Sunday, December 31, 2017

Waiting For Stuffy

I can't speak for Lee Durkee, but I don't think he entirely approves of my idea to watch all of GREEN ACRES chronologically from the beginning, especially when there are so many prime nuggets to be had by skipping bravely around, the way Julio Cortazar would want us to do. Evidence from a recent communique indicates that Lee has been experimenting with just that method on his own. Lee reveals, "there is a magic realism scarecrow named Stuffy whom Eb interacts with and who at one point leaves his post in the field to go get Eb a hamburger (spoiler: he forgets the ketchup!)." Meanwhile, my lonely search for the exact moment that GREEN ACRES becomes GREEN ACRES continues. Or will it occur so slowly that I can't see it happening, like the opening of a crocus? Or I don't know, is it easy to see a crocus opening? Never mind. I feel bad for Bill Boyle, a GREEN ACRES neophyte whom I forced to watch some early episodes. "I didn't know this was what GREEN ACRES was like," Bill said, as ever a good sport. Well, it's not what GREEN ACRES is like! Bill compared it to THE MONEY PIT and the Chevy Chase vehicle FUNNY FARM. Fair enough! But mortifying to my honor when I had falsely promised the second coming of VIRIDIANA. Bill may never come back to the house again. Once Dr. Theresa and I started watching DEADWOOD, I was able to note the close kinship between the dissembling, painfully transparent, nosy, avaricious, irritating, and oratorically inclined Mr. Haney and his direct descendent (ancestor?) E. B. Farnum. Continuing a line of thought, I guess, the first season of GREEN ACRES is like THE WIRE. It takes Oliver at least nine episodes to decide what he's going to plant in his field. (See also.) Then they spend two or three episodes explaining how the generator works. Doesn't that sound like THE WIRE to you? Very patient, procedural and detailed, with long arcs. But not the GREEN ACRES I remember. In episode 10, Lisa does leave a note for a chicken, to which the chicken seems to respond, but I'm still not convinced we have reached a true level of GREEN ACRES. [Episode 14 establishes beyond doubt that Lisa can communicate with chickens. - ed.] In episode 12, Eb reads a note from Lisa aloud and Lisa's voice inexplicably comes out of him. So I'm tempted to believe we're almost there! I'll let you know when we arrive. Let me remark on a deficiency of this GREEN ACRES box set. It is not formatted for our rectangular television sets we all enjoy today thanks to marvelous advances in science and technology. Rather than seeing our TV pals in their proper aspect ratio, they are made to fill the screen unnaturally, to their aesthetic detriment, a fear addressed by an especially prescient protagonist created by yours truly for my delightful and universally beloved short story collection MOVIE STARS:
In conclusion, I should note that Arnold the pig turns on a TV set in episode 15, which astonishes Oliver, but not me, not sufficiently, being no more than any reasonably intelligent, non-surreal, everyday pig could do.

Notable Uptick In Owl Eyes

Did you know that Hume Cronyn grew up fabulously wealthy? And that he had a brother named Verse who was hit in the head by a cricket ball to less than salubrious effect? Well, you would if you were reading his memoir! But why would you? You wouldn't! Not unless you were joining Megan Abbott and me in our endless parade of show-biz celebrity tell-alls. I've skipped telling you about at least two of the books in the series because they did not have owls in them and now you'll go to your lonesome grave without knowing. But more importantly, young Hume Cronyn moves from Canada to New York City to make it as an actor, and though he has great big bundles of cash to throw around on orchids, he repeatedly lectures his less solvent roommate on the advantages of thrift. "He'd listen to me owl-eyed and impervious," Hume Cronyn reports. It occurs to me that three of the books I have read since September have owl eyes in them - and not even literal owl eyes at that! - instead of whole owls. It's a hot trend to look out for in 2018: owl eyes.

