Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I'm going away for several days, kids. Pull yourselves together! We'll get through this thing somehow. I'm going off to seek my fortune in Hollywood, California. More accurately, Burbank. Look, the "blog" has been a little skimpy on material lately, so this is a good thing. I'm sure I'll come back full of notions and tidbits. Tidbits, do you hear me? Tidbits! I leave you with this week's picture of Lizabeth Scott.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
Hi, I just got my "contributor's copy" of the February "Believer" magazine. I have a very short piece in it, in which I seem to poke some fun at Sammy Davis, Jr., but not really. I thought I should mention here, as a supplement to that piece, that I enjoy Sammy Davis, Jr., quite a bit. In fact I got the idea for the piece while I was listening to the CD "Live at the Coconut Grove" and thinking, "Wow! I wish I could have been at this show!" The hip quaintness of the stage patter is part of the fun (see Joe Flaherty as Sammy Maudlin). But you know, Mr. Davis was talented, too. I particularly like some of his live work. On the Coconut Grove CD, his rendition of Cole Porter's "In the Still of the Night" is relaxed and fluid. I guess I often seem to poke fun at musicians and other artists for whom I have true affection. Gilbert & Sullivan & Bob Dylan I have mentioned here before. And there are certain things I appreciate about Mickey Rooney, even. Jim Jarmusch and Bill Murray are good examples of my problem. They have done nothing but good for the world, really! DEAD MAN and GROUNDHOG DAY are two of my favorite films, and that's just a small sample of their excellent work. Returning to Mr. Davis for a moment, "click" here for some poignance. (If you "click" here right now, you will see a reference to the Dec./Jan. issue of "The Believer," but I believe that after February 1st, you will see information about the February issue, and maybe they will "post" some or all of the Davis piece.)
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Tonight we were in a place where Lady Grey tea is sold. It occasioned one of Theresa's most beloved jokes! Just because ONCE OR TWICE Lady Grey tea has caused me to freak out and stay up all night, Theresa loves to ask me if I want some Lady Grey. Then she reminds me that I can't handle the Lady Grey. But it's the way she does it! With irony! Somehow it is amusing that I, a bulging man of stern mien, cannot handle my Lady Grey. LADY Grey. It's tea named after a lady! Perhaps I've said too much.
Hey, remember those slippers of mine? The ones that cause lots of sparks? Well, the other night there were some cookies on a cookie sheet. They had just been pulled from the oven, and they were sitting on top of the gas stove. When I reached for a cookie, I was given a tremendous static shock from the metallic cookie sheet! It's the slippers! Nobody believes me. What if somehow those slippers had ignited something? Something gaseous? Like gas? Okay, now THIS is "blogging" the way it should be done.
And I have to tell you people, it's not going to be pretty. Expect a slim harvest here at the "blog" in February. My writerly duties are taking me out of town for a goodly chunk of the month, with chances to sneak away and "blog" unlikely. I'll try to remind you about the February appearances as they come up, but in case I get too busy you can check my publisher's web site. And besides that schedule, I'll be in California the first week of February, working on that movie script I told you about before. Forget what T.S. Eliot said about April! He knew nothing about "blogs," according to my research.
Friday, January 26, 2007
The "blog" does not endorse the makers of any candies, headphones, or English horns mentioned in the "links" to Pia's Composer Korner. But if Pia likes them, they must be okay! But the "blog" doesn't endorse them. But they're probably great if Pia likes them! But even if they are, the "blog" doesn't care. But that sounds too harsh! The "blog" cares, let's say, but not in a healthy way, not in a right way. The "blog" doesn't know what it wants! The "blog" is stumbling around and unable to say what it really means. Because it doesn't even know! The "blog" has no time for introspection. It would rather cut capers and act like a big shot. The "blog" is stunted. The "blog" is weak. Grow up, "blog"!
Hey, remember when Pia sent me a bunch of "links" to make our recent edition of Pia's Composer Korner better, even though it was charming and stupendous just the way she wrote it in the first place? Remember that? Ah, those were the days. We were just a couple of crazy kids back then, Pia and me. Well, okay, now I'm going to try to run the piece again, this time with Pia's "links" intact. Wish me luck! (Oh yeah, and I'm still sorry I've never figured out how to do "paragraph breaks" either. That's the last time I'm apologizing for that!) Finally, I must say that this is the first time I have allowed anyone to place "links" on my "blog." I cannot vouch for our usual genteel lack of "raciness" and/or "sauciness" in Pia's "links." Be forewarned! And now, Pia: "A song on the radio that makes me quick-dance in the kitchen is fine, but I don't necessarily want to be made happy by music. Happiness is . . . eh? Cheap. I'd rather trawl through reviews and audio clips and blogs and find what is slow, patient, deceptively quiet, so I can maybe reach that tiny planet deep in my chest. Pluto, or the newer, farther-away one, Xena. This is why I love sonata-allegro form: the second theme of the first movement, and every bit of the second movement, typically named for its tempo i.e. andante (slow, but walking speed), adagio (slower), or lento (drag your butt), largo. If you haven't heard Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major, don't live too many more days without locking the door, putting on headphones and giving it your attention. It premiered on January 14, 1932, and was performed by pianist, Marguerite Long, who'd asked Ravel for a new work. The composer dedicated the score to her. Lucky girl. There's a section toward the end of the second movement where the piano defers to the cor anglais (fancy for English horn) that, well, if you know of a passage more beautiful, please let me and my distant planet know."
Can you have a favorite musician? A favorite musician, period, even though there are all kinds of music in the world, even though it would be hard to have a "favorite," you assume, because sometimes you're in the mood for Messiaen and sometimes The New York Dolls? Sure, it's okay anyway. Sure you can! Why not? What are you afraid of? All right then. Mine is Sonny Rollins, there's no doubt about it. He was great back when he was great and he's still great now that he's still great. He has never not been great and he has never been not great. I know that I promised never to use the word "great" on the "blog" again. But remember what Emerson said! Something pithy! Or was it Thoreau? It doesn't matter, because this is a "blog" and no one edits or reads it, not even me! I heard that Sonny Rollins won a big prize in Sweden. I read that today. I'm glad he did! He should win all the prizes. He has never stopped figuring out how to play. He's engaging us - or somebody - in a 50-plus year conversation. He reminds me of Moses. He is Moses! Is that gnomic? Cryptic? Well, listen to Sonny Rollins and find out! Who knows which Sonny Rollins you'll get? There are more Sonny Rollinses than there are Bob Dylans. Acquaint yourself with any one of them! Okay! Sonny Rollins!
