Monday, October 15, 2018

Yeah I Guess

I was reading an article in the Washington Post about a Roman "vampire burial site," and at the end of the article, they suggested hyperlinks for further reading, which is how I came upon an old article about a guy who believes the earth is flat, so he launched himself in a homemade rocket. And they quoted him: "Am I glad I did it? Yeah. I guess.... At least I can go home and have dinner and see my cats tonight." Never have I more closely identified with a person who believes the earth is flat.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Billy Whiskers Temporarily Revitalizes "Blog"

I don't "blog" anymore, but people can't stop talking about BILLY WHISKERS. Chris Offutt writes in to say he has read all the Billy Whiskers books. McNeil, intrigued by Offutt's revelation of an entire library of Billy Whiskers literature, took to the internet, where he found a favorite cover: BILLY WHISKERS IN MISCHIEF. Surely there will be the devil to pay when that rascally goat Billy Whiskers discovers roller skating.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

An Ambitious Goat

In yesterday's "post" I forgot to include the imdb summary of the movie BILLY WHISKERS: "Billy Whiskers is an ambitious goat who's looking for the right career. He tries driving a taxi, but finds that it doesn't suit him. He finally finds his niche as a fireman, and becomes a hero by rescuing a baby from a burning house."

Friday, October 05, 2018

McNeil Month By Month

It's my friend McNeil's birthday, and you know what that means! Even though I no longer "blog," I am going to tell you what he has been doing every month since the inception of the defunct "blog." When I - due to the cessation of the "blog" - lack a digital record for "hyperlinking" I will mark that entry with an asterisk. Otherwise, feel free to "click" for more information with which to celebrate the continued existence of McNeil. September 2006: McNeil contends that he does not enjoy the "Little Dot" comic book. October 2006: McNeil furnishes a memorable quotation. November 2006: McNeil recalls playing Aerosmith on a jukebox. December 2006: First appearance of "McNeil's Movie Korner." January 2007: McNeil's system for winning at craps. February 2007: McNeil doesn't see what's so hard about reading a newspaper and eating a sandwich at the same time. March 2007: McNeil and I are talking about Bob Denver when HE SUDDENLY APPEARS ON TELEVISION! April 2007: Wild turkeys roam McNeil's neighborhood. May 2007: McNeil gets in touch with an Australian reporter regarding a historical chimp. June 2007: First McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival announced. July 2007: Medicine changes McNeil's taste buds. August 2007: McNeil's trees not producing apples. September 2007: McNeil pinpoints a problem with the "blog." October 2007: McNeil presents a video entitled "Jerry's pre-defecation chills." November 2007: McNeil's Theory of Potential Energy. December 2007: What is McNeil's favorite movie? January 2008: McNeil explains why the wind blows. February 2008: McNeil admires the paintings of Gerhard Richter. March 2008: McNeil comes up with an idea for a Lifetime TV movie. April 2008: McNeil's shirt. May 2008: McNeil's apple tree doing better (see August 2007). June 2008: McNeil is troubled by a man who wants to make clouds in the shape of logos. July 2008: McNeil's apples are doing great. August 2008: McNeil refuses to acknowledge that Goofy wears a hat no matter what I say. September 2008: McNeil's grocery store is permanently out of his favorite margarine. October 2008: McNeil on the space elevator. November 2008: McNeil comes across an incomplete episode guide to HELLO, LARRY. December 2008: McNeil thinks the human hand should have more fingers. January 2009: McNeil discovers that gin and raisins cure arthritis. February 2009: McNeil gets a big bruise on his arm. March 2009: McNeil wants a job on a cruise ship. April 2009: McNeil attempts to rescue a wayward balloon. May 2009: McNeil visits the Frogtown Fair. June 2009: McNeil dreams he is watching an endless production number from LI'L ABNER. July 2009: McNeil sends text messages from his cell phone while watching a Frank Sinatra movie. August 2009: McNeil disagrees philosophically with a comic book cover that shows a mad scientist putting a gorilla's brain in a superhero's body. September 2009: McNeil resembles famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach. October 