Monday, August 30, 2010

From the Annals of Astonishment


I was just reading an interview with Michael Kupperman on the "internet" and the phone rang! And it was the history professor on the line, and the history professor's son was calling out from the other room, saying, "Tell Jack he should read the comics by this guy Michael Kupperman!" And then I was like, "WHAT? I am reading about him RIGHT NOW!" And then I was like, "Michael Kupperman is illustrating my next piece for McSweeney's!" And we all fainted from astonishment. It made me think of the time McNeil and I were talking about Bob Denver and Bob Denver suddenly appeared on the TV! It's true what they say: there really are miracles here in our modern times.

Favorite Talking Mongoose


Rereading the wonderful M. R. James story "Lost Hearts" for my ghost class. It has owls in it, of course: as you know from studying this "blog," it is a documented fact that all fine literature contains owls to some extent. Perhaps an even more intriguing creature in "Lost Hearts" is "the rat that could speak," mentioned in passing but never explained or developed. It is referred to in the footnotes - somewhat unconvincingly, given the context, if I may be so bold as to disagree with a footnote! - as "apparently an allusion" to something in Dickens. All I know is it makes me think of that later apparition, the famous talking mongoose of the Isle of Man, who is my favorite thing ever. I notice that my old "link" to the talking mongoose story doesn't work anymore, so here is a new "link" to the talking mongoose story.

A Fella Gets to Thinking

You know, whenever a guy with a "blog" puts up some other guy's photo of the guy who played Doyle on GILMORE GIRLS wearing a chef's hat and holding a light saber, that's when the guy starts thinking crazy things like, "Why are we here on this planet as human people?" and "What is the meaning of life?" and "Don't I have a job?"

Good Times


Here is something from a "web" site I don't understand at all. Is it a catering company? It might be a catering company. Maybe I don't try hard enough to understand things. Anyway, that's definitely Doyle from GILMORE GIRLS. This isn't what he was wearing on MAD MEN last night. The credit isn't up on imdb, but I stand by my Doyle sighting. So here is the guy who played Doyle on GILMORE GIRLS wearing a chef's hat and holding a light saber. Why? You tell me, "internet"! Hey, remember that "web" site I didn't understand in 2008? Good times.

Cosmic Alignment Occurs


In a rare event, the sort of which scientists say occurs only once every 700,000 years, Doyle from GILMORE GIRLS went to work for the MAD MEN on last night's episode of MAD MEN. I am pretty sure it was Doyle from GILMORE GIRLS. If so, this is his second show with both an alliterative and a gendered title, making the event rarer still and causing my head to explode. With joy? Probably!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sun Ra to the Rescue


Oh, C-Span, you know you are my favorite! Or my second favorite! Right after TCM! I turned you on just now, C-Span, and saw - by a gruesome mistake! Because the "blog" is not political! - the little finger-waggling weeping white man who works himself up into little hissy fits that would bewilder and even disgust our grandfathers, though he thinks - the blubbering little cuss does - he would like to live with them by "returning" to their times. So this time you made me feel bad, C-Span, but that is what I love about you. You just turn on the camera and let it roll, baby. I happened to catch a moment during which the little blubberer choked himself up with his own rhetoric, with his fears, he said, just moments ago, that his children, our children, are destined to be "slaves," yes, he used that word a couple of times in the tiny moment I happened to observe, and there he stood in front of the Lincoln memorial on the anniversary of Dr. King's speech there. It is none of my business! I am jolly! Go for it, Weepy! Knock yourself out! You seem to be having a good time making yourself cry in public. I used to do that in college! Yet I turned you off, C-Span, and put on some Sun Ra - superstitiously, I think, the way some people burn sage to purify the air. All I know is I'm leaving on Sun Ra all day. Back at TBS, we had a thing called "counterprogramming," which I am pretty sure is not a real word. For example, we would show ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW reruns all day during the Super Bowl, the idea being that Andy Griffith was the opposite of the Super Bowl, though I am not privy to the thought process behind that calculation. Anyway, Sun Ra is my counterprogramming. Drive wickedness from my mind with your mighty light, Sun Ra! Also, here is a picture of Shirley MacLaine in ARTISTS AND MODELS from a deleted "post." She will help, too! And I will think of the kid who came over last night with his folks - not yet ten years of age is he! - who asked, unbidden, if we had any Jerry Lewis movies he could watch on his computer. There's your hope for the future!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Three Planets, Five Planets


I have decided to compel my graduate students - if any! - to read FORCES IN MOTION: THE MUSIC AND THOUGHTS OF ANTHONY BRAXTON come the spring, so I was looking at it again and noticed something in the introduction that I somehow missed before, must have missed, because how could I have forgotten? "Meanwhile, [Mr. Braxton] continues to work at his multi-orchestral scores - a Series A which will include pieces for six orchestras, ten orchestras, and 100 orchestras 'in four different cities connected by satellite and TV systems'; and a Series B of pieces that will link orchestras on three planets, five planets, in different star systems, and in different galaxies!" (Exclamation point provided by the author Graham Lock, and entirely appropriate.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Important Thing

The important thing is that we are starting a community dialogue about the horrible chocolate wine.

People Want to Believe

People keep hopping on the facebook to try to convince me that the (surely) horrible chocolate wine might be okay.

