Monday, July 30, 2012

The Fair Young Man

"In the hall they came upon the fair young man quietly vomiting into a firebucket under an artificial palm." See now that's what I call a sentence! A while back the bookstore McNally-Jackson put out a series of tweets, bits and pieces from MANHATTAN TRANSFER by John Dos Passos, and it made me buy the book from my own local bookstore, Square Books. It is one of those books that makes you say, "Oh, what's the point of trying?" In a good way!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


In STARDUST MEMORIES, Woody Allen talks about how his mother used to run "boiled chicken through the deflavorizing machine." Well, last night I watched I SAW WHAT YOU DID on TCM, and it was as if someone had run a couple of Megan Abbott's most recent books - no boiled chicken, they! More like succulent prime rib - through the deflavorizing machine. The result was not unpleasant! But if you want all the flavor, you have to go to Megan Abbott. At one point, one of the teen protagonists of I SAW WHAT YOU DID even bites her lip by the anticipatory (I guess!) method displayed on the cover of Megan's newest masterpiece DARE ME. By the way, Nick Hornby has high praise for DARE ME in the July BELIEVER magazine. "This is the third Megan Abbott novel I have read this year," he writes. "... she's really good, and is doing something nobody else I've read is attempting." In the same column he writes that "Blog" Buddy Tom Franklin's CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER is "every bit as ambitious, as thoroughly imagined, and as gripping as his earlier work." Here is what I remember: when I was a little kid, I SAW WHAT YOU DID must have been rerun on TV, because some other kids were talking about it in the schoolyard, and just hearing about the plot (prank phone call gone horribly awry) scared me. So I don't know whether I've seen it before or all my memories of it come from schoolyard chatter. The music in I SAW WHAT YOU DID is weirdly jaunty, like circus music, built around the "nyah nyah" taunt. The "nyah nyah" taunt is an easy temptation. When I was in a band with Jon Host, I slipped the "nyah nyah" taunt into every solo, much to his amusement and/or increasing rage. What else can one say of I SAW WHAT YOU DID? It was fascinating, especially using the Megan Abbott lens. Joan Crawford strides through it with her camp knob cranked up as far as it will go. She builds to a Lithgow-level freak-out that destroys the innocent dreaminess of the formerly winsome teen.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ducks On Parade

Friday is request day on the classical music station and you know what that means! All the creakiest old worn-out chestnuts in the repertoire. A bombastic little number was playing while Dr. Theresa and I were on the way to the optometrist. It sounded like it might need some lyrics, which I supplied: "Here they come! Over the hill! Ducks on parade! Ducks on parade!" "Do you have to do that?" Dr. Theresa inquired. "Yes," I explained. While I waited for the eye doctor I thumbed through some issues of BEE CULTURE - a magazine for beekeepers! I'll tell you who is a major advertiser in BEE CULTURE: Blue Sky Bee Supply of Hiram, Ohio. I don't know, it sounded like such a nice place to work and I daydreamed about it. One issue of BEE CULTURE contained a mini-catalog for Blue Sky Bee Supply, and I was happy to see models employed in showing off various beekeeper outfits. That seemed like a job I could handle, too - not beekeeping, just modeling the outfits.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Magic Harmonica Wolf

Be sure to come to Off Square Books today at 5 PM Central Time to witness the triumphant return of John Brandon! His new nonfiction self-help book A MILLION HEAVENS is out. So many heavens to choose from. Come early and find out which heaven is right for you! I tricked you, it is not a self-help book. It is a novel! An awesome novel with a magic harmonica and a talking wolf, you know, one of those. Ha ha! There aren't any other ones of those. And my description is inaccurate. The wolf thinks about stuff. Like Garfield! Ha ha. The wolf is nothing like Garfield, although he does hate Mondays. Ha ha! The wolf doesn't hate Mondays, as far as I know. And "magic" isn't the correct adjective to describe the harmonica. But is there an angel in this book? I kind of think so! So now you will be confused, perhaps, when I truthfully claim that it is a work of realism. Have my clumsy attempts at categorizing tantalized you? I hope so! Because I can also see how I might have driven you away. Look, John Brandon has a whole novel to work with! I'm trying to cram the beautiful, mysterious, musical and gritty world he has created into a dumb "blog" "post." IT'S NOT FAIR! Plus my motives are sullied. I only mentioned the harmonica - out of all the memorable images in the novel - because there is a "harmonica" label in the "label section" of the "blog" and I hardly ever get to use it. "Magic Harmonica Wolf" was my first idea for a title for this "post." It seemed too easy, and I briefly changed it to "Magic Wolf Harmonica." I considered "Harmonica Wolf" and "Wolf Harmonica" as well, no "Magic." But when all is said and done, "Magic Harmonica Wolf" lands with just the right amount of "oomph." I am a huge John Brandon fan and you better believe he has written another amazing book, but as you know, the government requires me to mention that I received my copy of A MILLION HEAVENS free from the publisher McSweeney's, for whom I do some occasional writing. What does the government take me for? Some kind of cheap shill? I wish!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Frasier, Briefly

