Monday, November 30, 2015

Joe Namath, Sandwich Thief

Just got a phone message from McNeil. I couldn't understand it. It was distorted. Or he was. But he sounded like Bob Dylan. Freestyling! I think he was rhyming. Or that's what it sounded like. I have no idea. But that reminded me that he sent me this footage of Joe Namath constructing and devouring a sandwich without paying for it. I know it's part of a movie but I don't care what movie and in fact I don't care at all about anything. I believe it stands up as its own work of art. "Click" here.

Really Tight Relationship

Hey! You know how I am keeping a list of things about cigarette lighters that I find out too late to put into my cigarette lighter book! Here's a parenthetical statement from an article in today's New York Times: "Ms. Cyrus reclined at the lip of the stage while a woman dressed like a giant cigarette lighter frolicked behind her." That surely would have gone in the book! But now it can't. The article also recounts a speech Miley Cyrus made from the stage about her "really tight relationship" with her pet blowfish, and sometimes I think the reporter wants us to laugh at Miley Cyrus but I don't feel like it.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Why Music Boxes Are Creepy

A strangely frequent reason that people visit this "blog" is to search for an answer to that (apparently) eternal question "Why Are Music Boxes Creepy?" I feel bad - guilt-ridden, truthfully - because that old "post" to which they are so often directed (you'd be surprised how many times a day people want to know why music boxes are creepy) is misleading. Some kid had written in to me with the idea that "Maybe music boxes are creepy because they are a purposeless vestige of Europe's aristo-centric period." And I quoted him in that "post" much too approvingly. Of course that's NOT why music boxes are creepy. Nor is this kid's highfalutin statement true in almost any way. Music boxes, for example, aren't any more "purposeless" than anything else. I gave that kid too much of a pass! I was trying to be nice. But now, all these years later, sad people who want to know why music boxes are creepy look to me for answers (several times a day, bewilderingly) and get nothing! And that kid is six years older now, so I suppose he can handle the truth that his big theories are full of beans. People aren't watching a movie about a dark house where a music box starts to play in the dead of night and the hair rises on their arms because they are suddenly reminded of "Europe's aristo-centric period"! Sorry to be so harsh! But you, theorizing kid, are probably at least 28, I'm going to guess, whoever you were, a full-grown adult by now who can accept the facts! I suppose music boxes are creepy because they are light and tinkly, for one thing. Scary noises in literature often start out soft... the rats scratching in Lovecraft, the beating of the telltale heart in Poe ("such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton")... soft music is scary at night... whistling, like in M or THE STEPFATHER... some awful killer is always humming softy to himself as he sharpens his instruments... also, music boxes are meant to be activated by the human hand (might be thought of, in fact, as an "alarm" of sorts... did people place diamonds and gold in them for this reason? Someone else may feel free to research the matter), so if you suddenly hear one in the middle of the night, when everyone is supposed to be asleep, something is wrong... like the record player and the wind-up toys and such in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND... music is a human endeavor, and maybe the mechanism IS an unwelcome (creepy?) reminder that our works can go on without us. And of course the kid from the old "post" WAS sort of onto something... in that a music box is a form of entertainment that a ghost might find comforting. Like, "I remember these!" Yes, just the sort of sentimental object to which a poor dead ghost might be attracted... a private, lonely entertainment even in life... so personal, maybe you shouldn't be overhearing it... a box to receive a particular soul... like a coffin... and yes, it IS a voice from the past, with a limited vocabulary. It can play only one thing... over and over... like a ghost... like the obsessive thoughts of a madman... like me... like that dude in MOBY-DICK... and slowing down, little by little... I was having drinks with Lee Durkee and he mentioned how music boxes are always slowing down... Sometimes they wind down unresolved, like life. There's nothing tenser in music than the "suspended fourth"... that's where the power of the music box's creepy cousin the jack-in-the-box comes in... the relationship between suspended chords and suspense. Bach could really leave you hanging, except he always had the luxury of resolving, except when played on a music box, I guess. Lee Durkee also contended that musical selections have something to do with it. "Music boxes don't play 'Turkey in the Straw,'" he said, emphasizing the jauntiness of that hoedown. I'll have to think about that. Is it true? And in any case I suspect "Turkey in the Straw" could be creepy enough on the right music box... Is the similarly bouncy "Pop Goes the Weasel" creepy just because we've heard it on so many dilapidated jack-in-the-boxes? Or is it the disturbing foreknowledge that the weasel is bound to "pop"?... Melodies are messages... pianos play by themselves in movies... half-forgotten snatches... they're trying to tell you something... they can't quite tell it to you straight... what's creepier than an oracle? And when you open a music box, a little ballerina figurine or such often begins to twirl stiffly... we think at once of what Freud said about dolls in his essay on "The Uncanny," but I think that book is in Dr. Theresa's office at the other end of the house and I don't feel like getting up. In conclusion, I apologize to all the people who have read that lazy and erroneous previous "blog" "post" lo these many years. My intellectual cowardice is beyond appalling! Another possible answer is: music boxes aren't creepy. (Illustration: Vera Farmiga looking at a creepy music box in a scary ghost movie we went to see with Chris Offutt. I saw Vera Farmiga checking into my hotel last time I was in Burbank! Sorry I forgot to tell you. I pestered her with fawning and she was real nice about it. She was wearing a stylish hat!) PS One Kris Simmons, whom I know via twitter, has chimed in to say, ha ha! - wait, is that even a pun? Do music boxes "chime"? - "I think it's because they sound out of tune." And she's onto something I hadn't considered! What could be more ghostly than these rusty gears and teeth and coils and knobby spools... still striving, but bent and warped by senescence? I ask you! Remember Edmund Spenser's ghosts with iron teeth... An out-of-tune music box is an echo, touchingly faded and changed... like a ghost... or a reflection... am I too suggestible? But this picture of Ms. Farmiga hints at a mirror in the lid... wasn't that common in music boxes? And aren't mirrors doorways into other worlds...? We just did a whole ADVENTURE TIME episode about that! Do I need to get all GOLDEN BOUGH on you...? So music boxes have little versions of ourselves inside... or else who's looking at what in that little mirror when the music box is playing by itself...? Okay! I'll keep adding more reasons music boxes are creepy. Send your suggestions to CREEPY MUSIC BOX c/o "Writer" Oxford, MS 38655. If you don't think music boxes are creepy be sure to include NOT CREEPY MUSIC BOX on your postcard.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Good Job

