Sunday, December 31, 2006
The "blog" is positive. That's why I can't really tell you about the Dean Martin movie that Theresa and I watched the night before last, a film in which it seemed, in Theresa's memorable analysis, that "the screenwriter had malaria." I can tell you, however, that Theresa and I made up for the experience by watching Martin and Lewis in SCARED STIFF last night, co-starring the always compelling Lizabeth Scott (you may know her from the Dick Powell classic THE PITFALL). Let's hear it for Lizabeth Scott (pictured), always someone positive upon whom to concentrate! And let's hear it for my torturous, if technically correct, syntax! All this leads me to confess something. For several weeks now, I have been withholding a cigarette holder sighting of the kind that I have vowed in good faith to apprise you of without fail. There were several gentlemen with cigarette holders in a DVD I saw recently. It was one of those plays that have been transposed to the screen direct from the stage. But it was filmed in close-up for no apparent reason, so that the waxen, caky, hideous, sweat-leaking rouge, etc., lit as blindingly as a grocery store, distracted wholly from the content. I could think of nothing positive to say about it. But that's no excuse for backing out of my solemn vow. Let's lay all our cards on the table and start the New Year right!
Saturday, December 30, 2006
You know how we like words here at the "blog," words like "dag" and "blee." Well, here's a word that the translators of THE IDIOT like quite a bit: galimatias. Lizaveta Prokofyevna Epanchin just loves to get worked up about stuff and go around shouting "Sheer galimatias!" at everybody, especially the poor prince. Spread it around. Galimatias!
Hello and welcome to McNeil's Movie Korner, a regular feature in which Jeff McNeil guides you through the world of fancy cinema. Mr. McNeil is still busy with other pursuits, but he took the time to drop the following note, with the instructions that it be "posted" as an edition of his beloved column: "Here's a link I think the kids will enjoy..."
Opened up the old turntable today - it gave me the idea of starting a regular feature where I'll be recommending the finest in vinyl recordings from thirty years ago. That should come in handy! And right now there's an open call for suggestions as to the title of this series. Puns on the word "groove" are encouraged, but not mandatory. Anyway, in today's dig through the olden crates I came across a couple of records in the "Turnabout Chamber Music Series." As I recall, these were extremely cheap records back when I was a teenaged gink. Perhaps my memory is playing tricks but I recall them as being half the price of other records. In any case, they introduced me to music that remains among my favorite to this day, like the Mozart Quintet for Piano and Winds and the speed-freaky Mendelssohn Octet. Of course, over the years, as I've grown "mod," I've bought the Mozart and the Mendelssohn on "CD." But I've never run across the weirdly jaunty (for Beethoven) Serenade for Flute, Violin, and Viola anywhere else but that good old slab of vinyl from the Turnabout Chamber Music Series. Jump in a time machine and get yours today!
Friday, December 29, 2006
Hi, and welcome to McNeil's Movie Korner. Jeff McNeil is off this week, working on a short story about cremation, student filmmaking, and time travel (you can read another one of his stories by "clicking" on his name at this "link") and I'm honored to be filling in. Well, folks, I've made an auspicious purchase, I believe: a "six pack" of movies for around twenty bucks. It's called the "Drama Pack," and it's put out by a company called Geneon. Look, I can't vouch for the quality because I haven't seen any of the movies yet, but it certainly is a strange and titillating grab-bag. I mean, there's an Erskine Caldwell adaptation directed by Anthony Mann and featuring Buddy Hackett! Plus a murder mystery "set in the world of international stamp collecting." Not to mention a neat B-picture called THE BIG COMBO that I saw several years ago and enjoyed a lot. Maybe they're all oddball movies that somehow fell into the public domain, I don't know. But I'm going to give them a shot. Intriguing! In a second bit of movie news, Theresa and I got the car tuned up today and bided our time at a showing of THE GOOD SHEPHERD. What we saw was great. We had to leave early to pick up the car, but we plan to go back and see the whole thing. It was so good, we won't mind starting over from the beginning. I tell you, this Matt Damon kid is one to look out for. Between THE GOOD SHEPHERD and THE DEPARTED he's honestly the Dick Powell for today. I'm not cracking wise. I've thought about it a lot and may even try to incorporate it in my article, though I've already submitted a "finished" version. (The Powell comparison may or may not be bolstered by Damon's surprising musical turn in THE GOOD SHEPHERD, singing one of Theresa's favorite Gilbert & Sullivan numbers.) Okay, that's it for today's special edition of McNeil's Movie Korner. Jeff McNeil will return next week with who knows what kind of tidbits. (Pictured, Buddy Hackett and Heather Thomas.)
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Hey, you know in TEN RUNGS, Martin Buber's collection of Hasidic sayings, where the Great Maggid says you can learn three things from a child and seven from a thief? And you know how the number three thing you can learn from a child is "When he needs something, he demands it vigorously"? Well, thanks to Martin Buber and the Great Maggid now I have a new belt! I'm going to wait until morning to try it on, so I'll have something to "blog" about tomorrow.
I put in a call to Jeff McNeil, who was busy on his route at the time but had the answer at his fingertips in a superhuman flash. "Oh," he said, in response to my description of Dean Martin on a revolving bed, "that's a Matt Helm movie. It's the one where he goes to Mexico. I think it's THE AMBUSHERS. It's not THE WRECKING CREW. The bed tilts and drops him into a big bathtub full of beer with women in it."
Theresa and I just got back from a meeting with the history professor at the usual spot, where the generous gentleman in question oversaw the procurement of the libations. Conversation ran from The Wire to Apocalypto to Jimmy Carter to Dean Martin, the latter of whom the prof had seen just yesterday in Athens, GA, on a TV screen at a diner, talking on the telephone and revolving on a motorized round bed. He thought I would know the name of the film, but I do not. My guess is that it's one of the Matt Helm pictures. I feel certain that Mr. McNeil will be able to tell us which one.
Do you like books? Sure you do! Well, here's something about a book, seeing as how you like books so much: Theresa enjoys a series of anthologies, edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas, of extremely short fiction. She recently received, as a gift, the most recent volume, which is entitled NEW SUDDEN FICTION: SHORT-SHORT STORIES FROM AMERICA AND BEYOND. Imagine our pleasure upon discovering that two of our "blog" buddies are represented in the collection. Pia Z. Ehrhardt contributes a quiet mood piece as still and dangerous as the eye of a storm, its familial chill making it a perfect companion to Tom Franklin's haunting domestic nightmare comedy "Nap Time," which appears in the same volume. That's quiet, moody, still, dangerous, familial, chilly, haunting, domestic, nightmarish, comedic good times for one and all, in the span of about five pages combined! Concentrated literary goodness, right to your doorstep. Get yours today! And tell 'em "Bloggy" the "Blog" Mascot sent you.
This "blog" is positive! That's just the way it is. We're happy to be here! I'm glad to have interesting upstairs neighbors who are apparently from a mythic part of Holland where wooden shoes are still in vogue. These spirited folk never remove their magical shoes, even during the tender act of physical affection. They're committed, and I salute them! They go to bed on the dot at four in the morning and rise promptly two hours later to walk around in their wooden shoes without surcease. They enjoy exercise, always a sign of good health and character! Meanwhile their two gigantic dogs, similarly shod, chase what Theresa believes to be a hockey puck back and forth over our heads. They love their dogs! They provide their dogs with fun entertainment! It's a good quality in people. The best part is, during the two hours a day when our human (or sprite!) neighbors stop walking around in their wooden shoes, the dogs make sure to take up the slack. O! the imaginative things they can think of to do with a hockey puck. These are highly intelligent dogs! At no time do we ever feel alone, thanks to the kind efforts of our robust and tireless neighbors.
