Wednesday, October 30, 2013

She First Laid Eyes on Jeffrey When He Burst Out of a Pie

It has been a busy few days! Many revelations. Just for example, we learned that Bill Griffith watches THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW every week. He said of the midwest, from which he hails, "Polka was our blues," and we all laughed, but then he kept expanding his argument until we were all nodding thoughtfully. "We" included Laraine Newman and Ace Atkins and Megan Abbott. Bill was doing his usual amazing job of showing us around Rowan Oak. He got out Jill Faulkner's rarely-seen scrapbook in which she pasted pictures of her favorite stars, snipped from movie magazines. (Jill was Faulkner's daughter, of course.) There were quite a few photos of Lucille Ball from her pre-comedy pin-up days - a coincidence, as Laraine and I had just been talking about her (and would continue to do so during our panel the next night). In one of them, Lucy was "showing her bloomers," as Laraine put it. I guess it felt strange to stand in a girl's bedroom and nose through her private scrapbook, even though (or especially because?) she grew old and passed away years ago. Another revelation: Laraine once auditioned for Bob Hope! She said it was nightmarish and mortifying. She did her "Valley Girl" character for him, back when no one - especially Bob Hope - knew what a "valley girl" was. He stared at her with a look on his face that said they did not belong in the same room, the same building, the same universe. If I paraphrase, it is only slightly. What else? The revelations are only beginning. I read things in REPROBATES: THE CAVALIERS OF THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR about which I neglected to inform you. I did make it to twitter - a poor substitute! - to quote Robert Herrick, who was quoted in the book: "Get up, sweet Slug-a-bed, and see/ The Dew-besprangling Herbe and Tree." When I got to "besprangling" I had to put down the book for the night, I really did, because nothing was going to top it. Besprangling! At the end of the chapter we found out how Queen Henrietta met her favorite dwarf: "She first laid eyes on Jeffrey Hudson at a banquet held in her honour by the duke, when he burst out of a pie and greeted her." What else? Megan and Bill had a good talk because - unbeknownst to one another - they had both been watching Lawrence Welk's Halloween special at the same time. Dr. Theresa and I missed it because we were watching HOUSE OF THE SEVEN CORPSES as part of our Halloween film festival. (Megan took the above photo of her TV screen during the Lawrence Welk Halloween special and tweeted it at me while I was watching HOUSE OF THE SEVEN CORPSES.) HOUSE OF THE SEVEN CORPSES does not linger in the memory. But I did write down three things on the back of an envelope to tell you about it: 1) John Ireland wears an ill-fitting lavender turtleneck. 2) It is one of those movies in which a cat appears at the beginning, and you think "Oh no! Something awful is going to happen to that cat!" And it does. 3) HOUSE OF THE SEVEN CORPSES concludes with a touching expression of gratitude to the Utah Historical Society! I wonder how the Utah Historical Society felt about that. I knew that Bill Griffith was a big horror fan, but I did not know that Megan Abbott and Laraine Newman were just as avid. So Bill and Megan bonded over pioneering camera techniques in BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974). At dinner last night Dr. Theresa and Laraine enthusiastically discussed THE STUFF (in which Laraine's friend Garrett Morris appeared) and other works of Larry Cohen. Megan and Laraine rhapsodized about THE BROOD and DEAD RINGERS, both by Cronenberg. Laraine brought up Kolchak: The Night Stalker. By coincidence, Dr. Theresa and I had just watched THE NIGHT STRANGLER, a TV movie starring that character, as part of our Halloween film festival. Hmm, what else? While Dr. Theresa and I were on the way to the airport to pick up Laraine, a song by Jim Ed Brown came on the radio, containing this rhetorical question: "Did you ever hear of a clown with teardrops streaming down his face?" To which I responded, "Yes! All the time." Yet somehow Jim Ed Brown seemed to think we'd be surprised.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Gender and Humor and Gender

Dr. Theresa and I had dinner with Laraine Newman last night! We talked about THE SENTINEL, of all things, which, like us, Laraine had just seen for the first time for some reason. Much discussion of Chris Sarandon's moustache in that film. Did we also discuss GENDER AND HUMOR, the topic of our upcoming panel? MAYBE! And maybe Laraine Newman said - surprisingly? you be the judge! - that she much prefers the comic persona of Jerry Lewis to the comic persona of Lucille Ball. Laraine Newman had some sharp insights, as might be expected, on the difference between what Jerry Lewis's character and Lucille Ball's character usually wanted. But if I told you that, it would be a spoiler. All I can tell you is COME TO THE PANEL. Overby Center. 6 PM. Tomorrow. Oxford, Mississippi. I can tell you that Richard Burton didn't care for Lucille Ball, because I read it in his diary. He called her "a monster of staggering charmlessness" and that's just for starters! "There's a chance that I might have killed her," is another little thought he throws out there. He says that Joan Crawford was frightened of her! Joan Crawford! Joan Crawford? Yes, Joan Crawford! Joan Crawford. When Megan Abbott and I were reading these passages out loud at Square Books, Megan reminded me exactly how tough a woman had to be in those days to make it up the ladder the way Lucy did. Megan was seeing things from Lucy's point of view! A lot of times you had to stop in the Richard Burton diaries and think what the other person's diary might be like. Richard Burton really hated the expensive alarm clock that Frank Sinatra gave him!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Things About Kings

