trailer and thought, "That movie is going to be great! I can't wait!" And then, when I saw the movie, I believe it was my first experience of this feeling: "Hey! I've been tricked by advertising! I didn't know they could do that!" I was old enough to know better, but I guess I didn't. For some reason, though, I bought the comic book tie-in. I tell ya, the ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU people must've seen me coming. They got all my money. But here's the thing... at the end of the comic book, Michael York is in a rowboat, I think, waiting to be rescued with the woman he loves, and she TURNS INTO A CAT! Or she gets, you know, sharp teeth and cat eyes, anyway. It's a shocker! And I didn't remember that from the movie. So for forty years I guess it's been in the back of my mind: did that happen in the movie and I missed it somehow? Maybe it was subtle! I put this question to "She Blogged By Night," who reported that no, the movie does not end that way. Thus was a forty-year burden eased from my shoulders! BUT! She also told me that they apparently DID shoot that ending (see below), though it was scrapped, and that furthermore, there was another proposed ending in which that character, we'll call her the Cat Woman, gives birth to a kitten! You know, in all the years since the invention of the "internet," I could have looked this up for myself, but I forgot I ever wanted to know the answer until the "internet" reminded me. I feel like the "internet" has finally accomplished something. I don't "blog" anymore but this seemed necessary to report.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

The Kings of Silence

So! I know I keep telling you how David Lynch is like Jerry Lewis ("click" this "link" or this "link" or that "link") but when I saw Bill Boyle at City Grocery Bar yesterday he had another way that David Lynch is like Jerry Lewis. Bill is rewatching THE NUTTY PROFESSOR and finds himself particularly taken with its long stretches of painful silence. I have noticed these before! In an article I wrote about Jerry Lewis, as a matter of fact, I referred to the very same "two full minutes of tense silence" from early in the film that recently earned Bill's rapt attention. This is related to Jerry's tendency to elongate a gag past any normal human boundary or recognizable shape. But never did I think - as Bill did! - to consider its relationship to some of the scenes in the new version of TWIN PEAKS, such as when (is this a spoiler?) a guy unexpectedly sweeps a floor for more than two minutes or a French person puts on her shoes. So that goes on my list of ways that David Lynch is like Jerry Lewis. Thanks, Bill! Bill also sent an appreciation that Martin Scorsese wrote, in which we learn, among other things, that Jerry directed parts of THE KING OF COMEDY. (Pictured, Dean Warfield staring at Julius Kelp in pained silence.)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Movie With a Book In It With an Owl In It

So I was watching DOCUMENTEUR by Agnes Varda and the mother and son start talking about a book they read about an owl who makes tea out of his own tears, and he has a list of sad things he thinks about to make himself cry enough to make a pot of tea. Despite some halfhearted "googling" I have not determined whether this is a real book or an invention of Agnes Varda, so I regret to inform you that I cannot at this time put it on my big long list of books with owls in them... however, I can say that - while being charming in its own right - this owl crying into his teapot business puts me in mind of one of the least pleasant subplots of the Thomas Harris novel HANNIBAL, which I bought at the Atlanta airport and read on an airplane back in 1999, yet to this day I remain astonished by the number of typos I recall. Never, to my recollection, have I run across a professionally published novel containing so many typos. You know I like everything! Yet somehow that book made me feel so bad - some flaw within myself, no doubt! - that I purposely left it behind in a San Francisco hotel room, an act for which I still feel remorse, what a horrible surprise for somebody. (I left some Bukowski novel - was it POST OFFICE? - in a New Orleans hotel room for similar reasons but I guess I don't feel so evil about that.) As long as you are here I should tell you that Ace Atkins and I finally went back to Costco yesterday. I saw "a fourteen-pound tub of violet decorative cake icing," as I put it on twitter. Although! In reality I saw several fourteen-pound tubs of cake icing, some orange, some green, some pink. I don't know why "violet" struck me so particularly. I did wonder - as I remarked to Ace on the way back - why there is only one color per tub. That seems like a rip-off! I think they should go in there and arrange it in three stripes, like Neapolitan ice cream. Though no doubt you get a good price on a fourteen-pound tub of cake icing, so who am I to argue?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Owls and Aliens and Snakes and Stuff

Adam sent me some comic books in the mail! So I was happy. One of these characters goes underwater and has a vision, and I thought, "Are those owls?" But whatever he was seeing, their heads looked rounder than I thought an owl's heads should look. But then I closed my eyes and pictured some owls, and sure, I could think of some owls that have round heads. In fact, I was 99.9% sure that this guy was underwater having a vision of some owls. But .1% of me was like, "What if they're supposed to be pigeons?" But I was going to go ahead and say that this book has owls in it anyway, and put it on my widely celebrated list of books with owls in them. And let me stress that the problem was mine, not the artist's! Plus I was like, "Pigeons can't be in a mystical vision!" Why was I shaming pigeons? Aren't they kinda like doves? And doves are in mystical visions all the time!
My sliver of lingering doubt was laid aside when I came to this panel a few pages later, and it is why I can report with 100% confidence that DUNGEON MASTER: BOOK ONE by Joe Daly has owls in it. Looking back in the morning light, I can totally see that they are owls, I mean, it's not even a question! You can tell by the way they're standing! I guess the problem is I don't trust my own eyes. Another reason I should have known they were owls is that I was vaguely reminded of an illustration from Emile Grillot de Givry's anthology. None of this is your problem!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

