Sunday, July 29, 2007
This is not a drill! The "hard drive" is about to be packed up, and when we plug it in again in Mississippi, who knows if it will even work? So at the very least I owe you all one last edition of McNeil's Movie Korner. McNeil emailed the other day with a tawdry pun - unfit for "blogging" - about a movie that TCM was airing. The subject header of his email was "Goin' Blue," and the title of the movie was THE EXTRAORDINARY SEAMAN. The body of the email consisted of McNeil's sly and unprintable jape, which he capped off with a dedication: "That one's for Redd Foxx," he wrote. Persons who know Mr. Foxx only from SANFORD AND SON will be confused. Others will share a knowing wink with McNeil. Hey, speaking of TCM (I hate to horn in on McNeil's Movie Korner, but we are pressed for time here) I saw a little bit of SHANE last night and realized that I was way off base when I speculated here on the "blog" that John Qualen might be in it. There was another guy in it who looks nothing like John Qualen, but played a character similar to the one Qualen plays in THE SEARCHERS - if he truly was in THE SEARCHERS. I don't know if I can trust my memory anymore. But this is a "blog" so it just doesn't matter. I'm not the encyclopedia, for goodness sake! I'm just a man.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Welcome once more to McNeil's Movie Korner. McNeil called this morning to say that he just saw ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938) for the first time, and cannot imagine why it took him so long. It just slipped through the cracks somehow. Among his raves, McNeil was particularly overjoyed by the freshness and power of the surprising yet inevitable ending. His admiration for the movie sent him scampering for the "internet," where he was intrigued by this bio of the guy who played the Cagney character as a young man.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
For the second time in a row, a centenary "post" has been marred by commercialism, according to a statement released today by B. Proctor Weems, CEO of "Blog" Industries. "We thought Pendarvis had learned his lesson given the crass nature of his 800th 'post,'" Weems remarked. "It certainly seemed to have damaged him emotionally. But the 900th 'post' on The Place Where Jack Pendarvis has a 'Blog' is even more egregious. It is titled 'The Unnamed,' but may as well be called 'Buy My Book, Suckers.' This is the opposite of what we had been led to believe Pendarvis would produce in a 'blogging' capacity." Pendarvis held a hastily assembled press conference (pictured) to defend his actions. "Look," he said. "I'll make a list right now of 'posts' I don't even recall writing. Just random cr-p. Is that what they want? Fine. Meanwhile, we're moving, so maybe Weems can retool the 'blog' while I'm gone. I'll see everyone some time in August. Who knows what the 'blog' will look like then?" Later in the day, Pendarvis Building interns indeed released "links" to the most obscure and forgotten "posts" in the Pendarvis canon. We have not examined them in depth, but they do seem to support Pendarvis' claim that he writes generally about ephemera that can serve no sane commercial purpose. The complete list follows: "Andy Garcia"---"Shoes"---"What's Next For Forky?"---"Sorehead"---"Leftover Roast"---"Shake Well"---"Preemptive Calendar Rebuttal"---"Refrigerator Door"
As you know, there's a certain online bookseller whose name we never mention and to whom we never "link." But we think about it all the time with various degrees of suspicion and disgruntlement. And yesterday we noticed that they suddenly switched the paperback of my first book (THE MYSTERIOUS SECRET OF THE VALUABLE TREASURE) from "ships in 24 hours" status to "ships in 1 to 3 weeks." That's not nice! It won't encourage people to enjoy the fruits of my brain! Such a delay is usually reserved for scholarly works about the Mayan language from small university presses. That's fine if you are a Mayan scholar! Three weeks is no big deal! But most regular joes need a quick fix in this day and age of "computers" and "automobiles." And the paperback only came out in January. It should be easy to obtain. I trust that this is a temporary setback due to the kind words of Laura Lippman on NPR. I mean, in my fevered imagination, perhaps this electronic bookseller has been overwhelmed with requests from NPR listeners, necessitating the delay. But I am here to let you know that many other reliable booksellers seem to have no problem stocking the book, so knock yourselves out! Powell's, for example, seems adequately prepared for the Dionysian onslaught. I was walking by A Cappella just yesterday, and noted that they were stuffed to overflowing with moldering copies of my dense, challenging work. For that matter, "click" on any of the independent bookstores listed in my "links" to the right. They will ship you a book as happily as any giant octopus of commerce. Plus they take sweet, tender care. Oh yeah, and the publisher has had tons of trouble unloading the hardcover. Wouldn't you prefer a hardcover? They're lying around everywhere like manna. All pretense of "art" has now officially fallen away. You know what the "blog" is for.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Last night at dinner, the future brother-in-law (FBIL) revealed that he has been discussing the Tater Mitts at work. One of his coworkers recalled seeing a bad review of said Tater Mitts in a magazine, though the FBIL could not recall which magazine. In any case, it seems that one must parboil the potatoes before the Tater Mitts can be effective. Yet once the potatoes are parboiled, the Tater Mitts hardly seem necessary! Or so ran the reviewer's complaints, as the FBIL's coworker recalled. Just now, the FBIL has emailed with more information. The coworker now believes that the magazine was GOOD HOUSEKEEPING. The FBIL, however, cannot find the alleged bad review of Tater Mitts online. Here's what he did find (in his words): "a link to a TV station in Pennsylvania that ran a story about the Good Housekeeping Institute and their mission to test every product ever featured on an infomercial. Four paragraphs down you find out that Tater Mitts only received one star (as opposed to four stars earned by 'Earlifts')." The FBIL goes on: "It looks like the Magic Bullet [another object of "blog"templation - ed.] did not fare too well with the folks at Good Housekeeping either." He concludes, "How sad." We agree, FBIL. We agree. Because their infomercial is AWESOME! (Pictured, one of the infomercial characters who loves the Magic Bullet.)