Exclusive Photo


The photos are still coming in from the social event of the season. I don't suppose that Tom Franklin, who took the photo, would mind me telling you that the only reason the photos are still coming in at this late date is that he is an old man like me (in fact we are almost exactly the same age - a mere day apart! - and that's a super fun "blog" fact you can "clip and save" and trade with your friends!), and it honestly took him two weeks to figure out how to send a photo from his phone. It really did! But it was worth the wait: witness Dr. Theresa, then newly titled, at the peak of her celebratory capacity, having donned a scarlet A made for her by Tom's daughter (who asked what it stood for and, being a youngster, was told "awesome" - as well it might!) in honor of Hester Prynne, one of Dr. Theresa's doctoral subjects, who has been looming over her brain for lo these many years, now joyously concluded.

How to Deal With Intelligent, Stinging Lights


David's favorite part of the article about the intelligent, stinging lights is "Campbell remembered the tales that said that if one encountered such a light, the best thing to do was to close one’s eyes, which would cause the light to disappear. He did so, and the light vanished." Keep this information handy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Horrible Chocolate Wine Update Update

John Currence reports photographing the (presumably!) horrible chocolate wine in Florida. And no, that's not a typo in the title. It's an "update" of the "update"! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! I'm filled with delightful whimsy.

A Return to Standards


Sorry I keep mentioning vomit so much. Newcomers, please be aware! That is not what the "blog" is all about!

Don't Listen to the Horrible Chocolate Winemakers

The horrible chocolate wine "web" site suggests a cocktail made of chocolate vodka AND chocolate wine! Chocolate vomit!

Nothing But Horror

"The wrong wine opposite a too-sweet chocolate creates nothing but horror." So declares the "web" site for the (I assume!) horrible chocolate wine. I "link" to it only to account for the discrepancy between the label in the recent photograph ("the taste of dutch chocolate and fine red wine") and the sign I saw in the wine store ("the great taste of Dutch chocolate and fine Cabernet wine").

Horrible Chocolate Wine Update


Remember the chocolate wine I told you about? Sure you do! Thinking about it is probably why you vomit all the time. Well, John Currence just sent me a picture of the horrible chocolate wine! He saw it somewhere in his travels as he traveled, wherever he is now traveling in his many travels. He didn't say. And he took a picture of it and here it is. I have asked him and maybe he will reply and then I will tell you on my "blog" exactly where John Currence saw the horrible chocolate wine. Maybe the horrible chocolate wine is delicious! I have not tried it. I am sorry I doubted you, horrible chocolate wine.

Dares to Ask the Question


The NBIL sends along an article that dares to ask the question, "Could there be lights not only possessed of some sort of intelligence but which are capable of forming a unique rapport with a person and even delivering painful stings when they so choose?" You know what? I'm going to stop calling him the NBIL. Nobody even remembers what it stands for anymore! His name is David! Let's call him that. I did a "google" and it turns out there are lots of other people and things called NBIL. Pictured, for example, is a fencing team from the North Bergen Interscholastic Athletic League, which - according to wikipedia - sometimes leaves out the "A" from its abbreviation, even, apparently, in its code of conduct, which states, "The NBIL encourages parents and spectators to support good sportsmanship and to be positive role models to student athletes." Sounds like something every NBIL can get behind! Of course, there are also lots of Davids.

Supersquats

I really should have mentioned that Superman was squatting and hunched over as he shoveled hamburgers into his mouth.

A Class Act


Last night Larry King and Ryan Seacrest had dinner... again! How do I know? Twitter! Thanks for being in my life, twitter. "He's a class act & picked up the check for the whole table!" tweets Larry King. Twitter!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Preen 'n' Bray

I saw a vodka commercial. There's a dark room. There are men wearing dark suits in the dark room, and they are preening and braying like characters in a searing drama by Neil LaBute. They grin wolfishly, showing their teeth, and appear to spout great gushers of Neil LaBute dialogue, but you can't hear them because there's an announcer talking, and the announcer says in a commendatory way, without irony, putting forth these fellows as exemplars of vodka consumption, "For some men, substance IS style," and as the announcer announces this, one of the predatorily grinning Neil LaBute characters riffles through a giant stack of greenbacks representing substance.

As Jimmy Looks On Piteously


Look! In case the word balloons are too small for you to read, allow me to explain: Jimmy Olsen bought Superman a bathrobe for Father's Day! So that's weird. What's weirder is that Superman is burning a hole in it with his heat vision as Jimmy looks on piteously. I had a whole long "post" - not involving Superman or Jimmy Olsen in the least - for which this was a perfect illustration. But I deleted the "post." So what was I supposed to do, waste this? Also here is Superman gorging himself on like a million hamburgers. Oh yeah? What do you do with your life? Help sick babies or something? Well, yes, that is probably better than looking up funny pictures of Superman on the "internet." I am going to lie down and think about things.

The Eponymous Cat


How could I forget to tell you? "Blog" Icon Arnold Stang finally made it onto MAD MEN, via a clip from the cartoon show TOP CAT, for which Mr. Stang provided the voice of the eponymous cat. Hey, I just spent 40 minutes looking for the perfect picture of Top Cat. NOW who's crazy? Huh? Huh?

McNeil Is Real!


