Friday, October 31, 2008
I have an hour to kill between the classes I "teach." I like to kill it in the library. Periodicals are great! Today I perused the JOURNAL OF SEDIMENTARY RESEARCH, THE PAN-PACIFIC ENTOMOLOGIST, the BULLETIN OF THE MARYLAND HERPETOLOGICAL SOCIETY, and THE HERPETOLOGICAL JOURNAL. The cover of the latter showed a close-up of a couple of snakes' heads looking loving and cozy and cuddled up. They appeared to be smiling! I do not, as a rule, find snakes "cute." But for these snakes I make an exception! Kudos to the photographer for THE HERPETOLOGICAL JOURNAL. From the inside cover I learned that these snakes were "Slow-worms," or, in science talk, "Anguis fragilis." This made me worry about the snakes! Their name contains hints of anguish and fragility! And their happy smiles and friendly snuggling attained a certain pathos in retrospect! So I went upstairs to the third floor and gazed at Faulkner's Nobel prize, which is up there in a glass case, and on the other side of the case rests his medal from the French Legion of Honor (a decoration Faulkner shares with Jerry Lewis). It's fun to go to the library! And because it is Halloween, I will mention that in the meticulously curated sidebar of Maud Newton, I found a "link" to this "post" about haunted libraries. POSTSCRIPT: I have learned from the "internet" that "Slow-worms" are not snakes at all, but (Halloweenishly appropriate) "legless lizards." So I guess I still don't think snakes are "cute," but apparently "legless lizards" are. And now I am even more worried about their tender well-being in this cruel world. POST-POSTSCRIPT: I couldn't find a "Google Image" of the cover with the smiling legless lizards, but these scientific periodicals (above) should tide you over.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Trouble sleeping last night. So I was "flipping around" and I came to one of those shows where they decorate somebody's home. And the decorator was saying to his client, "I found this wonderful wooden frame and in it I put a picture of the factory where the frame was made." And that BLEW MY MIND!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
You know I don't like to get "political" on the "blog" ("click" here for another example). But I did meet Junior Johnson a few days ago, so I think it behooves me - if I am understanding the word "behooves" correctly, which I almost certainly am not - to mention that Junior Johnson has just endorsed Barack Obama (for an article about the endorsement from the Orlando Sentinel, "click" here).
Monday, October 27, 2008
Whew! Better Jerry news already. From Mark Childress comes a bulletin about the following event: "The King of Comedy: Jerry Lewis in Conversation with Peter Bogdanovich - Saturday, November 22, 7:00 p.m. - At The Times Center, 242 West 41 Street, Manhattan." Not only does this prove the Peter/Jerry connection long speculated upon by the "blog"... it also represents Jerry's chance to redeem himself! Weirdly, I can't find any information about this event on the "internet." And almost everything is on the "internet"! But maybe I am not "googling" correctly. In any event, Mark will be out of town, so we will not be receiving any firsthand accounts.
I suppose that honor - or "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" as it is sometimes called - requires me to tell you that Jerry Lewis is in the New York Times today. I always make such a big deal when it happens! But today it is not for a happy reason. He used a hurtful word! This is not the first time it has been my sad obligation to call your attention to the "dark side" of Jerry Lewis. But I hope it will be the last! Come on, Jerry, shape up and get with it. Be nice! They love you at the New York Times! Give them something pleasant to report about.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
No, I'm not talking about who "really" wrote Shakespeare's plays. I'm just letting you know that my hopes materialized and I was able to introduce my father to Junior Johnson! Actually, it turned out the other way around. Dad met Mr. Johnson first and then introduced me. Not only that, but Dad and Junior Johnson had a long conversation, during which Dad ascertained the veracity of the ham and eggs story... yes, my Dad did something the Washington Post could not do! Mr. Johnson said that yes, indeed, he originated that saying. He was at a hotel restaurant with Bill France. France was trying to talk him into getting serious about racing (this must have been the 1940s) while Johnson was of the contrary opinion that moonshining was a much more lucrative and satisfying occupation. "I looked down at my plate and it just came to me," he told Dad this morning. Furthermore, and I think this really nails down the authenticity, he corrected a point: "It was bacon."