Well, I went into Aurora in Little Five Points, my "fave" coffee shop, for one of the last times before the move, and perhaps THE last time while my two "fave" baristas are on duty. They were talking about Barry Hannah this morning! And listening to ARTHUR (one of The Kinks' best albums) on vinyl. Come on! Goodbye, "fave" baristas.
Monday, July 23, 2007
I was talking to this guy at a party and it turns out he's part of a club that participates in "unsanctioned" bicycle races. There is, apparently, a subculture of vegan bicyclists and another subculture of bicyclists who eat a lot of meat on purpose before every race just to get on the nerves of their rival faction. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, people. You all probably knew about this already because I'm an old man. I hardly know about anything unsanctioned anymore. I thought my brother in Hollywood could make a TV show out of it but he hasn't called back. Oh yeah, and they drink a lot. Sometimes that's part of the race. They ride "fixed gear" bicycles, whatever that means. For a long time I thought the guy was saying "fifth year" bicycles. But he wasn't. That's how old and deaf I am. And the thought of the drunken, meat-swollen unsanctioned bicycle races alarmed me and roused my aged curiosity in that seedy, vicarious way we elderly folk have about us. For more about unsanctioned bicycle races, visit your local library.
I have noticed that I say "Do you know what I mean?" about ten billion times per day. If anyone hears me saying this, please alert me to the fact so that I will shut my meaning hole. Yes, sometimes maybe I am really wondering if the other person knows what I mean. But usually I am just saying it for no reason and I can't stop. Let's all pitch in to help!
After my lunch with Robert Osborne, I dropped by to see good old Phil Oppenheim, who works nearby. Phil and I were surprised to discover that completely coincidentally we had read PLAY IT AS IT LAYS at the same time. Then Phil told me about a "cocktail convention" he had attended in New Orleans. One of the speakers was a friend of Phil's who has written a book about tiki bars. When I find out the name of the book, I will "post" the information for you. Phil began the evening with several sazeracs at the Carousel Bar. Next, at the convention, he had some tiki cocktails that went along with his friend's presentation. Phil recalls consuming, in that supportive capacity, a Planter's Punch, a Mai Tai, a Nui Nui (also known as a "Desert Rattler," which animal is, of course, a predominant image in PLAY IT AS IT LAYS), and - or so he vaguely recalls - something called, perhaps, "The Virgin's Surrender." Then he was mistaken for a bar owner by a British gentleman whose one goal in life is restoring absinthe to its proper place in American culture. He bade Phil have some "French absinthe" (Phil had two, and called them "wonderful and cloudy") and then some "Czech absinthe," which Phil says was "electric blue," but the color of which the English absinthe salesman referred to only as "postmodern." Then it was time for a "wretched after party" with a lot of beer. At 4 AM Phil found himself in a place called (I think) Molly's on Market, nursing an alcoholic frozen coffee and verbally sparring with an unknown woman who was flipping through a book of Renaissance paintings. Oh yes, and there were some Pimm's Cups in there somewhere. But this is not an accurate picture of the real Phil. We all need to blow off some steam some time! Even Phil!
Last time to go to Pura Vida, the tapas place across the street. We will miss you after our move, Pura Vida! What was tonight's homemade ice cream, you ask? How about corn and hot peppers, with a caramelized corn topping? Oh yeah? And what about vanilla with foie gras sauce? That's what I said. Dig it.
Well, I had lunch with Robert Osborne today, thanks to my friend Shana (pictured), who is in his posse. As you know, Mr. Osborne is the genial host of the most-watched channel in the Pendarvis Building, Turner Classic Movies. We like to call it TCM for short, it's a thing we have. Mr. Osborne and I discussed Dick Powell, and Mr. Osborne talked a little bit about the pros and cons of the Cinerama process. Many other subjects came up - the great film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, for example. Some topics, like apartment living vs. homeownership, were not even movie-related. All along, Mr. Osborne was a fascinating conversationalist and a true gentleman. He reacted with amusement when I told him how my publisher wanted me to have a "blog" to get "hep" with the "kids of today" and yet I only write about things like the early talkie UNION DEPOT. Shana told us about one of her favorite French short films and Mr. Osborne talked about one of his. It was the nicest going away present ever... thanks, Shana! At one point as Mr. Osborne (who was sitting across from me) talked, I swear that I felt everything blurring out around the edges and went into kind of a daze, because it was like watching TCM but not... sort of an out-of-the-TV experience. I was momentarily disoriented! But I was made to feel 10,000 times more comfortable than when I accidentally sort of had breakfast with Christopher Hitchens. With whom shall I have supper? Stay tuned!