Whoa! I was just over at Square Books, stumbling around the new release table, and I saw that Peter Ackroyd has already written another book about kings! It is a sequel to his last book about kings. What are you doing to me, Peter Ackroyd? You know I can only take so many books about kings over such-and-such a period of time. On the paperback table I saw this book I keep meaning to tell you about. I've never seen anything but the cover, front and back. It's by some local twins who are also old ladies. On the cover, the old lady twins are dressed up as queens, with crowns and scepters and red capes. One old lady is seated, pulling back her royal cape to reveal that she is wearing sneakers such as a youthful person might don! Her identical sister appears to sneak up behind her, threatening with real malice to bash in her head with her scepter! That is the cover of the book. The back cover claims - and why should I doubt it? - that the olden sisters once bet William Faulkner a prized marble that he could not tell them apart. In conclusion, let's talk about the history book about kings I am reading right now. I forgot about this: I was reading in bed last night about one Count Gondomar (!) who liked the ladies and, as a contemporary wrote, "would cast out his golden Balls to catch them," ha ha! I read that aloud to Dr. Theresa and laughed uproariously like a real jerk. I was purposely misinterpreting "golden Balls" to humorous effect, for which I humbly beg your pardon. Let me further relate that just as I predicted, doublets appear with regularity. A prince's attendant runs up, "rustling and panting in his ruff and doublet."

Very Tiny Capers

Hey, I like the way they wrote in the 17th century. In this book REPROBATES: THE CAVALIERS OF THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR (which is from the 21st century), the author tells about the time King James was watching a really boring play and cried out, "Devil take all of you, dance!" So, as a contemporary chronicler recorded, the king's best pal Buckingham jumped up and "danced a number of high and very tiny capers with such grace and lightness that he made everybody love him." Ha ha! Aw! I want to see somebody dance some high and very tiny capers. Later in the chapter, a 17th-century travel writer, James Howell, says that the cavaliers of Madrid don't particularly enjoy dueling, "but often vse priuate quarrelling in the streets, and are much giuen to suddaine desperate stabbing."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Duchess Gig

Reading in this history book about William Davenant, who comes to town in 1622 and buys "a splendid silk suit" with "no means, and possibly no intention" of paying for it. Then he gets a job fetching powdered unicorn horn for a duchess! So that sounds like a good gig. I may have to put this book aside for the "social history of ice" I just picked up at Square Books because I'm writing a short article with ice in it so I have to read a 400-page book about ice.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Purple Punk

Here is some verse quoted in that book I'm reading: "Your Punke dancing in Purple,/ With Musick that would make a Hermit frisk..." All right, everything is great about that, especially the extra e, you know what a sucker I am for an extra e, and the k in music isn't too shabby either, and the frisking hermit is nothing to sneeze at, is he? Also the vivid smattering of capital letters. In the book, there's a bracketed explanation: "Your Punke [prostitute] dancing in Purple,/ With Musick that would make a Hermit frisk..."

Likely Doublet Bonanza

Started reading something "serious" for a change - REPROBATES: THE CAVALIERS OF THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR by John Stubbs. So I guess it's back to kings for me! After that one book about kings I gave up on that other book about kings, so we'll see. Right away, in the introduction, there's this: "Since we cannot cancel the term 'cavalier' in the record altogether, we should try to comprehend the depth and variety of qualities it actually denoted." And I was like, "Oh no! Should we?" But I'm going to keep going! After all, it promises doublets aplenty ("Everyone can picture him, the cavalier, with his lovelocks, his broad hat, his mantle and bucket-topped boots, the basket-handled rapier at his side, a buskin covering his satin doublet") and I hardly ever get to use my "doublet" label at the bottom of these "posts." Nothing against author John Stubbs, but his name makes me think about Stubbe Peeter, a man whose 1590 trial records I have read in the LYCANTHROPY READER... "A True Discourse Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of One Stubbe Peeter, A Most Wicked Sorcerer, Who in the Likeness of a Wolf..." well, the title is awful and bloody and goes on and on. (See also.) I thought Stubbe Peeter was also known as "Peter Stubbs" but I see my memory has failed me. According to the index, he was also known as Peter Stump, which seems worse somehow. Wait! Have I never told you about the LYCANTHROPY READER before? My "blog search function" says no. Here's the full subtitle: "Werewolves in Western Culture - Medical Cases, Diagnoses, Descriptions; Trial Records, Historical Accounts, Sightings; Philosophical and Theological Approaches to Metamorphosis; Critical Essays on Lycanthropy; Myths and Legends; Allegory." My friend's wife gave it to him for Christmas! And it scared him so much he gave it to me to get it out of his house.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Majesty of Beer and Sponges