2009: McNeil wears a surgical mask. November 2009: McNeil reports that a bird broke the large hadron collider by dropping a bread crumb on it. December 2009: McNeil advises me to like the universe or lump it. January 2010: McNeil eats soup. February 2010: McNeil tells of the hidden civilizations living deep beneath the surface of the earth. March 2010: McNeil recalls a carpet of his youth. April 2010: McNeil starts wearing a necktie. May 2010: McNeil's DNA sample fails to yield results. June 2010: McNeil thinks up some improvements for the movie 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. July 2010: McNeil reads to me from I, THE JURY. August 2010: McNeil finds a hair in his crab cake. September 2010: McNeil has a cold. October 2010: McNeil sends a nine-minute clip of a nice old man speaking at a UFO banquet. November 2010: McNeil sits in his car and looks at pictures of Jennifer Jones. December 2010: McNeil fears a ball of fire in the sky. January 2011: McNeil watches DYNASTY. February 2011: McNeil sees clouds that look like guys on horseback. March 2011: McNeil composes a "still life" photograph. April 2011: McNeil is upset when I interrupt his viewing of MATCH GAME. May 2011: McNeil pines for some old curtains. June 2011: McNeil eats Lucky Charms brand breakfast cereal. July 2011: McNeil investigates the history of the Phar-Mor drugstore chain. August 2011: McNeil compares Dean Moriarty to Dean Martin. September 2011: McNeil learns a lesson about pork and beans. October 2011: McNeil finds an article describing Robert Mitchum as "Bing Crosby supersaturated with barbiturates." November 2011: McNeil did nothing in November. December 2011: McNeil discovers scientists creating rainbows in a laboratory. January 2012: McNeil impersonates Paul Lynde. February 2012: McNeil dreams of matches. March 2012: McNeil's Theory of Potential Energy (see November 2007, above) used to chart the influence of Jerry Lewis on Carson McCullers. April 2012: McNeil disturbed by the art in his hotel room. May 2012: McNeil considers grave robbing. June 2012: McNeil's idea for "music television." July 2012: McNeil holds his negative feelings in check out of respect when the man who invented electric football dies. August 2012: McNeil reads me an old obituary of Charlie Callas over the phone. September 2012: McNeil concerned about T.J. Hooker's big meaty hands. October 2012: McNeil eats lunch at Target. November 2012: McNeil loves it when Bob Hope slips on a banana peel. December 2012: McNeil sees rocks that look like squirrels. January 2013: McNeil looks at an old, faded photo of a dog gazing into a Bath and Tile Emporium. February 2013: McNeil watches a video in which a hooded figure talks about "our criminal overlords." March 2013: McNeil wakes up at 6:40 in the evening, momentarily thinks it is 6:40 in the morning. April 2013: McNeil sees a singer who looks just like Bill Clinton. May 2013: McNeil is ashamed of himself for not realizing that Ida Lupino directed some episodes of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. June 2013: McNeil mails a cashew tree. July 2013: McNeil watches GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN. August 2013: McNeil recalls being rosy-cheeked. September 2013: A fairyland goes on in McNeil's head. October 2013: McNeil recalls tucking in his t-shirt. November 2013: The cover of a book McNeil buys says it is about Jerry Lewis, but on the inside the book is about Willie Stargell! December 2013: McNeil wants to visit an orgone box factory. January 2014: McNeil did nothing in January. February 2014: McNeil wonders whether Tom Franklin puts his hair in curlers. March 2014: McNeil takes a nap in the car. April 2014: The subject of McNeil pops up in an interview. May 2014: McNeil's emails on the "hollow earth" recalled (see February 2010, above). June 2014: McNeil looks forward to getting drunk and making insensitive remarks as I lie on my deathbed. July 2014: McNeil watches Jim and Henny Backus play themselves in DON'T MAKE WAVES. August 2014: McNeil tells about Robert Mitchum's hangover cure. September 2014: McNeil exaggerates the fate of some owls. October 2014: McNeil is incensed that a candy apple costs eight dollars at the airport. November 2014: McNeil's heart overflows with joy. December 2014: McNeil continues his 7-year chimp investigation (see May 2007, above). January 2015: McNeil listens to a conspiracy theorist who says Jimmy Carter was