Watched LA NOTTE. My favorite part was the way this cat stared at this statue head.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Unemployment

Here's a movie no one has thought of in many years: JACKNIFE (that's how they spell it - I've checked repeatedly, in denial and disbelief). I've never seen it. I have no idea what it's about. But it rushed into my mind. And I'll tell you why. You know what came on last night? THE DEER HUNTER. And there was Robert De Niro in a baseball cap. Okay. So. In the 1980s I was "laid off" (fired) from my job at an advertising agency, and my friend Tony and I decided to drive across the country once I had accumulated enough unemployment checks. I remember a few things about it. Washing the car in a scary, desolate, crudely slapped together facility in Gallup, New Mexico. Slipping and sliding on the concrete because it was freezing cold and the water turned to ice almost as soon as it left the hose. When we got to Los Angeles we went to a live taping of the sitcom DESIGNING WOMEN. Afterward, I asked Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (a creator of the show) if I could have a job and she said no. But I didn't care. Because I was on unemployment, I had to write down a certain number of people on my card each week, people I had asked for a job. That's how you got money in the old days! You wrote things down on a piece of cardboard with a pencil. As I recall, it had to be in pencil. All of this is likely wrong. So I wrote "Linda Bloodworth-Thomason" on my card. Mission accomplished! The suckers at the unemployment office bought it! What am I saying? It was legit. And Linda Bloodworth-Thomason was nice and patient and gave me a lot of writing advice... more than I wanted, really. I remember this: Tony and I drove up a mountain. These were the days when there were only paper maps. And I screwed up. I neglected to tell Tony to turn, so we drove all the way up a mountain. On a treacherous road. Nobody was going up the mountain. It got dark. There was occasionally some daredevil speeding DOWN the mountain (barely enough room for two cars) and giving us a nice heart attack. At some point we were like, "Uh... does it look like we're going up? It's really dark now. Should we be going up? We're going UP." We were running out of gas. Tony was mad at me. Understandably. Once we found a place to turn around (a nightmarishly difficult process) we started back down the mountain, hoping not to run out of gas, but thinking - praying - maybe we could coast if it came to that. We went around a curve and saw an elk in the road. We stopped the car and stared at the majestic elk. So it was kind of worth it. The radio static turned, at last, into a feed from a local TV station. Which seemed unusual. But THE GOLDEN GIRLS was on, which took us some time to fathom, because it should not have been on the radio and also we were in a general state of shock. I guess I have never been so happy as when that shining vestige of civilization THE GOLDEN GIRLS manifested itself. We were laughing in hysterical relief at the stale jokes of THE GOLDEN GIRLS. We made it to a cheap Chinese restaurant in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and I suppose no food has ever tasted so good. Just moments earlier we thought we were going to die on a mountaintop! But where was I? In Los Angeles, we went on a tour. As we bounced along on the Universal Studios tram I saw some dude with long, greasy hair in a baseball cap walking through the lot with a sense of purpose and wondered whether he might be an actor. Back in Mobile, I went to the movies and saw the preview for JACKNIFE and thought, "Hey! That's the same dude I saw in Los Angeles." Obviously, it wasn't. There are countless holes in that theory. "Look at that baseball cap and that greasy hair!" I exulted, however, as I enjoyed the no-doubt suspenseful preview for JACKNIFE, which I no longer recall. I do recall that on our trip Tony and I stopped at a restaurant in Beaumont, Texas, where everyone was cold and silent as the grave. That was the quietest restaurant I've ever been in, filled with the stoniest, least communicative families of Texas. Upon our return I went back to the ad agency that had fired me (I can't remember why - to pick up one last check?) and they had a new receptionist who was so cute I asked her on a date. And she turned out to be from Beaumont, Texas! Yeah, that went nowhere. Even though I was able to say, "I've just been to Beaumont, Texas!" As I recall, I drove her around the city of Mobile and environs with no destination in mind. I seemed to think that's what a "date" was. I want to say we ended up in a bleak, rusted-out industrial area. I was probably lost. And certainly broke. I wonder why she never took my calls after that. I was probably like, "I don't have any money but I can show you the world!" As I recall, Tony and I walked all the way down into Walnut Canyon (Arizona?) and for the first time in my life I realized how much harder it was to walk up out of a canyon than to walk down into a canyon. That hadn't occurred to me somehow. I was sheltered as a lad. Boy, it hurts walking up and out of a canyon.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Clean Shoe

What do you eat on the night before Thanksgiving? It's a perplexing conundrum! Or maybe not. Because I have certainly eaten on all the nights before all the Thanksgivings of my life and it has never seemed like a big deal, no, I have never thought about it even once. But for some reason it seemed like a hard decision last night. Dr. Theresa and I were driving around on unrelated errands. We thought about Snackbar, but neither of us felt quite spiffy enough. Dr. Theresa had, in fact, left the house in her slippers. I was supposed to dash in places and get things done while she kept the car running. Like a gangster! That was the first plan. See how complicated eating is? I told you! Across the street from Snackbar is Handy Andy's. A lunch joint, or so I have always thought, and no more! I don't suppose anyone would take it amiss if I said, with affection, "a greasy spoon." Dr. Theresa insisted that Handy Andy's stayed open at night, to my initial disbelief. Especially not on the night before Thanksgiving! Not Handy Andy's! So continued my scoffing. Ha ha, this is a long story, I love it. "How do you know?" "I've heard people say it." The conversation went on and on. And there they were: cars parked right there in front of Handy Andy's. So Dr. Theresa kept the engine running and I went in and got two double cheeseburgers in a sack to go. That's the right thing to eat the night before Thanksgiving. Also, it's technically "Handy Andy," not "Handy Andy's." But I can't stop myself. I chased my double cheeseburger with a fine old port that tasted like a clean shoe studded with cloves.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Heartbroken Mope

