Monday, November 30, 2015
McNeil. I couldn't understand it. It was distorted. Or he was. But he sounded like Bob Dylan. Freestyling! I think he was rhyming. Or that's what it sounded like. I have no idea. But that reminded me that he sent me this footage of Joe Namath constructing and devouring a sandwich without paying for it. I know it's part of a movie but I don't care what movie and in fact I don't care at all about anything. I believe it stands up as its own work of art. "Click" here.
Hey! You know how I am keeping a list of things about cigarette lighters that I find out too late to put into my cigarette lighter book! Here's a parenthetical statement from an article in today's New York Times: "Ms. Cyrus reclined at the lip of the stage while a woman dressed like a giant cigarette lighter frolicked behind her." That surely would have gone in the book! But now it can't. The article also recounts a speech Miley Cyrus made from the stage about her "really tight relationship" with her pet blowfish, and sometimes I think the reporter wants us to laugh at Miley Cyrus but I don't feel like it.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
"Why Are Music Boxes Creepy?" I feel bad - guilt-ridden, truthfully - because that old "post" to which they are so often directed (you'd be surprised how many times a day people want to know why music boxes are creepy) is misleading. Some kid had written in to me with the idea that "Maybe music boxes are creepy because they are a purposeless vestige of Europe's aristo-centric period." And I quoted him in that "post" much too approvingly. Of course that's NOT why music boxes are creepy. Nor is this kid's highfalutin statement true in almost any way. Music boxes, for example, aren't any more "purposeless" than anything else. I gave that kid too much of a pass! I was trying to be nice. But now, all these years later, sad people who want to know why music boxes are creepy look to me for answers (several times a day, bewilderingly) and get nothing! And that kid is six years older now, so I suppose he can handle the truth that his big theories are full of beans. People aren't watching a movie about a dark house where a music box starts to play in the dead of night and the hair rises on their arms because they are suddenly reminded of "Europe's aristo-centric period"! Sorry to be so harsh! But you, theorizing kid, are probably at least 28, I'm going to guess, whoever you were, a full-grown adult by now who can accept the facts! I suppose music boxes are creepy because they are light and tinkly, for one thing. Scary noises in literature often start out soft... the rats scratching in Lovecraft, the beating of the telltale heart in Poe ("such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton")... soft music is scary at night... whistling, like in M or THE STEPFATHER... some awful killer is always humming softy to himself as he sharpens his instruments... also, music boxes are meant to be activated by the human hand (might be thought of, in fact, as an "alarm" of sorts... did people place diamonds and gold in them for this reason? Someone else may feel free to research the matter), so if you suddenly hear one in the middle of the night, when everyone is supposed to be asleep, something is wrong... like the record player and the wind-up toys and such in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND... music is a human endeavor, and maybe the mechanism IS an unwelcome (creepy?) reminder that our works can go on without us. And of course the kid from the old "post" WAS sort of onto something... in that a music box is a form of entertainment that a ghost might find comforting. Like, "I remember these!" Yes, just the sort of sentimental object to which a poor dead ghost might be attracted... a private, lonely entertainment even in life... so personal, maybe you shouldn't be overhearing it... a box to receive a particular soul... like a coffin... and yes, it IS a voice from the past, with a limited vocabulary. It can play only one thing... over and over... like a ghost... like the obsessive thoughts of a madman... like me... like that dude in MOBY-DICK... and slowing down, little by little... I was having drinks with Lee Durkee and he mentioned how music boxes are always slowing down... Sometimes they wind down unresolved, like life. There's nothing tenser in music than the "suspended fourth"... that's where the power of the music box's creepy cousin the jack-in-the-box comes in... the relationship between suspended chords and suspense. Bach could really leave you hanging, except he always had the luxury of resolving, except when played on a music box, I guess. Lee Durkee also contended that musical selections have something to do with it. "Music boxes don't play 'Turkey in the Straw,'" he said, emphasizing the jauntiness of that hoedown. I'll have to think about that. Is it true? And in any case I suspect "Turkey in the Straw" could