Friday, November 30, 2007
So there were only three pieces of bread left tonight. I said fine, I'd take my sandwich on one piece of bread. It wasn't bad. But I certainly came to realize that the Earl of Sandwich was really on to something with his whole "two slices of bread" thing. I was like, "Earl of Sandwich, you have GOT IT GOIN' ON!"
Wow! Our next batch of participants in the big survey are a talkative bunch. Good! First, noted film director Lynn Shelton (pictured) writes, "Are you kidding me? How on earth can someone have ONE favorite movie?!?! But if you're gonna FORCE me to come up with something...I just shifted my flixster movies around on facebook yesterday. [We have no idea what this means, either - ed.] For a couple of weeks the movie I had teetering at the top of the heap was 'My Name Is Ivan' (Andrei Tarkovsky); it is currently 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller' (Robert Altman). Take your pick." Well, Ms. Shelton, you know we will pick MCCABE & MRS. MILLER. Sometimes I think it is MY favorite movie, though I have had NIGHTMARE ALLEY listed here for so long that it is sort of carved in stone. Next up, the FBIL, who is partial to THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. Quote: "I first saw this at a friend's house when I was in the fifth grade. Before seeing it, I was a typical ten-year-old boy who loved to play with his G.I Joes. I saw this movie, and for the first time it dawned on me that war is not cool. It was also my first exposure to two of my all time 'faves,' William Holden and David Lean." The FBIL then detours into an aside on The Weenie Whirl... FINALLY! "Speaking of unique hot dogs," he writes, "remember Frankenstuffs? They were weenies with cheese or chili on the inside. While I can't attest to the quality of the Weenie Whirl, I can for the Frankenstuff... They were nasty, man." Last but not least, the acclaimed short story writer, essayist and editor Jim Ruland casts a vote for "DJANGO (1966). In an alternate universe, Sergio Corbucci is king of the Spaghetti Western and Sergio Leone is the quirky hack who put washed up American actors in his films. Corbucci's Django has the best opening sequence in the Western genre." We haven't seen it, but we trust you, Jim!
More from the "Blog" Movie Club! Theresa's favorite movies are LAURA (as has been mentioned here before) and NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. My brother picks BRAZIL. Mary Warner, producer of Thacker Mountain Radio and runner of a defunct "blog" of her own, calls JULES ET JIM "the ultimate menage a trois," managing, in her email, to include the proper accent marks, which impresses us no end, each one pointing in a different direction. What a pro!
The answers to our recent survey question are flooding in! Reports Karen Spears Zacharias: "THE GREAT GATSBY. I fell in love with both Mia Farrow and Robert Redford, and all things F. Scott Fitzgerald. BTW: I once got to hold his briefcase, briefly." James Whorton, Jr., cites THE CONVERSATION (our third mention of a Coppola movie in just two editions of the "Blog" Movie Club!), but says "it could at any moment be displaced by MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO." Speaking of children's movies, it might come as no surprise that the great food writer - and so much more! - John T. Edge loves WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (Gene Wilder version). He says, "I know all the words to the Oompa Loompa songs. And who wouldn't want to eat a candy toadstool and trip?" Speaking of knowing all the words to things, my sister's favorite movie is ON THE TOWN, the Gene Kelly/Frank Sinatra musical. Since about the age of ten (or earlier) my sister has been able - thanks to multiple viewings - to recite ALL the dialogue and sing every song (as I can confirm from repeated experience) and she still loves it just as much today. Speaking of multiple viewings, Kent Osborne has this to say about his own favorite, MIDNIGHT COWBOY: "I remember watching it five times in five days when I first saw it. It's amazing." See how I made each response kind of flow together like that? That took some doing! But the "blog" is always working for you, to make your "blog" reading experience relaxing and enjoyable. Hmm... I see that I already have three new responses waiting. Golly! I need to take a nap.
All this talk of Jerry Lewis got me to wondering: What are the "fave" movies of our various "blog" participants? So I sent out a bunch of emails. The first two responses I've received really make me think! Antoine Wilson's favorite movie is THE JERK. And here's what Tom Franklin had to say: "While The Godfather and Apocalypse Now are usually one of My Top Two, Dumb & Dumber is ALWAYS there. Dumb & Dumber. I don't believe I need to go into more detail." First it is interesting that two novelists of surpassing darkness and violence put two such wild - might we say zany? - comedies at the top of their lists (although it must be said that there is some slashing humor in the work of both men). Secondly, it is heartening that by coincidence our first two films show such an obvious debt to the work of Jerry Lewis. Okay, bye!
Here's the final bit of our recent Jerry Lewis saga. Mark Osborne emails to say, "Here's a totally crazy and weird thing -- this morning I heard a clip on NPR of John Waters recommending CRASH (not the classy message film) as one of his favorite films. You made a comparison between CRASH and Waters' PINK FLAMINGOS in your blog yesterday! What are the chances of that? Your blog is intimately connected to the zeitgeist once again..." Osborne goes on to clarify his position on Jerry Lewis: "I do enjoy the funny parts (like his pantomime/lip sync bit pretending the be the studio executive near the end of the Errand Boy), but sometimes there is a vast wasteland between these scraps of entertainment." Finally, Osborne claims to "love HARDLY WORKING." He seems sincere, or is he just trying to make us feel better? And he concludes with a vivid memory of another movie (like PINK FLAMINGOS and ARTISTS AND MODELS) that we watched together: Osborne, his brother Kent, Mr. Ward, and I heckling the Sandra Bullock vehicle WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING from the balcony of the magnificent El Capitan.