replaced by a series of robots. February 2015: McNeil recalls doing a report about matches in the eighth grade. March 2015: McNeil takes to bed with the flu! April 2015: McNeil and I establish an amazing psychic link. May 2015: McNeil bitterly recalls the time he brought a John Wayne movie to my apartment and we never watched it. June 2015: McNeil dreams about a bearded Dean Martin. July 2015: McNeil has a disappointing encounter with the Grand Canyon. August 2015: McNeil sees a squirrel holding a stick. September 2015: McNeil is saddened by the news of Dean Jones's death. October 2015: McNeil watches STARFLIGHT: THE PLANE THAT COULDN'T LAND. November 2015: McNeil sends video of Joe Namath making and eating a sandwich. December 2015: A coincidence of the type McNeil especially loves. January 2016: McNeil is in a grocery store and they start playing "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea" over the speakers! February 2016: McNeil watches Don Rickles eat in a bathroom. March 2016: McNeil is duly thrilled when Megan Abbott goes to see CRACKING UP on the big screen. April 2016: McNeil swallows a gnat. May 2016: McNeil recalls the details of a screenplay we wrote in our twenties. June 2016: Destruction comes to McNeil's apple tree! July 2016: McNeil spots Dabney Coleman in an I DREAM OF JEANNIE rerun. August 2016: McNeil points out that Dean Martin had granddaughters named Pepper, Montana, and Rio. September 2016: McNeil is called a "filthy troglodyte." October 2016: McNeil advises me on what to do now that ADVENTURE TIME has been canceled. "I say take it easy for a while... just pretend to write when Theresa's around and then sleep or watch movies when she leaves. Oh hell, you know how to work it," writes McNeil.* November 2016: McNeil sees an owl while walking his dog at midnight. December 2016: McNeil finds an Airbnb listing by "eccentric millionaires" for a treehouse featuring "whimsical taxidermy."* January 2017: McNeil notices that there are lots of ants in his writing.* February 2017: McNeil roots for the guy who stole a bucket full of gold flakes.* March 2017: McNeil reads an article suggesting that all the gold on Earth came from the collision of dead stars and says, "Let's go get us some of this!" seemingly suggesting a trip to outer space.* April 2017: McNeil recalls that he was washing dishes in 2015 when the thought of Gene Gene the Dancing Machine came into his head. Then he discovered that Gene Gene the Dancing Machine had just died!* May 2017: McNeil watches ISLAND IN THE SKY with his dog.* June 2017: McNeil is happy to see a movie with rotary phones and "people looking up stuff in a filing cabinet for a change."* July 2017: McNeil begins alerting me to weather situations in my area like he's my mother.* August 2017: McNeil connects heavenly signs and portents with the death of Jerry Lewis. September 2017: A critique by McNeil inspires a choice of airplane reading material. October 2017: McNeil cruelly but fairly shuts down my scheme of crossbreeding an apple with a lemon. November 2017: "Death knows my weak spot!" McNeil exclaims.* December 2017: McNeil leafs through CARIBOU TRAVELER. January 2018: McNeil catches a cold and stays in bed watching old game shows, writing from his sickbed: "Bobby Van looks so healthy...but would be dead only 5 years later... GATHER YE ROSEBUDS!"* February 2018: McNeil gives me a good idea about how to win a coupla sawbucks from likely suckers. March 2018: McNeil's complaint about sleeping: "I dream way too much."* April 2018: McNeil watches a movie in which Dean Martin claims to "make a hell of an owl stew.* May 2018: I ask McNeil what lightning is for (see January 2008) and he explains it to me.* June 2018: McNeil's mom stumbles on an old book about the comical dog Marmaduke from McNeil's younger days and is excited to deliver it to him.* July 2018: While walking his dog, McNeil sees a bone fall out of the sky. August 2018: Having made it to season five, McNeil, though a stalwart fan, watches what he considers to be the worst episode of BEWITCHED so far.* September 2018: McNeil finds one page of a history skit we did in ninth grade. October 2018: McNeil emails a still from the silent movie BILLY WHISKERS (above), the subject of an innocuous, decades-long inside joke. Using me as an intermediary, he also consults Ace Atkins about the little-known film version of DARKER THAN AMBER... set in Florida but filmed, as Ace explains, mostly in Germany!*