Poignant? Utopian? Mysterious? Poetic? Somehow by its placement as the very last sentence in the article about a New York grocery store robbery (from today's New York Times) it acquires a quality I can't quite put my finger on: "Without immediately attracting attention, a reporter was able to enter a back loading dock that was piled high with cases of beer and stocks of cosmetics and sea sponges." Maybe it's the beginning with guns and action and ending with mountains of silent sea sponges.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Shakespeare Stars!

I was WRONG when I implied that people getting drunk on yachts were the only things connecting THE RICHARD BURTON DIARIES with the book JOHNNY CARSON, by Johnny Carson's lawyer. Sinatra also figures in both. Sinatra is hanging out with Richard Burton (on a yacht!) and wants Burton to read HAMLET with him... because Sinatra is planning to make his comeback... AS HAMLET! That never happened. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE. So Johnny Carson and Johnny Carson's lawyer are hanging out with Joyce DeWitt (pictured), whom the lawyer is dating. You may know her best from TV'S THREE'S COMPANY. And Joyce DeWitt tries to talk Johnny Carson into playing Puck in a production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. Ha ha ha! That anecdote is related as a flashback during a tense dinner that the lawyer is having with Johnny Carson just months later... ON A YACHT. Only now, with no explanation, the lawyer is dating Mary Hart from TV'S ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT instead of Joyce DeWitt! Oh boy. That is all the information I have for you at this time.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Men Like Me

"Carson wanted a dog to kick, and every time he looked at me he saw a Milk-Bone in my mouth." Ha ha, so terrible it's good. I am reading a book called JOHNNY CARSON, written by Johnny Carson's lawyer. It is filled with tough-guy sentences of a comfortingly cornball variety. The lawyer is helped out of the particular crisis alluded to in the above dog metaphor by a couple of men, one named Charles Wick: "men like me," he writes, "men who were highly accomplished at what they did." By the way, Wick has been introduced to us as "the man behind SNOW WHITE AND THE THREE STOOGES" - ha ha, whew! What a gas. First I read THE RICHARD BURTON DIARIES and now this, or as I call them, PEOPLE GETTING DRUNK ON YACHTS, VOLS. I and II. That's not fair. I can't recall whether anyone gets drunk on the yachts in JOHNNY CARSON, though they get good and drunk elsewhere. The lawyer remarks of the year 1970, "One was accustomed in those days to seeing drunk patrons in bars and tipsy diners in restaurants, far more so than today." Wow! I want to invite him to Oxford, Mississippi. He'll be so surprised all the time!

Shut Up, Gandalf

There's a Laurie Anderson lyric that goes, "You know, I think we should put some mountains here. Otherwise, what are the characters going to fall off of?" I thought of that last night when I couldn't sleep and the newish HOBBIT movie was on and the characters were just constantly falling off of mountains, at least in the little bit of the movie I saw, they just kept going from mountain to mountain, falling and falling, falling off the edge, falling into crevasses and abysses and whatnot, sometimes just tumbling all the way down the mountain, and I learned an important lesson: you will never, ever get even the tiniest injury from falling off a mountain. When they tumbled to the bottom of one particular mountain a bunch of giant wolves started chasing them and this one dude was like, "Out of the frying pan..." and Gandalf bellowed theatrically in response, "And into the fire!" Ha ha! That was pretty unnecessary, Gandalf.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

