Friday, July 31, 2015

Sad Love Drops

You know, I almost didn't "blog" about Bobby Van, because I was like, "Nobody will know what I am talking about." But then I remembered that nobody reads this and I don't care anyway. So! I was watching TCM yesterday and there was Bobby Van doing some dance number where he just hops. He just hops all around town. Hop, hop, hop. I was like, "Boy! Bobby Van is getting on my nerves!" Dr. Theresa came in the room and I remarked to her sourly, "They were probably like, 'Bobby Van is gonna be the new Donald O'Connor!' Well, HE'S NOT!" I believe I was in a rage over the indignity of it all. Why was I getting so worked up about Bobby Van? And then Bobby Van hopped around the corner and there was a dog sleeping on the sidewalk and suddenly the dog jumps up on its hind legs and starts hopping in PERFECT TIME with Bobby Van! And they go hopping down the street together, Bobby Van and the dog. And I was like, "Did you see that? IT WAS AMAZING!" And Dr. Theresa agreed. I was like, "THAT WAS SOME MOVIE MAGIC!" And I felt bad for all my bad thoughts about Bobby Van. But then I realized it wasn't Bobby Van I liked, it was this incredibly well-trained dog who could hop on its hind legs with such seeming effortlessness. And then there was a shot of Bobby Van where he kind of looked like Ray Bolger, and I said to myself, "Oh, they probably thought, 'We got a goldmine here, this kid is the new Ray Bolger.'" And I was bitter again. You know what I just thought of? This wasn't even on my agenda! Once Ward McCarthy and I were shooting something and we needed a dog who could walk on its hind legs. The animal wrangler with whom we were working called them "hind walkers" - ha ha! "Hind walkers" is probably not a very funny phrase to you but it makes me laugh because Ward and I used it so much in the days after our experience with the inept animal wrangler. All this guy did was hold some bacon up so the dogs would go after it! He didn't have any real "hind walkers," or such was our conclusion. We got taken! "My neighbor's dog would do that," Ward remarked, watching the dog trying to get some bacon. Well! As long as I've got you here (I haven't), there are three more things on my mind. 1. Came across this in Chretien de Troyes: "The vavasour called his wife and his daughter, who was very beautiful; they were working in a workshop, but I do not know what work they were doing there." Now that's some refreshing honesty from a writer! Chretien de Troyes is my new role model. 2. Email from McNeil. He described the last shot in CAREER as "a tableau that groped at my heart for sad love drops but there were none because, just because, baby." McNeil is a poet! Here's one last "screen grab" from CAREER. I was a "screen grabbing" maniac!
3. Hey! Remember the other day when I had a possibly false memory of reading in a magazine when I was a youngster that Red Skelton was illiterate? Good times. Well, that memory gave me another memory. I remember some magazine that my mom or one of my grandmothers had when I was about 11 - it was probably Redbook or McCall's or Good Housekeeping - and it had an article in it where a couple of people (I think) drove all over the country eating fast food hamburgers and deciding which one was best. I read it over and over, obsessively! I don't know why. It really appealed to me. Did it make me who I am today? I kind of think it did! It had adventure and hamburgers and took a "bad" thing seriously. I wish I could remember the magazine or the authors or the exact year so I could find it and read it again. I remember how the magazine smelled. What is wrong with me?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

How It Starts

For God's sake I forgot to tell you that the movie CAREER starts with a disembodied voice shouting "CAREER!" and it echoes like "CAREER! CAREER! Career! career... career... career..." So I thought it was going to be funny but it wasn't funny and it wasn't supposed to be funny and it wasn't and here's a "screen grab" I took of Dean Martin on the telephone.

