Friday, February 29, 2008
Did you know that Mark Rothko and Clark Gable attended the same acting class? This is a sample tidbit. There are many more tidbits where that came from! Keep watching the "blog." ("Click" here for a previous "post" featuring a photograph of Clark Gable in the role of Fletcher Christian.)
Here is a meadowlark singing in Greeley, Colorado. James Whorton, Jr., says that he's not sure he can call Greeley his hometown, but it IS where he was born. We dedicate this episode of our latest feature to Sheri Joseph, the dear bird correspondent.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Here is our new feature in which we wrap up everything that is happening in the world of McNeil. It is a spin-off of our popular column idea stolen from the New York Times, "Arts, Briefly." Because it is about McNeil, it is called "McNeil, Briefly." Get it? Okay. First item: McNeil is tired of contributing to his old "blog" column "Way... Way Out." He wants to start a new regular feature in which his father, who has recently retired, reviews all the movies he now has time to see. Recently, McNeil's father watched the Howard Hawks film RED RIVER, starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. His review: "I was eight years old when that came out." Second item: McNeil's coworker Secondhand George recommends a book. He hasn't read it yet, but he heard an interesting piece about it on the radio. The book is called CHARLATAN. It sounds fascinating and crazy. Look at this review. We don't know about it firsthand, but Secondhand George (who hasn't read it, remember, so this is really THIRD hand - how dangerous, bold, and exciting!) says check it out. Good night from all of us here at "McNeil, Briefly."
"hey [sic] ...your blog is a study in contrasts...isn't it?" writes McNeil, via email. "What I mean to say is that the picture of HC in the library [sic] is so profoundly different than the one of Dino on the couch with what looks to be a bowl of ice cream and 2 bottles of booze...and yet they are so close together in space. Hmmmm. What would Jerry say?" To answer your question, Mr. McNeil, you need look no further than this very "blog," where, as we have noted in the past, Jerry would say, "Summer GLAU! ChonDROITin!" That is not, in point of fact, exactly what we noted, but so what? Finally, we will observe that McNeil must have sent his email before seeing the video of Phil's hometown, or else he would have been deranged with paroxysms of giddiness. Just yesterday, after I told McNeil a joke that Phil had told me, McNeil suggested that I change the "blog's" subheading to "Phil is a gem."
Somehow, while adding something to the "post" about Kent's hometown, we accidentally deleted this video of a bull drinking soda in Old Bethpage, NY, Phil's hometown, a video which was - before we deleted it - the first in our prestigious series:
Kent was not far behind Phil! Here is his contribution to our latest project: "hey jack. here's a youtube video i found about woodstock vermont. (where mark and i grew up) i wasn't going to select it because it's pretty boring, but near the end, the host talks a little about this guy Vilus Blue who i remember. he lived on the streets and he would scream 'FLATLANDER!' at anyone who appeared to be from out of town. anyway, if you don't like that one, how about this?" Kent, we love them both! In the first video, the local historian says, "Vilus Bridge." But we like your version ("Vilus Blue") better! Also, we couldn't help but notice the reference to Vilus's Yoda hat. Did Mark learn his love of Yoda at the feet of Vilus?
I wasn't trying to be cryptic. I noticed that "Arabella Sabotage," the haunting Hubcap City song about a non-haunting ("There is no ghost; there is no devil - just an empty dining room and a long dark hall"), which can be heard on their magnificent CD SUPERLOCALHELLFREAKRIDE, either contains a reference to the Mark Rothko book I am reading, or shares a similar source. The narrator of the song has been let down by a guy called Squinchy, let down the same way he has been let down in the past by - as he tells us - "free love, Nietzsche, and birth control." These were three of the four subjects on which Emma Goldman lectured in Portland, Oregon, during Rothko's youth there. Far from being let down by them, we believe that Ms. Goldman was probably advocating. The fourth subject of her lecture series was "Anarchy" (or "Anarchism" - the book is downstairs and I'm too tired to check.) Speaking of books, that's a picture of Hubcap City playing a "gig" at A Cappella Books. See the books?
Square Books was kind enough to order that French novel featuring Dean Martin (PIANO, it's called, by Jean Echenoz). I picked it up last night. But it will be some time before I get to it. In the Rothko bio, our hero is just ten years old so far and getting roughed up by bullies on his paper route. Thorough! Last night I came across a passage that makes me think my friend from Hubcap City has read this particular biography. (We discussed Rothko once as we sat in an attic, if you are curious! We were so classy back then!) I should give the author credit, because I haven't mentioned his name yet: James E. B. Breslin. He has two middle initials, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. He is not to be confused with the old-school newspaperman Jimmy Breslin, friend of Norman Mailer and mentioned (like everything and everyone else) in THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG.
Hey, remember the time we put up a YouTube video of Jason Headley's hometown? That gives me a great idea. Send in YouTube videos of YOUR hometown to the "blog." Won't that be fun? I'm not sure which part of "blogging" is my favorite, the cutting or the pasting. I think I like them both the same!
