Saturday, October 31, 2015

Weeping Caesar

I'm only on page 21 of this biography of Cleopatra and Caesar has already cried twice. Get a grip, Caesar!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fake Metal Crow

Remember my old friend Phil Oppenheim? Me neither! But I talked to him yesterday, for the first time in years, we think. Phil moved! Now his neighbor is Carrie Brownstein! She has a fake metal crow on her roof, but it's not a Halloween decoration. It seems to be a permanent fixture, says Phil. PHIL'S MEDICAL CONDITION: His doctor told him to eat more cheese and meat and take more naps! This is the real truth of the life of Phil.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Monster Face

Our Halloween film festival continued with MACABRE... uh... Dr. Theresa and I are both big William Castle fans and advocates, but MACABRE was sort of like THE ROOM of horror movies...? Maybe that comparison holds up...? I'd have to watch them both again back to back, which I'm not. So it was on to THE HAUNTED STRANGLER, all Boris Karloff and insane asylums. The monster face in that one reminded Dr. Theresa of her own scary Helena Bonham Carter impression (from Kenneth Branagh's FRANKENSTEIN) which she has stopped doing over the years thanks to my constant begging. Naturally, we wanted to see another Boris Karloff insane asylum movie after that, so we watched BEDLAM (pictured). It was a philosophical, theological horror movie! And maybe not a horror movie. Maybe it was a philosophy movie. But it had just enough Halloween stuff in it.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Friends Are Scary

I saw more FRIENDS reruns last night. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME? This time I noticed that they are holding umbrellas in the opening credits and advancing toward the viewer with unnerving herky-jerkiness, the dead look in their eyes of soulless killers.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Strange Incentive

I keep waking up in the wee hours just when some FRIENDS reruns are coming on. 1. Season nine credits are really baby-centric, or was that just for the one episode? Anyway, how did that baby get in the credits so much? Have some respect for the series regulars, newborn baby. You haven't put in the work! 2. Chandler's voice is way higher-pitched in season seven. I think science will back me up on this. 3. Dr. Theresa and I took a vote and decided unanimously that TIME AFTER TIME would be acceptable as part of our Halloween festival, but then we watched it and I just don't know if I agree with myself. That's not the point! The point is, during the FRIENDS reruns last night I saw a Lunchables commercial in which Malcolm McDowell (star of TIME AFTER TIME) pretends to be a teenager to get some of the teenagers' sweet, sweet Lunchables. They've turned Malcolm McDowell into the Lucky Charms leprechaun! The slogan is "More for you, less for Malcolm," a strange incentive for eating Lunchables. I'm also upset by the implication that teenagers should rudely call Mr. McDowell by his first name. 4. I can't remember where I saw this commercial for French vodka. I've seen it numerous times. At the end, some guys cheerfully raise a glass in tribute to the guy who invented the French vodka and he glances over his shoulder at them with an expression that says, "Keep your opinion to yourselves, worms."

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Derangement Level: Renfield

I just haven't been keeping you properly informed about the annual Halloween film festival that Dr. Theresa and I continue to enjoy. We watched the Spanish language version of DRACULA, famously shot at night on the same sets where the Bela Lugosi version was being shot during the day. I liked the woman who played Eva, the "Mina Harker" character. She made me think of Naomi Watts in MULHOLLAND DR., in that she started out seeming like a real square ingenue (like, is she PLAYING a bad actor or IS she a bad actor?) and then it's all a ruse because she shows you she really knows how to go crazy when the time comes. Then we watched OVER THE GARDEN WALL by Pat McHale and INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 and TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER. Not much to recommend TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, except this startling thing (pictured) that Nastassja Kinski sees when she looks in a mirror. It made me think of a sea monkey! And Denholm Elliott gave a supporting performance that reached Renfield levels of derangement. Next: CRIMSON PEAK, which helped ghost movies maintain a still-respectable 50% in the Halloween tally. I'm not counting TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER as a ghost movie, though there was a ghost in it. Devil movies have crept up to 20% of our Halloween movie consumption this year, a disturbing trend we'll continue to keep our eye on. The first words of CRIMSON PEAK are the same as the title of one of my old "blog" "posts" - "click" here for the thrilling revelation.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