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Amazing Cigarette Lighter I Don't Care About

There is an amazing cigarette lighter in the Eve Babitz book I'm reading right now and I would tell you about it if I cared about anything.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Third Owl

Well, there have been two more owls in ULYSSES. I don't need to remind YOU that it's not my responsibility to tell you EVERY time an owl appears in a book, but the third owl is unusual enough to warrant comment, plus it is an actual owl, not - like the first two - a figurative one. It sits on the mantelpiece of Mr. Bloom, "an embalmed owl, matrimonial gift of Alderman John Hooper" with a "clear melancholy wise bright motionless compassionate gaze."

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Farewell, Noble Instrument

As you know, I don't "blog" anymore, but something has happened. Do you remember when a waiter at '21' gave me a pen to keep? Of course you do. Otherwise, you would have a heart of stone. I am sad to tell you that the pen - which, as I calculate, was given to me on the evening of June 1, 2015 - has just run out of ink. Still, here was an instrument of admirable, nay, miraculous stamina. Who knows how long the employees of '21' had used it before one of them passed it along to me? How I will miss it. I jotted something with it almost every day. I was jotting something for a secret job I can't tell you about when it inked its last. Faithful to the end!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Plaintive Hot Dog Reflection

As you know, Megan Abbott and I are in the habit of reading celebrity bios together. Right now we are reading the most astonishingly inept biography yet, I think - the writing and editing (and even the proofreading) so dismal that I shan't name it, though I have to relate that its subject is Mickey Rooney. Like, we have to send paragraphs back and forth to each other for analysis. What do they mean? How did they end up in the book? Was it a production mistake? Something breaks through occasionally... like the weary, plaintive quotation of an interview subject who invested in Mickey's hot dog restaurant: "They sold square hot dogs in a bun. Square hot dogs. I think that says it all." But! There is one loopy paragraph that, while still not good, rises out of the book, leaps off the page, because its tone becomes so unlike any of the other clunky, jumbled passages which make up the rest. The authors are describing an agent of Mickey's later years whose bedroom was filled with raccoons, both living and stuffed. The entire paragraph is worth quoting, if only to demonstrate that I'm not kidding about the writing, but sadly I have only enough energy to type up the end of it: "But it was the raccoons, the raccoons! Those eyes, red in the soft light, were unwavering; they would stare at you as she fed them. You would never forget them." You will have to take my word for it that nothing else in the text matches the urgency of "the raccoons, the raccoons!" and the desperate slip into the second person. For two seconds the writing verges into the expressively personal. Somebody is really haunted by those raccoons.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Never Cried Crack

I was rereading ULYSSES yesterday or the day before and came upon "by the holy farmer, he never cried crack till he brought him home as drunk as a boiled owl"... I don't "blog" anymore. But I do let you know when I read a book with an owl in it. And the idea that owls are drunk or seem drunk is prevalent, so it must be noted.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Action Northam

Spoiler alert for the movie MIMIC, which Dr. Theresa and I were watching last night: when noted action hero Jeremy Northam needs to light his lighter to blow up all the monster bugs, it won't work, and he is forced to strike a spark by using an ice pick against a metal grate. Now! As you may know, I am somewhat like the Ancient Mariner, though my predicament is different. I am forced to roam the earth, noticing things I should have put in my cigarette lighter book but didn't. This scene would have fit comfortably into one of the sections in which I mention sparks being struck by unusual methods OR in my reflection on lighters that won't work at crucial moments in popular culture.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Important Bone Happening

You know I stopped "blogging" for good but sometimes something happens that MUST be reported. Like, McNeil was walking his dog today and A BONE FELL OUT OF THE SKY. McNeil took a picture of the bone and sent it to me and here it is. (See also.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

My Slowly Growing Appendix

Hey, you remember how I wrote a book about cigarette lighters then immediately stopped caring about cigarette lighters, but once in a while I see something that really should have gone into my book about cigarette lighters so I add it to a very slowly growing appendix. Well, last night Dr. Theresa and I watched STARGATE, and when an alien kid grows mesmerized by Kurt Russell's cigarette lighter, it speaks to a trope I introduced on page 46, if you want to grab your copy of my cigarette lighter book and pencil it in, because I knew this trope existed, but I didn't provide any examples, because I really couldn't think of any, so I wrote about things that were sort of like it (accurately noting, as does become apparent in STARGATE, "It's always a short leap to the more ominous flare of gunpowder") and now, thanks to watching STARGATE last night, I have an example of the rather gross trope where the white man comes to a "remote" place and blows everybody's mind with his cigarette lighter, goodbye.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