Sunday, July 22, 2007
McNeil has dispatched several updates about his daughter's marathon reading of all the Potter books (rereading the first six in preparation for reading the seventh for the first time). On Saturday, July 21, McNeil reported, "As of 6:35 EST ______ was on page 274 of book 4. Empty ginger ale bottles and Zebra Cake wrappers littered the floor of her bedroom. Said _______: 'I hope to have a good chunk of book 5 read before I have to sleep. Of course I'll have to take dinner in my room.' She looked weary and tense, and as if she were in the midst of some bittersweet parting. I let her be. More updates as the situation warrants." At 7:55 that same evening, we received another bulletin: "Book 4, page 414." Today, this: "_______ has read over 3200 pages since 10am Saturday. Not healthy! I couldn't even muster that much energy in grad school for ol' Shaky. She's on page 170 of Book 7." Note: After a brief brainstorming session in the Pendarvis Building think tank, we have concluded that "Ol' Shaky" is McNeil's special name for Shakespeare. The roundtable declared it "very cute." More reports to come.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
The cable is back, in case you were worried! Theresa and I came in forty minutes late to JACK THE GIANT KILLER, starring Kerwin Mathews, whose passing we have so recently lamented. The scene we happened upon took place on a sailing vessel, as some sailors were menaced by glowing entities. One of them seemed to be a duck or lizard that could blow powerful wind out of its mouth/beak. Another was some kind of skeleton bride, I believe. In the next scene we met the main villain, whose demeanor, henchmen, and lair MUST have inspired Terry Gilliam when he came up with the Evil Genius for TIME BANDITS. The similarities are too numerous to be coincidental, according to the calculations of the Pendarvis Building computer bank. And later we got a Viking, a leprechaun, and a chimpanzee in a black bikini bottom - nor were these the totality of the exciting characters to be encountered. Meanwhile, on the next channel down, they were showing KEEPING THE FAITH, a mild, possibly neutered romantic comedy starring Ed Norton and Ben Stiller, two very likable young performers, and I couldn't help but marvel at how the tacky visions of misguided crackpots are always preferable to the tasteful displays of respectable executives. Okay, bye!
Last walk to the bank. Last Atlanta haircut. No one cares, Pendarvis! But WHY did I get my hair cut? Because I'm having lunch with Robert Osborne on Monday, that's why, under the auspices of my special "myspace" friend Shana. I take back all the hateful things I've ever said about "myspace." Meanwhile on Monday, Theresa will be taking the cats to the vet for a last check-up and some sedatives for the trip. It hardly seems a fair division of duties! Speaking of my physical and moral slovenliness, on the way back home from the haircut I bought six books at a yard sale. You're moving, dummy! But they were fifty cents apiece, okay? Hey, who else is depressed that there are no "cent" signs on these newfangledy keyboards these kids have these days? PS: The marinated chicken subs are back. I just ordered my very last one. It's on its way right now. Lasts! Who cares?
Friday, July 20, 2007
I caught the tail end of a commercial for leg medicine and I thought I heard the reassuring announcer say that one of the potential side effects was "an increase in your gambling urges." So I looked it up on the "internet" and I am not crazy, as you can see by "clicking" on this "link." I called to warn McNeil. As regular readers of the "blog" will recall, he has gambling urges already. During the course of our discussion of medical side effects, I found out why McNeil can only drink diet ginger ale. A medicine he is taking has changed his taste buds! Coca Cola, which he formerly enjoyed, tastes to him now like "charcoal with cellophane melted on it," in McNeil's words. Nor can he eat his former favorite cheeses. Finally McNeil promised to email later, with news of an Air France commercial that disturbs him in some way. Well, the leg medicine commercial is not as entertaining as the Tater Mitts commercial we previously examined. What do you want from me? They can't all be gems.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Welcome once again to McNeil's Movie Korner. McNeil sends in an unusually lengthy anecdote today, which we reprint here in its entirety: "Yesterday," writes McNeil, "I bought a pack of 100 blank Memorex DVDs for $22.00. Amazing. I tried burning The Trouble with Angels last night, but for some reason, 0 out of the 3 DVD players in my home would read it. I thought I made a mistake by buying the Memorex again. I had sworn off them when they had let me down once before, opting instead for Verbatim and Sony brands only." (This is the kind of "tip" you can only get at the "blog," folks! - ed.) McNeil continues: "But it was too good a deal to pass up, and so I talked myself into it. So this morning on the way out to the playground I burned Rashomon on one of the Memorex's (?) and it worked, so I don't know what was wrong with '...Angels.' Maybe it just doesn't like Hayley Mills. She's not in Rashomon is she? That would be funny if she were. Real funny. We had to leave the playground at 10:30, by the way, along with everyone else...it suddenly became way too hot for everybody, even though there is a giant tarp covering a large area of the playing surface, as if one were performing under the big top. I had hoped to leave there and go to the mall to buy some stuff to decorate [McNeil's daughter's] room for the big Harry Potter weekend, but we got inside and it just felt too good to go back out, so...we didn't. I guess I'll go out tomorrow and get her a poster and some snacks, fill a cooler full of drinks and put them all in her room. She has vowed to read all of the previous six HP novels before reading the new, 7th novel coming out tomorrow night at midnight. And she has vowed not to come out of her room all weekend except to use the bathroom or to come downstairs to put something frozen in the microwave." Here ends the transmission. It ventured a little off McNeil's movie beat, but we believe it is a fascinating peek into the life of McNeil the man.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Last evening at about six, Theresa and I turned on the TV to discover that our cable company had disconnected the cable two weeks earlier than we requested. When we called, they explained that while it was very easy for them to "cut the wire" (as they put it) it was very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very hard - impossible, really - for them to ever, ever, ever correct any mistake. They would try to send someone out one day but they really couldn't promise anything. All this is preamble to explaining how we ended up renting and watching MISSION TO MARS last night. I said, "Hey, we should watch that OTHER Mars movie that came out around the same time as RED PLANET." See, we had so much innocent fun stumbling across the latter film on cable the other night... Well, our experiment proved that lightning does not strike twice. Or, as was demonstrated in ANNIE HALL, you cannot force a second amusing and romantic accident involving escaped lobsters. What can I say about MISSION TO MARS? Not much without violating the principles of the "blog." But I will say that like RED PLANET it contained an allusion to WAY... WAY OUT (a different one): Within the first five minutes a character explains, in roughly these words, that "marriage is a stabilizing factor on long space missions," a sentiment that is also the premise of the Jerry Lewis film.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
As I believe I have mentioned before, people in California are nice. Take the staff of Skylight Books, for example. When I did my reading there, I noticed a large, attractive, oddly shaped book that I wanted a lot, but which would have been impossible to carry on the airplane back to Atlanta. They said they could ship it for me. With characteristic selfishness, I did not think how tough it would be for them to ship the large, attractive, oddly shaped book. But they did so cheerfully. Not only that, but they got the wonderful narrative cartoonist Joe Matt to come into the store just to sign a copy of his new book for me. These are nice, hardworking people, I tell you. They write, too! Kerrie Kvashay-Boyle, who was kind enough to be my MC on the night of my reading, has been anthologized, for example, and there is some of her work on its way to me in the same package with the big, good book and Joe Matt. I was first introduced to the work of Mr. Matt by Kent Osborne - that's just a fascinating side note for you people of the world! Anyway, Kent happens to be something of a cartoonist himself. Hey, he has a new book of comics out, which he is publishing himself. You can buy it for $5 here. Okay! Kent lives in California, too, and he is nice as well. (Pictured, a California-esque scene from Kent's comic book.)