God Made the Sky Dark

As you know, I don't "blog" anymore, but Jerry Lewis died! And then McNeil called to talk about it: "God knew it was going to happen and that's why he's making the sky dark tomorrow. I bet there was an eclipse the day before he was born too! I'm going to look it up when I get off the phone. It's called research and that time is tax deductible." All of this said McNeil.

Jerry 101

I just heard that Jerry Lewis passed away. Dr. Theresa and my pal Phil Oppenheim alerted me simultaneously. I feel terrible! I am going to try to update an old "post" that had ninety introductions to Jerry Lewis for the curious. I am going to try to find eleven things to add so I can call it "Jerry 101." [As a work meeting was coming up as this "post" was being typed, several, though not all, of the hastily retrieved final additions may be of a lesser quality. - ed.] 1. How is Edgar Allan Poe like Jerry Lewis? 2. For that matter, what would Kierkegaard say about Jerry Lewis? 3. Bob Dylan got "deeply into" Jerry Lewis. 4. Jerry was a hero to Richard Pryor. 5. Jerry shares expressionistic instincts with iconic rappers. 6. He made Orson Welles laugh. 7. Freudian aspects of Jerry. 8. He played a gig with Thelonious Monk. 9. A trusted method of immersing yourself in Jerryness. 10. Don't believe me? Take it from bestselling novelist Laura Lippman! 11. Don't believe Laura Lippman? Perhaps famed method actor Edward Norton is more to your taste. 12. Consider Jerry Lewis as the forefather of David Lynch. 13. So can it be a coincidence that Lynch was cast in a part originally written for Jerry Lewis? (See also.) 14. As muse to hardboiled Don Carpenter. 15. Jerry's spectacular use of color. 16. Jerry is the inventor of anti-comedy, his aesthetic also appropriated by the cinematic underground. 17. Read the great Jerry monograph by Chris Fujiwara. 18. Jerry a hero to Michael Palin of the Monty Python comedy troupe. 19. Jerry an inspiration for the British version of THE OFFICE that everyone used to love so much. 20. Jerry makes me think of the French painter Henri Rosseau. 21. Do you think Jerry is redundant? No, he is "unfolding redundancy." Joke's on you! 22. Do you like Godard? Well, Godard based some of his scenes on Jerry Lewis scenes. Like this and that. 23. Some maintain that 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY would have been better with Jerry in it. 24. Speaking of which, was Jerry an influence on Boorman's groundbreaking POINT BLANK? I don't know, but he should have starred in it. 25. How about that prescient scene in THE BELLBOY that anticipates Scorsese's THE KING OF COMEDY? Or the possibly relevant fact that Jerry directed parts of THE KING OF COMEDY? 26. The Cinderfella dance! 27. Jerry frequently appears in THE BELIEVER magazine, if that's your cup of tea. 28. I intuit a connection between Jerry and J.D. Salinger. 29. And supposedly Salinger considered Jerry to direct the movie version of CATCHER IN THE RYE, maybe. I said maybe! 30. Jerry's influence on GOODFELLAS. 31. Jerry Lewis is part of Philip K. Dick's mystic vision of the entire universe. 32. You should watch lots of Jerry Lewis so you can practice the fun habit of saying things like Jerry Lewis. 33. Even nature itself aspires to sound like Jerry Lewis. 34. Jerry Lewis is a good singer. 35. Maybe you identify with Jerry's world-weary attitude. 36. He hung out in a diner with Marilyn Monroe. 37. Blair Hobbs detects an aesthetic kinship between Jerry and the photographer William Eggleston. 38. Jerry was an inspiration to Bruce Springsteen. 39. Think of Jerry as a poet. 40. Need a dissertation topic? How about "Medical Ethics in the Films of Jerry Lewis"? 41. In a hilarious practical joke, Jerry ruined Dick van Dyke's meeting with the queen! 42. Jerry was instrumental in getting the great Stan Laurel his honorary Oscar. 43. Jerry is handsome! 44. Maybe you are a "conspiracy theory buff." Well, for real the CIA tampered with one of Jerry's movies. 45. Maybe you're an animal lover. Well, Jerry bought a hearing aid for his dog. 46. Jerry is subversive! 47. Quentin Tarantino + Jerry Lewis = True Love 4ever. 48. (Maybe because he anticipated one of Tarantino's more radical and disruptive narrative decisions by 40 years.) 49. Does he irritate you and make you uncomfortable? MAYBE THAT'S JUST WHAT JERRY WANTS! 50. For example, he once stuck his nose in Frank Sinatra's eye. 51. And took some of the starch out of Tony Curtis by flicking ashes on his jacket. 52. Jerry is complicated. He "both depicts and manifests inadvertent disclosure." - J. Hoberman. 