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I finished reading RAVEL. That's right, and I didn't bother to tell you. Are you mad? Next up: a biography of Mark Rothko. Is that okay with you? I guess it's all the art talk that has been going around. McNeil left a message last night. He had something to say about art, but forgot what it was.
Caught a little of Pastor Melissa Scott last night. I couldn't help but notice that she uses a couple of regular-sized dry erase boards, side by side, not the single enormous dry erase board that my friend and I fondly saw in our minds' eyes. That American flag is big, though.
Monday, February 25, 2008
We welcome a new correspondent to the "blog": "D. From Atlanta." We call him "D." to prevent possible embarrassment, as you will soon discern. Here is a message we received moments ago from "D. From Atlanta": "Hey, I read your blog a lot and like how lots of different subjects all come together. Here's an example. You blogged about Corner Gas, I started watching it - it's pretty bad but I like it. [Therein the possible embarrassment; we realize we are being unfair to CORNER GAS, having never really given it a chance - ed.] Anyway, there was an episode on the other day where Brent Butt ate marmalade. True. Here's a whole forum discussion about it." Then, being a man of his word, "D. From Atlanta" provided a "link" to a discussion forum about Brent Butt eating marmalade: http://www.tribalwar.com/forums/archive/t-386528.html
Speaking of marmalade, I believe that my favorite character name in any medium is that of Greg Marmalard, one of the bad guys in ANIMAL HOUSE. If I wished to deal in rankling cliche, as I apparently DO wish to do, I would call that name "worthy of Dickens." Marmalard!
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Check out this crazy painting by Gerhard Richter! All our talk about Jasper Johns has reminded McNeil how much he likes Richter. I was also privy to a contretemps in the McNeil household, all about Cy Twombly. I am not at liberty to divulge the details. All I can say is: What a great last name! Twombly! It's not good enough to be the great new nickname for money, but it might be the nickname for something - something that would work with, "Don't go getting all twombly on me, baby." Let's think about it. Twombly!
Saturday, February 23, 2008
A scene in which Ravel sips Pernod. A scene in which Ravel transcribes the songs of birds. These are two scenes in the novel RAVEL. Why am I telling you this? Because I have told you similar things before. It's called "automatic pilot." The "blog" has become a kind of "trap." These "facts" have no "substance." There's nothing in them for you. Maybe it has something to do with what Jasper Johns said about his paintings that time. Or maybe I should shut my fat gob, which is almost an anagram for "blog." One is also asked, at times, to shut - rather than one's "gob" - one's "trap," which is what the "blog" has become (see above). The least I can do is give you another painting by Jasper Johns to look at. Why am I such a "prat" (which is an anagram for "trap")? (To make it all up to you, here is an interview with Jasper Johns in the Brooklyn Rail, a publication that was kind enough to review one of my books. The first thing in the interview is the fact that Jasper Johns has seen that latest of "blog" concerns, a UFO. I found the interview by accident when I was looking for a painting to include here. See how "blogging" works? I just don't know anymore. You know who's really good at anagrams? Jon Host. I have a long story about that.)
RAVEL is one of those short novels I like: 117 pages, and it STARTS on page 11! That's a great trick. There's a mention of Oxford, Mississippi on page 23 of RAVEL. According to the copy on the dust jacket flap, George Gershwin is due to make an appearance at some point. He was the subject of a very long book that I read, though not as long as THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG. My copy of RAVEL has a bright, clumsy red sticker affixed to the cover. It reads, "With a foreword by Adam Gopnik." Nothing against Adam Gopnik, who would be a great choice to write the foreword of ANY book, but the urgency seemed comical somehow - mass producing a big red sticker like that and affixing it to book covers by hand or by machine ... Well, you wanted a "blog." This is what you get.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Just finished PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION, in which the feeble fleshly casing of Bob Hope serves as a repository for all that is evil in the world. I'm so sensitive! I just take up for Bob because he's not around anymore to do it for himself. Aside from my tenderness on that subject, I found it a most agreeable book and do recommend it to one and all. Next up, not that you care, the novel RAVEL by Jean Echenoz, who I believe once wrote a novel set in heaven, using Dean Martin as a character. I need to find that one. Not that you care, but I bought RAVEL at McNally-Robinson in NYC, where I was doing a reading with Pia Z. Ehrhardt, who happens by coincidence to love the composer Ravel, after whom the novel is named. I could just "blog" like this all night long. For example, I could tell you that while I was rummaging around for the next thing to read, I almost settled on one of those books I got for next to nothing at a yard sale right before our move: THREE WAYS OF THOUGHT IN ANCIENT CHINA by the delightful old-school translator Arthur Waley, whose work was first introduced to me by my late friend Eugene Walter. If I did intend to "blog" all night, I would go on to say that I used a snippet of a Waley translation in the title novella of YOUR BODY IS CHANGING. And I might even go on to say that I opened tonight's Waley book to a passage, attributed to Chuang Tzu, which seems to fit in with the philosophy of the "blog" as expressed by Jasper Johns: Chuang Tzu and a pal of his are talking about the uselessness of a big old gnarled tree and Chuang Tzu is like, "What does not invite the axe/ No creature will harm/ What cannot be used/ No troubles will befall." And I was like, "Yeah." In our final literary matter, I received mere hours ago a surprise phone call from the great David Simon, co-creator of THE WIRE, to whom I could only babble in wonderment, but who was very nice to me, advising that I should keep doing what I do, "even if it ends in tragedy." He was, he reported, at the same bar, drinking the same thing (sangria) he had been drinking when he called me last year. I'm going to expect a call every year now, like a new holiday. I had the extra special pleasure of speaking with the great and equally kind Laura Lippman as well. I took the opportunity to congratulate her on being included in the "Tournament of Books" over there on The Morning News "web" site. An impressive short list on which to sit, though she was genuinely modest about it. These conclude our literary matters. Forever.