Welcome once again to McNeil's "Way... Way Out," your source for all the latest in UFO news. Someone has let McNeil near cnn.com again. As you know, it's his primary source for up-to-date UFO information. The UFOs are back in Texas, McNeil wants us to know. Here's the "clip." Curiously, still no comment from McNeil on the New York Times story about the pilot who was ordered to shoot down a UFO in 1957. What is McNeil hiding?
Friday, October 24, 2008
In a last-ditch effort to cement his image as a "man of the people," Phil Oppenheim is attempting to temper his highbrow Strindberg reference with a follow-up e-mail: "I've spent the last hour 'researching' Jon Bauman (aka Bowser, from Sha Na Na)," he claims. Of course, a real man of the people would realize that it's spelled "Bowzer."
Thursday, October 23, 2008
"There's only one thing better than chimps in movies... chimps making movies," writes Mr. Ward, providing video evidence. Meanwhile, the no-longer-quite-so-new-brother-in-law has uncovered a barely roused - indeed, somewhat anemic - James Mason doing a TV commercial for Thunderbird. People are too good to me.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
You heard it here first, folks, direct from the source! Readers of Laura Lippman's continuing serial in the New York Times Sunday magazine should keep their eyes peeled in the upcoming weeks for what Lippman calls "a longish discussion of the Shirley MacLaine vehicle WHAT A WAY TO GO!" (The exclamation point is neither mine nor Lippman's - it's in the title.) It should be noted that by the wildest of coincidences, WHAT A WAY TO GO! came up during my recent luncheon with Kelly Hogan, Kathleen Judge, and Neko Case. Will it therefore appear in my Oxford American article? Wait and see! This is not a scoop about me, it is a scoop about Lippman, whose highly anticipated discussion of WAWTG offers, in her words, "a new theory of cinema, involving the inverse relationship between a film's quality and the presence of a chimpanzee in said film." I believe one of us is misunderstanding the word "inverse." If Lippman means to suggest that anything with a chimp in it is awesome, I concur wholeheartedly! (Pictured, MacLaine in WHAT A WAY TO GO!, standing in front of some art made by the Paul Newman character - with the help, if I am recalling the plot correctly, of his wily chimpanzee. The point of a lot of movies and TV shows of the 1960s seemed to be that we are suckers for enjoying "modern" art because a chimp could make it - unlike movies and TV, as I suppose went the unspoken corollary. The teenage protagonist of my B+ novella "Your Body Is Changing" considers the situation as it has been presented to him in popular culture: "Henry knew that a lot of times people just pretended to like art so they could be cool. They would stand around and drink alcohol and eat weenies on toothpicks and make a big deal about some piece of junk that was supposed to be great art, but then it would turn out to be nothing but a knocked-over garbage can or a no-smoking sign or a spot on the floor where somebody had thrown up, which was a situation that Henry had observed in many comedy movies. Like the one where the supposedly great artist had trained a monkey to ride around on a tricycle with paint on the wheels, and that was how he had made his supposedly great art!" So you can see that I am torn. I love chimps in movies, yet I am not crazy about the way they are used to belittle the role of the artist in society! It is not the chimp's fault! Speaking of Paul Newman and chimps, he also appeared with one in another exclamation pointed title, RALLY 'ROUND THE FLAG, BOYS!, as has been noted on the "blog.")
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Wishing my name was Big Bill France reminds me: Maud Newton kindly asked me to write something about Peter De Vries (both Ms. Newton and I are fans) for her "blog," to slyly and commercially coincide with the publication of my novel *******. I made a stab at it but it never quite happened. I became a "college professor" at about that time and a lot of other "reasons" with which I will not trouble you prevented me from accepting Ms. Newton's generous offer. But one thing I did was drag out all my old Peter De Vries novels. I even went to the library to look for some I had never read. In one of those (I can't remember which - was it called MADDER MUSIC?) I found on the first page a character named Mrs. Swirling. Mrs. Swirling! And when I opened my old copy of THE VALE OF LAUGHTER, I was reminded that one of the narrators is named Joe Sandwich. Joe Sandwich! Joe Sandwich immediately replaced Buddy Love (courtesy of Jerry Lewis, of course) at the pinnacle of my character name pyramid. Honorable mention to William Faulkner for coming up with Wallstreet Panic Snopes.
