Friday, November 30, 2012

Philanthropy of a Millionaire

Hey remember the "secret doomed project" I promised to tell you about sometime? Well, I went to New York City to interview Jerry Lewis. Jerry Lewis called me at home to set it up! But I wasn't home so I had to CALL HIM BACK. I have a scrap of paper RIGHT HERE upon which Dr. Theresa wrote down Jerry Lewis's HOME PHONE NUMBER. I have not abused it! I have only used it once. So I went to New York. But then, on the night before our interview, Mr. Lewis collapsed just prior to going onstage to present an award to Tom Cruise. He was rushed to the hospital! So the interview was called off and I wrote an article about almost interviewing Jerry Lewis instead. The published article was illustrated by none other than Tony Millionaire! He drew me sitting under an enormous portrait of Jerry Lewis, looking worried, my precious little notebook on the bar beside me. A masterpiece! Who knew that I would turn out to be the most popular male model of the early 21st century? Mr. Millionaire very kindly sent me the original drawing in the mail and I just took a picture of it with my picture-taking camera that takes pictures and here it is. So soon enough Jerry was fine and our interview was relocated to Nashville, where Jerry's musical version of THE NUTTY PROFESSOR was in previews. But then Marvin Hamlisch, the composer of the show's music, passed away, and things were thrown into turmoil once again so now I have almost interviewed Jerry Lewis twice and I have talked to him on the phone twice yet I feel so empty inside.

Justin Bieber's Owl Tattoo

I feel I need to tell you I just read in the New York Times that Justin Bieber has an owl tattoo.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Boiled Owl

And now I would like to say a few feverishly anticipated words about THE IRON PETTICOAT. Aw, it wasn't so bad! Or maybe that's the whiskey talking. Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn started drinking whiskey early in the movie and I am highly suggestible. First Robert Osborne came on and introduced it. He said that nobody has seen this movie in 40 years, because when the rights reverted to Bob Hope, he locked it up tight. I guess Bob was ashamed of it! Ben Hecht wrote the screenplay, but Bob decided to have his gag writers punch it up Bob Hope style, which made Ben Hecht furious. There was lots of trouble. But I must say that anything I laughed at in the movie bore the distinct mark of having been added by Bob Hope's gag writers. The movie starts with a score that indicates we are about to watch the curtain rise on a turbulent opera. It's heavy! Like Wagner trying to evoke a stormy seascape or something. Katharine Hepburn's Russian accent is somewhere between German and Dracula, with some French thrown in and something else... Spanish? She rolls her r's really expansively. But the minute Bob comes onscreen the energy and pep are palpable. He just breezes in and starts tossing off one-liners, walking in that supremely graceful way of his. He's so relaxed that during a scene with his commanding officer he just swivels back and forth on a chair casually, like a little kid, like he's thinking of something else. I was proud to notice an actual Russian (I think), a guy I recognized - decades younger here! - from Woody Allen's own Russian epic, LOVE AND DEATH. He plays a martial arts expert in THE IRON PETTICOAT. This Russian (I guess) and Bob have a funny fight scene, during which Bob unforgivably breaks character to make a Bing Crosby joke. So that's another Woody Allen/Bob Hope connection, which we collect here. The politics of the film is standard Cold War stuff, except that a porcine anti-communist senator from Alabama is portrayed as a dumb boob. Very early in the movie, Katharine Hepburn is said to be "as sore as a boiled owl," an expression I have heard before, maybe in other old movies, but I still don't get it, not really, a boiled owl, sore, why? What's that? In conclusion, what's the big deal? Who cares? Who cares about anything? Goodbye forever.


Hey what if I told you I was thinking about not doing the "Blog" Advent Calendar this year? You would probably be like, "Huh?"


Speaking of owls, I should mention that the most recent episode of ADVENTURE TIME featured an owl wearing a t-shirt that said OWL on it - so many levels! Many of my students are ADVENTURE TIME fans, and after class the other day a couple of them were saying that the episode in question made them think of "Children of the Corn," which we read earlier this semester, yes, that's right, we read "Children of the Corn" earlier this semester, shut up, leave me alone, you can't fire me, I quit.