We picked up a signal from Jeff McNeil on our old CB radio. He was just checking in to complain that we have been giving out "too many shopping tips," and that these tips have "put a taint on the 'blog.'" We remind Mr. McNeil that we have, in fact, offered only one shopping tip, though admittedly that tip was subsequently elaborated upon and later revised, which may be the source of the confusion. It does strike us as curious that Mr. McNeil has so much time to cast aspersions on the rest of the "blog" when the next edition of McNeil's Movie Korner is so dismally overdue. The best Mr. McNeil could muster, in our recent conversation via CB, was a sense of vague disappointment with the Bob Hope film ALIAS JESSE JAMES. He might at least have remarked on its use of the traditional Hope trope of mistaken identity/impersonation, used in such superior Hope vehicles as MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE and THE ROAD TO UTOPIA (the latter of which I have had the pleasure of viewing with Ms. Sally Timms). But alas, Mr. McNeil was in a bitter and complaining mood that day, and offered no such constructive insights. We all have such days! But the "blog" should not suffer for it. (By the way, I'm not sure if I'm using the word "trope" appropriately. I picked it up from Theresa, who uses it with accuracy and aplomb, but I may be mishandling it. I apologize, too, for "namedropping" Sally Timms, but given the new and bewildering structure of the "blog," in which the things that fall off the bottom of the page are unlikely ever to be seen again without a great deal of effort, I am required to link to as many older "posts" as possible, for the convenience of you, the omnivorous "blog" reader. Finally I must apologize for the extreme length of this "post." With all the conveniences of the modern world at my disposal, I have still not mastered the princely art of "paragraph breaks.")
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Hey, if you listen to those songs I was talking about you'll hear a lot of Prince in that version of "Cold Sweat" and pure Talking Heads in "There Was a Time." No Prince without James Brown! No Talking Heads without James Brown! Listen to the whole thing yourself and make your own list of people who wouldn't be around without James Brown. James Brown, everybody! James Brown.
Speaking of Apollo, don't forget JAMES BROWN LIVE AT THE APOLLO, VOLUME II, in the 2-CD "Deluxe Edition" from (I believe) Polydor. There's a six-minute "Cold Sweat" that lives up to its name, and with Mr. Brown's passing, the fantastic nine-minute "There Was a Time" takes on special meaning. James Brown!
Today I had to walk to both the bank and the post office, and yes, my trusty pen came in mighty handy. So did my "iPod," which I dusted off for the rather long amble. I was able to listen to almost an entire opera. I'd like to recommend the recording to you: a recent one, I think, of Richard Strauss' DAPHNE, with Renee Fleming in the title role. About the time they get to "Furchtbare Shmach dem Gotte!" they're really cranked up. The shepherds are all, "Was sagt der da? Der eitle Fremde?" And Apollo is like, "Whatever! Get out of my face!" And the shepherds are like, "Them's fighting words!" Oh boy! It makes your hair stand up at the post office. Check it out.
I went over and checked on the monstrous pile of books that was, as longtime "blog" readers know, causing so much trouble. I am pleased to say that thanks to the efforts of those who were willing to work for the good of the "blog," the inventory has been significantly reduced... by one quarter, in fact. That's right, it seems as if two copies of my book sold over the holiday season, leaving six remaining on the shelf. Now let's see if we can get out there and take care of five more (we need to leave one behind, because it looks good sitting there, and I think we'd all be sad to walk in and see an empty spot, like Tiny Tim's chair in the "Christmas future" section of the Dickens classic). No pressure! Let's give ourselves to St. Patrick's day to get this thing done. But don't forget! First you need to exhaust the supply at your local independent bookseller. He or she works hard for you!
I have noticed two distressing and ruinous things about the "PREVIOUS POSTS" section of this "blog," now that we have made the transition to the improved world of "blogging." Take a title such as "Misspelling, Long Unremarked Upon, Reveals Crushing Lack of Interest in 'Blog'." In the olden days, the entire title would appear in the "PREVIOUS POSTS" column. Now, with the compulsory new version of the "blog," the title is truncated like so: "Misspelling, Long Unremarked Upon, Reveals Crushin..." What is this telling the children of our nation? If something is too long, just give up on it? Is this the message of the new "blogging" world? Also, in the olden days, when one "clicked" on an older "post," such as "Computers Are Great", the "PREVIOUS POSTS" column would show the titles of the ten "posts" PREVIOUS to that one. Perhaps one would be intrigued by the title "Philosophers Are Just Like You and Me!" or charmed by the insouciant "Goober Says Hey." Now, however, as far as I can tell, when you "click" on those old "posts," the "PREVIOUS POSTS" column contains the ten CURRENT "posts," which are not "previous" to the "classic" "posts" in question at all! That means a lot more work for you, the busy "blog" reader, who has so much to do and so many places to go in these trying modern times! I just wanted to say how sorry I am for adding to your woes. I won't blame you if you never visit again. But I will miss you!
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
It has come to our attention that there are twenty "blog"mandments, not fourteen, as previously reported. The pious among you will notice that there are twice as many "blog"mandments as there are "com"mandments. Obviously, this must stop. There can be no more "blog"mandments. This updated set is written in stone, so to speak, ha ha! And yet we may as well cry as laugh. Weep at the complexity of our modern times! It just doesn't make any sense that there are twenty things you need to know to be a good "blogger" and only ten to live a holy life. But that's the way it works! What can I tell you? Print these out, memorize them, and burn them. 1. Simply "click" on a highlighted word or phrase to be sent to a "link." 2. The internet is full of information. Check it out. 3. Check your favorite "blog" often or you might miss something. 4. It's okay for friends to disagree! 5. Remember: Cyclopes is the plural of Cyclops. 6. Life is not always about "blogs"! 7. Ask yourself before "blogging": How would Webern "blog"? 8. Get some Webern! 9. Use the word "blog" to create new words containing the word "blog." Think of the Smurfs and you will know what to do. 10. Support the arts! 11. It takes all kinds. 12. The depiction of a vice does not imply endorsement on the part of the depicter. 13. People are complicated. 14. It's good to blow off some steam! 15. Nothing is impossible with the powers of imagination. 16. It's fun to make new friends. 17. Wait to buy your calendar until it's marked down. 18. Always carry a pen. 19. Take your mind off things. 20. Check things out for yourself.
I meant to tell you: We bought a new calendar today. It turns out that the discounts I bragged about can be obtained, in some quarters, as early as the day after Christmas. If you had taken my original advice, you might have missed out on some spectacular calendar the dream of which would have had you kicking yourself forever. Like, what if you were at your friend's house and you said, "Where did you get that calendar?" And your friend said, "At the Calendar Store." And you said, "But I went to the Calendar Store on Jan. 2nd and I didn't see that awesome calendar." And then your friend might say, "I bought the last one on Dec. 26th." And you would be like, "I guess you paid full price!" And your friend would say, "Nope. Half off, baby!" And you would say, "No way!" And your friend would dig out the receipt, which he had saved for tax purposes, and show it to you. And you would be like, "Man!" And you would secretly harbor a grudge for me within your heart for all the bad advice I gave you. Well, that's today's "blogging" tip: Check things out for yourself. P.S.: The calendar theme in the Pendarvis Building this year is "Magazine Ads from the 1950s." They amuse us because we do not live in the 1950s!
Look at me! I'm "blogging" in the whole new way that my "blogging" overlords demanded. It looks exactly the same, doesn't it? That's just one of the great things about it - its effervescent pointlessness. I suppose that the only big difference is that now an additional, more powerful Big Brother type will monitor my every thought and stare at me through the eye-hole in my "computer." Also, most of the steps of "blogging" are now marginally more difficult. But it is for my own good! If I enjoyed "blogging" too much, it might take over my life. Also, it's fun to have new challenges! Especially when the results are unnoticeable... because then there is nothing to distract one from the pure experience. I believe Chuang Tzu said something similar on the subject of "blogging." Best of all, I got a nice email notifying me about the change. At the end it said, Happy blogging! and it was signed The Blogging Team. The only thing that might have made it better would have been if it had said, Happy "blogging!" signed, The "Blogging" Team. That would have been sweet. (Pictured, Chuang Tzu and a friend from his "blogging" team.)
We just met my sister and her new boyfriend at a restaurant where they serve sugar cubes with the coffee. Sugar cubes! So compelling and awesome. How do they stick together that way? We should look it up on the "internet." Sugar cubes! (Pictured, a band Theresa really likes: The Sugarcubes.)