Here is a paragraph that I rightly deleted from my "detective novel": "He tried to calm his mind by remembering the superheroes of his youth, not Superman and Batman, but the obscure ones he had loved and hadn’t thought about in years: Bulletman and Bulletgirl, Hourman, the Doom Patrol, the Red Tornado, the 3-D Man, Dr. Mid-Nite, Deathlok, Kid Eternity, Dial H for Hero, Wildcat, Man-Bat, Wildfire, Colossal Boy, Metamorpho, Mister Miracle, the Creeper, Dr. Fate, the Inhumans, Bouncing Boy, Power Girl, Matter Eater Lad, the Metal Men, the Inferior Five, E-Man, the Phantom Stranger, Omega the Unknown, Deadman, the Champions, the Human Bomb, the other Captain Marvel with an orange face and blank white eyes, was that one of the Captain Marvels, or was he somebody else…" Just awful! And, as I remarked, rightly deleted. Tom Franklin and I were up at the City Grocery Bar one night and I told him about the paragraph I had rightly deleted. He wanted to see it. So I emailed it to him and we had a good laugh at my expense. But AS we were subsequently talking over the rightly deleted paragraph on the telephone, I suddenly remembered the name of the superhero with "an orange face and blank white eyes" (pictured): Warlock. It just popped back into my mind after lying dormant for many years. That's what happens when you talk to Tom Franklin. But the main reason I bring up this rightly deleted paragraph (aside from providing valuable advice to young writers who would like to know what kind of paragraphs to delete) is Phil Oppenheim's revelation (via an email containing this "link") that the novelist Jonathan Lethem is now writing the "Omega the Unknown" comic book. "I definitely like where he's going with it," Phil reports. Phil could not have known, but Omega the Unknown was one of my favorites back in my youth. This is a trait I shared with my protagonist until that paragraph was deleted! But don't forget: you are not supposed to identify the writer with the protagonist, stupid. Finally, I should note that Steve Gerber, who created Omega the Unknown (as well as Howard the Duck, who, as has been noted in a much earlier "post," frightened and disturbed a young James Whorton, Jr.) recently passed away at far too young an age, as I learned from my "fave" Aquaman "blog." Looking back at that rightly deleted paragraph, I can't believe I left out Nova. I think he and Omega the Unknown hung out together at one point.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Yesterday afternoon, a friend came over to the house. We discovered during the course of casual conversation that we share the habit of stopping on the religious channels to see what's up in the world of televised religion. Yes, at last I had found a fellow devotee of Pastor Melissa Scott. When I brought her up, my friend said, "You mean the woman who strides around in front of a twenty-yard dry erase board?" He stood up and demonstrated the way in which Pastor Melissa Scott strides around in front of her magnificent white dry erase board. In the process, he scared one of our cats. But I had been put into a forgiving mood by his apparent knowledge of Pastor Melissa Scott. Let me pause to make it clear THAT I DO NOT ENDORSE, NOR HAVE I MADE THE TINIEST EFFORT TO UNDERSTAND, THE THEOLOGY OR POLITICS (IF SHE HAS ANY OF THE LATTER) OF PASTOR MELISSA SCOTT, NOR DOES THIS "LINK" TO HER "WEB" SITE INDICATE ANY ENDORSEMENT OR UNDERSTANDING. I am interested ONLY in the SPECTACLE of Pastor Melissa Scott. I watch her in the way that Jasper Johns asks us to look at his paintings. She strides around, as has been described. She appears to wear a duster like Henry Fonda's in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. She is tall and thin and her hair is very long. She writes in markers of many colors on her big board. Behind the big board is an even bigger American flag, perhaps the largest I have ever seen. Pastor Melissa Scott writes in Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew on her big board. According to my friend, she speaks 18 languages. I will take his word for it. My friend also described the way in which Pastor Melissa Scott makes a "palimpsest" (his accurate and pleasant word, which I hardly ever hear anyone use in conversation, it seems) as she continually erases and rewrites things in Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew, and, apparently, 15 other languages. She talks and talks but nothing she says seems to sound sensible to me because, perhaps, of my inability to pay attention to anything but the awesome spectacle (in this case I think I am using the word awesome "correctly") of Pastor Melissa Scott. I was glad to tell my friend something about Pastor Melissa Scott that he did not know: the other night I saw her in front of her big board and gigantic American flag singing a gospel-tinged number with what appeared to be her very own rock combo. What CAN'T you do, Pastor Melissa Scott?