If I were really back on twitter I would tell you that right now I am eating a salad and watching a special Valentine's Day episode of WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU.


I was delighted while reading JANE EYRE to discover that Mr. Rochester refers to himself as a "spoony" - a word with which I was previously unacquainted: "I began the process of ruining myself in the received style, like any other spoony... I had - as I deserved to have - the fate of all other spoonies." Still, I cannot help but recall what Philip Marlowe's friend Terry Lennox said about the gimlet: that it "beats the martini hollow." And likewise I must say that so far - so far! - WUTHERING HEIGHTS certainly beats JANE EYRE hollow. Not that it's a competition! (See also.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cat Twins!

Hey look a week or so ago during one of my "video conferences" with the good folks at ADVENTURE TIME one of our cats jumped in my lap so naturally I had to pick up the cat and show the cat to the people in Los Angeles so they could see the cat and besides this is the cat who looks exactly like Kent Osborne's cat! So you can see why I had to show everybody the cat because everybody needed to see the cat. Cat! Photo by Kent Osborne.

Solitary Ways

Hey I am reading JANE EYRE now. Hey there are no owls in it yet. But there is "a North-of-England spirit, called a 'Gytrash'; which, in the form of horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways." (See also.)

McNeil's Movie Korner

Welcome once again to "McNeil's Movie Korner"! Emailed McNeil to tell him the seldom-seen THE IRON PETTICOAT is coming on TCM tomorrow night. He replied that he doesn't have access to TCM right now, and has been reduced to watching EIGHT ON THE LAM on the "streaming video" they have nowadays. "I love it when Bob slips on the banana peel!" McNeil reports of the latter film. "Bob also has a 25 year old love interest! And, not coincidentally, the film is a Bob Hope Enterprise," he concludes. You know, I seem to recall that when Kelly Hogan was sick a couple of months ago, she watched EIGHT ON THE LAM to help her feel better. I'll try to confirm and get back to you with the tantalizing results of my in-depth investigation! Why am I so excited about THE IRON PETTICOAT? Dave Kehr, who is usually so pro-Bob, had nothing nice to say about it. He said that watching Katharine Hepburn and Bob Hope act together was like watching "a giraffe attempting to mate with a hedgehog." Hey, maybe that's why I'm excited! So long from "McNeil's Movie Korner."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Orange Velvet Head

In today's New York Times we find "stabs of sapphire, bags of rubies... the orange velvet head of a bear decapitated, poor thing."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Real Dead Owl

"... down fell a brown horned owl about the size and heft of a decapitated head..." So RIDES OF THE MIDWAY has a real for sure owl in it.

Sky Rabbit

"... I thought it was an owl trapped in there making all these spooked-out noises just like a ghost..." Rereading RIDES OF THE MIDWAY by Lee Durkee for my scary story class. And even though "it wasn't an owl at all" I am going to call RIDES OF THE MIDWAY a book with an owl in it, and put it on our big list of books with owls in them. Anyway, out at the fair a hypnotist makes a woman swoop "low over the stage... scour[ing] the earth for mice and rabbits." Now that doesn't mean she's an owl - it's not specified - but I'm saying she's an owl, because that's what owls do, they scour the earth. Hey did I ever tell you about the time Barry B. was driving all the way to New York City from Atlanta without stopping and we saw a rabbit fall out of the sky? Dr. Theresa and Caroline, who were dozing in the back of the van, didn't believe us. They said things like, "Oh sure, and I just saw a pig hitchhiking. He was standing on his hind legs and wearing a tie." But we know the truth. Hey as long as I've got you here why don't I tell you about a book WITHOUT an owl in it? Oh who am I kidding, it's five volumes, I'm sure there's an owl in it somewhere. Last night I was thumbing through THE ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH POPULAR BALLADS collected by Francis James Child and I came across one called "Child Owlet" and an owlet is a baby owl, right? Right? But it's just some guy's name, this guy's name is Child Owlet, and not even I can count him as an owl. He's torn apart by horses for a crime he didn't commit, if you must know.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fine Art Dude