Scott Phillips is the latest person to cast doubt upon the existence of McNeil! I don't know, but I think it is because all the other members of our book club are on facebook, but McNeil is not. This is what counts as existence in our troubled times! They all laughed at Fred Flinstone for believing in the Great Gazoo, too. I showed Mr. Phillips the pictures of McNeil's bruised arm and McNeil just before he learned that he had swine flu. And I forgot the time McNeil came down here to read one of his stories at a Kitty Snacks party and met several real-life people such as the girl who eats dry oatmeal (who also used to doubt McNeil's existence) and the smart student with whom I oft discuss Little Lulu and eefing. (The "student" is now an ex-student, and of course "girl" is condescending, but I hope you will agree that "the girl who eats dry oatmeal" has more of a ring to it than "the young woman who eats dry oatmeal." But maybe I should change it. Yes, I should.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Good Rain In an Old Movie

This semester I am "teaching" BATS OUT OF HELL by Barry Hannah. Ha! "Teaching" Barry. How about this? "Rain the color of my car, color of those old haunted movies dear to me, never seen again in our town: is there anything like good rain in an old movie?" Same narrator on one kid's crazy cosmology: "Why not? I thought. Seems I had once seen a medieval thing not far off the substance of this. It could do as well as any, as we creep along with our baggage, dunces in fury, down the long ditch and into the passionate night."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Further Inquiries


Don't be so hard on yourself, Pendarvis! That was probably an ascot Jerry was wearing. But it was pretty big. Been thinking about ascots lots. Why not? How big has an ascot got to be before an ascot has got not to be an ascot? Also, on the subject of Marjie Millar: she has a "j" and an "a" where you expect a "g" and an "e." That's more of an observation. Maybe I have thought enough now about MONEY FROM HOME. Photo: "Hello? This is Marjie Millar speaking. How may I help you? Uh-huh... uh-huh... Yes, it was definitely an ascot."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saffron Ascot Neither?

That ascot wasn't saffron. Just made me feel like a big shot to say it: a saffron ascot. Also: was it really an ascot?

A Very Nice Brown Hat


More thoughts on MONEY FROM HOME 1) Yes, he does ride a horse backwards, but at no point does Jerry Lewis brandish a bloody knife - or even come close to brandishing a bloody knife! - as seen in the bizarre Belgian movie poster. 2) I want a suit like Dean Martin wears at the beginning of the movie. It's blue pinstripe. Also, a luxurious, rich indigo shirt. I asked Dr. Theresa to name the color of the tie, and she said "golden." I don't know, it may be paler. Plus a very nice brown hat. 3) Jerry Lewis's blue jacket is not too shabby, either. Light and dark blue, alternating, with a bright yellow (almost saffron?) ascot. 4) Who is Marjie Millar (pictured)? I have no idea. A cutie pie, but other than that I have no idea. At one point she wears a white-and-green dress with white gloves and white beaded purse that would perfectly suit Dr. Theresa. We discussed it.

I Prompt Me

Prompted by my own "blog," I watched MONEY FROM HOME again and liked it much, much better this time. Thanks, red wine!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blue Worsted

Tired of hearing about my trouble sleeping? Maybe my trouble sleeping puts you to sleep! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Wouldn't that be something? I'm quite the scamp with all my hilarious speculations and so on. Last night when I couldn't sleep I came across a little bit of the Gregory Peck movie THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT, which I have never seen. It only took that little bit for me to have two epiphanic realizations: 1) This is MAD MEN! I mean, in every detail. and 2) That's not a gray flannel suit! I think it is blue worsted. (Note: I am really not sure what worsted is. I have always liked that word, that's all. Also, maybe I'm colorblind.)

His Famous Gnarled Tree


You know Frank Kermode passed away. I am not an expert on him. I've read just one of his many books. But he was quoted in today's New York Times and I really like what he said. It goes with what Jasper Johns said about radiators, what John Ashbery said about impracticality, what that Maine antiques dealer said, you remember him, something said by Kierkegaard, and of course Chuang Tzu and his famous gnarled tree I love so much. Here is one thing Frank Kermode said in praise of Shakespeare: "To be able to devote one’s life to art without forgetting that art is frivolous is a tremendous achievement of personal character." So put that in the stack. There was also a great obituary about a heroic bagpiper. I notice that by some mysterious decree from on high two of the "links" in this "post" (soon, three!) are illustrated with pictures of Shirley MacLaine. This can only mean that fate is asking me to find another picture of Shirley MacLaine for you.

Epilogue


Caroline's memory of the evening with Michael York differs in one small detail from mine: as she recalls it, Dr. Theresa and friend "told Michael York that they had the leg back at the hotel room, which was close by. Oh, yes. Good times. And I picked up that snazzy green polyblend leisure suit that I wore when [our band] played the Red Light Cafe for the first time. Don't know what happened to the leg or the suit, both lived in my house for a long time." By coincidence, Heather (guitar) just sent me some video I probably shouldn't show you. It is our band singing a little sea chantey in 1997. Turns out a sea chantey - this one, anyway - consists of the same few notes repeated over and over and over and over and over. Also, the accordion seems weirdly out of tune. I didn't know it was possible to make an accordion sound out of tune, but somehow I manage it! Anyway, I think :15-:33 sounds very nice. Plus Barry B. has some nice drum fills near the end! And if you skip ahead to near the end (not near enough! 1:45) you can see Caroline! She is not wearing the green polyblend leisure suit (this is a different show) but she IS wearing overalls and happily beating her conga drums. Also please enjoy a panning shot of the audience sitting in respectful silence like the longest church service of the year. You know, other band members sang lead on plenty of songs. Why do these clips keep featuring my dubious pipes? I suppose it has something to do with karma. Oh, and THIS JUST IN! Even as I typed, Caroline came through with a version of the Michael York story that squares both of our memories. Says Caroline, "I think they might have optimistically gone back and put [the leg] in the coatroom after, so the next time they saw him they said, Look we have it here! but [Michael York] was well creeped out by this point." Dr. Theresa confirms this version of the story. (Pictured, Michael York, center, in a staged reenactment of the encounter.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Suddenly I Was Thinking of Michael York