While interest in the "blog" languishes at an all-time low, it may be the perfect time for me to try to switch over to the new "blogging" set-up that the "computer" people require. I would explain it, but I don't understand it. All I know is, I have been notified by the "blogspot" people that I can't be happy anymore. I have to discard a perfectly good "blog" set-up, with which I have become passingly familiar, and switch over to something that will probably destroy the "blog" forever. But it's to help me! That's what the people at the "blogspot" say! They love me! They are only making me suffer for my own good, they explain. So I'm going to try to do what they say because, according to my understanding, I have no choice. The "blog" will certainly disappear otherwise. And it may disappear now! Goodbye forever, perhaps. Remember me!
It has come to our attention that we misspelled the name of Katharine Hepburn in a recent edition of McNeil's Movie Korner. But come on. That "a" in the middle, is that normal? Does that look right to you? November cutbacks in our internship program have let more and more errors of this nature slip through the cracks, and we apologize. But we do remind our "blog" readers that a "blog" is only as accurate as the persnicketiness of its readership. The problem, perhaps, is epistemological.
Monday, December 25, 2006
If you can't get to sleep, one thing NOT to do is flip back and forth on your "cable" movie channels between JULIEN DONKEY-BOY, starring Werner Herzog, and the most recent film version of THE CRUCIBLE. The effect is not soothing to the agitated mind. You won't get to sleep and Santa will never come.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
I understand that some of you cannot see the picture of Ian Holm painted green that I "posted" earlier. I'm going to try to "post" pictures of Mickey Rooney and Werner Herzog, both of whom also figure in the earlier "post," here, as consolation.
A belt does not "have" loops, as previously reported. Pants have "belt loops," through which the belt is passed. Belts do have buckles. Therefore, a better play on words might have been to ask Santa to "buckle down" and bring me a new belt. The "blog" regrets any grief and pain caused by the error.
If you're up at a bad hour with awful thoughts running through your head and you have a lot of the movie channels on the "cable," might I suggest flipping back and forth regularly between three separate movies until they seem to blend into one? It takes your mind off everything! That's today's special "holiday" "blogging" tip: Take your mind off things, for goodness' sake! Like, right now I'm worried about that apostrophe at the end of "goodness'" but I'm just going to put it out of my mind. The trick to my method is, find three films that blend appropriately. Last night (or this morning, I should say), I was lucky enough to come across Werner Herzog in INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS (it's a comedy... and when I think comedy, I think Werner Herzog!), the Monkees film HEAD, and the version of A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT DREAM with Diana Rigg and Iam Holm (the latter painted entirely green, as was a young Judi Dench). After a little judicious flipping I could hardly tell one movie from either of the others, and my brain was soothed and satisfied and slumbrous. Try it out for yourself next time you can't sleep, though I doubt that you - or I - will ever be able to find such a salubrious combination again. In passing, I may remark that it was the second version of A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT DREAM I've encountered recently. I watched the 1935 version for my article about Dick Powell. I'm afraid - without giving away anything about the article - that Mickey Rooney's performance (in the Ian Holm role of Puck) led me to make some catty comments. I would like to clarify at this time that I've seen plenty of top-notch Mickey Rooney performances. There's one where he's a jazz drummer menaced by thugs, and it provides an appropriate outlet for his considerable energy and, indeed, desperation. Wow! I've gotten off track, haven't I? That's the way it is with "blogging"! Irrepressible! Just like Mickey Rooney. (Pictured, Ian Holm and Ian Richardson, painted green.)
Come on, Santa! You just gotta come through with that belt! I was going to say "hook me up," which I thought was a pun, but it's not. Belts have "loops," not "hooks." Could I say, "Keep me in the loop?" Don't hold it against me, Santa. I'm tired.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
"But," you may object, "if I wait until after the new year to buy my calendar, won't all the good calendars be taken?" I find that it's much more fun to pick through the lonesome, rejected calendars of January 2nd for the perfect calendar you never knew you wanted. One year I got BATS. That was a calendar with a different kind of bat for every month of the year. The possibilities are endless... or more to the point, they are not endless. They are finite. That's what makes them interesting. Bats! Crazy.
Maybe we'll buy a calendar today. We usually wait until after the new year - big discounts! Well, there are a number of factors to consider. We're already losing track of January. This calls for a family conference. How do the cats feel about it, for example? They have feelings, too! Anyway, that's today's "blogging" tip: If you can wait until after the first of the year to buy a calendar, expect 50% or more in savings! A second tip: If I'm going to the bank or post office, I always bring my own favorite pen. You never know when those bank or post office pens will let you down! But you can always trust your own favorite pen. Plus it adds a "homey" touch to what might otherwise be an impersonal experience. Or if you're nervous about losing your favorite pen, take your second favorite pen. Or hey, buy a pen that's solely for bank and post office use. Better yet, take it with you wherever you go. You never know when a pen will come in handy. As for me, my favorite pen is the only friend I will ever need. I love you, special pen!
Friday, December 22, 2006
We have a good report on the success of the Christmas panto, from no less an authority than Sally Timms - no pushover, she. Also most forthright. And though she directed the show herself, she can be counted on for unvarnished truth always, in all things. "We had two days of rehearsal," Sally writes, "and frankly they were pretty ropey, but on the night all went right. The little sets looked beautiful, the pirates were fantastic, Kelly and Jon were perfect. It was all pitched so right, low-brow and high-brow combined in a primitive little show." Does this sound good to you, "blog" friends? It sounds perfect to me! So get down to The Hideout, two more nights only. Here we see some of the cast. That's Jon Langford as Mrs. Hammerhead and Kelly Hogan as Cap'n Skate. Tim Tuten, one of the owners of The Hideout, pictured in red kerchief, also plays a key role. I can only assume that the sweet and forlorn maiden with blue hair is the titular "Catfish Girl." I realize that there is a hint of "raciness," which we usually eschew here at the "blog," in the photo, but it's all in the ribald yet family-friendly panto spirit.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Hey, everybody in Chicago! Don't forget to go see the Christmas pantomime tonight! It's a British tradition that no one understands. Written and directed by Sally Timms (pictured), but I'm proud to have helped a little with the second act. Go! Enjoy! And somebody file a report on the festivities.
... was briefly considered as a title for yesterday's post, but was dismissed as "too showy" by the "blogging" commission. "Blogging" Commissioner Welmont Blake called the title "richly allusive" but stressed that it "lacked balance." "That's fine for him to say," countered B. Proctor Weems, CEO of "Blog" Industries, parent company of the Pendarvis "blog." "Look, we went along with their decision. But they can't stop us from using the title today. Ultimately it's our title, and we'll use it if we want to. It's still a free country, as far as I know."
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Just got back from my meeting with Cartoon Network. It turns out that Kent and I will be writing a live-action movie for them. I can't give you the details yet. I'll just say that the word "awesome" is in the title, yet the movie has nothing to do with my novel AWESOME, which is set for publication in 2008. All it means is that I probably will be the only person in history to write two completely separate things with "awesome" in the title. As I promised, I tried to pick up on the mood over at the Cartoon Network in regard to the passing of Joseph Barbera. I would describe it, based on my limited experience, as stoic resignation.
Here is that Jerry Lewis-like dog we were talking about earlier. Poor Honeybear! But Caroline says she has adapted well. (I should mention that this is the "default photo" that Caroline uses on MySpace, and I have no idea what will happen if she ever changes it. For right now, however, what you should be seeing is a lovable dog with a cone on her head.)
The title of the recent edition of McNeil's Movie Korner should have read, in full, "McNeil's Movie Korner: Petticoat Rebellion." See? That would have been a humorous play on words because in the past, organized political actions of groups of women - such as the "Cassette girls," who, in 1704, refused to marry any of the American colonists they encountered, though they had been brought over for just such a purpose - have been called "petticoat rebellions" by historians and sociologists with a populist streak. So it would have been a blithesome play on words and O! how you would have laughed and laughed to see it. We regret the omission. In the future, we vow to put 100% effort into our subtitles, which are just as important, in their way, as the titles which precede them.