I finished that Tobias Wolff book last night, and I'm going to tell you what I'm reading now, though I have vowed never to do such a thing again, out of self-respect and in consideration of the fact that you don't and shouldn't care. But I think I've found a loophole. Because what I'm reading now is Chester Gould's complete DICK TRACY comic strips, Vol 1., 1931-1933, in a nice hardcover. This is the kind of thing into which I will continue to dip as I read whatever it is that I'm REALLY reading next, and WHICH YOU WILL NEVER KNOW! Speaking of all that, I do have to mention the short story I read today. I found it in an anthology. It is by Leonardo Alishan, a writer about whom I know absolutely nothing. Except one thing: His story "The Black City" kicked you-know-what! Here's to you, Mr. Alishan. Wasn't that a Simon & Garfunkel song? Zing! I still got it.
Here's what you do. Tomorrow (Saturday) you come listen to me "spin platters" and "read" "fiction" at a show for the Duck & Herring Co. It's at the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA. Afterward, you can catch the end of David Fulmer's reading at Bound to be Read in East Atlanta. Full disclosure: You could also do it the other way around. In either case, your next destination is the Greyhound station, and a bus to Brooklyn, NY, to catch Hubcap City at the Table of Elements Festival on Sunday night. After that, it's up to you. I'm not your mother! OR AM I?
Thursday, January 25, 2007
I had lunch at the Majestic Diner with Mr. Hubcap City the other day. As I recall, Mr. City had a hamburger. Egg sandwich for yours truly! We were "shooting the breeze" about an art installation we had heard of called "24 Hour PSYCHO." It's the movie PSYCHO projected at such a slow rate that it lasts exactly 24 hours. Well, Mr. City called today with some interesting news: Over in Brooklyn just a few nights ago they were playing Beethoven's 9th Symphony so slowly that it lasted for 24 hours. And get this: The space is the same joint where Hubcap City will be playing a "gig" in the very near future... Sunday, in fact. Go to Brooklyn!
The back of my head hurts. I mean a lot! A lot! Whilst being shampooed yesterday, I believe my head was improperly fitted into the crevice fashioned for that purpose in the magnificent fiberglass tub at the beauty salon. I do not blame the beautician! I blame myself for not speaking out! Now this is what I call a "blog"!
As you no doubt know from scrutinizing every sentence - nay, word! - of the "blog" every day when you're supposed to be working for "the man," we've been on a real Phyllis Diller "kick" lately. As you also know, Fox News and CNN have made it abundantly clear that "blogging" is the most important thing that any of us can do. It changes the world we live in for the better! The world won't be perfect until EVERYONE has a "blog"! Therefore, I can only conclude that this "blog" is the reason Phyllis Diller appeared on the Jay Leno program last night. It CAN'T be a coincidence! It CAN'T! Now I am not a Jay Leno "fan." I am sure that he has many loyal followers who are very nice people. I am sure he is a consummate professional! But it just turns out that I never watch his show. That is probably not Mr. Leno's fault! It is probably some shortsightedness on my part! When I got wind of the Diller appearance, however, I did flip to Mr. Leno's channel several times, away from Mr. Colbert and Mr. Letterman, just to see when Ms. Diller might appear. On Mr. Letterman's show I learned that Mandy Moore has a car that runs on soybean oil from a Korean barbecue joint, and that when she drives her car, the exhaust fumes smell like Korean barbecue! Meanwhile, on the Leno show, Mr. Leno was humorously stuffing numerous grapes into his mouth for some reason! Then they showed a "clip" of a movie featuring a lovely actress. At the end of the clip, the actor playing Andy Warhol said, "You're the boss, applesauce." That was a good line. But then I heard the line I really wanted to hear: "When we come back - Phyllis Diller!" Okay, this "post" is getting too long, and this looks like a good place to break it off and maintain some suspense. To be continued!
Speaking of "raciness," I had an email from Karen yesterday, in which she told me that she had just been reading an excerpt from my book YOUR BODY IS CHANGING to a group of high school students! Perhaps that exclamation point is overdoing it, because at least Karen had the class to skip over some of the "racy" language I was forced to employ in the pursuance of my artistic goals as a creative human individual on this planet. "I would just laugh," she reports, "and tell the kids, 'Uh-oh. Can't read that.' And they would laugh. Like when I got to the part about two people in the sleeping bag. I left some of the writhing details out." Thank goodness! I never envisioned anything I've written being taught in high school. Yet I have heard from two OTHER teachers of our nation's impressionable youth that they've assigned my story "Sex Devil" (from my first book) in their classes! What, I ask you, what is this world coming to? Did they not see the TITLE of the story? You-know-what is in it! "Raciness" in books is one thing. On "blogs" it is another! But before you condemn me for injecting so much "raciness" into your day so early in the morning, please stop and reconsider the twelfth "blog"mandment.
