Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Highest Form of Praise

"Creating gachapon for adults is all about devoting yourself to making something that’s worthless," he said. "'This is ridiculous' is the highest form of praise." That's from a New York Times article I just read about vending machine toys. And you know how I'm always getting inspired. Nothing comes of it, but it's nice to sit around thinking you are inspired. So that goes on my list of famous phrases. Collect them all! The first sentence of the article isn't so bad either: "Yoshiaki Yamanishi set out to create the most boring toy imaginable." That one is not going on my special list, but it is filled with the promise of inspiration to come.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

The Missing "Link"

As is his God-given right, nay, his responsibility, McNeil was "clicking" around on his birthday tribute the other day, when he came upon a "post" in which I reported some of his research into the subject of the Pitcairn Islands, including a "link" that McNeil had provided as a source for more information. McNeil took time from his natal celebrations to alert me that the "link" no longer works. Or, to be more precise, it works, but it leads to no information about the Pitcairn Islands. Instead, curious readers will be led to an article about "Pixie Haircuts for Older Women." As I sat there thinking about it, the realization occurred to me, with a growing sense of dread and regret, that the "blog" has been going for more than 15 years. And yes, I had noticed from time to time that some of the old "links" have become quite, quite deceased, and some of those that are not deceased have long been taken over by other entities. Zombie "links," perhaps we may call them. Then I thought to myself, "Jack," I thought, "you need to go back and check every 'link,' and if it has been compromised, you need to redirect it to the very explanation of which you are contemplating the composition," in other words, dear "blog" reader, the paragraph you are enjoying right now. "That should occupy your mind and distract you from encroaching despair," I told myself.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

McNeil Month By Month


Happy McNeil's birthday, everybody! As you are aware, McNeil is my oldest friend. Last night I did the math and figured out we have known each other for 45 years. I mentioned as much to Dr. Theresa, who did not respond. I think she was asleep. Back when I used to "blog," I would present on this auspicious date a list of activities in which McNeil had participated throughout the year, as recorded by the "blog." As time went on, and I ceased to "blog," I was required to augment those "hyperlinks" with information gleaned from other sources, such as emails, helpfully marked by asterisks, indicating that you will just have to trust me on those. Now that we have been over the ground rules, please throw caution to the wind and celebrate McNeil's birthday with this universally beloved tradition. 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 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. September 2016: McNeil is called a "filthy troglodyte." October 2016: McNeil advises me on what to do now that 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.* November 2016: McNeil sees an owl while walking his dog at midnight. December 2016: McNeil finds an Airbnb listing by "eccentric millionaires" for a treehouse featuring "whimsical taxidermy."* January 2017: McNeil notices that there are lots of ants in his writing.* February 2017: McNeil roots for the guy who stole a bucket full of gold flakes.* March 2017: McNeil reads an article suggesting that all the gold on Earth came from the collision of dead stars and says, "Let's go get us some of this!" seemingly suggesting a trip to outer space.* April 2017: McNeil recalls that he was washing dishes in 2015 when the thought of Gene Gene the Dancing Machine came into his head. Then he discovered that Gene Gene the Dancing Machine had just died!* May 2017: McNeil watches ISLAND IN THE SKY with his dog.* June 2017: McNeil is happy to see a movie with rotary phones and "people looking up stuff in a filing cabinet for a change."* July 2017: McNeil begins alerting me to weather situations in my area like he's my mother.* August 2017: McNeil connects heavenly signs and portents with the death of Jerry Lewis. September 2017: A critique by McNeil inspires a choice of airplane reading material. October 2017: McNeil cruelly but fairly shuts down my scheme of crossbreeding an apple with a lemon. November 2017: "Death knows my weak spot!" McNeil exclaims.* December 2017: McNeil leafs through CARIBOU TRAVELER. January 2018: McNeil catches a cold and stays in bed watching old game shows, writing from his sickbed: "Bobby Van looks so healthy...but would be dead only 5 years later... GATHER YE ROSEBUDS!"* February 2018: McNeil gives me a good idea about how to win a coupla sawbucks from likely suckers. March 2018: McNeil's complaint about sleeping: "I dream way too much."* April 2018: McNeil watches a movie in which Dean Martin claims to "make a hell of an owl stew."* May 2018: I ask McNeil what lightning is for (see January 2008) and he explains it to me.* June 2018: McNeil's mom stumbles on an old book about the comical dog Marmaduke from McNeil's younger days and is excited to deliver it to him.* July 2018: While walking his dog, McNeil sees a bone fall out of the sky. August 2018: Having made it to season five, McNeil, though a stalwart fan, watches what he considers to be the worst episode of BEWITCHED so far.* September 2018: McNeil finds one page of a history skit we did in ninth grade. October 2018: McNeil emails a still from the silent movie BILLY WHISKERS, the subject of an innocuous, decades-long inside joke. Using me as an intermediary, he also consults Ace Atkins about the little-known film version of DARKER THAN AMBER... set in Florida but filmed, as Ace explains, mostly in Germany!* November 2018: McNeil asks me whether Jack Lemmon was left handed. I don't know.* December 2018: McNeil tells me about deluxe reissues of two Paul McCartney albums I've never heard of.* January 2019: McNeil says he only ever bought one cassette tape in his life. (It was Bruce Springsteen's "The River.")* February 2019: McNeil watches IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD and finds it difficult to believe a hardware store would close that long for lunch.* March 2019: McNeil tells me about a used car dealer in his town who secretly dealt drugs and would use his commercials to let people know a shipment had come in. If this guy's dog was on the hood of his car in the commercial, he was ready to deal some drugs!* April 2019: McNeil is thinking about the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.* May 2019: McNeil follows up on an email from 2015.* June 2019: Working on a secret project with McNeil. It never comes to fruition. July 2019: McNeil sees a guy in a parking lot trying unsuccessfully to fit a rolled-up rug in his car.* August 2019: McNeil cuts down his apple tree. September 2019: McNeil remarks that Brendan Gleeson should play Donald Trump... a prediction that recently came true!* October 2019: McNeil is at the dentist's office, where the muted cartoon on the television provides the caption "frightened quacking."* November 2019: McNeil is shirt shopping when he realizes that the age of some of his old shirts makes it likely that any new shirt he buys might be the last shirt he will ever need.* December 2019: McNeil watches the old Frosty the Snowman cartoon (see illustration above) and is disappointed that Frosty lets himself get trapped in the hothouse again.* January 2020: There's a new vending machine at McNeil's workplace. It dispenses "gloves, knee pads, safety vests - even socks."* February 2020: A comic book cover McNeil likes. March 2020: McNeil ponders inventing "powdered meat." April 2020: McNeil misremembers an idea we discussed in 2005. May 2020: Something McNeil and I noticed in 2014 comes up. June 2020: McNeil gets seven shots of novacaine.* July 2020: McNeil begins noticing obelisks. August 2020: McNeil goes fishing with Dean Martin in the realm of dreams. September 2020: McNeil finds an article that his grandmother clipped from a newspaper... on the back is an intriguing but incomplete item about murder among circus performers.* October 2020: McNeil tells me about a fusion reactor in France.* November 2020: McNeil has a dream about "the best chocolate milkshakes in the world."* December 2020: McNeil reminisces about fence posts. January 2021: McNeil's fascination with obelisks continues to inspire. February 2021: McNeil's decade-old observation about gin and raisins confirmed by the New York Times. March 2021: McNeil has an idea for a toilet that plays commercials.* April 2021: There's a photo of Jerry Lewis hanging in the breakroom where McNeil works, and he had nothing to do with it!* May 2021: McNeil watches a live feed of a stork's nest. He's pretty sure they're storks.* June 2021: Ernest Borgnine's personality is assessed at "a million watts." McNeil rates him 11 watts at most. July 2021: McNeil watches half of CHANGE OF HABIT (see illustration above) and it's not as bad as he remembered.* August 2021: McNeil is envious that the fictional character Travis McGee gets to live on a boat.* September 2021: A guy at work asks McNeil if he has change for a quarter, because he's going to "drop a dime" on McNeil.* October 2021: McNeil and I coincidentally have doctor's appointments ON THE SAME DAY!!!!!!*