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Today I was leafing through a book about Jasper Johns. He said (I hope I'm not misquoting) that his paintings were meant to be looked at "the same way you look at a radiator." See? Now that's what I'm talking about! It's what I was trying to get at when I said that MGMIEET should be like staring at a rainbow, not laden with ironic interpretation as some have contended.
I don't suppose it would be untoward or tacky of me to mention that tonight I had dinner with two of the great heroes of American letters: Barry Hannah and Richard Bausch. The conversation, when not a marvelous seminar in long form racy joke telling, was peppered with sentences that began "So I said to Harold Pinter..." Hey! Remember when I had breakfast with Christopher Hitchens and lunch with Robert Osborne and wondered with whom I would have supper? It turned out just fine.
Thanks to the efforts of the "blog," McNeil has been nudged right to the verge of watching THE WIRE (perhaps because his hero Phil is also on the fence). But it's tough. Without having seen even one tiny bit of one single episode, he's already complaining about it! In theory! On principle! He says, "I try to watch these TV shows everybody is talking about and I just can't." Remember when he was hating on GILMORE GIRLS and VERONICA MARS, which, like THE WIRE, he had never seen? Part of McNeil's problem is the editing used in TV shows, all TV shows, to hear McNeil tell it. "The scenes need to be longer," he insists. There's more to his argument, but I can't make it out. It seems as deep-rooted and knotty as - if somewhat oppositional to - his preference for the animated Spider-Man cartoon over the comic book. McNeil works in mysterious ways. (This "post" is accompanied by a classy illustration from "Samson Agonistes" by John Milton.)
Laura Lippman knows that we have been reading Mailer, and sends in this report: "While researching something for the book-in-progress, I learned today that Bewitched might have been based on a Norman Mailer short story. I haven't seen a really firm source for this, but he wrote a story called 'The Witch of Westport' and it's said to have been optioned." Who needs a firm source, Laura? Need we remind you that this is a "blog"? So let's run with it. We so much want it to be true. In the spirit of "blogging," I vow to do zero research on this matter. In other Bewitched-related news, Theresa is looking for a copy of the TV movie in which Elizabeth Montgomery portrayed Lizzie Borden. Her Patty Hearst chapter having been completed, she is a decent way into her Lizzie Borden chapter. Many people have told us that the Borden TV movie "messed them up" as children, much as Tom Franklin was so scared of Barbara Eden, another attractive person who, like Montgomery, usually played a friendly sitcom staple with magical powers. To conclude, we draw your attention to the following video, which, as we have mentioned here in the past, Theresa came across in the course of her research. The interesting part is that a few weeks ago, at the dinner party to which I walked in my flannel pants (as dutifully reported), our host had a recording of this exact performance on a vinyl LP. What are the odds?
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
I am reading PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION cover to cover, the way it is meant to be read. And I love it! But I couldn't resist peeking at the index under "Hope, Bob," to see if old Bob ever got cut some slack later in the book (after that crack about his "tinny jokes.") Nope! They quote this bit of Oscar banter to show what a poor, hopeless old square Bob was: "I don't know what the writers have been smoking this year... BONNIE AND CLYDE is about happy killers..." Fair enough! Bob's own words, or those of his army of writers. But I couldn't help but notice that in TOMORROW'S New York Times - yes, the exciting future to which we all look forward, not the fusty old past that upsets us so much - this year's Oscar host, Jon Stewart, a very funny man who is universally accepted as a hipster of some note, yes, presumed to be the opposite of Bob Hope, MAKES ALMOST THE EXACT SAME JOKE, in spirit, saying of this year's nominees, "They're not all about psychopathic killers; only about 80 percent of them." I'm just saying. Why am I harping on this? I absolutely love PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION. But can't I love Bob, too? Look, politically, I'm millions of miles away from Bob. But as I've noted before, Flannery O'Connor probably made him look like a classic liberal. And my "fave" revolutionary Godard found it in his heart to love that old reactionary John Wayne, so doesn't that make everything okay? I'm going to try to find a picture of Bob looking sad, which will make a nice illustration for this "post." Well, I don't know. Does he look kind of bemused here? It's the best I could do. I'm very lazy.
When Warren Beatty first read the script for BONNIE & CLYDE, he thought (I'm paraphrasing), "You know who would be great in these roles? Bob Dylan and Shirley MacLaine!" I want to see that movie, don't you? I think we could still make it happen. (Tidbit courtesy of PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION.)