All of a sudden just now for an unrelated reason - almost no reason! - I was thinking of the actor Michael York (pictured), and then I remembered the time that Dr. Theresa met Michael York! I never told you about that, did I? Dr. Theresa (then without a doctorate) and a friend of hers were in South Carolina, shooting an "independent" short film about a man who fell in love with a mannequin leg (I am oversimplifying - and actually completely misrepresenting - the plot). Then they ran into Michael York! It all started out very charmingly. Michael York seemed interested in their film! Theresa and her friend were like, "There is a scene where a guy has drinks with the leg." Then Michael York very sophisticatedly mentioned the Rohmer film CLAIRE'S KNEE, and everyone present laughed in a sophisticated manner. Then Theresa and her friend said, "Hey, Michael York, if you're not too busy, you could be the man who has drinks with the leg!" Then Michael York was very polite but said, "Well, you know, my schedule is tight..." Then Theresa's friend said, "We have the leg right here in a coatroom! We could shoot it right now!" (This is a true story.) And by the way, they had sort of cornered Michael York on a staircase. He declined nonetheless! In the meantime, Caroline Young (who was dating Theresa's friend at the time) and I were in a cigar and wine bar in another part of South Carolina, completely ignorant of the fact that our respective loved ones had run into Michael York. No, Caroline and I were busy yelling at each other in a crazed argument about Elvis Presley, because that is the kind of thing we used to do for kicks. Later we laughed about it. We used to be so serious half the time! The next day, I performed the "Michael York" role as a poor substitute and had drinks with the leg in a lovely courtyard, but Theresa's friend had the wrong lens on the camera and when the footage was viewed no one could make out what was happening. It was all extreme close-ups! But as I recall, we had some good fish before leaving town.

I Notice Things

I was examining that photo I found on "Google Image Search" yesterday and I realized that the duck and the rabbit on the right side of the guy are wearing overalls, while the beaver and the mouse who is also a Canadian mountie (to his left) are doing the classic "shirt but no pants" mascot thing, I don't know, like they're taking sides or something. That's what I do. I notice things.

Follow the Robot


Thanks to twitter I know that Larry King's kids will be hanging out with Al Pacino's kids next week. I bet they will have a great time, and how else would I know that without the power of twitter? So obviously I am not arguing against the importance of twitter. But now twitter has this new feature that tells you "who to follow." And it keeps telling me to "follow" the robot from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. Coincidence? I think not! I am so tired of the robots and UFOs trying to tell me what to do.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Corn Dogs and Weeping


Remember when I couldn't sleep and I watched part of a strange movie on TV? Sure you do! It is probably all you talk about with your little buddies! Well, then, you will be thrilled to hear this: I couldn't sleep again and the same movie was on again! This time I saw the beginning, and was surprised to discover that a lot of the "first act" consisted of wildly broad comedy. Like, a guy goes to a fancy restaurant and sardonically orders corn dogs and Tater Tots. And then the waiter actually brings him corn dogs and Tater Tots, moments later! And the mustard on the plate has been squirted into the shape of a smiley face. That kind of thing. And the guy isn't even surprised. He blithely tosses out the line, "Where's the mayonnaise?" Ha ha ha! That'll show that snooty waiter who's boss! Plus the waiter wasn't even snooty when you think about it. Pretty soon the movie had reached the point at which I had come in last time, so I changed channels (not before confirming the unusual amount of reaction shots in the middle section: at one point I counted SEVEN REACTION SHOTS BY SEVEN DIFFERENT CHARACTERS IN SEVEN SECONDS!). But I must admit that as time wore on I became curious, so I flipped back to the movie when it was almost over (as I am sure you recall, previously I missed both the beginning and the end). Let me preface this by saying that I am sure the emotion I am about to describe was both heartfelt and dramatically cathartic, and I don't mean to belittle it. Okay. When I came back to the movie, there were reaction shots of PRACTICALLY EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER IN THE MOVIE WEEPING! I mean BAWLING! One young woman is holding a rose and crying for some reason. An amiable looking dude has tears streaming down his face! I could give many more examples. Here's one: there's a shot of three women standing in a perfect row, just sobbing. Please let me emphasize that the comedy portion of the movie is over at this juncture, and the weeping is solemn and sincere. I missed some important plot point, obviously, but that's what was going on when I came back. By the way, I have no idea why the photograph above popped up during my "Google Image Search" for an illustration to go with this "post." Oh, and I don't want to blow your mind, but the waiter who served the corn dogs was Jacob from LOST!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Elke Sommer Paints Paintings


Well, this is quite the coincidence. Yesterday I talked about what our friend Shields is up to these days: making sculptures of raccoons riding motorcycles. But mostly the "post" was about Elke Sommer. Today I found out (and why didn't I already know this?) that Elke Sommer has a gallery where she sells her paintings. There is one called "The Doll Cemetery." But I can't take you there or show it to you because of the fine print on Elke Sommer's "web" site: "Using parts of this website for any project, whether in printed, electronic or any other form, as well as including this website in other web pages through links or frames or other means, is prohibited by law." So Elke Sommer (or her representative) is saying that I can't "link" to her online gallery... which is counterintuitive, I think, because that means the only way you will be able to see Elke Sommer's paintings is if you take the time and trouble to seek them out for yourself. Maybe you are too busy! But if there was something you could "click" right here, you might "click" it, mightn't you? And then you might buy a painting! But who am I to question Elke Sommer's business decisions? Nancy Kwan did not mind when I "linked" to her "web" site! That is all I am saying.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Elke Sommer Speaks Five Languages