Disillusioned Artiste

I watched CAREER and McNeil was right, of course. I loved it! Thick, chewy melodrama. Just my speed. Here we see Anthony Franciosa caring more about his cucumber facial than Shirley MacLaine's serious problems. The day I learned to do "screen grabs" was a blot on the universe. So the night before last I flipped to TCM and they were showing a marathon of Les Blank's documentaries. I watched one about garlic. It made me really hungry! Although the part where they cook some blue-eyed baby pigs depressed me, which is good because I'm sort of on a diet because I need to fit into John T. Edge's plaid tuxedo jacket soon. Why? None of your beeswax, that's why. But I was like: "Bill Boyle is coming over tomorrow. I'll make something with lots of garlic!" And I did. I made puttanesca sauce and I was really nervous because Bill is Italian and what if he scoffed? But Bill didn't scoff. Bill's not a scoffer. I use lemon, which I'm not sure is a traditional ingredient, so I went crazy and kept adding other stuff to drown out the lemon so maybe Bill wouldn't notice the lemon, which maybe defeated the purpose, I don't know, it turned out fine, get off my case, man. The point is Bill came over to watch TOO LATE BLUES, one of the few Cassavetes movies he hadn't seen, and which I recorded off of TCM a while back. It made me think of CAREER. Well, they both had a certain post-beat feel, a "disillusioned artiste" vibe.
There were bits of CAREER that made me think of INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS and BARTON FINK but there's no way the Coen Brothers ever watched CAREER, is there? We know Scorsese watched TOO LATE BLUES. Bill and I could tell! And everybody wore black suits with skinny black ties and argued about paying the diner owner, so maybe Quentin Tarantino watched it too. Who cares? Seriously. You're not alone: I bore myself. I honestly have nothing interesting to say but I took so many screen grabs of CAREER, so here we are. There's Shirley MacLaine saying, "Sam? What a lovely name. I like that name. The first man I ever completely destroyed was named Sam." She drinks a lot in this movie! Just look how she sits at the bar:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

McNeil's Movie Korner

Welcome once more dear friends to "McNeil's Movie Korner," your "go-to" place on the "internet" for things you couldn't possibly care less about. McNeil just watched a Dean Martin/ Shirley MacLaine movie called CAREER. Who knows how? I can't find it anywhere. But McNeil has his ways. "In CAREER, Dino plays a director and often wears a cape in Greenwich Village," McNeil says to taunt me. He also found out that Dean's son Dino Jr. was once brought up on federal charges for owning a cannon! Among other things. But that's just a side tidbit.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Remember When You Battled a Six-Foot Owl

As you know, every book has an owl in it, and this 1500-page comic book by Grant Morrison I have here is no exception. A character recollects the time he battled "a six-foot owl." We don't even get to see the owl! He just talks about it in his little word balloon. It's a comic book, come on, where's the six-foot owl?

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Lion Shows Up

Meanwhile I keep dipping into these "Arthurian Romances" of Chretien de Troyes. I've been reading this one called "The Knight With the Lion" for 40 pages like, "Where's the lion?" And just now, finally: "when he arrived a clearing, he saw a dragon holding a lion by the tail and burning its flanks with its flaming breath. My lord Yvain did not waste time observing this marvel." Ha ha, yes, what a waste of time!

Melancholy Abounding

The usual trouble sleeping. As if you care! Picked up THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY. Read "dead men's bones, hobgoblins, ghosts, are ever in their minds, and meet them still in every turn: all the bugbears of the night and terrors, fairybabes of tombs and graves are before their eyes and in their thoughts, as to women and children, if they be in the dark alone." Burton is writing about people who have "Symptoms of Melancholy Abounding in the Whole Body," to describe whom he uses the funny phrase, "the melancholy juice is redundant all over." ... "If they hear, or read, or see, any tragical object, it sticks by them; they are afraid of death, and yet weary of their lives; in their discontented humours they quarrel with all the world, bitterly inveigh, tax satirically, and because they cannot otherwise vent their passions, or redress what is amiss, as they mean, they will by violent death at last be revenged upon themselves." Wow, what, sorry, not too cheerful, but striking and incantatory. "Fairybabes of tombs and graves" really caught my attention.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