Monday, October 04, 2021

Helpful Thoughts

Back before I stopped "blogging," I would use this space, among other things, to collect many quotations that felt creatively helpful to me... a commonplace book, of sorts... once I even printed them all out and handed them to a classroom full of bewildered students, back when I had students. A few examples spring to mind, like Sun Ra's advice (I'll paraphrase) to eat peach pie every day, and one day you'll discover that it tastes like something other than peach pie. Or the Maine antiques dealer who said, "I think I'm becoming more and more attracted to things that aren't worth anything." There were many, many more, now scattered to the winds. Well, I still run across helpful thoughts, but I have no place to put them. Like, there was a New York Times article about a plant that lives for a thousand years, and a scientist was quoted as saying, "From weird things, you discover weird things that help you understand things that you didn’t know you didn’t understand." I jotted that in a manuscript I had started in which the protagonist tells the stories of the knights of the round table to his cats. Yeah, I got about two paragraphs into that one before stopping. And just yesterday, I was reading another celebrity biography, as part of my continuing program of adult education with Megan Abbott. It's a Lee Grant memoir, which came highly recommended by Bill Boyle. Anyway, Martha Graham just told Lee Grant, "Ugly is better than pretty!" Exclamation point original to the text.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Four Owls

I am under no obligation to tell you this, but THE SONG OF THE LARK had four owls in it. The first, as we have seen, was dumbfounded by sunlight, which is excusable for an owl, I think. Another owl with eyesight problems comes next: "He stood still, blinking like an owl at their two heads shining in the sun." Okay! Next comes - and this will be a paraphrase, for I can't find the page - a guy telling another guy, "A man would have to be an owl to live like this, all alone." That's pretty close. I'm sure Willa Cather said it better. Finally, one character describes another in this manner: "as stupid as an owl and as coarse as a pig." Altogether, not a flattering portrait of owls in this book.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

In the Blaze of the Open Plain

As you well know, I don't "blog" anymore, unless I read a book with an owl in it, in which case it goes on my long list of books I have read with owls in them, which I keep for forgotten reasons. So the other day I picked up Willa Cather's THE SONG OF THE LARK from Square Books, because there is some interesting stuff about it in that Wagner book I was reading, which I also picked up from Square Books. That is the tricky thing about books! One book makes you read another book. It's a conspiracy and it never ends. Anyway: "In the blaze of the open plain she was stupid and blind like an owl."