Remember our "post" the other day about Shields and Yarnell? What? You don't? What's wrong with you? I was going to tell you what Shields has been up to lately. This comes to me courtesy of Phil Oppenheim: it's a "link" to Shields's online shop where he sells his artwork, for example, a sculpture of a couple of raccoons on a motorcycle (pictured). Phil is also kind enough to say that I "made [his] day" with my recent Elke Sommer ruminations. He volunteers to "do the same" for me with a clip of Ms. Sommer bantering with Jack Benny (below). I know! You have no idea who Jack Benny is, unless you are friend of the "blog" "D." from Atlanta, who is the world's last known seriously hardcore Jack Benny fan. But chances are you are not him! Chances are you are a youthful "on the go" type person who can't be bothered to look up Jack Benny on wikipedia. In that case, I will describe the clip for you so you don't have to watch it. We find out that Elke Sommer speaks five languages (which is true) and then Jack Benny makes a joke about how nobody cares because she's so pretty. Then Elke Sommer sings a song from her hot new record album on the MGM label. I think it's called "He's a Clown." There's a sort of production number in a Spanish setting, maybe a nightclub. The background dancers are dressed as waiters and at one point they surprise everyone by whipping the tablecloths off all the little tables but leaving the dinnerware on top undisturbed, as in the classic magician stunt. Then they put the tablecloths over their faces Dracula style. They also end up twirling and whirling the tablecloths a lot. At the end they surround Ms. Sommer and everyone shouts "Olé!" There, now you don't have to watch this:

Sorry, Art Cohn

Kelly Hogan says that Art Cohn died in the same plane crash that took the life of Elizabeth Taylor's third husband Mike Todd. Megan Abbott adds, "I also read he was a civil rights advocate in the sports world!" (Exclamation point hers. That's one thing I love about Megan Abbott: she uses as many exclamation points in private correspondence as I do.) The main thing is that now I feel especially rotten for taking potshots at his prose style. It never pays to be mean. Sorry, Art Cohn! Here is a poster for the movie of his book.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's All In Your Head


I see they are advertising this over at McSweeney's now, so I guess I can tell you about it. I have a piece coming out in issue #36! It's, well, I don't know what it is. I call it "an abridged novel." My contribution is 85 pages long and brilliantly illustrated - 10 different pictures! - by Michael Kupperman. Also in the issue: Michael Chabon, Colm Tóibín, and my friend and neighbor John Brandon. It all comes in a box meant to resemble a human head. You can "click" here for the details, but I think I have already given you the details. Here's the head from ZARDOZ again.

Odd Hour


I know that if there is one thing you care about more than any other, it is my occasional trouble sleeping. Last night I was up at an odd hour watching an odd movie, the title of which I cannot tell you. Why? 1) The "blog" frowns on negativity. 2) Have I ever made a movie? No! So who am I to talk? 3) I just read the movie's sad backstory on imdb. Why should I add to someone's sadness by poking fun at his or her movie? 4) I only saw the middle of the movie. Maybe the beginning and ending were terrific. 5) I was punchy. I can tell you this much: it was about a man calling in to a radio talk show a la FRASIER, so there were lots of lingering shots of people listening to their radios with profound faces at the apparently remarkable repartee between the jaded host who might just get his groove back with one last shot at helping someone and the bitter, savvy caller broiling in a secret anguish which he expresses through supposedly caustic humor. Almost every line of dialogue was answered with a reaction shot. Whenever a character said a line, another character would make a face, silently expressing something: "What a good point!" or "Food for thought!" or "How amusing!" or "I find this disagreeable!" The facial expressions were the only way you could tell what you were supposed to think about the dialogue, which was... oblique, yet somehow perversely "on the button." And sometimes the facial expressions just seemed cut in at random! Like they had a few extra facial expressions lying around and didn't want to waste them. Then a handsome young celebrity who is more famous (currently) than anyone else in the movie, I think, popped up out of nowhere and delivered an incomprehensible monologue about his character's dog. Then he skated away on a skateboard! Like, "I'm done!" Like, "Where's my check?" Did I mention that the movie is also about a ghost? (The skateboarder was not a ghost, at least I don't think so, but apparently he had some mystical wisdom to impart, but I really didn't get his point.) I really can't say the movie was "bad." I mean, it seemed terribly bad, but not in a way with which I am familiar. We may need a new word. It was boring in a fascinating new way. It was so awkward that it was almost transcendent. There was a misplaced confidence to it that was almost heroic. So if you're ever up late and there is a weird movie on TV and you think "This seems like the movie Jack was talking about," it probably is. You'll see what I mean!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sonny 80 Happy


King of all my heroes Sonny Rollins (pictured) recently celebrated his 80th birthday. Also, he is about to receive a big award. How do I know these things? His twitter account. I'm only going to tell you this one last time: Sonny Rollins has a twitter account. Here is a nice article about the award, and if you don't know much about Sonny Rollins, it's a good introduction.

Owls Everywhere

One thing we learn in the first chapter of I OWE RUSSIA $1200 by Bob Hope is that Bob refers to two of his writers as "the Owl and the Brush," once again supporting my theory that every great book has an owl in it.

