Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Patron of the Owl Shop

You recall my best and only piece of advice as a "writing teacher": "Put an owl in it!" Yes, an owl adds a lively dash of pizzazz to any piece of serious literature. Of course, John Hodgman doesn't need me to tell him! In his new book THAT IS ALL we meet "Mister Slither, a Patron of the Owl Shop." Of Mister Slither I can say no more.

Pigs Fly

I think I still miss Sam Sifton. The restaurant reviewer who took over for him in the New York Times gives a great review to a Greenwich Village restaurant where he ate "a half-pound of deep-fried bacon" and a fish skeleton. The butter there has been subjected to "notions of controlled spoilage." As Sam Sifton would have, Mr. Asimov compels me think of this as a good thing. But I'm afraid Sam Sifton would have made me hungrier for a fish skeleton. It is surprisingly hard to find an image of Sylvester the Cat eating a fish skeleton, so here is Tweety in a sandwich. I find myself thinking - perhaps unfairly - about how gawker, for example, would frame a story featuring carnival-goers, for example, eating "a half-pound of deep-fried bacon" in Mississippi, for example, as opposed to a restaurant critic doing the same in Greenwich Village. Related: John T. Edge - also in today's paper - on "Pig Wings."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

We Weren't the Boss

Hey, yeah, well, Mr. Ward and I were once charged with making a WHO'S THE BOSS promo for TBS but soon we realized there was nothing to say about WHO'S THE BOSS. So we "remixed" some footage from the show and the whole promo turned out to be video "sampling" and "scratching" - you know, like Tony Danza wouldn't just shout "Mona!" He'd go, "Mo-mo-mo-m-m-m-m-Mona!" in an exciting rhythmic way as he jerked back and forth through the magic of editing. So we turned in our promo and a roomful of dour executives contemplated it dourly before telling us we had committed the greatest atrocity in the history of humankind. The promo never aired, due to how mind-blowing it was. It might have hurt people! Well, friends, I want to tell you that I just saw a 30 ROCK promo on Comedy Central THAT UTILIZES OUR EXACT TECHNIQUE! I am not saying that our WHO'S THE BOSS promo was any good. I am just saying that we were UNRECOGNIZED GENIUSES, almost decades ahead of our time. ALMOST DECADES! How can I truly explain our astonishing innovations to you? Well, they were something like this:

Ken Russell Died

I don't like to mention it when someone dies but Ken Russell died and I guess I should mention it because he made a movie called LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, a personal "fave" of Dr. Theresa's and mine. I associate it with our old dating days. So long, Ken Russell, you crazy old weirdo! You're all right.

There's Something About Vipers

Here's a line of dialogue from the most recent episode of the TV show REVENGE: "As you have been warned, revenge is a stony path." Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Also, something about vipers. Plus, the Jess character wears some clothes that resemble a gentleman's bathing attire from 1910.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Regality!

In today's New York Times, some choreographers are inspired by Jerry Lewis. It will not surprise you to learn that this is not the first time a choreographer interviewed in the New York Times has been inspired by Jerry Lewis. See? Jerry is classy like I keep telling you. Gosh, but sometimes I wonder what appalling insecurity keeps me scouring "higher culture" for Jerry justifications to pass along to you. Jerry is his own justification! "The subject matter is primal: matters of birth, death, grief, mourning and the gods," as one choreographer describes the dance. So, naturally, Jerry Lewis! "Jerry Lewis's and Elvis Presley's self-created regality" - that's what they were going for, these choreographers in the New York Times. (See also and also.)

Thwarted Nemesis/Galvanic!