All Garbling

I was starting to think our Halloween Film Festival would never bounce back from the depressing effects that THE VAMPIRE had on us. It makes you want to stop having Halloween Film Festivals! But yesterday during a discussion of scary movies Megan Abbott's dad - that's right, Megan Abbott's dad! - mentioned "the one where the woman turns into a wasp, what's it called?" And I said, "THE WASP WOMAN?" I happened to know the title because it's sitting there on the old dvr. Hey! Speaking of dads, my dad was a consultant on tomorrow's all-new episode of ADVENTURE TIME. The way I remember it, Pen had an idea called "Everybody Fixes a Car." He sent me a picture of a broken engine and I sent it to my dad - who has been taking apart and putting back together all kinds of engines for well over half a century - and the first thing my dad said was, "That's not a car engine. It's a truck engine." Well, now the episode is called "We Fixed a Truck," so already you can see my dad's influence. Let me explain that whatever my dad told me, I later told the people in the writing room, and then the people in the writing room may or may not have transmitted it in whole or in part to Cole Sanchez and Andy Ristaino, who were writing and storyboarding the episode. So don't blame my dad for any technical inaccuracy that may have slipped through: ALL GARBLING BEGAN WITH ME. I'm the worst! Anyway, Dr. Theresa and I took Megan's dad's comment as a sign and watched THE WASP WOMAN yesterday. It was satisfying! You know why? Because you think it will be about a woman who turns into a wasp and kills people... AND IT IS! (See accompanying illustration.) The imaginative and loony direction of Roger Corman helps too. As I am sure you will recall, Corman directed ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS, a highlight of our 2011 Halloween Film Festival. So of course we were invigorated and in the mood for another Corman movie. So we watched NOT OF THIS EARTH, the original one, not the 1988 remake, which I must confess I saw in the movie theatre. You see, my friend Ben and I had this elaborate ritual of going to see two movies every Monday (I think it was Monday, and I think it was Ben) and there were all these complicated rules about picking that I can no longer remember, but which I believe resulted in us going to see NOT OF THIS EARTH (the remake) and the Run DMC star vehicle/action movie TOUGHER THAN LEATHER on the same day, that was some day! But back to yesterday. A doctor walked in and I was like, "That's the guy with the pipe!" Yes, the doctor from NOT OF THIS EARTH was also in THE WASP WOMAN, and in THE WASP WOMAN he "let his pipe do most of the acting," as I believe I once said in an article about Dick Powell in THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. Another noteworthy pipe-based performance occurs in the Paul Anka voyeurism movie ("click" here for more details, ha ha! I know you won't). But you know the type of performance. A lot of actorly business with "lighting your pipe" every time you walk into a scene. The curiously sympathetic murderous aliens in NOT OF THIS EARTH dress like the Blues Brothers, as Dr. Theresa first observed - sunglasses, hats, and suits. And may I say that they are much more vampiric than the lead character in THE VAMPIRE? I am still holding a grudge about that. Our main alien keeps his refrigerator well stocked with blood, just like (if memory serves) the vampire in THE NIGHT STALKER from last year's festival. Say what you will about modern technology, it is a real life-saver for today's busy vampire on the go. (Here I should mention for the sake of completeness - ha ha! who cares? - that Dr. Theresa and I watched NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS after THE VAMPIRE. NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS was directed by Dan Curtis, who did THE NIGHT STALKER and TRILOGY OF TERROR, so we had high hopes, and we were coming off of THE VAMPIRE, so we were ready to enjoy something for a change, but it was kind of a mess. It did nothing to inspire us to keep the Halloween Film Festival going! It felt like the last gasp. We were enervated by it! The theme song sounded like a swanky cocktail lounge with a tipsy piano player, like something from THE APARTMENT, with Fred MacMurray and Shirley MacLaine sitting in the dark back corner, and then the theme would be taken up by guitar and a wheezing, melancholy harmonica. The movie itself had weak strains of WUTHERING HEIGHTS and REBECCA... its most effective set was a creepy old slimy swimming pool with a gnarled tree branch lying in it; it kept promising something better and snatching it away... I guess the best thing it did was "introduce Kate Jackson.") Corman fave actor Dick Miller gets murdered by the main alien in NOT OF THIS EARTH. Miller's character was a door-to-door salesman who used beatnik lingo ("Crazy!"), which reminded me that Dean Moriarty in ON THE ROAD is a door-to-door salesman at a couple of points, and NOT OF THIS EARTH came out right after ON THE ROAD, and I don't know what I'm talking about. There's an idea in there somewhere.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Oatmeal Tips

Welcome once again to "Oatmeal Tips." To my shame, it has been well over a year since our last "Oatmeal Tip." A guy I follow on twitter, David King, tweets, "Putting a lot of salt in it is what makes oatmeal taste good." This has been "Oatmeal Tips."

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Richard Burton is eating licorice again! A whole pound this time! Elizabeth Taylor had some licorice, too, not quite a pound for her. "Callard and Bowsers Liquorice Fingers," to be precise. He is also reading a book about otters. He reads as many as five books a day! And here I am creeping through his diary, just creeping along.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Half a Pound of Licorice

Still reading THE RICHARD BURTON DIARIES. Richard Burton just ate half a pound of licorice.