McNeil's Movie Korner, With Extra Mayo

Welcome once again to "McNeil's Movie Korner" - your one place on the "internet" for all the latest movie news and reviews. McNeil recently watched STARFLIGHT: THE PLANE THAT COULDN'T LAND. "I found a review from 2-25-83 on the NYT website titled 'A Big Night for Movies,'" McNeil writes. "Apparently that was a Sunday night and the networks were battling for ratings with STARFLIGHT, the tv premiere of 9 TO 5, and a Dennis Weaver movie about cocaine addiction that sounds great called COCAINE: ONE MAN'S SEDUCTION. Those were the days." McNeil says that STARFLIGHT: THE PLANE THAT COULDN'T LAND "has some of the worst ideas for space rescues ever." In addition, McNeil has been reading about mayonnaise on the "blog" and says that his mom's attitude is the direct opposite of my mom's attitude toward the controversial condiment: "My mom would put (and still puts) mayo on anything, anywhere, no matter the weather," McNeil claims. "Independence Day deviled eggs can bake in the afternoon sun for hours and it doesn't bother her." McNeil concludes with a suspicious anecdote: "Sometimes I'll even catch a plate of deviled eggs warming on a window sill before a Thanksgiving meal."

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Writers In Chains

Mary Miller and I had lunch at Applebee's today, which reminded me that Tom Franklin and I first met at an Olive Garden, which reminded me of the Christmas Eve in Mobile, Alabama, not too many years ago when nothing was open but a TGI Friday's so Tom and I (both in town to visit our parents) had some rainbow-colored cocktails. And as Tom reminded me yesterday, we used to meet when I got off work (from a coffee shop in Bel Air Mall) at the Ruby Tuesday next door, in which we went over each other's short stories, back before either of us was published. And I also recall that an ex-girlfriend of mine waited tables there and I liked to go sit in her section and whine to her about not having a future. And one day she finally asked me why I didn't stop whining and do something. She was sick of hearing it! For example, she was leaving forever (like the next day, as I recall, though that can't be an accurate memory) to have an adventurous life in Alaska. And she did! She was gone. And I was like, "She's right!" And I quit my job and moved to Atlanta. But anyway, Mary and I split an Applebee's dessert, or such was the plan. They brought it out on a sizzling hot skillet. A blondie on a sizzling hot skillet! Why? And somehow a black plastic cup of sauce had been placed on the sizzling hot skillet, and the bottom of the plastic cup had melted, sending a frightening, violently bubbling, sizzling, burning evil pool of thin white sauce and poisonous black plastic all over the sizzling hot skillet.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


