Saturday, April 30, 2016

Perfectly Into the Moon

I know I'm not "blogging" anymore, but last night McNeil dreamed that he watched a "lost season" of BEWITCHED! He dreamed a new opening credit sequence, too: "At the end, when Samantha winks, her eye opens and then floats up and fits perfectly into the moon."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Thank You!

Well, I've been "blogging" for almost ten years, don't you think that's plenty? I'm going to stop now. I guess if I want you to remember anything, it's the time Elizabeth Kaiser ate a whole raw onion at a party. I had been planning to shut down the works on the actual tenth anniversary, but that seems ostentatious. At the same time, I don't want hackers to take over this spot as a base from which to sell counterfeit vitamins or something, so maybe I'll open it up for comments soon, just to give me a reason to keep an eye on things. I can't promise I'll post or respond to or read your comments, assuming you have any, but I might. Okay, I think I've enabled comments on one "post" ("click" here). Please stick to its subject and thanks again!

A Defining Gesture

Thanks to a timely tip from Megan Abbott I watched some of I'LL TAKE SWEDEN on TCM last night. But - and here's the fascinating part! - I went to bed before it came on. But then I couldn't sleep! So I got up and watched it until our old, box-shaped TV from the 1990s finally died. I'LL TAKE SWEDEN killed our TV! And then - this is true, also - I got up and had a terrible new back pain and I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and some of my hair had turned white! I mean, I noticed a lot more white than I've noticed there before. I'LL TAKE SWEDEN! It's mostly Bob Hope walking around gracefully in many different beautiful suits, which I am sure he kept, because he was a terrible cheapskate. But I mean, he is a good walker and hand gesturer. Here (above) we see him with one hand just below his ribs, seeming to pantomime the thought, "These kids these days!" I would describe it as a defining Bob Hope gesture, though it occurs just once in the film (at least in the hour I saw last night). McNeil could confirm its essentialness and describe it better than I could. He has a knack for cataloguing these things. I remember once we were watching a movie in which Jeremy Northam played Dean Martin, and Jeremy Northam (as Dean Martin) was applauding something while holding a cigarette between two fingers, and McNeil said with delight and authority, "That's just how Dean Martin clapped!" Oh, how I wish McNeil had been here. Only he would have understood why I actually laughed a couple of times, once at a fantasy sequence in which Bob Hope's imaginary grandchildren are forced to eat a parrot, and once at some dumb wisecrack Bob Hope made while riding around with his head sticking out of the sunroof of a small Swedish vehicle.
There is one part (seen here) when he is looking at Frankie Avalon with real hatred. Like, I don't think he's acting! Or, actually, I think he turns out to be a better actor than we ever gave him credit for. Or both! He seems to be thinking, "THIS is what it's all come to? THIS? THIS FRANKIE AVALON?" Or he could be deep in character, thinking, "No way this motor-scooter riding rascal is gonna marry MY daughter!" I just can't tell. In addition, Frankie Avalon takes Tuesday Weld to a strip club on a date! For all his grousing about Bob Hope do you think this is where Mike Nichols got the idea for the scene in THE GRADUATE? Tuesday Weld is much more blasé about the strip club than Katherine Ross was, though there is identical twirling involved! However, it is not graphically portrayed in this case. The twirling in question occurs offscreen and is alluded to discreetly by Bob Hope and Tuesday Weld (see also). The strip club is called The Pink Kitten and the bouncer dresses like this:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Over Cristina's Shoulder

I "skyped" with my pal Cristina, who is in the land of Italy, the land of her birth! I saw this (pictured) over her shoulder. It's part of the view from her parents' balcony. And I said it reminded me of something from 8 1/2, because my knowledge of Italy is limited to 8 1/2. Cristina said it's the "final piece" by the architect Zaha Hadid, who passed away just recently.

