Monday, January 24, 2022

Dramatic Moment

At a dramatic moment in her autobiography, June Havoc describes herself as being "owl-eyed and frightened." If you know me at all, which you don't, you know why I am compelled to tell you this (see previous "hyperlink"). But it's not much, is it? So as long as I am here, it has been too long since I was upset by a TV commercial. I've seen one recently in which Charlie the Tuna, the mascot of Starkist brand tuna products, boasts of having branched out into the chicken business. He announces a chicken product which has, quote, "the look and texture" of his tuna. Often have I pondered, listening to Charlie the Tuna's pitch, how it is a selling point.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

I Watched the Hot Dog Being Built

I read a sentence I liked (see above) and emailed about it seperately to three friends: Megan, Sarah, and McNeil. Therefore I feel I have already written about it extensively and, as I no longer "blog" anymore, it hardly seems worth the effort to create "new content." As a result, I have chosen to cut-and-paste one of the emails below, the one I wrote to Sarah, to be precise, as it seemed to contain the most thrilling moments representing the richness of human experience. Here, then, is the email I composed to Sarah: "So, remember how, just six days ago, in the Sherman Oaks area, I told you an intriguing story of how Pen advised me 'Don't look!' when his dog pooped, but then we (you and I) looked out the window of your car and saw a large dog plainly pooping in our direction? You really made me laugh by comparing the experience to the movie SERENDIPITY. Ha ha ha! I'm still laughing. Anyway, so my friend Megan and I are in a book club of two where we read biographies and autobiographies of show biz types. Right now, we're on June Havoc, who performed in vaudeville as 'Dainty June.' You may remember her as a character in the biographical musical GYPSY, which was based on her family. None of this matters. Nor does it matter that her autobiography has a great first sentence: 'I watched the hot dog being built.' What matters is that the original (?) owner of the book was a Dane Blackburn, who dwelt at 211 E. 62nd Street in NYC. If found, he wished his book to be returned to him there [as indicated on the flyleaf]. Now here's the kicker! I looked at the address on Google Maps and they helpfully provide the name of the nearest restaurant. SERENDIPITY! Which is about something scribbled in the front of a book, right? The movie, I mean. And I think it's also named after that restaurant? You know, I've never seen the whole thing. I have attached photographic evidence for your examination." This concludes the email to Sarah. As an amazing postscript, to which Megan, Sarah, and McNeil have all been alerted, Eleanor Roosevelt lived at 211 E. 62nd Street from 1953-1958, as evidenced by this real estate video ("click" here). The book, however, came out in 1959, so my copy most likely did not pass through Mrs. Roosevelt's hands. In conclusion, though I brought my jotting book to Los Angeles, I will not be sharing my jottings on this occasion. That being said, I did have hot dogs with Elizabeth Ito, my brother, and Lee Durkee at a place out in Eagle Rock, which bears mentioning given the subject of Havoc's opening remarks.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Pancake Research

I found reason to recall a long-ago exchange in the "writers' room," when someone mentioned putting syrup on pancakes, whereupon Hanna, calling in from Sweden, said, with a degree of alarm, something like, "What kind of syrup would you put on pancakes?" Adam replied, "Breakfast syrup." Hanna said, and this may be a direct quote, "Breakfast syrup? You guys are crazy." We asked what goes on pancakes in Sweden and Hanna said, "Jam." Now, we all had to admit that sounded great! But it was clear that syrup in Sweden is different than what we call syrup in the USA. All of this came back to me as I contemplated the molasses sandwiches in Ingmar Bergman's film FANNY AND ALEXANDER. After recording my thoughts on the film below, I dispatched an urgent query to Hanna, asking what the translator might have been getting at. Hanna concluded that the children were most likely enjoying some treacle (AKA golden syrup) on bread, a cheaper substitute for honey on bread. Now, the grandmother in FANNY AND ALEXANDER seemed as if she would be able to afford all the honey a child could ever eat, but that is none of my beeswax. Ha ha. Hanna told me there is nothing like molasses in Sweden, although both she and I may have been conflating molasses and syrup, as I know from visiting dozens of websites that are all too eager to explain in excruciating detail the myriad important differences between molasses and syrup, which I perversely refuse to commit to memory, despite all my feigned interest in the subject.