Mark Osborne has McNeil thinking about Jerry Lewis. Why, McNeil asked himself, will McNeil willingly sit through the cloying sock puppets in THE ERRAND BOY, which for Osborne mark a point of no return? McNeil says it has to do with "the potential energy whenever Jerry is onscreen." Apparently Jerry's "potential energy" is strong enough to make McNeil watch movies that he has seen several times before, even the sock puppet sequence which he knows from experience no "potential energy" will be expended to save.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
EYE STRAIN ALERT! This "post," like the previous one, cries out for "paragraph breaks," which are beyond our facility. Speaking of that former "post," Mark Osborne (one of the subjects of it) writes in response: "Kimb and I have been slogging through the Jerry Lewis movies available on Netflix and I have to say I guess I don't have any idea how to watch a Jerry Lewis movie. I just keep getting mad at him. I keep imagining what he thought was going to happen when he started rolling and how what actually happened must have seemed worth it for a few minutes. I also try to imagining an audience filled with people who paid money to see these films smiling and enjoying their night out, but I can't quite picture it. We keep trying though. Any tips would be appreciated. We tried The Errand Boy (yipes! the sock puppets!) The Patsy (the premise was kinda the same, was he trying to perfect the formula?), The Disorderly Orderely (turned it off) and The Nutty Professor (Kimb laughed a lot, she used to have a crush on Buddy Love as a kid). That's it so far." Thanks, Mark! I will do my best to address your concerns. First let me say that McNeil - my fellow Jerry Lewis fan - feels the exact same way as the Osbornes about THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY. He finds it unwatchable. Me, I like it. I know I'm wrong. I like it when Jerry Lewis makes faces and flails around and talks funny. In one way, it's that simple. As for advice about how to watch him, I'll take a stab at it, but maybe it is impossible to come to Jerry Lewis on purpose. Maybe it requires happenstance and timing that cannot be replicated in a laboratory environment - I mean both personal timing (Kimb getting a crush on Buddy Love when she was a kid) as well as an epochal gulf of transient cultural norms that has produced what Jonathan Rosenbaum calls America's "irrational denial that [Lewis] was all that popular to begin with." David Thomson on the same subject: "To live in America is to experience the native incredulity at Lewis being taken seriously. Few things are held against the whole of France more fiercely than French love of Lewis." And most Shakespearean scholars agree that Hamlet was referring to Jerry Lewis's declining popularity when he described "that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns." But I don't want to be fatalistic! So let's say that you should start with THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (too late for you, Mark, so this is general advice). Everyone who has a tiny bit of interest in American movie history should see that one, anyway. The scene near the end in which Professor Kelp can't stop himself from dancing at the student function... I could just run that on a loop and watch it all day. McNeil feels the same way about the scene in THE PATSY in which Lewis's character bombs onstage as a standup comic. I am more partial to the scene in which Stanley Belt (the "patsy" in question) lip-syncs a rock song on TV. But don't worry about THE PATSY. After THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, you may be excused from any further Lewis watching. But if you want to go forward of your own volition, I say try THE ERRAND BOY. Mark is right. The part with the sock puppet is just about unbearable. But this is a good test. Did you like the funny parts MORE than you hated the unfunny parts? If so, keep going. Maybe try a couple of the early pictures with Dean Martin. ARTISTS AND MODELS (which we watched with the Osbornes on the same visit when we went to see PINK FLAMINGOS; see the previous "post") has the bonus of featuring the adorable young Shirley MacClaine. But the number one thing you have to figure out is (I'll paraphrase myself) do you love the funny parts more than you hate the bad parts? If not, don't worry about it. JUST STOP WATCHING HIM! Well, another possible way "in" is to enjoy his fine late-career performances in films like Scorsese's THE KING OF COMEDY or Emir Kusturica's ARIZONA DREAM. The epilogue of the latter film, a touching, funny pas de deux with Johnny Depp, would make a good entry point, perhaps, for understanding the appeal of Jerry Lewis, even if you ultimately decide that you don't like him. I don't expect anyone to like him anymore! Not him OR my beloved Gilmore Girls! It's a free country! I guess one final way to watch Jerry Lewis is to appreciate failure of the grandest and maddest variety. When Thomson speaks of "matching the idiot with the idiotic American dream," he is referring - with manifest admiration and approval - to the Martin and Lewis film HOLLYWOOD OR BUST, but he may just as well have Lewis the man in mind. I mean, isn't any Jerry movie preferable, on some level, to the toothless proficiency of EVAN ALMIGHTY? See my deep thoughts on JACK THE GIANT KILLER vs. KEEPING THE FAITH, or better yet, the Robert Browning poem "Andrea del Sarto," which - like Hamlet - is based on the works of Jerry Lewis. (Pictured, Lauren Graham, star of EVAN ALMIGHTY and GILMORE GIRLS.)