Monday, April 25, 2016

By the Greenwood Side

Our neighbor's dog just won't stop howling today. It makes me think of this thing from THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY: "In the year 1012, at Colewiz, in Saxony, on Christmas Eve, a company of young men and maids, whilst the Priest was at Mass in the Church, were singing catches and love-songs in the Church-yard; he sent to them to make less noise, but they sung on still; and if you will, you shall have the very song itself: A fellow rid by the greenwood side,/ And fair Meswinde was his bride,/ Why stand we so, and do not go?" The priest prays to Saint Magnus that he will force these scalawags to keep singing for a year! That'll show 'em. "...and so they did, without meat and drink, wearisomeness or giving over." Anyway, I think something like that happened to this dog.

Literary Matters

It's time once again for "Literary Matters"! No one enjoys those. They're not enjoyable. 1. I covered this one on twitter yesterday, but it's sticking in my mind. I read in the New York Times about Jimmy Buffett "grinning and splashing Tabasco on a modified Cobb salad." The editorial machinery of the New York Times saw fit - for the sake of accuracy, one supposes - to make sure the reader did not receive the false impression that Jimmy Buffett was eating a completely traditional Cobb salad. BUT! They did not care to let that same reader know in what way the Cobb salad had been modified. That's really all I have to say about that, except that I can't stop thinking about it. 2. EVERYBODY has been telling me to read BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL. Why, Randy Yates stopped me on the corner outside his own restaurant just to ask whether I had read it. And he was only one of many to make that query. And I needed something to read after MEASURE FOR MEASURE. (Ha ha, don't worry, I haven't given up on THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY; I just read this in it: "Cupid and Death met both in an Inn, and being merrily disposed, they did exchange some arrows from either quiver; ever since young men die, and oftentimes old men dote"... but I need a new "carry-around" book.) BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL is done up at least partway in that poetic style that Chandler made permissible for crime stories (instead of bubbles in the bathwater there are "little zeroes of suds"), and I'm more than fine with that! Okay! But then I had to stop on page 12 when he referred to the "trashy tune and words" of a Hank Williams song. The idea of someone sitting around proclaiming something "trashy" has never set well with me. And I know I should not confuse the author with the narrator! But here's a guy working in a genre that has been (unfairly) called "trashy" and he is going to have his narrator refer to the towering melodic and lyric achievements of Hank Williams as "trashy"? He should be on Hank's side! The irony (?) is compounded by the fact that this is a slick nyrb paperback, which has "rehabilitated," I guess, his "pulpy" novel. 3. Have you ever noticed in those books how your tough-guy narrator always wants to tell you when he takes a hot shower and eats some steak and eggs? It's a tendency I noticed in Spillane a lot. Maybe it's realism! I always thought it would be interesting to write a detective novel where there's no crime to solve and the detective just tells you about all the eggs he eats and hot showers he takes. The narrator of BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL "had no more idea of falling in love with her than I had of making a meal of the big yellow cake of soap in the Victorian bathroom," curiously combining both tendencies. 4. So I put down BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL. I'm gonna come back to it! I just have to shake off that unnecessary sideswipe at Hank Williams, though it's really got its claws in me. But in the meantime I thought I'd see what some of these here Shakespeare experts had to say about MEASURE FOR MEASURE. Out of three scholarly tomes I opened, two fell open EXACTLY and AT ONCE to the part about MEASURE FOR MEASURE, as if guided by the ghostly hand of Shakespeare himself! 5. Okay, I told you I'd read some more of this novel. Just three pages later the narrator is complaining that descriptions of women's legs in books are "trash." I don't know whether he's obsessed with trash or I am. But he's used the term twice in three pages. And now he's washing down seconds of potato salad with ice cold beer. Don't get mad at me, kind recommenders! I'm going to give this guy more of a chance than he gave Hank Williams. 6. I WAS WRONG! It's more like Cain than Chandler, but that's not what I mean. See, he's using the Hank Williams song ("If You've Got the Money, Honey") in a much more complex way than I expected... as a kind of shifting leitmotif. "Before it had sounded frank and functional. Before it had sounded gay and uncomplicated. Now the tune had a nasty taste to it." So, see, he was going somewhere with that, and I'm the sap. 7. I'm "not 'blogging' anymore, but I thought a late addendum to an old "post" would be okay. I'll probably come back to brag when I finish THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY too. But in the meantime, from BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL, "She split some canned wieners and fried them with the eggs." See? I told you this kind of narrator always tells you when he eats eggs. 8. "... his hand busy as a tarantula in a fly cage." Gross! And I don't even know what a fly cage is. I assume it is a cage full of flies. And then you put a tarantula in it. But with its obvious debt to Chandler's "tarantula on a slice of angel food," the pendulum of influence swings back. I said I'm not "blogging" anymore but I keep sneakily adding to this list. Pitiful.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bakery Heiress