How often have I tried to express to Dr. Theresa the mesmerizing quality of the people who try to sell you jewelry on television. But she had to come across an example of TV salesmanship on her own to truly understand the value of this unappreciated form of entertainment. She saw this dude selling "fine art." He was a fat guy in a brown suit and whenever he sat down he spread his legs really far apart. (Nothing against fat guys! I am a fat guy myself!) Dr. Theresa called me in and we watched the fat guy sell fine art together. The fine art salesman smacked his gum loudly (Nicorette, convincingly theorized Dr. Theresa) as he sold his fine art, and drank Mountain Dew. His Mountain Dew cans were littered among the fine art he was selling. I have presented here an actual example of the actual work that was up for grabs. He kept up a patter of non sequiturs, but they weren't charming like Tracey's from the Gem Shopping Network. This guy seemed volatile. He kept returning to his problems with someone called Jennifer. He said, for example, that she had the mark of the devil on her scalp! Scalp, he said. Jennifer turned out to be his wife. He said something about "bigfoot pulling a gun." Disappointingly, "Bigfoot" turned out to be the nickname of a guy on the crew. He said, "Don't stab yourself, Chappell." (His name was Chappell and he constantly referred to himself in the third person.) He said, "Don't stab yourself, Chappell, or they'll know you're crazy. I'm not crazy!"

Friday, November 23, 2012

Censorious Pink Zag

I didn't tell you about how Elizabeth saw "people wearing pink and red and black together. zig zaggy stripes" at the racetrack because it sounded censorious and sometimes I like to walk around in my black velvet jacket and pink shirt like some kind of big shot but I confessed and she says it's okay but she probably just feels sorry for me.

Tiny and Cutely

Elizabeth spent Thanksgiving at the racetrack, natch. Her horse came in second and Elizabeth got interviewed by the local news. She files this report: "lots of horrible hats made with hot glue guns and old gum... the jockeys were so tiny and cutely dressed."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Channel That Shows Grape Ape

Spent Thanksgiving the usual way - took a pain pill and watched a little GRAPE APE on the channel that shows GRAPE APE. (See also.) The pain pill didn't help. I mean, it helped the pain but it didn't help Grape Ape. You remember Grape Ape. He had an okay vocabulary but mostly just said his own name a lot for no reason, as seen here. But I bet you didn't remember that his friend was an anthropomorphic dog (see also) who I believe was intended to come off as some kind of hipster. They just drove around aimlessly. So really it was like ON THE ROAD or the Bill Bixby version of the Hulk. And everybody they met was a regular human, yes, that hipster dog was the only human-size talking dog around. He talked like maybe he hung around in jazz clubs or something. I bet he was lonely. On the other channel was Kenneth Branagh's strenuous attempt at a musical comedy but Grape Ape was probably worse though when you think of the relative effort that went into them maybe it's a draw. Hey it's none of my beeswax really we're all just trying to have a good time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Oral Surgeon's Memory

Somebody pulled two of my teeth today! Fortunately, he was a qualified professional. As he put me under, he was telling me a memory of being a kid in a Vicksburg, Mississippi, hotel room where B.B. King was watching an episode of WONDER WOMAN on TV. "So it must have been the 70s," he said. Sounds like a hallucination, but I confirmed it when I woke up with two teeth missing. Just in time for Thanksgiving. Now I am eating mashed sweet potatoes and thinking about what I learned.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hackman's Eggs

But the main thing I want to say about FRENCH CONNECTION II is that Gene Hackman was eating hardboiled eggs at the bar (or were they pickled? they didn't look pickled) and I was thinking hardboiled eggs should make a comeback as bar food or maybe they never went away I have no idea but when I was watching Gene Hackman all I was thinking was boy I wish I were at a bar eating hardboiled eggs like Gene Hackman.

Back in Shape

Okay now I am going to tell you some more things Dr. Theresa said while watching Gene Hackman in FRENCH CONNECTION II. When he was chasing on foot after a streetcar, she said, "He's back in shape!" Because earlier in the movie the bad guys - spoiler alert, but you can't possibly care, can you? - kidnapped him and hooked him on the dope (see Dr. Theresa's previous comment, "Oh, they're shooting him full of junk") and he had to get over his love of the dope and get back in shape and get his groove back. Then at the end of the movie she said, "That's the 1970s for ya!"