Flying Saucers Everywhere


You thought I was kidding about the UFOs, didn't you? First check this previous incontrovertible evidence. Now dig this! They even pop up in my book club book. For some reason that I can't quite wrap my head around, Joe E. Lewis writes his biographer a long letter that is entirely composed of one-liners. "The newspapers are still making a fuss about Communists and flying saucers," he writes. Then he makes some wisecracks about Communists and flying saucers. You know, stuff like, "If you want to see flying saucers, just pinch a waitress." That's his letter to his biographer! Here, by way of contrast, is how his biographer writes: "The biographer is a hunter, and the spoor led me to Las Vegas." And: "The gardens were peaceful and sweet-scented in the moonlight." Also: "Within him the coil of fear unwound." Anyway, I finished the book. So, did I go back to CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST THREE THOUSAND YEARS and pick up where I left off at page 623? Ha ha ha! You're hilarious. No, before retiring, I read the first chapter of I OWE RUSSIA $1200 by Bob Hope. Then, when I turned the page to Chapter Two, there was an illustration of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in SPACESUITS! Coincidence? Well, yes. In today's New York Times, there is a sad and touching article about the son of crooner Billy Eckstine. He (the son) has become a street person whose "life's calling," he says, is "photographing alien spacecraft above Manhattan." I don't mean to make light of his predicament in any way. But I was already writing this "post," so I thought I ought to mention it. (The illustration is what popped up when I did a "Google Image Search" for "bing crosby bob hope astronauts." Who am I to argue?)

Friday, August 13, 2010

What I Keep Thinking

I keep thinking about how I would feel if I were Dean Martin and this Belgian poster for a movie I made with my partner Jerry Lewis didn't show me at all, but somehow it had room for two Jerrys, and one of the Jerrys was holding a bloody knife. I think I would have all kinds of feelings! But the real Dean Martin was probably all, "Whatever."

Foodstuffs!


Welcome once again to "Foodstuffs!" Today in "Foodstuffs!" news, it looks like "Blog" Buddy John Currence is over there on the CNN "web" site talking about aspic. Also, pimento cheese, which reminds me of a great sandwich I'd like to tell you about. I used silky pimento cheese, bread from the Honey Bee Bakery and Jimmy Lowe's Sweet Cherry Fire brand pickles, bringing together the utterly distinct foodways of Alabama and Mississippi into one transcendent glory never again to be duplicated in our lifetimes. Food scholars of the future will no doubt examine the contents of my stomach and call it "Bamassippi Cuisine." By the way, I saw Shannon of Honey Bee Bakery fame the other night and told her how much I had enjoyed some tomatoes on a salad, and she said, "I grew those tomatoes." No joke! She did! That is the kind of attention to detail - the kind of COMMITMENT! - you get at the Honey Bee Bakery. Pictured, quivering aspic, NOT made by John Currence! It has a robot in it! What, ARE THEY TAKING OVER OUR ASPIC TOO?

The Uncredited Labrador


Had a nice note from the man who also loves the cow's performance in KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS. I dropped him a line yesterday, because I didn't want him to think I was copying him! He didn't mind. In fact, he was kind enough to recommend another horror movie with a fine (though brief) animal performance: LONG WEEKEND (1978). Here's his description of the uncredited Labrador known as "Cricket" in the film: "As they discuss how they can just leave him outside with one big bowl of food for the whole weekend, he watches them not only as though he knows what they’re talking about, but as though he’s MORTIFIED that they would discuss it so openly as if he wasn’t even there." You may read his entire review here. WARNING: He uses "racy language"! But don't worry! He is very nice and not one of the crazy people on the "internet." I have never seen LONG WEEKEND, but the "internet" tells me this is a picture from it. Looks like one of these people might be getting ready to say, "Wow, it sure has been a... long weekend." Roll credits.

Ice Blue

Bearing my caveat in mind, I would like to tell you that Scott Phillips and Megan Abbott have been discussing the portion of our book club book in which Joe E. Lewis and his wife have been given "twin ice-blue silk robes as a wedding present" and (in Megan's summation) "after a big drunk, Martha's wearing his instead of hers and ruins it... then announces she wants a divorce, leaving him with a ruined robe and a broken heart."

Unfair to Art

It is unfair of me to mock Art Cohn's hyperbolic rhapsodies to Joe E. Lewis ("'A man hates what he laughs at,' Spinoza said [! - ed.], but in making themselves ludicrous the clowns ridicule the world, and in their moment of brave, pathetic laughter, they momentarily forget their loneliness" [!! - ed.]) without mentioning that Art Cohn also wrote the screenplay for THE SET-UP, one of my favorite movies ever. So until I make something that perfect, I should probably lay off Art Cohn. (By coincidence, fellow book club member Kelly Hogan is the one who first told me I should watch THE SET-UP. And I recently loaned my copy to book club member Ace Atkins! And so the circle of life is complete.)

Joe Was Becoming Witty


This book club book about Joe E. Lewis is super crazy. Like, Art Cohn (the author) keeps telling us what a comic genius Joe E. Lewis is (Scott Phillips zeroed in on this insane bit as the ultimate example: "Now he was a Socrates in cap and bells, a drunken Aesop revealing the wisdom of the ages in logical lunacy") but PROVIDES NO EVIDENCE to back it up. I'm not saying Joe E. Lewis wasn't funny. I have no idea. But if he was, there is something that's not coming across on the page, no matter how many times Cohn assures us of the hilarity we're missing ("He was ahead of them, whether they laughed or not, and they loved it"). Here's how Joe E. deals with a heckler. He makes a quip, and another quip, then HE THROWS A HOT CUP OF COFFEE IN THE GUY'S FACE. Another heckler: Joe E. directs a quip at him, and another quip, before walking over and BASHING OUT THE GUY'S TEETH WITH A MICROPHONE. Just a paragraph or two after that, Cohn writes with no apparent irony, "'You got to be wise before you're witty,' Josh Billings said. Joe was becoming witty." Huh? Let's leave it to Megan Abbott to make sense of everything as usual: "To me," she writes, "the fascination and kinda crazy brilliance of the book is the anxious desperation driving the need to make this portrait stick--this kinda antic accumulation of praise from others, this surrendering of the 'voice' to other megaphones who can help build the case, this enjambment or collapsing of time -- like the sense he can't even control his own narrative so desperate he is to show Joe E. (and himself, as a writer of value) as Someone Who Matters. When all you can think of is, My God, what do they have to hide? What is this manic shell game designed to conceal?"