His Phantasy Wrought So Far

Well! I was just sitting here reading in THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY about a guy who accidentally swallowed a mouthful of water from a pit where he knew frogs lived, and so "began to suspect that he had likewise swallowed frogs' spawn, and with that conceit and fear his phantasy wrought so far, that he verily thought he had young live frogs in his belly, that lived by his nourishment, and was so certainly persuaded of it... he studied Physick seven years together to cure himself." In 1609 he met with all the greatest physicians in Europe about it! They tried to explain to him that it was just his imagination "but he pertinaciously contradicted." To help him get over it, his friend Platerus "would have deceived him by putting live frogs into his excrements," but this guy didn't fall for that well-meant trick! After all, he was "a wise and learned man otherwise, a Doctor of Physick."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chad Bad in Rad Pad

Couldn't sleep again! Uh-oh! You know the drill! Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown! 3:30 AM! TCM! Ann-Margret! Something called MADE IN PARIS. Weird, uncomfortable opening where Chad Everett gets really grabby with our star. But at least she caves in his head with a decorative item from a nearby table. But it's a comedy so he's okay. He gets grabby again with her later in the movie, I mean, it's plain sexual harassment and even worse, I mean, the general "romantic comedy" tone here is sexual harassment and, really, something darker. This is not what I meant to talk about. What I MEANT to say is that after the wordless opening bit, which is supposed to come off dry and light and clever (but seems like somebody might get murdered to me!) the credits start to roll (our stars represented by mannequins, another instance, so soon, of unintended, uncanny horror), and I noticed that Red Skelton composed one of the songs in the movie. I didn't know he wrote music! The "internet" tells me he wrote more than 600 pieces of music. Shows you how much I know about Red Skelton. I thought, "This is going to be the most interesting thing about MADE IN PARIS." And I was right! But I'm going to keep typing about it anyway. But first let's talk some more about Red Skelton! I was tweeting about him and Megan tweeted back at me that Red Skelton edited some anthologies of ghost stories. And THAT made me remember (I think) reading an article when I was a little boy (maybe) in which it was revealed (possibly) that Red Skelton was illiterate! "Like most editors," I humorously remarked to Megan, but I didn't mean it! I love editors! Especially the ones I have now. It was just a humorous thing to say in that humorous way I have about me that wins over so many people all the time. My problem with Chad Everett (other than his character's horrific behavior) might be that I just kept seeing him as creepy old Chad Everett from MULHOLLAND DR. (in which he was very good, but no less creepy). But you know, Louis Jourdan is in MADE IN PARIS, too (that's him gazing into Ann-Margret's eyes, above), and I didn't see HIM as creepy old Louis Jourdan from SWAMP THING. I saw him as a French smoothie, with his own brand of sexual harassment, but managing a much more interesting performance of a more (relatively) layered character. FURTHERMORE I will say that I thought Chad Everett was creepy even when I was just a tot and Chad Everett was young and my grandmother wanted to watch him in a TV show called MEDICAL CENTER and I wanted to watch something else. He just seemed off to me! Walking around in his white lab coat looking down on people.
That's how I recall feeling. I'm learning a lot about my feelings regarding Chad Everett today! In MADE IN PARIS, Jourdan represents European sophistication, I guess, while Chad Everett is American brashness. It's Jamesian. Is that Jamesian? I have no idea. I almost forgot to tell you, I'm an idiot! But it certainly gets metaphorical when Chad Everett and Louis Jourdan start beating up each other. I can't tell you who won the fistfight because a big rainstorm blew in and I lost the satellite reception. And that was it for MADE IN PARIS, as far as yours truly is concerned. Hey! There's this crazy scene where the bandleader Mongo Santamaria tells everyone in a nightclub to "do the pussycat" and everybody starts dancing around and this guy in Santamaria's band make what are supposed to be cat noises, but they're just terrifying! I mean, something is WRONG with that cat!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Their Urine Is Subtile and Fiery