Warning: This "post" will break every rule that I've ever established for the "blog." First of all, there is some "raciness" involved! Next, I will be talking once more about "what I've been reading." Finally, a woman with a cigarette holder figures into it. Yes, I have abandoned my standards. Yet when you read the content, I believe you will sympathize with my need to "push" the "envelope." Imagine my surprise when, on page 81 of OLD SCHOOL by Tobias Wolff, we find Ayn Rand (who is a character in the book) twisting a cigarette "into a long black holder." And then comes the "racy" part! "She wore a black suit with a short skirt that rode up her thighs. She had nice legs for a woman so squarely built." The reason I mention those two sentences: They could be straight out of HAM ON RYE (see the previous "post" on the subject). They express, in fact, a major theme of that work! How many times this EXACT scene plays out in HAM ON RYE, though never with Ayn Rand as a character. It did occur to me, however (and here I dig myself in deeper, blathering on and on about "what I've been reading"), that as different as the two books are, OLD SCHOOL and HAM ON RYE could each be described with accuracy as "a period piece about a schoolboy and would be writer who loves Hemingway." Okay, after I finish OLD SCHOOL, you will never hear from me on the subject of "what I'm reading" again! I don't feel too bad about my slight cigarette holder heresy, however. If we did it for Phyllis Diller, I guess we can do it for Ayn Rand, though I MUCH prefer the work of Phyllis Diller.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Neither of the little tidbits with which I am about to present you truly belong with our running tally of cigarette holders. But they are worth mentioning if only as examples of the kindness that people have shown to the "blog." First, Jim Whorton (who, as it's about time to point out again, is actually the humane comic novelist James Whorton, Jr.) claims that I have been overlooking a cigarette holder hidden (like the letter in the Poe story) in plain sight: on the back page of that issue of the Oxford American I keep going on and on about! There is a full-page photo of William Styron there, and Whorton contends that Mr. Styron is availing himself of a cigarette holder. After careful examination I do admit that I see a holder, but I believe that the object being held is a cigarillo, at least it looks that way to me. In similar cases, the sighting has been disqualified. My ex-boss Lisa sent me a terrific record cover that shows Phyllis Diller with a cigarette holder. Lisa had not read my earlier explanation of why women with cigarette holders have been arbitrarily banned from our count. Lisa and I conferred and did agree that Ms. Diller deserved some kind of special dispensation, hence this mention, and the accompanying illustration.
Hey, good old "blog" buddy Caroline Young has been asked to hang some of her paintings in a neighborhood place called Apres Diem. Here's one of the paintings you'll see if you go over there starting today. Caroline tells us this one is still wet. "Love to hang a wet painting on the wall of a drunken bar hallway!" Caroline exclaims.
Yesterday evening I happened to turn on the TV just as a movie called ANGELS OVER BROADWAY was beginning to air on TCM. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., was standing in the rain, playing a shady sort of a character... much shadier than the wholesome vagrant he played alongside fellow vagrant Guy Kibbee in UNION STATION, but a lot slicker. A real sharpie! And he was lamenting the fact that he couldn't find a dice game. "Come on rain, rain me a seven!" went his internal dialogue. Right away I thought, this is a Jeff McNeil kind of movie! Fit for McNeil's Movie Korner! Then Fairbanks sees an old blind man with a tin cup walking down the rainy street, and he says, inwardly, "Brother, you won't get a seven holding out a cup." And I picked up the phone and called Mr. McNeil, who was midway through his route for a major American delivery service. "I hope you've got ANGELS OVER BROADWAY on the DVR!" I said. Mr. McNeil reported that he did not. He had noticed the title, and had almost recorded it! But not having time to look up the cast and plot, he let it slide, to his everlasting remorse. I mean, you've got Rita Hayworth, and Thomas Mitchell as a failed, drunken playwright, and the always dependable John Qualen (pictured with uncharacteristic moustache). You know you're in for a good time when John Qualen's in the cast! Desperate little men are his specialty. He brings real pathos to the screwball world of HIS GIRL FRIDAY. Unless I'm nuts, he's in both THE SEARCHERS and SHANE. If not, he should have been! But what a career in any case. He gives me Qualenmania.
Tom Franklin knows how much I love the TV show THE WIRE. I believe Tom Franklin was the first person to tell me about that show. Anyway, it turns out that Mr. Franklin is participating this very week in a literary conference with David Simon, creator of THE WIRE, and Mr. Simon's wife Laura Lippman, the famed and talented mystery writer. And Tom called to tell me that he plans to present this notable couple with a copy of the newly available paperback version of my book THE MYSTERIOUS SECRET OF THE VALUABLE TREASURE. That is very thoughtful. Is there anyone nicer than Tom Franklin? I have done some research on the "internet" and from what I have found, there is no one nicer.
I was walking along on my way to get a haircut this afternoon when I happened to glance up at a telephone pole. Affixed to the pole, just at my eye level, was a homemade button, like a political button, and underneath the clear, hard, round surface, the slogan, in black magic marker on yellow paper, "GO TEAM AWESOME!" I took it as a good sign. I checked all the other telephone poles on the way, but there were no more omens to be had.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Pia, laboring under the false impression that her recent contribution to the "blog" was "dry and pedantic," valiantly submitted another version brightly peppered (is that some kind of mixed metaphor or something? What a boob I am! No, wait, I guess red pepper flakes are kind of bright... and an awesome taste treat, by the way! Use red pepper flakes to spice up your next meal!)... oh, shoot. Where was I? Right. Brightly peppered with "links." Wow! That's the worst sentence fragment ever. Although "links" of sausage are sometimes speckled with red pepper flakes. (You know, and this is the truth, I titled this "post" "Debacle" before I even started writing it. Self-fulfilling prophecy!) The "debacle" to which I meant to refer was this: I tried to include Pia's "linky" "remix" of her "post," but I could make less than half of the "links" work... my fault entirely! But maybe tomorrow I'll try again, and at least give you a few of the "links" that Pia so thoughtfully provided.
Am I spelling that correctly? Who cares? This is a "blog"! Here I am, stuck between two sacred vows: that of telling you every time I encounter a representation of a man with a cigarette holder, and that of NEVER telling you "what I'm reading" ever again, because you don't care! And you shouldn't! But okay. I was reading Tobias Wolff's novel OLD SCHOOL today, and on page 30 of the paperback we find the young protagonist, a scholarship student at a male boarding school where smoking is strictly forbidden, explaining some of the tricks he uses to get around the ban: "I kept a store of spearmint Life Savers to mask my breath and used a holder so my fingers wouldn't stain." Ah, cursed cigarette holders! (That's me, not Tobias Wolff. Tobias Wolff would never, thank God, write a sentence like, "Ah! cursed cigarette holders!") My point being, the cursed cigarette holders, and my vow regarding them, have forced me to forfeit a dearer vow. In fact, I must now go on to tell you that after I finished the Beethoven book, I read HAM ON RYE by Charles Bukowski. My reasoning is this: By leaving the false impression that I had gone straight from a book about Beethoven to a book by Tobias Wolff, I would be falsely aggrandizing myself! Not that there is anything wrong with Bukowski, exactly, though I always thought there was. I was prodded into reading HAM ON RYE, my first ever crack at Bukowski, because Barry Hannah gave such a strong recommendation of that book in the most recent issue of The Oxford American. Now I will not "blog" here and tell you that HAM ON RYE was my cup of tea, exactly, but I admired its grit and vivid passages, and the truthful details of the ways in which we all feel sorry for ourselves and the many funny/horrific parts, such as a baby named Gobbles who drinks tiny shots of whiskey, and even the parts that made me think NOPE! NO MORE OF THIS FOR ME! but somehow compelled me to keep going, and yes, there were always rewards, all the way to the end. Now okay, that's it. I'm not going to talk about "what I'm reading" EVER AGAIN! To quote a particularly apt aphorism from HAM ON RYE: "Only a--holes talk about writing." And then the narrator and his writing chum beat the you-know-what out of one another, mostly for fun.