Monday, September 06, 2021

Ghost Nap

Well, I decided to take a nap. And I was like, "I sure wish I had something to read while I drift off to sleep." You see, I'm reading a biography of Tom Stoppard right now, but it is too bulky for napping purposes. There is no way to get comfortable with it. Also, the last thing I read in it was the phrase "Her poems are moist and pulsating," which I suppose was meant to be a compliment, but filled me with a Cronenbergian sense of horror no doubt unintended by the author. So I checked out the bookcase next to my side of the bed and found an academic treatise on ghost sightings, which provided just what I was looking for, filled as it was with deadpan sentences of the type I enjoy, such as, "The obvious explanation for headless ghosts is that they represent those who had their heads chopped off." A few pages later, there is a quotation from an 18th-century man who thought he saw a ghost: "I perceived my hair to heave my hat from my head, and my teeth to chatter in my mouth." That gave me a chuckle! A hat popping off a head in fright was something I might have associated with the capering of Stan Laurel, but I never before read a claim that it had happened to an actual person in real life. Soothed by such imagery, I fell into a dreamless slumber.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Important

I don't "blog" anymore, but sometimes it becomes necessary, for example, when I think about something I "blogged" in 2007. That's when Dr. Theresa and I were so surprised to see wild turkeys standing by the side of the road, which resulted in everyone we knew chiming in to tell us how boring and common it was to see wild turkeys everywhere all the time. On Monday, August 23, 2021, as we made our way out of our neighborhood, conveyed by an automobile of which Dr. Theresa was in command as she kindly shepherded me to a doctor's appointment, we observed five wild turkeys standing by the side of the road.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Unrequited Owl


Tom Stoppard, as we learn from this biography of him, wrote many letters to the object of his unrequited love, in some of which he playfully referred to her and himself as "the Owl and the Cat." The author of the biography does not specify which was the owl and which the cat, nor is any mention made of the possible influence of Edward Lear on Stoppard's whimsical entreaties. The one thing we know for sure is that this biography of Tom Stoppard is a book with an owl in it. As long as you are here, I think I should tell you about some developments. Do you remember when I rewatched the film EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE and took note that Mel Tillis sang "sexy smile and Robert Redford hair" in the chorus of "Coca Cola Cowboy," rather than the song's actual lyrics, "Eastwood smile and Robert Redford hair," possibly out of deference to the film's star Clint Eastwood? Why, of course you do. Well! According to wikipedia, the lyric in the movie is "sexist smile and Robert Redford hair." I have done nothing to either refute or confirm wikipedia's claim, but it doesn't make any sense at all. Why would Robert Redford's luxurious, shining locks, which are famously attached to a head encasing a left-leaning brain, be associated lyrically with sexism? Furthermore, the eponymous "Coca Cola Cowboy," one would imagine, drinks Coca Cola, in contrast with the rotgut favored by "authentic" cowboys in disreputable saloons, whom one pictures harrassing barmaids and whooping it up in a sexist fashion. Therefore, the "Coca Cola Cowboy," I would argue, whatever he harbors in his heart, presents a smooth and shallow front, all empty calories and fizz, his immaculate, gleaming teeth as well-tended as his much-brushed coiffure, and is less likely to reveal a "sexist smile" than the fictionalized version of a cowboy to whom he is presented as a contrast. Having done no investigation whatsoever into the matter, I would like to state that I am right and wikipedia is wrong. But in the interest of justice, I couldn't keep the existence of wikipedia's questionable interpretation to myself.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Little Tom Stoppard

Reading a biography of Tom Stoppard. Little Tom Stoppard is wearing a red beret at a boarding school called Pocklington, where the school newspaper is called The Pocklingtonian. Have you ever heard of anything so cute? (See also.)

Monday, August 09, 2021

Parisian Aesthete

Here's half a sentence from that book about Wagner: "The Parisian aesthete Robert de Montesquiou, in his book-length poem THE BATS..." Stop right there! That's all I need from a sentence. No need to continue. Although the end of the paragraph has another treat in store: "Montesquiou had a pet bat whom he considered the reincarnation of Ludwig." That's King Ludwig II of Bavaria to you!

Monday, August 02, 2021

A Vital Clarification

As you know, I don't "blog" anymore, but sometimes I am compelled... for example, if I need to issue a correction or clarification about something previously "blogged." Like, I just watched EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE again, and I was right when I said that Mel Tillis performs "Coca-Cola Cowboy" in it - the chorus of which mentions the film's star Clint Eastwood by name, theoretically causing the universe to fold in upon itself! How can Clint Eastwood, the actor, exist in a world alongside this character in the movie, who is clearly Clint Eastwood in every way, aside from his name? Upon this viewing, however, I noted, in the one time I found the line completely audible, that Tillis changes the part about the eponymous cowboy's "Eastwood smile," singing, in its place, "sexy smile." The word "Eastwood" is replaced with the word "sexy"! Now, this brings several things to mind. To name but a few, in the original song, "Eastwood smile" is something of an insult, it might be argued, denoting, perhaps, a kind of Hollywood phoniness. So that really makes you think. It also brings up the question as to whom decided that "sexy" was the proper synonym for "Eastwood." (One notes here that Eastwood's production company was responsible for the film.) Furthermore, is Clint Eastwood known primarily for his smile? I would argue that he is not. Perhaps we have been over some of this before. In conclusion, I don't know if "sexy" replaced "Eastwood" every single time. Based on the relative frequency of my previous viewings of EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE, I promise to pay more attention next time I watch it, in 2027. See you then!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Bill's on a Roll