Well, there was a time on the old "blog," dark days, in which I was "blogging" compulsively, without relish, indeed with shame and revulsion, about such shows as THE FUNKY PHANTOM. Now that Joseph Barbera has passed away, I should step back and admit something, at least: based on extensive interviews with myself and Jim Whorton, I believe it is safe to say that everyone's first lunch box featured a Hanna-Barbera character, and there must be a reason for that. The fact that Jeff McNeil's first lunch box was a dome-topped Snoopy affair can be regarded as a statistical anomaly. Back when I was blowing off steam about Grape Ape and that genie who said "Yazzle Dazzle!" (or something) in the impersonated voice of Joe Besser (Joe Besser! Why were innocent children exposed to the creepy manchild locutions of a second generation Joe Besser?), I was not mad at Hanna-Barbera, I was mad at myself - at the craven pile of tics and phony nostalgia to which I had been reduced through "blogging." This was not Mr. Barbera's fault! Mr. Barbera certainly knew how to get a kid's attention. I still remember the theme song to Funky Phantom, which you can probably find on YouTube. Go for it. I won't object anymore. By coincidence, I have a meeting at Cartoon Network later today, a company which built itself on a foundation of Hanna-Barbera. I'll let you know what the mood is like over there.
Ha ha! My title is a takeoff on the popular musical revue Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. That's a topical reference for the kids to enjoy! Well, we have the final word from "M." She called Uncle Mort's this morning and discovered that they are still serving the finest ham and eggs in America from 6:30 AM to 2:30 PM Central Time every day. Ignore the giant FOR SALE sign and come on in. Actually, the sign's meaning was not discussed - indeed, the presence of the sign, which Theresa and I have seen with our own eyes several times, was neither confirmed nor denied. You see? This is how rumors get started on the "internet." By me. Lately we have been passing by Uncle Mort's after 2:30, and the empty look, coupled with the doom-laden message of the big red-and-white sign(clearly readable from the highway, adding a sense of urgency and exacerbating our fears), must have caused the confusion. Thank goodness there's someone like "M." out there. Now go get your ham and eggs. Their french fries are good, too - kind of taste like ham.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Suddenly I seem to recall that Hydro, the main character of Lewis Nordan's haunting novel THE SHARPSHOOTER BLUES, has a particular fondness for Plastic Man comic books. I mention it because this is a "blog," and we mention things.
A coded message from Agent "M.," translated here for the general public, confirms that the phone is now ringing at Uncle Mort's. That's the good news. The bad news is, there's no answer. "I imagine they are not open for dinner," writes "M.", "but you better believe I will be calling tomorrow morning!" She has also passed along an image of Uncle Mort's as it appeared in 1978, which I will attempt to "post" here for your enjoyment and meditation.
Oh. One last thing before I go. Tom Franklin has very thoughtfully submitted some speculations on the subject of Plastic Man and a "sexy nuclear scientist" for possible use on the "blog." Despite the obvious time and effort, and the undeniable friskiness and joie de vivre of Mr. Franklin's writing, not to mention the fact that Plastic Man is far and away one of our favorite comic book characters, we are afraid that Mr. Franklin - as bold a stylist as you might ever wish to encounter - has crossed a line over which the "blog" is not quite willing to follow. All we feel comfortable in saying is that toward the end of Mr. Franklin's interesting scenario, Plastic Man's head has been reduced to the size of a thimble and his famous goggles fall off. "It's the only time in the whole movie," Mr. Franklin writes (for he has cast his speculation in the form of a movie "pitch"), "that we see his eyes (like when John Belushi shows Carrie Fisher his eyes unsunglassed near the end of The Blues Brothers)." Charming, we admit! And the neologism unsunglassed is beautiful - pure Franklin! But this is a "blog" for the tender of sensibility and we must leave the rest to your various imaginations. Suggested reading: the compellingly written biography of Plastic Man's creator, JACK COLE AND PLASTIC MAN by Art Spiegelman, with eyepopping design by Chip Kidd. Suggested listening: "How I Wrote Elastic Man" by The Fall, because I think he's saying "Plastic Man" in the chorus, despite the title. That being said, I have nothing against Elastic Man, I'm sure he's very nice.
Good news: I received the part of the computer that is supposed to cure my back pain. Bad news: It doesn't work! Good news: I'll get to talk on the phone for several hours to technicians and helpers who don't understand the depths of my ignorance, but all of whom are very nice, for hours and hours, yes, for hours. That's today's "blogging" tip: It's fun to make new friends! Bad news: My back is giving out. I'm not complaining! I am not the type of guy who wants to "blog" about his back pain for the world to see! I'm just letting you know why you may not be hearing from me for awhile. I know how you worry!
Hello and welcome to another edition of "McNeil's Movie Korner." Today, McNeil has something on his mind: the 50th anniversary of the theatrical release of THE IRON PETTICOAT, which is coming up on December 21st. McNeil wants someone to start a petition or email campaign - some sort of drastic measure - to get the film (a remake of NINOTCHKA with Bob Hope and Kathryn Hepburn in the Douglas/Garbo roles) released on DVD. McNeil respectfully asks that you all get cracking on this.
First I would like to ask L., the French-speaking "Blog" Buddy, to write in and correct my French. Yes, that's supposed to be French. Secondly, we have word, as promised, from "blog" agent "M.", who tried to call Uncle Mort's and received only a busy signal. This does not look good! Expect more updates as they become available.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
A steady stream of one telegram has been pouring into the Pendarvis Building, stating that the picture of Anita Ekberg that I included in my last "post" is not "loading." All I can do is reiterate what I have said many times before: I barely know what I am doing. I should not have been given a "blog." If it is any consolation, there are thousands of pictures of Ms. Ekberg all over the "internet," most of them far too "racy" for our gentle "blog." But the laws of the United States say that you are free to look for them yourself! I think I saw one of her dancing with Bob Hope. "Racy"? No. Flattering? No. Interesting? No. But maybe it will "load." If so, I will include it here. In case you are wondering, the picture that did not "load" is just Ms. Ekberg's head and shoulders. She is looking at you meaningfully. If you glance to your right, you should see Bob Hope dancing with Anita Ekberg. If not, I don't know what to do for you. I'm terribly sorry. Maybe you can just close your eyes and picture Bob Hope dancing with Anita Ekberg. That's today's "blogging" tip: Nothing is impossible with the powers of the imagination!
Wow! Doesn't that sound like the title of a Robert Ludlum novel? Ha ha ha! Where do I come up with this stuff? Amazing! "The Ekberg Objection"! Whoooooo! What a card. Robert Ludlum? Oh boy! Great reference, Pendarvis. You're a marvel. Whoopee! But seriously. McNeil is upset because I didn't weave together every possible thread of coincidence in a recent edition of "McNeil's Movie Korner." I should have mentioned, for the sake of completeness, that Anita Ekberg appeared in both CALL ME BWANA and WAY... WAY OUT. I hope that this clears up any confusion and gives solace to those in distress. Gosh, what a load off my mind. Hey, this is what I do all day long, folks.
In view of the controversial "secret purpose" of this "blog," I would just like to say a few words to the people who have been kindly buying the paperback of my first book on the "internet," possibly because of my recent write-up in the Oxford American. Thank you! That is the first thing I would like to say. Secondly, I would like to say, don't forget... the paperback isn't out until January. If you have a big "itch" to read the book - or if you wish to give it as a "gag" gift at a hilarious holiday "white elephant" party - the hardback is available now. VERY available. Stacks of it are moldering somewhere, from my understanding of the situation. No pressure! If you want to wait till January because of your busy schedule, I completely understand.
I have been advised that some of you cannot see the picture of Dick Powell I recently posted, and that the trouble is causing understandable frustration. I advise you to consult a "computing" expert on the matter. Usually the trouble has to do with "computers," I have found.
Theresa had coffee with "blog" prizewinner Caroline Young today. But Ms. Young, for some reason, did not come upstairs to claim her prize! Maybe she forgot! She'll be kicking herself later, because it is an awesome prize. Especially considering that, upon hearing of her good fortune, Ms. Young compared her two dogs to Martin and Lewis, finding it even more appropriate that the DVD she won contains a particularly melodramatic story on the reliable old "sad clown" theme. The unfortunate Honeybear, who for medical reasons is required for the time being to wear a gigantic cone around her head, takes the Lewis role for that and other reasons. Get well, Honeybear! And Ms. Young, your prize awaits.