We don't mean to boast or anything, but who should we run into at our favorite coffee shop (Aurora in Little Five Points) this morning but a certain rival "blogger" who up until recently was always chiding us about not hanging out in one of HIS "fave" coffee shops. Fat chance! And he even appeared to be "blogging" on site! At Aurora, that is. Justified: that's how we felt. At the same time we experienced a twinge of melancholy, as if this person might be our replacement as we pack up the old Pendarvis Building and get ready for the wrecking ball. Life in the neighborhood goes on without us.
Monday, July 16, 2007
A lucky "Blog" Buddy has put in a request for THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES just in the nick of time! Only three titles remain up for grabs in our special giveaway. I'm shocked that FOOTLIGHT PARADE still molders on the shelf. It has Dick Powell in it, people! Dick Powell! And allow me to quote from the video box: "[T]he classic 'Human Waterfall' number... displays countless beautiful chorus girls costumed in little more than ropes of pearls and showered in a mist from from 300 tiny water sprays!" End of quote. Exclamation point theirs.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Did you know you can go on the "internet" and read the 1955 treatise THE COMPLETE BOOK OF CHEESE by Bob Brown? Well, you can! Thanks to McNeil for the tip. Lord only knows how he ran across it, but we're glad he did.
The "What?" in the previous "post" was directed at the crabby old man deep inside me, a gentleman I didn't know was there. But I did! I did know! He's that jackass in every period film who says something like, "This Picasso character will never amount to anything!" or "I believe we've heard the last of Alexander Graham Bell!" What a jerk I am!
There are only five titles left in our BIG VHS GIVEAWAY. Your choice of LITTLE WOMEN, YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, FOOTLIGHT PARADE, and A FACE IN THE CROWD. Each intriguing in its on way, and a perfect gift for the benighted fool who has not ventured into the 21st century where everything is so perfect and awesome and you can watch reruns of terrible TV shows on your phone for some reason. What?
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Attention "Blog" Buddies (and you know who you are). As we pack up to go to Oxford, it is revealed unto us that we have duplicates of several fine motion pictures. That is, we have DVDs of them and no longer need the VHS versions currently also in our possession. A list of the videotapes follows. If any "Blog" Buddy wants any particular titles, we will reward them in the order they are requested. Remember, these are VHS tapes, not DVDs, so if you do not have a VHS player or do not care to watch VHS tapes because of all the modern conveniences we now have in these strange times in which we live today, do not bother us. On the other hand, if the thought of a free movie in whatever format entices you, contact us at once. Supplies are limited! In fact, we have only one VHS of each movie. Act now! Note: This offer is for "Blog" Buddies ONLY. If you are not sure whether you are indeed a "Blog" Buddy, you are not. The list: ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (a Howard Hawks action picture starring Cary Grant) - THE SUNDOWNERS (a lighter Robert Mitchum vehicle) - FOOTLIGHT PARADE (Jimmy Cagney/Busby Berkeley) - LITTLE WOMEN (1994 version, still in the shrink wrap) - YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (Henry Fonda/John Ford/Abraham Lincoln) - A FACE IN THE CROWD (scary Andy Griffith) - MASCULIN-FEMININ (my personal "fave" Godard movie) - CAT PEOPLE (original version! Almost as good as CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE) - THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (featuring Theresa "fave" Dana Andrews; get ready to weep!) - ON DANGEROUS GROUND (Ida Lupino/Robert Ryan/Nicholas Ray).
Friday, July 13, 2007
NPR people, "click" here. All others, I would like to tell you about a cartoon that Theresa and I saw on the TV last night. It was an episode of a late '60s series called MOBY-DICK. In this version, Moby-Dick swims around with two kids on his back. In the episode we witnessed, some underwater bats began attacking the children for absolutely no reason. "It's the Aqua-Bats," one of the children said, sounding relatively calm, as if Aqua-Bats were a normal everyday concern in his world. Long story short, Moby-Dick defeated the Aqua-Bats. But I was surprised to learn that Moby-Dick was capable of elongating himself like Plastic Man. Also, the children tended to hide inside Moby-Dick when trouble arose - a tactic which, as we know from the Bible and Pinocchio, is problematic. To conclude, I would like to note that at one point Moby-Dick battled a giant Portuguese Man-O-War, and we were given to understand that when head-butted, this sea creature would merely split in two and become two angry, hepped-up sea creatures, then four, and so on. No explanation was given, though from my limited experience in marine biology, I am fairly certain it was unusual behavior. The name of the episode was "The Aqua-Bats." It was all over in seven glorious, hallucinogenic minutes. We took turns pinching one another long into the night. I thank you for your time and attention. The Aqua-Bats thank you. A coda: I have learned through "googling" that there is a band called the Aqua-Bats. For all I know, they took their name from this very cartoon. And finally, would it surprise you to know that the "Min-Aquabats" (pictured) are the oldest amateur water ski team in the United States of America? I thought you would like to know!