William Boyle - known around here as Bill - has a new book coming out in November. It's called SHOOT THE MOONLIGHT OUT, and I'm reading it right now. It's great! I am sure you will all recall with fondness the Owl's Head Wastewater Treatment Plant from Bill's first novel GRAVESEND. I am happy to say that SHOOT THE MOONLIGHT OUT features Owl's Head Park, meaning that it, too, goes straight onto my list of books with owls in them. Furthermore, SHOOT THE MOONLIGHT OUT contains a detailed allusion to Jerry Lewis, giving it all the ingredients of a perfect novel. I truly thought Bill's previous book, CITY OF MARGINS, was his absolute masterpiece, but SHOOT THE MOONLIGHT OUT seems primed to equal or surpass it. Bill's on a roll!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Realist


I came here to tell you one thing, but two other things intervened, so now I have to tell you three things. I will save the thing I originally wanted to tell you for last. I don't know why. First, here are the other two things. 1. Last night Dr. Theresa and I watched another mediocre movie, this one about the devil. To compensate for its mediocrity, it starred Vera Farmiga. "I know I always say this, but I think she's really pretty," said Dr. Theresa, to which I replied, "I know I always say THIS, but I saw her in my hotel lobby in Burbank once. She was wearing a hat!" Then we chuckled knowingly, for what is marriage but saying things to one another that you know you've said before, and enjoying it? Well! We are not even to the first thing I am going to tell you yet. Later in the movie, some other dude came along, some old dude, I was like, "Who is this old dude? He looks familiar." Dr. Theresa was like, "He was in some TV show? I can't remember." So we sat there a while and I suddenly remembered: "Oh yeah! He played a mad scientist on a TV show called FRINGE. And once, on an entirely different trip, I saw HIM in the lobby of that SAME HOTEL!" As you can imagine, the coincidence made at least one of us giddy with excitement. 2. Saw a tiny bit of BLUE HAWAII this morning. You may be asking yourself (you aren't), "Why are you watching so many Elvis movies lately?" Why, he is nothing less than the "star of the month" on TCM. Anyhow, for Elvis's first onscreen number, as he zooms toward the beach with his girlfriend in a convertible sports car, he sings a swingin' version of the old French (Canadian?) ditty "Alouette." What? They couldn't come up with an original melody for the first number in BLUE HAWAII? So they do a nursery song? (See also, the time he was forced to sing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" in a movie.) But that's not what I wanted to tell you either! What I wanted to tell you is that the wikipedia article on "Alouette" somehow skips over this usage entirely (as of this writing), meaning that I know something wikipedia doesn't know. It makes me feel like a god! I would fix it (would I?) but I don't know how. To be fair, the lyrics bear no relation to "Alouette," relying thematically, rather, on Cole Porter's "Always True to You in my Fashion," although (as perhaps goes without saying) employing none of the wit. 3. Finally! All I meant to do is quote a letter from Katherine Anne Porter to Tennessee Williams: "I am a realist in that sense that everything is real to me, nightmares, daydreams, the world visible and invisible."

Friday, July 23, 2021

A Thing I Noticed

It was exactly one week ago today that I viewed the Elvis movie G.I. BLUES, and I noticed something about it that reminded me of other things I had noticed about other things. And if there is one thing you know about me, it is that when I notice something that reminds me of something else I previously noticed, I have to tell you about it. And by "you," I mean nobody. But then some things happened that are none of your beeswax, and I didn't get a chance to reflect upon the matter further... UNTIL NOW! I am sure you will recall how I told you that in the Clint Eastwood vehicle EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE, they play a diegetic song, the chorus of which mentions Clint Eastwood (the actor, not the character he portrays in the film). More aligned with our current subject (as you shall soon see for yourself!) is DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, in which the eponymous Susan, portrayed by Madonna, listens to a Madonna song on a jukebox! So! In G.I. BLUES, Elvis Presley, playing a guy named Tulsa, sings a little ditty in a nightclub. Well! One guy doesn't seem to like it so much, and decides to disrupt the proceedings by playing something rowdy on a convenient jukebox. As a closeup of the label confirms, he chooses "Blue Suede Shoes," as performed by one Elvis Presley. A donnybrook ensues! Yes, you are reading this correctly: the performance by Tulsa (Elvis Presley) is ruined by a recording of Elvis Presley. In fact, we may speculate that the much-derided "movie Elvis" is successfully attacked and devoured by "primal Elvis." Ha ha! I hate myself. (See also.)