Welcome again to McNeil's Movie Korner, the only place you can go on the "web" to get movie advice from the friend of someone who has a "blog." In this edition, McNeil predicts - without having seen it yet - that he, and you, will greatly enjoy a film entitled A VERY SPECIAL FAVOR, starring Rock Hudson and Leslie Caron. Why? Because the team who wrote it also came up with HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE. McNeil goes on to list a stream of coincidences, a practice we encourage - nay, demand! - here at the "blog": "Nate Monaster," writes McNeil, "one of the writers of HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE, also worked on CALL ME BWANA [starring "blog" "fave" Bob Hope]." CALL ME BWANA, McNeil points out, was directed by Gordon Douglas, who also helmed WAY... WAY OUT, the subject of a previous "McNeil's Movie Korner." "But here's the real kicker," says McNeil, all in a froth. "Fielder Cook, the director of HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE, lived in [McNeil's hometown] until he died in 2003! If only I had known!" McNeil goes on to fantasize about the missed opportunity of some kind of Tuesdays With Morrie type relationship with Mr. Cook, during which, McNeil posits, he could have "wrangled" some secrets about Dino and Stella. "DAMN!!!!" McNeil concludes (exclamation points his). The "blog" regrets the cussing, but we felt it essential to capturing McNeil's unique voice.
You know how we love coincidences on the "blog." We talk about them all the time. We never shut up. That's because the universe is guiding the "blog" and we are only its humble lackey. We love you, "blog"! But more of that later! So... last night my eyes were chapped and burning as I finished what I thought would be my last Dick Powell movie. When I turned off the DVD player, TCM came on. Who was standing there but Mr. Robert Osborne, that channel's genial host, informing me, through the miracle of TV "airwaves" or "cable impulses," that the next movie up was "the last film in which Dick Powell acted," SUSAN SLEPT HERE. So I stayed up and watched it with a certain elegiac sense of duty. O, mine eyes! But the movie proved fruitful - both as fodder for my article and as entertainment. In a final proof that something larger than myself is running the "blog," SUSAN SLEPT HERE costarred Alvy Moore, in the EXACT SAME HAIRCUT with which we have presented him here. Also finally, SUSAN SLEPT HERE was directed by Frank Tashlin, auteur of "blog" "fave" BACHELOR FLAT. Mr. Tashlin also directed many films starring Jerry Lewis and one or two, I think, with Bob Hope. Remarkable! Significant!
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Many of you have noticed that the pace of the "blog" has been slowing down. Well, I've been busy watching seven Dick Powell movies (and one Dick Powell, Jr. movie!), and I still have three more to go before I finish my article. As ways of making a living go, this is a piece of cake. I'm not complaining! But I hope you will understand and forgive me for my inattention. Also, what if I accidentally "blogged" some wise insights about Dick Powell? My article would suffer! It would be unprofessional! The good news is, the "Blog" Buddies are stepping forward to take up some of the slack. I've just received a new edition of McNeil's Movie Korner from the man himself. If I work up the energy, I'll "post" it later today. Plus the mysterious lady "M." may be investigating the rumored closing of Uncle Mort's, which she says she liked best in winter, when the fire was going. It's just like the ending of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. I'm the richest "blogger" in town! And now Theresa is in the kitchen humming the theme to THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD, which just started on TCM. The theme sounds strangely, in the hummed version, like Smokey Robinson's "Tears of a Clown." No Sinbad for me today, thank you! I'm all movied out. But I could listen to Theresa hum all day. In fact I cannot conceive of a more pleasant occupation.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Uncle Mort's is right next to The Original Frosty Mug. You won't find better ham and eggs anywhere. But there's a giant FOR SALE sign on the door, and we're not sure it's open anymore. So maybe you will have to find your ham and eggs elsewhere. I'm sorry. This has been part two of our continuing series of travel tips for the busy traveler living amidst the busy hustle and bustle of daily life that we have every day, day by day, in the strange times in which we live in the busy modern world of today.
Need a clean restroom while you're riding down our nation's interstate system? You could hardly do better than the Chick Fil-A at the Oxford, Alabama exit on I-20. Scrupulous! And if fast food is all you have time for, that particular Chick Fil-A is almost preternatural in the efficiency of its service. Or try The Original Frosty Mug on Highway 78. But you won't be able to eat their sandwiches while driving. Too abundant! Plus they have peanut butter milkshakes. It's barely more than a little hut nestled in a shady crook of the road. Just sit in your car. It's too cold at the little picnic tables overlooking the river. And the unnerving sound of walnuts or something striking the awning over your head will drive you mad. Mad, I tell you! You'll be shellshocked, and there's no telling what will happen after that! And there are chickens walking around your feet. Chickens! Lots of live chickens. Some people probably find that colorful. Good for them! The variety and quality of the fast food sandwiches at The Original Frosty Mug is commendable and the fries are so nice and hot they will burn the roof of your mouth right off. I mean that in a good way. This is the first in our series of handy travel tips for the handy traveler.
Zing! Once again I have "zinged" you with a seemingly "racy" headline, which refers in fact to the excellent Dick Powell feature film THE PITFALL, a fatalistic noir look at the subject of adultery. As my faithful "blog"ites know, I have been watching Dick Powell movies for work. Anyway, it so happens, completely without design, that I have watched five movies in a row (two of them Powells) about adultery, each more adulterous than the last. After THE PITFALL, I had a blessed respite from adultery with Preston Sturges' CHRISTMAS IN JULY. It seemed, however, in one scene, that I came across the bete noir of this "blog"... a cigarette holder. But in all truthfulness, I could not tell with my weary old eyes whether Dick Powell was smoking a cigarette or a puny kind of cigar, so I am going to let this one pass in our running tabulation.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
It has come to my attention that there are now fourteen "blog"mandments, not twelve, as previously reported. "Blog"mandments, for the newcomers among you, are like commandments, except they are for "blogs." And they make you a better "blogger"! We usually include a hilarious picture of Moses with each "blog"mandment update, but we are just so tired. We're phoning it in. We're like a soulless automaton, or "blog"tomaton, as we call it in "blogging" circles. But don't let our ennui diminish all the value you can get from the "blog"mandments: 1. Simply "click" on a highlighted word or phrase to be sent to a "link." 2. The internet is full of information. Check it out. 3. Check your favorite "blog" often or you might miss something. 4. It's okay for friends to disagree! 5. Remember: Cyclopes is the plural of Cyclops. 6. Life is not always about "blogs"! 7. Ask yourself before "blogging": How would Webern "blog"? 8. Get some Webern! 9. Use the word "blog" to create new words containing the word "blog." Think of the Smurfs and you will know what to do. 10. Support the arts! 11. It takes all kinds. 12. The depiction of a vice does not imply endorsement on the part of the depicter. 13. People are complicated. 14. It's good to blow off some steam!
The "blog" is pleased to announce that Ms. Caroline Young of Cabbagetown, GA, is the winner of our used DVD of a Martin and Lewis film. She did not win the contest. The truth is, no one has ever entered one of our contests. We were fudging the truth a little when we implied otherwise. But Caroline at least pretended to make sort of a roundabout effort to enter our caption contest, just to make us feel better. Well, to tell the truth, she made a comment about the caption contest and we pretended in our deluded hearts to believe that she had entered it. We were only hurting ourselves! But when we add that to the fact that Caroline, in a lottery-like happenstance, was the subject of our 200th "post," well, it seems like the only decent thing to do.
I was checking my picture of Guy Kibbee the other day, and I noticed that it had vanished! In its place was a strange little icon with the word "image" underneath it. When I "clicked" on "image," my picture of Guy Kibbee came back, only - and this is the eerie part - it was slightly altered! Kibbee was looking at me funny! I am no "computing" expert, so I cannot explain this "computer" phenomenon. This is just a "heads up" in case you have similar trouble. As a back-up, here is the "web" site where I originally found my Kibbee. How do I expect my "blog"ites to phone in their Kibbee tips without a visual reference? (NOTE: "Blog"ites is special "blogging" slang for people who enjoy "blogs.")