I thought I'd un-live-tweet another movie, a Matthew Broderick movie from 1993 - by coincidence, the same year as STRIKING DISTANCE, the last movie I didn't live tweet. It's called THE NIGHT WE NEVER MET and I don't know why I picked it. Certainly not out of disrespect for Mr. Broderick, who plays the Dream Warrior (pictured) on ADVENTURE TIME. Oh, wait, I know why I picked it. I liked this capsule description provided by the satellite company: "An unlikable yuppie shares a Greenwich Village apartment with a frustrated housewife and a heartbroken mope." All right! Who could ask for more? Let's get to ersatz live-tweeting in the new-fashioned way that won't wreck your precious timeline: A guy turns off his alarm clock and puts on some... sandals? There's a glare on the TV screen, so I can't be certain about the footwear. Dirty pots filled with old beans. Matthew Broderick has a beard and mismatched curtains. Matthew Broderick talks out loud to himself, movie style! Bearded Matthew Broderick hits the town on his vespa. He saw a cute nurse and that made him happy! Annabella Sciorra, I do believe. Matthew Broderick is looking for a new apartment. Annabella Sciorra came out of the apartment building so I bet he takes the apartment. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's mom is peeking with a surly mien through a crack in the door. Annabella Sciorra and Christine Baranski smoke cigarettes inside a restaurant at the height of the lunchtime rush. Those were the days! Annabella Sciorra confesses her desire to take an "art class." Hey! Is that Louise Lasser? Maybe. They're setting up some weird plot, where people are moving into this apartment for two days a week...? Does that seem practical? A bunch of "yuppies" with neckties and no jackets acting all WOLF OF WALL STREET, standing on desks and making speeches and howling and pumping their fists for reasons I can't understand... EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's mom puts on hand lotion. The plot gets explained more. I don't understand it. Jeanne Tripplehorn! I always thought that was a cool last name. Matthew Broderick goes to see Tripplehorn (his ex?) in an "experimental play" - a form always treated with sneering contempt in movies. Take that, Samuel Beckett! I missed something. I think she was making out with a plastic snowman? Tripplehorn has a fake French accent. I mean, she's supposed to be French in the movie, though. Well, she took off her sweater in front of Matthew Broderick and that made him feel sad. Now she's singing "Alouette" in the shower! Are you kidding me? "Alouette"! She wants Matthew Broderick to put out her cigarette for her. Is it so hard to put out your cigarette in the shower? I guess it was supposed to emphasize some "character trait." Just throw it in the toilet, French Jeanne Tripplehorn! Oh boy, I didn't see this coming: some kind of unconvincing 50 SHADES OF GREY monkey business with the "yuppie" character. Wait! Was that a dream? Another alarm clock going off. It was all a dream! Back when I was teaching, we used to strongly discourage the use of alarm clocks in short stories. I guess they don't tell you that in screenwriting class. This is the second alarm clock going off in this movie. Is that Justine Bateman? It seems that Justine Bateman and the "yuppie" want very different things out of life. Annabella Sciorra is a dentist, not a nurse. Her patient is Garry Shandling! He seems sleazy. In this movie, I mean. No, Annabella Sciorra is a dental assistant but she wants to be an artist. She has a husband and tropical fish. The husband wants to move to the suburbs. Montage of people eating lunch meat? Hey, it's that guy who always plays a jerk in movies. For some reason, he's pretending to be Louise Lasser on the phone. MB works at Dean and Deluca and hates French cheese! Because of his problems with French person Jeanne Tripplehorn. It's causing work problems! What! Here's what's-her-name from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS! She and MB are on a blind date. "Is that veal?" she says. How could she know? MB is just carrying a serving dish with the lid on it. Does she have X-ray vision? Because it IS veal! She's incensed. A weird thing to cook on a first date, though. Okay! So MB and Annabella Sciorra are sharing this apartment but they never see each other. And yet methinks she's falling in love with his remnants! The "yuppies" are also sharing the apartment. They play loud music and jump around and scream like jerks. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's mom is married (?) to Johnny Ola from GODFATHER II! He also peeks out of crevices and makes faces. They are like a Greek chorus. Except they NEVER TALK. So they're not like a Greek chorus. Annabella Sciorra continues to be entranced by the still-unseen (by her) Matthew Broderick. He's leaving notes for her everywhere. It's actually sort of controlling and creepy, despite this mellow "blue-eyed soul" number underscoring the developments, if you want to call them that. One of the "yuppies" pees with the door open. They make pig noises and smoke cigars. Now they're screaming out of the windows and burning pizza in the oven. The guy who always plays jerks in movies lights his cigar with the burning pizza box to show what a horrible weirdo he is. Wait! Have I explained the plot? So the "yuppies" use this place a couple days a week to chillax. MB brings dates there? I guess? Annabella Sciorra uses it to explore her artistic impulses. It's a getaway from the world! All right. Okay, there was a zany mixup I barely feel like getting into, though it may become necessary later. Johnny Ola finally said something but EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's mom just gravely shook her silent grim head. Annabella Sciorra's husband is shown to be a philistine. The alarm on his watch goes off! Man, this screenwriter loves alarms. Dang! MB's alarm clock goes off! Fourth alarm clock! Jeanne Tripplehorn took a shower with a cowboy and a dog? She loves taking showers. I think the cowboy is feeding her a Pop Tart. MB: "I want you to do what you say you want to do, not what you do do." JT: "No, I do do what I say I do." Ha ha, oh boy. Doo doo. Maybe I should stop here. Is that Dr. John crooning a stirring ballad while the "yuppie" admires his own butt in a mirror? Poor Dr. John! Johnny Ola mugs for the camera some more through the crack of a doorway. I can't believe that Annabella Sciorra is about to do it with the "yuppie," mistaking him for MB for reasons I can't get into here because I don't really understand them. Time to feed the cats, I'm going to miss some of this movie. I hope you're not too disappointed. I came back. Johnny Ola is peeking through a doorway again. Annabella Sciorra's fingernails are painted white and the "yuppie" is climbing all over her. She's not going to put up with his boorish manner for long! Well! I was wrong! They did it. I know because his shirt is unbuttoned all the way and he says, "Man... you came to play." Gross! Johnny Ola eavesdrops on their intimacy through his doorway and checks his watch and rolls his eyes and mugs for the camera like his life depended on it. Reckonings commence. Why the hell is MB so happy all of a sudden? He's walking down the crowded NYC streets tossing an orange in the air as Motown plays. Did I miss something? He has no reason to be happy that I can recall. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's mom smokes and glares out of a window. I hope they paid her a lot. MB goes on a date with a character so stupid she thinks he has cooked pasta with dog in it. "Dog?" she says. "Ruff ruff ruff?" Wait! She's on the TV show NASHVILLE! She plays Deacon's doomed sister. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's mom speaks! She and Johnny Ola are really spewing out the dialogue. They've been holding it in so long! You can't shut them up. Dr. Theresa says soup is ready. I may miss something. Wait! Is MB going to end up with Justine Bateman? That's coming out of left field! I did not see that coming at all. Kudos... but to whom? Now Johnny Ola has finally brought a chair or stool to put by his door so when he peeps out of it and makes faces he can sit down. Wait! Is the "yuppie" the "nice guy" from SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY? Weird. He went to his "yuppie" workplace and all his coworkers ritualistically cut their neckties in half at the same time, and made pig noises...? I don't know what's going on. This soup is good, though. Hey! Christopher from THE SOPRANOS! One line. Funny shirt. And I could swear Lewis Black walks by in the background: no lines, funny shirt. Well, I could swear this movie was about to end, but things keep happening. I guess you could call it. MB just threw a drink on Jeanne Tripplehorn. Not very gentlemanly! And her character's name is "Pastel," seemingly. Ha ha, Pastel! MB goes back to talking out loud to himself, which he hasn't done since the first scene, so maybe it's a circular thing and we're finally wrapping up. They made the husband suddenly 100,000 times more awful than ever before to justify it when Annabella Sciorra inevitably leaves him for Matthew Broderick. My Justine Bateman speculation was way off base. That would have been a neat twist! MB and Annabella Sciorra meet again. They still don't know each other. Is this movie going to last forever? The "yuppie" comes in and takes off his pants in front of Matthew Broderick, a total stranger, you know, how people do. Annabella Sciorra: "I didn't mean to sleep with him, I meant to sleep with you!" Did the guy from SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY just tweak Matthew Broderick's nipple? Dr. John is singing again.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Lawrence Welk Sex Bomb

