Friday, December 30, 2016
spoilers. So Miriam Hopkins is in love with best friends Gary Cooper and Fredric March, and they're both in love with her. So at the end they just all stay together! I am reminded of a possibly hallucinated article I read about Joe Orton trying to write a script for the Beatles. I may be imagining this. I think the Beatles were all supposed to marry the same woman in the final scene. Yes, that may be entirely imaginary on my part. So let's forget it! But I think you'll agree that in conventional moviemaking Miriam Hopkins would have "chosen" either Gary Cooper or Fredric March. (In fact I was stunned when I put it to Dr. Theresa that surely anyone given such a choice - between the two actors as mere physical specimens, I mean - would choose Gary Cooper - why, no decision could be easier! - and Dr. Theresa blithely informed me that she - Dr. Theresa herself - thought she might pick Fredric March!) As I have just spoiled for you, however, DESIGN FOR LIVING just sticks with its original concept, or situation, and stubbornly follows it through. I was impressed by this rigor! And it reminded me of some other movie I couldn't quite put my finger on. I thought about it all night and couldn't remember. I was thinking of some other movie, and I knew I had written about it somewhere. I remembered talking to Adam Muto and Kent Osborne about it. I remembered saying I admired the way the writers put themselves in a box right at the beginning and then just spent the rest of the movie marching toward the inevitable conclusion. But I couldn't remember the movie. (Parenthetically, I now recall that back when I was teaching I once tried to explain to some undergraduates - at their request - what a "story" was. And I said, "Well, if there's a man standing on top of a mountain and he rolls a snowball down, and there's a man at the bottom of the mountain and he just stands there in the snowball's path, and the snowball gets bigger and bigger and it rolls over the man at the bottom of the mountain, who's just standing there, and crushes him, that's NOT a story." And then I said, "Wait a minute, maybe that IS a story." And now we see again why I'm not teaching anymore. But I went home and wrote the story and it was printed in a small literary magazine so I guess that makes it a story.) So! I searched through all my emails and couldn't find any reference to this mysterious other movie that reminded me of DESIGN FOR LIVING. So then I searched the "blog" for any "posts" containing both words "logic" and "structure," and as you can imagine, there were none. And then somehow it came to me that the movie I had in mind that reminded me so much of DESIGN FOR LIVING was ICEMAN, in which Timothy Hutton is part of a scientific team that digs up a Neanderthal played by John Lone. And they unthaw the caveman and he's alive. And the rest of the movie - which I won't spoil for you as much as I did DESIGN FOR LIVING - is a bunch of filmmakers trying to figure out what would happen if a scientific team unfroze a Neanderthal. And you can imagine right from the outset that somebody said, "Well, this isn't going to end well for the Neanderthal." And maybe, "Well, let's try to make it as nice for him as we can." I figured out that the place in which I had written about ICEMAN was the 1,000-page book that is not to be published until after my death. It really exists! And why am I writing about ICEMAN in a 1,000-page book that is not to be published until after my death, if ever? That's a great question!
Sunday, December 25, 2016
After you write a book about something you immediately forget everything about the subject you were researching and never want to hear anything about it again. That's a tidbit about writing. Okay! But once I wrote a book about cigarette lighters and just for a month or two after it came out I would run across an item that I wished I had been able to include in the book. That stopped happening quickly and also I stopped "blogging" forever, as you can see. But now - after what I assumed would be an eternal hiatus - I just read something that I wish I would've heard about in time to put in my book. Okay, in this part of the Walt Disney biography that Megan Abbott and I are reading, Walt Disney has turned kind of scary to everybody: "layout artist Ken Anderson inadvertently singed Walt's mustache while lighting a cigarette with a new lighter during a storyboard session." Disney leaps from his chair and showers Ken Anderson with invective we shan't print here. "Anderson threw away the lighter and never smoked again." There are a couple of good places in my book for that anecdote, though based on my royalty statement I'm pretty sure there's not a clamor for an extended second edition. In a poignant aside, the author Neal Gabler adds, "Anderson admitted he cried."