... in movies, that is! Adultery is not awesome in real life, as we know from the Bible and other sources. But I fooled you with my controversial headline! In fact, my headline may be too "racy" for the "blog," and I may be overwhelmed with guilt and delete it soon, so enjoy it while you can. Perhaps I will sell or trade it to another "blog," because I have noticed that some other "blogs" are as "racy" as "all get out"! Some of them are about people who are very, very angry at particular celebrities or magazines who have hurt their feelings by existing. That's today's "blogging" tip: It's good to blow off steam! But our "blog" hasn't really trafficked in "racy" headlines, so we're still a little shy about it. By coincidence, the last three movies we have seen are about adultery: THEY ALL LAUGHED by Peter Bogdanovich, HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE (yes, we took McNeil's recommendation to heart), and THE FACTS OF LIFE, which just now aired on TCM, starring Bob Hope and Lucille Ball in charmingly understated semi-serious roles. In the midst of all those, I also managed to watch THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL for an article I'm writing about Dick Powell. Another coincidence: his section of that film has a little adultery in it, too. The former three, though, are comedies, and that seems to be the way that the movies like to handle the subject. THEY ALL LAUGHED is an extremely peculiar film - the sensibility of Hitchcock's VERTIGO somehow spliced together with Truffaut's STOLEN KISSES and maybe some Preston Sturges. I was particularly taken by two performances... those of Patti Hansen and Blaine Novak. But when I looked them up on the "internet," I was sad to see that they hadn't made too many other films. As for HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE, Leonard Maltin sure does give it a hard time in his movie guide. Sometimes I think Mr. Maltin and I are just not meant to be together. It's nobody's fault. Anyway, if you're looking for some fun at the movies, I suggest adultery! Uh-huh. "Gotcha" again with my "racy" implications! (Pictured, Stella Stevens, so very appealing in HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE.)
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
This just in from our old friend Kelly Hogan. It turns out that she will be playing the villainous Cap'n Skate in the upcoming Christmas panto at the Hideout bar. Men play women and women play men! It's a crazy world, this world of panto, and fun for the whole family. In other panto-related news, Jon Langford ("Mrs. Hammerhead") has, by utter coincidence, a piece of artwork in the new Oxford American, the same one that contains a short story of mine. It's a portrait of Lucinda Williams, and quite nice.
Welcome to our regular feature, "McNeil's Movie Korner". It's a sobering Korner today, folks, as Jeff McNeil makes a bleak assessment - in part, at least - of WAY... WAY OUT. "They had the set-up for what I thought could be one of the funniest scenes in movie history," reports McNeil. "Jerry Lewis and Dick Shawn in a fist fight on the moon." McNeil indicated that the prospect was made all the more tantalizing, in a comedic sense, by the bulky space outfits and bulbous helmets in which Mr. Lewis and Mr. Shawn were forced to dress prior to their battle. The actual fight was a disappointment, according to McNeil, a waste of comic possibilities. "Jerry just tries to hit him three times and then they go back inside," McNeil complains. The ending of the screenplay likewise left him nonplussed. "It was like they just ran out of paper," he says.
No sooner do we declare our intention NOT to look for men with cigarette holders than the universe begins littering our path with them. Isn't that always the way with cigarette holders? I couldn't sleep last night. I turned on the television and happened to flip directly to a documentary about Hunter S. Thompson, particularly the way he has been portrayed on film. And what did I see but Bill Murray, as Thompson, with a cigarette holder and no shirt. There followed a few stills of Murray with cigarette holder. Then a clip of him doing push-ups with a cigarette holder in his mouth. There was also a clip of a woman holding a donut in a napkin, but I want to make it clear that I'm under absolutely NO SICK MENTAL OBLIGATION to report every donut I see. Just cigarette holders. Specifically, men with cigarette holders. We're not getting Auntie Mame and Cruella deVille into this or I'd never stop "blogging." And that became the fear last night, of course. By the time I saw Bill Murray in a life jacket, lei, and cigarette holder combo, I started freaking out. I had to change channels. I had only been watching the show for about five minutes and I could already imagine the horribly long "post" I would be forced through my various compulsions to write. But then, like William Shatner peeking out the airplane window in that TWILIGHT ZONE episode, I was compelled to flip back. And there was Johnny Depp grinning at me, a cigarette holder clenched in his choppers. I did not see Hunter S. Thompson himself with a cigarette holder, thank God. There was a photo of him with a pipe in his mouth, the bowl of which had been fashioned into a skull. But that doesn't count. I flipped away before any other cigarette holders could be viewed.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
It seems as if the 200th "post" of this venerable "blog" almost passed unnoticed. The honor belongs to a modest little number entitled "Miracle Cure". It's a fine little "post" and we're all very proud of it. But we can't honestly say that we don't wish the 200th had been one with a lilting, elliptical monicker like "Anonymous Department Store Imbroglio," which sounds as if it could be the title of a Bob Dylan song. Anyhow, it's time to look back at some of the "posts" that have given us such joy lo these many years. Who can forget the time I was too tired to read the newspaper? Or when Jeff got a special donut? We'll not soon see a donut like that again. How we chuckled together as a nation when the cat played with the rubber band. And mourned when I cut my finger. And there were moments of soaring artistry, too, like the time we all learned to read Donald Barthelme stories on the "internet." Truly, is there anything we can't do together? Here is to the next 100 "posts." No. Here is to YOU.
Some bad linguistic habits have come to light at the "blog" - most of them we're going to keep! For example, the new trend toward single-word sentences punctuated with exclamation points, such as "Perilous!" and "Inexorable!" We find such verve quite charming on the part of ourselves. In the same "post" as "Inexorable!" we see that we say something "pack a whammy," when we should have said it "packs a whammy." But "pack a whammy" lends a certain gritty authority and carefree Berryman-esque soupcon of... oh, I give up on this sentence. Anyway, the typo stands. What must come to an end, however, is the use of the word "hypnotic" any time I'm too lazy to think of how to properly describe a movie. It's just pitiful.
Move over, Danny Kaye and Terry-Thomas! There's a new dandy in town. Who did we spy on TV today but a young Rip Torn in THE CINCINNATI KID, getting all fancy with a stylish cigarette holder. And in the same scene, Edward G. Robinson was using a cigar holder, but that doesn't count. We plan to keep an eye out for men with cigarette holders. We're not going to go out of our way to LOOK for them, but we're going to alert you when they come across our path. Why? Because this is a "blog"!
Welcome to our regular feature where Jeff McNeil tells you what movies to enjoy. Released today on DVD, a single disc featuring two Dean Martin films: WHO WAS THAT LADY? and HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE. Hey, that reminds me. Back in high school, Mr. McNeil and I used to love those old, long, crazy titles from the 60s. We thought there should be a movie where Dean Martin played Martin Luther, and it should be called 95 WAYS TO GET EXCOMMUNICATED. This is only funny if you're very, very familiar with Dean Martin movie titles. And it couldn't hurt to know a thing or two about Reformation theology! What a gas. Anyway, this is McNeil's Korner, not mine. So I should stick with his message. $14.99 for TWO Dino movies? Jeff says you can't afford NOT to take advantage of this tremendous offer. Act now! (Pictured, Martin Luther.)
Monday, December 11, 2006
I didn't want to leave anyone with the false impression that I went straight from Madame Bovary to The Idiot. Why, I'm no fancy smart genius! I'm just a regular fella that likes a nice cold glass of lemonade. In between those other two books I read THE CHILL by Ross MacDonald - one of the "Lew Archer" mysteries, which I purchased at Turnrow Book Co. Now this book was recommended to me by Mr. William Gay, one of our finest novelists - an heir to Poe, some have called him. He's read the whole Lew Archer series more than once. I must say, if you're looking for somewhere to start, THE CHILL is a good place. It's my favorite so far, though I've only read three or four. And the ending pack a whammy! Not in a cheap way at all. More like a Greek way. Inexorable! No less than Barry Hannah has some kind words for Mr. MacDonald in the new issue of The Oxford American. Here I include my obligatory self-promotion, which is the secret shame of the "blog". And yet perhaps shame is the wrong word in this case, because I'm very happy and proud to say that the new issue of The Oxford American contains one of my short stories, and an announcement that I have been named a "Contributing Writer." It's a really nice-looking issue with a fine essay from Mr. Hannah on "crime noir" and a lot of other interesting articles. I really shouldn't be put in the position of promoting myself this way. I learned from Tom Franklin that his truly remarkable novel SMONK has its own "MySpace" page. But is this the toilsome handiwork of Tom himself? It is not! He has a "brilliant, eager, young PR guy" who smonks it up for him on MySpace. I hope my publisher will take note - and will also consider workman's comp for my "blogging"-related malady.