Lawrence Welk came on tonight. Myron Floren came out and played his accordion. "It's like he did a speedball backstage," said Dr. Theresa. Myron Floren did really go to town on "Lady of Spain." He played with a jittery electricity that seemed barely contained. I thought he was going to explode. "Machine-gunning it," was a phrase that came to mind. His lid is on real tight, though. I imagined him walking out of camera range at the conclusion and dashing his accordion into a thousand pieces. "That's how it's done!" he might snarl in an ecstatic rage. Then this woman came out and did a café number. "Who's this sex bomb!" I shouted. (She was Lawrence Welk's daughter-in-law.) She, like Myron Floren, had an energy that could be repressed only with some difficulty. "She's tickling all the men under their chins!" I yelled. I couldn't believe it! Throughout my viewing experience, and unrelated to the incidents previously outlined, I thought about how performing on the The Lawrence Welk Show must have been the spiritual equivalent of serving in the Sun Ra Arkestra. My reasoning seemed sound at the time, I assure you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It Was Seo

For those of you who were concerned, it was Seo Kim who thought up that snake I liked so much on ADVENTURE TIME.

I Am Plastic Man

I guess I forgot to tell you about when I tripped and fell on the sidewalk in front of our house some months ago. I was carrying two Sonic hot dogs at the time, but that's another story. Anyway, I went to the doctor about this bump on my arm and he said it was nothing, that I had just "rearranged" some of my "soft tissue." "Like Plastic Man!" I shouted excitedly. The doctor was like, whatever.

You're Missing Out

I know none of you watches an actual "television" anymore. You watch your "television" programming on devices that are not "televisions." And I salute you! But here's what you're missing. I watch the TV show FARGO on television, and they have this announcer that comes on beforehand and says, "FARGO is intended for mature audiences. Viewer discretion is advised." But he says it in this real quiet, measured, threatening way, all grim and sinister and knowing, like he's better than us. And then, when we cut away from FARGO, he says things like, "FARGO is brought to you by Burger King's new buffalo chicken fries." But he says it in the same darkly insinuating, quietly mocking, evil tone of calculated murder. "FARGO is brought to you by Burger King's new buffalo chicken fries." He says it like that.

Hypno Eyes

Well, we're smack in the middle of our 8-part Marceline arc on ADVENTURE TIME. I hope you're enjoying it! I am. I mean, it's really good! Layered. We layered it up for you. The second half commences tonight, featuring a star turn from Paul Williams. Last night we saw episodes three and four. I was there while the actors were recording episode three. Olivia Olson, who plays Marceline, was getting a cold! PLUS she had a singing audition the next day. But the part required her (as you may have seen) to give a blood-curdling scream when the Vampire King bites her neck. And she had to shout and growl and such, on top of doing the scream over and over at the top of her lungs. Not good for the human voice! But she did it. She committed! She didn't hold back. I just made the same statement three times in a row; that's called "style." Part four had this character "The Empress." (Paul Williams plays "The Hierophant" - all the vampires are named after tarot cards. Which reminds me: I have a friend who works on iZombie, and on that show last night, the main character made a little speech about the tarot card "The Empress." RIGHT AFTER THE EMPRESS APPEARED ON ADVENTURE TIME. Coincidence? Yes, entirely. Rebecca Romijn plays our Empress, which, as I've mentioned repeatedly in various formats, including life itself, means that we've got a real Brian De Palma thing going on, what with Paul Williams in there too.) I like The Empress! She has this snake that lives coiled around her neck and sometimes it slithers up, over her head, and pulls up her turban with its fangs, revealing her hypno eyes, and that's how she gets you. So watch out! Here we see her as sketched by Seo, who co-boarded and co-wrote part four with Somvilay. In the ADVENTURE TIME meeting today I'm going to ask who came up with that snake. Great snake.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis

Welcome once again to "Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis," helping YOU match the right bookmark with the right book for more than eight years. But that all ends today. So! Kent Osborne recommended that Stephen King novel and I ripped right through it in two days, though it was a big, fat novel. Nine hundred pages, maybe? And just big in every dimension. Large and bulky. So! Remember when I went to that auction of Bob Hope's personal effects? Well, that auction house keeps sending me stuff in the mail. Like, they sent me a little portfolio of promotional cards, much bigger than postcards, notifying me about their upcoming auctions. I was going to measure one for you. I was rooting around in the kitchen drawer where I thought the tape measure might be. "Where's the tape measure?" I said. To which Dr. Theresa replied, "It's probably in there somewhere." And it probably is. But I never found it. So I can't tell you the exact size of this giant card I used as a bookmark in this giant Stephen King book. But I can tell you this! This promotional card had a picture of the Beatles on it. And at some point in the book, Stephen King's narrator goes by the pseudonym "John Lennon." So that was a coincidence! And there are a lot coincidences in this Stephen King book, coincidentally! Or, as Stephen King's narrator insists on calling them, "harmonics." Huh. I even read the afterword! Stephen King talks about a Norman Mailer book on Lee Harvey Oswald that was one of his primary resources for historical research. And that reminded me that I have a giant Norman Mailer novel about the CIA around here. Chris Offutt gave it to me a long time ago (years?) because he had two copies (!). I seem to recall [somewhat inaccurately - ed.] that the book was roundly mocked when it appeared, which, as you know, makes me want to read it more. I even recall that Norman Mailer's biographer says (I think) that there is a long part somewhere in the middle that is so boring no one should ever read that part, but I can't remember what that part is about [Uruguay - ed.], so I will probably end up reading it. So, I took this giant Norman Mailer CIA novel off the shelf, and it is spattered with old coffee stains, at least I hope those are coffee stains. And I opened it and recalled that I had already read two pages of it years (?) ago, and there was my stubby little Square Books bookmark of coarse paper stock ("Square Books classic" I call it... I just decided!), the kind they used before they switched over to the long, glossy bookmarks. Now I have reread those two pages, and five more pages besides, and there have already been two ghosts, and why am I surprised? "Ghost" is in the title. One wonderful advantage of taking this fat Norman Mailer novel off the shelf is that I now have a place to put the fat Stephen King novel. So they are roughly the same size. Yet I used a huge bookmark in one of them and a tiny bookmark in the other. What a revelation! About my own divided soul. Also: any kind of bookmark works just fine. This discovery means there is no use for "Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis." This has been the final "Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis." PS Just read one more page, on which were some sentences about "the ice monarch," a fanciful creature of the narrator's imagination, as in, "The ice monarch had installed his agents in my heart." Did Norman Mailer invent the Ice King? Just 1,118 pages to go before the "Author's Note"!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Cultural Studies

Welcome once more to "Cultural Studies" - gee, it's been two years since we studied any. Culture. Well! Ashly Burch has been bringing up PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET in ADVENTURE TIME meetings for some time now, for mysterious reasons that need not concern you here! But we've talked about that movie a lot, and some of us have watched it again, and it made me want to see NIGHT AND THE CITY again, which features Richard Widmark in somewhat the same mode. With important differences! That you don't care about. But anyway, I was watching NIGHT AND THE CITY last night and was particularly captivated by this shot (above): a bad man in a suit standing calmly on a bridge. It made me think ("click" here; I know you won't!) of this shot from OUT OF THE PAST. Oh! Here's a fascinating coincidence (it's not). When I was looking for a pic of Marlon Brando that reminded me of Princess Bubblegum (WHY? Well, you could find out if you'd trouble yourself to "click" on this "link" - but you won't), the woman in the photo I found turned out to be Jean Peters, who plays Candy in PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, and whose performance Ashly admires a lot. That publicity still was from VIVA ZAPATA! (exclamation point theirs) which I believe I once rented on VHS from the Phar-Mor drugstore in Mobile, Alabama. Oh! I just got that they had a "pharmacy" and "more"... far (phar) more! In another coincidence sure to amaze you, Eve Babitz goes on and on (and on) about VIVA ZAPATA! in EVE'S HOLLYWOOD, which I just read. So! Another thing coming up a lot in ADVENTURE TIME meetings is this thing where presidential candidates are being asked (this is really happening!) whether or not they would "kill baby Hitler" if given the chance. Kent Osborne asked, "Haven't any of them read 11/22/63 by Stephen King?" And I was like, "Don't tell me what happens!" And I was like, "It looks long, is it any good?" And Kent said it was long but good and he said it's so long because the guy travels to 1955 and has to wait - what is that? - eight years before trying to stop the Kennedy assassination and I was like, "Stop telling me!" So I went up to Square Books and bought 11/22/63 and I guess I'll read it sometime. Goodbye for now from "Cultural Studies."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