When I couldn't sleep last night I got out of bed and said to myself, "I'm not gonna watch TV this time! I'm gonna read a book like a big boy!" So I sat on the couch and AUTOMATICALLY TURNED ON THE TV BY FORCE OF HABIT. But I stuck to my guns and turned it off again immediately, laughing at my foolish foolishness. BUT HERE IS WHAT HAPPENED. In the time it took to perform that action, TCM sprang to life. I could see from the satellite-company banner at the top of the screen that the movie was called THAT HAGEN GIRL. And the only image I saw from the movie, the only sound I heard, was a scowling old matron in close-up saying, "Have you seen that Hagen girl?" So that was an odd coincidence. That's all I've seen of THAT HAGEN GIRL. In fact, I choose to believe that that is the entirety of THAT HAGEN GIRL. It's like I made a little movie with my mind. Then I picked up THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY from the side table and read, "they are bold and impudent, and of a more harebrain disposition... they sleep little, their urine is subtile and fiery." It was already getting a little personal. And then the next page had some demonic possession so I was like, "Yikes!" I put down the book and turned on the TV. SPEAKING OF MIND GAMES: Don't forget to come to Square Books later today to see me mercilessly grill Ace Atkins about his brand new book THE REDEEMERS. There's a poster and everything (below). I noticed that Ace cc'd Greg Evigan about this event on twitter, ha ha! I think Mr. Evigan will find himself confused and even insulted, as the poster depicts Burt Reynolds in the incongruous company of Clyde from EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE, whereas Mr. Evigan was arguably the poor man's Burt Reynolds (actually the poor man's Jerry Reed) and his chimp friend "The Bear" was the poor man's Clyde. It occurs to me that I should put a photo from The End of All Music record store at the top of this "post," featuring Megan Abbott, Bill Boyle and myself, with Ace holding a bottle of whiskey in silver paper from Megan and a Jerry Reed LP from Bill. I gave him nothing. We'll probably drink that bottle of whiskey while we talk tonight. No we won't! We're PROFESSIONALS. We'll drink it beforehand. Ha ha, not really, am I blowing your mind again with my mind games? It's Four Roses, despite what the poster says.

Monday, July 20, 2015

McNeil's Rest Stop Ramblings

That's right! It's the long-awaited return of our beloved feature "McNeil's Rest Stop Ramblings." In a message entitled "Big Whoop," McNeil reports, "The kids and I made it to the Grand (ha) Canyon...but it's too foggy to see anything!!!" If I may add a non-McNeil note, this kind of reminds me of something Bill Taft once said about the Mississippi River, but that little anecdote is being slipped into my forthcoming collection of short stories MOVIE STARS so I shan't repeat it here. Oh, now you'll pay for the book, won't you? Hmm! It also makes me think about what Lynda Barry's ex-husband said about... the Grand Canyon!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I Don't Teach

Yesterday when I was watching EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE I noticed that the song "Coca Cola Cowboy" by Mel Tillis played on the soundtrack, a song I had completely forgotten. And it tickled me because suddenly I thought of Kelly Hogan. I don't know why. Yes I do! Because "Coca Cola Cowboy" is exactly the kind of song Hogan, with her extraordinary musical sensitivity, will always find some surprising way to examine and appreciate. So today I had an urge to listen to the whole song. AND HERE'S WHAT I NOTICED! Clint Eastwood, star of EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE, is mentioned in the chorus! The narrator tells us of a woman who derides him (some derision!) for having "an Eastwood smile and Robert Redford hair." I immediately thought of the scene in Eastwood's BREEZY in which Kay Lenz and William Holden ATTEND A CLINT EASTWOOD MOVIE. What is going on, Clint Eastwood? You have been sneaking some French New Wave style high jinx on us all these years. I'm actually sorrier than ever about my knee-jerk smart-aleck reaction to that thing where he talked to an empty chair at the Republican convention. I need to admit that Clint is BEYOND me. So what do we call this? "Meta"? Is that what they call it? I don't teach school anymore. I remember some grad student who told me he rolled his eyes at anything "meta" and I said "Do you roll your eyes at DON QUIXOTE?" and he snarled "YES!" Now you know why I don't teach anymore.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Peanuts A-Flyin'