For those of you concerned with nagging backaches, Caroline Young suggests upping the dosage of confessional poetry (she moved from Sharon Olds to the even more confessiony Anne Sexton) and cutting out the trampoline altogether. It seems to have worked for her! Your results may vary.
It seems that our recent investigation of modern corporate practices has inspired a grateful nation. We have received a report from the father of an anonymous friend of the "blog." Twenty-five years ago, when this man was first employed at a certain department store, he was required to chant, with his fellow salesmen, every morning: "Alligator, alligator, sis-boom-bah! We are salesmen, rah rah rah!" He describes this practice as a demeaning and demoralizing spirit-breaker designed by "the man" to "get him down." Twenty-five years later he finds himself working again for the same department store. These days, grown men and women are required to attend "morning meetings" where they crawl around on the floor in thrown-together "scavenger hunts." The "winner" receives a dollar, or a candy bar. Such are the times we live in! Perilous! This has been one in a series of reports on these strange modern times we find ourselves living in today. The words of Jerry Lewis leap to mind.
Caroline Young writes in to report a back problem EXACTLY LIKE MINE, down to its location, which has not been publicly disclosed. Such astounding coincidences are common in the world of "blogging," and at first I assumed that Caroline was experiencing "blog" sympathy pains. Caroline, however, attributes her condition to "too much confessional poetry" + her "new trampoline." Take heed: a dangerous combination!
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Recently I found myself in the enviable position of a "fly on the wall" as Theresa Starkey and Tom Franklin discussed the movie imagery that terrified them as children. Both were traumatized, coincidentally, by the exact same highlight from a film called GRIZZLY, in which a woman had her head swatted off, I believe, by a grizzly bear. Apparently this woman was in the vicinity of a waterfall, and somehow the action of her head being swatted off caused the waterfall to turn red - with blood, one assumes. Mr. Franklin went on to describe a TV movie, a Barbara Eden vehicle entitled THE ENEMY WITHIN. According to Mr. Franklin, he still recalls with terror a scene in which a doctor holds up an x-ray and says, "Two hearts." Something is amiss in Barbara Eden's body! An alien lives there, perhaps! In another scene that stays with Mr. Franklin to this day, Ms. Eden apparently writhes around on a bed, laughing maniacally. There was a third terrifying thing about THE ENEMY WITHIN, but Mr. Franklin says it has slipped his mind for the moment. (Pictured, Barbara Eden in happier times.)
Last night I couldn't "blog", so I bided my time with an adequate substitute: reading THE IDIOT by Dostoevsky (Richard Pevar and Larissa Volokhonsky, translators). Anyhow, it contained a few lines that make a most suitable epigraph for the "blog": "The prince learned later that this gentleman, as if out of duty, had taken upon himself the task of amazing everyone by his originality and merriment, but it somehow never came off. He even made an unpleasant impression on some people, which caused him genuine grief, but all the same he would not abandon his task."
I'm going to start doing "blog"ications, that is, dedicating certain "posts" to certain people. For example, the most recent one goes out to my sister, who loves Oscar Wilde. A book she enthusiastically recommends: the Wilde trial transcripts which were compiled and edited by his grandson a few years ago. And this one is for the history professor, whose recent viewing of VIRIDIANA gave him the willies. I'll also be taking "blog"quests. And you can "blog"icate any "post" on this "blog" to a friend or loved one! It makes a wonderful holiday gift.
Something odd, not to say supernatural, has occurred on the "blog." No joke: When I first "posted" this picture it was sharp and clear, and the inscription on the t-shirt could be easily read. Now, on my "computer" at least, the face is dissolute, blurry, and misshapen, whereas in real life I look spryer than ever. Eerie!
Well, it was a banner weekend for the forgotten Dick Van Dyke movies of my youth. Last night, during my recuperation, I happened to catch COLD TURKEY (1971) on one of the "cable" channels. I must have seen COLD TURKEY a dozen times as an innocent lad. As an adult with back pain, it struck me that COLD TURKEY takes a dim view of humans in general, and sees the human body as a swamp of grotesque necessities. Rendered in a series of jarring extreme close-ups, the movie is a symphony of spitting, hacking, sneezing, scratching, squirming, drooling, picking, and, especially, sweating. People sweat and sweat. At one point a cake is served and even the cake appears to be sweating. COLD TURKEY has as ugly and melancholy a view of people as anything by Bunuel. In fact, if you are feeling too good about life and feel the need to bring yourself down a "peg" or two, I suggest a "double feature" of COLD TURKEY and VIRIDIANA. As a boy, of course, it was more about Tom Poston staggering around and acting like a humorous drunkard. I hope none of the bleakness rubbed off on my young mind, although it would explain a lot. Pernicious!
This hunching over business has taken an ugly turn. Yesterday I pulled a muscle in my back from excessive "blogging" - as far as I know, the only "blogging"-related injury on record. A day of rest, augmented by the kind attendance of Theresa, has helped, but to be honest, the old back is still a little tender and iffy today. And everybody was like, "Don't 'blog' today, Jack! The results could be tragic." And I was like, "No way, man! The people need the 'blog,' and by golly I'm going to give it to them. This is bigger than me and my excruciating back pain." And everybody was like, "Wow!"
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Why can't I stop "posting" about Fitzwilly, even though it runs counter to every reason a person could possibly have for "blogging"? Is it because I don't like myself? Is it a cry for help? Or is it, in fact, a complex series of passive-aggressive feelings about "blogging" itself? Guilt, perhaps, over the true purpose of the "blog"? Why am I trying to sabotage my own "blog"? Do I think I will rise above the inherent crassness? Am I trying to imply that I'm too "good" for a "blog"? Is that what the "quotation marks" are "about"? Or is it that I fear the thing I love? Wow! I'm a complicated dude!
This is simply too rife with portent to ignore. Jeff McNeil writes in to mock me - or so I thought! - by pretending that there is a CD soundtrack to Fitzwilly AND The Long Goodbye. You heard me, Fitzwilly and The Long Goodbye, together in a single package! Now you have to understand, McNeil has long mocked my affection for the former film and has recently scoffed at the latter, sight unseen, as "looking like it would be horrible," merely to "get my goat." But here's the thing: McNeil was not mocking! There really IS a single CD featuring Fitzwilly/The Long Goodbye. Strange and portentous, as I say. Note that the Fitzwilly score was composed by "Johnny Williams." More strangeness afoot: The last time I viewed "blog" favorite BACHELOR FLAT, I noticed that the score was composed by "Johnny Williams," and wondered aloud if he was the same person who would later become very dignified or something and change his name to "John." Yes, apparently! Finally, a word about his score to "The Long Goodbye." It's absolutely masterful, a constant reworking of a single theme... perhaps inspired by the similar compositional gambit used by David Raskin in LAURA (1944), which happens to be Theresa's FAVORITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME! See how everything ties together in the strange world of "blogging"? It's strange! Strange, I tell you! I was going to call this "post" "The Long Fitzwilly," a crass impulse more appropriate to panto.
So I talked to the "computer" people the other day and told them that I'm still hunched over. They pretended to be surprised! They pretended that I had never asked to receive that new part for my "computer" that, once attached, would end the painful necessity of hunching once and for all. They said that I should have been clear about my desire not to hunch over anymore! They say they will send something over to stop my hunching, possibly in the next few weeks. My back hurts.
One of our two cats loves to play with rubber bands! This cat seems able to draw from a secret and endless store of rubber bands. No matter how many rubber bands we retrieve from this cat, this cat finds another. And we are not a home known for collecting rubber bands in any large quantity! Sometimes it's amusing when the cat plays with a rubber band. Other times one thinks, Oh no! That cat will certainly choke on that rubber band.