be creepy enough on the right music box... Is the similarly bouncy "Pop Goes the Weasel" creepy just because we've heard it on so many dilapidated jack-in-the-boxes? Or is it the disturbing foreknowledge that the weasel is bound to "pop"?... Melodies are messages... pianos play by themselves in movies... half-forgotten snatches... they're trying to tell you something... they can't quite tell it to you straight... what's creepier than an oracle? And when you open a music box, a little ballerina figurine or such often begins to twirl stiffly... we think at once of what Freud said about dolls in his essay on "The Uncanny," but I think that book is in Dr. Theresa's office at the other end of the house and I don't feel like getting up. In conclusion, I apologize to all the people who have read that lazy and erroneous previous "blog" "post" lo these many years. My intellectual cowardice is beyond appalling! Another possible answer is: music boxes aren't creepy. (Illustration: Vera Farmiga looking at a creepy music box in a scary ghost movie we went to see with Chris Offutt. I saw Vera Farmiga checking into my hotel last time I was in Burbank! Sorry I forgot to tell you. I pestered her with fawning and she was real nice about it. She was wearing a stylish hat!) PS One Kris Simmons, whom I know via twitter, has chimed in to say, ha ha! - wait, is that even a pun? Do music boxes "chime"? - "I think it's because they sound out of tune." And she's onto something I hadn't considered! What could be more ghostly than these rusty gears and teeth and coils and knobby spools... still striving, but bent and warped by senescence? I ask you! Remember Edmund Spenser's ghosts with iron teeth... An out-of-tune music box is an echo, touchingly faded and changed... like a ghost... or a reflection... am I too suggestible? But this picture of Ms. Farmiga hints at a mirror in the lid... wasn't that common in music boxes? And aren't mirrors doorways into other worlds...? We just did a whole ADVENTURE TIME episode about that! Do I need to get all GOLDEN BOUGH on you...? So music boxes have little versions of ourselves inside... or else who's looking at what in that little mirror when the music box is playing by itself...? Okay! I'll keep adding more reasons music boxes are creepy. Send your suggestions to CREEPY MUSIC BOX c/o "Writer" Oxford, MS 38655. If you don't think music boxes are creepy be sure to include NOT CREEPY MUSIC BOX on your postcard.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Friday, November 27, 2015
Robert De Niro in a baseball cap. Okay. So. In the 1980s I was "laid off" (fired) from my job at an advertising agency, and my friend Tony and I decided to drive across the country once I had accumulated enough unemployment checks. I remember a few things about it. Washing the car in a scary, desolate, crudely slapped together facility in Gallup, New Mexico. Slipping and sliding on the concrete because it was freezing cold and the water turned to ice almost as soon as it left the hose. When we got to Los Angeles we went to a live taping of the sitcom DESIGNING WOMEN. Afterward, I asked Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (a creator of the show) if I could have a job and she said no. But I didn't care. Because I was on unemployment, I had to write down a certain number of people on my card each week, people I had asked for a job. That's how you got money in the old days! You wrote things down on a piece of cardboard with a pencil. As I recall, it had to be in pencil. All of this is likely wrong. So I wrote "Linda Bloodworth-Thomason" on my card. Mission accomplished! The suckers at the unemployment office bought it! What am I saying? It was legit. And Linda Bloodworth-Thomason was nice and patient and gave me a lot of writing advice... more than I wanted, really. I remember this: Tony and I drove up a mountain. These were the days when there were only paper maps. And I screwed up. I neglected to tell Tony to turn, so we drove all the way up a mountain. On a treacherous road. Nobody was going up the mountain. It got dark. There was occasionally some daredevil speeding DOWN the mountain (barely enough room for two cars) and giving us a nice heart attack. At some point we were like, "Uh... does it look like we're going up? It's really dark now. Should we be going up? We're going UP." We were running out of gas. Tony was mad at me. Understandably. Once we found a place to turn around (a nightmarishly difficult process) we started back down the mountain, hoping not to run out of gas, but thinking - praying - maybe we could coast if it came to that. We went around a curve and saw an elk in the road. We stopped the car and stared at the majestic elk. So it was kind of worth it. The radio static turned, at last, into a feed from a local TV station. Which seemed unusual. But THE GOLDEN GIRLS was on, which took us some time to fathom, because it should not have been on the