I noticed three or four interesting things about the Clint Eastwood movie famously costarring an orangutan (EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE), but rather than focusing on them I'll just say how weird the first scene is, with a guy repeatedly calling Clint Eastwood a "squirrel" because Clint wants some peanuts. Is that a really big insult? And anyway, THAT guy was just eating peanuts! Does he consider HIMSELF a "squirrel"? The guy throws taunts at Eastwood like, "What's the matter, SQUIRREL? You gonna go to your tree and eat peanuts?" etc. etc. Really the guy doesn't want to share his peanuts but he's expressing it in an odd, self-lacerating way, isn't he? Clint doesn't like being referred to as a squirrel. He hits the guy and peanuts go flying! (You know, now that I've seen the whole movie I can get something even out of this... the way the guy is unable to say what he really means and is therefore helplessly compelled to provoke violence in order to feel a sense of resolution... this is a problem with masculinity as the movie sees it... an interpretation borne out with surprising vehemence at the emotional climax of the film - which wasn't directed by Eastwood, by the way, but certainly seems to reflect his usual thematic concerns. Well, see, I started off wanting to goof on the peanut thing but I couldn't.) Pictured, foreground, the guy getting worked up and starting to call Clint Eastwood a squirrel.

Fact Checkering

Oh! This is probably very important. I was hesitant, as you may recall, to describe the tablecloths at The Crawdad Hole as "checkered." But I have just received compelling photographic evidence confirming my memory of the setting. In addition, Bill Boyle has confirmed that he did indeed express his willingness to lick his grandmother's armpit in the manner indicated, though I had run out of room on the cocktail napkin and was unable to accurately record in print that part of his quotation. I therefore stand by my original account.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Melted Fezzes