This Guy

Reading in today's New York Times about Peter von Winter, who composed a sequel to THE MAGIC FLUTE after Mozart died, and "whom contemporaries described as a naïve giant who was terrified of ghosts and never left the house after dark." I like this guy! He sounds like a cartoon character.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Richard Burton Warms Up Some Soup

Still reading THE RICHARD BURTON DIARIES. Richard Burton just warmed up some soup on a hot plate.

Rude Goblin

The editorial footnotes to THE RICHARD BURTON DIARIES are relentless and picayune. "Bangs: a hairstyle involving fringes across the forehead," one informs us. When Burton mentions Sammy Davis, Jr., the footnote says, "entertainer." But occasionally there's a useful one. Burton records a conversation about the origin of the word pumpernickel, which he claims has something to do with Napoleon's horse. The footnote contradicts him. "This story is not true: the name comes from the German words pumpern (to break wind) and Nickel (goblin)." So I guess all you brainiacs already knew that pumpernickel was named after a farting goblin - pardon my French! - but it was news to me.

Anticlimactic Bat Pills

I haven't gone back to check the previous schedules, but I'm pretty sure our Halloween Film Festival hit an all-time low point with a movie called THE VAMPIRE. Not much of a title to begin with, and the guy's not even a vampire! They threw in some bats as a lazy afterthought. And I think he... takes pills of made of bats...? But he's strictly a Mr. Hyde type. He's a doctor, and at the beginning of the movie one of his patients tells him in a burst of disjointed sentences that she lives alone, has a heart condition, is easily frightened, and thinks that something is going to happen to her. "That's some heavy foreshadowing," said Dr. Theresa.

Elizabeth Taylor Is Cooking Some Hot Dogs

Reading THE RICHARD BURTON DIARIES, maybe for the Doomed Book Club. Elizabeth Taylor is cooking some hot dogs.

Monday, October 14, 2013


A young woman walking behind me on the sidewalk just said into her phone, "Isn't a cool name for a dog Virgil?" Part of me thinks she should have been normal and said, "Isn't Virgil a cool name for a dog?" Another part of me thinks it's none of my business. Maybe her way has more personality. Let's think about it for the rest of the day.

Pyramid of Friends

Megan Abbott came over to watch WIFE WANTED, an extremely low-budget movie that Verdell sent me. WIFE WANTED is all about the scourge of "friendship clubs," which, according to WIFE WANTED, are where you go when you're lonely and there's a sweetheart waiting there to rip off all your money. These friendship clubs seem like a serious problem! It is a good thing there was no booze in the house or Megan and I would be dead from taking a drink every time someone in the movie said "friendship club." It is not unusual for a character to say "friendship club" twice in the same sentence! When Megan got home she looked up old newspaper articles about "friendship clubs" and found one that was like a pyramid scheme ("click" here). Apparently there was money involved, though I prefer to think of it as a way to get a pyramid of friends! And what's wrong with that? A hardboiled reporter goes undercover to crack the case of the friendship club, which is named Affiliated Friendship Club. He pretends to be a prosperous but lonely sheep farmer from Utah, but the actor doesn't try very hard to keep his "Utah sheep farmer accent" going. He slips in at out of it at his ease. He really only remembered to do it "whenever somebody mentions his ranch," as Megan observed. Greatest of all in WIFE WANTED was the bar frequented by the characters. There was a little piano in the bar, and when the man would play the piano, the piano would begin to glide around the floor as if propelled by magic! I mean, it really zoomed along through the bar, past tables, around a corner, and out of sight. No one seemed surprised. In this frame you can see a tiny bit of the magic piano, stilled for the moment. All Kay Francis wants is another drink and this crummy bartender refuses to give her one. He is like, "Wouldn't you rather talk?" He is like, "Eat this sandwich instead!" You can see the sandwich in question. What a lousy bartender.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Return of Pale Death

This Norman Mailer book about the moon landing continues to be concerned, in part, about the vending-machine food available at various NASA facilities. In the Project Engineering Facility Building in Houston, "A choice was presented of preheated cans of Vienna sausage, corned beef..." Wait! I'm going to pause for a second. "Preheated cans of Vienna sausage!" There are two things wrong with that: "preheated cans" and "Vienna sausage." I am sure you will recall that my friend Andy referred to Vienna sausage as "tubes of pale death." Now imagine them in a preheated can! I dare you! I am truly saddened to note that Andy has not "blogged" about anything since a can of cling peaches more than two years ago. Okay, back to Mailer: "A choice was presented of preheated cans of Vienna sausage, corned beef, beef and macaroni, Dagwood sandwiches, pastry, chili, chiliburgers." Chiliburgers again! I remain fascinated by the predominance of chiliburgers in the space program. As usual, I am focusing on the wrong things in the books I read. That's the problem with books!