Hey, remember when I read three novels in a row that mentioned Pernod? Of course you do! You probably wrote about it in your diary that night! What about the time I read two books in a row that mentioned Virginia Hill? That was so unbearably fascinating for you, I know. And how about the time two very different books, which had little to do with Schoenberg, were both illustrated with oil paintings of that composer? You probably fainted! Well, get ready. Because now I'm going to tell you that after THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG by Norman Mailer, I am reading a book (PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION) that mentions both Norman Mailer AND Bob Hope (who was mentioned in THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG). I know! This is a great argument for meaning in the universe. Get to work on it. I must say, the reference to Bob's "tinny jokes" is a tad unflattering in PICTURES, whereas Mailer used old Bob to represent the pinnacle of comedy ("allergic to horse****" is how he put it, I think). Speaking of unflattering things, I'm not very far in, but PICTURES has already used Doris Day three or four times as some sort of representative of lameness, which I find slightly bewildering. Those motion pictures of hers reward serious cultural contemplation, and can make you laugh when you're feeling low. But I'm not putting down the book, in any sense of that phrase. It continues to compel. I'm just saying we have different takes on Bob and Doris, that's all. But polite disagreement is acceptable in our complicated society! (See the fourth "blog"mandment.)
"Omar and the Farmer" sounds like a delightful operetta. But it is, in point of fact, the subtitle of today's highly anticipated edition of Dr. "M.'s" TV Korner. (I'm going to start saying "in point of fact" a lot. It's quite classy. I picked it up from BUTLEY and have been meaning to sprinkle my conversation with it.) Today's TV Korner comes to you in two parts. In the first part, Dr. "M." adds her name to the rolls of those who exalt Omar. She provides a corroborative interview from the archives of NPR. ACT II: Remember back when the Farmer (of "blog" fame) was going to appear on television? Now you can experience the Farmer for yourself - on the "internet," that is! "Click" here. I couldn't make the video work, but you are probably smarter than me.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Everyone is breathless to know what I will read now that I have polished off THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG like a real reading pro. Here's your answer, world! PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION: FIVE MOVIES AND THE BIRTH OF THE NEW HOLLYWOOD, by Mark Harris. It's shorter than THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG but longer than THE EYE, LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER, and THE FAR SIDE OF THE DOLLAR put together. But swift! Swift and punchy. I'm just thirty pages in, but I have already learned that at the time of the Kennedy assassination, Warren Beatty was over at Stanley Kubrick's place, trying to talk him into directing WHAT'S NEW PUSSYCAT (!). You know I enjoy books about movies, such as THE STAR MACHIINE by Jeanine Basinger (who provides a blurb for PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION), from which we all learned so much about the Weenie Whirl. I want to direct McNeil in particular toward PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION, as it appears that roughly one fifth of the book will be dedicated to the story behind one of his favorite films: THE GRADUATE. (Pictured, a scene from WHAT'S NEW PUSSYCAT, which was NOT directed by Kubrick after all, though Woody seems close here to demonstrating the famous Kubrick up-through-the-eyebrows dead-eyed stare.)
I should go ahead and mention as an addendum to the last "post" that I was going to "blog" the other day about the fact that a guy from THE WIRE showed up on LOST! But I became despondent when I realized that this is what "blogging" is. Today my tolerance for despondency must be way, way up. So I'm passing the benefits on to you!
You will be glad to know that the actor who portrays Bubbles, one of my two favorite characters on THE WIRE, made an appearance in tonight's episode of the Terminator's TV show. (You can "click" here for an old "post" with Bubbles' picture on it.) Things haven't been this exciting around here since the lady from FIREFLY appeared on MAD MEN. Gracious me, those were heady times. In case you are wondering - and I know you are! - my other favorite WIRE character is "The Bunk" (pictured). Theresa and the man who was almost in a plane crash with Werner Herzog share the same favorite WIRE character: Omar. They discussed him in depth last night. Hope this is helpful information for everyone! I know you will put it to good use. Finally I will admit that I find it hard to concentrate on and/or understand the Terminator's TV program and usually I give up. It is not the Terminator's fault! His show comes on after the class, and I'm just so tired from all the learning. Do you know why I'm extra proud of this "post"? Well, lots of reasons! But mostly because every "link" in it, save the very last one, contains a reference to Jerry Lewis!
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I was at a party tonight and started talking about Jerry Lewis, as I always do, much to the dismay of many. I was bending the ear, in fact, of famed local entrepreneur, philosopher, and bon vivant Ron Shapiro, a fellow Jerryite, and I believe we made some progress toward the idea of an outdoor Jerry Lewis film festival, perhaps to be projected upon the side of a building this summer! Tom Franklin came up while we were talking and I fear that Ron and I acted somewhat ashamed, as if we had been discussing a predilection for leaving the men's room without washing our hands. Liking Jerry will make you paranoid and defensive! But Tom launched immediately into a spirited appreciation of the Martin and Lewis film THAT'S MY BOY, the plot of which he described in a way befitting a novelist of his high caliber. Also at the party: a man who was once almost in a plane crash with Werner Herzog! I wish I could tell you what Werner Herzog said when everyone thought the plane was going to crash, because it was so cool, and just the sort of thing you wish Werner Herzog would say in a seemingly crashing airplane. But this story properly belongs to the man who told it, a man who - as I keep telling him - should write a book about his life, because he has a thousand other stories just as good. But this is a modest man! And I will not spoil his story.