So I have found a couple of places that say Junior Johnson was speaking to NASCAR founder Big Bill France - not an interviewer -when he made his pronouncement. One person who agrees is a commenter on this Washington Post sports "blog," though the "post" in question lists a whole host of possible sources, including the TV series GREY'S ANATOMY. See why the "internet" makes life harder and more confusing? See why we're all lost in a cosmic void? Okay, then!
Looks like this weekend I'll be a small part of a Southern Foodways Symposium event featuring Great American Writer Barry Hannah and moonshine-hauling stock car pioneer and NASCAR forefather Junior Johnson (pictured), subject of a famous article by Tom Wolfe. My dad (whose birthday it is today, and who has raced a car or two in his time) will be in town, so there is a chance that I'll get to introduce him to Junior Johnson! When I called to wish Dad happy birthday, he told me a Junior Johnson story somebody had told him. In the story, Junior Johnson is being interviewed while eating ham and eggs. The interviewer asks him if he is "committed to" racing or just "involved." "Involved," says Johnson. He uses his breakfast as an example: "The chicken was involved, but the pig was committed." Maybe this story is true! Or maybe it's apocryphal. Maybe we'll find out! Or maybe we won't.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I forgot to tie it all together by mentioning that Jerry Lewis appears in the first line or so of my Woody Allen review. For that matter, I haven't received my first round of "edits" yet, but if nothing is altered, there will be a Jerry Lewis reference in my Neko Case article for the Oxford American. Jerry permeates!
It is time once again for Literary Matters. Don't worry! There are just two. I know, that's still too many. I hate literary matters! We all do. But here we go. 1) Another Jerry Lewis reference in the New York Times (as you know, it is a pretty common thing, which delights me). This time it was in the Sunday Book Review, which I have read through the power of the "internet" even though today is only Saturday. The new Hernandez Brothers comic, it turns out, contains (as the reviewer puts it) "a free-associative fantasy about Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis look-alikes fighting a legion of aliens with spears." The reviewer doesn't seem to realize that the Dean and Jerry impersonators (Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo, pictured above with chimpanzee) were real people, and that they were (quite rightfully) sued (or nearly sued) for copyright infringement (or something like it), I mean, just look at those mugs! 2) While I was at Square Books picking up my Hernandez Brothers, I noticed that the paperback version of Woody Allen's latest collection has come out. I opened it up and discovered that my review of it is quoted on the opening page with several others. (I use the word "feuilletoniste" in the quotation, which makes it extra "literary." Yes, I know, it makes me sick, too!) My name is not on the credit line, of course, just the name of the publication in which I reviewed it. So Woody will never know all the nice things I said about him... just like the time I made Bob Dylan laugh and Bob Dylan will never know! It was me, Woody! Call me! You too, Bob. I'm home. It's okay if it's late or whatever.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I don't like it when the "blog" veers toward becoming a morbid catalog, but here's our second obit in two days: Edie Adams. She starred in "blog" staple UNDER THE YUM YUM TREE and Mr. Ward's "fave" movie IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD. And we've "posted" her cigar ad before, the same one mentioned in the very first paragraph of her New York Times notice, along with the slogan (above) she made famous.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
"I do appreciate Jerry being 'round," Kent writes in a generous email, paraphrasing the lyrics of the Beatles song in question. "That wasn't so bad. I liked the funny look he gave when [Jerry's son Gary Lewis] sang 'won't you PLEASE, PLEASE, help me?'" Thanks, Kent! I do appreciate YOU being 'round! Hooray!
Monday, October 13, 2008
Promise me you won't hold this against Jerry! PROMISE! Because here he is singing a Beatles song. There are some problems. Perhaps rehearsal time was short. Jerry could sing well. There are snatches here that back me up. But I'm sure it's just going to reinforce whatever ill will you have for Jerry in your heart. That is not the intent of this "blog"! On the other hand, how could I see this and pretend it does not exist? I could not. It would seem shady of me to hide it from you. I'm especially worried about Kent, who is a big Beatles fan, and with whom I have quarreled about Jerry in the past! This may be the final straw! Well, one good thing. It makes you appreciate the actual care and musicality that old Bing put into his own Beatles performance.