What comes on at three in the morning, you ask? I will tell you what comes on at three in the morning: an action movie called RADICAL JACK. In the portion I saw, Radical Jack's nemesis is looking for him, so Radical Jack (Billy Ray Cyrus [!]) hides under a bed. Radical Jack's thwarted nemesis goes back and reports to the big crime boss, the kind of chief bad guy who seems to run the whole town, like Ben Gazzara in ROAD HOUSE, I think - didn't he run a town? I remember he had a polar bear in his house, which is a pretty good sign that you are running the town. In any case, RADICAL JACK seemed to be going for a ROAD HOUSE vibe from the little I saw of it. So the guy says to the crime boss, "He [Radical Jack] has definitely left town. We looked everywhere for him!" And the viewer is led to think, EXCEPT UNDER THE BED! Then the crime boss says of Radical Jack, "Even the CIA hasn't been able to find this guy for the past five years." And the viewer thinks, BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T LOOK UNDER THE BED! Radical Jack's love interest is played by Dedee Pfeiffer. I wondered if she might be Michelle Pfeiffer's less successful sister, so I checked the "internet" and the "internet" told me yes. In conclusion, I have been leafing through Stephen Sondheim's new book LOOK, I MADE A HAT. Mr. Sondheim writes, "Of all forms of contemporary pop music, rap is the closest to traditional musical theater." Later he calls the "Rock Island" number from THE MUSIC MAN "startling and galvanic... it is in fact the forerunner of rap." That has nothing to do with what I was talking about, but it is interesting and I thought I'd cram it in there for you anyway.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Jerry Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving I am most thankful that Jerry Lewis appears in another book I am reading - in this case, THAT IS ALL by John Hodgman. Jerry purchases the "silver brain cup" that up until that moment has been keeping Benjamin Franklin immortal, in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kangaroos

In John Hodgman's new book THAT IS ALL (note to the government: I paid for it myself!), he explains wine: "if you drink a glass of red wine every day, you will become immortal! And also you will start to look like Francis Ford Coppola." White wine: "you feel like you are licking wooden furniture made out of headaches." How to pick wine: "Does the label have a kangaroo on it? GOOD. Does it have a quirky picture of the winemaker's dog on it, and is it named for that crazy, funny, ugly dog? Even better." Speaking of kangaroos, I watched the PBS documentary about Woody Allen. It features clips of some early TV appearances in which Woody Allen boxes an actual kangaroo and sings to a poodle. That is reality! In conclusion, Hodgman does not mention the horrible chocolate wine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Bitterant

We went to Walmart. Dr. Theresa gave me an assignment, which was to pick up one thing then go to the magazine and book section so she could find me. The thing I picked up is called "Ultra Duster - Industrial Strength." On the receipt it appears as "CANNED AIR," which I like. The front of the can proclaims that it is good for "Offices - Factories - Automobiles." But on the side of the can, in much smaller print, is a long list of other things you can dust with the Ultra Duster. The list starts with "Computers * Keyboards * Sewing Machines" and includes "Electric Razors" and "Guns." But then they run out of room on the side of the can, so the side of the can directs you to a "web" site with more examples of things you can dust with the Ultra Duster. The can also says, "Contains a bitterant to help discourage inhalant abuse." A bitterant! I am pretty sure I did not know that word before. So I waited for Dr. Theresa in the book and magazine aisle, leafing through Diane Keaton's autobiography. I only had time to read that she was on the TV show MANNIX when she was young, and that Mannix was really nice to her because she was nervous, and I guess she still keeps in touch with him! She writes that he is 86 and "going strong" (that's how she puts it, I believe) and still married to his wife Mary Lou. DVDs were next to the books and magazines and an employee was just PUNCHING and SLAMMING DVDs into a display one at a time with mighty and violent and punishing force, as if there were nothing so disgusting as a DVD. Like SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! Then a shrieking alarm went off somewhere in the store and just kept going. A guy was pushing a shopping cart and talking to himself but he probably had his reasons.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shag-Haired Devils

I like this description by Frances Yates of early productions of DOCTOR FAUSTUS: "Shag-haired devils with squibs in their mouths ran roaring over the stage." She says the special effects were so terrifying that the rumor went around "there had been a visible apparition of the Devil" during one performance.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Face Too Large