Monday, December 19, 2016
Walt Disney murders an owl in this "post." I don't even want to type it up but I have my rules. Megan and I are reading this Walt Disney biography (WALT DISNEY: THE TRIUMPH OF THE AMERICAN IMAGINATION by Neal Gabler) together and I was ahead of her because I just sit around the house now and she has to ride around on subways all day in New York City and you can't take a giant brick of a book on a subway! But anyway, one day she took it on the subway - to her eventual regret! - and got ahead of ME. And sent me an email that said, "I can't believe we haven't discussed the traumatic owl incident!" I had to confess I had no idea what she was talking about. But I read on, filled with trepidation. And finally I got to Walt's memory of killing an owl when he was a boy. He caught it and when it tried to get away he threw it on the ground and it died. I am sorry to tell you! If it makes you feel any better, he never forgot it, it haunted him, and he had terrible nightmares about it for the rest of his life. Try telling that to the owl who was just minding its own business being an owl. And then the owl floodgates! I mean, two pages later, someone describes the way Walt looked during a pitch (as we call it in the business): how he would "bend forward unconsciously and become like an old owl - hunched up, and his bill would clack a little bit." And in the NEXT PARAGRAPH we are treated to Walt's capacity for acting out a story. He would "suddenly transform himself uninhibitedly into Mickey or Donald or an owl or an old hunting dog." I thought, what, is this book going to be all owls all the time now? Have we unleashed something? But no, on the next page Walt is obsessed over a minuscule mistake in a shot where Mickey Mouse is staring at his own reflection in some Jell-O. So then I started thinking about all the time I've squandered contemplating and calculating how many books I read that have Jell-O in them. Jell-O seems to be a quintessential American literary metaphor! Kerouac! Mailer! Portis! Roth! Gidget! Mickey Mouse! But let me stop myself. Is this what has become of me? Even though I don't "blog" anymore, has "blogging" changed the way I read, keeping me on constant alert for Jell-O and owls at expense of true enlightenment? At least this gelatinous aside gives me an excuse to relate my favorite phrase in the book. Walt tells his father he wants to quit his humdrum duties at the jelly factory to become an artist. But his father "could not possibly see why Walt would sacrifice the certainty of the jelly factory for the uncertainty of art." When you put it that way! I don't know, the jelly factory sounds magical enough to me. During the occupation, just after World War I, Walt drives out to "the birthplace of Joan of Arc, where [he eats] fried chicken on the lawn in front of her shrine." I put that in just for Kent Osborne, who loves fried chicken so much, and also loves to eat at Walt Disney's favorite restaurant in Los Angeles. I think he would enjoy the image of Walt Disney eating fried chicken at the shrine of Joan of Arc. 1938 interview with Disney in FAMILY CIRCLE magazine. Disney informs his interviewer, "In my terror, I stamped on the owl and killed it" - a horrific detail omitted by Gabler and one many of us strove not to believe - the description at the beginning of this "post" does its best to posit a kind of terrible accident - against the evidence of Disney's own testimony. Megan put it down, rather beautifully, to "Disney hyperbole and the hyperbole of guilt." Disney, on the other hand, calls it an "unhappy adventure." Seems like a mild way to put it. - ed.]
Monday, December 12, 2016
You know I don't "blog" anymore unless, say, I read a book with an owl in it, but what am I supposed to do with this picture Jimmy sent me? He was walking in Brooklyn, USA, when he came upon a crèche with this toy novelty owl sitting on the roof of it. He also shows the owl from another, closer angle which bolsters his claim that it has three eyes, but I shan't affright you with that. Surely there is some terrifying occult significance we shouldn't think about. This reminds me of a McNeil email from early November, in which he told me of walking his dog at midnight. "I heard a loud noise in the air - similar to a cat's cry," McNeil wrote. "I shined my flashlight toward the heavens and heard it again!" It turned out to be "a giant owl resting on the peak of [McNeil's] neighbors' roof." I didn't tell you about it because I wasn't "blogging" at the time and I'm still not "blogging."
Saturday, December 10, 2016
jukebox and I was like, WHAT IS THIS? Is this a movie where Madonna exists and also someone who looks and dresses exactly like Madonna exists? It reminded me of that Clint Eastwood movie where Mel Tillis sings a song about Clint Eastwood. Obviously there is a big difference. And big similarities! I don't "blog" anymore but I guess I should "blog" in circumstances like this, when something reminds me of something else I "blogged" about, right? But the main thing is how great John Turturro looks in this movie, I want to look just like him.