Speaking of Eugene Walter's DELECTABLE DISHES FROM TERMITE HALL, I just found a grits recipe from it right here on the "internet." Oh, "internet"! You can do anything. For example, I notice that this edition (left) appears to be a reprint, as it contains "an introduction by Pat Conroy," which I don't believe was in the original. This gives me hope! I've been moping around for years thinking I'd never see a copy again. Speaking of hope, I learned from Dyna Moe's "blog" about this (below) "takeoff" of the Obama "Hope" poster. I include it here - with absolutely no disrespect toward Senator Obama, who I happen to like a lot! - to demonstrate my affection for Mr. Bob Hope.
I was sad to get the news from a "myspace" friend that Adelaide Trigg, an old, fond acquaintance from back in my Mobile days, has passed away. You can "click" here to read a remembrance of Ms. Trigg by my friend Katherine Clark. Here's a little quotation from it: "Adelaide had been one of the founders of The Haunted Book Shop, a social as well as literary gathering place in downtown Mobile. She had hosted book-signing parties for Harper Lee, Truman Capote and even Thomas Mann. Then there was the family homestead, popularly known as Termite Hall, which began as an inn in the late 19th century and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Adelaide and Eleanor [Marston, Adelaide's sister] had grown up there as children, later lived there together as adults, and Adelaide died there last week." I got to go to Termite Hall a few times, once for a barbecue with my late friend Eugene Walter. (Clark's piece also contains a nice, quick sketch of Eugene.) I remember Eugene arguing with Adelaide's sister Eleanor over whether orange juice was a proper ingredient for barbecue sauce. I mean, they were serious! It got ugly. Eugene wrote a great, weird cookbook called DELECTABLE DISHES FROM TERMITE HALL. I stupidly gave away my copy back when all these fine people were still alive (John T. has a copy, I think. It seems to be hard to find now), so enthusiastic about it and wanting to share. I worked at the Haunted Book Shop for a few years, too, and my favorite days were always when Adelaide dropped by. I think she was the nicest, most interesting woman in the world, always kind and dignified. She tracked down strange old out-of-print books for me, like a first edition of A MAP OF VERONA by Henry Reed. I'll see if I can find a poem from it on the "internet" and "link" to it here in honor of Adelaide Trigg.
I love Stephen Colbert! And I love Ornette Coleman! So it hurts my feelings when Mr. Colbert makes fun of Ornette Coleman as he does on his show from time to time with no apparent irony - that is, Mr. Colbert's "persona" and his "real self" seem to merge into one when it comes to hating on Ornette Coleman. What Mr. Colbert does sometimes on his show is play some raucous "free jazz" by Mr. Coleman and pretend to snap his fingers happily in time... the seeming point being that you can't snap your fingers and be blithe while listening to Ornette Coleman, that his music can be harsh and complicated, and that this is somehow a bad thing. Mr. Colbert seems to think - once again, without his usual irony - that Mr. Coleman would be better employed in the production of catchy little jingles for all to enjoy. In this and only this, Mr. Colbert reminds me of the pink, cherubic "public intellectual" I saw on C-Span that time, bitterly moaning and whining because he couldn't "tap his toes" to John Coltrane. One doubts that Mr. Colbert or the C-Span intellectual would go to a recital of preludes and fugues by Bach and/or Shostakovich and come out griping about not being able to snap his fingers and tap his toes, and all I'm saying is this: sometimes it's OKAY not to snap your fingers and tap your toes.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Because I mentioned that they were reading "The Metal Men" on MAD MEN last week, I am obliged to mention that they were reading Faulkner on MAD MEN this week. The Metal Men and Faulkner... two pinnacles of literature so dear to my heart. The only logical conclusion is that the producers of MAD MEN are reading my "blog" and sending me secret messages and commands through my TV screen. I hear and obey, fellas!
I don't own the same edition of THE THIRD POLICEMAN as my students. I got mine at a library book sale over twenty years ago and if the Mobile Public Library hadn't happened to be tossing it out, I may never have run into Flann O'Brien. If you had told me back then that one day I would be teaching the book in college, well, I would have reeled at the insult and rushed home to cry myself to sleep. But that's not my point! I glanced at the introduction to the recent paperback version, and it contained something interesting that Hugh Kenner said in a discussion of Samuel Beckett. Kenner wondered why so many fiction writers (aside from Beckett) think it is so very fascinating to write about "people who walk upstairs, walk downstairs, eat eggs, quarrel, marry, converse with clergymen, and ride in trains." I think it is a fair thing to wonder!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
I have noticed that famed former automotive tycoon Lee Iacocca's "blog" (in real life! for real! "click" here for confirmation!) has not been updated since March 27, beating Jon Host's record of "blog" inactivity by more than five months. Both men have seemingly noticed that "blogging" is something akin to a worthless pursuit. I have noticed this myself, but I lack their capacity for manly self-control. I plan to check the "blog" of each of these titans every day. I will let you know which one blinks first.