River Rowdies

I don't suppose any of us will forget where we were on July 27, 2012, the day I lost dozens of "twitter followers" by live-tweeting KING RALPH. It was a massacre! Looking back, I can't blame them. How many times since then have I my own self become heavy-hearted at the excessive tweeting rate of some well-meaning wag or another? And that is why I have decided to help everybody out by putting my live-tweeting of STRIKING DISTANCE into the following handy virtual live-tweeting format, rather than clogging up everyone's "timeline" with it. I promise you all the excruciating boredom of the live-tweet experience with half the mess. Before we begin, it occurs to me that not only did Donald Barthelme invent the TV recap, he simultaneously invented the live-tweet. With preliminaries concluded, come with me as I list the things I see in STRIKING DISTANCE. A police car races toward the camera. Lightning strikes! Words say STRIKING DISTANCE!... Boots sloshing in the rain. Dr. Theresa just walked in and saw me furrowing my brow watching STRIKING DISTANCE and said, "Your seriousness is humorous."... Bruce Willis is disgraced... Bruce's dad is Frasier's dad from FRASIER! He's a cop, JUST LIKE IN FRASIER! Frasier's dad says a very Frasier's dad-like thing about Bruce's "mother's side of the family."... All his former cop friends think Bruce Willis is a "rat."... Bruce drives all crazy, like he's in a cop movie!... Frasier's dad is blasé about all the near collisions, making idle chit chat during the near-death experiences. This really IS like a FRASIER episode! Eight minutes in and we have our first action-movie fireball!... I have a feeling Frasier's dad is about to bite it. ... Ten minutes in: SECOND FIREBALL. ... Dr. Theresa says I should comment on the bad guy's driving gloves, which I totally meant to do... Cars hopping in the air like rabbits! Frasier's dad is still alive for the moment... Uh-oh. I take it back. Here's the reliable Dennis Farina as Uncle Nick? Uncle Rick? He's a cop too. ... They "caught the killer" and Bruce deduces in literally half a second they got the wrong man, just by looking at him... but the other cops don't want Bruce to rock the boat. Not even Uncle Nick or Rick! Uncle Rick/Nick's kid is jumping off a bridge! It's Bruce Willis's own cousin he ratted on! Well, there goes Cousin Jimmy. And here comes the rain. Like God himself is crying for Cousin Jimmy!... TWO YEARS LATER... It sure feels like it ha ha! ... Bruce Willis has a cat. A rat with a cat! Get it? ... Alka Seltzer... microwaving a hot towel... that's Bruce's version of breakfast! ... Now he's a boat cop. All the boat cops are standing around in their short pants. Short pants cops! ... I think Bruce Willis just dumped his crabby boss in the river as a prank. He'll never get anywhere with an attitude like that!... Bruce's name is Tom Hardy! Like the depressing novelist!... Everywhere Bruce Willis goes, other cops try to beat him up... Bruce: sensitive, weepy. The thinking man's cop!... Tom Sizemore, another cop cousin... Bruce Willis lives on a houseboat. Hey! Tom Sizemore talks about THE SIMPSONS! Tom Sizemore's brother AND mother jumped in the river. Stay away from the river, everybody. Do they want to make me suspect that Tom Sizemore is the killer? Because it's working. But it's too easy. He says ominous things like "I... I gotta meet a girl." And just when he comes back to town the killings start again. Too easy... Bruce Willis's new boat cop partner is SARAH JESSICA PARKER! She's introduced to him as a "qualified diver." I wonder if that will come into play! [It doesn't. Chekhov would be ashamed. - ed.]... Rowdies in a speedboat!... Oh, I see. Bruce Willis bends the rules and SJP is "by the book." ME: "What's that guy wearing, a neckerchief?" DR. THERESA (sounding sad about my decline): "It's a tattoo, sweetie."... Bruce Willis knocked somebody down a hole. "Down the hole!" shouted Dr. Theresa... Bruce Willis just shot three or four guys, I lost count. SJP helped him by yelling. Now he has grudging respect for her! You can see it in his eyes... I think I'll have some rye. I might miss something... Thinking, those guys Bruce shot were probably pirates, technically!... "There's an old Italian saying: 'Don't scald your tongue on another man's soup.'" Wise words, Dennis Farina. "Hey, Hardy, we're out of our patrol zone," warns by-the-book Sarah Jessica Parker. You really think Bruce Willis cares?... SJP and Bruce are dramatically acting at each other!... Aw, suddenly SJP spies Bruce behaving tenderly when he doesn't know she's looking! Maybe there's something to this gruff boat cop after all... They're really piling on the Tom Sizemore circumstantial evidence. I ain't buying it! No matter how unnervingly he giggles. Dennis Farina just had this line of dialogue: "Go up there. Go up there. GO UP THERE! Go up there."... This movie has a lot of blue language!... Andre Braugher! He's as young as a baby!... Tom Sizemore sure talks about the river a lot... SJP invites Bruce to the Policeman's Ball, which seems like a great place for him to be beaten to a pulp, which he is. Angry cops conveniently tear off his shirt, exposing him sexily. Tom Sizemore drinks heavily while a fireworks display goes off over his head. This one cop who hates Bruce the most is the guy who played the studio head in THE PLAYER.
Can't think of his name. But boy does he hate Bruce Willis. ... SJP pours Bruce's booze down the sink. She doesn't even know him! That's presumptuous. She hasn't even seen him drunk. I don't even think he's BEEN drunk in this movie (?), though the angriest cop calls him a "lush" once. ... Bruce Willis's cat watches as Bruce and SJP express themselves with an intimacy that is usually reserved for the conjugal bower. The cat seems bored. But POV suggests a creepy killer is probably watching too! ... Ha ha, now SJP and Bruce are chasing a car, but they're in a boat! This doesn't seem practical. THIRD FIREBALL. One hour, seven minutes in. ... It is suddenly revealed that Sarah Jessica Parker's character has a daughter... NAMED SARAH. ... Bruce just had the hoary old line, "I don't know how high up this goes." Dennis Farina: "He's been under surveillance for three weeks." Guy from The Player: "CLOSE surveillance?" Ha ha ha, I don't know why that exchange made me laugh so hard. I guess it was the way the guy said "CLOSE surveillance?" But it's clear that SJP has been spying on Bruce! NOW who's the rat? "Thank you very much, detective, you may step down," says Andre Braugher in that super sarcastic way that only Andre Braugher can deliver! He's not thanking the detective at all! Bruce Willis's cat is hungry. "Go catch a rat," says Bruce Willis to his cat. Ironic!... Somebody's "dead in the water." Literally! I can't tell who it is, even though Bruce is saying "NOOOOOOO!!!!!! NOOOOOOO!!!!!!" But then again I thought that pirate's tattoo was a neckerchief. ... Bruce Willis thinks Tom Sizemore is the killer. I guess he's not so smart after all. Well! The killer is Cousin Jimmy! He ain't dead! I think Cousin Jimmy is the guy who was in MURPHY BROWN. The killer is the dude from MURPHY BROWN! I think. A guy from MURPHY BROWN killed a guy from FRASIER! What's the world coming to? "Are you too proud to drink with a dead man?" - Cousin Jimmy. I'm going to start saying that at bars. That guy's hair! The guy from MURPHY BROWN. He seriously looks worse than Donald Trump. Plus he's a psychotic murderer. Oh, wait! Dennis Farina killed Frasier's dad. So never mind. Ha ha, SJP just stuck out her foot and tripped the guy from MURPHY BROWN. Boat chase! Foot chase! We're back on the bridge. "You'll never beat me!" screams the guy from MURPHY BROWN at Bruce Willis. So I wonder who's going to win! Underwater fight! Lots of bubbles when you're fighting underwater. ... The angriest cop admits he was wrong. Bruce Willis punches him. SJP runs up. They smooch. Flowers on a grave. We see SJP's alleged daughter for the first time. They're all at the cemetery together like a regular family. THE END.