Well, the old Aquaman "blog" that I love so well has done it again, with Ms. Gjovaag's awesomest summary yet of a bizarre old Aquaman story, this one featuring a gorilla in pants! Yes, I believe that exclamation point was necessary.
Speaking of L., it seems that her old nemesis the potbellied man has come up with a tender variation on his favorite office prank. Sometimes, rather than lifting his shirt as the climax of the "bit," he simply says, "I love you."
The contest is over. All of our contests are over. No more contests. The paperback indeed exists, and the lucky "blog" reader who proved it (and who wishes to remain anonymous) has been mailed that obscure object of desire - his or her very own copy of THE STOOGE, starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. As for the Bruce Springsteen quiz, which without material gain at stake is now so sadly moot, here is the answer: In the post entitled "New Ideas In Blogging," I quoted, completely obliviously, the song "Dancing In the Dark" (not to be confused with the old pop standard of the same name), announcing to a grateful and keenly interested world that I was "tired and bored with myself." Shameful! The attitude, I mean, not the plagiarism.
Today is the day that Lizabeth Scott's picture falls off the bottom of the "blog," so that we are obliged to find and "post" another picture of Lizabeth Scott. Now we are proud to include a number of feminists among our regular "blog" readers, notably the one known only as L. So we hope that this week's photo is not too "saucy"! But there are a finite number of photos of Lizabeth Scott, which I believe is one of Newton's laws, one of the less famous ones.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Hey, Pia and I have just been signed up to "play" a "gig" in New York City - the Happy Ending Music & Reading Series, presided over by "The Dark Lady of the 'Blog'," as she is known around the Pendarvis Building, Amanda Stern. Okay, that's not until June, so don't get excited. Hey, look. This is the cover of Pia's forthcoming book.
Today I drove way past the bank without realizing it and way past the post office, ditto. Though I remembered to take my special pen! And when I was talking to my buddy at the corner video store later, I was calling the actor-director Richard Benjamin "Robert Benjamin." And then I called the movie CALIFORNIA SPLIT by the name of the different movie, to put it kindly, CALIFORNIA SUITE. And then some other things happened.
Welcome back to our popular regular feature "Let's Go Through Karen's Mail!" where we go through Karen's mail. Looks like Karen got a fan letter today! The young woman who wrote it was thoughtful enough to include a self-addressed stamped envelope. She wants Karen to tell her what she's working on next, so she can "share it with her Phi Beta Sorority." Hey, tell us here at the "blog" first, Karen! We want to "break" the story, as we say in our news lingo. Karen also received, to her surprise, a copy of MEN'S JOURNAL. "I don't subscribe," Karen tells us. "The address is wrong. Doesn't even have my name on it. But I'm keeping it because Ewan MacGregor is on the cover. And besides I don't know the lady or where she lives either." Karen also got a bill addressed to her daughter, whose married name is Ashley Sinner, which gets Karen tickled. She wants Ashley to have a daughter and name her Godfrieda Sinner. We are declining to "post" a photo of Ewan MacGregor, having yesterday "posted" one of Rufus Sewell, and that's enough of that.
Here it is at last, as promised. Today the short story writer and erstwhile flautist Pia Z. Ehrhardt has chosen to examine Ol' Maury Ravel, as we call him at the "blog." Here's what Pia had to say earlier this evening: "A song on the radio that makes me quick-dance in the kitchen is fine, but I don't necessarily want to be made happy by music. Happiness is . . . eh? Cheap. I'd rather trawl through reviews and audio clips and blogs and find what is slow, patient, deceptively quiet, so I can maybe reach that tiny planet deep in my chest. Pluto, or the newer, farther-away one, Xena. This is why I love the sonata-allegro form: the second theme of the first movement, and every bit of the second movement, typically named for its tempo i.e. andante (slow, but walking speed), adagio (slower), or lento (drag your butt), largo. If you haven't heard Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major, don't live too many more days without locking the door, putting on headphones and giving it your attention. It premiered on January 14, 1932, and was performed by pianist, Marguerite Long, who'd asked Ravel for a new work. The composer dedicated the score to her. Lucky girl. There's a section toward the end of the second movement where the piano defers to the cor anglais (fancy for English horn) that, well, if you know of a passage more beautiful, please let me and my planet know." Okay, that's what Pia had to say! Goodbye for now from "Pia's Composer Korner." Pia included a link to that second movement, but no one at the "blog" could figure it out. That's how we are!
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Remember when I started taking note of cigarette holders for some reason? And there seemed to be a lot of them around? And with no good justification I decided to mention it on the "blog" every time I saw a man with a cigarette holder? Well, this has become a curse! I don't care about cigarette holders anymore. I don't know why I even brought them up in the first place. Something Freudian, no doubt! An oral fixation! I suppose it could be argued that I could simply begin to ignore cigarette holders, at least to the point that I no longer keep a running tally on the "blog." But that would not be honorable! I have given my word! So I must tell you that we rented THE ILLUSIONIST tonight, and in that film, Rufus Sewell uses, yes, a cigarette holder. That's how you know the character he's playing is a jerk! There, my honor is intact. It does strike me now that there are two basic cigarette holder modes: jaunty, as in Terry-Thomas, FDR, or Hunter S. Thompson; and evil, as in characters played by Rufus Sewell, especially decadent crown princes. Mull it over!
An anonymous friend of the "blog" was recently in the proximity of a 15th-century Italian table, which was protected by heavy security - not heavy enough! Though he or she knew it was "wrong" by society's standards, he or she lightly ran three fingers across the tabletop. "It was," he or she reports, "velvety smooth from 500 years of polishing."