Welcome once again to "Frasier, Briefly." Last night Frasier's dad kept beating him at chess and it made Frasier crazy! And I was like, "Oh, Frasier. It's no big deal. Why can't you just be happy?" This has been "Frasier, Briefly."

Friday, July 20, 2012

I Wonder Why

The doorbell rang! The doorbell never rings. It was Ace Atkins, dropping off a late birthday present for me - the biography CLAUDIA: THE STORY OF COLONEL HARLAND SANDERS' WIFE PLUS SOME OF HER PERSONAL RECIPES by Edward G. Klemm, Jr., or as he is called on the title page, "Edward G. Klemm, Jr., Author, I WONDER WHY" (caps his). He is wearing a cowboy hat in his author photo and appears to be studying a pamphlet! There is a mysterious object in his buttonhole. Dr. Theresa got out her magnifying glass and thought it might be a piece of jewelry shaped like a chicken leg. I thought it was a skull. Could it be a flower bud? For a second I imagined he was reading CLAUDIA: THE STORY OF COLONEL HARLAND SANDERS' WIFE PLUS SOME OF HER PERSONAL RECIPES in his author photo, and that would have blown my mind like the cake with a picture of a cake on it I told you about that time. The title of Mr. Klemm's other book, I WONDER WHY, makes me think of the character in MASTERS OF ATLANTIS who wrote the books HERE COMES GRAMPS! and SO THIS IS OMAHA! (Exclamation points Charles Portis's.) Also in the gift bag: a most hideous figurine of a toad dressed as late-period Elvis. "It looks like it's made of melted candy," observed Dr. Theresa. To which I replied, "I don't know where to put it." "In a grave," suggested Dr. Theresa.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Two Things I Didn't Google

Late last night I saw a little bit of a movie called AMERICAN KICKBOXER 1 - a charmingly confident title! I didn't "google" it because I am sure a lot of other people on the "internet" have already made wry observations about naming your movie with the built-in presumption of a sequel. Is that the only time a filmmaker has done that? Well, I don't know. I didn't "google" it. I don't even know if that's the correct title. That's just what the TV told me when I "clicked" on the channel. When I came in, a wisecracking reporter was arguing with his no-nonsense editor, and the two actors were really trying to give it something, you know? They were scrappy, I guess that's how I would put it. Then I flipped away to a quirky independent movie about a quirky middle-aged man having a quirky midlife crisis. He rode a bicycle that was too small for him, for example! And he identified with an extinct bird, how quirky! And a melancholy, beautiful teen, wise beyond her years, gave him some life lessons, natch! So they curled up together chastely under a hand-knitted blanket and fell into a cozy slumber and uptight people who weren't quirky enough misunderstood their quirky relationship. So everybody gazed out over the cold ocean and thought about their quirks. Ugh. I flipped back to AMERICAN KICKBOXER 1 and two kickboxers were sparring in the ring and one said, "You can't take the heat!" And the other one said, "I can take the heat, I just can't take your ATTITUDE!" He seemed like he was about to cry. So the first kickboxer left the ring in a huff and the second kickboxer cried out, "That's right! WALK AWAY!" I have to say that between the two films, the emotions seemed more genuine in AMERICAN KICKBOXER 1. The other thing I didn't "google" was the "Chocolate Wonderfall," which is something else in the steak and cotton candy commercial Dr. Theresa told me about. I started to "google" "Chocolate Wonderfall" but you know how when you start to "google" now the "google" will try to fill in the rest of the term for you before you finish typing it? So I was in the process of "googling" "Chocolate Wonderfall" and "google" filled this in for me: chocolate wonderfall gross - so I became disheartened and stopped "googling." But now I'm going to do a "Google Image Search" for it. You win, Chocolate Wonderfall!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Move Over, Peanuts