Just wanted to let all my fellow Bob Hope fans know that there's a reference to Mr. Hope on page 831 of THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG. Of course, there's a reference to everything in THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG. No mention of Jerry Lewis yet, but I'm only on page 910.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Finally took my own advice and watched FATA MORGANA by "blog" fave Werner Herzog. If you like the phenomenon of fata morgana, this is probably the movie for you. FATA MORGANA touches upon a couple of recent items of "blog" interest. Right off the bat, the DVD menu music is by Leonard Cohen. Pretty soon thereafter appear some things that could be mistaken for UFOs. Brand new to us, however: the Mayan (?) goddess (?) Cucumatz (have I mentioned before that I have no idea what I am talking about?), whose name is so much fun to say. Try it: Cucumatz! (Pictured, for no very good reason, the bird who used to be "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs" so much.) Good luck researching Cucumatz! When I Googled Cucumatz (there's a nice turn of phrase) I was directed to this video. Why? Beats me.
Friday, February 15, 2008
For McNeil and everyone else with a keen interest in the dramatic work BOEING BOEING - okay, for McNeil and ONLY for McNeil - today's New York Times holds a tidbit of especial interest. It never occurred to me that I'd see this sentence in the New York Times in this twenty-first century we have going for us right now: "The stewardesses have not yet been cast."
Thursday, February 14, 2008
When Dan and Kent were in town this weekend we watched MCCABE & MRS. MILLER (and KARATE KID PART III, which has almost nothing to do with this "post"). Anyway, look at this! Here is my brother just moments ago, relaxing against a brick wall with Leonard Cohen, who provided the memorable song-score to the former film (though not the latter, I'm pretty sure).
Of course I was just thinking about a letter Keats wrote on the subject of "things semireal," which, according to old Keatsy, require "a greeting of the spirit to make them wholly exist." It applies somehow, like all things, to Jerry Lewis movies, I have concluded. Agree with me!
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Came back home to find this message from Phil: "This is a video for a song by a talented New Orleans character named Clint Maedgen. He’s performing here with the Preservation Hall Band. He really is a delivery guy for the restaurant in the video (Fiorella’s, home of some kick-*** fried chicken); best of all, in following him on his rounds, the video gives an excellent sense of what our home-away-from-home neighborhood is really like." By coincidence, the place we were coming back home FROM was John Currence's wonderful City Grocery restaurant (below the City Grocery Bar); we were talking with John, in fact, about New Orleans, his home town, and the fact that Theresa and I will soon be there for the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. Nothing nicer than talking to John Currence about New Orleans while eating some split-pea pasta with ham hocks he made, then coming back home and finding a New Orleans video courtesy of Phil. [We feel sort of obliged to mention that the song in the video was written by "blog" fave Ray Davies, who was rather famously shot in New Orleans. So it all comes together! - ed.]
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
You know with what rapture we look toward Maud Newton's sidebar. It's where we learned about Tom Bissell and the apostles, for example. We don't know how to "link" to the sidebar itself; it is chimerical and changeable. But we can "link" to particular items we found there, or alert you to check them out for yourself, now, before they go away. Right now we are taken with the notion that Sylvester Stallone is planning to make a movie about Edgar Allan Poe! This is the biggest news since John Astin's one man show. Ms. Newton also provides a "link" to an interesting essay on Donald Barthelme. Go to the sidebar! Every day!
Sunday, February 10, 2008
McNeil is back with a brand new edition of his popular UFO column "Way... Way Out." Today he presents us with a transcript of a sheriff's interview with the Mississippi men mentioned in the previous edition of "Way... Way Out." Thank you for your time and attention. This has been "Way... Way Out." From the gang at "Way... Way Out," we bid you a pleasant Sunday. Good day to you from "Way... Way Out."
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Part of the fun last night was a big table at the Ajax Diner. Sitting across from me: John T. Edge, who revealed that he is now "blogging" for Gourmet magazine. John T. said that his experience had been somewhat like mine: beginning with a certain amount of resentment and whining about being "forced" to "blog," then quickly becoming joyfully addicted. John T. and I are about to go in together on a crate of Lobel's hot dogs, and he has proposed a Lobel's hot dog "blog-off" when that happy event does occur. By the way, I misquoted John T. in an earlier entry. Lobel's DID cut steaks for Jackie O., but they PROBABLY never made hot dogs for her. John T. did not ask me to make this correction, by the way. He was perfectly happy with the idea of Jackie O. buying and consuming hot dogs. But - given his excellent and deserved reputation - I did not wish to have people thinking that John T. was going around blithely giving out false information. That's my department!