Sunday, December 04, 2016
Everybody has been wondering and wanting and waiting to know the ten greatest things. Therefore I made a list of ten things that are considered greatest. Here are the ten greatest things that happened in 2016, according to this list. 10. Our TV blew up. 9. My friend swallowed a gnat. 8. I forgot Grady Sutton's name. 7. I went to the dry cleaners and locked my keys in the car. 6. My mom told me to eat a lot of jelly because it "oils up your joints." 5. We learned about hot corn girls. Only six 10 greatest things happened this year and technically the hot corn girls are from 1854.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
I don't "blog" anymore unless I read a book with an owl in it and have to put it on my compulsively updated list of books with owls in them, or for some other reason. So remember when Megan Abbott and I were reading the third volume of Simon Callow's biography of Orson Welles? We've skipped back to the first volume now, in which Callow parenthetically lists some of the traditional gramophone-produced sound effects in theatrical productions; you can see them right there in the title of this "post." You know what else is in this book? H.V. Kaltenborn. I am sure you will recall that for a while there it seemed as if H.V. Kaltenborn - I've never heard of him either - would appear in every selection of the now defunct (?) Doomed Book Club. In conclusion, I am very happy that this book has an owl in it because it gives me an excuse to tell you, as long as I am required to be here, that within these covers Callow describes Bob Hope as "soigné." That is a fair description of Bob Hope! Why, we see Hope here (above) in his green velvet smoking jacket from I'LL TAKE SWEDEN, which I never got to "blog" about (the green velvet smoking jacket, that is) because the day I "blogged" about I'LL TAKE SWEDEN destroying our television set was the day I stopped "blogging." You'll note that the monogram is "BH." His character shared his initials, probably at his command, probably so he could keep the jacket. Bob Hope was a notorious cheapskate, as you know from your obsession with this "blog," which no longer exists, obviously.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Kent's party. Look at all these geniuses. There's Adam in the foreground, as well he should be. And the back of Em Partridge's head is deep in conversation with Rebecca Sugar. And then I thought that was the back of Aleks Sennwald's head but Kent says that is the back of Tom Herpich's head! In fact, Kent pointed out, Aleks is visible way back there in the background, in another room, or another plane, ethereal and floating in a violet-blue (?) light. I just assumed she was a ghost! Oh, but continuing along toward the poster on the back wall we see Jesse Balmer and why there's none other than Seo Kim herself, thoughtfully musing! Meanwhile Jesse Moynihan leans against the other wall, as fly as ever in his downy sweater. I also see an elbow and a pocket flap and the back of another head. I'm not "blogging" anymore, but come on, you have to let me get the rest of this ADVENTURE TIME stuff off my chest. You don't want me to bottle it up inside, do you? DO YOU?
Monday, November 21, 2016
I don't know whether you can tell, but sometimes the faulty camera on Kent's computer bathed everything in a mysterious golden light, as in this "screen grab" of Kent with Julia Pott. Burbank as I sat right here in Mississippi, usually with my cat Pan. Today it happened for the last time. I want to thank everybody, but especially my constant comrades from the writers' room: Adam Muto, Pen Ward, Kent, Ashly Burch, and Julia. Here are Pen and Ashly in the writers' room looking serious. Apollo and Dionysus of ADVENTURE TIME. Ha ha, that's horrible. [Here there was excised a long panegyric in which Pendarvis compared Pendleton Ward and Adam Muto to William Blake and John Milton and William Faulkner and Jack Kirby and H.P. Lovecraft and Dante in really flowery and completely accurate ways they'd both hate. - ed.] The brilliant (in every sense) Ashly Burch gave us an electric jolt just when we needed it most. I got truly downhearted when she left the show. I felt like a drug addict when they take away the drugs! But then Julia parachuted in at perhaps the most mind boggling moment in the sweeping arc of the series (no spoilers!), just totally undaunted, and showed incredible spirit and ingeniousness that encouraged us to press forward. What an example she is for everything you'd hope to be, including a dazzlingly original thinker and a true friend. Kent always got us rolling. He created a mood in the room that encouraged deeply personal storytelling and brought out the best in everyone. He's a crafty wizard and he'll lead you to your epiphany by misdirection, you know, like one of those monks who cracks skulls with a stick and BANG! You're enlightened. Only Kent would never do that. He's more like... uh... Chuang Tzu. I don't know, Chuang Tzu didn't hit people with sticks, did he? I don't have time to look it up because I need to go get a drink. If he did, I'm sure it was for their own good! Anyway, Kent would never hit anyone with a stick. If you click back over all my ADVENTURE TIME posts (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!) you'll see the debt I owe to each and every one of these creative people, as well as all the amazing board creators I'm not even mentioning here, many of whom were often in the writers' room themselves, even the ones who left their mark before I came onboard, and all the other artists, and everyone involved in the production of the show, and the nonpareil cast. Well, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. I love you all. To repeat myself one more time, I'll never have a better job with kinder people or be part of something of which I'm prouder. I don't suppose I should tell you who worked on our story for the series finale but I will 1) say that it's a murderers' row and 2) guarantee that you'll faint. For four years I got paid to sit around and make up stories with some of my favorite people. I really can't complain. Okay, I'll be at City Grocery Bar crying into an old-fashioned if you need me.