Hey remember when I told you about that steak restaurant that offers "endless peanuts"? I thought that was pretty crazy. Endless peanuts! But now Dr. Theresa has seen a commercial for a different steak restaurant with cotton candy as part of its buffet! Cotton candy beats peanuts, even endless peanuts. "Click" here for an article from a site called NATION'S RESTAURANT NEWS. You'll note that it's an old article from a couple of years ago, when the cotton candy buffet was in its early testing stages. Well, thanks to Dr. Theresa's keen eye for weird commercials we can confirm that the roll-out is complete. At last! Cotton candy for steak lovers everywhere!

McNeil's Movie Korner

Oh boy! It's time once again for "McNeil's Movie Korner." McNeil writes to say he was "BLOWN AWAY" (caps his) by the similarities between LOVER COME BACK, which he watched a week or so ago, and MAD MEN. The creators of MAD MEN "obviously had that film in mind," he says, "because Rock is definitely Don Draper, Doris/Peggy, and even Tony Randall is a lot like Pete (in the way he looks and acts)." [And his character's name is Pete! - ed.] Speaking of old Pete, a second email from McNeil, hot on the heels of the first, adds that McNeil's younger kids love a movie called ALASKA. "It stars an early version of Pete Campbell, played by a 17-year-old Pete Campbell!!!! He acts exactly the same!!!!" McNeil breathlessly reports.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cultural Studies

You know, I've got so much culture my head is about to explode. So welcome to our new feature "Cultural Studies" where I see what's going on with the culture and then we study it I guess. CULTURE! Called McNeil yesterday to discuss the death of Mr. Sas, who invented the electronic football game that McNeil hates so much with a violent hatred, as I know from my years of Advanced McNeil Studies. But McNeil is classy and did not put down Mr. Sas or in any other way revel in his demise. "That's a terrible game," stated in a calm, flat voice, free of personal animosity, was the extent of McNeil's negativity on the solemn occasion in question. Do you know about electric football? As the obituary for Mr. Sas in the New York Times puts it, it's "a device that propelled figures across a metal surface using vibrations created by a small motor." Still can't picture it? Let me see if I can find a "clip" on "youtube." McNeil much preferred Mattel's "Talking Football" board game, which I believe commanded the players through a series of little records. McNeil's neighbor up the street had the Talking Football game. Can't picture that either? Back to youtube! Speaking of which: CULTURE! Gary, an MFA student of mine, made the following bold statement on the twitter last night: "Twister is about morality the best I can tell." Now, I was certain he meant the pre-packaged party game, but I jokingly twitter-tweeted him back to ask whether he meant the movie or the game. He meant the movie! But conceded that the game was also steeped in moral considerations. Or was he just humoring me? Don't tell me, world, that you have forgotten the pre-packaged party game Twister. Oh, okay, I will find that for you on youtube, too! That makes three youtube clips you need to "click" on. Keep track! CULTURE! Dr. Theresa and I went to see TWISTER (the movie) upon its initial release at Atlanta's Starlight Drive-In Theater with our friend Caroline. CULTURE! Caroline was back at Snackbar this morning. WHAT? Snackbar in the morning? You heard right! It was about culture. Caroline read her poetry at a special literary breakfast. A LITERARY BREAKFAST! Such a thing is almost perverse it's so cultural. LITERATURE AT BREAKFAST. That's how much culture we have around here. We can hardly stand it! Much of Caroline's awesome poetry this morning was about her old neighborhood of Cabbagetown and our late friend Benjamin. And speaking of Snackbar last night, remember how Drew gave me an eye dropper containing Dean Martin's scent? I could just kick myself for not including a "link" somewhere in THAT "post" to my old "post" about Jimmy Olsen collecting Superman's tears in a similar container. SUPERMAN'S TEARS! That would be another good name for this new regular feature. But I know you never "click" on my "links." Like, you never "click" on this one to my list of EVERY MOVIE I HAVE EVER "BLOGGED" ABOUT ON THE "BLOG," including TWISTER. You should really be ashamed of yourself. It is so full of culture. And just look at all these "links" just in this one "post," all of them simply bursting with oodles of culture. But I don't care. I do this BECAUSE it is useless. And we call that... CULTURE! Speaking of Superman, I just happened to come across a passage in George Plimpton's boxing book where he describes the cover of a Superman comic book: "Superman was shown throwing a villain off a rocket ship; the villain's fedora remained firmly affixed to his head. 'Superman's gone mad!' the man was shouting as he spread-eagled into space." That reminds me of Charles Portis's character Norwood and his thoughts on Superman and Scrooge McDuck. CULTURE!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Eye Dropper of Destiny