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Goods

And now I would like to tell you some of the things Dr. Theresa said while we were watching FRENCH CONNECTION II just now. She said, "I hope nothing happens to the well-meaning bartender" and "Oh, they're shooting him full of junk." And when an old lady stole a strung-out Gene Hackman's watch, she said, "Granny's got the goods" and when a French cop tore up a doctor's report she said, "This never happened, see?" And later she said, "You're toast, granny." I said one thing. There was a bad guy who looked like the Mentalist from the TV show THE MENTALIST, and when he crashed through the windshield of a truck I said, "So much for the Mentalist." What else? Well, Dr. Theresa broke a casserole dish and cut her fingers and there was blood everywhere like a horror movie.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Also Like the Ghostly Nubs

"Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?" This koan, arguably in iambic pentameter, from a restaurant review by Pete Wells, is my favorite sentence in today's New York Times. Wells's review ("click" here) contains many other piquant phrases, such as "ghostly nubs."

William Henry Harrison

Hey it was warm on Friday and I went out in short sleeves then later in the evening it was cooler and I never put on a jacket and I got sick - not McNeil sick, but pretty sick. Is that how getting sick works? Isn't that what happened to William Henry Harrison? Look it up! But at 2 or 3 in the morning, not yet knowing I was sick, I found myself awake and I turned on TCM and something called BURN, WITCH, BURN was coming on and I heard Dr. Theresa stirring around so I said, "Get up! There's something called BURN, WITCH, BURN coming on!" So Dr. Theresa said, "Pause it!" Dr. Theresa said, "What if I make coffee and eggs and tortillas and we watch BURN, WITCH, BURN? We can sleep all day tomorrow if we want!" All of that sounded like the best idea ever. BURN, WITCH, BURN is all about college professors using witchcraft to get tenure! I think there were some sly allusions to Shirley Jackson. And then a giant stone eagle comes to life and chases a dude down the halls of academia. But afterwards I was exhausted. That's not what coffee is supposed to do! Turns out I was sick with a virus all weekend and even had to miss class on Monday and gee I always give my students such a hard time when they don't drag themselves to class and I guess I should have learned a valuable lesson about what a jerk I am but I didn't, no, I'm still a jerk.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

How Kitty Got Her Brains Back

I am happy to say that somewhere between the denouement of THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ, in which the pink brains of the Glass Cat are removed, and GLINDA OF OZ, which L. Frank Baum wrote on his deathbed, the Glass Cat apparently gets her pink brains back. Now, if wikipedia is telling me true, there are seven OZ books between THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ and GLINDA OF OZ, so that means I have to read just seven more OZ books at the MOST to find out how and why the Glass Cat got back her pink brains, unless Baum just forgot, he was on his deathbed after all, so am I, a man almost 50 years of age, going to read seven more OZ books anyway? I can't say I won't.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Jottery

Hey I just opened up my precious little notebook that contains all my precious little jottings and I saw a partial quotation I must have liked, and indeed do like: "achievement unblemished by reward." - N.J. But I don't remember writing it down or who N.J. is! I'll investigate. Maybe. If I'm not too tired. Right above it, I have printed as a question, "We're all going to die one day?" Yeah, I don't know where I was or what I was doing when I jotted that. Jotting!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Not Surprisingly, Nixon

Would you be interested and thrilled if I told you that I thought of another connection between Norman Mailer and Nixon? No? Who cares? The way I remembered it, Godard asked Nixon to play King Lear before he asked Norman Mailer. Turns out I have no idea what I'm talking about. But when I looked it up in the Godard bio I have, I found out that Godard DID offer Nixon half a million dollars to appear in one scene with Mailer. "Not surprisingly, Nixon did not respond," writes Richard Brody. I also learned that Lee Marvin agreed to play King Lear and then backed out. Lee Marvin as King Lear! I know you don't care but I am going to sit here and think about it. Well, what if I told you that there are several disorienting references to "Romney" in Mailer's book, only he's talking about Romney's dad? Still nothing? Okay. Well, I guess I have been going around for decades with a knowing air, misleadingly asking people, "Hey, did you know Godard offered Nixon the part of King Lear?" Hey, GLINDA OF OZ is weird. There's "a shelf of books that were written in blood" - shades of Lovecraft! - and Dorothy has lines of dialogue like, "No, I'd rather die quickly." (!)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Uttering Dismal Grunts