Just reading about Bruckner in my funny old "Milton Cross' Encyclopedia of the Great Composers and Their Music." Lots of stuff like "There was something both ludicrous and revolting about him physically. His face was too large for the body... he walked in the streets of Vienna - his ugly face tense, his eyes gleaming... Awkward and boorish in social behavior... he often encouraged intolerant gibes... perpetual self-debasement... he often made himself a ridiculous figure... the girl soon tired of the old, eccentric man and before long would not answer his passionate letters... his lifelong search for the woman to share his life was never successful." Hey! Milton Cross! Lay off, dude.

What Killed Benny

Megan Abbott sent me this video ("click" here) of Joey Heatherton performing a song including the lines "Look what they've done to my brain/ Picked it like a chicken bone" (!). Naturally, I dispatched it to Phil Oppenheim for analysis right away. Noting that it apparently comes from a Jack Benny TV special, Phil asked, possibly rhetorically, "Is that what killed Benny?" I also came across a video of Raquel Welch singing "Bang Bang," adorned with the usual youtube comments seething with barely concealed nostalgia-fueled rage. "Is there anything more inspiring for a man than a woman?" one commenter wistfully asks. FULL DISCLOSURE: I vaguely recall that when I was a kid I had a copy of this song (not the Joey Heatherton version!), maybe on the B side of a 45. But I have no recollection of the part about somebody picking somebody's brain like a chicken bone.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mark Twain Yeti Time

I am always astonished when someone mentions Professor Irwin Corey, as is well established here. But somehow I was not astonished when Mark Twain was compared to Professor Irwin Corey in Michael Kupperman's new book, which has everything a boy could want, including Mark Twain on the track of the elusive yeti! "Fifteen days out into the mountains we struck gold - or rather scat, Yeti scat (poos)... I fortified myself with brandy and continued bellowing. 'I can stay here all day, stupid cold weather monkey!'... 'I've got your favorite candy here,' I continued, switching tactics." Albert Einstein is a major supporting player in the book (he and Twain open a detective agency, natch) and somehow it behooves me to remind everyone that in real life for really real, Einstein's granddaughter married a renowned bigfoot hunter. That is a fact you can look up on your computer! (Pictured, Mr. Kupperman in character with Chewbacca, which seems close enough.) PS (of interest only to Laura Lippman): Mark Twain goes to a disco with Shields and Yarnell.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Moment the Cheese Disappeared

I am not sure why I am so fond of the high drama in this paragraph from an article in today's New York Times: "Jerry Leventhal, an actor and playwright, described the moment the cheese disappeared. 'A woman was putting cheese on a cracker,' he said. Joe Petrsoric, a longtime bartender, 'came along and said, "I’m sorry," and took it away.'"

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Human-Size Ant Wife

Michael Kupperman's new book also contains ghosts, wizards, Samuel Beckett, J. Edgar Hoover, a fist fight in outer space, "Make me your human-size ant wife." (See also.) Oh, and a terrible Cyrano de Bergerac: "Tell her you like her legs and her nose, and most of the bits in between, you like 'em lots."

This Book Has It All

Not only does MARK TWAIN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY 1910-2010 by Michael Kupperman have an owl in it, it has Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in it - in the same chapter featuring a chimpanzee who conks Twain on the head with a mallet. Just ten chapters later: "I was 132 years old and my knee was hurting a bit... But I didn't realize what I was letting myself in for when I went to see Doctor Swami Volcano Rabbit. 'You should do acid, it's groovy,' he told me. I swallowed the pill he gave me without question; after all, he was a doctor, wasn't he? (It turned out he wasn't.)" Plus donuts!