You know how we love coincidences, such as when we read three novels in a row that mentioned Pernod. Well, a telephone call from Dr. "M." (a call in which Theresa is still participating at the very moment of this "blogging") has personally transmitted a new edition of Dr. "M.'s" TV Korner, one which turns on just such a coincidence. It seems that Dr. "M." and the mysterious farmer were watching the TV show FIREFLY courtesy of NetFlix and took special note of a certain actor. The next evening, they saw the same actor on an episode of BIG LOVE. "That guy with the interesting mole on his face is everywhere," Dr. "M." remarked to the mysterious farmer, according to her testimony. Two days later, Dr. "M." was reading this very "blog" and saw a picture of that selfsame actor. And the name of that young man was... Carlos Jacott. And now you know... THE REST OF THE STORY. Ha ha! That's a Paul Harvey reference for you readers over the age of 80. (By the way, some computer interloper has seemingly removed the picture of Carlos Jacott that caused Dr. "M." such amazement. Also vanished, by the bye, is my picture of Farrah Fawcett. And here in the Pendarvis Building, we have never noticed a mole, interesting or otherwise, on Carlos Jacott. Although we are a writer, we are not very observant.) Pictured, Paul Harvey (left).
I check a "blog" called "The Elegant Variation" about a million times a day. I enjoy its eccentricity and passion. But I originally "linked" to it because I noticed that Jim Ruland "blogged" there occasionally. Now I don't know Jim Ruland, in fact have never met him (despite my cavalier designation of him as a "Blog" Buddy) but I read his book BIG LONESOME and enjoyed it very much. I was made aware of the book after John Warner interviewed me and I saw a Ruland interview he had done previously. It seemed to me, after reading BIG LONESOME, that Mr. Ruland and I shared certain concerns and tics. And later, when I met Pia Ehrhardt, she said, after hearing me read, that I would really like her friend Jim Ruland, and I was happy to be able to tell her that I had already read his book! Well, anyway, I have figured out where Jim Ruland actually "blogs," so I want to "link" to it for you. And I also want to make it clear that I don't really know him, as he gave my second book such a nice review. But the main reason I started "posting" just now was because of "The Elegant Variation," which is misleadingly labeled, in my "links" column to the right, "sometimes Jim Ruland 'blogs' here." Okay. Now I must apologize for never having figured out "paragraph breaks" on a "blog." Because what I meant to say from the very beginning was that I like "The Elegant Variation" despite (because of?) the fact that it makes me shout things at my computer, such as "What are you so worked up about, James Wood? You're going to give yourself a stroke! Have a cool drink and cut a fella some slack!" or "Dude! TV is awesome! And for that matter, music is way better than books so maybe we should all take up the flute!" or "Holy cow, A.N. Wilson! We'll all be dead in a hundred years, so who cares?" Wow. Now I feel better. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I'm going to leave up the "link" to "The Elegant Variation" because it has earned a place in my heart but I will also put up a "link" to Jim Ruland's actual "blog." Okay! (Pictured, James Woods, who I sometimes pretend amusingly to myself is the book critic James Wood.)
Theresa and I were sad to hear that the guy who played Sinbad in the Ray Harryhausen movie THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD has passed away. It's one of the few DVDs in our library to be spared from the storage unit during our stay in Oxford so we may enjoy it at leisure. Sinbad! We appreciate you!
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Here's what I'm thinking. It looks like some NPR fans may be dropping by this "blog" soon, for reasons I have recently discussed. Aren't they going to be disappointed when they figure out that all I talk about is stuff like THIS? And what's THAT? So I thought I would include something up here, at the top of the page, that has "links" to some of the classier "posts" and subjects of the "blog." For example, how about the opera DAPHNE? What else? Oh yeah, the time I went to an art show and saw the squashed rats in the glass brick. And when I watched a famous intellectual on TV. And how about the assassination of William McKinley? I think that covers it. (Pictured, a classy statue from olden times.)
Remember how sick and tired I was of making up magisterial things to say about my second book and trying to trick everyone into buying it? Well, now something has happened and I think it's okay because it's not me, it's somebody else, and it's about my FIRST book, so that's okay, right? If I draw your attention to it, I mean? Let's go back in time. First Tom Franklin gave my book to some nice people. One of them liked it so much that he called me up on the phone and surprised me. Later I began to correspond with another of these strangers, who soon became a special email "buddy," and her name is Laura Lippman. She's a writer, too! And I read some of her work and was "blown away" by it as the charming vernacular would have it and what a happy time we had emailing back and forth and telling each other nice things. Well, next thing you know, NPR asked her to talk about a book she "frequently recommends to other people" and I am happy and proud to say that out of all the books she might have chosen by authors living and dead, she temporarily went crazy in the coconut and picked mine. You can read her flattering essay right here by "clicking" on this brightly highlighted sentence you are reading right now. And those NPR people were kind enough to include the entire text of one of my short stories and even a "link" to this "blog."