Oppenheim, Phil - actual words of---all good things stem from---allows tired women to stand---always first---always succinct---announces the death of Soupy Sales---appears several times in the Arnold Stang "blog"trospective---apologizes for maligning Jack Carson---appearance in ill-fated "blog"dex---as cautionary tale for Sarah Marine---as he appeared 12 years ago---as one proof of McNeil's existence---asks a question---attends an Ornette Coleman concert---attends Tyler Perry screening party---awe of upgraded to worship---awesomeness of---Benny, Jack; Phil speculates on the death of---bull drinking soda in hometown of---calls McNeil's existence into question---cares about Jack Carter---Carson, Jack; sends driver safety video starring---casts shame on Gilmore Girls---changes mind---changes mind again---"Chiseler" revealed by---churlishness of---city chicken and---clarifies seemingly hurtful statements---concerned about spalling---craziness over oatmeal billboard serves as comparison---crustiness undiminished---debunks three-handed beatnik---"deconstruction" makes him mad---definitely likes where Jonathan Lethem is going with "Omega the Unknown---discovers Plastic Man in Burbank---disillusionment of---disparages Jack Carson---disqualified from Oscar Wilde contest---does job too well---"Eat That Chicken" and---eats a shocking amount of oatmeal---eefing and---enjoys pie---ennui of---eyeballs of scorched---fancy tastes of---favorite movie revealed---fears the ruination of oatmeal---finds Stephen Leacock "pretty ******* hilarious"---forwards "link" to Superman article---friend of appears in New York Times---further reflections on boyhood eating habits of---gets drunk---greatest triumph of---grousing of---Handelman, Stanley Myron and---HARD-BOILED t-shirt of repurposed as part of quilt---has a Corner Gas t-shirt---has possibly heard of Professor Irwin Corey---has real job---HIPSTER HEGEMONY and---home office of---hopes I'm sitting down---hot Jerry tip of---in tune with the feelings of graduate students---inspires people to check out library books---irrationally continues to insist that McNeil does not exist---issues communique---jerky of---jerky of; source of---keeps tabs on the James Beard Awards---Klinker, Effie; spry libido of and---knowledge of penny-farthings comes in handy - again!---knows what I'm talking about (maybe)---knows what to call those bicycles with a big wheel in front and a little wheel in back---laments the absence of the Quangaroo---likes Mindy Kaling---likes something---loans me his battered paperback of DINO: LIVING HIGH IN THE DIRTY BUSINESS OF DREAMS---LOVE BOAT, THE, and---magazine subscription of---McNeil in awe of---monkey video of depresses me---monster shrimp and---mother dated Marty Ingels and Arnold Stang---mother makes him kasha---names "best page on the internet"---New Orleans video provided by---Nick Fury and---not a mythical creature---not an egghead elitist---not to be outdone---notes that Rory from GILMORE GIRLS loved Dawn Powell---oatmeal cart and---"old-timey books" and---Oscar wrap-up with---Pac-Man entwined with life story in a surprising way---pensiveness of---Phil Oppenheim Fan Club---pigeon "link" and---potential birthday oatmeal of---practices usurpation---prefers sazerac to Pimm's Cup---presents James Whorton, Jr.'s Velvet Suit Theatre---president of the Stang Spotters Club (Eastern chapter)---probably has a "blog"---probably knows what to call that hat with goggles on it---proves that the Fall's opening act sounds like a Fall cover band---puts aside ambivalence---QT dead to---questions cultural imperialism---quotes Clash lyrics---reading chair of---reads books---recommends awesome African music---reiterates---relative worthiness of pie recommendations considered---reminds everyone about Joey Heatherton's birthday---responsible for success of "blog"---ridiculed by underlings---robbed of joy---Robert Walser gives him a headache---role as "Blog" Buddy---role as flunky---Sage of Atlanta, The (nickname)---says a film festival is showing SHIP OF MONSTERS---sends a nice article---sends additional pie information---sends along Jerry Lewis's Bavarian cream recipe---sends comic book cover featuring Bizarro Supermen dressed up as JFK, Marilyn, and Jerry Lewis for Halloween---SHAKE HANDS WITH DANGER and---Shelley Berman amongst the greatest things he has ever seen---SHIP OF MONSTERS and---shirt of is older than half the people in this room---Smokey Stover and---soft spot for Gilmore Girls---something else makes me think of that oatmeal billboard he hates so much---Sommer, Elke, makes day of---spends Mardi Gras in Atlanta---still likes pie---sums up own legacy---tells me about Jerry Lewis wanting to smack Lindsay Lohan in the mouth---tells of a cantor's influence on Ornette Coleman---tempers his highbrow Strindberg reference---tendency to gasp with delight---threats of---TWISTER'S REVENGE and---underlying sweetness of---use of the word "twee"---wants everyone to know that Larry King is on Twitter---Weegee and---Whorton, James, Jr. and share musical tastes---wife of posits Lenny and the Squigtones as ideological forerunners of Spinal Tap---Williams, Hank Jr. and---work ethic of---would appreciate GERSHWIN: HIS LIFE AND WORK by Howard Pollack. Also enjoy our PREVIOUS "BLOG"TROSPECTIVE on TOM FRANKLIN.
Hey, remember when I was telling you about which "blogs" I like to check frequently? I suppose I should have mentioned Don Markstein's Toonopedia, though it is not a "blog," exactly, at least as I understand "blogs," which is not very well, no, not at all. But this fellow is admirable in his unstinting dedication to building up a mighty edifice of information. For instance, do you want to know which superhero had but one sad power, that of slipping himself under doors? The Toonopedia is your best bet! Mr. Markstein adds new things all the time, although I believe I have beaten him to O.G. Whiz. But here's the thing: When Mr. Markstein chooses to write about O.G. Whiz, it will be the definitive article in the growing field of O.G. Whiz scholarship.
Jim Whorton would like to set the record straight on a matter previously discussed here at the "blog." He has suddenly recalled a second comic book character who, like The Phantom Hitchhiker, filled his young mind with morbid fascination. This character: Howard the Duck. "Sometimes the duck seemed menacing," Whorton asserted recently. He could not provide specific examples, though the accompanying illustration uncovered by the "blog's" team of unpaid research assistants might certainly make a sensitive young man nervous.