I was reading this article ("click" here) that Megan Abbott wrote about Raymond Chandler, and I thought that in the illustration (above) Chandler resembled the actor Edward Norton. So I googled "edward norton" + "raymond chandler" to see if anyone agreed with me and it doesn't appear that anyone does. What came up most often was the movie BIRDMAN, in which Mr. Norton appeared. A surprising number of news outlets seemed to believe that the short story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" (which plays a large role in the movie BIRDMAN) was written by Raymond Chandler. One of them... I'll name them and shame them!... IndieWire... IndieWire thinks that BIRDMAN itself is a Raymond Chandler short story! "Based on a Raymond Chandler short story, the narrative centers on a former actor who once played an iconic superhero," claims IndieWire like a bunch of dummies. Okay! Well, I crafted a "tweet" on the subject but it was really too dense for a tweet, so I deleted it, and though I don't "blog" anymore, here we are, and nobody cares, and why should anybody?

Monday, July 09, 2018

Dean Cake Birthday Head

For my birthday McNeil sent this photo of Dean Martin's head coming out of a cake. For the first and only time in his life, Jerry appears to be embarrassed.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Much in the manner that James Joyce wanted scholars to pore over his works for entire lifetimes, I am going to spend the weeks and months to come trying to figure out this joke book that Ace Atkins gave me. It is reputedly by Milton Berle, though I suspect he had some help, if you want to call it help. I'm not sure some of these things are jokes! I know it is a joke book because right at the top there it says "Milton Berle's Joke Book." But - and this is a matter for further study, I'll have to get back to you - it seems to aspire to a narrative structure, which seems uncalled for. One section is just Milton Berle imagining what other people famous at the time might say in apparently nonexistent movies that he seems to be creating in his febrile head. (Parenthetically, I will digress: more accurately, upon further scrutiny, the section purports to be made up of movie scripts that a talking elephant named Klinemine Klinemine is reading at the library. You can see why I'm going to need to spend some time with the text.) I will quote one example in full. "BETTY HUTTON (after a quarrel): Leave this house. I never want to see you again. Go this instant. BING CROSBY: I have one last request to make before I go. BETTY (sweetly, oh, very sweetly): Well, what is it? BING (brutally): Before I leave forever, would you mind getting off my lap?" Now if that isn't straight out of the Circe section of ULYSSES, what is? Maybe it's the "sweetly, oh, very sweetly" that sounds Joycean. And the "Klinemine Klinemine" of course: pure multilingual punning and mystical doubling in the tradition of FINNEGANS WAKE. Well! But is it a joke? The Bing Crosby thing, I mean? I don't see how. Why Betty Hutton's sudden change of mood, for example? Are we to take it that her instigating rage was disingenuous? Why? And wouldn't the "joke," such as it is, work better on the radio, assuming it could work at all? In what way could it be convincingly filmed? I feel strongly that Milton Berle isn't providing enough context. In the pure terms of the joke as a platonic object, what's the setup? Are we supposed to believe that Milton Berle is that experimental, or that the elephant with whom he has made friends for the purposes of the plot is that experimental, or, to be as accurate as possible, that the elephant who is friends with Milton Berle goes to the library and seeks out movie scripts that seem to have been cut up and pasted back together by William S. Burroughs, so devoid of traditional structure as to verge on the abstract? On the next page there's a joke about zoo sex, I guess it's all right. I know I'm not "blogging" anymore but I need somewhere to thoroughly analyze this book, which I would truly believe was produced in a lab by a crude form of artificial intelligence if it weren't so old. (PS I didn't realize it was Bloomsday until after I first "posted" this! Dear me, how precocious I am. It's a real freaking shame I don't "blog" anymore.)