More Ironic Songs About Millionaires

Our Halloween Film Festival continued with something called SCREAM OF FEAR. Incidentally, a few minutes ago we caught a little of HIGH SOCIETY, which is not a Halloween movie. We saw Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm singing an ironic song about how hard it is to be a millionaire (pictured), and I am prepared to say the "ironic millionaire song" is a thriving staple of the musical genre, based on that one other old movie I saw a couple of months ago where they were singing an ironic song about how hard it is to be a millionaire. One or two channels up, they were showing that awful Kenneth Branagh movie of Frankenstein, but we skipped that. Dr. Theresa, out of kindness to me, no longer does her deeply disturbing imitation of Helena Bonham Carter in the awful Kenneth Branagh Frankenstein movie. She threatened to do it tonight for old times' sake, but took pity and desisted when she saw me trembling like a kitten.

Nobody Asked You

I know you don't want to see more old photos of McNeil and me, but nobody asked you. "We have our t-shirts tucked in!!!" McNeil notes with altogether appropriate punctuation.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Child's Garden of Fedoras

Our Halloween Film Festival has continued with HORROR OF DRACULA and LEMORA: A CHILD'S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL. Like all children's tales, LEMORA begins with a gangster in a fedora and pinstripe suit gunning down his adulterous wife and her lover. I seem to scoff at LEMORA! Indeed it was a cheap, early 70s artifact with a Hawthorne-style preacher who might have been a leading man if he weren't so cross-eyed. But, like everything, it turned out to be far more sophisticated than its surface would suggest, with echoes of NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, "Carmilla," ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, a touch of Lovecraft, maybe even Cocteau... but mostly its own weird thing. I'm sorry I doubted you, Lemora! Pictured, Lemora.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Moon Burger

Reading about the accommodations for members of the press in this Norman Mailer book about the moon landing. NASA had a chili burger vending machine set up at the launch site! "Nobody was about to have machine-vended chiliburgers at half-past eight in the morning," observes Mailer. Also, they had just one machine for cold drinks and it broke down, to the fury of hundreds of reporters who were standing in a long, unmoving line. Meanwhile, they're launching a ROCKET TO THE MOON! The irony is not lost on Mr. Mailer, nope.

Owl Sick

Man am I sick of being right all the time! Yes, there is an owl in every book, as I weary of telling you, and you - if you exist, which by all accounts you do not - are tired of hearing. Norman Mailer's little paperback about the moon landing got buried under some other stuff at my "work station" and I forgot all about it. But yesterday there it was peeking out at me, and I was looking for something to read, something small enough to carry in my pocket to the Ajax Diner and the City Grocery Bar (ISN'T THIS INTERESTING?) and the bookmark told me I had stopped at the end of Chapter Two. So I started Chapter Three, in which Norman Mailer describes all the kinds of animals you can see around Cape Canaveral, and he hits us right away with some owls, which I noted with a resigned sigh and record here with a sluggish sensation of duty. But allow me to add a postscript in which I find my spirit uplifted. Double checking the passage for owls just now I read again a description of palm trees "as ravaged and scabby as the matted backside of a monkey."

Monday, October 07, 2013

Gold Birthday Horror Cat

Hey kids I know you are always super curious about what movies Dr. Theresa and I watch during our yearly scary Halloween film festival. So far, just CARNIVAL OF SOULS and THE SENTINEL. A cat appears early on in THE SENTINEL, which made me say to Dr. Theresa, "Oh no! Something terrible is going to happen to that cat!" Because in every horror movie with a cat, something terrible happens to the cat. But as you can see in this actual frame from the movie, the cat got a birthday party! And wore a little gold party hat! With a tassel! And nothing terrible ever happened to the cat. Something terrible happened to everybody else, though.

Automotive Exclamation Witch

"Even an automobile may be witched!" Yes, Clyde Kluckhohn really does love exclamation points.

Witches Are Active Primarily at Night

Wow! That didn't take long. A few pages later: "Witches are active primarily at night, roaming about at great speed in skins of wolf, coyote and other animals (bear, owl, desert fox, crow)." So you know what that means. NAVAHO WITCHCRAFT by Clyde Kluckhohn is a book with an owl in it, like every other book. So what?