"When I think of sour corn, I think of Dean Martin." What a cryptic sentence! Well, there's a paragraph that explains it but I like it better by itself. That's from yesterday's menu at the Southern Foodways Symposium, an indescribable annual summit concerned with global politics, economics, history, art, activism, race, space, place, family, gender, science, agriculture, industry, philosophy, and so many other subjects, and I know I'm leaving out food, but as one of the organization's oral historians described her mission yesterday, "It's about the people, not the food." That being said, superstar chef Sean Brock and his mother made us a 20-course lunch. A 20-course lunch! That will really make you take a nap. Sean Brock and his mother made this 20-course lunch for more than 400 people (as seen above). He said the most people his mom had cooked for until yesterday was about ten. Earlier that morning I gave an unnecessarily blistering talk about the TV chef and humorist Justin Wilson, a relatively harmless entertainer who is long dead. I put on some sunglasses and just went full "insult comic" mode. I'm not even sure why! The talk as given wildly diverged from what I had so carefully researched and printed out. Maybe I was possessed! Actually, Gustavo Arellano spoke right before me and he was ON FIRE and I was like, "Uh-oh, I'm gonna have to DO something to follow that." And nature took its course.
As you can see, I wielded my Emmy as a comedy prop and the whole thing went very well despite my inexplicable viciousness, which I believe worried JoAnn Clevenger, the astonishing doyenne of New Orleans's iconic Upperline restaurant (at the Symposium to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award), who stood up in the Q&A section to nobly defend Mr. Wilson, a frequent customer of hers. I saw her later in the evening and she told me some complicated things from Justin Wilson's personal life. "I always like the underdog," she said. We had a nice talk about it. I also saw Sean Brock and he said the 20-course lunch was "the most important meal" he had ever made and "the meal I was born to make." He was referring to its transcendent emotional content for one thing. All I could think with extreme gratitude was, "We got to eat the meal Sean Brock was born to make!" I also told him that his mother's statement - "When I think of sour corn, I think of Dean Martin" - could be the first sentence of a novel. It's my favorite sentence right now.
I guess the other thing I need to tell you is that John Currence got dressed up in a shrimp costume and was positioned above a dunk tank filled with grits. He told me he studied Gary Busey in the movie CARNY (pictured) to perfect his aggressive dunk-tank patter. "Were those really grits in there?" I asked Blair Hobbs about the dunk tank. "It looked like brown water," said Blair, which for whatever reason sounded like the worst thing to get dunked into. I honestly doubt that the Southern Foodways Symposium, with its deeply concerned soul,
would waste grits, or anything else that could help someone. For example, another lunch, this one made for us by Mashama Bailey (pictured here with Joe York, whose pinpoint accuracy as a pitcher dropped shrimp-Currence in the tank; "Your Emmy won't save you now!" yelled Joe as I walked into the danger zone between him and his target), was ingenuously based on ingredients that usually get thrown away: Chef Bailey's salad was made with the stems of the collard.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Real Turtles

Two quick examples to show you how the Southern Foodways Symposium is. 1. I was up at City Grocery Bar tonight with Alice Randall (THE WIND DONE GONE). And she was like, "I'll tell you a story I never tell anyone, because you bought my drink." But the drink I "bought" her was club soda, which I'm almost 100% positive is FREE! But she told me the story anyway, and no, I'm not going to tell you what it was. 2. Next thing you know I was eating turtle hot dogs with a CHEERS writer. That's not a euphemism! The hot dogs were really made from turtles. We talked about how he developed the character "Paul." And I told him all about Steve Wolfhard. But Steve drew this illustration (above) about a CHEERS character called Pete, whom I don't even remember... not Paul, as I erroneously told my turtle-devouring friend! Oh well, life isn't always perfect.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

He's Got to Learn

Hey I went back to Funky's and ordered a pizza to go again. I chose the chicken Alfredo pizza. The bartender went back into the kitchen and told the skinny guy who was standing there my order and then, as I could see, he had a lot of questions and she was pointing at the menu where the ingredients for the chicken Alfredo pizza were listed and he was scratching his head and I was like, "uh-oh." So I was sitting there at the bar reading EVE'S HOLLYWOOD and it really made me think of Elizabeth Kaiser. And then I thought about Padgett Powell for two reasons simultaneously: he and Elizabeth lived together mysteriously yet platonically in France at some point; the last time Padgett Powell was in town I hear he ate at Funky's. Ha ha! Why is that funny? Mainly because they call it Funky's, I guess. And if you don't know who Padgett Powell is, he is one of our great living authors of experimental literature (I guess you'd call it) and he ate pizza at Funky's! Where Katy Perry drinks with collegiate rowdies. I asked Elizabeth whether I could mention that she lived mysteriously but platonically with Padgett Powell and she said yes and she also said "I remember he had glued a picture of a grizzly bear to the refrigerator." But that's Elizabeth for you! Like the time she landed in Montana (?) and just wandered into a random bar and happened to make friends with James Crumley. While I was thinking about all these things, I noticed that the skinny lad in the kitchen was on the phone. The music was loud - an "ironic" "indie rock" cover (I guess) of "The Roof Is On Fire" - but I could tell that he was asking somebody how to make a chicken Alfredo pizza. I asked the bartender whether that's what the kid was doing and she said, "Yes. He's new." I said, "That's okay, I can order something else. I'm not married to Alfredo." And she said, "He's got to learn." I thought that was a good answer! The end of the story is the kid made us a perfectly acceptable pizza.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mayonnaise Bildungsroman