A call from Jeff McNeil today: first he wished to remind me of the imminent airing of UNDER THE YUM YUM TREE on TCM. Next he made some corrections to my recent account of the McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival. McNeil contends that we made it through 40 minutes of SALT AND PEPPER, not 20 as previously reported. He also told me that he watched the next 20 minutes - that is, the last third of the first hour of the film - today, and he reports significant improvement. "Remember how we stopped the DVD when they got in Sammy Davis Jr.'s little yellow car?" McNeil inquired. "Well, the next fifteen minutes were nothing but them riding around in the car pushing buttons. One button released an oil slick. Another button put up a bulletproof windshield. I think there were about fifteen buttons, and they pushed all of them. It was a lot better than the first forty minutes." McNeil went on to report that Leonard Maltin, with whom the "blog" has feuded in the past, awarded ZERO stars and "BOMB" status to the SALT AND PEPPER sequel ONE MORE TIME but two and a half coveted stars to SALT AND PEPPER itself - rankings which, McNeil and I agreed, we would have reversed. (Pictured, Peter Lawford, the titular Pepper.)
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
One highlight of the recent film festival was the comedy HIGHBALL. Elsewhere I have expressed my problems with getting other people to enjoy it along with me, but McNeil was happy - and he is ordinarily a very sullen man. He noted that in the last section of the film, the actor Carlos Jacott (pictured, right, in a role on SEINFELD) was dressed and possibly coifed in the style of Jerry Lewis in the climactic prom scene of THE NUTTY PROFESSOR. In fact, Jacott begins the movie as a boor in the "Buddy Love" tradition and makes the opposite of the Lewis transformation - into an odd, awkward man-child. The scene in which he sits on a couch eating something very crunchy for a very long time is right out of the Lewis playbook. (We had the chance to note several times during the festival that Mr. Lewis enjoys milking a gag past all reasonable limits, often to good effect. One example: he bangs his head on a metal sculpture in CRACKING UP and it reverberates musically for several minutes afterward, rendering an important conversation impossible. Ha ha ha!) And no, we are not just seeing Jerry Lewis everywhere. Earlier in HIGHBALL, Peter Bogdanovich impersonates Lewis - proof, we feel, of purposeful homage.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
But I feel I must mention, just to be fair, that THE WRECKING CREW, for all its many faults, did contain a memorably vivid blue shag carpet with matching walls of a marble-like stone. McNeil was pleased. The effect on one's eyes was not unlike assault.
Film scholars from all over the world have been pestering me for details about the McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival. After letting it all sink in, I must say the festival began and ended with disappointment. The first twenty minutes of SALT AND PEPPER were all we could stand, for example. Yes, we men who can watch anything - defeated. We did watch it long enough to see the canary yellow turtleneck pictured at this "link," and thus were able to note that the leading lady of DON'T RAISE THE BRIDGE, LOWER THE RIVER seemed to have borrowed a lot of Sammy Davis Jr.'s clothes. On the plus side, SALT AND PEPPER made its own sequel ONE MORE TIME seem like a masterpiece. Now please understand. I am not recommending that the amateur should just dive into ONE MORE TIME. It requires years of training, of knowing what to look for. Mr. McNeil remarked at one point, for example, "I can tell Jerry [Lewis, who directed] walked everybody through this scene step by step." Imagining that was more fun than the actual scene! McNeil was also highly appreciative of Peter Lawford's special bachelor room in the castle, though the carpet was not shaggy enough for his (McNeil's) liking. McNeil still contends that THE PATSY is the pinnacle of Lewis' talents as a decorator. "The colors are more subdued," he explained. Then he gave Theresa an interesting lecture on attractive lamps in the films of Jerry Lewis... the way they match the drapes, and so on. At some point during the presentation, Theresa disappeared, and we sorely missed her for the rest of the festival. As for the disappointment that ended the program, THE WRECKING CREW contains off-the-charts misogyny, even if one adjusts for the cultural norms of the time or endeavors to think of misogyny as a mere plot device that runs the engine of a certain kind of farce. They blew up Nancy Kwan AND Tina Louise, for example. Blew them up! And I don't even want to tell you what happened to poor Elke Sommer. What a downer. But the festival did have its unadulterated highlights, which will be addressed in coming days. (Pictured, Nancy Kwan, so wrongly mistreated in THE WRECKING CREW.)
Here it is, the welcome return of Dr. "M." after her mysterious disappearance. In the following dispatch, Dr. "M." veers a little off the subject of TV and into movie rentals and other sordid enterprises, nor does she put the proper "quotation marks" around the word "blog," but we're going to let it slide because we're so happy to have her back. Here, then, the unexpurgated Dr. "M." in all her glory: "My apologies to the fans of the blog that I have had nothing to contribute as of late. I know that crowds have been rallying beneath Jack's apartment window, torches in hand, yelling More TV Korner, More TV Korner! Well, your calls have been heard. First, I offer a riddle--What does a show about an intelligent, attractive teen detective have in common with a show about attractive polygamists in Utah? The answer: three of the same actors! Beaver, Mac, and Lilly Kane from Veronica Mars are regulars on Big Love. If Veronica ends up joining the show as the 4th wife, I will just lose it...what 'losing it' means, I am not sure, but I know it wouldn't be pretty. In film news, I draw your attention to this week's Entertainment Weekly, which has an article devoted to the making of Xanadu, that early 80s Olivia Newton-John cult classic. If you are ever feeling low, a movie about a Muse at the roller disco is just the prescription you need to get you through the slump. (Of course, it will also make you want to ask Gene Kelly 'Why, Gene, why?') And finally, I want to also point you to an article in the same issue about the film Red Dawn. The collector's edition DVD has just been released, and although I will probably not rush out to buy it, I will definitely rent it. Why? Because it stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, not to mention C. Thomas Howell (where have you gone, C. Thomas?) and Charlie Sheen and Harry Dean Stanton, who, by the way, plays the wonderfully creepy Grand Polygamist Patriarch on Big Love! See folks, in this web we call 'showbiz,' all are connected. Yours truly, Dr. Agent M"
As promised, here we have a message from Caroline Young on the subject of the planet Mercury: "I don't think anyone has ever made a movie about Mercury. Am I wrong? I liken that little gas ball to my dog Honeybear, not for the reason you likely suspect. They are both so easy to dismiss. Nobody anticipates the disruption they cause when they go into retrograde motion. Suffice it to say, both Mercury and Honeybear require a watchful vigilance." Here, as evidence, is a file photo of said "Honeybear." Ms. Young goes on to inform us that Mercury is coming "out of retrograde" on Monday night. Thank you. This has been one in our series on "fave" planets. We also draw your attention to the time that Jim Whorton speculated about the existence of life on the moon, though we are aware that the moon is not a planet. And speaking of things that may or may not be planets, how about the time that Pia Z. Ehrhardt mentioned Pluto in passing? Okay, there are still plenty of extra planets to choose from; send in your "fave" today!
