Friday, July 22, 2016

Experiments in Intercourse

First of all, relax! There is nothing at all wrong with the "blog." The culprit that drove me mad was just a curious virus that only I could see, infecting a particular browser in the hotel's business center... the very business center immortalized (in a tastefully fictionalized version, of course) in my almost-new book MOVIE STARS, suddenly the toast of New York town! I, however, was out in Los Angeles, and I brought my jotting book of precious jottings, but in my new anti-"blogging" spirit, I jotted nearly nothing on my trip. And yes, I made that decision out of pure spite! Okay, I will tell you one thing. Julia and I walked up to Ako and I said, "Ako, tell Julia what you told me about the miraculous powers of coconuts!" And Ako shouted with hilarious urgency, "IT'S NOT TRUE!" It turns out that I have been going around telling lies that Ako accidentally told me about the miraculous powers of coconuts. One day, as she related to us ruefully, she was telling the same story when it dawned on her with the force of epiphany how suspicious it sounded. So she looked it up and was mortified at the extent to which she had been misleading an innocent coconut-buying public for so many years. Then she explained to Julia and me what the powers of coconuts REALLY are, and to be honest, the coconuts still sounded pretty miraculous. Okay, I feel bad for you, so I am going to tell you two funny things from the airplane ride home. There was a peperoncino garnishing the plate of food they gave me. So I bit into it. It was just a small, ordinary peperoncino but it seemed to contain an abundance of juice. The amazing quantity of juice expelled even by my rather timid bite squirted all over my personal airplane video screen. It even squirted onto the ceiling over the passengers in front of me! So it dripped down on them and they urgently pressed the button to summon the harried flight attendant. "The airplane is leaking bright green fluid!" they told her. "We're doomed!" Or words to that effect. So I had to confess that I had squirted the peperoncino juice that had rained down on them like the stinging hot portent of a deadly malfunction. Then I was enjoying THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON by H.G. Wells, my chosen airplane reading, and I suddenly came to a chapter called - in embarrassingly big letters - "Experiments in Intercourse"! Ha ha! So I put my thumb over the word "intercourse" so the guy in the next seat wouldn't think I was reading something too sexy for an airplane. Wells just meant that his heroes were trying to find a way to communicate with the moon men. He didn't mean anything dirty! He meant "intercourse" in the sense of "communication." That's how people talked back in crazy times! But I hid it with my thumb anyway. Okay, I'll tell you two more things. Look at this picture. Adam says it's okay to show it now. I was going to wait until season seven of our show had concluded. There are still two more wildly surprising episodes to come but Adam says the titles are out there in the public now and everybody knows them so it doesn't matter. Well, some quite literal spy took this spy picture with her sneaky spy camera very early in the season and spread it around the "internet" without compunction, our most personal and private business, including some very revealing episode titles, though I don't believe I've given a large enough representation for you to see them. But the funny part is the map of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County that's on the wall. Look and you will see it! You may furthermore recall when it was presented to Kent and Pen. Scores of young detectives taken in by this remorseless charlatan and thief thought it was some kind of map of a previously unknown territory of Ooo, the land where ADVENTURE TIME occurs - as did, no doubt, the budding Mata Hari herself. Well, there are probably tons of 13-year-olds all inspired and debating ABSALOM, ABSALOM! now, propelled forward by their initially misguided researches - so everything turned out all right; aren't you as sure of it as I am? In my preferred version of these events, the emotionless miscreant helped everybody learn and grow even though she was trying to hurt and spoil! I'll finish up with something I've been sitting on for a month or so because I don't care about you anymore. I started reading a book called THE YEAR OF LEAR, about KING LEAR, sort of, and it has owls in it, but not even the same owls that KING LEAR has in it! Some other owls. Thomas Dekker is describing a miserable denizen of a plague house: "And to keep such a poor wretch waking, he should hear no noise but of toads croaking, screech-owls howling, mandrakes shrieking."

