Tuesday, January 08, 2019

This And That

Speaking of cigarette lighters, as I was some weeks ago, I should mention that this Larry Brown novel spends a solid four pages on the lighting of a cigarette, culminating in the double entendre, "Honey, you can flick my Bic all day long." Brown's four pages, I should say, cut a veritable swath through numerous subjects covered in my book CIGARETTE LIGHTER. If only I had read this before writing that.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Three Movies

I was sitting here listening to some Stockhausen piano music I just don't understand, and I thought, "Maybe the MILTON CROSS ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSIC will yield up some of its easily digestible and strangely bitter information." But I should have known better! Stockhausen has no place therein. But that made me think of this "blog," now defunct, which was, when it thrived in its way, a medium through which I often explored the twisted psychology of the MILTON CROSS ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSIC. And that made me think of how I once wrote a book about cigarette lighters, and how after I had turned in the final manuscript I continued to learn fascinating tidbits about cigarette lighters, which I collected in an appendix here on the "blog," until the very idea of learning fascinating tidbits began to fill me with dread. Furthermore I was forced to admit, within the course of the rumination thusly recounted, that I saw two movies recently, and a small part of a third movie, all containing cigarette lighter material that I would have dropped into very precise spots in the book, if only I had encountered them in time. I no longer care about that, or anything else, but the fact that I encountered them in such a short span of time, boom, boom, boom, one right after another, left me no choice... well, of course it left me a choice, but here we are. Bill Boyle and I have been watching, independently, a number of later period Clint Eastwood movies, and discussing, through email and other digital means of communication, the ones we have seen in common. It was for this reason that I watched FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, though Bill did not, nor did Dr. Theresa, the latter having already watched it some years ago as part of her research for the doctoral dissertation whence her title springs, and I guess she got out of it everything she wanted to get. Anyhow! A young man aboard a warship lights a lighter in a way I found historically questionable. Allow me to quote Paul Fussell, yes, the same Paul Fussell quotation that I quote in my cigarette lighter book, which is called CIGARETTE LIGHTER, in which he observes that in the paranoia of imminent battle someone "igniting a cigarette on deck is likely to be suspected of disloyalty rather than stupidity." You can't go around lighting your lighter on deck! It could be a traitorous signal, or a giveaway. Then I was skipping from one channel to another and I saw part of LAND OF THE LOST, the film adaptation of that work. Now! Lest you accuse me of finding it puerile, know from previous evidence that I am capable of enjoying literally any movie ever made, and I would not deny having watched the whole thing, had that ever been the case. But I saw just a snippet. One character was using his cigarette lighter to impress the technologically impaired dwellers, covered in hair, of a mysterious dimension, yes, the aforementioned LAND OF THE LOST. Ah! It was a comical "spin" on that old trope. A trope that I bring up in the book without much in the way of concrete examples to support it. Shame! A shame that might have been alleviated somewhat by the inclusion of the example in question... an example that seemed to imply, as I did, that the gesture was well known and ripe for allusion. So! Then Dr. Theresa and I were watching THE SHANGHAI GESTURE (pictured), in which Walter Huston (not pictured) is some old millionaire. At a board meeting he produces a cigarette. A dozen hale men leap up, ready to light it for him! In film, it is a ritual more associated with sex and beauty, and I included in my book plenty of examples of phalanxes of men falling over themselves to light a woman's cigarette. But now I saw, yes! It is also about power... an insight that came, like so many, too late to do any good.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Year End List

As you know, nothing good happened this year, but my friend McNeil did see a bone fall out of the sky ("click" here for more details and a photograph of the actual bone.)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

What No Owls

So Clare Boothe (not yet Luce) visits Bernard Baruch's South Carolina mansion, near which "deer, fox, feral pigs, egrets, bald eagles, wild turkeys, and bull alligators populated the surrounding woods and swamps." And when I read that, I was like, what, no owls? Come on! I know there were some owls in there! But owls did not make the cut. Just a few pages later, though, Baruch is "prominent in owlish spectacles."

Monday, November 19, 2018

Owl Decoy

Lee Durkee gave me a copy of A MIRACLE OF CATFISH by Larry Brown. I started reading it just now and right away I thought, "Well, I bet there's an owl in this pretty soon!" And I was right. Page three. Well, an "owl decoy," as previously seen in BAG OF BONES by Stephen King and GRINGOS by Charles Portis. It counts!

Sunday, November 18, 2018


I don't have to explain myself to you! I don't even "blog" anymore. But anyway before my recent trip I was in Square Books looking for something to read on the airplane and I saw a Travis McGee novel by John D. MacDonald I had never noticed on the shelf before: NIGHTMARE IN PINK, and I walked right by it and didn't even pick it up because of my many, many problems with those novels, but somehow it stuck in my head. I find - and I'm sure it's some sort of compulsion - that if a book sticks in my head at Square Books, I always go back and buy it the next day. What if I miss out on something? And I went to bed that night thinking, you know, maybe NIGHTMARE IN PINK would be good to read on the airplane, even though I haven't truly enjoyed one of those novels yet, because it's really about weight and size when I'm picking out a book to read on the airplane; content hardly enters into it. And I comforted myself by thinking that no one was going to walk into Square Books overnight and buy NIGHTMARE IN PINK before I returned the next day. How bizarre that would be. But, reader, someone did. I went back and NIGHTMARE IN PINK was gone, and even though I didn't actually want to read it, and had already, the day before, bought the book I was going to read on the airplane instead, I felt cheated. Cheated by life! So in the following days, as I prepared for my trip, I would walk by the bookstore and look at the empty spot where NIGHTMARE IN PINK used to be. Okay! Upon my return, I was in Square Books one day and glanced at the shelf and NIGHTMARE IN PINK was back in stock... so I bought it! I read a little of it and put it aside because Megan and I got started on our book club book. At least my strange need to purchase this volume from a series I don't enjoy had been sated. Anyway! Last night I couldn't sleep and there was NIGHTMARE IN PINK, so I read some more of it. Yes, Travis McGee's morbid horror of being devoured by a woman was intact. "Any minute now the sticky tongue would flick out and snare me and yank me into that greedy maw." That's Travis McGee describing a woman. Now, there's a sort of woman that Travis McGee claims to like a lot, that he spends a lot of time striving to convince us he likes a lot, and, as Ace Atkins has pointed out to me, that woman "always dies." Now! I will say this for John D. MacDonald's technique, or maybe this is more about Ace's insight: wondering when the one woman Travis McGee "likes" is going to die keeps you reading. Like, "Oh no! Don't get too attached, McGee!" It introduces a distasteful (and possibly entirely external) source of suspense. So anyway, after spending some time with the woman whose "maw" terrifies him, Travis McGee goes back to the woman he claims to like and she says to him, "Wanna play owl?" And now you know why we're here: for reasons long forgotten, I keep a list ("click" here!) of every book I read that has an owl in it. After Travis McGee and his friend "play owl," and never mind what that is, I sincerely regret to inform you that they play something called "naked owl."

Friday, November 16, 2018

Most Admirable of All

You know I don't "blog" anymore but people keep sending me new information about plovers' eggs. Megan sent me a passage from an old cookbook that says plovers' eggs are "incomparable in a salad or sandwich; and most admirable of all set like large opals in aspic jelly."