Thursday, July 15, 2021

How's the Owl Today


A long time ago, probably in a meeting for ADVENTURE TIME: DISTANT LANDS, Adam mentioned the movie WINTER'S TALE (not to be confused with the Shakespeare play with a very similar title)... I believe that all Adam said by way of assessment was (and this may not be an exact quotation) "It's a weird movie." I couldn't tell if he meant it in a good way, a bad way, or was just stating a fact. But that movie has been in the back of my head for some time. I believe I remarked to Adam that my friend Caroline was wild about the novel upon which the movie was based. I seem to recall that she read it more than once. Again, the facts may not back me up on that. It's just what I have sitting here in my brain. So I watched a little bit of it last night. For reasons unknown, I was like, "It's time!" I got distracted for about two seconds and I looked up and Colin Farrell had made friends with a magic horse? I was like... "What did I miss?" But the main thing I wanted to say is that Russell Crowe goes to a restaurant and orders a pan-fried owl. Now, I can't add WINTER'S TALE to my long list of books with owls in them, because I don't know whether anyone orders an owl for dinner in the book or if it was just a whimsy of the screenwriter. Let me emphasize that the restaurant in the movie did not serve owl, which fact led Russell Crowe to murder the waiter, as one does. So, it's a universe where you can make friends with a magic horse, but you can't go to a restaurant for a nice plate of owl. Such reflections reminded me of the books I have read in which owls are eaten by people... COMING INTO THE COUNTRY by John McPhee and THE WOMAN WARRIOR by Maxine Hong Kingston. I reflected, further, on the use of owl eggs as folk medicine, as reported by Burton in his ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY... a practice which apparently spread to the new world ("click" for details), if it wasn't here already. Maybe I've read other books in which owls or owl eggs are consumed, but I can't remember them right now (see the subject of my failing mind, above), and the whole subject appalls me, frankly. I'm sorry I brought it up. This is why I don't "blog" anymore. PS Here is a sobering postcript indeed. As I was meaninglessly searching for the hyperlinks with which to festoon this surely unread "post," a passing mention led me to recall that my second book, YOUR BODY IS CHANGING, features a political banquet at which owl is served. Weirdly, I was trying to remember the title of that particular short story last night (I still can't remember it), for what I believed were unrelated reasons. I guess my brain was trying to tell me something. Nice try, brain!

Sunday, July 04, 2021

A Convivial Visit?

I was just thinking about how on July 4, 2011, I was reading a book about werewolves and how, four years later, on July 3, I was reading about werewolves in another book, and furthermore I was thinking about how, this year, on July 2, Dr. Theresa and I coincidentally watched a mediocre werewolf movie. But that's not why I sat down to type. I wanted to show you a sentence from that book about Wagner by Alex Ross: "Holitscher left a rueful description of how on one occasion, after a convivial visit to Mann's home, he turned around to see his colleague at the window, studying him through opera glasses." That sentence has everything! You could make a movie out of it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Two of Everything

I was watching JULIUS CAESAR but then I went to bed. I turned off the TV just after Casca said, in a line to which I guess I had never paid heed before, that "if Caesar had stabbed their mothers" his supporters would still love him. It reminded me of the time Donald Trump boasted he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and his supporters wouldn't care. Maybe that's why I turned off the TV. Later, I couldn't sleep. I became restless and got up and watched more Julius Caesar. I am sorry to say that when I first started watching, I simultaneously checked my twitter feed and then my email. So, I had receieved an email from Jimmy, who coincidentally mentioned James Mason... while James Mason was on my TV screen! Also, Elizabeth Ito had tweeted about seeing a barn owl standing by the highway in the broad daylight, and wondering what it meant, which tweet I read AT THE EXACT SAME MOMENT that Casca was wondering aloud what it meant that an owl was sitting in the marketplace in the broad daylight! Two James Masons! Two daylight owls of portent! With that, I put away my phone. I was like, "Okay, you've got my attention, Shakespeare!"

Friday, June 18, 2021

Buckle Up

Dipped into WAGNERISM by Alex Ross again. I arrived at this promising sentence: "It was the age of esotericism, occultism, Satanism, Spiritism, Theosophy, Swedenborgism, Mesmerism, Martinism, and Kabbalism." It was at the beginning of a section! When a section starts like that, you just buckle up for a roller coaster ride.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Family Newspaper

I wrote a book about cigarette lighters and then I forgot about it. For a while, though, after it was too late, I would come across this or that detail that I knew in my heart I should have included in my cigarette lighter book, and that my cigarette lighter book, truth be told, was incomplete without it. That hardly ever happens anymore. But! Last night I watched PHFFFT for the first time since 2008, and Kim Novak says to Jack Lemmon - I believe this is an exact quotation - "Put your hot one up against my cold one and make my cold one hot." She is asking him to light her cigarette with his cigarette, the latter of which has already been lit. Now, there is quite a long passage in my cigarette lighter book about this manner of lighting cigarettes, for which manner of lighting said cigarettes there exists a shocking slang term unprintable in a family newspaper. I know this is not a family newspaper! It is sort of a family newspaper. In any case, Ms. Novak's request would have been a perfect complement to the slang term, lending the dubious weight of anecdotal evidence to my questionable conclusions. When she said it, it seemed so familiar to me that I could have sworn I wrote about it somewhere, if not, pathetically, in my cigarette lighter book, but I can't find evidence to support that insistent feeling, not even in an old email to McNeil. In conclusion, the title PHFFFT is given an exclamation point by many internet sources (an error duplicated in my original "post" on the subject), but the title card of the actual movie does not include an exclamation point, at least in the print I watched. Maybe I will devote the rest of my life to exploring the discrepancy.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Wattage