It occurs to me that I may be "blogging" about FITZWILLY too much. How vulnerable is one's "blog" supposed to make one? How many flaws must one unintentionally reveal? And it's not just a matter of my bad taste, for example. I believe it has always been my publisher's hope that by producing a "blog" I would impress flocks of youthful potential readers, fooling them into thinking I was one of their own. Mr. Sacks and Mr. Travelstead are really on to something about this aspect of "blogging." Note my use of the acronym VCR, when any number of other acronyms would do. I can't live a lie anymore!
In my discussion of FITZWILLY and its great impact upon my young life, I should have mentioned the movie WHO'S MINDING THE MINT (starring Jim Hutton), which they used to show on TV all the time, and which very likely began my love of thievery, for it featured every boy's dream of seeing Gilligan (Bob Denver) ripping off the US Mint. As far as I know, they don't show it on TV anymore, and it's probably not on DVD, and I am forced to ask: Where are today's kids supposed to look for their heist role models? It really makes you think!
Friday, December 08, 2006
After Fitzwilly they showed PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT, another film for which I have a soft spot. It's based on a Tennessee Williams play, if I'm not mistaken. It starts out plain goofy, but builds to something kind of powerful in a strange, off-putting way. The sort of stiff and amateurish aspects of some of the performances and symbolism actually work in its favor and give it a dreamy, hypnotic glow. And it has "blog" "fave" Jim Hutton in it. I told you, this is what a "blog" is like. There's nothing I can do about it. My hands are tied. Tomorrow I'm going to tell you about the time one of our cats played with a rubber band. And you're going to love it!
Okay, I got home from the trip and turned on the TV, which was still tuned to TCM. I immediately recognized the movie: FITZWILLY. Now this is probably not a good movie. This is a movie so probably bad that Jeff McNeil makes fun of my soft spot for it. JEFF MCNEIL! The man who OWNS a copy of HOW TO COMMIT MARRIAGE! Well, the mere sight of FITZWILLY put me into one of those trances that I stole from Proust: I remembered when I was eleven years old, writing down the names of all the movies I wanted in my private screening room when I got rich (this was before anyone could even imagine a VCR). Anyway, FITZWILLY was literally at the top of the list. I don't know why. Maybe because Dick Van Dyke played a master thief, and it had Barbara Feldon in it, whose role in GET SMART was giving me some of my earliest feelings of romantic love or something. I'm not a psychiatrist! All I know is, as a young man I loved movies about jewel theft (THE HOT ROCK, for example) and pickpockets and bank robberies and safecracking. Look, this is what a "blog" is, I'm sorry. It's some guy watching TV and telling you about it. Oh, one more thing. The scene I happened to see featured a very young Sam Waterston. Then, when I happened to flip over to NBC, I saw present-day Sam Waterston in LAW & ORDER. So I had some fun for awhile, flipping back and forth between teenage-looking Sam Waterston and the other Sam Waterston. It seemed important. What is wrong with me? I seem to have a "thing" about movies and the illusion of eternal youth. Oh, baby! This is the "bloggiest"!
I'm back and ready to "blog"! I suppose I should have mentioned I was only going on an overnight excursion. I made it sound as if I were off on a long and dangerous voyage by sea. As short as the trip was, something haunted me the whole time. I was afraid I had left you with a false impression. I hope it is absolutely clear that I was only joshing, and that I have no inkling in my heart that Mike Sacks and Ted Travelstead were drawing inspiration from me in any way. Putting quotation marks around something is, after all, no personal property of mine. Those fellows had their own quite effective dramatic and comic use for the ploy. As for me, I DID steal much of the way I use quotation marks - specifically, from Charles Portis. Here you can read an interesting interview with old friend of the "blog" Tom Franklin, where he elaborates on a similar inspiration. My use of exclamation points comes, in large part, by way of Mr. Portis' memorable comic novel THE DOG OF THE SOUTH. Once or twice I have even fallen victim to actual dismaying bouts of comedy coincidence of the kind I joshed about in my comments on Mr. Sacks and Mr. Travelstead. For example, I wrote a "clever" parody of Marcus Aurelius (you can access a bit of it through this old "post") only to find out, after its publication, that a much earlier and much funnier Marcus Aurelius parody was in existence. Also, my 2005 book THE MYSTERIOUS SECRET OF THE VALUABLE TREASURE contained a mock "About the Contributors" section, which I thought was a real "riot." Well, only recently I purchased Robert Benchley's 1936 collection MY TEN YEARS IN A QUANDARY AND HOW THEY GREW in a used book store and found out that Mr. Benchley (pictured) beat me to the punch with the same general idea by more than 70 years. It certainly is a funny world we live in or something.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Hey! Over at McSweeney's, a couple of guys named Mike Sacks and Ted Travelstead have starting putting "quotation marks" around the word "blog." Their "think piece" is very funny and a little poignant. I feel kind of like that nurse from World War II who wasn't offended at all by Ian McEwan's "shenanigans." I don't even assume that I inspired these fellows. Didn't some Italian dude invent the telephone at the same time as Bell? Look it up on the "internet" and you'll see I'm right. The more the merrier in the world of "blogging"!
Getting ready to go and watching an old movie called THE SHINING HOUR on TCM. It has all the trappings, plot points, and look of a screwball comedy (made the right year, too - 1938), but plays out more like a Douglas Sirk melodrama. And it features Margaret Sullavan (pictured), an actress we don't see enough of here at the old "blog." Just a friendly viewing suggestion as we walk out the door. Somebody let me know how it comes out!
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Oh, before I go I just want to remind everyone to hurry and get your tickets for the more or less traditional Christmas pantomime they're putting on at The Hideout in Chicago. What's a Christmas pantomime? It's something British people do! I helped a little with the script, and I'm still not sure. The occasional double entendre is called for, apparently. And they call it "panto" for short! So that's something I learned. By the time rehearsals are done, it may well be that none of my poor, baffled contribution will remain - but Jon Langford and Sally Timms (pictured) are putting on the show, and it's chock full of pirates and mermaids, so you know it's going to rock in any case. Why not try something different for a change for God's sake? Now wait right here at the "blog" and I'll be back in a few days. PS to Jon: I forgot to use the word "blowhole" in my scene. Please squeeze it in somewhere, thanks!
Tonight Theresa and I walked across the street to our neighborhood tavern, where we visited with a history professor of our acquaintance. That reminds me. Once we were at dinner at the history professor's house, listening to Mel Torme sing on the CD player as the meal drew to a close. The history professor leaned back in his chair and said contemplatively, referring to Mr. Torme's physical person as well as his vocal instrument, "He's a round mound of sound." I think that would be a good nickname for Mel Torme, so I'm putting it out there. Let's spread it around. I'm not saying we should stop calling him the Velvet Fog, I'm just saying why not change it up once in awhile?
Now don't get upset, everybody! It's time for me to leave the old "blog" again for a few days, this time to do an interview for a magazine. So the "blog" will be temporarily "down." But no worries! As usual, I am leaving you with an assignment. I think it will do you a world of good to take the next couple of days to contemplate the magnificent, ruined edifice of the "blog"dex. It puts one in mind of good old Percy Bysshe Shelley, and those vast and trunkless legs of stone he found in the desert. You know what I'm talking about. Ozymandias, baby! What a poem. But I don't think the metaphor holds, when it comes to the "blog"dex. My understanding is that King Ozymandias built a mighty monument to himself and expected it to stand forever... whereas I put nine or ten hours into the "blog"dex before throwing in the towel. Of course, the "blog"dex WILL last forever, thanks to the powers of the "internet" and "cyberspace" and so on. But it is not a crumbling, ancient effigy, just a piddling unfinished thought. I don't know, there's an object of contemplation in there somewhere, so jump on it. Hey, that reminds me of a teacher I once heard quoting Shelley in a whiny, sarcastic voice: "I fall upon the thorns of life, I bleed." And we freshmen had a good laugh at Shelley's expense! Take that, Percy Bysshe Shelley! I need your essays on my desk by Monday.