We had fun at the film festival last night, and many events occurred; many quips were made. Most of these events and quips made me think, "I'm going to 'blog' about this tomorrow!" For example, we were talking about the true story of Floyd M. Boring and what kind of movie it would make when Kent came up with the title: THE BORING ULTIMATUM. But all other events and quips were blotted out when I heard the story of how Dan spent one Easter Sunday picnicking with Elliott Gould. "Come on, Ben," said Elliott Gould. "Let's get some real food." (Elliott Gould thought Dan's name was Ben.) Then Elliott Gould took Dan away from the extravagantly catered picnic, and to a Jack-In-The-Box restaurant, where he (Gould) ordered 17 hamburgers. But no one wanted them. This is Dan, by the way:
Friday, February 08, 2008
Spurred on by the competition from Dan, McNeil has dug up two new, juicy tidbits for this edition of his popular UFO column. First, would you like to hear a "real-life" UFO story starring Jackie Gleason and Richard Nixon? I don't see why not! Then "click" here. "Gleason's ex-wife even wrote about it in her memoirs," McNeil reports. Second, McNeil has reminded me of a HUGE news story from our youth in Alabama. Living as we did on the border of Mississippi, we were treated to a number of local reports about these guys ("click" here) who said they had been abducted by aliens. Nor was it just a regional item. I remember seeing them interviewed on the Dick Cavett show at the time. I seem to recall Mr. Cavett's attitude as being "cute." He was "cute" a lot, I seem to recall, not just with UFOs. Hey, speaking of cute, I should have called this one "McNeil's 'And Away We Go!'" Because that's something Jackie Gleason used to say. And if I really thought about it, I could come up with a "To the moon!" joke. Never mind.
Neither a shut-down section of interstate nor a run-in with Johnny Law could stay Kent and Dan from their appointed rounds! But there was sufficient delay to require them to get straight out of their car, walk up the aisle and go IMMEDIATELY on live radio. They are troupers! Good old fashioned "show people," I call them. Say, remember Dan's interest in flying saucers? Well, with apologies to "McNeil's 'Way... Way Out,'" today's UFO footage comes courtesy of Dan:
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Kent Osborne and Dan Brown are barreling toward Oxford, MS, even as I type, for reasons that have been recently disclosed. If they arrive in time, as they expect to, you will hear them in person this very night on Thacker Mountain Radio. Tune in!
Usually we are reluctant to talk about the dead here at the cheery "blog." We only mention obituaries for people who mean something to us, such as Freddy Fender, Tom Poston, and Grace Paley. But the New York Times sure can write an obituary. Today there is one for a man with the irresistible name Floyd M. Boring. Please read about him. You will be glad you did. Because of his association with presidents, I am calling Mr. Boring's life to the special attention of Jim Whorton and Mr. Ward, my two friends who particularly enjoy presidents (for examples, see this or that).
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Is Phil Oppenheim trying to usurp McNeil's Movie Korner? You be the judge! Phil writes: "I dvr'd and am now watching Mario Lanza in 'Toast of New Orleans.' One might wonder why. It stinks. And Lanza looks like the deranged Italian cousin of the Michelin Man. Always nice to see David Niven, though. I couldn't help but notice that the lyricist for the songs was the famous New Orleanian Sammy Cahn ..." We at the "blog" are not sure that McNeil would object to Phil's impertinence. Just today McNeil and I were talking about fonts as usual, and McNeil wondered aloud about Phil's favorite font. No surprise there! One got the impression that whatever Phil's favorite font is, McNeil intends to use it from now on.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
It's time once more for McNeil's "Way... Way Out," where you get all the latest UFO news - McNeil style! Today McNeil sends in a YouTube clip for which the title says it all: "Ufo in Rio Grande the movie look behind John waynes head!" (sic) As a bonus, here's a taste of what McNeil calls "NASA footage with cool music in the background by some guy who used to be in Guns 'n' Roses." (Pictured, John Ford, director of RIO GRANDE. I think he would be proud of the work we are doing here!)
We have commented before anent our ambivalent feelings regarding the use of THE THIRD POLICEMAN in the TV show LOST. Jim Ruland mentions the same connection in the article to which we have recently alluded. Now Dr. "M." provides us - in this latest edition of her "TV Korner" - with a fascinating Lost-centric view of the O'Brien work, courtesy of something called the "lostpedia." At last, the "blog" is becoming as labyrinthine and reflexive as LOST itself! (Pictured, the guy who was reading THE THIRD POLICEMAN on LOST. I just saw him playing Jesus the other day on one of the religious channels; "click" if you don't believe me. And on LOST, his character was briefly a monk, if I am recalling correctly. This must "mean" something! Discuss.)
Here is another in our scintillating series of "Old-Timey Book Reports." It seems that over on the Elegant Variation "web" site, they have revealed that Jim Ruland shares our love of THE THIRD POLICEMAN. (To read Ruland's article, "click" here.) Someone over there on "TEV" (as I call it for short) also gives a shout-out to Robert Walser, who irritates Phil so much. I must say, I dropped a little Walser on the kids last night and a certain percentage of them seemed to share Phil's feelings. Much like my contretemps with juice and the Incredible Hulk, it was all my fault, not Walser's! I picked the wrong story, maybe. (Pictured, juice.)