Monday, July 09, 2007
But the least we can do in the meantime is offer the full viewing schedule of the McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival for your contemplation: Saturday - SALT AND PEPPER (first twenty minutes only); ONE MORE TIME (dir. Jerry Lewis); HIGHBALL; DON'T RAISE THE BRIDGE, LOWER THE RIVER. Sunday - LORD LOVE A DUCK; MR. JEALOUSY; CRACKING UP; THE WRECKING CREW. The theme of this year's festival was "Turtlenecks and Psychiatrists."
There is a lot to "blog" about but very little time as we demolish the Pendarvis Building prior to moving it, brick by brick, to Oxford, Mississippi. But I do want to remind myself, and alert you, that "blogging" material is piling up and ready for use just as soon as we can get to it. Expect reflections on the planet Mercury from Caroline Young, a brand new "Dr. 'M.'s' TV Korner" after an unbearably long hiatus, and a series of reports from the recently concluded McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival. Okay! And please remember to wear your hardhat when visiting the Pendarvis Building.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Our entry on RED PLANET has encouraged novelist Antoine Wilson to write of his affection for SATURN 3, or at least the first five minutes of it, which he describes looking "like an insane Broadway show." Theresa recalls SATURN 3 as "the one where a robot steps on a dog." She continues, "The robot lusts after Farrah Fawcett." Speaking of movies, the McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival has been going on for 24 hours now. Expect a report soon. Also, now that we have covered Mars and Saturn, we encourage all "blog" buddies to write in with tales of their own "fave" planets.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Theresa and I saw most of RED PLANET, starring Val Kilmer, on cable last night. And we dug it. Do you HEAR ME? We DUG IT! That's right, a movie with 87% rotten tomatoes. Do you want to watch it? Probably not! But if you do, please do not rent it or buy it. Just wait until it's about midnight one night and you're flipping around and you come in about ten minutes late. Then there's no pressure! And remember the rotten tomatoes, and forget that I ever mentioned it here. And please don't read anything about it beforehand. What happens in it? Well, just about every bad thing that can happen to a person on Mars, okay? And Tom Sizemore plays a fellow with multiple PhDs. Not to mention there's an homage to the spacesuit-encumbered rumble between Jerry Lewis and Dick Shawn in WAY... WAY OUT. Plus it has helpful tips if you ever have to put out a fire in zero gravity. Now forget everything I said. Put it out of your mind! And wait... wait until the time is right. And I don't want any guff if you don't like it. Big deal! Sue me.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Just back from a wonderful engagement party for my little sister and future brother-in-law. The OLD brother-in-law (Theresa's brother, that is) was there, and full of tidbits gleaned from the "internet." It is because of him that I am now able to "link" you to separate reports of a pink dolphin and a rabid fox who ultimately met the business end of a crutch. My suggestion is to end with the dolphin story. The fox story, while lively, is violent - though filled with admirable moxy on the part of man, child, and yes, possibly even beast (you just can't get a rabid fox down!). But the dolphin story is... happier. Plus there are photographs of a frolicking pink dolphin! I was going to put a picture with this "post" but I guess I don't want to spoil it for you.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Welcome to our newest regular feature. This is where Jeff McNeil takes off his movie critic hat and puts on his mitre. One hilarious thing is how I call him "McKneel" here, because in religion sometimes people kneel! Okay. Turning it over to the padre. McKneel writes: "You have a pic of apples on your blog as, I assume, a representation of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I believe the more accurate interpretation is that the tree was a pear tree. I have no idea why I think this is true. Apples in Persia? Give me a break! Or maybe they did have them. Who am I, after all, but a 43-year-old-man-with-a-penchant-for-hyphens?" Thus sayeth McKneel.