Well! Megan and Dan came to town and we went out and had a ball. Bill Boyle appeared on the scene and we drove out to Water Valley to a place called the Crawdad Hole. Somehow Megan knew about it. Dr. Theresa and I had never heard of it. As Dan pointed out, a restaurant has to have a well-placed sense of confidence to put "Hole" in its name. It was great! Great enough for "hole." I'm kind of sorry to tell you about it, because they only serve food until they run out of whatever is fresh that day, and I don't want you to eat it before I get there next time. We had so much stuff spread over the checkered oilcloth (was it checkered? It should have been!) - crab legs and sausages and corn on the cob and Mississippi tamales - that's a famous thing, if you didn't know! - and oysters, both sweetly raw and succulently grilled, all superb, and all washed down with a pitcher of ice-cold beer that went perfectly with the food. No crawfish because they were out. Megan said they told her it wasn't crawfish season. But we didn't even miss the crawfish. Then we were supposed to meet Ace at a "secret bar" but we went to the "secret bar" and it wasn't a "secret bar," it was the shabby back room you have to walk through to use the toilet at a local pizza restaurant of small repute. So we were like, "THIS IS ACE'S SECRET BAR?" But the story hasn't ended. MORE LATER. Because we had made a basic mistake about the "secret bar" and it wasn't Ace's fault! Now I'm going to start looking at whatever I jotted down last night on scraps of paper in my wallet and on bar napkins. As I recall, some of it might be bawdy and shocking! You know I don't like to "go there." Blame the liquor and high spirits of rekindled camaraderie. The first note I see just says, "Remember the Night." I'm like, hmm, this isn't as scintillating as I recalled. Was I just telling myself to remember the night? Then it occurred to me. It's the name of a Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck movie that Megan thinks Dr. Theresa and I would like. A nice sentiment, but a disappointment in the realm of fevered inspirations scrawled on tattered scraps from bars. Muttering, we left the (temporary) debacle of "secret bar" and went up to City Grocery. There we encountered Randy Yates, owner of Ajax, who was talking about his former fez collection. That seemed bar-napkin worthy. I wrote down what happened to Randy's fez collection: "I lived in such a [crappy] house all my fezzes melted." That didn't seem like a sentence I had heard before. Oh yes, I have noted here on the back of a postal receipt that Bill Boyle claimed, "If you were stranded on a desert island, all you'd need was Guinness and breast milk." I told you you'd be scandalized! Ace came to CG and took us back to the secret bar. We had lost Megan and Dan by now, but Angela had appeared, a delightful and special treat! And the bar really was different all of a sudden. It was darker and there was a fancy man to make Bill Boyle take off his baseball cap! When we sat down, the server asked if we'd like a complimentary shot, and unless I am crazy, the shots were being offered in empty shotgun shell casings. You know, the way they do in a secret bar. Bill was the only one who drank one and - still miffed about his forcefully doffed baseball cap - said, "That was terrible!" But he said it in a gruffly charming way that made even the server laugh. And when they brought out ice water, they offered to put drops of rosewater in it. Which we accepted! Now, rosewater was popular in Cairo, Egypt, when Dr. Theresa was growing up there, but I believe in the U.S. I have witnessed only her little brother Hesham (he's a full grown man, not a "little brother"!) spiking anything with it. Bill had gotten himself into a rare mood I enjoy seeing him in on those spare occasions when it happens - a touch of lovable surliness that comes over him with just the right amount of fluid help. Surliness isn't the right word. Sweet irascibility? Acting the wiseacre? I don't know any good words. Anyway, he didn't seem to care much for the rosewater. He said - and I was afraid this didn't even show up on the napkin! It was so dark and the server gave me a pen that wrote in PALE ORANGE INK, and I couldn't tell whether words were falling upon the napkin at all - "They're serving us old lady sweat and we're drinking it like we got nothing better to do." Then he said, "It's like you're licking your grandmother's armpit." And then I THINK he said (I didn't write it down) "Don't get me wrong, I'd lick my grandmother's armpit, she's a great lady!" But I may have made that part up. I'm afraid I haven't done justice to the secret bar, which was very pleasant and conducive to much convivial talk and served excellent grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Here We Are

In case you thought I was kidding about Tom Franklin shaving my head: here's Dr. Theresa and me photographed by Megan Abbott at City Grocery Bar this very night!

I Am a Man

I was sitting in the doctor's waiting room reading some more of these ARTHURIAN ROMANCES by Chretien de Troyes. Sir Calogrenant runs across this guy he describes as having "the eyes of an owl and the nose of a cat, jowls split like a wolf's, with the sharp reddish teeth of a boar," and he doesn't mean it in a nice way! But I have to say Calogrenant is the least judgmental knight I've read about so far. The next knight (Yvain) who meets this guy "crosses himself more than a hundred times" in fear and wonder, while Calogrenant's approach is casual and friendly: "Come now, tell me if you are a good creature or not?" And the guy with reddish boar teeth replies very admirably, I think: "I am a man." And then they have a nice conversation. This is my long way of telling you that ARTHURIAN ROMANCES can go on my big long list nobody cares about - not even me - of books with owls in them. THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY has had several more owls in it, at least five or six, but I didn't tell you about them because that's not my job. Hey, later in this story Yvain puts his sword right in another knight's brain. The injured knight "was confused, for never before had he received such a blow that could split his head to his brain." Yes, that can be confusing! I don't care about owls. But here's one I bought at that antique mall with the good used book stall next to Big Bad Breakfast a few days ago.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