To Do

On the agenda for today: walk down to Square Books, check the index of Diane Keaton's new autobiography for Jerry Lewis references. Ah, it's a full life. PS My friend from "She Blogged By Night" has been on a Neil Diamond kick lately, and is thus surrounded by scholarly tomes about Neil Diamond. As a favor, she has checked the indices of her Neil Diamond books for Jerry Lewis references and sadly reports that there are none. I find this highly suspicious! After all, both Neil Diamond and Jerry Lewis starred in remakes of THE JAZZ SINGER. And yes, in 11th grade I took a date to the Neil Diamond remake of THE JAZZ SINGER. Why must you torment me with these irrelevant questions about my personal life? If you want to see a movie starring Sir Laurence Olivier, Lucille Ball's daughter, and Neil Diamond, I guess this is probably the movie for you. I'm sorry. So, listen! One of my friend's Neil Diamond books has Danny Thomas (also the star of a JAZZ SINGER remake) in the index, but not Jerry Lewis. Danny Thomas but not Jerry Lewis! Highly suspicious.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

And Another Thing

Hey! It is almost time for the television program REVENGE. A while back I thought of another way in which the sullen yet sentimental bartender on REVENGE is an exact plagiarism of Luke from GILMORE GIRLS, but I didn't want to bore you. But now I want to bore you. There were dramatic subplots about each man selling his boat. There. Shut up.

Lovable Owl

MARK TWAIN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY 1910-2010 by Michael Kupperman earns a coveted spot on our list of books with owls in them. In Kupperman's version, Mark Twain works on the screenplay of THE MALTESE FALCON for Warner Brothers and makes some improvements, "turning the falcon into a lovable owl."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Foodstuffs!

Welcome once again to "Foodstuffs!" - the only place on the "internet" that discusses food. So Kelly Hogan was recently in our old neighborhood, now my sister's current neighborhood, which was near Kelly Hogan's old neighborhood. Got that straight? Go back and study it until you understand it! Okay. So I asked Hogan whether she had been to the fancy hot dog place that my sister says has just opened up in the old neighborhood. Hogan said no, that the fancy hot dog place is "all slick and gun-metal grey and Logan's Run-looking and it's called HD for haute dog -- whoa. I only ate at Manuel's once (a life-saving perfect patty melt at midnight) and Majestic twice (found three hairs in my grits and I pulled 'em out and ate [the grits] anyway.)" My sister reports that she has not been to the fancy hot dog place either. She has heard you don't get much food for your money. More reports on the fancy hot dog place as they come in! FASCINATING SIDE NOTE: The "blog's" previous mention of LOGAN'S RUN, just like this one, was hot-dog related! (See also.)

Frasier, Briefly

Welcome once again to "Frasier, Briefly." At last! It's the "Frasier, Briefly" segment all you "Frasier, Briefly" fans have been waiting for. Noted pop singer and Frasier expert Kelly Hogan weighs in on BOSS, the new show where Frasier is the mayor of Chicago. WARNING: Contains several spoilers and distasteful subject matter! Let's turn it over to Hogan: "I find it to be like a weird 'balsamic reduction' as in a richer more intense version of Frasier's darker tendencies... putting severed ears (from a fancy gift box!!!) in the disposal instead of flushing them down the toilet or tossing them in the alley or feeding them to a passing dog. then when the disposal jams he calls the plumber instead of solving his own problem! totally Frasier. then the whole thing with his pee-soaked sheets and not knowing how to work the fancy washing machine -- of course! because DAPHNE usually does all the laundry! the whole proud Luddite 'ha ha it's like the 80's in here' thing about having all the VHS tapes in his office -- such a Frasier way: proud to be ye olde timey 'i love opera and sherry and squash!' the game not the vegetable. p.s. I don't think we've seen his chest yet."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Daily Jerry Index Check