Saturday, June 09, 2018

My Greatest Failing

The skimpiest (if not the shortest) chapter of the book I wrote about cigarette lighters is the one on built-in car cigarette lighters. Serious research was elusive. I called the editor of ANTIQUE AUTOMOBILE MAGAZINE for some suggested reading on the subject of the very first car cigarette lighters and his response, if I may paraphrase, was "Eh." I read an entire book about Henry Ford's commercial enterprises and found only (as it pertained to my subject) that he was a rabid anti-tobacco activist, but there was no mention of whether that had any effect on the lighters he did or didn't install in his cars. The only funny part was that his son Edsel used to sit in his office and sullenly smoke cigarettes to get on his dad's nerves. He was the only employee of Ford allowed to smoke! Well! None of this improves the skimpiness of my "car cigarette lighter" chapter. So it is the case that while I no longer care at all about what I left out of my cigarette lighter book ("click" here for a partial list), I do bristle with a sense of regret whenever I see an imaginative use of a car cigarette lighter in a movie, such as when Dr. Theresa and I were watching LEPRECHAUN the other night and a quick-thinking Jennifer Aniston burns the attacking leprechaun's nose with a car cigarette lighter.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018


Lee Durkee wrote in some time ago to observe that I truly appear to have stopped "blogging" as I constantly and accurately claim to have done. It is the indisputable case that May was my least "bloggy" month ever in all my months and years of "blogging." Why, I even took a trip to Los Angeles in May, and brought along my special jotting book and jotted down some of my special jottings, but I did not "blog" them out. Lee speculated that maybe owls have been scarce. There was, in fact, a second owl in the Roy Blount Jr. book, and not a metaphorical one, either, but as you know, I am not required to tell you about EVERY owl in every book, just one owl per book. I'm glad we have cleared that up. Occasionally I notice jelly in books as well. Like in this Orson Welles biography Megan and I are reading. It's Simon Callow's multi-volume biography, which we are reading out of order for reasons that need not concern you. Anyway, now we're on Volume Two, and James Agee, in a contemporary review, describes Orson in JANE EYRE as having eyes like "side-orders of jelly."

Friday, May 04, 2018

Failure to Launch

I'm just as sick and tired of telling you every time I read a book with an owl in it as you are of hearing about it. But this is where we are. As you know, Megan Abbott and I have a little two-person show-biz book club, which, at one time, unbeknownst to you, we expanded to include Jim Bouton's BALL FOUR, using the rationalization that the rascally knuckleballer had acted in THE LONG GOODBYE. Well! That opened us up, eventually, to ABOUT THREE BRICKS SHY OF A LOAD, Roy Blount Jr.'s book about the 1973 Pittsburgh Steelers. (They, of course, included Mean Joe Greene, who made a famous Coca-Cola commercial, and Terry Bradshaw, who went on to act in such films as FAILURE TO LAUNCH, but we didn't think of that.) Anyhow, early in the book one of Roy's ancestors is spoken of as being "poor as owl dung."

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Rehabilitated Owl Ceremony

I don't "blog" anymore but hey, I got this email from Abby the other day: "Last night I ran a 5K to raise money for an organization that rehabilitates injured wild animals in the Atlanta area, and instead of just passing out water along the way like they do at most races, the volunteers were holding rehabilitated owls for inspiration to keep running. If we placed in our age category (I did!) they took pictures of us with the owls as part of the medal ceremony. Best of all, the overall winners of the entire race won paintings that had been painted by the owls. (One of the paintings was actually by a flying squirrel.) I thought that was information that you should have." Yes, Abby, I like everything about it except for my own mental image of owls and squirrels being forced to paint pictures.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Child of Ruins

Sat in the coffee shop reading THE CONFERENCE OF THE BIRDS, freshly purchased from Square Books, and there is an owl in it, which shouldn't have surprised me and, in fact, did not surprise me. "The Owl stepped forward, a bit crazed,/ and said: Abandoned sites are my lair./ I was born in and am a child of ruins,/ so don't think I go to such places to secretly drink." Yeah, sure, you and me both, owl! (Translation by Sholeh Wolpe.)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Damn Owl

Reading Ace Atkins's latest novel in manuscript form and just reached an owl, and not just any owl: "a damn owl." By coincidence, I'm holding down the pages I've finished with this owl paperweight (seen above) given to me by Megan Abbott's mother. In case some of you have forgotten, I make a note of it every time I read a book with an owl in it. No, I don't recall why.