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
I suppose it is up to me to mount a meek defense of HOOK, LINE AND SINKER, doing for it what I have done in the past so brilliantly and selflessly for bass clarinets. After all, even McNeil, who goes so far as to fetishize the CARPETS in the films of Jerry Lewis, has given a dour account of HL&S on this very "blog." It should go without saying that Maltin assigns it one of his "BOMB"s - he gives away "BOMB"s like candy, decimating all I hold dear. I will be the first to admit that HL&S is not for the Lewis dilettante or novice. It is one of those films that requires training and delicately orchestrated submersion. Some people learn to translate Aramaic acrostic poetry; some learn to watch Jerry Lewis properly. Woody Allen, in the new book of interviews with Eric Lax, has a great passage explaining how to enjoy a Bob Hope movie. He demonstrates how much you miss out on if you choose only to be upset by the stupid or unfunny passages. "Maybe the movie will take a silly turn," says Allen, "but HE seldom does." Of course, the same cannot be said of Jerry Lewis (though there are several admiring references to Lewis in the Allen/Lax book). In fact, I will go ahead and make the absolutist declaration about HL&S that there has never been and never will be worse voice-over narration in any movie ever made. But by eleven minutes in I had laughed with abandon three times, and I phoned to tell McNeil as much. "Yeah, call me when it's over," said McNeil, his voice dripping with bitterness and portent. And by the end of the evening I saw what he meant. But along the way I found much to admire, yes, much to admire, such as a gopher that squirted water out of its mouth. Do you hear me? Yes, an artificial, troublesome gopher anticipating CADDYSHACK by more than a decade. Plus Jerry modeled a number of fetching pajama ensembles. Taken in its totality, however, HL&S made me sad that some marlins were apparently snagged in the mouth - and worse - in its service, unless that was stock footage, which I wouldn't put past Jerry. Longtime "blog" readers (ha ha ha! The very phrase is ludicrous) will recall that I flinch at moviemakers, even great ones, who feel the need to hurt an animal to make their movie extra good. I am reminded of the time that Mark and Kimb Osborne accompanied Theresa and myself to the 25th anniversary theatrical rerelease of PINK FLAMINGOS by John Waters. [Remember: "paragraph breaks" are not a specialty of the "blog." - ed.] It upset me when a chicken got killed in that movie, though I learned from a subsequent interview with Waters that the cast had cooked and eaten the chicken shortly thereafter, so I suppose that takes some of the sting out of it for somebody - though not for the chicken! Anyway, Kimb was "with child" at the time, and in retrospect it seems funny that we took her out to see PINK FLAMINGOS. As I recall, we were initially under the mass impression that it was, content-wise, the less scabrous POLYESTER. In any case, this was around the time that Ted Turner had refused to allow his company New Line Cinema to release David Cronenberg's CRASH (not to be confused with the popular and classy message film of recent years) because of its upsetting subject matter. It struck me as amazing that night, after the show, that New Line and/or Turner had entertained no such qualms about distributing PINK FLAMINGOS, which was a thousand times more taboo-shattering than CRASH, not to mention a lot more fun. During the final scene - you know the one! - of PINK FLAMINGOS I, for the first and last time (so far) in my moviegoing experience, almost vomited on the stranger sitting in front of me. And I say that with great affection for the amazing powers of John Waters! Yes, I mean it in a good way. I hardly think CRASH could have had the same genuine and powerful effect. Now that I am so very, very far off the subject, I would like to mention that Woody Allen makes a tantalizing offhand comment in the interview book about the time in his life when he was playing poker fairly regularly with Lee Marvin (pictured), John Cassavetes, and Howard Cossell. Anyway, I thought it sounded like fun.
Dr. "M." responds quickly to McNeil's request, providing a "link" with details on the 16.5 cubic feet of Krispy Kreme corporate documents she waded through at the Smithsonian, as well as a photograph (left) of the "Ring King Junior" itself.
Hey, look everybody, Phil's friend is in the New York Times today. I know you're all thinking the same thing: "Phil has a FRIEND?" Ha ha ha! No, seriously, folks. Phil is a nice and friendly man, not like the crank we make him out to be for "blogging" purposes. Sorry to spoil our carefully crafted illusion! "Click" here to see a former reference to Phil's aforementioned friend on the "blog." And "click" here to read more evidence about the fact that the "blog" is taking over the New York Times.
Dear Dr. "M.," McNeil would like to know more about your encounter with the donut machine in the Smithsonian. McNeil is curious! Speaking of round things with holes in the middle, I am bewildered that I have not received any outside communications regarding Mickey Rooney's invention of "The Weenie Whirl," mentioned here recently. Back in the olden times, Mr. Ward and I were astonished to discover that we shared vivid memories of an episode of the Johnny Carson Show on which Mr. Rooney came out and plugged his new product "Puppy Pop," a refreshing carbonated beverage for dogs. THE STAR MACHINE (the Jeanine Basinger book from which I extracted the Weenie Whirl information) explains how Mr. Rooney found himself needing to invent and sell these sorts of products, your Weenie Whirls, your Puppy Pops. It made me ashamed for giggling. Though Basinger does not refer to Puppy Pop in her text, she does mention Mr. Rooney's spray-on hair for bald men.
A viewing last night has confirmed that there is NO AMPERSAND in the actual onscreen title of the 1969 Jerry Lewis film Hook, Line and Sinker. Repeat: NO AMPERSAND! The "blog" regrets the error, especially because we love ampersands so much. My ratty old edition of Maltin, with which my love-hate relationship is well known, employs the ampersand.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Welcome to a thin and sad edition of The FBIL's Annotation Korner. "There's not even a wikipedia article on bomb pops," reports a stunned FBIL. He did find the official bomb pop web site, which, as the FBIL puts it, "features a listing of all the different bomb pop varieties, and a very informative penguin."
Dr. "M." has some information to add about the experience of writing the definitive monograph on Krispy Kreme: Her research took her to the Smithsonian, where, as Dr. "M." reports, "they have the original donut (or doughnut) machine in storage. Sweet, no? (Pun intended.) I wanted to also say thank you for 'putting up' (not to be confused with canning) one of my favorite paintings," Dr. "M." goes on. "The other night I walked into a party and found that painting was the image on the hostess's coffeetable. I gasped, 'Hieronymous Bosch is your coffee table!'" Dr. "M.'s" communique here takes a turn into a third, equally lively subject, very much in the Larry King tradition we have been striving to foster. "Today is Country Music Day in my class," she writes, "and I could not resist bringing in a number of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton songs. BUT I really could not resist bringing in Jeannie C. Reilly's (not to be confused with John C. Reilly) song HARPER VALLEY PTA. Remember the made for TV movie of the same name starring Barbara Eden?! I wish they would remake it." A brief editorial note, Dr. "M.": The film was a theatrical release, not a TV movie, but it was "remade," in a sense, as a sitcom, also starring Barbara Eden, a few years later. (Pictured, John C. Reilly.)
We interrupt Dr. "M.'s" TV Korner to present this special edition by way of the old Soviet Union. Now that the pressures of churning out MGMIEET are behind McNeil, he spends his time gingerly leafing through back issues of Pravda. His most recent finding is Pravda's review of a Bob Hope TV special. Here's a representative snippet: "Now, by a directive from Washington, a television burlesque brought together the elderly clown Bob Hope... singer-businessman Frank Sinatra... and grey-haired notables from Capitol Hill. As Marx noted... the feeling of shame is the most revolutionary feeling. Is it not for that reason that shamelessness has now become a distinctive feature of rabid reactionaries...?" Between the ellipses there was some pretty rough stuff about Bob and Frank, too rough for the "blog's" tender hands. It is apparent that the Soviet Union shared "Blog" Buddy Whorton's opinion about Bob Hope's politics. As for McNeil, the show sounded great to him. We searched for a "link" to the entire article, but McNeil sent it by way of some special library feature, so you'll have to take our word about the rest.