You know the kind of juice that you have to "shake well" before pouring? I never feel as if I'm truly "shaking well" until the bottle is about two-thirds empty. Then I can really give it a good shake! And I feel as if I have given the juice its due. Otherwise I am suspicious of the juice. Like, I wonder what this would taste like if I had really been able to shake it well, the way I longed to do? It is my fault, not yours, juice! This is what I silently tell the juice.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Do you like to go through other people's mail? Sure, who doesn't? But sometimes you feel too shy or law-abiding. That's where the "blog" comes in, with our brand new regular feature "Let's Go Through Karen's Mail!" It's devastatingly simple: Every now and then we're going to go through the mail of noted memoirist Karen Spears-Zacharias. "Checking the mail" is one of the most exciting parts of any day. And now you can do it on-line, thanks to the "blog." Yesterday, Karen received a catalog advertising gourmet chocolates. "I've never gotten chocolates like that from anyone," Karen tells us. "I did get a red cellophane-wrapped box of Whitman's once from a boy whose name I've long since forgotten, but oddly, I remember that he was from Pulaski, Florida." This is what happens when we check the mail, people! The big world and all its mysteries enshroud us! A gulf! An abyss! Karen also received a letter from a friend in Oregon, scolding Karen for not sending a Christmas card. Stay tuned for more.
Friday, January 19, 2007
I pronounce DOCTOR, YOU MUST BE KIDDING a perfectly pleasant artifact of a certain kind of Hollywood machinery. Leonard Maltin (in my 1993 Movie Guide with the cover torn almost completely off with use - yea, this book was my very Bible!) calls it a "BOMB" (caps his). Once again I'm forced to wonder where Mr. Maltin and I parted ways. I can imagine that someone might not enjoy DOCTOR, YOU MUST BE KIDDING for any number of reasons. But the colors are nice. Mort Sahl is funny as the nightclub owner, if you like Mort Sahl. It features a mod rock combo called The Wild Affair, who play at a place named The Green Orchid. It has the Incredible Hulk and Dobie Gillis in it! (I mean Bill Bixby and Dwayne Hickman.) Sandra Dee gives a performance weighted with a kind of offhand naturalism that plays well against the stylized absurdity of the plot. Why must we call it a "BOMB" in such big letters? Surely we can think of a nicer way to voice our disapproval. All in all, it makes me contemplate what Jim Whorton said about Richard Nixon. Mr. Maltin, you old trickster, you have me thinking about problems of deep morality! And for that, sir, I salute you.
For a few days now, I have had a "post" up, referring to CURSE OF THE DEMON as a "Val Lewton production." It just popped into my head how wrong I am. Jacques Tourneur directed CURSE OF THE DEMON, and he also directed a few Val Lewton movies, which is what confused me. See? I'm not perfect! Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I have changed the text of that "post," because I didn't want you to reread it and get your mind blown or think you were going crazy or something!
I ran into the top-notch mystery writer David Fulmer (JASS, THE DYING CRAPSHOOTER'S BLUES, etc.) the other day. He invited me to a reading he's giving in East Atlanta, at a place called Bound to be Read. Only get this! Mr. Fulmer's reading takes place on January 27th at 7:30 p.m.: the EXACT DATE AND TIME of my reading with the Duck & Herring people in Decatur. I felt like it was only ethical to mention Mr. Fulmer's reading now that I've heard about it. I don't know, maybe you would prefer it! It's none of my business! I will mention, only in passing, that at the Duck & Herring reading, Hollis Gillespie, with whom I have had the honor of reading before, will be demonstrating the making of delicious cupcakes and passing them out once made, fresh and warm, to one and all.
Welcome to another edition of McNeil's Movie Korner. The old ham radio began picking up signals from Jeff McNeil during today's showing of BOY, DID I GET A WRONG NUMBER on TCM. McNeil was livid about a continuity error that prevented him from applying his full concentration to the scene in which Elke Sommer took a bubble bath in a big tin washtub. The chair positioned behind the tub, it seems, changed from orange to aquamarine on a number of occasions. McNeil couldn't swear to it, but he's pretty sure the walls changed colors a few times, too.
A correction: Jim Whorton was not subconsciously trying to give us confusing feelings about Bob Hope, contrary to a previous report. "Nixon wasn't all bad!" Whorton insisted in a written statement. "He went to China. His daughters were pretty." Here the statement was abruptly broken off.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I just realized that in one of my recent "posts" I accidentally quoted some Bruce Springsteen lyrics. The first person to identify said lyrics wins that copy of the Martin & Lewis movie THE STOOGE that I can't seem to give away. Guesses by telegram only.