Monday, April 16, 2018


A tweet from Brian reminds me there is an owl in Thurber's FABLES FOR OUR TIME.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Big Dorrit

I was right: LITTLE DORRIT has an owl in it. Big Dorrit chides Little Dorrit like so: "It's no use staring. A little owl could stare." So I was also right in my groundbreaking prediction that owl eyes are shaping up to be the dominant symbol of 2018. Put it in the bank! I am sorry it took me so long to get to the owl. I just have so many celebrity tell-alls to read with Megan Abbott (next up, Joseph Cotten! Say... did you know Kent Osborne once drove Joseph Cotten's widow in a limousine? But that's another story). I would like to say that Little Dorrit's sister is not really named Big Dorrit. I just put it that way for your amusement. One book that happily interrupted LITTLE DORRIT was THE LONELY WITNESS by Bill Boyle. I'll be "in conversation" with Bill (that's WILLIAM BOYLE on his book covers!) at Square Books on May 2, when THE LONELY WITNESS comes out. Don't worry, I'll remind you!

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Al's Favorite

I don't know why I ever made Al Pacino one of my handy "blog" "labels": I haven't "blogged" about him since 2011. But! I suppose it was all leading to this. So! You remember when Jerry Lewis died. It wasn't too long ago. And I cobbled together a hasty "post" containing 101 ways to appreciate Jerry. Today I saw an interview with Al Pacino in which he describes a scene from THE BELLBOY as "one of his favorites of all time" and draws an implicit comparison between his style of acting and Jerry's. It's just the kind of thing I would have put on my list, and so, though I don't "blog" anymore, I'm adding it here as an appendix. Oh! And you know what? I feel I've been vindicated for the time in 2010 I claimed to have caught Pacino imitating Jerry in a movie. "Click" here to find out which movie! I know you won't. That's why I don't "blog" anymore.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Drunken Owl Butler

Laura Lippman recommended JUNIOR MISS by Sally Benson, a slim collection of understated, warm short stories about a girl and her family. So last night I read the one in which our protagonist, Judy Graves, appears in an all-girl junior-high production of THE TEMPEST as Stephano, a character described in the program notes as "a drunken butler." So... "She reeled onto the stage, a bottle in her hand. Her smooth, dark-brown hair was covered with a straw-colored wig, the tip of her nose was painted a bright red. Her clothes were awry and she looked as tight as an owl." We come again, then, to the notion that owls are drunk or appear to be drunk, catalogued here for your convenience.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Something of the Young

I was remarking to Megan Abbott that James Dean's performance in EAST OF EDEN really had something of the young Jerry Lewis in it, and Megan told me that James Dean actually worked with Jerry in SAILOR BEWARE (as seen above; that's James Dean nearest to Jerry in the background). James Dean's one line in the movie is "He's a professional!" And it's about Jerry Lewis. But as you know, I don't "blog" anymore, and the former facts are not enough to get me temporarily "blogging." But! I watched SAILOR BEWARE today and there is a scene in which Dean Martin is smooching with Betty Hutton and Jerry intervenes, volunteering to trade places with Betty Hutton! And here we are. I have mentioned before ("click" here) that the supposed subtext between Dean and Jerry is not subtext at all, but plain, simple text. And this confirmation is reason enough to "blog," I think. As long as I have you here, I think I will mention that I watched CONTEMPT tonight. Jack Palance's character is named Jerry, and I couldn't help wondering whether Godard had Jerry Lewis in mind. He always has Jerry Lewis in mind! And I could imagine the character "Jerry" played by Jerry with some of the imposing menace he displayed in THE KING OF COMEDY. But! When Jack Palance throws a film can like it's a discus, with such startling physicality, well! I've never said this before, but Jerry couldn't have done it better. I do believe Godard might have had Jerry in mind, though, because he certainly had Dean in mind: Michel Piccoli's character explicitly idolizes Dean Martin, and wears a hat, he says, to look like him:
If I were still "blogging" I would mention that Dr. Theresa and I could not agree tonight at which theater in Atlanta we saw CONTEMPT on the big screen. We did agree that we saw it with our friend Heather, with whom I used to be in a band. But I'm not "blogging" anymore, so that kind of thing is immaterial. I do realize that I can't stop thinking of Jerry in movies he is not in (EAST OF EDEN, CONTEMPT), and that probably means there is something seriously wrong with me. CONTEMPT ends with the word "Silencio!" which put me in mind of MULHOLLAND DR., which put me in mind of Jerry Lewis. Please send help.