You Are Handsome and Good Yourself

Still switching back and forth between THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY and the ARTHURIAN ROMANCES of Chretien de Troyes. Today Gawain, upon first meeting another knight, greeted him like so: "Good sir, may the God who made you more handsome than any other creature grant you joy and good fortune." And the other knight says, "You are handsome and good yourself!" Ha ha ha! That's a pretty nice exchange of greetings. I like it! So they've known each other for about half a minute and they're like, "Now give me your oath here and I will give you mine: if you wish to ask anything of me, I'll never hide from you the truth, if I know it, whether it be to my joy or sadness; and you will likewise swear never to lie to me about anything I wish to ask of you if you are able to tell the truth to me." Knights are intense!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Flatuous Melancholy

In tonight's section of THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY Robert Burton brings us a French tale of "mischief procured of a medicine... which an unskilful Physician ministered his patient to drink, to arouse the erotick passions." Instead it gave the guy "flatuous melancholy," by which - to oversimplify a bit - Burton means gas.

Not Bashful

"... the door opened and a very ravenous, strong, fierce, and astonishing lion leapt from a room..." This here Chretien de Troyes isn't too bashful with the adjectives and it gives me some delight.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Such and Such Exquisite Sauces

"... a third is solicitous about his diet, he must have such and such exquisite sauces, meat so dressed, so far fetched, birds from strange countries, so cooked, &c. something to provoke thirst, something anon to quench his thirst. Thus he redeems his appetite with extraordinary charge to his purse, is seldom pleased with any meal, whilst a trivial stomack useth all with delight, and is never offended." It's like Robert Burton knows me! I'm the one with the trivial stomack. Though in my case it's movies, not food. But also food. THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

He Makes Coffins

Look, it's Mary Miller and me at Tom Franklin's big annual birthday party. Mary kept saying how nice my hair looked so Lizzie took this picture. I don't know. Does my hair look that nice here? I am doubtful. Doesn't it look like a hairpiece? I kept explaining to Mary that whatever had happened to my hair that she was so taken with was just because I was sweating so much. It was hot! We live in Mississippi. Moments after this photo was taken, Tom Franklin shaved my head entirely... AGAIN. That's becoming a birthday tradition too, I guess. I was just complaining to Dr. Theresa that Tom left too much hair on my neck. "He did a better job than last time," she said. I don't think she cares! As my friend Brian pointed out on twitter, I now look "like the lifer in the yard [he'd] go to for advice as a new inmate." But I deleted my bald "selfie"
because I wanted to pretend not to be a vainglorious fool. I was just reading about vainglory in THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY. He's against it. Okay, here. HERE'S A TRUE HISTORY FACT. Last time Tom shaved my head, JFK's granddaughter was present! I saw her the next day in the town square and she tried to engage me in conversation but I couldn't recall who she was. I thought maybe she was a former student who wanted to talk about grades or something! Gross! So I dismissed her curtly! Later I realized my mistake but nothing could be done. Well that's what I get for being a huge jerk all the time. I tweeted that last night and deleted it too. I also tweeted about the guy who, right after Tom shaved my head, handed me his business card and yelled, "I MAKE COFFINS!" Well, let's see, I saw Semmes at the party and he said he was recently sitting with Bob Rafelson (!) on Rafelson's balcony and telling him about how I forced Dr. Theresa to watch the movie HEAD while we were dating and it didn't go over too well and then they tried to call me, but the number Semmes had for me was out of service. So that's the story about the time I didn't get a phone call from Bob Rafelson.
And I had a funny talk with Cynthia Joyce about how movie sex scenes were edited in the 70s. She said she was watching Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway going at it in THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR and couldn't figure out what anything was. "Is that a hairy knee?" she found herself asking during one shot.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Shattered Lances

Still reading these Arthurian tales... every time these knights take a run at each other they strike such mighty blows that they shatter their lances. Every time! They need sturdier lances. The sturdier lances might cost more but I think they'd save money in the long run.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

He Faced His Fears

"I faced my fears and they didn't go away," is something that Tom Franklin said to me at the City Grocery Bar tonight.