You know who likes condiments? Dr. Theresa! So I got her about 25 condiments from around the world for her birthday. I gave them to her a month early or so, because I was tired of hiding condiments all around the house and also I was like, we should use these before they expire! Maybe under a bed is not the best spot for mayonnaise! Here, pictured, are just a few of the condiments. Maybe you don't think olives are condiments. Maybe I agree! But even if you subtract the olives, there were still about 25 condiments in the birthday package. Just yesterday we realized how many of the condiments we haven't even tried yet... lots! (And that's why I put some yuzu mayonnaise on a ham sandwich yesterday... not the best combo, though going in having no idea what a "yuzu" was - I just took a chance and squirted it on there - I was pleasantly surprised by the bright orange flavor. But not on a ham sandwich. But I ate it. Maybe it would be good in chicken salad...? Don't listen to me! I'm an idiot!) Of the condiments we have tried, I feel comfortable telling you the top four. I'm not sure I have the order right. Nor am I sure Dr. Theresa would agree. 4. Farmer's Daughter Salty Dog Marmalade. That is a fine marmalade! Let me tell you something about April McGreger, maker of the Farmer's Daughter Salty Dog Marmalade. I met her at a Southern Foodways Symposium several years ago, when they were handing out biscuits with her fig preserves on them. Ladies and gentlemen, not since my childhood had I tasted fig preserves SO EXACTLY LIKE my grandmother's fig preserves! I ordered jars for everyone in my family for Christmas, that's how good they were, and how close to home. I'm not sure Ms. McGreger has ever made exactly those fig preserves again. The last batch I saw for sale had bourbon in them, I think. My grandmother wouldn't have done that! The point is, April McGreger and her staff make different stuff every season, based on whatever is fresh and available in abundance. I NEVER (never?) advertise places to buy things on this "blog" but I am going to "link" to Farmer's Daughter. Get one of everything! The Salty Dog Marmalade has grapefruit and juniper and sea salt in it, and I rank it only at "4" because I guess - like ordinary marmalade - there are just a few truly proper things to smear it on. But I could be wrong! Maybe my imagination is insufficient. Anyway, it's amazing marmalade. We also use the Farmer's Daughter Sweet Potato/Habanero hot sauce a lot. 3. "Cereal Terra" (that's the brand) "ketchup piccante." I am afraid it has ruined us for other ketchups. Like, yesterday we broke out an "artisanal ketchup" (I guess) from the birthday batch to try on our hash browns and Dr. Theresa remarked "This is like tomato paste" when compared with the spicy flavor of Cereal Terra Ketchup Piccante (and yes, there are two c's in piccante, because it's Italian, I guess). So Dr. Theresa had to drown the inferior ketchup with a layer of ketchup piccante. I told you she likes condiments! She might rank the Cereal Terra Ketchup Piccante higher on this list. 2. Edmond Fallot Walnut Dijon Mustard. It's from, you know, France! And it has walnuts in it. And it goes on and in everything, which contributes to its high ranking. And it tastes so good you can eat a spoonful of it out of the jar. 1. Duke's Mayonnaise. For much of my life I "hated" mayonnaise. Let's analyze me! Was it because my mom would never put mayonnaise in our school lunches? She was afraid it would spoil before lunchtime! Nor, if we were going to the beach or on a picnic or anything like that (did we ever go on a picnic?), would anything with mayonnaise be included, for similar reasons. So perhaps from a young age I associated mayonnaise with danger. Ha ha ha! Or is it that I thought it was a food for "country people" (of which I was one)? My grandparents liked a spoonful of mayonnaise on a slice of fresh tomato or (as Tom Franklin and I, with our nearly identical backgrounds, have reminisced) a soft canned pear-half, with some cheese grated over it. Maybe I aspired to be too sophisticated for such rustic fare! Or maybe I didn't like mayonnaise. Maybe I wanted to be a big shot! But all through life I had to admit that mayonnaise was the only thing for a classic BLT, and maybe that is where I allowed my secret (even to me) craving for mayonnaise to express itself! Maybe I started to crack some time in the 90s. Is that when every restaurant started serving supposed "aioli"? And I was like, "Hey, this is mayonnaise!" I have heard many "food people" talk about Duke's mayonnaise. I have heard John Currence wax rhapsodically about the "old Duke's mayonnaise factory." And when I ate dinner at the James Beard House in New York City, they gave out packets of Duke's mayonnaise in the gift baskets we received upon departure. Still I resisted mayonnaise. Not anymore! We have already used a whole big jar of Duke's mayonnaise and started another. That's right, I bought it in bulk. In bulk!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Maybe We Won't