Friday, October 10, 2008
We had some folks over for dinner tonight. They are from Texas, so naturally I asked if they had seen the Marfa Lights. "No," said one of these nice people, "but I have seen the glowing slugs of Alabama." You can imagine how excited I got! I fancy myself an authority on Alabama - my home state - but I had never heard about our glowing slugs. "They're in the Dismal Canyons," she said, or that's how I heard it. The weird sound of this place thrilled me even more. "Isn't that a Harry Potter novel?" I quipped meagerly, to no acclaim. (It also put me in mind of John Bunyan and the Slough of Despond.) Anyway, a little "googling" taught me that the place is actually called Dismals Canyon, and they call these glowworms "Dismalites." That sounds like a sad sect. Here is a picture of a Dismalite! And now I know everything about Alabama.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
You know what really works? A TV commercial for Halloween candy. Because when you see it, you think, "That's right! We need to get some Halloween candy." I have thought about it and concluded that this is the only thing in the world that really works.
I finished "teaching" THE THIRD POLICEMAN today, and it occurred to me in the course of my rereading how much of a debt my recent novel (about which I have promised never to bore you again) owes to O'Brien's book. So I am about to tell you. This does not violate my pledge, because I must do it to gratefully acknowledge O'Brien's influence. Please note that NUMEROUS SPOILERS about both books will follow. In the case of my book, it doesn't matter much. But if you haven't read Flann O'Brien, well, first of all, shame on you! And now, the spoilers: Both books feature self-absorbed, questing narrators who think too much, complicating the simplest transactions. And both books are circular in plot (speaking of the Ouroboros), their endings leading back to their beginnings in a loop. Finally I will say that the giant golden robot with which my protagonist engages in battle at the end of ******* keeps expanding, until my narrator begins to wonder what is the difference between an infinitely small thing and an infinitely big one. His plan is to wait and see how big a thing has to get before it ceases to exist. In O'Brien's book, the narrator is handed a glass that magnifies objects until they become completely invisible. Am I blowing your mind yet? No? Is O'Brien? Probably! I haven't read THE THIRD POLICEMAN in many years, so I was surprised by the strong influence that it apparently continued to exert, though I didn't realize it while writing. On another subject, I was surprised how much THE THIRD POLICEMAN (written in 1940, though the manuscript sat on a shelf until 1967) reminded me of the two current science stories on McNeil's mind: the particle collider and the elevator to space. In O'Brien's book, two policemen are in charge of the maintenance of "Eternity," which turns out to be a structure with definite similarities to the particle collider, and fraught with similar dangers (this is also one of the plot devices that the TV series LOST owes to the THE THIRD POLICEMAN). How does one get to eternity? On an elevator or "lift" of unimaginable verticality. Does that remind you of something? The space elevator, for instance? Sure it does!