Los Angeles on my final ADVENTURE TIME trip. And though my jottings in my precious book of jottings in which I jot whenever I go on a trip have decreased as my "blog" dwindles into the oblivion it so richly deserves, I feel one last round of thorough jotting transcription is in order on such a melancholy occasion. So let's see what I jotted. The plane landed! I made it to Cartoon Network in Burbank just in time for a meeting. I leapt out of the cab, tripped over my own suitcase and landed brutally upon my knees. "This trip is starting out well!" I probably mused sardonically with my famed sardonicism. I had to use the Cartoon Network first aid kit, which was top notch. Now! I always like to buy a big bottle of seltzer at the grocery store across the street to have in my hotel room, as future biographers will be interested to note. So, once safely in my room, or so I thought, I opened my seltzer bottle to have my ceremonial first sip and seltzer went everywhere! It went on important stuff that shouldn't get seltzer on it. I was beginning to think the trip was cursed, and I was already bummed out because of its elegiac nature. Also, Adam Muto had STIRRED HIS COFFEE WITH A KNIFE during lunch that day! I had a roommate from Wisconsin a long time ago, and once when I stirred with a knife he said, "Stir with a knife, stir up strife!" I had never heard such a thing. But I immediately added it to my catalog of superstitions. So I was inclined to blame Adam for the ill-augured nature of the trip, though Kent reminded me that I fell down and scraped my knees BEFORE Adam stirred his coffee with a knife. I'm not sure that matters! The next morning I woke up with a piece of grit or something in my eye. My eye was swollen and red and the lid was drooping down and the corner of that eye emitted a constant stream of ugly tears. "Well, I can't go anywhere. I guess I will sit in the hotel room and clean out my wallet." Such was the content of my thoughts. "I guess this is how I am spending my last ADVENTURE TIME trip." I threw away a big pile of scrap paper from my wallet, keeping just three things: 1. My ticket stub from when Kent and I went to see 50 SHADES OF GREY. 2. Something funny I wrote down that Bill Boyle said when he was drunk. 3. My visitor's pass from when Julia and I secretly skulked around the GILMORE GIRLS set while they were shooting. Then came a knock at the door. It was Steve Wolfhard bringing me eyedrops! What a pal. Steve's thoughtful gesture allowed me to leave for a meeting I had in Beverly Hills with some degree of confidence. My eye was still bothering me a little when I sat down to a fancy lunch in fancy Beverly Hills. (This was not a lunch meeting; the meeting came later. I was alone.) I ordered a bitters and soda and when I squeezed a lime wedge into it, the lime juice squirted into my "good" eye, for I was wearing my glasses atop my head as I am prone to do. The curse had not yet lifted, I felt, despite Steve's kind gesture. (Oh yes, that reminds me, Steve and I were staying at the same hotel, the one where the guy who plays Squidward always hangs out in the lobby. One evening I came down to the lobby to find Steve sitting right next to Squidward on a banquette, entirely unawares! So I wrote Steve this important note in my ever-present jotting book.) Ace Atkins (rudely forgetting the time difference) and told him I was sitting next to a James Bond, because I knew he'd want to know at once. Ace is a James Bond expert! Oh! I forgot to tell you. Flashback to an hour earlier! While I was waiting downstairs for the restaurant upstairs to open for dinner, I sat at the bar where I had enjoyed my luncheon of poached shrimp and watched a 70-year-old French woman (she herself mentioned her age) being - I am almost certain - flattered and cozened by a down-at-the-heels gigolo! Beverly Hills USA! Well, I felt heartened after my encounter with Timothy Dalton. I felt that he had lifted the curse! And so he had. Pen and Sam Alden and Ryan Pequin (of THE REGULAR SHOW) at the Club Tee Gee, a dive with glitter on the ceiling, where I played a bunch of Kelly Hogan songs on the jukebox and Ryan took this picture of Em and me! the time I got lost in the North Georgia woods and go back and read the story. Sam was describing what he called the "hubristic death" of one of his eccentric ancestors and I ask idly if he also happened to be related to John Alden. And he is! He is the direct descendent of John and Priscilla Alden, one of the greatest love stories in American history! Boy was my mom excited when I called her from the airport the next day and told her. "Speak for yourself, John," Mom said, quoting Priscilla, and then demanded a picture of Sam so she could look at him. Okay! "It's no big deal, they had thirteen children," Sam said, implying that half the people in the room were probably the descendants of John and Priscilla Alden, I guess. We all loaded up and went to a party that Kent was throwing for all your favorite ADVENTURE TIME writers and artists, past and present. I sat on the floor next to Ako Castuera and we sang a bunch of songs associated with David Lynch movies."I Told Every Little Star" and "In Dreams." We sang these songs at the top of our lungs half-recumbent on the floor on some sort of shaggy pillow in the middle of the room while people were trying to do other stuff and get on with their lives. On Kent's balcony, we sang "We'll Meet Again" not once but twice at widely separated key moments. Not a David Lynch song but a sentimental choice for the occasion. You know what? I'm leaving a lot of stuff out. A LOT! I feel rushed and weird in my gut because I have my last ADVENTURE TIME meeting in a couple of hours. And I'm not "blogging" anymore, anyway, as you can see. No, but really, I have twice as many pages of jottings that I didn't even get to. But everything has to end, even ADVENTURE TIME, even jottings, even parties. The day after the party Pen brought Kent a bag of fried chicken to cure his headache and I rode along. You know how Kent loves his chicken, ha ha ha! What a life. It had been raining and the sign on Kent's gate was smeared and wistful.