Caroline is in town! We took her to Snackbar. And our server brought to the table an eye dropper, delicately displayed on a a linen napkin resting on a little china plate. "Drew [the manager] wanted you to have this," she said to me. What was it? Two precious drops of vintage Woodhue, Dean Martin's cologne! I happily dabbed it on my neck and an excellent dinner commenced - a dinner during which I smelled like Dean Martin! Now that's what I call service. I do not hesitate to declare that there is no other restaurant in the world where such a thing happened tonight.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Discouraged Gnome

Here's an actual capsule description of a movie: "A Los Angeles policeman partners with a gnome to nab the head of a crime ring." So I turned it on and the gnome seemed discouraged. Anthony Michael Hall was giving him a pep talk. "Where's the warrior here? Come on now!" Anthony Michael Hall exhorted. "Not warrior. Scared," the gnome replied. "Stomach feel like fireflies."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Here is an enjoyable passage from the George Plimpton boxing book: "A fighter named Joe Grim, a second-rate boxer in the early part of the [twentieth] century whose forte was the ability to take punishment, would totter to the ropes at the end of a fight, whatever his state, and call out to the crowd, 'I am Joe Grim! I fear no man on earth!'" As Plimpton so rightly exclaims in commentary, "Great panache!"

New Hope For Movie Cats

Asked Dr. Theresa what she was doing. She said, "Watching this incredibly long movie that I was enjoying until something bad happened to a cat." Isn't that always the way, though, friends? For example, I'm sure you recall Drew Barrymore's film DOPPELGANGER, in which they go so long without anything happening to the cat that you think, "Whew! That cat is going to be okay." Then BANG! Something bad happens to the cat. Friends, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be that way. In my book YOUR CAT CAN BE A MOVIE STAR! you will learned the surefire methods to get your cat into a positive movie where positive things happen to cats, such as SHAMUS, which was not a good movie, but at least nothing bad happened to the cat, though nothing good happened to the cat either, really nothing happened to that cat.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Barn Burning

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the death of William Faulkner here I am making out with William Faulkner. As Phil once asked about Jack Benny, "Is that what killed him?" Photo by The Duchess.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Train Smash

In this George Plimpton book about boxing, I read that Lord Byron's mother died "of a fit of rage brought on by reading an upholsterer's bill." I am sure I did not know that. Then I read of the "Mad Marquis" who wrote to a railway company, "SIRS: I am anxious to witness a train smash." He later tried to crash two locomotives into each other on his estate. "Champagne was served," notes Plimpton. It didn't go so well. I am learning many facts from this book about boxing. If we check the index of this book about boxing we see, in just one random column, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Toots Shor, Sitting Bull, Edith Sitwell, and Jacques Tati (pictured). Boxing! Hey, my dad likes to quote an Edith Sitwell poem. He likes to say, "Jane, Jane/ Tall as a crane/ The morning light creaks down again."

Famous Doors of History

Slade over at Square Books saw that I was reading THE FIGHT by Norman Mailer. It's Mailer's account of the Ali-Foreman bout in Zaire (as it was then called). Slade thought I might like SHADOW BOX, George Plimpton's book that covers the same fight. So he brought it up to the store and loaned it to me. Wasn't that nice of him? And here's what I noticed right away: SHADOW BOX has an owl in it, and therefore goes on our fascinating, comprehensive list of books with owls in them, of which you need to make a lifetime study. I noticed it right away because the owl is in the epigraph. That's just about as early as you can stick an owl in your book. George Plimpton doesn't waste any time making sure his book has an owl in it. "He was not born in the woods to be scared by an owl." I guess I understand what that epigraph means. Don't I? Hey, once I held a door open for George Plimpton. My friend Eugene, who was a friend of Plimpton's, had convinced him to come to an event at a bookstore where I worked in downtown Mobile, where nobody ever went. George Plimpton did not acknowledge me in any way, and why should he? You know for whom else I held a door (different door, different day) in downtown Mobile? Dizzy Gillespie (pictured). He said thanks.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Had Enough?