53. Jerry's influence on the Beastie Boys. 54. Jerry appears in works by acknowledged comic geniuses John Hodgman and Michael Kupperman. 55. But perhaps you prefer authors from Mississippi, a chunk of land with a notable literary history. If so, you should be aware that Tom Franklin and Frederick Barthelme have put Jerry Lewis in their well-regarded "Mississippi" novels. 56. So has Don DeLillo, though he is not from Mississippi, nor are his novels set there. 57. ARE you a historian, by the way? Then consider Jerry's breakup with Dean in its implications as "a national trauma." 58. Francis Ford Coppola cites Jerry as an influence. 59. Which reminds me: I recently read an interview that Scorsese did with Lewis in which he (Scorsese) cites THE LADIES MAN as an influence. I always assumed the scene in question was drawn from SATYRICON. But SATYRICON came out after THE LADIES MAN, so maybe SATYRICON was influenced by Jerry too! I just now decided that, while typing this. 60. Jerry's darker side a fruitful subject for literary speculation. 61. Speaking of which, John Waters said Jerry Lewis was "probably a monster!" Can there be a higher compliment? 62. Although (see previous "link") John Waters went on to praise his taste in costuming. So that subject is worth contemplation. 63. Though, intriguingly, to Waters's original hypothesis, Jerry repeatedly acknowledges the collusion of the innocent with the monstrous, especially within a single individual. (See also.) 64. Jerry's art provides some of the same challenges and rewards as Sun Ra's. 65. Jerry envisioned hosting Queen Elizabeth, Jimmy Hoffa and Helen Keller on a talk show. I still want to write that play. 66. Fascinating undercurrents to his on- and off-screen chemistry with Dean Martin. 67. I wrote a pretty good article about him once if you can find it. 68. And this "post" is all right. 69. Try to solve Jerry's universal problem. 70. The complex transparency of Jerry's genius can be profitably compared to Brian Wilson's. 71. Jerry reveals the intrinsic flaws in the very notion of successful human communication. 72. Maybe that's why he's constantly "rewriting his own being." 73. But before he rewrote himself too much, here's a 13-minute clip of young Jerry at his brashest and most engaging. 74. Jerry's anarchic devouring of the hand that feeds him. 75. Maybe you are from the "dance world." Did you know that many highbrow choreographers turn to Jerry Lewis for inspiration? 76. Similarities between Jerry and the great Italian giallo director Mario Bava, if that's your thing. 77. Jerry is a model of tact and restraint compared to the makers of Jason Bateman movies. 78. As Jerry is, so you will be. As you are, so once was he. 79. Jerry, like Elvis, was a target of snobbery and classism. 80. I mean, even when he ended the Oscar broadcast EARLY, the powers-that-be still despised him. He gets under "the man's" skin. 81. For example, when everybody in "the establishment" was dumping on Arthur Penn's BONNIE AND CLYDE, Jerry was one of the first to proclaim its greatness. 82. Did he inspire a character in a Wes Anderson movie? Probably not. But I think he inspired a character in a Noah Baumbach movie. 83. Touchstone for towering cartoonists Lynda Barry and Gilbert Hernandez. 84. Jerry deemed a subject worthy of the Savannah College of Art and Design. 85. Jerry cut short his formal education and set out to educate himself. 86. Jonathan Rosenbaum knows a lot about movies and he loves Jerry Lewis. 87. Tough-to-please James Wolcott likewise. 88. Camille Paglia seems happy about Jerry Lewis. 89. Even comedians who resist his influence must grapple with his legacy. 90. Jerry blurs assumptions about gender. 91. Hey, Sandra Bullock likes Jerry Lewis. 92. And John Sayles says "he did it all," though he was likely just being polite. 93. Jerry helps redeem the troubling "monkey riding dogs" trope. 94. Jerry advances clowning from sadness to rage. 95. Jerry's singing provides ballast in one of those ubiquitous "peak TV" shows that no one can get enough of. 96. Just the thought of Jerry Lewis makes someone laugh alone in a parking lot. 97. Jerry makes comedy of our basic existential choice. 98. See my AV Club interview on Jerry Lewis's literary influence, I guess. 99. Jerry of sufficient interest to narrowly escape being drunk-dialed by Cary Fukunaga. 100. Noted author Megan Abbott finds that watching Jerry is "akin to psychosexual quicksand"! 101. Appropriately at this moment, Jerry Lewis distracts me from James Joyce's elegiac short story, "The Dead," supplanting death with life!