We haven't talked about Stang in awhile. But here's a perfect opportunity. Kent has "posted" another video. This one shows his trip to Sweden for the Stockholm Film Festival, which featured his movie Hannah Takes the Stairs. For "blog" purposes, the most fascinating part of the video is the fraction of a second in which the wary viewer may catch a sign that reads "STANGD." Of interest in a more general way is the seeming fact that a guy dressed like a shrimp creature from a Hieronymous Bosch painting walks around on the sidewalks of Stockholm like it's no big deal. Also, there is a shot of Kent's picture in a Swedish newspaper. Wow! Okay. You've been Stanged... again! (Pictured, a detail from a painting by Hieronymous Bosch, sadly sans shrimp creature. Or I'll tell you the truth: maybe he's in there somewhere. It's like "Where's Waldo"!)
"I know that Dr. 'M.' has eaten breakfast in Hawaii," might think the dubious "blog" reader. "But how exactly is she qualified to tell me which butter substitute to use?" I'm glad you asked! If Dr. "M." is not thoroughly informed on the subject of food, why was SHE selected to write the article on Krispy Kreme donuts for vol. 7 of THE NEW ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SOUTHERN CULTURE (edited by "blog" friend and neighbor John T. Edge)? Ask yourself that! I thought long and hard about this and have decided that I am not "blowing" Dr. "M.'s" "cover," knowing that the "blog" readership is mostly made up of tired persons like myself who are disinclined to look things up. If we do look things up, it is on Wikipedia, and we're not sure they're true, so we have gradually learned to not care if something is true or not. But if you DO like truth and books for some reason, ask a loved one to use a piece of masking tape to cover up Dr. "M.'s" actual name so as not to compromise her identity. Thank you. In other food news, McNeil sends an email entitled "aspartame rocks!!!" (The three exclamation points are McNeil's.)
Monday, November 26, 2007
As you know, from time to time our mysterious correspondent Dr. "M." will take off her TV critic hat and put on her food critic hat. It is in the latter capacity that she provides an addendum to McNeil's recent reflections on butter substitutes manufactured by former automotive tycoons: "I highly recommend a vegan organic whipped 'butter spread' known as Earth Balance," testifies Dr. "M." She describes the product as "unbelievably delicious." On a presumably unrelated topic, Dr. "M." goes on: "We had a clog in our sink today, and a plumber had to come over after the landlord worked on it for 2 hours. It took the plumber 15 minutes to unclog my drain, and it cost $225. Read what you will into that, but just know that he had to climb onto my roof to unclog the drain! Yes people, the roof!"
McNeil has been watching his health. He's so frail! Anyway, he has switched over to margarine, or something like it. He went to the store and surveyed all the products and finally settled on a butter substitute made by Lee Iacocca. Moreover, he chose it BECAUSE and ONLY because it is made by Lee Iacocca. "It's part olive oil and part motor oil," went McNeil's shrewd witticism on the subject. Oh, you don't believe that Lee Iacocca makes margarine? "Click" here, disbeliever! That reminds me of something I read recently in THE STAR MACHINE, a fascinating book by Jeanine Basinger. Here, I'll quote it: "[Mickey Rooney] invented a round hot dog with a hole in the middle so you could put it on a hamburger bun (the Weenie Whirl)." Okay, for you people who have never heard of Larry King's column, Mr. Spock, Mickey Rooney, or Lee Iacocca, please familiarize yourself with Mr. Iacocca by "clicking" here... on his "BLOG"!
There's not a lot that McNeil doesn't remember, but he doesn't remember Larry King's old newspaper column, to which I have alluded here a few times. It appeared in USA Today a long time ago. Back in the olden times, when Mr. Ward and I used to work in the same building, he would read portions of it out loud for laughs. But in this day of people who do not even remember Mr. Spock, for example, it occurs to me that I should explain the allusion. Larry King's old column went something like this: "Elvis Presley was a fine young singer... If there's anything wrong with Yul Brynner, I'd like someone to tell me what it is... You know what's great for children's parties? Balloons." The ellipses do not indicate that I have left something out. They were part of Larry King's style. While I am imitating rather than quoting, I assure you that I am not exaggerating. Let me nose around on the "internet" and see if I can find an actual example to "link" to. Well, sorry, folks, but I've been looking for way too long now and it appears that every trace of the actual column has been scoured clean from the "internet," though I did find this corroborative "spoof," and even better, a 10-acre corn maze in the shape of Larry King, which I present here for your pleasure.
Looks like we have a new cat. We did not go out looking for a cat. Was it Patrick Henry or Shakespeare who said, "Some people go out looking for cats, some have cats thrust upon them"? This cat is a young cat, technically still a kitten, perhaps, which fact sent us scurrying to our vast feline research library, where we found no helpful information on introducing a kitten to a couple of older cats. We did, however, run across a quotation - in UNDERSTANDING CATS by Roger Tabor - from one Harrison Weir, writing in 1889: Cats, observes Weir, "will rear other animals such as rats, rabbits, squirrels, puppies, hedgehogs; and, when motherly inclined, will take to almost anything, even to a young pigeon." It has almost nothing to do with the subject at hand but at least it seemed like something to "blog" about, or maybe the basis for a terrible Disney cartoon. Somebody get to work on it. (I find I am unable to work up the enthusiasm to look for a picture of a kitten with which to illustrate this "post." I do, however, have access to a video of our friend Kent's cat poking its head out of a paper bag. Enjoy!)