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I Feel Bad

[Before you read this and get all worked up, it's fine now. We're preserving it because historians of the future will need to know. - ed.] Hey! It looks like some weirdos have hacked my blog and added a bunch of links to shady-looking websites. So please don't click on any of links you see here, even though most of my links are great! But none of them can be trusted right now. I have not put any links in this post, for example, so if any appear, they were placed here by some criminal who is probably just trying to feed his or her family by selling - as far as I can tell - cheap clothes, cigarette lighters and knockoff Pop Tarts. I love you all and will try to fix my blog when I get home from Los Angeles. If I can't fix it I'm just going to delete the whole thing, yes, the whole darn blog, even though I worked on it for ten years and it is the only way I can remember anything that ever happened to me during that time period. So enjoy it while you can, if "enjoy" is the right word. I'm in the very lobby where I once saw Garry Marshall and now he is dead. I was going to link to that very remembrance [like so - ed.] but the post is riddled with suspicious commerce and mysterious links to shady enterprises. I will mention that this very day Kent and I sat in his office and watched Garry Marshall's scene in LOST IN AMERICA for inspiration. Normally I would put a hyperlink on Kent's name and it would be fun for everyone to click on Kent's name and see all the wonderful waggery [like this. - ed.] he has gotten up to over the years. But criminals - and the lax security robots of the Google corporation, I suppose, who make it impossible to speak to a sympathetic human person - have conspired to ruin everything we hold dear. Well, anyway, Donald Trump is running for president and just look what happens.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Listen to the Owls

You'll understand why I'm breaking my silence! I'm reading the new Shirley Jackson bio recommended by Megan Abbott, even though I read a different Shirley Jackson bio just a few years ago. This one has owls in it! I would never be surprised by the sudden appearance of owls in a book having anything to do with Shirley Jackson. Shirley Jackson says that her publisher has "an owlish aspect" and within a page or two she is comparing herself to an owl as well. Finally, some hundred pages or so later, we get actual owls. "Shirley liked to sit and listen to the owls calling outside," we are informed.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Funeral Bikini

Email from an excitable McNeil. "Wooo Hooo" it was titled. That's right, three o's. Or six. Half a dozen o's lined up like eggs in a carton. "I saw Dabney Coleman in a bit part on I DREAM OF JEANNIE last night!" McNeil wrote. Which reminded me that Dr. Theresa and I had seen Dabney Coleman in an early COLUMBO, a fact I duly reported to McNeil in response. Dabney Coleman played the thankless role of a flunky on the police force, a type often seen in COLUMBO, but Dabney Coleman really put in some effort, ferociously smacking his gum in every scene and creating a vibrant presence. One might say a character! Even though I knew better I was like, "Wow, Columbo's gettin' a sidekick!" Here we see Dabney Coleman giving guest-murderer Martin Landau the old stink eye as Columbo gets to the bottom of things. But that was long ago. Dr. Theresa and I have already made it to season four, the one where Robert Conrad is the guest-murderer. Columbo goes to his house and Robert Conrad's secretary is there wearing a bikini! Columbo is surprised! Columbo is thinking, "I guess anything goes these days!" I realize that "secretary" is an outdated term but that's what they call her. Then Columbo tells them some guy is dead. And I ad-libbed a line for Robert Conrad. I said in a deep, growly voice, "Why don't you change into your funeral bikini, baby?" Well, it got a laugh from Dr. Theresa. I'm not googling "funeral bikini" because God knows what would happen. So I apologize to the thousands of others who have no doubt already made this same wisecrack in whatever dubious context. It's July already and you know I have to "blog" about McNeil at least once a month so I can do his regular birthday tribute as promised, even though I'm not "blogging" anymore, obviously.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Breaking News

I know I'm not "blogging" anymore but a branch fell off of McNeil's apple tree! And it was the very branch with the little apple on it. So you can understand why I had to break my silence to tell you. Ha ha, "breaking" news. Because the bough broke! Like in the lullaby. But it's not funny. Also I "broke" my silence. Not funny.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Another Experienced Shakespearean

I'm not "blogging" anymore but of course I have to tell you when Dr. Theresa and I watch the COLUMBO where Johnny Cash is the murderer and in one scene they cut to this very same angle of Johnny Cash and Sorrell Booke about ten or eleven times! Look how Sorrell Booke uncannily looms! Ten or eleven times he looms just so. It should go without saying I'm basing my new "look" on this Sorrell Booke character. Booke is in the Orson Welles bio, doing KING LEAR with Welles and BONANZA's Pernell Roberts, "another experienced Shakespearean." I am happy to report that the Johnny Cash COLUMBO episode holds up just swell. You want Johnny Cash to murder someone new every week just so he and Columbo can keep hanging out.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Catfish of Ancient Egypt