A Rather Jocular Approach

Still haven't pinned down what to read next. Grabbed something that's been on the shelf for years: a 1944 book called NAVAHO WITCHCRAFT by Clyde Kluckhohn. I like his name! So it has that going for it. But I wish he had shortened it to Clyde Kluck. So, boo! Opened to a random sentence (from now on I will just keep telling you about the random sentences to which I open): "I have found that Navaho hitch-hikers whom I picked up when I was alone in my car were often surprisingly willing to discuss witchcraft in spite of the fact that they had never seen me before." Next sentence: "Indeed, I am sure it is because they had never seen me before and anticipated that they would never see me again that they were ready to talk!" Pretty sure I'm not reading this next either, but I do love a scholar who's not afraid of exclamation points. I already had an exclamation point in my head when I read the phrase "alone in my car," though I am sure there was nothing sinister about Clyde Kluckhohn riding around alone in his car looking for hitch-hikers to tell him about witchcraft. "For more casual talk (e.g., with a hitch-hiker), I have found a rather jocular approach best: 'Oh, you live at ______. I hear there are lots of witches over there.'" So says Clyde Kluckhohn. And that's his idea of a "rather jocular approach." Okay, maybe a few more pages.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Bean Man

Finished I AM NOT ASHAMED by Barbara Payton and then I was poking around to figure out what to read next. I picked up a volume of Paracelsus. Don't worry, I'm not reading that next! But I opened to a page at random and read this sentence: "Nature also forges man, now a gold man, now a silver man, now a fig man, now a bean man." I found the reasoning problematic! But I had a good time imagining Fig Man and Bean Man. Then Lee Durkee came over and we watched the recent film version of CORIOLANUS (pictured). It was hung on a similarly dubious metaphoric spine! Some people, the play seemed to argue, are naturally lions, eagles, and ospreys, meant to prey on other people who are naturally geese, crows, doves, and fish. I'm not buying it. Continuing a theme, this one dude says that Coriolanus has as much mercy as a "male tiger has milk." And I was like, I don't mean to tell you your business, Shakespeare, but you could have done better! Tigers, as mammals, do have milk, of course, which is why you had to stick that awkward "male" in there. You should have said, I don't know, "basilisk" instead of "male tiger." Besides which, you don't want to tussle with no female tiger! Come on! Are you kidding me? DO you? Do you want to tussle with a female tiger? I think not! Okay then! If only Shakespeare had been in one of my writing workshops. At one point Coriolanus is asked to show his battle scars and he says he doesn't want his "nothings monstered." Monstered! What a great word! And "nothings"! Also pretty good! And "nothings monstered"! Put them together and they're like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of negativity. Then some dude says that Coriolanus would be "a kind of nothing, titleless, till he had forged himself a name o' the fire." "Nothing was Shakespeare's favorite word," Lee said.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