"Borgnine was so charming - a million watts." There's a sentence I never expected to read! It's from the biography of Ethel Merman, which I also never expected to read. I thought about how many watts I might assign Ernest Borgnine and settled on 250, which I thought was generous. I mean, that's more than enough watts for any task! Then Megan sent me the above photo, saying that it supported the idea that Ernest Borgnine was possessed of a certain amount of watts. Separately, I polled McNeil about how many watts he thought Ernest Borgnine had. McNeil said 11. Now, upon seeing the photo that Megan sent, I must say I was willing to go as high as 350. Bear in mind that McNeil did not have the benefit of the photo when he made his assessment.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Ultimatum

Last weekend we were in Water Valley, and I noticed that the convenience store on Main Street, Rascal's by name, bills itself on its signage as "The Ultimate Convenience Store." I have to say that though I did not go in, Rascal's did not look like the ultimate convenience store. In fact, I would wager that Buddy's, across from our old apartment in Atlanta, is the ultimate convenice store. Among many other reasons, it would never have a sign on it saying "The Ultimate Convenience Store." You know what? I haven't been to Buddy's in many years. Maybe it does have a sign like that now, though I highly doubt it. Still, as Wittgenstein observed... never mind. But! As I was contemplating all this, it occurred to me that in my heart I feel like an "Atlanta person who moved to Mississippi" more than a "Mississippi person." BUT! As of August 1st of this year, we will have lived in Oxford for exactly as long as I lived in Atlanta. So on August 2nd, the math will no longer back me up, and perhaps even the feelings inside me will change. Of course, if we are going strictly by math, I will be an "Alabama person" until 2037, assuming I still live in Mississippi, or anywhere, at that time. One thing is for sure: this house will not be paid for yet.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Sleepy Ethel

As was bound to happen sooner or later, Megan and I have reached the Ethel Merman portion of our celebrity bio marathon. There is an owl in every book, of course, but in this case it appears almost immediately, in the form of "The Owl," a high-school magazine for which young Ethel serves as the literary editor. In the very next paragraph, while running through a short list of Ethel's likes and dislikes, the author mentions that she doesn't care for reading: "picking up a novel, even a newspaper, just made her sleepy." Huh! The contradiction remains unaddressed, if it is a contradiction. It is probably not a contradiction.

Friday, May 21, 2021

24 Dog Names

I've been reading Ovid as promised, and I guess my favorite part so far is when we get a list of some of Actaeon's dogs' names, 24 of them by my count. The poet appends, "And others it would take too long to mention." So 24 dog names is where you draw the line? Come on, Ovid!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

For Reasons Left Unspecified


Well, I visited my parents. One thing I did was order chicken and oyster gumbo from the Lighthouse, a restaurant where I have been eating for over 50 years. When I got home, I texted John T. Edge that he should try the chicken and oyster gumbo next time he is in Bayou La Batre, to which I added a "ha ha," indicating in a humorous manner that it is unlikely for such an opportunity to arise. John T. Edge replied that he had already eaten some chicken and oyster gumbo at the Lighthouse, which should not have surprised me, and it didn't, although, according to Mom, they don't even have the chicken and oyster gumbo all the time, you have to take your chances! Another thing I did during my visit was finish that Robert Calasso book, from which I learned that Demeter had a lover named Mekon, whom she turned into a poppy for reasons left unspecified by the author. Now, it just so happened that I was in the midst of a correspondence with Jon Langford of the band the Mekons, for unrelated reasons, and I considered telling him this exciting news, but then I realized he has probably heard it all before. Much like the Lighthouse restaurant, the Mekons have been around for a while. And though (I believe) they were named for some rascally space aliens in a comic strip called DAN DARE, I feel certain that many before me have given them all the information they will ever want or need about Demeter and her boyfriend Mekon the poppy. PS, much like GILMORE GIRLS, to which I incorrectly affixed a definite article for years, I am sure there is, accurately, no "the" in Mekons, but somehow I can't type it without adding the "the." PPS The search engine informs me that I have never before mentioned gumbo on this "blog," which I find remarkable and saddening. I hesitate to append the "blog labels" "soup" or "stew" to the current "post," as I consider gumbo to be its own thing entirely, but now I have to append the labels "soup" and "stew" because I have gone and mentioned soup and stew. This is why I don't "blog" anymore.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Reading Comprehension

