Monday, July 31, 2017
this Shirley MacLaine memoir, Glenn Ford tells her that his house is haunted by the ghost of Rudolph Valentino, who moves furniture around and puts on tango records. Ford's wife Eleanor Powell is freaked out by the ghost but Glenn Ford is like, "Eh, it's fine." I paraphrase. Also - more pertinent to the "blog's" interests - this book has owls in it: some imaginary owls that Shirley MacLaine makes up in her head as she listens to Robert Mitchum tell about escaping from a chain gang. [POSTSCRIPT! Megan, double checking the original anecdote, reminds me that Ford "loved the presence," according to MacLaine. So my so-called paraphrase - and indeed the title of this "post" - is misleading.]
Thursday, July 27, 2017
As is well documented, I don't "blog" anymore unless I stumble across something I should have put in my cigarette lighter book but didn't know about in time. So! Megan Abbott and I are reading a Hollywood memoir by Shirley MacLaine, and she tells about how Dean Martin "would light a cigarette with his solid gold lighter, blow out the flame, and toss the gold lighter from the window as if it was a used match." So! This naturally reminded me of something I DID put in my cigarette lighter book: the time Hal Needham maliciously tossed his friend's gold cigarette lighter from the window of a speeding car as a joke. If only I had known about Dean's habit. What a study in contrasts Dino and Needham would have made! As MacLaine notes, someone always retrieved Dean's lighter for him, whereas (Shirley MacLaine does not note this part; how could she?) the lighter of Needham's friend was seemingly lost forever. So Needham's act is more "punk rock" (I guess? Jon Langford once told me that being "punk rock" does not necessarily call for unmannerly behavior) while Dean's is ironic (maybe? I have no idea what I'm talking about. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't know about this in time to put it in the book). But I think we can agree that Dean is on firmer ground morally. I'm glad that's settled.
Monday, July 24, 2017
Look. As you well know, it is NOT AND HAS NEVER BEEN my responsibility to inform you of EVERY instance of an owl in any particular book. Once I tell you that a book has an owl in it, I am done, even if fourteen more owls show up later. It is really none of my business. BUT! I feel I owe you something in the case of Till Eulenspiegel, whose name means "owl mirror." Was that really enough, as I so boldly claimed? If a guy's name happens to mean "owl mirror," does that count as "an owl" for our purposes? Well, I am happy to inform you that this haunting question is no longer relevant, because I just read a chapter in which Till Eulenspiegel gets a job with a baker and starts making loaves of bread shaped like "owls and long-tailed monkeys." This drives the baker crazy for some reason. But bread shaped like owls definitely counts. In conclusion, Till Eulenspiegel easily sold the bread shaped like owls and long-tailed monkeys, nobody cared what their bread was shaped like, in fact they seemed to enjoy the novelty, I don't know why that baker got so worked up.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Emily Dickinson and I could have sworn somebody said, "Bees in the lavender, and the lazy owl." Well, it didn't make much sense to me! First of all, bees and owls don't hang out at the same time of day. Also, that is a serious mischaracterization of the temperament of owls! Plus the scene had no obvious context for a line like "Bees in the lavender, and the lazy owl." But I was intrigued. "What a cryptic snatch of poetry!" I thought. Because sometimes Emily Dickinson just says her poems in voiceover in that movie, and in the scene in question the characters were so far away (pictured) I couldn't tell whether their lips were moving, my old eyes being what they are. And my ears aren't in such great shape either, I guess, because when I scoured my COMPLETE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON, I could find no such line anywhere. I did find an owl, though not the one I was looking for, as you might have guessed, because I famously don't "blog" anymore unless I find a book with an owl in it. So in case you were concerned, I am pretty sure no one in the movie said, "Bees in the lavender and the lazy owl." [POSTSCRIPT. According to a single online source, a line of dialogue in the film indeed goes, "Bees in the lavender, then the lazy owl." While "then" makes more sense than "and," the "blog" stands by its belief in the superb work ethic of owls. - ed.]
Wednesday, July 05, 2017
Remember when I wrote a book about cigarette lighters? Neither do I! But last night I was watching a very good movie called FIREWORKS WEDNESDAY (pictured), in which a musical cigarette lighter plays a pivotal role. And I know just where I would have put it in the book. As it stands, musical cigarette lighters got but a passing mention from your slipshod author. I should have been more thorough about musical cigarette lighters. Oh well, I'll try to remember that the next time somebody asks me to write a book about cigarette lighters.
Monday, July 03, 2017
Richard Strauss's tone poem "Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche" and realized I don't really know much about Till Eulenspiegel himself. So I started poking around and was delighted to learn that Eulenspiegel means "owl mirror." So any collection of the Till Eulenspiegel tales might be said to have an owl in it, mightn't it? Sure it might. Why, look. Here's Till Eulenspiegel's supposed gravestone and he's holding an owl and a mirror over his head in case you don't get the point. During my idle research I stumbled on the website for that certain corporate behemoth, the name of which I never utter here. And someone had reviewed a collection of Till Eulenspiegel stories like so: "It seems like the punchline of every single story has to do with Euelenspiegel defecating on or in something or someone. That's it. That's the book's running joke. I suppose if you were an illiterate German peasant sitting around a hearth fire in the 1500s, you'd find these tales of feces and bad puns hilarious, but I didn't." I was fascinated to discover this living person who is so worked up about Till Eulenspiegel. And as you can imagine, he had inadvertently composed one of those "bad reviews" that made me want to read the book more than ever. For good measure, the reviewer rubs this salt in the wounds, though I hate to repeat it so close to our nation's birthday: "Of course, since a good majority of modern Americans are probably less sophisticated than an illiterate German peasant from 400 years ago, perhaps Till Eulenspiegel is due for a comeback. Hollywood could cast Johnny Knoxville... and he could crap all over American audiences, who will double over with laughter at every fart noise." Sold! I was naturally drawn to this reviewer's other reviews, which form a kind of epistolary novel or Robert Browning poem, in which you get to know the narrator by filling in the gaps. It's like that famous intellectual essayist said in his manifesto that time, we don't need novels anymore. Did he say that? It sounds like something somebody with a manifesto would say! Before getting into his one-star judgment of Folgers Classic Medium Roast Coffee Singles Serve Bags, our reviewer indulges in this bit of throat clearing: "I am no coffee elitist. I eschew status-conscious coffee drinkers and the frou frou coffee houses they frequent in order to be seen carrying green fringed cups emblazoned with quotes from left-wing icons." I've spent some part of my life trying to make up narrators who talk just this way, but I see once again that I am unnecessary. Also recommended: the same reviewer on the moral depravity of the Frankie Avalon movie BEACH PARTY.