Here's everything I didn't "blog" about this month. 1. "You should eat a lot of jelly: it oils up your joints." - Mom. 2. For reasons that need not concern you, Ace Atkins and I were discussing the availability of catfish in the Middle East. So when I started reading a book about ancient Egypt (THE RISE AND FALL OF ANCIENT EGYPT by Toby Wilkinson) I was delighted to find many allusions to catfish: "an ivory cylinder shows the king as a vicious Nile catfish, beating rows of prisoners with a long stick." At first I thought that was funny, even though it is not funny to beat people with a stick... I guess it was the vicious catfish that made me laugh, though the more I thought about it, the more convincingly Lovecraftian the image revealed itself to be - and besides, my grandfather taught me long ago to beware the dangerous "whiskers" of the catfish. 3. By coincidence I watched Kurosawa's RAN (based on KING LEAR) and a TV adaptation of THE DRESSER (about a production of KING LEAR) on the same day. So I went to my facsimile of Holinshed's Chronicles for the source, and was distressed to recall I have only volumes 3 and 6. See? This is the kind of crap you're missing out on now that I'm not "blogging" anymore. 4. Nor could I find my copy of KING LEAR, which made me feel like King Lear, ha ha ha, see what you're missing. (Later, by further coincidence, Lear would pop up all over this Orson Welles bio that Megan and I are reading together, though not - I think - as an official selection of the Doomed Book Club.) 5. ADVENTURE TIME meeting! We talked about Fonzie wearing glasses and Jan from THE BRADY BUNCH wearing glasses and that made Kent think of Piggy from LORD OF THE FLIES, and I said that using Piggy's glasses to start a fire was in my cigarette lighter book and Adam asked whether that counted. That got us onto the subject of "burning lenses" and Adam mentioned an "ancient death ray." I think he said, "Is that like the ancient death ray?" I said I remembered Francis Bacon advocating for the use of burning lenses as military weapons (it's in my book!) but Adam said he was talking about "Archimedes and the Siege of Syracuse." Adam knows everything! (See also.) Taking a quick glance at the "internet" I do see an unsubstantiated rumor that Archimedes built a giant mirror with which to set fire to the enemy's sails. On the same day the aforementioned discussion occurred, I read in a tweet by Chris Offutt, "I have a short story that includes a woman using a lighter to heat up a Pop Tart one bite at a time." Both of these tidbits (Archimedes, Pop Tarts) would have easily passed muster for my cigarette lighter book, had I only known about them in time. And you know, as long as we're here, the fascinating
movie WOMAN ON THE RUN has an important lighter in it... I think I can tell you this without spoiling anything (probably not): it neatly marks the beginning of each of the movie's three acts (possibly). 6. A ribald jest from McNeil about Jerry Lewis. A series of them, really. Or one long ribald jest that is carried out and elaborated upon over a number of emails. McNeil's final (?) message on the subject concludes, "Ahhhh. I'm making myself laugh in a parking lot, which makes this all the more wrong." 7. I don't remember much liking the movie HEARTBURN when it came out, but I saw a documentary about Nora Ephron not too long ago and thought if I ever came across HEARTBURN again I'd give it a try - what, 40 years later? Dear God! And I did. And Yakov Smirnoff is in it! Now, it's not Mike Nichols's fault that this one book I read stacked him up as the pinnacle of hip culture against the supposed rancid decadence of Bob Hope, but just remember: Mike Nichols put Yakov Smirnoff in a movie and Bob never did (though I wouldn't be surprised if he were on a Bob Hope TV special, to be fair [He was. - ed.]).
8. Jerry Lewis allusion in TREES LOUNGE. 9. Stopped by Square Books. Katelyn failed to sell me a book she likes, but utterly convinced me to give APOCALYPTO a chance. 10. Watched PINOCCHIO. a. Jiminy Cricket has human feet and toenails, human teeth! Disturbing. b. That fish wants to kiss everyone and everything. c. Jiminy Cricket is consistently sexually aroused by human representations (dolls) of his size. d. Even as a kid I didn't understand why being a wooden boy wasn't good enough. What's all this crap about being a "real boy"? 11. King Lear (see above) vows "to be a comrade with the wolf and owl" (just like Dracula! - though he doesn't say that, of course) and you know what that means!