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I thought about "blogging" on Donald Barthelme today but I didn't. I had some poignant thoughts about a brittle little mass market paperback beginning to fall apart, which I'll spare you. I might at least have the common courtesy to "link" to something about this new book you should buy. That was the upshot.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
You know what instrument doesn't get the attention it deserves? Why, the bass clarinet of course. It has a nice sound and nobody cares. Next time you're writing a symphony blow everybody's minds by starting off with some bass clarinet. I feel like I'm doing Larry King's old column sometimes. And it feels so right.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Welcome to One Year Ago In "Blog" History, the great new "blog" feature where we tell you what we were "posting" one year ago in "blog" history. One year ago in "blog" history we did not "post" any "posts." Thank you. This has been One Year Ago In "Blog" History.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Knowing Barry B. to be an expert in films of terror and suspense, I thought I would give him a call about some specific confusion and angst that Theresa and I experienced during our recent viewing of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK. Barry B. identified. Not only had he experienced a quite similar onslaught of confusion at the same moments of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, he reported feeling an analogous sensation not many days ago, during TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE IV, most notably in the sequence when - SPOILER ALERT!!!! - Matthew McConaughey is (in Barry B.'s words) "wiped out by a cropduster." We concluded our phone conversation by agreeing that PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE IV would make an instructive double feature.
A passage in PNIN has just made me nostalgic for our terrible old upstairs neighbors. It is a description of Pnin's apartment, "above which... every evening, among crashing bathroom cascades and banging doors, two monstrous statues on primitive legs of stone would grimly tramp..." We hear you, brother! Speaking of PNIN, I should add a caveat about my particular edition with its aforementioned gently frayed golden tassel built in. Just know that if you hold the book in a certain way while reading, you'll get the feeling that there's a spider crawling on the back of your hand.
What is this? Please "click" on it and tell me. It has stang in the address, that's all I know. It was uncovered by the guy who has been calling money "mustang" for years, and brought to our attention through our favorite impartial third party, Shana (pictured). But please, amid all the stang speculation, always bear in mind that our great new nickname for money originates in the surname of beloved character actor Arnold Stang. This time of year, there is always a temptation to get caught up in the excitement and forget what Stang is all about.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Is it wrong for me to admit that the "Original Bomb Pop" is so much more delicious than the "Popsicle" brand "Firecracker"? The Bomb Pop is not afraid of tartness, for starters! I believe I have tried every form of the traditional red-white-and-blue frozen confection, and am prepared to swear that the "Original Bomb Pop" is the best of them all.
Welcome once again to "Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis," your online source for finding out which bookmark goes with which book. Today we bought THE BLACK LIZARD BIG BOOK OF PULPS at Square Books. We must admit that the tiny, malnourished Square Books bookmark did not exactly go with our newly purchased behemoth. In fact, it might be easily swallowed. On a happy note, however, we read Laura Lippman's intro to the "Dames" section over at the L&M bar. And truth be told, we laughed aloud at least three times just at that section, rendering any bookmark obsolete. [Note: laughter, however pleasant, does not actually render bookmarks obsolete - ed.] Speaking of bookmarks, we are now reading PNIN by Nabokov, upon the recommendation of Roy Blount, Jr. That's right! Roy Blount, Jr., came over to our house a few weeks ago and recommended a novel... that's just how fancy we have become! The hardcover "Everyman's Library" edition of PNIN comes with its very own bookmark built into the book: a gently frayed golden tassel, as Nabokov might call it. Me, I'm working on my "detective novel," which is the opposite, stylistically, of the Nabokov book. So if I really thought about it, I might be able to come up with a more rough-and-tumble way to describe that bookmark. But take heart! A gently frayed golden tassel is perfect for maintaining order amid Nabokov's fluid linguistics. In fact, we might say as a generality that if your book comes equipped with its own bookmark sewn into the lining, that book is trying to tell you something. Something like, "Use this bookmark!" Why argue? Goodbye until next time!
Monday, November 19, 2007
... which of course stands for "No More McNeil's Gold Medal International Emergency Exit Theatre For Awhile." You won't be seeing another MGMIEET until Jan. 1, 2008, in fact. McNeil said to tell everyone that he's in rehab. That's his idea of a little joke! The truth is, when something burns with such meteoric intensity as MGMIEET, there follows an inevitable burning out. But remember what Neil Young said! And when you remember, tell me. Because I've forgotten. We leave you with what McNeil considers his crowning accomplishment in the MGMIEET field.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Look what our old friend Kent made! With efforts like these, soon the whole world will be using our great new word for money: STANG. And I believe Kent is in Europe right now. Imagine him sitting in Europe, working on this. It is heartening! Speaking of Stang, I was thinking that David Simon, the co-creator of THE WIRE, could start sprinkling the word around in his show. People turn to THE WIRE for the latest in authentic lingo. I realize that "Stang" is not "authentic"... yet! But think of it this way, Mr. Simon: you will be ahead of the trends! I know we are on the same wavelength... like when the word "dag" - one of my personal favorites - appeared on THE WIRE that time. I believe THE WIRE has finished shooting, but from what I understand of audio capabilities, it would be easy for you to go in and "loop" some dialogue where people say "Stang" a lot, meaning "money." Thanks in advance! Hey, speaking of audio, I should have told all of you "blog" enjoyers to keep your speakers turned up when you "clicked" on that horse's web page. It had the same kind of music as the castaway chimp! In fact, it's always good to leave your speakers on. So much of today's modern entertainment depends on sound and whatnot. Here, for your ease and comfort, I will present easy access to both pieces of music. "Click" here for horse music. "Click" here for chimp music. Compare and contrast!
Saturday, November 17, 2007
This picture comes to us from our friend Verdell, out in Hollywood, CA. She adds a note: "People sure wasted a lot of hard earned stang on these cure-all potions." Are you paying attention, class? Verdell has demonstrated the proper usage.