I seem to be entering some "Hollywood" phase in my reading. Ha ha! Who cares? Not even me! Well, I care that I have sputtered to a (temporary?) halt in my reading of THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY and THE FAERIE QUEENE and maybe THE DECAMERON. This one Hollywood book (sorry, one Hollywood trilogy) is just (so far) crass people doing awful things (as Lee Durkee warned me; but maybe it's because he warned me that I can keep reading it while he could not) - everything from proudly and theatrically farting during a fancy dinner party (pardon my own crudeness in recounting such behavior!) to sociopathic violent crime against women, which the book (I may be misinterpreting) appears to shrug off as a given (or is it making "subtle commentary"? I am surely too dumb to know)... and then I went to Square Books and picked up EVE'S HOLLYWOOD by Eve Babitz, which Megan Abbott recommended, and the Library of Congress says it's fiction, but it doesn't look like fiction to me, maybe we'll find out, or maybe we won't. HERE ARE THE STATS. Ha ha! Excuse my typographical laughter. I'm kind of stuck early in "Day Five" of THE DECAMERON, so less than halfway through. "Day Three" was a rollicking endorsement of adultery! While "Day Four" had some of the horrible fascination of the Grand Guignol. And... I forget where I was going with this. Like, maybe, "Day Five" is boring. I think I'll be able to pick up THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY again. It doesn't have a plot or anything. I'm on page 548, which sounds pretty good, but that's only the halfway mark. You don't care, I don't care, nobody cares. Here are some pictures of Eve Babitz.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Jack's News Roundup

Sometimes people send me "links" to news articles they think I will be interested in. And they are always right! McNeil sent me this article about a recent Jerry Lewis appearance at the Friars Club. My brother-in-law David sent me an article about how they're trying to preserve the spirit of Manuel's Tavern EVEN AS THEY DESTROY IT (I remain skeptical; they keep talking about cleaning the dust off of stuff! I don't approve). I would just add that in a review of Elvis Costello's new autobiography in today's New York Times, EC describes Jerry Lewis as "appealing." In other news, we watched a ghost movie called WE ARE STILL HERE for our Halloween Film Festival. This means that ghost movies account for a whopping 60% of this year's Halloween movies. I didn't check my math. But statistics don't lie! Truly 2015 is The Year of the Ghost. Ghosts are making a real comeback! Get it? Because they're dead and then they come back. Let's hear it for the can-do "spirit" of ghosts! In conclusion, this is a picture of me having dinner with Elvis Costello that I just happen to have lying around.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Your Best Bet

I was really enjoying this movie GIRLFRIENDS on TCM just now, and you know how they have those little capsule descriptions of whatever you're watching and whenever you hit the "info" button on your remote control they appear? So I hit the "info" button to find out more about the movie and the capsule description informed me that this movie was about "a chubby photographer." I was taken aback! First of all, this is the month that TCM is featuring films by women directors, of which GIRLFRIENDS is one. Second of all, the supposed "chubbiness" of the protagonist is not even part of the movie. It's not an issue or a subject of discussion, save for one passing comment near the end that MIGHT be construed that way. If the movie were about a guy, I don't believe a comment on his body type would have been part of the capsule description. I don't know who writes these things, somebody at TCM or somebody at the satellite company, but somebody should be ashamed. And now I have three more things to say about GIRLFRIENDS. 1. Eli Wallach uses an imaginary lighter to light an imaginary cigarette in it. That's a scene I could have used in my cigarette lighter book! But it's too late. I guess that's going to happen all the time now. But I immediately thought of two sections where it would have come in handy. 2. If you want to see Christopher Guest and Bob Balaban in the nude, this movie is probably your best bet! 3. Everybody wore turtlenecks. I think I counted six turtlenecks.