I am starting to think Jon Host is right. That "post" about his brother falling off a tractor is STILL at the top of his "blog" well over a month later. What I used to view as laziness I am beginning to accept as a form of stoic genius, of - dare I say it? - art. Jon Host is making us all question what a "blog" is. Is a "blog" that is never updated still a "blog"? Host teases out the answer in a manner worthy of Andy Kaufman, of Duchamp, with a site that serves as a blistering critique of "blogs" like mine, which are run on little more than self-perpetuating compulsion. The typical "blog" is one of those snakes that eats itself! Such is Host's inescapable message. If I mention something once, and I see that thing again in a different setting, I am obliged to mention it again (see the recent business of the Metal Men and MAD MEN) thereby taking up valuable room on the "internet" with a solipsistic, meaningless echo chamber. Like I'm doing right now. Jon Host's "blog," in direct contrast, is a beacon of purity! The only thing better would be a blank screen.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Look! Dyna Moe (who I have mentioned before) also noticed the Metal Men reference on MAD MEN. "Who cares?" would be a valid question! And I do not have an answer. Yet here we are. According to Dyna Moe, there is a Metal Men movie in the works (she provides this "link"... see her "web" site). After I "posted" about MAD MEN I decided to look at Ms. Moe's picture for this week. Unknowing! I was surprised! And gladdened! And then I was depressed. But it was nobody's fault.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Welcome to Volume V of "'Blog'trospectives," your handy reference guide to the world of the "blog." Our subject is sandwiches. Please browse the index at your leisure, "clicking" lazily here and there. SANDWICHES: anthropomorphic hot dog licking its lips---as symbolic of something no word can describe---as traditional Labor Day fare---barbecue with slaw, eaten by Lewis Nordan before running away from home---Bendix, William; juicy hot dog stabbed and inspected by---"Big Easy"---board---Brooks, Foster, enjoys one with a cup of coffee---burgers; destiny of---butter and sugar---butter and sugar in the works of Whorton, Powell, Morrison, and Lee---chicken salad---cold dogs---cold weenies---Coney Island hot dog hoax---consumed at the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair---creme---Cuban---cucumber, with Lizzie Borden---dancing---dancing sandwiches no laughing matter---Dudie burger---during a CHEERS rerun---Earl of---ease of consumption postulated---eaten in presence of a young man with a walking stick, white clown makeup, derby---egg---fancy hot dog place---fierce-colored hot dogs---football game hot dog---Frankenstuffs (sandwich ingredient)---Freeman, Morgan; talk of hamburgers leads to sighting of---fried peanut butter and banana---Gannon, Bill, and---giant hot dog crashes into somebody's house in Wisconsin---"great sandwiches of English literature"---grilled cheese---Habib's hamburgers (Brasil)---ham sandwich used as example in early 20th-century newspaper article---hamburger delusion---hamburger meat as pink and moist as Mario Batali's forehead---hamburger, raw---hamburgers with Elliot Gould---home hot dog cooker---Host, Jon; burger problem of---hot dog at a Mummenschanz show---hot dog bread pudding---hot dog eaten in someone's apartment, circa 1976---HOT DOG (kids' show)---hot dog preference of Bizarro superdog---hot dogs cooked by "Hot Stuff the Li'l Devil"---"Hot Portobello Sub"---hypothetical cheeseburger of Kent Osborne---Ice Cube's pastrami---"International Newspaper Sandwich Award"---Jackie O.'s hot dogs---Jackie O.'s hot dogs (correction)---kid wearing Jughead hat prepares to eat hot dog---leftover Christmas ham and pimento cheese (grilled)---leftover roast---lemongrass-roasted pork po-boy with crawfish---Lobel's hot dogs---Luke makes Lorelai a hamburger shaped like Santa on GILMORE GIRLS---made by Joey Lauren Adams---mail drop facility has name like sandwich shop---man who "can't even fry a hambuger," a---margarine and sugar---marinated chicken sub; discontinuation of---marinated chicken sub; last---"McNeil Month by Month" and---mustard and American cheese---National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, The---on TV---Orange Julius hamburger---"Osborne, The"---peanut butter in the dark---perfect patty melt---pig ear, thousands of---pimento cheese---Pink's hot dogs---preference of Harrison Ford for finger sandwiches---prevalence of on "internet"---Sandwich, Joe---Saunders, George, eats a corn dog---sausage dog---"Scary Gyros"---Silverstone, Alicia; egg salad sandwiches of---Stang's hot dogs---Superman eats like a million hamburgers---Superman roasts hot dogs with his eyes---Superman squats and hunches over as he shovels hamburgers into his mouth---swimming champion in a commercial for---too abundant---"Tropical Hot Dog Night"---"tubesteak" as another word for hot dog---Tweety---Weenie Whirl---wrapped in newsprint. Thank you. Please don't forget to enjoy our previous "blog"trospectives. Collect them all! Trade with your friends! VOLUME I: Tom Franklin; VOLUME II: Phil Oppenheim; VOLUME III: Movies; VOLUME IV: The Moon.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Look what just came in off the truck: a special delivery from Kent Osborne. He thought we would like this picture of Patrick Fischler as Jimmy Barrett (the Jerry Lewis-like character) as he appeared in his introductory scene on MAD MEN. Kent was right, all right. We DO like the picture, which is by an artist named Dyna Moe. "Click" here to see more of her MAD MEN project, in which she presents (among other things) a new picture from every episode in season two. Or "click" here for her "blog." Or "click" here for her "web" site, on which you can find out more about her art.