As I requested, the future brother-in-law has put the full force of his regular feature, the "Annotation Korner," into proving our great new nickname for money ("Stang") a wholly original invention, despite the claims of an ex-neighbor of sorts who says that he has been calling money "mustang" for "years." Here are the fruits of the FBIL's labors, and I quote: "The inherent problem with researching slang is the nature of slang itself: the same word can mean many different things to many different people. The wild card factor of the internet only complicates things even more. There are several 'slang dictionaries' online, most of which seem to be reader submitted, much like our much beloved Wikipedia, only lacking the 'truthiness.' That being said, I tried my best on short notice. In all fairness, this is a project that could take years. There were many different definitions for both Mustang and Stang, many of which are not suitable for the 'blog' (or anywhere else for that matter), but I was unable to find any reference to the word mustang as slang for cash. The video store guy evidently has not visited any of the slang dictionaries, or, if he has, he hasn't bothered to submit his definition. The most similar one I was able to find was 'prospective goods to be stolen' from the New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Among the many common slang uses for mustang was a verb meaning 'to be incredibly lazy, and a noun meaning 'leftover beer from a party that reappears at another function. Usually the least desirable and never more than one of each brand' (my personal favorite). (Both definitions from urbandictionary.com.) The most common slang usage of the word mustang comes form the military, where a mustang is someone who has risen from the enlisted ranks to become an officer. This definition was even listed in Webster's. As an example I give you, 'Although we do not know his actual fate, due to his suicidal tendencies and overall cartooniness it is highly unlikely that Popeye's pal, Shorty (voiced by you-know-who), became a mustang.'" Thank you, FBIL! And we would like to repeat that OUR "Stang" is named for beloved character actor Arnold Stang (whose picture we will not be "posting" for awhile, though this would be a nice place for it. We opt here for a Ford Mustang instead). Arnold Stang is better than any mustang, and no one can take that away from us. Everyone: Start calling money "Stang"!
Friday, November 16, 2007
McNeil defies everyone to watch it all the way through.
A dispiriting phone conversation with Dr. "M."! She claims that it is not fun to look at the same picture of Arnold Stang, Fess Parker, and Peter Lorre every day! This runs counter to the trim new purpose of the "blog": to be your reliable "online" source for three things and three things only: sorghum, Mr. Spock playing his guitar, and Arnold Stang (not to be confused with "Stang," the great new nickname for money which all the kids have begun to use in their daily lives as arbiters of the popular culture of the streets, sidewalks, and upper-crust salons). We take this streamlined approach (sorghum, Spock & Stang) after considering the follies of the past, in which we tried to define the purpose of the "blog." "Click" here for one example from over a year ago, at which you may laugh for its callow pretentiousness. "Part of the fun of the 'blog," said Dr. "M.," "is checking to see what picture will be on it. It's like an advent calendar." The conversation then took a cheerier turn, as Dr. "M." and I discussed the possibility of a "blog" advent calendar, beginning on Dec. 1. Keep your eyes peeled! But worst of all, Dr. "M." referred to Arnold Stang only as "that guy," anecdotal evidence that our attempt to spread "Stang consciousness" has failed a little. "Hey, but didn't you like the one of Mr. Spock playing his guitar?" I asked. "At first," said Dr. "M." "What about the one of a tractor harvesting sorghum?" I asked. "I like that one," said Dr. "M.," her tone suggesting that it is fine as long as I don't run it into the ground. "But don't you find the repetition of the Stang image to be Warholian?" I suggested. As I recall, there was no comment from Dr. "M." It is true that McNeil has called the repetition of the Stang/Parker/Lorre photo "disorienting." I was inclined to attribute such confusion to his well known medical problems. But now, with Dr. "M." corroborating, given her prickly past relationship with McNeil and their unwavering solidarity on this issue, I am forced to admit that maybe what is great fun for me ("posting" the same photo of Arnold Stang as often as possible with, perhaps, some inkling of its capabilities as a vessel of annoyance) may not translate into actual fun in the world where we live as human people.
Welcome once again to Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis, where we help you learn to assign the proper bookmark to the proper book. Today's column "marks" an unprecedented realization: some books work best with no bookmarks at all. Take Harold Pinter. In the quietly terrifying works of Pinter, your bookmark threatens to become a character, a statement - to obtrude. Any bookmark, even (no, especially!) the simplest - a business card or plain scrap of torn white paper - tries foolishly to reorient a reader who should instead remain subsumed by Pinter's world: mooringless, markerless, suspicious of the ethical implications of our small, sad stabs at convenience and control.
In response to our recent inquiries, we have received word from the Farmer, filtered through his spokesperson, Dr. "M." The Farmer, it seems, does not watch a televised farm report. But as we surmised, the "internet" proves to be of use for our busy modern farmers living in this strange world of today. Dr. "M." reports: "I don't know if you knew that [the Farmer] manages a part of the Georgia Organics website--or used to?--where people have conversations about farming stuff. I believe it is what the kids call threaded conversations? Who knows! In any case, he poses a question that prompts people to chat. Oh wait, I think the proper term is discussion board. Before that he had a regular column in the GO newsletter called 'Ask Farmer Daniel'! What a hoot, huh? [In order to protect Dr. "M.'s" identity, we can neither confirm or deny that the Farmer's actual name is Daniel. - ed.] A great website in case readers are interested is localharvest.org, which provides links to local markets, restaurants that serve local food, etc." (Pictured, a harvesting of sorghum. From now on, every "post" will be illustrated by a sorghum harvest, Arnold Stang and friends, or Mr. Spock playing his guitar.)
Thursday, November 15, 2007
We hear from our dear friend Shana that there is a guy at our ex-corner video store trying to pooh-pooh our great new slang word for money: Stang. This villain claims to have used the word "mustang," meaning "money," for "years." Can this be true? I do recall that the Mustang automobile is sometimes affectionately called a "stang." But OUR Stang, the true Stang, is named for the one and only Arnold Stang! There is a big, important difference, probably. Someone please research this for me: Is "mustang" really a common word for "money"? I'm looking at you, FBIL! Even if it is, a mustang is no match for Arnold Stang! We stand by our Stang. (Pictured, a mustang, not to be confused with Arnold Stang.) P.S. While I was looking for a picture of a mustang, I found this web site about a friendly mustang. It's a little bonus for you! You're welcome!
When I got to class today, I wrote STANG on the board in big red letters and explained to the students that it is the new, exciting word for "money." I also explained, to universal bemusement, that Jonathan Winters had torn apart Arnold Stang's gas station in IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD. Toward the end of class, one young man asked of a fellow student, "Where's the Stang?" He did not mean money. He was, in fact, questioning the meat or purpose - the central kernel - of the short story under discussion. I applauded the effort, but deplored the sudden decay of the expression's proper usage so soon after its initiation.