Friday, December 22, 2017


I don't "blog" anymore. You may think I do but I assure you that I do not. Sometimes you need an update, though, don't you? I know how you worry! So the other evening I was at Ace Atkins's office and I thought I'd see if he had a copy of THE GREEN RIPPER. He said he probably had several. THE GREEN RIPPER is a novel by John D. MacDonald. You will recall that I gave up on John D. MacDonald. I don't get the appeal of John D. MacDonald. If you "click" here you can read some of the reasons why. But I know you won't. What is wrong with you? You beg me to "blog" but you can't take the time to "click" on the "links." Well! It is really none of my business. But John Hodgman was saying all these nice things about John D. MacDonald in the New York Times some weeks ago, and in particular THE GREEN RIPPER, and although this did not change my feelings about John D. MacDonald I was made sufficiently curious for the actions related above to be the result. Anyhow, Ace contacted me yesterday to say he had located THE GREEN RIPPER and I could come by to fetch it. So I did. Now I took Ace's copy of THE GREEN RIPPER with me across the street from his office to Square Books. As I made a purchase there, I remarked to the cashier that this was Ace's copy of THE GREEN RIPPER and not part of my haul. We got into a little discussion (Bill C. wondered whether it might be a first edition of THE GREEN RIPPER) and it was at this time that I opened the book and discovered it to be, if not a first edition, at least an edition signed by the author. I couldn't imagine that Ace wanted me to drag this copy around town with me! You may recall, though I doubt you will "click" on it to refresh your memory, the time I spilled rye all over Ace's copy of LA BRAVA. So I went back over to Ace's office and returned the signed copy of THE GREEN RIPPER. He was surprised! He had no idea it had been signed, but he looked at the signature and confirmed it - thanks to his expertise - as John D. MacDonald's very own. Ace quickly produced yet another copy of THE GREEN RIPPER to replace the one I had brought back. Copies of THE GREEN RIPPER are just scattered around Ace's office like so many throw pillows in a film by Nancy Meyers. Okay! Now it was time for me to go back to Square Books and meet my pal McKay McFadden, whom I had not seen in the flesh in some years. Before McKay arrived I had time to note that Travis McGee (hero of the John D. MacDonald novels) refers to fat people as "fatties" on the second page of THE GREEN RIPPER, not raising my hopes. (A few pages later, though I did not make it this far at the time, McGee's girlfriend boards his famous houseboat and announces, "Today I jogged with four sets of fatties." There are shady goings-on at her place of employment, which makes me think she will be dead shortly. As Ace once revealed the key to the Travis McGee novels: "The woman always dies." [Further along: "Last week I had a batch of fatties down by the barns" - ed.]) I also read (in another book entirely) about the time U. S. Grant wanted to give his coach driver a Christmas present, so he hurried back down the steps and fell and experienced the debilitating leg injury that was just the start of all the troubles and misfortunes shortly to snowball on him, culminating in his death. Then McKay appeared on the stairs! We greeted one another warmly and McKay said, "I'm sorry I'm late. I just had an encounter with a pig in the woods." I can quote her accurately because I immediately leapt up to borrow a napkin and a pen from the Square Books coffee counter, as seen here:
She went on to describe the "encounter," which was much more horrific, grisly, tragic, and bloody than anything I would call an "encounter," and I shan't disturb you with it on this festive occasion. Conversation moved on to pleasanter subjects and we found before we knew it that we had spent some number of hours catching up, a sufficient number of hours for me to happily inform McKay that it was just about time for John T. Edge's yearly ritualistic dispersal of sausage balls at the City Grocery Bar on the occasion of his birthday. McKay and I, having arrived perhaps five minutes before the party officially began, were, I believe, the first to retrieve sausage balls from the traditional brown paper bag, pellucid as it was with delicious grease. (It occurs to me that I have used the phrase "pellucid with grease" in my "professional" writing at some point - perhaps on more than one occasion; I know it has assaulted my brain repeatedly, in any case - and I apologize for the lazy repetition. I must think it's quite the literary turn of phrase! How I sicken myself.) "I miss my Oxford life," said McKay. I replied with some observation about the many charms of San Francisco, where McKay now finds herself most days. "Oh, it's DAZZLING," she replied, employing a theatrical hand gesture to indicate bedazzlement. And yet her tone belied her adjective! I have never heard the word "dazzling" to drip with such venom, nor seen it accompanied by such bitterly flashing eyes! Not long thereafter, Dr. Theresa arrived, arrayed in silver.
We were able to boast to Tom Franklin (another recent arrival) that we had taken his picture off the TV screen. You see, he was once an extra in DEADWOOD, a show that Dr. Theresa and I are currently watching for the very first time. We proudly described the scene in which Dr. Theresa spotted Tom with her eagle eye and the pains we took to catch his fleeting image, and it was his sad duty to inform us that - although he indeed appears as an extra on the show - the person we thought was him was not him. Later at home we realized that the extra we thought was Tom had long hair and a graying beard, both of which Tom has at the present moment, but neither of which he would have had during the physical production of DEADWOOD. This is not Tom Franklin.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