For reasons that have already been discussed, today we are introducing an exciting new feature to the "blog." We call it "blog"trospectives. Say hello to our first subject, Tom Franklin. This is where you go on the "blog" to learn everything that the "blog" has to say about Tom Franklin! And as other "blog"trospectives are introduced, in the eighty or so years we expect to keep on "blogging," we will "link" each "blog"trospective to the one that came before it, creating a mighty library of learning to rival the one in ancient Alexandria. Without further ado, then - Franklin, Tom: Abbott, Megan, and Phillips, Scott, reading CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER (novel by); accordion played at home of; ADVENTURE TIME plot hinges on favorite TV show of; allegedly curls his hair for a trip to Faulkner's grave; almost titles or subtitles a book THE ALABAMIAD; anniversary of his eating a roasted pig; appearance on a panel with; appears in ill-fated "blog"dex; appears on Anthony Bourdain's television program; appears on TREME; as host; as object of contemplation; as source of encouragement and solace; as test subject for "blog"trospectives; asks about WHERE'S HUDDLES; at Faulkner's grave; at my birthday party; at opening of Turnrow Book Co; attends a wedding; auspices of; award-winning poet; becomes a New York Times best seller; behind on his viewing of LOST; brings OMAC comic books to lunch; Brontë, Anne, reminds me of; buys me comic books; changes his mind about in what order I should read a couple of Stephen King books; claims I have "left gatherings to 'blog'"; consternation of; CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER (novel); crows constantly discussed at dinner with; daughter of; daughter of plays the game I mistakenly think is called "Mumbly-Peg"---Demon, The; discussed at lunch with; depressed about Captain Marvel; discusses spelling; doesn't like to see woman's head get swatted off by a grizzly bear; drinks from an ornate silver goblet; drinks from the goblet of a murderer; drive to Arkansas with; eats a roasted pig; Edgar nominee, 2011; enjoys the movie WHIFFS; explains that a giant who changes size isn't really a giant; eyes of; "fave" FRASIER episode of; favorite movie is DUMB & DUMBER; fear of Barbara Eden; fear of Barbara Eden not laughable; first met at Olive Garden; forced to dress up as a duke; forgets what's in his books; gets a great review in the Washington Post; glasses of shield him from "devil eyes" effect; gothic short story of, featuring Buck Owens; hanging out with at City Grocery Bar; has a fan in "Comic Book Villain"; hates wasps; I watch his favorite FRASIER episode; influence of Charles Portis on punctuation; interviewed by Boswell Book Company of Milwaukee; interviewer of contacts "blog"; introduces Lewis Nordan; keen eye for natural phenomena; Kubert, Joe; Franklin announces the death of; LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER and; laugh shared with; likes "blog"; likes same movie as history professor's son; Lippfrankmanlinfest and; lives in Brazil; long lunch with; McNeil claims to have as many adventures as; mentioned in interview; moderation of; "Nap Time" (short story); niceness of; "Noir at the Bar" reading subject of plugging; not done with New York Times best seller list; old Daredevil comic book of; on Alabama ghosts; on Black Canary and Green Arrow; on Blues Brothers; on marital relationship of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl; on relationship between Plastic Man and a sexy nuclear scientist; para-glides off mountain; photo of Dr. Theresa by; picture of reading in eerie lamplight; pictured amidst gaggle of writers; praised by Nick Hornby; proof that we shucked oysters; proof that we've met; prose of; publicist of; reading PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT while waiting for; reads from Faulkner's niece's memoir; recipient of Mike Douglas Prize; recognizes Paul Giamatti; recommends AN ARSONIST'S GUIDE TO WRITERS' HOMES IN NEW ENGLAND by Brock Clarke; recommends DOCTOR SLEEP; represents one of the 50 ways to love Jerry Lewis; sees Jerry Lewis on Brasilian television; sees monkeys; sees spiders like brooches; shaves my head; shirtless; shown a business card with a dragon on it; "Shubuta" (short story by); shucking oysters with; SIDESWIPE (Willeford novel) given to as present; Smonk as novel title and middle name; SMONK (novel) has own MySpace page; speaks of moors, bogs and fens; starts me on the road to shame and ruin; takes me to a movie; THAT'S MY BOY and; thinks movies might be better than writing; thinks of Jerry Lewis in Brasil; varieties of ladybug and; went to see a movie about e-mail with; wins gold dagger; wins LA Times Book Prize; witnesses the undoing of eyeglass repairs; writes one of the two good things on the "internet".
Today is the first day of Theresa's class. She made it up in her head and now she's teaching it at Emory University! I looked at the syllabus and I'm pleased to say she's going to make those college kids watch KISS ME STUPID. That's what these college kids need these days! A little Dino.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Okay, it's like this. I'm going to try to lay it out there before I get too tired and bored with myself to go on. Remember what a wretchedly stupid idea the magisterial "blog"dex was? Well, now that the "blog" has been "improved" by the people who invented "blogs," it turns out that the "blog"dex - or a subtle variation of it - may indeed have uses after all. I plan to use my new kind of mini-"blog"dex to rectify what I call "The Whorton Paradox." That is, the more I enjoy a person and/or his or her work, the more I tend to "blog" about that person... BUT that requires the idle and unwilling modern "blog" reader to "click" far too many times before reaching the essential kernel of the... okay, I've bored myself now. Sorry. Long story short: in a few days, you can expect to see an exciting new innovation here at the "blog." Name: "Blog"trospectives. Test subject: Tom Franklin. It's going to be like you never saw a "blog" before! That exclamation point took a lot out of me. Farewell.
So I found another "blog" to check every day, in addition to my beloved Aquaman "blog." This one is by a young woman of Mississippi. She tells you about books! And she does a bang-up job of it. Now I don't feel so bad about my own abandonment of the subject. She's taking up the slack! She's in fine fettle! It's almost like the Lord planned it this way. Why, just recently she "posted" an interview with "blog" "faves" The Lee Bros. So there you have it. Listen, I have plenty of good ideas for "posts," but I'm kind of tired. Don't be surprised if I take the day off tomorrow. To make yourself feel better, read the Aquaman "blog" or the book "blog." I'm a tired old man, what do you want from me? I'm thinking up a big "post" about Tom Franklin, and I need to fast and sit on a pole for a couple of days, you know the score. (Pictured, the object of my contemplation, Tom Franklin.)
I called my publisher today, because I was curious about the rumor that I have written a book. I got hold of a particular young woman who works there and sang, "I want my paperback, paperback, paperback, paperback." I sang it to the tune of the Chili's jingle! What a cut-up! I love to cut capers. A good time was had by all. After the laughter and tears had subsided, the young woman told me that there might be an unopened box somewhere in the office, and in that unopened box might be the paperback of my book! Later, her suspicions were confirmed. Yes, it turns out that I have written a book, and that the paperback actually exists. Go get one, y'all. If you think you might want one.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Hey, remember when I discovered the word "galimatias" through the power of reading? Well, last night I was reading again! And I found a reference to an early Mozart quodlibet entitled "Gallimathias Musicum." Come on, folks. Don't you think galimatias and gallimathias probably mean the same thing? I do! What a crazy world we live in as human people! And it's all thanks to the power of reading.
Monday, January 15, 2007
I have renounced telling you what I'm reading, but I suffer no such compunction about telling you what Jim Whorton is reading: Jeb Magruder's 1974 book AN AMERICAN LIFE. "Did you know," writes Whorton, "Bob Hope was an occasional Nixon surrogate in 1969 and the early 70s? Magruder got him to speak up for Nixon on THE TONIGHT SHOW and he helped organize 'Honor America Day' for the 1970 congressional campaign. That was the event at which Red Skelton performed an interpretative reading of the Pledge of Allegiance. But the event was marred by some hippies who held a 'smoke-in' at the Washington Monument then threw rocks and bottles at the crowd." Well! It seems as if Mr. Whorton may be attempting, subconsciously, to give us mixed emotions about Bob Hope! But remember, we should not NECESSARILY judge artists by their politics! I don't know, maybe sometimes we should! I'm too tired to figure it out right now. Besides, Bob Hope was probably a liberal compared to, say, Flannery O'Connor. By the way, it is stunning that this is the "blog's" first mention of Red Skelton, whose cameo in the Dick Powell film SUSAN SLEPT HERE is only funny if you know who Red Skelton is, but if you do, it's hysterical. (Pictured, Magruder and Skelton.)