radio and also we were in a general state of shock. I guess I have never been so happy as when that shining vestige of civilization THE GOLDEN GIRLS manifested itself. We were laughing in hysterical relief at the stale jokes of THE GOLDEN GIRLS. We made it to a cheap Chinese restaurant in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and I suppose no food has ever tasted so good. Just moments earlier we thought we were going to die on a mountaintop! But where was I? In Los Angeles, we went on a tour. As we bounced along on the Universal Studios tram I saw some dude with long, greasy hair in a baseball cap walking through the lot with a sense of purpose and wondered whether he might be an actor. Back in Mobile, I went to the movies and saw the preview for JACKNIFE and thought, "Hey! That's the same dude I saw in Los Angeles." Obviously, it wasn't. There are countless holes in that theory. "Look at that baseball cap and that greasy hair!" I exulted, however, as I enjoyed the no-doubt suspenseful preview for JACKNIFE, which I no longer recall. I do recall that on our trip Tony and I stopped at a restaurant in Beaumont, Texas, where everyone was cold and silent as the grave. That was the quietest restaurant I've ever been in, filled with the stoniest, least communicative families of Texas. Upon our return I went back to the ad agency that had fired me (I can't remember why - to pick up one last check?) and they had a new receptionist who was so cute I asked her on a date. And she turned out to be from Beaumont, Texas! Yeah, that went nowhere. Even though I was able to say, "I've just been to Beaumont, Texas!" As I recall, I drove her around the city of Mobile and environs with no destination in mind. I seemed to think that's what a "date" was. I want to say we ended up in a bleak, rusted-out industrial area. I was probably lost. And certainly broke. I wonder why she never took my calls after that. I was probably like, "I don't have any money but I can show you the world!" As I recall, Tony and I walked all the way down into Walnut Canyon (Arizona?) and for the first time in my life I realized how much harder it was to walk up out of a canyon than to walk down into a canyon. That hadn't occurred to me somehow. I was sheltered as a lad. Boy, it hurts walking up and out of a canyon.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Thanksgiving? It's a perplexing conundrum! Or maybe not. Because I have certainly eaten on all the nights before all the Thanksgivings of my life and it has never seemed like a big deal, no, I have never thought about it even once. But for some reason it seemed like a hard decision last night. Dr. Theresa and I were driving around on unrelated errands. We thought about Snackbar, but neither of us felt quite spiffy enough. Dr. Theresa had, in fact, left the house in her slippers. I was supposed to dash in places and get things done while she kept the car running. Like a gangster! That was the first plan. See how complicated eating is? I told you! Across the street from Snackbar is Handy Andy's. A lunch joint, or so I have always thought, and no more! I don't suppose anyone would take it amiss if I said, with affection, "a greasy spoon." Dr. Theresa insisted that Handy Andy's stayed open at night, to my initial disbelief. Especially not on the night before Thanksgiving! Not Handy Andy's! So continued my scoffing. Ha ha, this is a long story, I love it. "How do you know?" "I've heard people say it." The conversation went on and on. And there they were: cars parked right there in front of Handy Andy's. So Dr. Theresa kept the engine running and I went in and got two double cheeseburgers in a sack to go. That's the right thing to eat the night before Thanksgiving. Also, it's technically "Handy Andy," not "Handy Andy's." But I can't stop myself. I chased my double cheeseburger with a fine old port that tasted like a clean shoe studded with cloves.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
1993 - by coincidence, the same year as STRIKING DISTANCE, the last movie I didn't live tweet. It's called THE NIGHT WE NEVER MET and I don't know why I picked it. Certainly not out of disrespect for Mr. Broderick, who plays the Dream Warrior (pictured) on ADVENTURE TIME. Oh, wait, I know why I picked it. I liked this capsule description provided by the satellite company: "An unlikable yuppie shares a Greenwich Village apartment with a frustrated housewife and a heartbroken mope." All right! Who could ask for more? Let's get to ersatz live-tweeting in the new-fashioned way that won't wreck your precious timeline: A guy turns off his alarm clock and puts on some... sandals? There's a glare on the TV screen, so I can't be certain about the footwear. Dirty pots filled with old beans. Matthew Broderick has a beard and mismatched curtains. Matthew Broderick talks out loud to himself, movie style! Bearded Matthew Broderick hits the town on his vespa. He saw a cute nurse and that made him happy! Annabella Sciorra, I do believe. Matthew Broderick is looking for a new apartment. Annabella Sciorra came out of the apartment building so I bet he takes the apartment. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's mom is peeking with a surly mien through a crack in the door. Annabella Sciorra and Christine Baranski smoke cigarettes inside a restaurant at the height of the lunchtime rush. Those were the days! Annabella Sciorra confesses her desire to take an "art class." Hey! Is that Louise Lasser? Maybe. They're setting up some weird plot, where people are moving into this apartment for two days a week...? Does that seem practical? A bunch of "yuppies" with neckties and no jackets acting all WOLF OF WALL STREET, standing on desks and making speeches and howling and pumping their fists for reasons I can't understand... EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's mom puts on hand lotion. The plot gets explained more. I don't understand it. Jeanne Tripplehorn! I always thought that was a cool last name. Matthew Broderick goes to see Tripplehorn (his ex?) in an "experimental play" - a form always treated with sneering contempt in movies. Take that, Samuel Beckett! I missed something. I think she was making out with a plastic snowman? Tripplehorn has a fake French accent. I mean, she's supposed to be French in the movie, though. Well, she took off her sweater in front of Matthew Broderick and that made him feel sad. Now she's singing "Alouette" in the shower! Are you kidding me? "Alouette"! She wants Matthew Broderick to put out her cigarette for her. Is it so hard to put out your cigarette in the shower? I guess it was supposed to emphasize some "character trait." Just throw it in the toilet, French Jeanne Tripplehorn! Oh boy, I didn't see this coming: some kind of unconvincing 50 SHADES OF GREY monkey business with the "yuppie" character. Wait! Was that a dream? Another alarm clock going off. It was all a dream! Back when I was teaching, we used to strongly discourage the use of alarm clocks in short stories. I guess they don't tell you that in screenwriting class. This is the second alarm clock going off in this movie. Is that Justine Bateman? It seems that Justine Bateman and the "yuppie" want very different things out of life. Annabella Sciorra is a dentist, not a nurse. Her patient is Garry Shandling! He seems sleazy. In this movie, I mean. No, Annabella Sciorra is a dental assistant but she wants to be an artist. She has a husband and tropical fish. The husband wants to move to the suburbs. Montage of people eating lunch meat? Hey, it's that guy who always plays a jerk in movies. For some reason, he's pretending to be Louise Lasser on the phone. MB works at Dean and Deluca and hates French cheese! Because of his problems with French person Jeanne Tripplehorn. It's causing work problems! What! Here's what's-her-name from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS! She and MB are on a blind date. "Is that veal?" she says. How could she know? MB is just carrying a serving dish with the lid on it. Does she have X-ray vision? Because it IS veal! She's incensed. A weird thing to cook on a first date, though. Okay! So MB and Annabella Sciorra are sharing this apartment but they never see each other. And yet methinks she's falling in love with his remnants! The "yuppies" are also sharing the apartment. They play loud music and jump around and scream like jerks. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's mom is married (?) to Johnny Ola from GODFATHER II! He also peeks out of crevices and makes faces. They are like a Greek chorus. Except they NEVER TALK. So they're not like a Greek chorus. Annabella Sciorra continues to be entranced by the still-unseen (by her) Matthew Broderick. He's leaving notes for her everywhere. It's actually sort of controlling and creepy, despite this mellow "blue-eyed soul" number underscoring the developments, if you want to call them that. One of the "yuppies" pees with the door open. They make pig noises and smoke cigars. Now they're screaming out of the windows and burning pizza in the oven. The guy who always plays jerks in movies lights his cigar with the burning pizza box to show what a horrible weirdo he is. Wait! Have I explained the plot? So the "yuppies" use this place a couple days a week to chillax. MB brings dates there? I guess? Annabella Sciorra uses it to explore her artistic impulses. It's a getaway from the world! All right. Okay, there was a zany mixup I barely feel like getting into, though it may become necessary later. Johnny Ola finally said something but EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's mom just gravely shook her silent grim head. Annabella Sciorra's husband is shown to be a philistine. The alarm on his watch goes off! Man, this screenwriter loves alarms. Dang! MB's alarm clock goes off! Fourth alarm clock! Jeanne Tripplehorn