Monday, November 14, 2016
You know I don't "blog" anymore unless I read a book with an owl in it and compulsively put it on my list, which I do all the time, because every book has an owl in it, including TWELFTH NIGHT, which I am reading right now, and in which Sir Toby threatens to "rouse the night owl" with his singing, although my favorite line so far is "I heard you were saucy at my gates."
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
You remember back when I used to "blog," how I would take my little jotting book and jot down all my precious jottings whenever I went on a trip and I'd come back and transcribe the jottings for you and I'd usually tell you what I read on the airplane? That's the level of jottings we are talking about! Well, this time I read THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN (mostly just the long, dry, scholarly introduction), which I wouldn't even mention, except there is an owl in it. The Jailer's Daughter says: "The moon is down, the crickets chirp, the screech owl calls in the dawn." [Postscript! There is a more significant - or at least a more striking - owl of which the Jailer's Daughter speaks. "There was three fools fell out about an owlet," she says, and then she recites a little rhyme: "The one he said it was an owl,/ The other he said nay,/ The third he said it was a hawk,/ And her bells were cut away."]
Sunday, October 30, 2016
I forgot to add that as we sat on a banquette in my hotel lobby (this one) at maybe 2 AM, Julia and Jimmy and I gazed at a person with a giant pink rabbit head and a woman whose twisted black devil horns reached perhaps five or six feet into the air, and two or three others whose elaborate costumes I cannot recall, plus a man of whom we said, "Is he supposed to be Jay Leno?" but it turned out he was not in a costume, he was just some guy with a minor resemblance to Jay Leno. And, because I had been traveling and had not seen the GILMORE GIRLS trailer, Julia described it to me in much detail, like a bard of yore, steeped in the oral tradition, relating the ancient and immortal glories, and now I don't even WANT to see the trailer, how could it compare?
jot down some observations in a jotting book of precious jottings? You bet I did! But I'm not "blogging" anymore, so these jottings - never to be seen in their raw form by the likes of you! - will be fashioned into "short story material" through the miracle of "fiction writing." BUT! I have sparse and spare jottings left over and I guess this is the only place to put them. Did you know that I almost FILLED UP an entire jotting book in one trip? I don't believe I've ever done that before. The particular jotting book in which my jottings for this trip were jotted was a gift from Adam Muto, and an especially nice one considering the time he gently and rightly upbraided me for jotting too much and letting life pass me by. What meager jottings am I allowed to share as a committed non-"blogger"? My trip began in Upstate New York. Jim Whorton drove me past Shirley Jackson's childhood home! Couple of days later in New York City, Julia - prompted by Megan Abbott - came up with the title I.Q. 2: HIGHER I.Q. for a sequel to the film I.Q. So please contact us immediately if you want us to go forward with it. Soon Jimmy and I were in a bar talking about when God showed Julian of Norwich a hazelnut and then we moved on to the part of THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING about "heaven ghostly" being all around us. Jimmy has kindly emailed me the actual texts to which we had been alluding. "Also in this He shewed a littil thing the quantitye of an hesil nutt in the palme of my hand, and it was as round as a balle. I lokid there upon with eye of my understondyng and thowte, What may this be? And it was generally answered thus: It is all that is made. I mervellid how it might lesten, for methowte it might suddenly have fallen to nowte for littil. And I was answered in my understondyng, It lesteth and ever shall, for God loveth it; and so all thing hath the being be the love of God." And "For heaven ghostly is as nigh down as up, and up as down: behind as before, before as behind, on one side as other. Insomuch, that whoso had a true desire for to be at heaven, then that same time he were in heaven ghostly. For the high and the next way thither is run by desires, and not by paces of feet." On the way home, I was soundly, deeply asleep on the airplane when a voice startled me awake. It was some guy saying loudly in my ear "I see the sky and wonder why it's blue instead of red." I have to say it scared the hell out of me! But my earbuds were in, and it was Porter Wagoner doing like a spoken word thing. A pretty mellow song for Porter Wagoner, I don't know why it scared me so much, though he does get into the impenetrable silence of God later on in his recitation.