Famous Sleeves

You want to hear about my birthday yesterday? Probably not! So, Dr. Theresa took me to Memphis, where we did a lot of fun things. For example, we went to the comic book store and Dr. Theresa got me a hardcover of Grant Morrison's THE INVISIBLES that's over 1500 pages long! When we got home Ace Atkins dropped by unexpectedly with a bottle of very fancy birthday rye. So I had a sip of that after dinner. Ace also brought news that Laura Lippman and Megan Abbott had TIED for the Strand Critic's Award for best novel that very evening... a tie I had MAGICALLY PREDICTED: My brother is visiting the folks right now and going through some old pictures. He sent me this photo (above) of my high-school self hobnobbing with Greg Evigan whom you may remember (or not) as TV's BJ of BJ AND THE BEAR. "The Bear" was a chimpanzee. I distinctly and humiliatingly recall that I was handing him (Evigan, not the chimpanzee) some song lyrics I had written. Ha ha ha! Was he even a singer? I thought this was going to be my big break into show business. It wasn't. Well, I was up late last night, contemplating all the birthday fun I had enjoyed, and noticed that MIDNIGHT COWBOY was coming on, so I watched it. I don't believe I have seen it since I was 20 years old (look! Birthdays make old men nostalgic) and visiting McNeil in North Carolina. (You can see a photo of McNeil and me at 20 or so by "clicking" here.) I know I was 20 because it was the same trip when we went to see RISKY BUSINESS at the theater. Wow, MIDNIGHT COWBOY and RISKY BUSINESS, what a racy trip that was in retrospect! [Edit: I can't believe I forgot to mention that this time MIDNIGHT COWBOY really reminded me of NORWOOD!] What else did I do on my birthday? I read some more of these ARTHURIAN ROMANCES by Chretien de Troyes. One story features a woman "who dressed herself in such elegant sleeves that she was called The Maiden with the Small Sleeves, and this name was embroidered along her sleeves." Ha ha, she was really owning it! Reminds me of Edward III's jacket, am I right, folks?

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Artemidorus the Grammarian

Today's sentence from THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY: "Artemidorus the Grammarian lost his wits by the unexpected sight of a Crocodile."

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Today's Melancholy Surprise

Today's surprise from THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY is that Burton treats the tale of the Pied Piper as a historical event, assigns it a date (June 20, 1484) and gives the number of children who were led away: 130.

Little Coats

Read some more of THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY for the Fourth of July. Burton has the scoop on angels and devils! Did you know that the demonologist Psellus believed that demons poop? I'm sorry, "that they are nourished and have excrements." Yeah, Burton isn't buying it. He quotes another scholar's theory that angels are "absolutely round" like basketballs. He doesn't say "basketballs." Oh! Our old friend Paracelsus comes up quite a bit. Remember how he supposedly concealed his most powerful medicines in the hilt of his sword? A guy named Erastus claimed that Paracelsus had a devil "confined to his sword pummel." Meanwhile, "Paracelsus reckons up many places in Germany, where [fairies] do usually walk in little coats some two foot long." Aw!

Saturday, July 04, 2015


Yesterday I was reading in THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY about "Lyncanthropia, which Avicenna calls Cucubuth, others Wolf-madness, when men run howling about graves and fields in the night," and it really rang a bell! I mean, I was like, "Wasn't I reading about werewolves on another Fourth of July some years ago?" And indeed I was. But yesterday was the third of July, but this "blog" needs to be filled up with something, and this is what you get. "This malady, saith Avicenna, troubleth men most in February." Not around here, pal!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Lacrimae Rerum

Last night I stuffed an entire handful of wasabi peas into my mouth and started crunching away on them, such a large handful that the resulting heat caused tears to stream unbidden down my cheeks! And then I did it again. Because I was like, "This food is making me feel something!"