"Blog"trospective 17: Cigarette Lighter Appendix

My previous "blog"trospective, which covered the 20th century, wore me out. But last night I was watching an old episode of THE SIMPSONS, a flashback to the birth of Bart, and Bart's first act on the earth was to set fire to Homer's necktie with a lighter. And that's when I knew I needed, at long last, to manufacture a new "blog"trospective, a storehouse for everything I would have put somewhere in my cigarette lighter book if only it weren't too late to add anything to my cigarette lighter book. Here is that short but growing list: ancient death ray of Archimedes---Aykroyd, Dan; lights a whole pack of smokes with a blowtorch---COUPLE OF COMEDIANS, A (novel by Don Carpenter)---Disney, Walt; makes a grown man cry and throw away his new lighter---flint and steel of circumstances---Felix from THE ODD COUPLE mangles a cigarette---heating Pop Tarts one bite at a time---Hope, Bob; cracks wise about lighters---Lewis, Jerry; can't find his lighter---Mailer, Norman; narrator of overcome by the solemnity of a cigarette lighter---newborn Bart Simpson sets fire to his father's necktie with a lighter (see above)---O'Brien, Edmond; flirts using cigarette lighter---Pryor, Richard; yells "Flick my Bic!" (was that the advertising slogan for the Bic pen or the Bic lighter? In any case, see "link" for rationale)---STAR WARS robot gives a "thumbs up" with its built-in lighter---structurally significant lighter---undetermined pun based on the name of fire historian Stephen J. Pyne---Wallach, Eli; uses an imaginary cigarette lighter---woman dressed as a cigarette lighter frolics behind Miley Cyrus, a. I'm forgetting something.

Monday, November 09, 2015

A Late Complaint

I don't know why I keep watching FRIENDS reruns late at night. I can't say they hold up too well. I was astonished at a joke last night, when the FRIENDS are watching THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW on a big TV. Rose Marie appears on the screen and they all recoil in horror. That was the joke. Here are these pretty people scared of Rose Marie because she is not, in their opinion, as pretty as them, but here, also, portraying these pretty people, are a bunch of actors whose jobs might not exist without Rose Marie (and writing the joke was a joke writer whose job was immortalized by her). Well, I thought it was disrespectful on every level. I guess it is a little late to complain.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Gee

Speaking of footnotes, sometimes you will run across what seems like an unnecessarily judgmental footnote. Like, in this Chekhov play there's a line of dialogue about how Maupassant didn't like the Eiffel Tower because it was "crushing his brain." And the footnote says of Maupassant, "He died of syphilis and drugs, not modern technology." Okay! Gee! Calm down, footnote man.

Literary Matters

Welcome once again to "Literary Matters," the worst thing on the "internet." Today's entry will exclusively concern literary drama of the fanciest pedigree! So brace yourself. 1. Email from McNeil, titled "keepin' ya fresh," which I quote here in full: "As I was thumbing through AS YOU LIKE IT (which sounds exactly like a line from your blog), I ran across the title of a text in a footnote that sounds right up your alley: PAGAN MYSTERIES IN THE RENAISSANCE by Edgar Wind." McNeil is right, of course, and he certainly knew that I'd have a lot of fun imagining all the witty quips Edgar Wind's friends must have made about his name all the time. I haven't even looked up the actual Edgar Wind yet, but I do hope so very much that he was a contemporary and confidante of Granville Squiers, author of SECRET HIDING PLACES. 2. Here's a great story! I was trying to read a Chekhov play and I said out loud, "I need a scorecard to keep up with these people!" And of course there IS a scorecard at the beginning of every play, a list of all the characters and just who they are. Ha ha, that wasn't a great story.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Witch Wigglers

FIRST OF ALL. Jake did NOT mention Jerry Lewis on ADVENTURE TIME tonight, but "alternative comics" icon Gilbert Hernandez had him doing just that in the original version of the outline that eventually became the episode "Mama Said." I was disappointed that Jerry didn't make the final board! And now, BEHIND THE SCENES IN THE WRITERS ROOM: We got stuck around Act Three, I mean, sitting there with serious looks on our faces saying things like, "What does the giant mushroom WANT?" And it was slowing work to something less than a crawl. As a way of getting ourselves over the hump, we started typing in some bellowing dialogue, all caps, just as a placeholder, to give ourselves permission to see how the rest of the story played out, and the mushroom was saying "Things a Mushroom Might Say" (as they would have put it on the $10,000 Pyramid): like, "I HAVE LOTS OF VITAMIN B!" Well, Kent and I saw that this was really cracking Pen up, so we just starting piling on more to make him laugh, and Pen got into it and pretty soon we were looking up mushrooms on the "internet" and typing big, bellowing statements about them in all caps. And it was making us laugh even harder because we imagined trying to convince Kelsey Grammer to do the richly bellowing mushroom voice (as far as I know, that was never seriously considered, and I have no idea who ended up doing such a fine job). Long story short, we never did figure out what the mushroom wanted. But that little exercise loosened us up and freed us to finish the story. That's either a valuable writing lesson or a cautionary tale. So the "placeholders" became the thing itself. So when someone listened to a mix of the episode and said, "That dialogue made me think of Michael Kupperman," I reacted with surprise and horror! Because as a writer you never want to accidentally step on the other guy's territory - especially so in this case, because I am Michael's friend AND biggest fan. I realized they were talking about Snake 'n' Bacon, a couple of Michael's characters. Bacon is a strip of bacon who can only speak in bacon facts. So you can see the connection, which escaped us at the time. So promise me something! Help me pay proper tribute to Michael by buying one of his books today. His books literally make me cry with laughter, as I have mentioned here many times before. If you enjoy crying, please do as I say. Oh yeah! One more thing I just realized as I was watching: I got to use my trusty copy of OZARK MAGIC AND FOLKLORE by Vance Randolph to research dowsing rods for this episode. A lot of that didn't make the final cut either, but it was still fun to research: another good (?) writing tip... research is fun even if you don't use all of it! "These characters are called water witches or witch wigglers, and the forked switches they carry are called witch sticks," writes Vance Randolph.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Hynden

So, Hynden Walch (Princess Bubblegum) had just one short line, composed of four little words, in tonight's ADVENTURE TIME episode, and I was lucky enough to be there when she recorded it. She must have done it a dozen times, each time taking a different tack, ranging in subtle degrees of color and emphasis from sweet playfulness to stentorian absolutism, and every time she did it, no matter how she did it, she just killed it. Everybody on the other side of the glass was laughing and shaking their heads and just marveling at the variety of meaning she got out of that one line. Any of the takes would have worked, and each would have cleverly spun the story in just a little different direction. That's a professional, I tell you! It's like going to school, the privilege of watching Hynden Walch give her all to record a single sentence. Hynden Walch is the Marlon Brando of Hynden Walches. (Does Brando KIND OF look like he's wearing a PB outfit here? No, I know. I just like the picture.)