As you know, my main occupation is standing around in Square Books, checking the index of every new celebrity bio for mentions of Jerry Lewis. Yes, the mighty Jerry concordance is my life's work! Today I checked the autobiography of Judy Collins (nothing!) and a biography of Dave Grohl (ditto!). None in the new Vonnegut bio, either, which I found astounding considering that Jerry was in the film version of one of his books. When I got home, just for a laugh, I checked the index of THE EXEGESIS OF PHILIP K. DICK (purchased at Square Books, natch). It's a little under a thousand pages, and in it, if you don't know, the book flap claims that "Dick documents his eight-year attempt to fathom... a postmodern visionary experience of the entire universe." But what the book flap doesn't tell you is that JERRY IS ACTUALLY IN IT! And I quote: "Dream: I am Jerry Lewis, a contemptible clown, but admired by millions, especially in France." E tu, Philip K. Dick?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Turpin Impostor

I am sure you recall the great regurgitation artist Hadji Ali, so very recently a subject of discussion. Well, our friend Mr. Ward has been on youtube and uncovered a video of his act. WARNING: I cannot vouch for it! Being the squeamish sort, I haven't forced myself to watch it yet. Here's what Mr. Ward says about it, though: "The highlight - Ali spits a geyser of water at Ben Turpin. Unfortunately, it turned out to just be annoying Ben Turpin wannabe James Finlayson." I can say that for a change I actually enjoyed an anonymous youtube comment: "There needs to be a fountain of this man with water spewing perpetually from the mouth. It is absolutely imperative."

Lucky Chip

Saw old Bill Boyle at the City Grocery Bar last night. We were celebrating his successful thesis defense. I am happy to say that his manuscript had some owls in it, both real owls and the Owl's Head Wastewater Treatment Plant. Now I never had Bill in an actual workshop, so I can't claim that he got the immortal advice from me ("Always put an owl in your book." - Jack Pendarvis). He seems to have realized this essential bit of the craft independently. Perhaps he's a genius! Bill, recalling my obsessive habit of checking every book to see whether Jerry Lewis is in the index, mentioned finding him in an oral biography of Robert Altman. "But you won't like it," he said of the reference. I went home and checked my copy and sure enough, there's Jules Feiffer saying he would rather kill himself than work with Jerry Lewis, and gosh that seems extreme, and Bill was correct: I didn't like it. (You know, Jerry Lewis is not in the index of any of the new Pauline Kael books that are everywhere these days. Al Lewis [pictured] is in one of them - AL Lewis! AL LEWIS! - but not Jerry Lewis! A travesty! Jerry does get a mention in a fat new [?] bio of Paul McCartney - but it's passing and mildly dismissive: Sir Paul uses Jerry as an example of the square stuff on the Ed Sullivan program before he and his pals came along. Why must everyone use Jerry as a punching bag? Jerry's better than all of you!) Leafing through the Altman book I found a funny story. A studio executive wanted the original script of the low-key gambling picture CALIFORNIA SPLIT revised: "I want the Mafia to chase the two guys... And I want Dean Martin to be the star of it. He wears a lucky chip around his neck, and he gets shot and the chip saves his life... You can call the movie LUCKY CHIP."

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

I Explain Green Acres to the New York Times

Is there a slam on GREEN ACRES nestled in today's New York Times obit of character actor Sid Melton? Here's the quote about his role on the show: "he was Alf Monroe, one of two incompetent carpenters who call themselves the Monroe Brothers, though the other brother, Ralph, is a woman — a recurring gag that somehow worked at the time." SOMEHOW WORKED AT THE TIME? It worked - and continues to work! - because it fits perfectly with the doggedly absurdist - almost French! - ideology of the show, much remarked upon in this "blog." I hope obituary writer Paul Vitello will take our GREEN ACRES vs. Ionesco quiz from five years ago if he's so smart! Thank you for your time and attention. And now goodbye forever.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