McNeil Month By Month

As every good citizen is aware, today is McNeil's birthday! And you know what that means: another edition of "McNeil Month By Month," which allows you to sit snugly in your home and "click" "link" after "link" about what McNeil has done "month" after "month." September 2006: McNeil contends that he does not enjoy the "Little Dot" comic book. October 2006: McNeil furnishes a memorable quotation. November 2006: McNeil recalls playing Aerosmith on a jukebox. December 2006: First appearance of "McNeil's Movie Korner." January 2007: McNeil's system for winning at craps. February 2007: McNeil doesn't see what's so hard about reading a newspaper and eating a sandwich at the same time. March 2007: McNeil and I are talking about Bob Denver when HE SUDDENLY APPEARS ON TELEVISION! April 2007: Wild turkeys roam McNeil's neighborhood. May 2007: McNeil gets in touch with an Australian reporter regarding a historical chimp. June 2007: First McNeil's Movie Korner Film Festival announced. July 2007: Medicine changes McNeil's taste buds. August 2007: McNeil's trees not producing apples. September 2007: McNeil pinpoints a problem with the "blog." October 2007: McNeil presents a video entitled "Jerry's pre-defecation chills." November 2007: McNeil's Theory of Potential Energy. December 2007: What is McNeil's favorite movie? January 2008: McNeil explains why the wind blows. February 2008: McNeil admires the paintings of Gerhard Richter. March 2008: McNeil comes up with an idea for a Lifetime TV movie. April 2008: McNeil's shirt. May 2008: McNeil's apple tree doing better (see August 2007). June 2008: McNeil is troubled by a man who wants to make clouds in the shape of logos. July 2008: McNeil's apples are doing great. August 2008: McNeil refuses to acknowledge that Goofy wears a hat no matter what I say. September 2008: McNeil's grocery store is permanently out of his favorite margarine. October 2008: McNeil on the space elevator. November 2008: McNeil comes across an incomplete episode guide to HELLO, LARRY. December 2008: McNeil thinks the human hand should have more fingers. January 2009: McNeil discovers that gin and raisins cure arthritis. February 2009: McNeil sees a ****** ******* awesome rainbow. March 2009: McNeil wants a job on a cruise ship. April 2009: McNeil attempts to rescue a wayward balloon. May 2009: McNeil visits the Frogtown Fair. June 2009: McNeil dreams he is watching an endless production number from LI'L ABNER. July 2009: McNeil sends text messages from his cell phone while watching a Frank Sinatra movie. August 2009: McNeil disagrees philosophically with a comic book cover that shows a mad scientist putting a gorilla's brain in a superhero's body. September 2009: McNeil resembles famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach. October 2009: McNeil's birthday celebrated with an expanded edition of "McNeil Month By Month." November 2009: McNeil reports that a bird broke the large hadron collider by dropping a bread crumb on it. December 2009: McNeil advises me to like the universe or lump it. January 2010: McNeil eats soup. February 2010: McNeil tells of the hidden civilizations living deep beneath the surface of the earth. March 2010: McNeil recalls a carpet of his youth. April 2010: McNeil starts wearing a necktie. May 2010: McNeil's DNA sample fails to yield results. June 2010: McNeil thinks up some improvements for the movie 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. July 2010: McNeil reads to me from I, THE JURY. August 2010: McNeil finds a hair in his crab cake. September 2010: McNeil has a cold. October 2010: McNeil's favorite MAD MEN character is Stan. November 2010: McNeil sits in his car and looks at pictures of Jennifer Jones. December 2010: McNeil fears a ball of fire in the sky. January 2011: McNeil watches DYNASTY. February 2011: McNeil sees clouds that look like guys on horseback. March 2011: McNeil composes a "still life" photograph. April 2011: McNeil is upset when I interrupt his viewing of MATCH GAME. May 2011: McNeil pines for some old curtains. June 2011: McNeil eats Lucky Charms brand breakfast cereal. July 2011: McNeil investigates the history of the Phar-Mor drugstore chain. August 2011: McNeil compares Dean Moriarty to Dean Martin. September 2011: McNeil learns a lesson about pork and beans. October 2011: McNeil finds an article describing Robert Mitchum as "Bing Crosby supersaturated with barbiturates." November 2011: McNeil did nothing in November. December 2011: McNeil discovers scientists creating rainbows in a laboratory. January 2012: McNeil impersonates Paul Lynde. February 2012: McNeil dreams of matches. March 2012: McNeil's Theory of Potential Energy (see November 2007, above) used to chart the influence of Jerry Lewis on Carson McCullers. April 2012: McNeil disturbed by the art in his hotel room. May 2012: McNeil considers grave robbing. June 2012: McNeil's idea for "music television." July 2012: McNeil holds his negative feelings in check out of respect when the man who invented electric football dies. August 2012: McNeil reads me an old obituary of Charlie Callas over the phone. September 2012: McNeil concerned about T.J. Hooker's big meaty hands. October 2012: McNeil eats lunch at Target. November 2012: McNeil loves it when Bob Hope slips on a banana peel. December 2012: McNeil sees rocks that look like squirrels. January 2013: McNeil looks at an old, faded photo of a dog gazing into a Bath and Tile Emporium. February 2013: McNeil watches a video in which a hooded figure talks about "our criminal overlords." March 2013: McNeil wakes up at 6:40 in the evening, momentarily thinks it is 6:40 in the morning. April 2013: McNeil sees a singer who looks just like Bill Clinton. May 2013: McNeil is ashamed of himself for not realizing that Ida Lupino directed some episodes of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. June 2013: McNeil mails a cashew tree. July 2013: McNeil watches GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN. August 2013: McNeil recalls being rosy-cheeked. September 2013: A fairyland goes on in McNeil's head. Illustration by Michael Kupperman: a career McNeil considered (see May 2012).

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Fun Times with Humorousness

You've heard of humor! And you've heard of gender! Now see what happens when humor and gender are combined in a "panel" on "Gender and Humor." I'm happy to announce such a panel will take place on October 29 at 6 PM at the Overby Center right here in town. The great Laraine Newman is coming! And I will sit on the stage with her mostly keeping my mouth shut, but occasionally squeaking out a probing question like, "What do you think of gender and humor?" This time I won't be drunk when I talk to her. OR WILL I? There's only one way to find out. The reception is being thrown down by Shannon Adams of Honey Bee Bakery! Co-sponsored by the Sarah Isom Center, the University Lecture Series, the MFA program, AND the Theater and English Departments. Join us as we pitilessly dissect human laughter.