The Very Heights of Celebrity

I say all of the following as a short man to whom shortness is no "shortcoming." Ha ha, what delightful wordplay. Nor, as a small fat man, do I wish to "belittle" anyone for their stature. Merciful heavens, I'm on fire today! But I couldn't believe it in the ADVENTURE TIME meeting the other day when Ashly Burch said she met Harrison Ford and he was just a little taller than her! She stood up and Kent stood up and she explained to Kent, using his body as a prop, exactly what spot Harrison Ford would come up to on him. I was attending the meeting via video, and could not see their heads nor much else of what was going on. It was a comical sight of torsos magically disengaged, as you may joyfully entertain yourself by imagining. I did get the gist. Harrison Ford, as already stated, is barely taller than Ashly Burch, and Ashly Burch is not a tall woman. I would put Ashly at about Megan Abbott size... and as you certainly recall, I once asked for and received permission to refer to Megan as "doll-like" in a scrupulously fact-checked magazine article. Or I think I said "a living doll." And - I must have told you this before! - Megan says that Norman Mailer was, when she encountered him, about her (Megan's) size. But I guess everybody knows old Norman was a pugnacious little thing. I do like to consider Ashly and Megan, these two remarkable women of my happy acquaintance - short of stature but great in spirit! two of my favorites if you must know - towering, as they by all rights should, over those churning testosterone factories Harrison Ford and Norman Mailer. Once Kent Osborne and Ward McCarthy and I were at Rob Schneider's house - don't ask! - and he was quite the expert on the heights of other celebrities. "Aaron Neville, not a tall man," he would distractedly mutter, for example, as we sipped cautiously at his teeny pony-sized beers. I was reminded quite forcefully of the Napoleon scene from TIME BANDITS as Mr. Schneider's litany - almanac! - of short entertainers began to unfurl itself just a little at a time, taking on a surprising and almost poetic life of its own. I believe he knew Aaron Neville's exact height. And Aaron Neville looks so muscly in pictures! Maybe it's a form of compensation, if Rob Schneider's powers of observation are to be trusted... and why shouldn't they be? I don't think it is any secret that Mr. Schneider is not known as a town-stomping giant himself. Hence his interest in the subject, perhaps. Ward McCarthy and I saw Martin Sheen scurrying out of a Johnny Rocket's hamburger restaurant in Santa Monica once, clutching a bag of hamburgers in his tiny, rat-like hands. I am not sure his hands were tiny! And I am quite sure they were BY NO MEANS rat-like; I just said that to startle you! Pleasantly, I trust. Over the years, my impressionistic gauzy memory has preserved Mr. Sheen as if in amber: a stumpy figure he appears in my strange and inaccurate dreams, with an enormous head. Movie stars all have enormous heads, I have been informed by dubious sources, and spindly little bodies scarcely capable of holding them up. But Harrison Ford is what made me recollect all this. Who knew he was the size of a doll? We do have one personal photo of Harrison Ford with his back turned. Let's "click" here and study it for clues. He's kind of hunched over, which doesn't help. And come to think of it, "Blog" Buddy Chris Offutt has been to Harrison Ford's house! We'll grill him later. But he may not be the kind to take the measure of a man and shout it to the prurient readership of height-obsessed jackals to whom I so willingly cater.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

A True Story of Gettin' Fancy With a Chalkboard

We had some oysters at Snackbar last night and I noticed the old chalkboard over the oyster bar was offering a selection from "Isle Dauphine, AL." And I asked my server if that wasn't just plain old regular Dauphin Island, right next door to where I grew up. And yes was the answer. Don't get fancy with me, chalkboard! So we got some Dauphin Island oysters and they actually tasted familiar to me - I was like, "I know you, oysters!" - unless I was fooling myself, as I usually am.

Monday, November 02, 2015

He Had Some Questions

Here is a diverting (partial) footnote from that Cleopatra biography: "By one account, Alexander the Great consulted a famed oracle about his parentage. He had some questions, which is what happens when your mother is said to have mated with a snake."

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Probably Good to Know

I guess you are wondering how our annual Halloween film festival ended up this year! Too many devil movies, if you ask me. Let me do the math. Looks like we held steady at 20% devil movies. Doesn't sound like a lot but it feels like a lot for somebody who's scared of the devil. THE DEVIL'S BRIDE was more atmospheric than TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, which isn't saying much. The devil appeared in THE DEVIL'S BRIDE and he got spooked by some car headlights! So that's good to know. He looked like, "WHOA!" I'd show you a frame of the devil seeming to think "HUH! WHAT!" when he sees the car headlights, but even though it was silly it's still too scary to "post" on the "blog." He had a scary goat head! I don't want to talk about it. Our final Halloween movie this year was Disney's THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD. The last half is a retelling of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," so that's some good Halloween material. The first half is about Mr. Toad's legal problems: not so scary. Unless you consider a bunch of drunk weasels (literal weasels) taking over your ancestral manse scary. But that reminds me! When I went to Disney World as a little kid, there was a ride called "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride." You get in a car and then a train hits you! That's the ride. And you end up in hell. That's how they did it at Disney back then. This, let me stress, was not part of the movie. I looked on the "internet" and found this photo (above) of some of the leering devils that used to mock you at the end of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, after you, the unsuspecting child taking the ride, had apparently been killed by an oncoming train and sent to hell. So there's a vague connection between THE DEVIL'S BRIDE and Mr. Toad after all.