Thursday, October 06, 2016
Kent Osborne enjoyed a luncheon of chicken tenders AND chicken wings in his office. As you know, I am not "blogging" anymore (unless it is McNeil's birthday or I read a book with an owl in it) but it interests me when Kent eats chicken and occasionally his habits must be recorded for scientific purposes.
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
I am not "blogging" anymore, except when I read a book with an owl in it or it is McNeil's birthday. And I haven't read any books with owls in them today - yet! - so you know what that means! Time to celebrate all things McNeil with the special TENTH ANNIVERSARY EDITION of our annual "blog" feature "McNeil Month By Month." That's right, you can find out everything that McNeil has done for the past decade. Simply click on any "link" to read more about what McNeil was doing during that particular 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. October 2015: McNeil watches STARFLIGHT: THE PLANE THAT COULDN'T LAND. November 2015: McNeil sends video of Joe Namath making and eating a sandwich. December 2015: A coincidence of the type McNeil especially loves. January 2016: McNeil is in a grocery store and they start playing "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea" over the speakers! February 2016: McNeil watches Don Rickles eat in a bathroom. March 2016: McNeil is duly thrilled when Megan Abbott goes to see CRACKING UP (pictured, above) on the big screen. April 2016: McNeil swallows a gnat. May 2016: McNeil recalls the details of a screenplay we wrote in our twenties. June 2016: Destruction comes to McNeil's apple tree! July 2016: McNeil spots Dabney Coleman in an I DREAM OF JEANNIE rerun. August 2016: McNeil points out that Dean Martin had granddaughters named Pepper, Montana, and Rio. As you know, I started keeping a physical "McNeil Log" once I stopped "blogging" so much, which is how I know that in August, McNeil also tried to help me identify this plant: Dr. Theresa's crisp and vivid photograph, which perhaps made the bud appear larger than it actually was. It was determined to be a "camellia in fruit," or a "camellia hip," not a "red pear," as McNeil had suggested. I can note here that in May, according to the physical log, McNeil told me about a friend of his father's who thought someone was, in this old fellow's words, "witching [his] place." September 2016: McNeil is called a "filthy troglodyte." October 2016: McNeil advises me on what to do now that ADVENTURE TIME has been canceled. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, ADVENTURE TIME has been canceled. "I say take it easy for a while... just pretend to write when Theresa's around and then sleep or watch movies when she leaves. Oh hell, you know how to work it," writes McNeil.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
John Aubrey. 2. Every book I read has an owl in it. So it will not alarm you to discover that I am reading JOHN AUBREY: MY OWN LIFE, the wonderful biographical reconstruction - mostly in his own words - by Ruth Scurr, and it has an owl in it. We have had owls from Aubrey before. But in this case he makes friends with Francis Potter, who is "haunted" by Ovid's "barbarous Medea, mixing her witch's brew: roots, juices, flowers, seeds, stones, the screech owl's flesh and its ill-boding wings. He sees her, hair all unbound and blown about as she dances round..." (See also.) All of which gives Potter the idea of inventing the blood transfusion with chickens. Naturally! Aubrey helps out. Hey, as long as I've got you here, I was at Off Square Books a few nights ago, listening to a guy talk about his memoir. Once he and George Plimpton were out looking for what I believe this fellow called "the elusive burrowing owls of New Mexico." George Plimpton whipped off his t-shirt and tossed it into the air, where it attracted a large gathering of curious bats. Plimpton conjectured that the bats believed his t-shirt to be a delicious giant moth. I assume all this is in the book, or why did he bring it up? So I am putting his book on my list of books with owls in them.