It is McNeil's birthday! Therefore we present a "post" about McNeil from each month that the "blog" has been in existence. From September 2006: McNeil contends that he does not enjoy the "Little Dot" comic book. October 2006: McNeil furnishes a memorable quotation. November 2006: McNeil recalls playing Aerosmith on a jukebox. December 2006: First appearance of "McNeil's Movie Korner." January 2007: McNeil's system for winning at craps. February 2007: McNeil doesn't see what's so hard about reading a newspaper and eating a sandwich at the same time. March 2007: McNeil and I are talking about Bob Denver when HE SUDDENLY APPEARS ON TELEVISION! April 2007: Wild turkeys roam McNeil's neighborhood. May 2007: McNeil gets in touch with an Australian reporter regarding a historical chimp. June 2007: First McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival announced. July 2007: Medicine changes McNeil's taste buds. August 2007: McNeil's trees not producing apples. September 2007: McNeil pinpoints a problem with the "blog." October 2007: McNeil presents a video entitled "Jerry's pre-defecation chills." November 2007: McNeil's Theory of Potential Energy. December 2007: What is McNeil's favorite movie? January 2008: McNeil explains why the wind blows. February 2008: McNeil admires the paintings of Gerhard Richter, but it's funnier to illustrate this "post" with Little Dot. March 2008: McNeil comes up with an idea for a Lifetime TV movie. April 2008: McNeil's shirt. May 2008: McNeil's apple tree doing better (see August 2007). June 2008: McNeil is troubled by a man who wants to make clouds in the shape of logos. July 2008: McNeil's apples are doing great. August 2008: McNeil refuses to acknowledge that Goofy wears a hat no matter what I say. September 2008: McNeil's grocery store is permanently out of his favorite margarine. October 2008: McNeil on the space elevator.
But think about it. Why do so many Jerry Lewis movies feature doctors engaged in questionable shenanigans? Just off the top of my head, there are THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, THREE ON A COUCH, CRACKING UP, THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY, LIVING IT UP, and HOOK, LINE AND SINKER. I guess a better question is, "Why are these things on the top of my head?" And "Are they really 'off' it now?" I hope so! Someone could do me a favor and write up the subject in a medical/cinematic journal if such a thing exists. Then maybe I'd stop worrying about it. Like, maybe I'll no longer wake up thinking, "Why does THREE ON A COUCH take place in a nihilistic moral and ethical void where human relationships are meaningless?" Here, I'll get you started with a quotation from TOAC you can use in the epigraph of the article you're going to write for me. A male doctor says to a female doctor, "You can take that Hippocratic Oath jazz too far. You have to decide: are you a woman or a doctor? From here you look like a woman, doctor." Something akin to misogyny, but even more insidious perhaps. And yet Jerry is great when he pretends to be the shy zoologist (whose long stream of double talk, in which he never finishes a sentence, hints at the comedic influence of Lewis on Fred Armisen). Are we allowed to extract that scene and enjoy it out of context? I guess I'll find out when I read your article! No kidding, I just did a little "googling" and found something called "The Journal of Medicine and Movies" where you can submit. So get on it.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
I started to write a "post" entitled "Medical Ethics In the Films of Jerry Lewis" but I got tired. On the upside, I was reminded of a real article we once "linked" to on the "blog": "Ethical Considerations for the Conservation of Circus Posters." And though I remained tired, I felt better about life again.
I believe that McNeil and I are in something like a book club. Except we are separately watching the same Jerry Lewis movie in ten-minute increments. So by most standards, that is not a book club. It's one of those movies, though. The ones you have to watch in ten-minute increments (unlike THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, represented misleadingly above, but in an ad which puts me in mind of the "squirrel-eating-nuts" gag with which Patrick Fischler is introduced as a Lewis-like character on MAD MEN). But no, the one we're pushing through is THREE ON A COUCH. There are high points and low points. You know. Like life. Like, McNeil will call and say, "This is the worst plot ever. And Janet Leigh and Jerry Lewis are wearing jackets made out of the same material. Must save money in the costume department." But then he might call back and say, "Are you at the part where Jerry dresses up like a cowboy? Some pretty ladies walk by and he does some classic Jerry shtick. Hilarious!" I haven't made it to that part.