McNeil and I were on the telephone yesterday when we spontaneously began referring to money as "Stang." It really works! Try it out in a few sentences of your own. When you come to the part of the sentence where you usually say "money," say "Stang" instead. I would give you an example, but that would be condescending. I know you can do it! Try it today. Let's get this new piece of American vernacular off the ground and running. Together! (Pictured, Arnold Stang, seen here with his buddies Fess Parker and Peter Lorre.)
Last night my publisher was in town. We had dinner at L&M, where the chef presented for our sampling pleasure the newest thing to come out of their salumeria: a house-cured tasso ham... drizzled ever so lightly with - wait for it, people! - sorghum molasses. Longtime "blog" readers will grasp the significance. What we have done for green lizards, Phyllis Diller, paintings of Schoenberg, Pernod, and cigarette holders, we have now done for sorghum. You're welcome, sorghum! It's not working as quickly as we would like for velvet suits, but we're trying.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The future brother-in-law is back, with another edition of his popular "Annotation Korner." Today's annotation comes from the FBIL's personal experiences as a former citizen of Texas, and answers some questions that the "blog" almost had, but did not quite have, about sorghum. And now, we turn it over to the FBIL, who says, "Grain sorghum, or Milo, is a huge cash crop down in south Texas. I always thought it was just a syrup before I lived in Texas, but down there, they raise it mainly for cattle feed. Once you get out of the Corpus Christi city limits, it's all over the place. During the summer months the Milo fields grow in vibrant shades of red and gold. It's really quite pretty. I tried to find a picture of a beautiful field of Milo swaying in the wind, but the best I could do is this shot of a tractor apparently harvesting a beautiful field of Milo. On a side note, Milo Fields sounds like it could be the name of an Arnold Stang character." Way to bring it back around to Arnold Stang, FBIL!
It occurs to me that I should have "linked" to something about the "blog's" own friendly farmer (known only as "The Farmer," to protect the identity of his lovely and mysterious consort Dr. "M.") in my previous entry on the farm report. And now I'm wondering... does the Farmer watch a televised farm report in the early morning before farming? Or how does the busy modern farmer of today keep up with farming trends and whatnot? The internet, we guess. But we'd love to hear from the Farmer himself on the subject. What is the state of today's farm report?
Aesthetically speaking, McNeil has decided that he prefers the "link" style MGMIEET to the more garish "embedded video" style. And I'm all like, "Yes sir, right away, sir." Today's clip (to be viewed by "clicking" the immediately previous "link") features Peter Lawford, Carol Channing, Jackie Gleason, and Arnold Stang (pictured here with some friends). Arnold Stang is the guy who says, "I could make you a nice Denver omelet," if you can get that far in. Hey, I also have a story about Carol Channing and the time that she went on an all-buffalo diet. I'll save it for later. I've taken up too much of your valuable time already.
Last night a nice couple came over for dinner. The gentleman brought cornbread, baked according to his grandmother's recipe. He also brought a jar of sorghum molasses to drizzle over the cornbread - once again, in the style of his grandmother. It was delicious! So this morning I awoke at five for some reason and turned on the TV, and lo and behold the farm report was on. I was not aware that farm reports were still on the air. I remember seeing the farm report when I was a very small child at the home of my grandfather, who was a farmer. This modern farm report we have in the modern world of today has its own farming web site. Anyway, the point I am slowly coming to is this: I learned from the farm report that this year's sorghum crop has been 92% harvested. The timely recurrence of sorghum made me kind of curious about what sorghum is, exactly, but not enough to look it up.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
In today's class, we discussed the archetypal significance of the Gilmore Girls episode in which Dean came to pick up Rory at her grandparents' mansion and found her in the boathouse with Logan and all his rowdy chums from Yale. In case you were wondering. In other news, James Dean made an appearance in a student story and everyone knew exactly who he was, unlike Mr. Spock (seen here playing his guitar).
Monday, November 12, 2007
Barry B. has been inspired by Frank Converse. "Seeing that clip was like being in another world," he writes. So he sent in a clip of his own. Here is Barry B. on the subject, in his own words: "I asked my wife if she remembered the far out counting song on Sesame Street. She said, 'I remember this one...' (and sang some of another one). And I said, 'That's a good one too, but I bet I can find the one I'm thinking of on YouTube.'"
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Earlier today, McNeil implied by phone that he was retiring from the MGMIEET game. He insisted that he could never top his discovery of Frank Converse reciting the lyrics to "She's Leaving Home." And he hasn't but he's in there gamely trying, which is what we need more of in this day and age of lollygagging about. On an unrelated note, I should mention that Harold Pinter is alive -thriving, even - and I'm an idiot. I kept interrupting Dr. "M.'s" point to inform her she was thinking of Tom Stoppard (who is also alive, of course, I was right about that).
Yesterday, Dr. "M." and I were walking down the sidewalks of Oxford, MS, discussing the demise of Harold Pinter. One of us insisted that it had occurred. The other disagreed. When we arrived at the old homestead, what should be waiting in the mailbox but a DVD of the American Film Theatre production of Simon Gray's play BUTLEY. Now there is nothing at all American about BUTLEY - not even the way the American Film Theatre spells "theatre." Think about it! Well, Theresa and Dr. "M." went out to dance at a big party, and I stayed home to indulge in some British classiness. It's a tricky thing, adapting plays for the screen, and longtime "blog" readers may realize that I have had bitter experiences along those lines in the past. So I was surprised to find myself immensely and unreservedly enjoying the adaptation of BUTLEY (Alan Bates gives the finest performance you may ever see, or one of them) and decided to check out the old, tattered Maltin volume to see who had managed to direct it with such subtle panache. It was Harold Pinter, people! The very same Harold Pinter whose aliveness had been the subject of such recent debate. BUTLEY was, in fact, Pinter's debut as a film director. But the most important part of the story is that in the play, the title character remarks upon the velvet jacket of his colleague/estranged lover. It is not a whole velvet suit, true, but we're going to count it in our tally in the spirit of Harold Pinter Day. Finally, I am sure you all are wondering if we were able to watch any television programming live and in person WITH Dr. "M.," given her expertise on the subject. The answer is yes! It was like shooting pool with Minnesota Fats. Dr. "M." guided us, Virgil-like, through the episode of BEVERLY HILLS 90210 in which the gang goes backstage to meet seminal boy band Color Me Badd (pictured).