What I Learned

In today's New York Times, I learned that Laurel and Hardy remade some of their films in other languages, to be distributed in other countries. The shorts would be padded with extra material so they could be shown as feature attractions. One of them, and I quote, "contains a complete performance by the Egyptian vaudeville star Hadji Ali, whose specialty — swallowing water, gasoline and small objects and regurgitating them in spectacular fashion — has sadly gone out of style." I learned a lot just from that tiny excerpt. Read Dave Kehr's entire column by "clicking" here. I found out more about Hadji Ali in the "web" article where I discovered the illustration accompanying this "post." For example, "Ali was known to swallow two or three fishbowls of water, cup by cup, and eject a six foot arc into a small waiting basin." That's probably one of the least remarkable things in the article. You may also read about Ali's competitors in the field, Harry "The Human Hydrant" Morton and The Great Waldo. The author says that the act of the former was considered lowbrow because his primary medium was beer, "while Waldo’s incorporation of living mice and rats terrified onlookers." So they never became stars in the professional regurgitation world the way Hadji Ali did. IMPORTANT NOTE: The "blog" does not endorse the swallowing of gasoline (or living creatures!) for entertainment purposes! Or any other purposes! In fact, forget you read this.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Chicken Files

I am sure you are asking yourself, "Self, what is up with Ace Atkins and Colonel Sanders?" Good question! Ace certainly seems to be dispensing the Colonel Sanders material at a surprising rate. He has gone so far as to suggest FINGER LICKIN' GOOD, the Col.'s 1974 autobiography, as the next selection of the Doomed Book Club. And last night he sent me Colonel Sanders's FBI file in an email with the sensational subject line "The Plot to Kill Colonel Sanders." You may "click" here to see it on the actual FBI "web" site... if you dare! Many paragraphs have been redacted! What strange secrets about Colonel Sanders are we being denied? Allow me to quote from one part of the file, a letter from Colonel Sanders to J. Edgar Hoover, requesting that the latter attend Colonel Sanders's birthday party: "I, of course, will provide all transportation and hotel reservations -- just call on my secretary, Wanda Boner, and tell her when you all will be in town. Hopin to hear from you all soon." He also mentions "celebratin." He really had the persona down pat. And a secretary named Wanda Boner! I am not trying to be "racy," I am just telling you the facts. "I also have more pictures of the Colonel with Jerry Lewis," Ace claimed at City Grocery Bar the other night.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Yesterday In Ghost News

You thought Halloween was over! But stumbling around the "internet" yesterday I came across the headline "Researchers Seek Vivian Vance's Ghost." The randomness of that headline is the only interesting thing about the article, but I guess I should "link" to it so you don't think I'm pulling your leg. And then I happened to notice the arrival of the new BELIEVER magazine, in which James Franco is interviewed about the time he encountered the ghost of a nun who turned on a faucet through ghostly means! Later in the interview Mr. Franco attempts to contact John Ritter via a Ouija board, so I guess yesterday's theme was "ghosts of deceased sitcom stars." You know what's a waste of time? Everything.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Flashback

I forgot to tell you that the superhero The Flash appeared again in THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST, though this time he seems to be the Barry Allen Flash, not the Jay Garrick Flash, if you will permit me the distinction. It's a fine description of The Flash catching "speeding bullets by streaking at precisely their speed and reaching out and picking them up like eggs..." More surprising was to run across Charles Fort and Dean Moriarty in the same sentence (well, Neal Cassady, the real-life inspiration for Dean Moriarty). "Cassady began fibrillating the vocal cords, going faster and faster until by dawn if he had gone any faster, he would have vibrated off, as old Charles Fort said, and gone instantly into the positive absolute. It was a nice weird party."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Three Villainous Fops

As I am sure you are dying to know, our annual Halloween film festival concluded with the Hammer production FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN. Dr. Frankenstein has some success with preserving the human soul, so he sends out his assistant Hans to get some champagne. Everything is going great for Dr. Frankenstein and his friends until three villainous fops (pictured) show up! One villainous fop resembles Pee Wee Herman and another makes you think of Graham Chapman from Monty Python.