Remember in Feb. 2007 when Dr. Theresa took a hammer and a nail and made me a new notch in my belt? Well I am about to lay on you a story just as captivating! First, let us go back (forward?) to 2008. Our fascinating prologue commences when I was staying in a motel in Los Angeles. I walked up several blocks to see THE APARTMENT on the big screen. And I saw Shirley MacLaine's face in this very scene (above) race through dozens of emotional transmutations in mere seconds. Every emotion, she had! But subtly. It was different on film, and at its intended size and scope, though I had seen THE APARTMENT many, many times before, on a tiny television screen with a tiny televised picture. The difference was like... when I used to see Rothko paintings in a library book and think, bleh! But then in the 1980s my ex (?) girlfriend (?) and I flew to Washington, D.C. together and I don't know where she went... but I met, by some obscure prearrangement, a bakery heiress on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Her roommate, possessing the magical name Cornelia, was a Roosevelt. Like... A ROOSEVELT. We drank concoctions of rum and orange juice on the balcony of a hotel across from the White House. An upstairs light was on over there! As dusk descended! The bedroom, we reckoned. George and Barbara, en déshabillé! After we parted, though, the kind-hearted bakery heiress and I (it was on plain white sliced bread that her cunning people founded their considerable fortune!), I was forced to stay with a different, less hospitable bunch, some [redacted] who - however noble their purposes, and I think them quite noble in intent! - were unpracticed as hosts. They lectured me vitriolically on the subject of cheese for hours at a time, for example, and hung gory, unavoidable posters of vivisection in every cranny, and fed me on naught but that which made my stomach hurt, and always made me pay for the cab. EXCEPT for that one glorious evening when [redacted] a raging fire in a big fireplace though it was June and boiling hot outside, and then [redacted]! [redacted]. The Indigo Girls were climbing the charts for an eager young nation with their hit [redacted], which, coming through the radio, burrowed into my mind as the theme song for that [redacted]. But I mean, I saw some Rothko paintings in person at the National Gallery back then, in the aforementioned 1980s, in Washington, D.C., and their majesty was all-consuming, like Shirley MacLaine's. Even though, prior to the screening (keep up! we've moved forward to 2008 again), I had considered her movie "my favorite," it was like I had never seen it before. So that seems like a shame. It seems, in fact, like I have wasted my life! But the point is that in 2008 I forgot to turn in my motel key when I checked out. Nothing else I just mentioned had anything to do with anything. I just wanted to explain why I still have this motel key.
It's an old fashioned key. A key key. Like, a metal key. A key. The kind of key Norman Bates would give you, or possibly Dennis Weaver from TOUCH OF EVIL. A motel key dangling from a flat blue slab of plastic, Room 109. So! Now we are coming closer to the point. Dr. Theresa and I have this spare house key we like. It just stays by itself. It's not entangled or associated with a bunch of car keys and office keys and random keys that open we don't know what. It's just on a ring all alone. Or used to be. Very light and convenient! Like, to have in our pocket if we want to take a casual stroll. But its key ring just fell apart! Suddenly there was nothing to anchor that favored key, to give it heft, to shield it from loss. So I thought maybe we could put it on this old motel key ring I have. Ha ha! These kinds of stories are my favorites. The motel key was designed diabolically. Bulky and twisted and nigh impossible to pull apart. Probably for some motel owner's good reason. So Dr. Theresa got some pliers out of the kitchen drawer and went to town on that implacable key ring like a champ. Finally she was able to separate the parts of the ring just enough so that we could slide the vital house key into place. Then I took a hammer and banged the whole thing back together like Thor himself descended from the heavens. That key ain't slipping off now! I'd like to see it try. It was real teamwork, though Dr. Theresa had already restored everything more than adequately with her pliers by the time I managed to dig out the hammer, and my hammering, while it made me feel like a great big man, was likely just for show.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Julian the Apostate Emperor's Big Kissing Speech