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Anonymity has its price. Dr. "M." was eating lunch with a "blog" reader last week when that fellow began to complain about Dr. "M." "I'm Dr. 'M.,'" Dr. "M." admitted. "Are you McNeil, too?" said her lunch companion. "No!" said Dr. "M." Funny: I recall the the time when Dr. "M." thought McNeil was someone I had made up, and visa versa. Phil Oppenheim has put quotation marks around the name McNeil several times, as if calling his existence into doubt. But the other day I gave out McNeil's actual address so Phil could loan him VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET, so perhaps that matter is settled. McNeil, on the other hand, having long been convinced of Dr. "M.'s" existence, once asked if she and the Bird Correspondent were the same person. No! All of the correspondents exist, and they are all different people. If anyone would like to sneak a peek at the actual, real-life Dr. "M.," she's in town right now and there is a very good chance we'll be having dinner tonight at the Ajax Diner. She's real! Come check her out.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Welcome once again to "Secondhand George," the place where we hear things of interest to the "blog" secondhand, from McNeil's coworker and friend George. George says that on the most recent episode of CSI: NEW YORK, a woman tells the cops who are tailing her that - in case they get lost - she'll be eating lunch at Stang's restaurant. Much like the architectural firm with the name Stang in it, however, any connection between this Stang and "blog" icon Arnold Stang remains unconfirmed. Stang!
"If you like KILLDOZER," writes Phil Oppenheim, "you'll love SHAKE HANDS WITH DANGER." "Click" here to find out for yourself about your likes and loves. Phil also recommends this treasure trove of music from the "internet": Now "click" here! Have fun. Speaking of music, please enjoy this photo of Mr. Spock playing his guitar.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Weirdly, I have gotten two different messages claiming that I have been "relying too much" on MGMIEET. Don't you people dig it? It's like a rainbow, as I have explained in depth. Also, it is a DAILY FEATURE of great pragmatic usage. You people should be down on your knees THANKING McNeil for MGMIEET. I just watched a documentary about Andy Warhol, and am convinced he would "get it."
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Hi, everybody! I have some new slippers. Unlike my old slippers, they are not deadly dangerous. But are they warm? Why, they couldn't be warmer. Sometimes I think they might be TOO warm! Ha ha ha! Seriously. Sometimes I have to take them off for a second because they're too warm. Speaking of things that are warm, people keep writing in to ask when I think I'll take the legendary and beloved flannel pants out of storage. Chat rooms have been founded to discuss the issue. All I can say is, keep reading the "blog"! This evening our neighbor brought over a bouquet of flowers from her magnificent garden, upon which I have the good fortune to gaze as I write in the attic every day. She's predicting a cold snap tonight - possibly even a freeze - and she was kind enough to make us the beneficiaries of the impending botanical disaster. Well, this has been another edition of our continuing regular feature "Today's Weather." In keeping with my promise, I include here a picture of Mr. Spock playing his guitar.
Monday, November 05, 2007
"Earlier today," reports our future brother-in-law, "as I was taking the elevator up to my office, I noticed that the firm that occupies the floor directly below mine is called Stevens, Wilkinson, Stang and Newdow." The FBIL has not been able at this present juncture to make a definite connection between the firm and Arnold Stang (pictured here with Fess Parker and Peter Lorre). The FBIL also reports that my sister has refused to let him put the Magic Bullet or Tater Mitts on their wedding registry.
The following has nothing to do with velvet suits (or Jim Whorton), but I have decided to place all classy YouTube clips under this handy rubric. In the present instance, Phil has provided a surprising game show appearance by iconic experimental composer John Cage:
Sunday, November 04, 2007
So very long without a new MGMIEET. McNeil is on strike, hoping to have our popular daily feature downgraded to a measly five days a week. While we iron out his contract, please enjoy a second installment of Arnold Stang's Gold Medal International Emergency Exit Theatre, starring Arnold Stang. He's the one in the glasses.
Welcome once again to Dr. "M.'s" TV Korner, where our longtime correspondent and holder of a doctorate in ******** ******* at a respected major American university talks about her real love: watching TV. Today, Dr. "M." has uncovered someone who has uncovered someone who has uncovered a few precious minutes of the never-to-be broadcast fourth season of "blog" "fave" VERONICA MARS. If it won't make you too sad and filled with bitter regrets for things that might have been, "click" here.
The bird correspondent responds to our recent query: "Interesting! I'd say it's unlikely, though not impossible, that your squirrel tail was left behind by a great-horned owl. Owls are nocturnal, squirrels are diurnal. More likely your squirrel was grabbed by a red-tailed hawk, or a cat or dog, or perhaps a neighbor who thought it would be amusing to leave a squirrel tail in your driveway. But if your owl is having bad luck hunting at night, then sure, he'll wake up during the day and eat a squirrel." (Meanwhile, we heard the owl again last night. Theresa looked on the "internet" for pictures, and read that the great horned owl has "wings designed for silent flight." The "internet" also said that there is one recorded instance of a great horned owl killing a person. But it was on Wikipedia, so who knows?)
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Welcome once again to our recurring questions-and-answers column featuring bird expert and novelist on non-bird-related subjects Sheri Joseph. Today's question for the Bird Correspondent comes from me, and marks one of the "blog's" rare descents into the realm of the morbid. Dear Bird Correspondent, yesterday I found a squirrel tail in the driveway. Just a tail, with no squirrel attached. Might this be the work of our great horned owl? That is, would it spit out the tail? As it flew over our house?