The TCM "blog" has a detailed "post" on the Paul Anka voyeurism movie, you'll be happy to know. Here's a tidbit of interest: the cinematographer for the Paul Anka voyeurism movie "worked almost exclusively for director/star Jerry Lewis." I'm never going to stop "blogging" about this. Never ever!

The Pipe-Smoking Scientist Next Door

Well, the Paul Anka voyeurism movie was all right! A grim little slice of suburban rot. As I am certain you will recall, I wondered how it would stand up to BEAT GIRL. It had none of BEAT GIRL's madcap delirium. The Paul Anka voyeurism movie was unrelievedly, oppressively, suffocatingly gloomy. Unlike Beat Girl, Paul Anka doesn't have any pals. He goes out at night and some dudes surround him and promise to set him up with a "divorcée" - but they're just teasing Paul Anka! "You'll be climbing the walls yelling 'Mama! Mama! Mama!'" they remark. Speaking of which, there are two cops: an old-school cop and his young partner who has taken courses in psychology, which the older cop never tires of mocking. When the young cop says that the neighborhood peeping tom (Paul Anka, natch!) "wants to be caught" because he is "making himself known," the older cop sneers and makes a wisecrack, something like, "Freud goes to the police academy." Almost immediately thereafter, the old cop polishes his gun while talking about his mother! "She never had a dirty thought in her life," he insists. Should I note here that there will be Paul Anka voyeurism movie spoilers? I am reminded of Freud fan Megan Abbott's remark in an interview I did with her long ago: "every act of immorality is a secret cry for correction." What else happens? Well, Jack Cassidy ties his ascot effortlessly while smoking a cigarette! And after those guys taunt him, Paul Anka wanders off to four more bars of the fairly skimpy theme song, including the line (I think) "I walk alone in the city." Paul Anka is somewhat Travis Bickle-ish here. Or Bicklish, like ticklish. He goes to a newsstand and looks at magazines with titles like INTIMATE and REAL SECRETS, then he jumps on a trampoline in slow motion with his shirt unbuttoned! Jack Cassidy's neglected wife is seduced by the wise, pipe-smoking scientist next door. "Like chocolate cake?" is his opening line. Soon she is saying, "I never knew kisses could be so tender!" But it's okay because Jack Cassidy has run off to Las Vegas with Paul Anka's mom, who just dropped the hose in the yard and left it going while she made out with Jack Cassidy in his convertible right there in broad daylight in front of the cops, who are on stakeout. But that's okay because HER unemployed husband has passed out on the couch. The amazing denouement occurs during a Fourth of July lawn party that devolves into swimming-pool-based debauchery, and from thence into a bloodthirsty mob! The old cop gets drunk on whiskey and ginger ale and starts firing his gun indiscriminately as Paul Anka (whose mother, we learn, has taught him to cha-cha!) scampers over the rooftops in his horrifying mask (pictured!).

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Great Ascot Chase

Watched the first few minutes of the Paul Anka voyeurism movie. It starts with a woman lounging around in shiny pants. "Look at her crazy pants!" said Dr. Theresa. "That's just what Paul Anka is doing," I replied. And sure enough, there was Paul Anka, crouching in the shadows. He wrote the title song and sings it in a piercing, high-pitched whine: "I look in any window/ I walk by any open door/ To see if someone will love me/ Love me forever more." That's the whole song! Just four lines. No chorus or anything. That's some short song. Then the credits start. After the credits, Paul Anka creeps through the bushes. Paul Anka scrambles onto a roof. Paul Anka startles the neighbors by throwing rocks into their swimming pool. He's standing on the roof wearing a really creepy mask! Down below, Jack Cassidy is wearing an ascot! Seems like Jack Cassidy was always wearing an ascot, doesn't it? Jack Cassidy chases Paul Anka but Paul Anka gets away. Now Paul Anka is eating an apple so I thought I would come in here and type this up.