The Vinegar Institute

I was looking up something about vinegar and I found The Vinegar Institute! I don't suppose I will ever tire of it. The answer to my question was right there in the Vinegar FAQ: "The Vinegar Institute conducted studies to find out and confirmed that vinegar’s shelf life is almost indefinite."

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Guess What an Owl Did

"... an owl gave a last contented sleepy hoot." So this Don Carpenter book has an owl in it, like all other books, as I have conclusively proven. It also has a good cigarette lighter scene ("Civilizations could rise and fall while Grimaldi lit his cigarette") but it's much too late to stick it in my cigarette lighter book.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Not Quite Enough Marbles

So all these guys are sitting on one side a long table in masks talking to each other and the door opens and they all turn and look at the camera at the same time - that's pretty scary! I feel like I've seen this startling effect copied in later movies. I couldn't find the exact moment on the internet, but this came right afterward. It's from LA MAIN DU DIABLE (a much more apt title than the English version: CARNIVAL OF SINNERS), the latest entry in our annual Halloween film festival. Kind of a fairytale. Jacques Tourneur's dad directed it! I want to know why he was back in France directing this at about the same time his son was in America directing CAT PEOPLE - what a family! - so I'll grab that Chris Fujiwara bio of the younger Tourneur and get back to you later. So! I was walking back home from Square Books the other day when Melissa Ginsburg accosted me from the passenger window of a pickup truck! And Chris Offutt was driving. And they wanted to know whether I wanted a ride, which was funny because I was next door to my house, which they well knew, so they were being hilarious. And they pulled into the neighbor's driveway and I leaned in the window of the truck and we had a talk. And it turned out by coincidence that the newly and impulsively purchased book I had under my arm is one of Chris's favorites! Chris said he read it all as fast as he could and can't wait until enough time passes so he can read it again. It's the "Hollywood Trilogy" of Don Carpenter, three novels in one volume. I was telling Bill Boyle about it and he already knew everything because he's a big fan, too. They were out of print for a while, and Bill was tracking down the separate volumes at the library. So I just started reading the first one and to my surprise it's pretty much about Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and it's narrated by Jerry Lewis. I exaggerate! The decade is wrong, for one thing. And I've only read a couple dozen pages. But one partner in the comedy duo is a crooner, and the crooner hates to rehearse and is always late, and the crooner likes comic books, and his teammate's schtick is to act like he has "not quite enough marbles rolling around in my attic," and they're embarrassed by the low-budget movies the studio forces them to make and are much more at home in their loose and highly improvisational nightclub act, which they have moved to Las Vegas... all these things apply to Martin and Lewis, though there is also a lot about these characters that does not apply to Martin and Lewis, but I'm going to ignore those parts.

Monday, October 05, 2015

McNeil Month By Month

I can hardly believe it's already McNeil's birthday again! I'm sure you all feel the same. And I know you're eager to celebrate in the traditional way: with our annual feature "McNeil Month By Month." It's fun for the whole family! Simply click on any "link" to see what McNeil was doing that 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 gets a big bruise on his arm. 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 wears a surgical mask. 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 sends a nine-minute clip of a nice old man speaking at a UFO banquet. 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. October 2013: McNeil recalls tucking in his t-shirt. November 2013: The cover of a book McNeil buys says it is about Jerry Lewis, but on the inside the book is about Willie Stargell! December 2013: McNeil wants to visit an orgone box factory. January 2014: McNeil did nothing in January. February 2014: McNeil wonders whether Tom Franklin puts his hair in curlers. March 2014: McNeil takes a nap in the car. April 2014: The subject of McNeil pops up in an interview. May 2014: McNeil's emails on the "hollow earth" recalled (see February 2010, above). June 2014: McNeil looks forward to getting drunk and making insensitive remarks as I lie on my deathbed. July 2014: McNeil watches Jim and Henny Backus play themselves in DON'T MAKE WAVES. August 2014: McNeil tells about Robert Mitchum's hangover cure. September 2014: McNeil exaggerates the fate of some owls. October 2014: McNeil is incensed that a candy apple costs eight dollars at the airport. November 2014: McNeil's heart overflows with joy. December 2014: McNeil continues his 7-year chimp investigation (see May 2007, above). January 2015: McNeil listens to a conspiracy theorist who says Jimmy Carter was replaced by a series of robots. February 2015: McNeil recalls doing a report about matches in the eighth grade. March 2015: McNeil takes to bed with the flu! April 2015: McNeil and I establish an amazing psychic link. May 2015: McNeil bitterly recalls the time he brought a John Wayne movie to my apartment and we never watched it. June 2015: McNeil dreams about a bearded Dean Martin. July 2015: McNeil has a disappointing encounter with the Grand Canyon. August 2015: McNeil sees a squirrel holding a stick. September 2015: McNeil is saddened by the news of Dean Jones's death. Sorry to end on such a bummer! But this thrill ride is just getting started! Be sure to come back next year for the next exciting installment of... "McNeil Month By Month."