This Pair of Binoculars

I thought for sure this book would have an owl in it. I read SPY OF THE FIRST PERSON, the final book by Sam Shepard. Man, there was every kind of bird. This is from memory but SPY OF THE FIRST PERSON had wrens in it, I think, and swallows, and blackbirds and robins and blue jays and towhees and crows. I think there was a pelican. Anyway, they were at the beach. With pelicans, I think. I haven't even gotten warmed up on all the kinds of birds in this book. There are birds on the cover. Well, there is no actual owl inside, but there is "this pair of binoculars that looked like owls' eyes," and as everyone knows, that's good enough for me.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sack Wedding

We broke in the GREEN ACRES box set. We knew that it could not, out of the gate, achieve the full flower of surrealism to which the show tended in its maturity, and we were right. Breakout star Arnold the pig was in only the first of the five episodes we watched and his character had not been sufficiently developed. Hank Kimball was foreshadowed in an episode but did not appear. "We have to keep watching until Hank Kimball shows up," said Lee Durkee. Then Hank Kimball showed up and was, in his early incarnation, disappointingly sane, as Lee observed. We perked up when they cut to Sam Drucker marrying a sack of potatoes to a sack of flour. This was more like it! Unfortunately we were given a logical explanation (he was practicing). In a bright spot, a question arose, prompting me to fish out my copy of THE COMPLETE DIRECTORY TO PRIME TIME NETWORK TV SHOWS 1946-PRESENT by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, a book that has been rendered obsolete by the invention of computers.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Even Executives!

Well! "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. just popped up on the old iPod, and I had one of those Proustian memories that everybody is always having all the time. The year was 1996! Probably. And a very high-ranking official (the president, in fact) of the Turner Entertainment Group, where I was employed at the time, left his job, whether willingly or not, I don't recall. But he had the entire workforce gathered in the courtyard, where he announced his departure. Then he turned and walked away as "Everybody Hurts" suddenly began blasting out of giant speakers. Well, he must have requested that, right? And we all just stood around looking at each other in awkward silence, like, "Wow! That's dramatic!" Such were the thoughts that our silence conveyed. None of us knew what to think. This guy was so high up that most of us had never even met him. But he strode out of our lives as his chosen ballad of universal pain washed over us. I still don't know what to think.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The "Gotta Light" Guy

I think I've been in denial about this. You know, I wrote a book about cigarette lighters and it came out early in 2016 and then I forgot everything about cigarette lighters and no longer cared. But once in a great while, something would come to my attention that I wished I had been able to include in my cigarette lighter book. So somehow I watched all of the new TWIN PEAKS and managed to repress the knowledge that my cigarette lighter book is sort of incomplete without that show's "Gotta Light" Guy. I even know where I would have put him: right after the paragraph about Jerry Lewis and the atomic bomb. I don't "blog" anymore except when it becomes necessary, as in the half-correction of this grave omission.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Such Zests

"Such zests as his particular little phial of cayenne pepper, and his pennyworth of pickles in a saucer, were not wanting." - LITTLE DORRIT

Monday, December 04, 2017

Small Precise Pat

Reading LITTLE DORRIT, recommended by Lee Durkee. Came to a description I like: "a small precise pat of butter, cool, symmetrical, white, and plump." I like where the commas are and where the comma isn't.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

The Neville Conundrum

Here's Adam Sandler walking past "my" table at Dan Tana's in the movie SANDY WEXLER, or, as Kent Osborne calls it, SANDLY ADAMS. Did I watch SANDY WEXLER? Apparently I did. I have a comment and a question. The comment: It is really long! It took me two nights to finish it. At one point I was like, well, we must be reaching the end of SANDY WEXLER. So I paused it and saw that there was another hour to go. I couldn't imagine how it would be filled. It shouldn't take two nights to watch a comedy. I did a little math. I'm not good at math, nor did I check the running time of BROADWAY DANNY ROSE, the movie from which SANDY WEXLER lifted most eagerly. But I think you could fit 1.5 BROADWAY DANNY ROSEs into a SANDY WEXLER. That's an estimate! [There are almost exactly 1.548 Broadway Danny Roses in a Sandy Wexler - ed.] Aaron Neville is in SANDY WEXLER, which, combined with the fact that when I went to Rob Schneider's house he compared his own height favorably with that of Aaron Neville, leads me to the question: is Aaron Neville friends with the 90s cast of Saturday Night Live?