No owls so far in THE CELESTIAL HUNTER by Robert Calasso. Here's one part, though: "Strolling among blackberries, sunflowers, mulberries is already strolling among stories. And, when night falls, the stories continue, among bats and overhanging rocks." So I was like, "Oh boy! Here come the owls!" Because as we have seen, bats in literature are often accompanied by owls. But there were no owls forthcoming. In the same chapter, however, there was a lot of talk about Ovid. I thought, "You know, I'm getting old. I need to read Ovid. I need to read a complete version of the METAMORPHOSES. I have some selections scattered around but I need to read the whole thing, because I am an old man." So I ordered a complete translation with copious notes appended from Square Books. When I got my hands on it, I was like, oh, yeah, there are surely going to be some owls in this. I skipped around among the pages, my eyes peeled for owls, and it took almost no time to find one, with astonishing results! Now, I skimmed over it, but I seemed to be reading about somebody or another giving a box to these kids and saying, "Don't look in this box!" You know how that always goes. So two of the kids (if they were kids) didn't look in the box, but the third one did, and saw a human baby and a snake hanging out in the box. Don't worry! The baby and the snake were doing great! (I think.) So, a raven sees all of this going down, and he flies off to tattle to a goddess about it, but the goddess gets angry for reasons I did not bother to contemplate. She puts the whammy on the raven and turns him (this may not be an exact quotation) "lower than an owl." Well! To me, this implies that an owl is a bird of low rank, if it is such an insult to be turned "lower than an owl" (again, not an exact quotation). Where does Ovid (or the deities upon whom he is reporting) get the idea that an owl is some kind of half-assed bird? Pardon my salty language! We've seen this kind of thing before.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Fun at Home

Last night I was sitting in my chair reading that history of scripture I've been reading for over a year now. Don't you worry about my reading habits! Anyway, I got to a good part about Jonathan Edwards, the 18th-century preacher. I thought I'd tell Dr. Theresa, who was sitting right there on the couch, because she used to study ol' Jonathan Edwards quite a bit back in her college days. I said, "Hey! Listen to this! 'During Edwards' sermons, the congregation screamed and yelled, writhed in the aisles and crowded round his pulpit begging him to stop.'" I was right, she got a big kick out of that. We know how to have a good time.

Friday, April 16, 2021

I Choose to Believe

In this book about the making of the film GIANT, the author describes a photo of Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean, in which James Dean "looks like a small boy - or Jerry Lewis." Now, am I going to search for the photo in question, in order to ascertain the veracity of the author's description? No way! I don't want to ruin my happy dream. I will point out, however, that the "blog" has already noted the similarity of Jerry Lewis and James Dean ("click" here). I know you won't "click" there. How I hate you!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

I'll Never Know

I don't "blog" anymore, but I do mark it down whenever I read a book with an owl in it, because who else is going to bother? So Megan and I are reading a book about the making of the film GIANT, and director George Stevens refers to watching the dailies as "the owl show." Am I sure exactly what he means by that? Not 100%. Do I know whether it is an old show biz expression or just something that popped out of the mouth of George Stevens? Truth be told, I do not. Am I going to go to the trouble of looking it up? Nope.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

The Old Wood Owl Trick

Upon the recommendation of Lee Durkee, I read the new novel by Ethan Hawke. In it, a narrator who is definitely NOT Ethan Hawke (wink, wink) tells about being in a Shakespeare play, and how he has to really make himself THINK he's in the barn where his character is supposed to be. He has to FEEL it, he has to SMELL the hay, he has to HEAR the wood owl. Please understand, the overly dramatic caps are mine, not Ethan Hawke's, but the "wood owl" is accurate, Ethan Hawke really said "wood owl," making his novel a "book with an owl in it," which is something I keep track of due to a sad old habit, the origins of which no living person can tell. A couple of pages later, after most (not I) would have forgotten the wood owl, he's like (I'll paraphrase), "At this point in the speech, I might pretend to hear something. Oh, it's just the wood owl!" He's really making that imaginary wood owl work for its money. (See also.)

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Huge News

I keep meaning to mention that Square Books has new bookmarks. I am speaking of the free bookmarks that come tucked in your purchase, which have evolved over the years. I'm sure you all recall with fond weeping the column I used to have entitled "Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis," in which I would... what would I do? I think I would recommend which bookmark should go with which book. But then I had an epiphany...? Does that sound right? Anyway, this epiphany, if that's what it was, rendered "Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis" sadly obsolete. But I still like to tell you when Square Books ups their bookmark game. I haven't visited the store in person since the beginning of our current terrible times, opting for their excellent delivery service instead, but this new bookmark is getting me all worked up for the times to come.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Long Road to Owl Town

Am I "blogging" again? I honestly can't tell. But I know one thing! I do "blog" every time I read a book with an owl in it, because I have to add it to my long list of books I have read with owls in them, which I started keeping for reasons that are lost to history. Anyhow! This time we have a book with a book with an owl in it in it, which I think we've had before, but I'm tired. Maybe I'll try to look that up one day. It's a long way to our latest owl! It's complicated. Get yourself a drink. Get comfortable! Here we go. So! You know that Megan Abbott and I have formed between ourselves a little club, in which we read what I will loosely call celebrity biographies. Well! Now we are reading one about Louise Fitzhugh, the author who created Harriet the Spy. Everyone is in her circle, or in her circle's circle. To present just one small example, the last person I was forced to "blog" about, for entirely different reasons, was George Segal, and then his brother, of all people, pops up in this book! That's nothing. But I'm not here to talk about the exciting things. All I want to tell you is that one of Louise Fitzhugh's girlfriends was friends with a woman who dated Patricia Highsmith. So, after these two (Patricia Highsmith and Louise Fitzhugh's girlfriend's friend) broke up, they both wrote books in which they murdered characters based on each other! Patricia Highsmith's ex-girlfriend murdered her (figuratively) with a hammer, and Patricia Highsmith returned the favor (by other literary means) in a book titled THE CRY OF THE OWL. Hey! As long as I'm here, I'll tell you something else. What the hell. Louise Fitzhugh lights Janet Gaynor's cigarette, which transaction produces much the same magical benediction as when someone lights William Holden's cigarette in THE MOVIEGOER, the latter incident covered almost too thoroughly in my lamented nonfiction book about cigarette lighters.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Spy Sandwich