took a shower with a cowboy and a dog? She loves taking showers. I think the cowboy is feeding her a Pop Tart. MB: "I want you to do what you say you want to do, not what you do do." JT: "No, I do do what I say I do." Ha ha, oh boy. Doo doo. Maybe I should stop here. Is that Dr. John crooning a stirring ballad while the "yuppie" admires his own butt in a mirror? Poor Dr. John! Johnny Ola mugs for the camera some more through the crack of a doorway. I can't believe that Annabella Sciorra is about to do it with the "yuppie," mistaking him for MB for reasons I can't get into here because I don't really understand them. Time to feed the cats, I'm going to miss some of this movie. I hope you're not too disappointed. I came back. Johnny Ola is peeking through a doorway again. Annabella Sciorra's fingernails are painted white and the "yuppie" is climbing all over her. She's not going to put up with his boorish manner for long! Well! I was wrong! They did it. I know because his shirt is unbuttoned all the way and he says, "Man... you came to play." Gross! Johnny Ola eavesdrops on their intimacy through his doorway and checks his watch and rolls his eyes and mugs for the camera like his life depended on it. Reckonings commence. Why the hell is MB so happy all of a sudden? He's walking down the crowded NYC streets tossing an orange in the air as Motown plays. Did I miss something? He has no reason to be happy that I can recall. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's mom smokes and glares out of a window. I hope they paid her a lot. MB goes on a date with a character so stupid she thinks he has cooked pasta with dog in it. "Dog?" she says. "Ruff ruff ruff?" Wait! She's on the TV show NASHVILLE! She plays Deacon's doomed sister. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's mom speaks! She and Johnny Ola are really spewing out the dialogue. They've been holding it in so long! You can't shut them up. Dr. Theresa says soup is ready. I may miss something. Wait! Is MB going to end up with Justine Bateman? That's coming out of left field! I did not see that coming at all. Kudos... but to whom? Now Johnny Ola has finally brought a chair or stool to put by his door so when he peeps out of it and makes faces he can sit down. Wait! Is the "yuppie" the "nice guy" from SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY? Weird. He went to his "yuppie" workplace and all his coworkers ritualistically cut their neckties in half at the same time, and made pig noises...? I don't know what's going on. This soup is good, though. Hey! Christopher from THE SOPRANOS! One line. Funny shirt. And I could swear Lewis Black walks by in the background: no lines, funny shirt. Well, I could swear this movie was about to end, but things keep happening. I guess you could call it. MB just threw a drink on Jeanne Tripplehorn. Not very gentlemanly! And her character's name is "Pastel," seemingly. Ha ha, Pastel! MB goes back to talking out loud to himself, which he hasn't done since the first scene, so maybe it's a circular thing and we're finally wrapping up. They made the husband suddenly 100,000 times more awful than ever before to justify it when Annabella Sciorra inevitably leaves him for Matthew Broderick. My Justine Bateman speculation was way off base. That would have been a neat twist! MB and Annabella Sciorra meet again. They still don't know each other. Is this movie going to last forever? The "yuppie" comes in and takes off his pants in front of Matthew Broderick, a total stranger, you know, how people do. Annabella Sciorra: "I didn't mean to sleep with him, I meant to sleep with you!" Did the guy from SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY just tweak Matthew Broderick's nipple? Dr. John is singing again.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Lawrence Welk came on tonight. Myron Floren came out and played his accordion. "It's like he did a speedball backstage," said Dr. Theresa. Myron Floren did really go to town on "Lady of Spain." He played with a jittery electricity that seemed barely contained. I thought he was going to explode. "Machine-gunning it," was a phrase that came to mind. His lid is on real tight, though. I imagined him walking out of camera range at the conclusion and dashing his accordion into a thousand pieces. "That's how it's done!" he might snarl in an ecstatic rage. Then this woman came out and did a café number. "Who's this sex bomb!" I shouted. (She was Lawrence Welk's daughter-in-law.) She, like Myron Floren, had an energy that could be repressed only with some difficulty. "She's tickling all the men under their chins!" I yelled. I couldn't believe it! Throughout my viewing experience, and unrelated to the incidents previously outlined, I thought about how performing on the The Lawrence Welk Show must have been the spiritual equivalent of serving in the Sun Ra Arkestra. My reasoning seemed sound at the time, I assure you.