Sunday, October 04, 2015


Last night Bill Boyle and I went over to Ace and Angela's to watch a Burt Reynolds movie on the back porch. It started to get cold and the branches were creaking and swaying around and the leaves were rustling and I kept bugging Bill to take a picture of the trees which were like TWIN PEAKS trees, as I repeatedly insisted. So here is a photo I got today in an email titled "Trees?" but it is just cigar smoke drifting over the light from the projector and there are some trees behind it swaying eerily, trust me.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Couch Business

Last night when I couldn't sleep I watched three FRIENDS episodes in a row and I got obsessed with the very beginning of the credits sequence where they're all sitting on a couch outside and posing on it in various ways, I was like, "WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?" Every time it came on I thought "I am going to rewind this couch business and watch it frame by frame and figure out what is going on here. It seems like some of the 'friends' are late, and then the other 'friends' have to make room for them on the couch, which is outside." But I didn't rewind it or watch it frame by frame. Then I was like, "Well, I bet somebody on the 'internet' has analyzed this. I'll look it up tomorrow." But now I don't feel like doing that either. I guess I'll never know. (See also.)

How I Met Your Manitou

So we watched THE MANITOU for our Halloween film festival and now I am going to tell you all about THE MANITOU so don't read this if you plan to watch THE MANITOU but I don't think you want to plan to watch THE MANITOU. Tony Curtis plays a guy kind of like Zero Mostel in THE PRODUCERS except he gives psychic readings to old women and for one of them he wears a false moustache for reasons that I am not sure I understand. There was one okay part where an old woman floated down a hallway, that was a surprise. Anyway, here comes the manitou! The manitou is a "medicine man" who reincarnates himself in the most inconvenient way possible for everyone. Couldn't he just reincarnate himself the regular way? I guess not! Then a hospital room turns into outer space and they defeat the manitou by harnessing the souls of computers, because computers have souls in this movie, THE MANITOU.

Friday, October 02, 2015

This Counts

Move over, vampires and werewolves, there's a new hot ticket this Halloween season: ghosts! Oh, how I hate myself. But I know you'd want to be the first to hear that Dr. Theresa and I have started our annual Halloween film festival. So far, it's 100% ghosts. First, LAKE MUNGO, recommended by Megan Abbott. And then BEETLEJUICE came on TV and we were like, "This probably counts!" Both BEETLEJUICE and LAKE MUNGO have kids capturing ghostly images with their cameras, and in both cases - forgive me for this morbidity - the ghosts are produced by drowning. Hey, ghosts gotta be produced somehow. Speaking of gruesome subjects I guess I should tell you about these gruesome stories I have been reading in THE DECAMERON lately. WARNING! They are gruesome. Like, in one, the king has the heart of his daughter's low-born lover cut out and then he gives it to her in a golden goblet! What a jerk. He weeps a lot, too. He's probably one of the weepiest kings you'd ever want to meet. It's complicated. And then there's one where this woman finds her lover's body and takes his head as a keepsake! And she puts his head in a big vase and covers it with dirt and plants basil over it and waters it "only with rose or orange water or with her own tears" - and she grows the sweetest basil in the land! Anyway, THE DECAMERON is gross.