I thought I had discovered a really good Elvis movie to tell you about. But I had not. Some of you are snickering! You are saying, "A GOOD Elvis movie? PLEASE!" I invite you to stop reading at this point. Anyway, it fell apart at the end. But doesn't everything? Life, for example? It started falling apart pretty bad and then they sang a song about the signs of the zodiac and everything REALLY collapsed. But up until that point, I found many things to like. I will list them. 1) Vincent Price plays a lecturer named Mr. Morality! He quotes Hemingway, Nietzsche, and Whitman! 2) There's so much overlapping dialogue and so many elliptical vignettes featuring a large number of minor players that I began to think of it as Elvis's Altman movie. But it came out right before M*A*S*H, so maybe Altman got some of his ideas from this Elvis movie! Ha ha! Not really. But I thought I was onto something when I noticed that the director's name was Peter Tewksbury... because I remembered that the woman who wrote NASHVILLE for Altman was named Joan Tewkesbury. But they spell their names differently, as I learned through "Googling." There is no connection. Although "Google" did inform me that after Peter Tewksbury retired from directing, he went back to his birth name of Henry and wrote a book called THE CHEESES OF VERMONT (not to be confused with the cheese book we have mentioned on the "blog" before). Speaking of "Google," I would like to take time out from my list to mention the observation in Roy Blount Jr.'s ALPHABET JUICE that Mark Twain used the word "googling" in HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Here's the quotation, as relayed by Blount: "The duke he never let on he suspicioned what was up, but just went a goo-gooing around, happy and satisfied, like a jug that's googling out buttermilk." I keep meaning to e-mail Twain fan Maud Newton about this, but I'm certain she already knows. 3) Crazy camera moves and New Wave tricks. 4) Some mild attempts at social and political commentary. 5) A young Dabney Coleman (there's a phrase I never thought I'd use!) already fully formed into the murmuring, sarcastic lech that became his cinematic trademark. 6) For at least the first half of the movie, the musical numbers are handled in a subtle, believable way for an Elvis movie (which isn't saying much). 7) Elvis is kind of subdued and naturalistic in it. There, that's the list. Maybe you can turn off the movie halfway through and feel good about the world. Like, "Maybe everything's not terrible!" Like, "People try their best!" When I was about halfway through the movie, I consulted Peter Guralnick's masterful two-volume Elvis bio because I wanted some confirmation. I thought he'd be in this with me! But he was not. In fact, he was dismissive about the movie. Scornful, even. It's called THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS, if you're interested. I know you're not! You're not even reading this! You gave up already because I can't do paragraph breaks. It's okay! I don't want your pity. Even Guralnick had to admit that Elvis looked great in the spiffy white suit he wore in most of the scenes. That's #8, I guess.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Welcome once again to McNeil's "Way... Way Out." Today McNeil wanders a bit off the subject of UFOs to call our attention to recent developments concerning "the space elevator." It, like the "particle collider," is a real thing for REAL, though "spell check" does not recognize the word "collider," which I can only assume is part of a government plot to "reassure" us. Do you recall that once, very, very long ago, I reported reading about something in the "Science" section of the New York Times that McNeil had predicted in his fiction? Well, I am now prepared to reveal that it was an elevator to outer space. McNeil thought of it first, everybody. So where's HIS piece of the pie? I do recall that in Roald Dahl's CHARLIE AND THE GREAT GLASS ELEVATOR, Charlie Bucket and Willy Wonka go to outer space in an elevator. But it is a detached and capsule-like elevator if I recall correctly and not what McNeil and the scientists had in mind at all.
Yesterday I almost "posted" something about Foster Brooks but deleted it at the last moment. The day before that, I "posted" something about people falling down in television commercials. That one made it to the "blog" but not for long. It was "perceptive" and "timely" - of that you may be certain! But my chosen illustration of a banana peel displeased me greatly. Rather than finding a more comely banana peel, I deleted the whole "post" in a fit of mad rage. This sort of "thinking" and "pondering" and "deciding" that "blogging" is "pointless" is sure to accelerate the downfall of the "blog"! I blame something or someone other than myself.