Welcome once again to "McNeilileaks," where I publish the shocking private contents of my friend McNeil's emails. McNeil writes: "If you're so convinced every book will have an owl (or owl reference) in it, you should stand outside a bookstore with a $100 bill and bet exiting customers your hundred to their $20 that the book they just bought has an owl in it. And odds are you win yourself twenty bucks! A good hustle." I'm with McNeil on this one.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Neither Do I

Remember my nonfiction book about cigarette lighters? Neither do I. Unfortunately, I keep being reminded of it. I just rewatched Tati's MON ONCLE. When the wind keeps blowing out Tati's matches he tosses each useless match out the window of his brother-in-law's car. Then his brother-in-law hands him the car's electric cigarette lighter. Tati uses it to light his pipe and then nonchalantly tosses it out the window. See, I know just where this should have gone in my cigarette lighter book. But it came out in January 2016, so I guess I'm screwed. It would have been interesting to contrast Tati's innocent tossing of the cigarette lighter with the bitter way (recounted in the book) John Belushi and Hal Needham toss cigarette lighters out of car windows. No it wouldn't have been.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

They're Swiveling!

It behooves me to remind you from time to time that although I am not "blogging" anymore I do continue to update the big, long list I keep of books I read that have owls in them, because every book I read seems to end up having an owl in it. Furthermore, I should remind you of my startlingly accurate prediction that owl eyes, specifically, were shaping up to be the hot trend of 2018. And so we come to FINAL CUT, a book about the making of the movie HEAVEN'S GATE, which Megan and I are reading in our never-ending cavalcade of show biz tell-alls. You will be glad to hear that an executive is described as having "owllike eyes," and not only that, these owllike eyes are "swiveling... behind his huge spectacles, glinting in the early-morning sunlight like windshields." And while you might think that conceit is a little jumbled, please do not forget the "suicidal owl" in the Charles Portis novel NORWOOD, which crashes into the windshield of a bus. In conclusion, this gives me permission to remind everyone that the rollerskating scene (my favorite!) in HEAVEN'S GATE inspired Jake's blissful viola-playing-while-rollerskating scene in ADVENTURE TIME.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Shadowy Green Carpet

I don't "blog" anymore but I was watching THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY and saw what I think is the same green carpet that McNeil claims Jerry Lewis put in THE PATSY and reused some decades later in CRACKING UP. Or you know what? It may be some other green carpet. But I do know I've seen Jerry wearing the same bathrobe in two different movies for a fact. Hey! You can't even really see the carpet in this shot. There's a shadow obscuring it. Now you know why I don't "blog" anymore.

Friday, February 02, 2018

The Hooting Monk

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I haven't "blogged" about GREEN ACRES since December 31 nor LITTLE DORRIT (which I'm sure has an owl in it: it has everything else in it) since December 8. That's right, I've stalled on both for a number of reasons, including an email from McNeil about ghosts and time travel. Never mind why, but that email reminded me of a novel by Daphne Du Maurier that my mother recommended to me about 40 years ago but I forgot to read it. So now I'm finally reading THE HOUSE ON THE STRAND and I just got to a part where a 14th-century monk imitates an owl.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Lot of Time to Think

I have always loved STEP BROTHERS because it is the only movie of the last ten years that I can imagine with Dean and Jerry in the lead roles. But it was not until emailing Phil Oppenheim about the matter this morning that I stopped to realize that Will Ferrell would be the Dean Martin. That surprised me! It surprised me even though Will Ferrell's character's beautiful singing voice is pivotal. Meanwhile, John C. Reilly's character exhibits the "fear of sex" that Jerry so often embodies. And while Dean falling in love with his therapist would have been played straighter (there are always therapists in these movies!) the end results would have been the same. In fact, the romantic relationships in STEP BROTHERS would appear to parallel almost exactly the pairings in ARTISTS AND MODELS... Dorothy Malone (so recently deceased) a figure of authority and Kathryn Hahn clearly our answer to Shirley MacLaine, not that she needs an answer, as she is still with us, and come to think of it, then, Shirley MacLaine is our Shirley MacLaine. Anyway, I have a lot of time to think these days.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Owlish Scrap-Iron Heir

Now Megan and I are reading Oleg Cassini's autobiography, and like nearly every other book I ever read it has an owl in it. Sometimes the owls aren't real owls. You know what? They're never real owls when you think about it. I don't want to get too deep. They're just words on a page, man. "Bobby was an owlish looking fellow, heir to a large scrap-iron business."