Monday, December 27, 2021

The Body Finder

It is my duty to inform you that Megan Abbott and I continue apace with what might seem, to an outside observer, our increasingly bizarre book club. For example, now we are reading the memoir of a playwright, all about the time he wrote a doomed (?) play for Mary Martin and Carol Channing. I bring it up because the author includes himself in a group of "eight serious-looking, owl-eyed men." As you know, I am compelled by unknown forces to make a note whenever I read a book with an owl in it. In my struggle to make the current iteration entertaining, I might mention that this is the first time an author has referred to himself as owl-eyed, in my experience. "Owl-eyed," from my understanding of the term, does not come across as a compliment. It is generally applied to other people. I have done no research by which to validate anything I have just said. I will add, just to put a cherry on top, that during his boyhood, the author was known by the unsettling nickname "the body finder," because he found five dead bodies. Those bodies, I believe, were found on five separate occasions, and by accident, as the author shoehorns into a parenthetical. Now, he does specify that he was a teenager when he kept finding bodies. I'm not great at math, but I think that means he found a body on average once every year and four months or so. I'll bet he started getting nervous every time the new year rolled around! We'll never know, because he mentions his body finding abilities so blithely that Megan missed it entirely until I brought it up.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Sandwich and Alexander

As you know, I have given up "blogging" entirely. However, something has occurred which requires immediate comment. You no doubt recall with a bittersweet admixture of reverence and nostalgia the time I noticed the importance of sandwiches to Bergman's SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE. Having recently rewatched the same director's FANNY AND ALEXANDER, I was stunned to discover that it features even more sandwiches than SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE. The exciting prospect of studying the entire Bergman oeuvre from the perspective of sandwiches presents itself. In FANNY AND ALEXANDER, an unusually lenient wife orders up "two cheese sandwiches" for herself and her happy, adulterous husband. Soon, the eponymous children are offered "a molasses sandwich," which the subtitles have in the singular. I will have to learn Swedish for a more complete examination. Moments later, for example, the children are asked to put down the "sandwiches," plural. One may imagine that half of a molasses sandwich is enough for any child. Perhaps the single molasses sandwich was divided in two, becoming, for all practical purposes, two sandwiches. While "half a sandwich" is a traditional unit of sandwich measurement, it is not difficult to picture two halves of the same sandwich, being consumed by two separate people, as "sandwiches." A mystery! I am put in mind of the J.J. Special, a favorite order from Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta. It was a patty melt of sorts, divided into four sections, each held together by a fancy toothpick. At some point, the J.J. Special was changed, and it came to the table cut in half, appallingly like any ordinary sandwich. It took a long time to get used to the new configuration. I should also mention that the J.J. Special might have been the name of the entire order (which came with onion rings AND fries), and not merely the name of the sandwich (see Dr. Frankenstein and his monster). We may further examine two sandwiches of unspecified ingredients in FANNY AND ALEXANDER. The cruel and austere bishop asks for "a sandwich and a glass of milk," while the happy adulterer is promised "a beer and a sandwich" to be served in bed by his indulgent wife. Can it be that a sandwich is the one food that pairs well with either milk or beer? I have put no thought into the question. But surely we may draw many conclusions from the beverage choices of these two very different characters. In conclusion, sandwiches for the happy adulterous Swedish man form somewhat of a framing device in FANNY AND ALEXANDER, as they appear near the beginning and near the end of the film. One might say, then, that the film itself is a sandwich.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

A Fairly Accurate Prediction

I woke up late this morning and turned over and looked at a bookshelf near the bed. My eye was drawn to THE CANTOS of Ezra Pound. I lay there thinking, huh, I never read that, and I'm getting old, and I'll probably never read it. I guess that's what got me out of bed. I went over and picked up the book and looked at it, thinking some more about how I'm old and will never read it. "Well, let's see what you've got for me today," I said aloud, and opened to random page, and saw a line about "the bearded owl making catcalls." Now we're getting to the part of the story you're going to tell your children about one day. I thought, well, well, well, have I ever "blogged" about Ezra Pound? And it turned out I did so in 2013, having read the first four or five cantos, and predicting with 100% confidence that there was an owl in this book somewhere, and further predicting (less accurately) that I would never know, because (back to being accurate again) I would never finish reading the book.