All the books I really want to read next are boxed up and sealed and marked Oxford. It seemed like a good idea at the time. So instead I find myself reading SURPRISED BY SIN: THE READER IN PARADISE LOST. It's the second edition with a new preface, so imagine my giddiness. Nothing against the author (Stanley Fish) or the poet John Milton, but I can't recall when or where I bought this book and I had forgotten all about it until it came time to dig through the remnants destined for a year of lonesome storage and find something to occupy my mind. Anyway, it's good so far! There's a part about the Tree of Good and Evil that made me stop and think! And I'm not even done with the preface yet. Why am I telling you what I'm reading? Beats me! But I long ago resigned myself to the fact that this is what a "blog" is. And I'll end the suspense right now about what kind of bookmark I'm using. This volume goes great with the elegant, traditional black-and-white that they slip in your bag at Skylight Books. I'm like a sommelier of bookmarks! You give me the book, I'll tell you which free bookmark goes best with it. I believe I am oversimplifying and perhaps even misdefining the job of a sommelier, and I apologize to sommeliers everywhere.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
I have been delighted recently by a television commercial for a product called Tater Mitts. I wish to make it clear: I am not vouching for the efficacy of the Tater Mitts, nor am I making a product endorsement of any kind. I am not in the employ of the Tater Mitts corporation. For some reason Tater Mitts put me in mind of Barry B. Well, I know why. It's because he has used the word "tater" in a professional capacity. I can say no more. But this was years before the advent of Tater Mitts! I described the workings of Tater Mitts to Theresa yesterday, over dinner. Theresa immediately conceived of several gruesome possible criminal uses of Tater Mitts. Once again, I can say no more. Hey, speaking of commercials for handy dandy kitchen items, have you seen the long-form ad for "The Magic Bullet"? That's a great one. I believe it is as long as an ordinary sitcom. A bunch of adults have had some sort of sleepover, a la THE ICE STORM, and their host couple demonstrates "The Magic Bullet" for them the next morning. It is implied that the guests are suffering from hangovers, and one of them is a sassy old "dame" with a comically long cigarette ash. It is the greatest commercial ever! According to the commercial, you can make everything from an omelet to a frozen alcoholic beverage with "The Magic Bullet." I happen to know that Barry B. owns a "Magic Bullet," by the way. True story! Funny, though, the name of "The Magic Bullet" seems ill chosen. It puts me in mind of the Kennedy assassination, of course (I believe the phrase was used by critics of the Warren Commission), plus there was a movie starring Edward G. Robinson (pictured) in which he cured syphilis, and it was called "Dr. ______'s Magic Bullet" (I can't recall the whole title.) Anyway, it doesn't seem as if you'd want your kitchen gadget associated with assassinations and syphilis. Finally, I will hazard a guess that I am not the first "blogger" to note the connection between that particular kitchen gadget, assassinations, and syphilis. But I am too tired to research the subject right now. Look how long this paragraph is! Anyway, though, I am not stealing, just reaching independent and inevitable conclusions, like some kind of scientist - the one who cured syphilis, for example.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
We like to take note of such things: the last three books I have read - ANSWERED PRAYERS, THE DUD AVOCADO, and PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (I'm almost finished) contained scenes of Pernod consumption. Pernod is crucial to the first chapter of AVOCADO. Starting in chapter 47 of PLAY IT AS IT LAYS, a Pernod-sipping hypnotist occasionally appears. These are the things of which we take note! These are the things for which "blogging" was invented. These are the things we do instead of "writing." P.S. In the title novella of my first book, the narrator gets into some trouble after drinking a few large water glasses of Pernod. Gosh, it really makes you think!
The right bookmark for the right book, that's my motto! Well, as I discovered on my recent trip to Greenwood, Turnrow Books (one of the fine Mississippi bookstores in the "links" section to the right) has new bookmarks - new to me, at least - in a pale, pleasingly subtle (neutral, really) green that will work with just about any book. For example, it's looking very good right now in my copy of PLAY IT AS IT LAYS by Joan Didion. Given the book's content, the Turnrow bookmark takes on a sinister, empty-souled pastel. But in THE DUD AVACADO by Elaine Dundy, which I was reading just prior to the Didion, the Turnrow green was jaunty, with appropriate overtones of Pernod. Yes, the new Turnrow bookmark is the bookmark that bookmark lovers have been dreaming of: it goes with everything! Nor have the good folks at Turnrow cynically tailored their fine new bookmarks to fit only books purchased at their store. In fact, I bought the Dundy at McNally-Robinson in New York City and the Didion at Wordsmith's in Decatur, GA. But I am sure it will go equally well with the anthology of blues lyrics I picked up at Turnrow. What's more, these bookmarks are free with any purchase! Order a book from Turnrow today, and be sure to tell them that Pendarvis sent you (and advised you, in fact, to ask for a nice green bookmark - the most versatile free bookmark on the market)! This has been one in our series of tips for friendly book likers.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Hey, you know who else likes Pimm's Cups? Barry B., that's who! We believe he is the only person who has ever offered us a homemade Pimm's Cup made in his own home. One day Barry B. was grilling hamburgers and fixing Pimm's Cups for one and all. We witnessed a Cartoon Network VP eating an entirely raw hamburger. She didn't mean to!
Hey, the woman handing out samples at the grocery store just told me that I look "just like Michael Moore." When she saw that she had crushed my spirit, she appended, "He's brilliant!" And that's just what she meant. That I look brilliant. I was debating this morning whether or not I should "blog" about the five pounds I gained on the last leg of the "book tour." I think God has answered me! I blame starting out in New Orleans. And just to seal the deal, we stopped at Uncle Mort's on the way back to Atlanta yesterday. Hey, speaking of New Orleans, I christened the trip with a couple of Pimm's Cups at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone. Pia, remembering how much I always enjoy a good Pimm's Cup, sent me this article on the subject earlier today. The author of the article was at our Oxford, MS reading. Enjoy!
Now that I'm home I want to thank everyone - bookstore staffs, friends who came out, strangers, everybody! We had fun. Special thanks to Pia Z. Ehrhardt for being such a fine reading partner and driving all over the Southeastern U.S. in her comfortable and gifted car.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Hey remember when I read two books that were illustrated, for the skimpiest of reasons, with oil paintings of Schoenberg? My, my! Those were heady times for everyone. Strange coincidences abounded, and we were sore afraid. So anyway, after I finished QUEENPIN I happened to read ANSWERED PRAYERS by Truman Capote. And in both books, characters relate anecdotes about legendary gangster moll Virginia Hill (who was from Alabama, by the way). So. That's crazy! Books are weird!