All right! More on the pig from GLINDA OF OZ: "Just then a pig came running into the room, uttering dismal grunts. It was made of solid gold, with joints at the bends of the legs and in the neck and jaws. The Golden Pig's eyes were rubies, and its teeth were polished ivory." All right that's my kind of pig all right. Except for the ivory, ivory's not cool man.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Misty Soubrette Reappraisal

Hey speaking of Nixon wasn't I just speaking of Nixon? I happened to grab up Norman Mailer's nonfiction book MIAMI AND THE SIEGE OF CHICAGO and I just got to the part where Mailer spies Nixon's daughters: "Tricia, gentle, bemused, a misty look to her face... Julie... healthy, genial, a perfect soubrette for a family comedy on television... a man who could produce daughters like that could not be all bad. The remote possibility of some reappraisal of Richard Nixon was now forced to enter the works." Loyal "blog" readers will of course immediately recall their loyal "blog" reading from early 2007 and the controversial words of one James Whorton, Jr.

Four Cans of Brains

Here is my favorite statement so far in GLINDA OF OZ: "My poor wife had four cans of brains and became a remarkable witch, but alas! that was before those terrible enemies, the Skeezers, transformed her into a Golden Pig."

Friday, November 02, 2012

Frightful Music Gentlemen

In the book I was telling you about, Thomas Adès has some interesting things to say about Franck, a composer to whom I have never given a second thought, or a first thought. Adès calls Franck's only symphony "a very pregnant piece. It's wildly unfashionable now." Naturally I turned to the reliably stilted yet poignant schadenfreude of those kooky old volumes: MILTON CROSS' ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSIC. I was not disappointed! "Midway in his rehearsal [the conductor, Colonne] stopped the orchestra and turned to the composer to ask, 'Does it please you?' Franck replied that he was very pleased indeed. Colonne then turned back to the orchestra men and added, 'It's all frightful music, gentlemen, but we'll go on anyway.'" And: "Most of those who knew him regarded him as a quaint man who always wore an overcoat too large for him, over trousers that were invariably too short." The encyclopedia tells of how Franck worked on a piece for ten years then invited all the greatest members of the musical establishment of Paris to hear him play it and only two people showed up. "His first major public success as a composer did not come until he was sixty-eight years old (the last year of his life)." On the other hand, Debussy is quoted on the subject of Franck's soul, which he proclaimed "so good that neither contradictory circumstances nor the wickedness of others could ever make him feel bitter."

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Famous Fish Pix

Hey yeah but look here, Pendleton Ward, creator of ADVENTURE TIME, drew me again, this time with the fish that Rachel and SKIN MAG the human literary magazine gave me when they moved to Mexico to express their love, only guess what, they moved to China instead! That's what somebody told me at City Grocery Bar the other night. I have lost touch with them completely and cannot tell them about this artistic sketch of their former pet. I am always spending long portions of valuable professional video-conferencing time talking about the fish, yes, that's right, I am doing some work for ADVENTURE TIME, why was I trying to keep that a secret? Maybe I kind of thought it was supposed to be a secret. Don't ask me. Anyway, it can't be a secret, can it? With this picture of the fish and me out there? I could and should and will take this opportunity to make sure you understand that Pendleton Ward is NOT the "Mr. Ward" to whom I often refer on the "blog." I have never met Pendleton Ward in actual person. My old friend, the "blog's" "Mr. Ward," has the FIRST name Ward, not the last name Ward. I don't even recall why I started to call my friend Ward "Mr. Ward" on the "blog." Was it to protect his identity? That was stupid.