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?