Monday, September 12, 2016
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM got in my head last night and I swear I can't remember why. But I lugged out a big old facsimile of Shakespeare's first folio, which I bought so Lee Durkee and I could compare our folio facsimiles - we know how to have a good time! And I looked at Puck's last speech... "If we shadows have offended"... or "fhadowes," ha ha! You know how that old-timey printing makes some s's look like f's. Good times! And then I saw that previous speech of Puck's, which I didn't quite remember, even though I remember tons of lines from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM because I was in it when I was a teenager! That didn't deserve an exclamation point. I played the pivotal role of Snug the Joiner. Anyway, I saw the line, "And the Wolfe beholds the Moone," and thought, "Oh no! There is going to be an owl in this speech!" And there was: "the fcritch-owle, fcritching loud." And then I was like, I want to hear someone saying these lines. So I found a free streaming video of an old BBC (?) production and boy could you tell why it was free! It was copied from a terrible print. There were scratches and slashes and blotches all over the film, and the color was grotesquely faded. It was so washed-out that you couldn't read the white credits over the white sky. And I thought, "I'm not going to watch this!" But then came along the young David Warner, the young Diana Rigg, and the young Helen Mirren as three of the young lovers, all so captivating! And then some lump playing Demetrius. It's not his fault! I'm sure the actor is fine. Demetrius is just a big dud. He's no Snug the Joiner! Everyone knows if you ranked all the lovers Demetrius would come in last in every poll. But everyone else was so good that the blotches and slashes and missing frames and washed-out atmosphere started to seem like plusses... like... in fact... a line that was quoted to me from A MIDSUMMER'S DREAM one night in City Grocery Bar: "Trust me, sweet, out of this silence yet I pick'd a welcome." I couldn't stop watching it! It's a truly bewitching play! And then here was young Judi Dench, telling her fairies about "the clamorous Owle that nightly hoots," and I was like, okay, I definitely have to "blog" again, just this once, and you know why.
Wednesday, September 07, 2016
As you know, I'm not "blogging" anymore, but someone on twitter called McNeil a "filthy troglodyte" for not enjoying the works of Robert Sheckley, whoever he is. And it's all my fault. See? I told you "blogging" was useless. I should have included the final, qualifying line of McNeil's email: "Or maybe it's genius, but it sure seems like it sucks." Is everybody happy now? In the old days I would have looked up Robert Sheckley on wikipedia and probably found out he saved a baby from a fire or something and then I'd have to "blog" again about how sorry I was for besmirching Robert Sheckley via McNeil but now that I'm not "blogging" anymore I never have to learn how unfairly I've maligned Robert Sheckley and it's a huge relief.
Tuesday, September 06, 2016
I can guarantee I am not going to read an Ian McEwan novel from the point of view of a fetus. But it has an owl in it, as I learned from the New York Times review of it. The New York Times also thinks it "cleverly takes its title from a line in HAMLET," but I'm fairly certain that can't be clever anymore. Nothing against Ian McEwan or fetuses!
Sunday, September 04, 2016
Lee Durkee emailed me a recent newspaper article about the ghosts of the Bee Gees! And in return I emailed him some stuff about HAMLET. I'm sure I am not the first to observe that Ophelia does all the stuff Hamlet only talks about, like going mad and committing suicide. Or she kind of falls out of a tree, doesn't she? It's not clear she meant to do it. But forget that! Here's my idea I told Lee: what if Ophelia feigns madness too, and fakes her own death, then disguises herself as her brother (who's really still in France) and kills Hamlet herself? That would be cool. Then she'd be doing EVERYTHING that Hamlet REALLY wanted to do (avenge father; kill Hamlet). And then you'd have a play called OPHELIA. I'm sure I'm not the first to have this idea. But even though I'm not "blogging" anymore I thought I'd stick it here like a post-it note.
Friday, September 02, 2016
I know for a fact I'm never going to read the new Tom Wolfe book but I also know it has owls in it thanks to a review by Dwight Garner. Mr. Garner marks this passage as one of Wolfe's unfortunate descents into gibberish but all I know is that if the whole book were like this maybe I WOULD read it:
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Thumbing through Schoenbaum's "compact documentary life" of Shakespeare I come upon a description quoted from another book: "Because of its associations, the house has not wanted fanciful appreciation. 'Shadows and weird noises are in the rafters, the wind is in the chimneys, crickets are on the hearth, fairies glisten in the light of the dying fire, through leaded windows shines the moon, without is the to-wit to-whoo of the loved brown owl.'" Schoenbaum makes me laugh by drily adding "However this may be" - ha ha ha! - "the dwelling consists of a stone groundsill, or low foundation wall, upon which rests a sturdy oak superstructure." Though I have ceased "blogging" I still have to tell you every time I read a book with an owl in it, and every book I read has an owl in it so we'll be seeing each other a lot, I guess.
Monday, August 15, 2016
Some of you may think I'm "blogging" again. Well, I'm not! But can I help it if every book I read has an owl in it? It's my curse! This Philip Roth book has a collegiate coffee shop called "The Owl." (It is also the eighth book I have read with Jell-O in it, including another one by Roth.)
Friday, August 12, 2016
I have stopped "blogging" there are some things that must be "blogged" because there is no place else to put them. Here we see the foam letters from Jon Host's shower, for example. They have been there since time immemorial. "The challenge is to use ALL 24 letters," Jon writes. "Consonant blends are a must. Shrek is a popular subject, as are hex and jab. Abbreviations are discouraged. I wish I had been cataloging them all these years." I count just 23 letters in this one, I am sad to report.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
You know I'm not "blogging" anymore, but I do have to "blog" about McNeil at least once a month so I'll have something to fill out his yearly birthday tribute. Well, McNeil alerted me to the fact that Dean Martin's son just died. I read in the obituary that Dean Martin's granddaughters are named Pepper, Montana and Rio!