What's Not Showing


There is a Jerry Lewis reference in today's New York Times. As you know, such references have been scarce lately, which has caused me no end of worry. Manohla Dargis is still missing from the Arts section FOR REASONS NO ONE WILL EXPLAIN DESPITE MY HEARTRENDING CRIES, so it falls to Lonesome Dave Kehr once again to bring a little Jerry to our lives. But pay attention: what he is really talking about is ABSENCE OF JERRY. Will the indignities never end? In Kehr's report on an upcoming Film Forum program of 3-D movies from the 1950s, he mentions in passing that the Martin and Lewis vehicle MONEY FROM HOME was made in 3-D. The soul tingles! But then comes Kehr's parenthetical caveat: "(unavailable, alas)." Alas indeed! A truer alas was never sighed. The programmer has managed to dig up something called THE STRANGER WORE A GUN, which features (in Kehr's words) "a character squirting tobacco juice into the auditorium" but NO DEAN AND JERRY. Today there is a Jerry-sized hole in my heart. Look, I will be the first to admit I have said some things that were less than kind about MONEY FROM HOME in the past. But the chance to see it the way it was meant to be seen... gone forever! WHY? If you "click" on the previous "link" you will see - and this is for real, 100%! - that the CIA had a hand in editing MONEY FROM HOME. No joke! A scene was removed by an "operative" who was "planted... inside Paramount Pictures." And I noticed for the first time just now that the article revealing that fact was written by Terry Teachout - an unimpeachable source! - for COMMENTARY magazine. AND WHY does this Belgian movie poster for MONEY FROM HOME feature TWO JERRYS and NO DEAN? And why is one of the JERRYS HOLDING A BLOODY KNIFE? Once again we are forced to conclude that there is more to this story than meets the eye. DUNH DUNH DUNH!

McNeil at the Beach

McNeil sends greetings via "text message": "oysters in po boy only half-fried, human hair in crab cake, flounder tasteless. Beach beautiful, however."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Strange Somber Glow Not Fully Represented Here


KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is still on. I had to come see what would happen if I did a "Google Image Search" for "Kingdom of the Spiders Operator." And just like that, there she is! Not only that, but on the "web" site where I found the picture, the "blogger" ALSO notes the awesome acting abilities of the little cow in the pasture, just as I did in my previous "post," saying, and I quote, "So there’s this adorable cow in a field, who gives some brilliantly terrified reaction shots." Then he goes on, "Actually all the animals in this film deserve some kind of ensemble acting award." WHICH IS SOMETHING ELSE I WAS JUST ABOUT TO SAY. Because there is a horse that's all, "Don't you people see what's happening? That spider is about to get that little girl!" But because he is a horse, he has to express it with his big, gentle eyes. And he does a fantastic job, the horse does. I mean, you really feel what that horse is thinking! He (she?) is like the Marlon Brando of horses. So maybe you thought I was exaggerating about the cow, but see? It is something people notice about KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS. In fact, the subtitle of that other article is "Riveting Dramatic Acting By Farm Animals." The human actors have to say things like, "That venom we sent to the lab is five times more powerful than normal!" That same character tries to convince the authorities to release rats to defeat the spiders! I am not kidding! I must say that this picture of the operator is something of a disappointment, as it does not fully get across the INLAND EMPIRE feeling of the wall color where she works, or the strange, somber glow of the clock.

Good Cow Reaction


I was watching the beginning of a movie called KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS. It starts with this cow in this pasture. Then this cow looks up, right at the camera, in a very particular way, as if to say, "Uh, did you just hear something weird?" I mean, this cow nailed it! This cow got across exactly the message the filmmakers wanted. So I got nervous. Like, "Something bad is going to happen to this cow." Like, "The spiders are going to get it!" But you don't see what happened to the cow, at least not right away. There are lots of expressionistic shots suggesting that something bad is in the process of happening to the cow, but it's kind of vague. That sequence ends with an ominous freeze frame on the cow's luxurious eyelashes. I was impressed with what this cow was putting out there as far as acting. That's all I know because then I had to get up to do something. It's still on, though, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is. I'll get back in there in a minute if I can, and keep you posted.

Closer and Closer Encounters


First the UFOs were making blatant references to my hero Jerry Lewis. Then they were talked about on the TV show I like, MAD MEN. And now, according to new information ("click" here) brought to my attention by Ace Atkins, THEY HAVE ARRIVED IN OXFORD, where I live. THIS IS NOT COOL, UFOS!