Welcome once more to the FBIL's Annotation Korner, a very special feature of our "blog" in which the FBIL annotates things - in this case, our recent edition of "C-Spandemonium!" Untowardly boasts the FBIL: "I'm not trying to make you jealous or anything, but I have been one of those 'drowsing, cross-armed old cranks' in a C-Span audience. Except, I wasn't exactly an 'old crank' at the time. My senior year in high school I participated in Presidential Classroom. [we don't know what that is - ed.] The week I spent in Washington, DC watching our government in action was filled with seminars and caucus groups presided over by various bigwigs. One of the seminars I attended was televised by C-Span. If I remember correctly, it was a lecture by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. I don't remember exactly what he said, but it was something along the lines of 'being a U.S. Senator is neat-o!'" Thus spake the FBIL. Have YOU been in a C-Span audience? The "blog" wants to hear from you! Send your anecdotes to "Blog," c/o Oxford, MS, 38655.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Welcome to the feature that is usually entitled "James Whorton, Jr.'s C-Spandemonium!" When Mr. Whorton is unavailable, we call it plain old "C-Spandemonium." So, I was over at Square Books today when I heard that Off Square Books (their sister store, right down the block) was to be the host, this very eve, of a "C-Span" event. I had a class tonight, and missed my chance to be one of the drowsing, crossed-armed old cranks that I so adore viewing in a C-Span audience. Perhaps it's better this way. The mysteries of C-Span remain intact. In other literary news, McNeil and I have been discussing various typographical fonts lately - nothing worth "blogging" about, though it would make a great font-themed radio show on one of the satellite networks.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Film director Dan Brown has an eagle eye, as you might expect of a person in his profession. Look what he saw during the Super Bowl: a great big sign featuring the "blog's" signature word. We are not sure if the sign in the background of the accompanying photograph refers to our great new slang term for money OR the man himself, "blog" hero Mr. Arnold Stang. Either way, good "catch," Dan! Ha ha! One "catches" things in the game of football, get it? Wheeeeee!
Just finished watching the 1976 film HARRY AND WALTER GO TO NEW YORK. It used to come on one of the local stations all the time when I was a lad and fulfilled all three of my youthful requirements for a good movie: 1) It had Elliott Gould in it. 2) It was a heist movie. 3) It contained hapless vaudeville routines a la Hope and Crosby in THE ROAD TO UTOPIA. I was curious to see if it still held up now that I'm so much more sophisticated and fancy. Perhaps this is nostalgia for irrevocably lost youth talking, but I found it satisfying indeed. Diane Keaton was utterly charming. Now HERE is the astonishing coincidence you have been waiting for. I called McNeil to see if he likewise remembered HAWGTNY from all its many airings on our local NBC affiliate of yore. But McNeil could not answer the phone because he was talking to his daughter about THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE. Specifically, McNeil was telling his daughter how much the movie had impacted him WHEN IT AIRED ON A LOCAL TELEVISION STATION OF OUR YOUTH. And get this: TLGWLDTL came out the same year as HAWGTNY: 1976! I know, your mind is reeling. Wow! HAWGTNY also featured Jack Gilford (pictured) a great old-time comedian who appeared in another "fave" heist film, WHO'S MINDING THE MINT, which has been mentioned here before. And there was a small role for Dennis Dugan, who has directed a number of Adam Sandler films, though not BILLY MADISON, which was discussed on this "blog" earlier today but gosh, wouldn't it have been something if he had? Oh baby! "Blog"tigue is over, people. I am so proud and relieved to say that I am once again ranting semi-coherently about dull personal ephemera with the best of them. Hooray!
I have just viewed the last thirty minutes of BILLY MADISON with a general sensation of enjoyment. How is it that I have never seen BILLY MADISON? Perhaps I considered myself too fancy. Perhaps my attitude was similar to that of some persons who do not enjoy (those of you who have even a casual acquaintanceship with the "blog" will know what is coming next) Jerry Lewis. Based on the last thirty minutes of BILLY MADISON (which are all I have seen of it) Mr. Adam Sandler, the star of the movie, is influenced mightily by Lewis. A couple of sight gags in particular (a man catches fire while baking a pie - he's perfectly fine in the next scene; a station wagon slips on a banana peel) show very clearly the direct line from Tashlin to Lewis to Sandler. Most of all, of course, the similarity lies in the prototypical "character" of both performers: an inanely bellowing man-child. The audacious, even bizarre assumption of a Lewis film - identical with that of the last thirty minutes of BILLY MADISON - is that we will ROOT FOR the inanely bellowing man-child. And we do! We do! By all that's holy, we do. P.S. Don't forget to watch THE WIRE tonight!
Saturday, February 02, 2008
McNeil writes in to tell me that I did not "blog" yesterday. He is right! The sad truth is I may be experiencing a relapse of "blog"tigue. Don't be alarmed! There is a pretty good chance it may be nothing more than ennui, which usually clears itself up in two to three days. We're waiting for the test results. In the meantime, Mr. Ward has sent me some interesting facts about the Incredible Hulk TV show starring Bill Bixby but I was unsuccessful in my attempt to fashion them into a coherent "post." That is my fault, not the Incredible Hulk's! He remains, as always, incredible. I also had a thought about Lance Reddick, an actor from THE WIRE. But the "post" just lay there on the page, inert, so I deleted it. Once again, not Mr. Reddick's fault! What will the future hold for the "blog"? Only time will tell. (Pictured, Lance Reddick and the Incredible Hulk.)