Tuesday, August 09, 2016
"If you get a chance, you ought to look for the owls." Thus do the owls first appear in this Stephen King novel BAG OF BONES I'm reading. You know me! I'm the fella who finds owls in every book he reads, so it's like the character was talking straight to me. The owls in question are plastic owls, just like the one in GRINGOS by Charles Portis, and in conclusion I will remind you that I have read every book by Charles Portis and every book by Charles Portis has an owl in it.
Friday, July 22, 2016
relax! There is nothing at all wrong with the "blog." The culprit that drove me mad was just a curious virus that only I could see, infecting a particular browser in the hotel's business center... the very business center immortalized (in a tastefully fictionalized version, of course) in my almost-new book MOVIE STARS, suddenly the toast of New York town! I, however, was out in Los Angeles, and I brought my jotting book of precious jottings, but in my new anti-"blogging" spirit, I jotted nearly nothing on my trip. And yes, I made that decision out of pure spite! Okay, I will tell you one thing. Julia and I walked up to Ako and I said, "Ako, tell Julia what you told me about the miraculous powers of coconuts!" And Ako shouted with hilarious urgency, "IT'S NOT TRUE!" It turns out that I have been going around telling lies that Ako accidentally told me about the miraculous powers of coconuts. One day, as she related to us ruefully, she was telling the same story when it dawned on her with the force of epiphany how suspicious it sounded. So she looked it up and was mortified at the extent to which she had been misleading an innocent coconut-buying public for so many years. Then she explained to Julia and me what the powers of coconuts REALLY are, and to be honest, the coconuts still sounded pretty miraculous. Okay, I feel bad for you, so I am going to tell you two funny things from the airplane ride home. There was a peperoncino garnishing the plate of food they gave me. So I bit into it. It was just a small, ordinary peperoncino but it seemed to contain an abundance of juice. The amazing quantity of juice expelled even by my rather timid bite squirted all over my personal airplane video screen. It even squirted onto the ceiling over the passengers in front of me! So it dripped down on them and they urgently pressed the button to summon the harried flight attendant. "The airplane is leaking bright green fluid!" they told her. "We're doomed!" Or words to that effect. So I had to confess that I had squirted the peperoncino juice that had rained down on them like the stinging hot portent of a deadly malfunction. Then I was enjoying THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON by H.G. Wells, my chosen airplane reading, and I suddenly came to a chapter called - in embarrassingly big letters - "Experiments in Intercourse"! Ha ha! So I put my thumb over the word "intercourse" so the guy in the next seat wouldn't think I was reading something too sexy for an airplane. Wells just meant that his heroes were trying to find a way to communicate with the moon men. He didn't mean anything dirty! He meant "intercourse" in the sense of "communication." That's how people talked back in crazy times! But I hid it with my thumb anyway. Okay, I'll tell you two more things. Look at this picture. Adam says it's okay to show it now. I was going to wait until season seven of our show had concluded. There are still two more wildly surprising episodes to come but Adam says the titles are out there in the public now and everybody knows them so it doesn't matter. Well, some quite literal spy took this spy picture with her sneaky spy camera very early in the season and spread it around the "internet" without compunction, our most personal and private business, including some very revealing episode titles, though I don't believe I've given a large enough representation for you to see them. But the funny part is the map of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County that's on the wall. Look and you will see it! You may furthermore recall when it was presented to Kent and Pen. Scores of young detectives taken in by this remorseless charlatan and thief thought it was some kind of map of a previously unknown territory of Ooo, the land where ADVENTURE TIME occurs - as did, no doubt, the budding Mata Hari herself. Well, there are probably tons of 13-year-olds all inspired and debating ABSALOM, ABSALOM! now, propelled forward by their initially misguided researches - so everything turned out all right; aren't you as sure of it as I am? In my preferred version of these events, the emotionless miscreant helped everybody learn and grow even though she was trying to hurt and spoil! I'll finish up with something I've been sitting on for a month or so because I don't care about you anymore. I started reading a book called THE YEAR OF LEAR, about KING LEAR, sort of, and it has owls in it, but not even the same owls that KING LEAR has in it! Some other owls. Thomas Dekker is describing a miserable denizen of a plague house: "And to keep such a poor wretch waking, he should hear no noise but of toads croaking, screech-owls howling, mandrakes shrieking."