More Beans

Look! Andy Hopkins has presented us with another can of beans. I like to think this is the same brand McNeil eats.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up



Welcome once again to All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up, your one stop on the "internet" for all the latest in excitement. ITEM! Dr. Theresa's brand new PhD was celebrated in style last night at the City Grocery Bar. ITEM! Who should be spotted chatting in a corner but the Man Who Says "Palimpsest" and Faulkner's niece? ITEM! Blair Hobbs sculpted the head of Lizzie Borden's stepmother (pictured) out of that greatest of all mediums: cheese. Gruesomely delicious! (Lizzie Borden is one of the subjects of Dr. Theresa's dissertation.) Continuing the criminal theme, Joey Lauren Adams provided "jail food": baloney sandwiches (seen below) and PBJ. There was food galore, in fact, provided by many thoughtful citizens! But I am old and unaware of how things work! And I used a digital camera for the first time last night, and the notion of a "memory card" was strange and frightening to me. After just a couple of pictures, I was ominously informed by the camera that my "internal memory" was "full." Something I have long suspected! So there is no picture of Theresa's favorite chocolate cake, which can only be baked by Beth Ann Fennelly. Last night's edition was decorated with a scarlet "A" (once again in keeping with Dr. Theresa's major themes). ITEM! Late in the evening, after the restaurant downstairs was closed, John Currence took the baloney sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches - great enough already - into the kitchen and did something magical to them. They came back grilled or fried or toasted or something. Or maybe they were just sprinkled with love! Yes, that's probably it. Or he used one of those little blowtorches. But most likely, love. ITEM! Spirits flowed freely. Lovely decorations abounded. Dr. Theresa was laden with unexpected gifts, showered with good wishes, and covered with accoutrements. That's it for this edition "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up." We bid you adieu from the whirling social scene. Until next time, keep "reaching" for the "stars"!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Red Diaper and Pirate Boots


"The most underrated Sean Connery movie ever?" my old buddy Stephen asks rhetorically about ZARDOZ over on the twitter. "He plays the entire role in a red diaper and pirate boots," Stephen elaborates. Twitter's "limitations" have allowed him to zero in on the essence! If I recall correctly, this is the same movie Dr. Theresa kept telling me I needed to see because "Sean Connery flies around in a giant head." Yep:

Monday, August 09, 2010

Your Morning UFO and Robot Report


Lots of UFO talk on MAD MEN last night. WHY? Only the UFOs know for sure. Watch the skies! In other news, the New York Times is talking about robots AGAIN. I told you, it's their new thing. So today they have an op-ed columnist reassuring us about the robots. They're not so smart after all! That's his main point. BUT ISN'T THAT JUST WHAT THE ROBOTS WANT US TO THINK?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Return of the Enigmatic Nedra


I received a very nice note via facebook from one Liz Keith, who was interested to see that I had "blogged" a couple of years ago about her second cousin Nedra Harrison. Do you remember Nedra Harrison? She was the model, aviatrix, scuba diver and renowned pathologist (to name a few of her accomplishments) so very modest that there's very little about her on the "internet." Says Ms. Keith, "I met her several times when she came to Georgia to visit. She was legendary in Tifton. All the old men remembered her. They remembered that she was the first woman to wear trousers here. They all thought she was so beautiful, but I think they were afraid to approach her... She was born Florence Harrison, but the family called her Kewpie." So that's just a little more information about an object of "blog" fascination, the enigmatic Nedra Harrison. (A quick glance tells me there still isn't much about Nedra Harrison on the "internet," but I did find one more image [above] than there was before [there were almost none]: it's Nedra modeling for the legendary cartoonist Milton Caniff... the same picture I stumbled across in a book, the caption of which first alerted me to her story.)

Fie, Tattered Maltin


Just watched BOY, DID I GET A WRONG NUMBER on TCM, thanks to a tip from Brian Z. Why does everybody hate it so much? My tattered Maltin assigns it one of its numerous pious "BOMB"s. I can imagine Godard loving this movie. For me, it's the kind of repressive desublimation we can all get behind: the harmlessly transparent and superficial kind. Like, Bob Hope refers to policemen as "fuzz," as in, "I've got more fuzz on my tail than a French poodle" (the line quoted to me by McNeil when he called - of course - to discuss the movie a few minutes ago). And Phyllis Diller, riding a motorcycle, squirts mustard into the faces of hapless "fuzz" through their driver's side windows, causing them to crash, which makes her cackle as she anarchically squirts more mustard onto the road. If I am recalling correctly, and I almost certainly am, my ex-boss Lisa once told me that Phyllis Diller on a motorcycle was one of the iconic images of her youth. Yet I searched the entire "internet" and couldn't find a still of it. So here's Elke Sommer holding an apple. See? Doesn't it remind you of CONTEMPT?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Self-Expression!


I was at the movies yesterday, and you know how they show regular commercials before movies in our strange modern times? I was surprised to learn - though I shouldn't have been - that with a completely straight face they still make that commercial, you know the one: the one where there is an "adult" with neatly combed hair and a suit and glasses, and he is utterly befuddled by the "hep" stuff some "cool kids" are throwing down, such as wearing cool hats and prancing about with blatant disregard for authority. And he, the "adult," puts his ear to the wall and smushes his face up against a small window trying in vain to figure out what these antiestablishment type kids are up to (spoiler alert - turns out they are modeling clothes from JC Penney!), and his demeanor becomes increasingly frazzled because he is so uptight. Yes, they are still making that commercial. Hey, wow, look, I just found a press release with the headline, "JCPenney's 'New Look. New Year. Who Knew!' Back-to-School Campaign Features Cutting Edge, Creative Marketing Aimed at Teens" and it has this line in it: "'Personalization and self-expression are important to teens and they want their look to reflect their unique personalities and style. And for teens, there is no better time to put their best fashion forward than Back-to-School,' said Mike Boylson, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for JCPenney." We could hardly hope for a more clear-cut statement of intent regarding repressive desublimation. (In fact, I am thrilled to report that the press release's Orwellian subhead reads "Campaign Encourages Teens to Take Control.") Ah, heavenly. This takes me back to the halcyon days of the Hawaiian Punch FAQ.