My traveling threw up another roadblock up for my ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY reading. But now I'm dawdling over its pages again. Can't seem to make it out of the love section. Now I'm reading about what a typical guy does when he's in love, according to Burton: "to turn up his Mushatos, and curl his head, prune his pickitivant [or peaked beard]... he may be scoffed at otherwise, as Julian that Apostate Emperor was for wearing a long hirsute goatish beard, fit to make ropes with." Of course, I am only telling you this for the sake of "pickitivant." It's like when I was so taken with Burton's insistence that life is but a glucupicron (I may be paraphrasing slightly). Hmm, I can't find that anywhere on the "blog." I must have only jabbered about glucupicron on twitter. And repeatedly, I feel sure. I'm sure I overdid it. I'm sure I rubbed it in. Ah, yes, yes, I see I had the temerity to explain life being nothing but a glucupicron to Neko Case: And I think I tried to convince everyone for a while that GLUCUPICRON would be a good ADVENTURE TIME episode title. I don't think my heart was in it, I mostly liked pretending it was a good idea, but I grew perversely insistent for a short while. Now to set the scene! MR. MOM was on briefly while I read THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY last night, just the section where Michael Keaton goes to the grocery store and can't figure out how to buy ham. I don't mean to brag but I think would have been able to buy ham the first time I ever even saw a grocery store. As an infant, given a little prodding, I could have bought some ham. You know, put a couple of dollars in my sticky fat little fist and encourage me to try to say "ham," or to flap my arms in that general direction. I could have gotten some ham. It's a big, big crisis for Michael Keaton, though, buying ham. It breaks him! How to buy ham? Insurmountable! I can't remember for sure, but I think Bob Hope is overwhelmed by the bounty of the modern grocery store in BACHELOR IN PARADISE, but I bet he could have bought some ham - and with a cool, collected demeanor, too. Nonchalantly! Even stunned by capitalism at its shiniest, Bob Hope could have suavely negotiated the purchase of some ham. And of course Joe Namath had no trouble with ham in HIS movie grocery store. Joe Namath knows who's boss! And it's not the ham. I recall that McNeil and I saw MR. MOM in the theater in Charlotte, North Carolina, when it came out, and no doubt we considered it a masterpiece of realism at the time, though we had both been capable of buying ham with little trouble for many years by that point. As you will recall, we prided ourselves on tucking in our t-shirts at the time. Burton goes on to relate how "Julian that Apostate Emperor" had to make a political speech apologizing for the unfashionable style of his beard. Julian opened with a self-deprecating joke about how he hated to kiss anybody anyway! ("I do not exert myself much, said he, in the giving and taking of kisses.") Because the people - the twitter mob of their time! - were saying that the emperor's kind of beard was inconvenient for kissing and made him look like an unkissable dummy. See, politics were always crazy, ha ha, what times. Truly Julian that Apostate Emperor was the Donald Trump of his day; I can't back that up.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Hey I went over to Square Books and found that Valentine, who works there, had drawn me "as a Peanuts character." I tried to steal it but they need it "for something." Valentine emailed me this picture of it, though. You just don't know what's going to happen when you stop by there. I think it's okay to mention I found out that Valentine's full name is the thrillingly John Bunyan-esque "Valentine Payne."


Welcome back to "McNeilileaks," where I leak the contents of my friend McNeil's most secret and private emails. "Agh! I just swallowed a gnat!" wrote McNeil in an email dated April 21, 2016.