Welcome to McNeil's Movie Korner, our exclusive regular feature that teaches you to watch movies the Jeff McNeil way! Mr. McNeil is sad to report that he only made it through ten minutes of DON'T WORRY WE'LL THINK OF A TITLE, despite its awesome title, before making the radical decision to delete it from his DVR unwatched and unburned. "It wasn't worth the dollar I would have spent on a blank DVD," McNeil said, choking back the tears.
Jim Whorton reports "a lovely mild ice storm" in Upstate New York. "All the trees look **** ********** ********* *****," he continues. His description is so nice and unusual that he may want to use it in a short story or novel, at least I would if I were him, so for his sake I have chosen to censor it.
Last night, and never mind what I was reading, I ran across the word "forgo." Huh, that's funny, I thought. I just used that word in a "post," didn't I? Only I spelled it "forego." So, anyway, I looked it up in the dictionary, and "forgo" and "forego" mean two different things, and what I meant was "forgo." Sure, the dictionary, in a grudging afterthought, mentions that "forego" can be a variation of "forgo," but that just feels like a bone that the dictionary is throwing to people like me who are too lazy to learn the difference. Anyway, there, I wanted to clear that up. I apologize to both words for the confusion.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
I just finished reading NOTABLE AMERICAN WOMEN by Ben Marcus, a corker of a novel, not that you should care what I've been reading. Somehow I've gotten myself into a rut of reporting such things to the world at large, which doesn't and shouldn't care. It's a practice I'm going to discontinue after this "post," because it is unseemly. But NOTABLE AMERICAN WOMEN is amusing and frightening, often at once, and overlain with a pleasing, lulling, almost clinical smoothness - SEEMINGLY! - that works in purposeful opposition to the book's sulfuric content. So now I am on to LATE BEETHOVEN: MUSIC, THOUGHT, IMAGINATION by Maynard Solomon, for which I believe Ben Marcus has prepared me nicely. Take this sentence from page 2 of the Beethoven book: "Attention is inevitably drawn to the failure of his marriage project by his early forties, followed by his renunciation of the possibility of domestic happiness, and his increasing tendency to isolate himself from the world." Marriage project? Pure Marcus! And so ends, now and forever, the regrettable habit of electronic chit-chat about "what I'm reading." Good night.
It occurs to me that I have done Jim Whorton a disservice. The way I have it set up now, you have to "click" on his name five or six times, and then the word "dag" three MORE times, before you find out that he is a novelist more properly known as James Whorton, Jr. Although I know that you love to "click" and "click" until every possibility of "clicking" has been exhausted, I feel that there should be a quicker way to learn about Mr. Whorton's work for those who need to find something to read right away. Here is one way. Please mentally remove the word "lightweight" from the otherwise pleasing description of FRANKLAND. It is the wrong word, though this fellow's heart seems to be in the right place where Whorton's work is concerned. I have "linked" to a "blog" because I don't like to "link" to that famous electronic store named after a mighty river of some repute, but somehow I feel okay that I have let this other "blogger" do it for me.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Jeff McNeil suggests that every man, woman, and child take the day off on Friday, January 19th, and watch TCM all day long. It is, McNeil has concluded, that cable station's greatest day of programming ever. McNeil himself has considered calling in sick but will most likely set his famous DVR instead, though he fears it may burn down his house from overuse. Things kick off early Friday morning with a McNeil favorite, BUENA SERA, MRS. CAMPBELL. After that, an early Jack Lemmon comedy entitled PHFFFT. Next up, HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE, already the subject of so much appreciative discussion on the "blog." Then comes the jewel in the day's glorious crown: Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller in BOY, DID I GET A WRONG NUMBER. (Here is the part where I should apologize again for never having mastered "paragraph breaks," because let me tell you, we're just getting started.) McNeil has decided to give the next movie, ONCE MORE WITH FEELING, a shot, because even though the cast (Yul Brynner) doesn't have the authentic McNeil vibe, the plot seems to fit right in. After that comes Cary Grant's final movie, WALK, DON'T RUN. But it's not over yet! According to McNeil, the next film sounds "dreadful in a great way," and it has the truly McNeilian kind of title that we discussed in the most recent McNeil's Movie Korner: DOCTOR, YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING. On into the night they come, a triple feature of Neil Simon, including a movie way up there on the McNeil list: THE ODD COUPLE. After the three Simon movies comes CURSE OF THE DEMON. Yes, the tone has shifted, but it's a fine, effective, cheap Jacques Tourneur movie with lots of atmosphere... and it's followed by Vincent Price in the Roger Corman version of HOUSE OF USHER. You can ask for no better crash course in Movies the McNeil Way than to watch everything from BUENA SERA, MRS. CAMPBELL to THE SUNSHINE BOYS in a single sitting, while on a strict fast. The two films after that are more in the Theresa Starkey mode, but will make for an excellent means of reentry into the so-called real world. Enjoy!
I have just found out, quite by accident, that a woman we will call "A.," who happens to be married to the history professor, is a huge fan of both Jerry Lewis and THE WIRE. This opens up all sorts of avenues! One can imagine, for example, when the fifth season of THE WIRE begins, get-togethers at which each new episode is followed by the viewing of a Jerry Lewis classic. Perhaps a small buffet supper will be served at these events! It's certainly something to think about.
Well, I was working on a new novel today, one which, as I believe I've mentioned before, involves Richie Rich to a small extent. Anyway, something popped into my mind out of nowhere: a comic book character I really enjoyed as a child. His name was O.G. Whiz. He was wealthy, like Richie Rich, but unlike Richie Rich he worked for it. O.G. Whiz was the president of a toy company. Well, I looked him up on the "internet" and there he was. I'm not kidding, you have to check out the "internet" some time, you won't believe how much stuff they've put on the "internet." All sorts of subjects! I discovered, by the way, that O.G. Whiz looks exactly like a particular executive at one of my old jobs. I mean exactly!