Last night I watched some of THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM. Two of your immediate questions might be, "What's that?" and "Why?" As to the latter, who the hell knows why I do anything. For example, I used to "blog," but then I quit, but then I started up again to cheer the world during a time of tribulation, but now I don't know whether or not I have quit again because in my opinion the world has been cheered up enough. But! One time when I surely "blog" is whenever I see something I should have included in my nonfiction book about cigarette lighters, which no one remembers, including me. To make a long story short (ha ha!) George Segal approaches Alec Guinness to ask for a light, and Alec Guinness produces his cigarette lighter, and they engage in some seemingly innocent banter, but it is all a secret way of saying, "Are you the spy I am supposed to meet? Because I am a spy also." And the answer: "Yes, I am a spy. Would you like a sandwich?" (Alec Guinness offers fellow spy George Segal a sandwich.) Now, there was a whole section of my cigarette lighter book about spies using lighters in their spy business, not limited to, but including, as a way to start a secret spy conversation. I had a whole epigraph about it, if I'm not mistaken. Every chapter had an epigraph! That's the kind of book we're talking about. No wonder I can't remember it. The epigraph, I do recall, came courtesy of Ace Atkins, thanks to his extensive knowledge of the James Bond franchise.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Just What He Had In Mind


"Only connect," said E.M. Forster, and this is just the kind of thing he had in mind: I've been dipping into that book about the CIA, and yesterday the author included, for no real reason at all, the details of one specific sexual encounter between John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich, which was also featured, more understandably, in a biography of John Wayne I read some years ago. Anyway, it was weird. Not the encounter, just its recurrence, verging on non sequitur, in a book about the CIA.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

McNeil Defeats Centenarian

So, I just saw this New York Times headline: "This 105-Year-Old Beat Covid. She Credits Gin-Soaked Raisins." I haven't read the article, because who needs to read the article when you have a headline like that? I would, however, like to point out that McNeil was telling us about the curative powers of gin-soaked raisins on this "blog" well over a decade ago ("click" here).

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Man Who Sold His Face


Dr. Theresa and I have been rewatching THE X-FILES and I have but one thought. Who is this guy (pictured) in the opening credits? He is presumably intended to represent a victim of a paranormal phenomenon such as is investigated by the protagonists of THE X-FILES. His face gets all stretched out and he looks as if he might be saying "AAAAHOOOOOOOOHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAOOOOOHHHHHH!" or making some similar wordless protestation. And I always wonder, does he get a tenth of a penny or something every time somebody watches THE X-FILES? Or did he sell his face to THE X-FILES for a lump sum? The answer, I suspect, could be easily found if I spent about three minutes on the "internet," but I just don't think I have the energy.

Friday, February 12, 2021

You Won't Care


Here's something you won't care about! It all started when I saw a little bit of the Frank Sinatra movie TONY ROME on TV. I noted that Nancy Sinatra (Frank's daughter, of course) sang the theme song, in which mothers are advised to "lock your daughters in" because "Tony Rome is out and about." And she IS the daughter (as previously stated) of the person of whom she is singing... himself a danger to daughters! Of whom she is one! Of his! The second thing I noticed as the movie began is that Tony Rome lived on his boat in Florida, just like Travis McGee. Given these two facts (were there two facts?) I struck up a conversation with Ace Atkins on the subject. Was Tony Rome a big Travis McGee rip-off? Such was the question that came to my mind. Ace said I should read the paperback of the first Tony Rome novel as homework and tell him. So he found a copy on the "internet" (the edition pictured above), purchased it, and dropped it contact-free (given our troubled times) on our front porch, where it sat for over 24 hours before I realized it was there. About two pages in, I made a startling discovery. Now! We're getting to the part you really won't care about, which I believe I put most succinctly in an email to my friend McNeil: "Travis McGee's boat is named The Busted Flush because he won it in a poker game with a busted flush. Tony Rome's boat is named The Straight Pass because he won it in a dice game with six straight passes in a row." Now, I naturally googled "tony rome" + "travis mcgee" + "busted flush" + "straight pass," which combo netted just seven results, some of which were duplicate texts, leading me to conclude that only three people, maximum, in the history of the world, have ever expressed proper outrage over the matter. [They didn't express outrage. - ed.] All right, are you ready for the kicker? Then Ace dropped the bombshell on me that the first Tony Rome novel appeared FOUR YEARS BEFORE the first Travis McGee novel. It is Travis McGee who is the rip-off! If a rip-off exists. Which I believe I have proven conclusively it most certainly does. Hello? Is anyone there?

Monday, February 08, 2021

Ha Comma Ha Comma Ha

One of the things I've been doing during the pandemic is finally reading a nonfiction book about the CIA that Lee Durkee loaned me, oh, five or six years ago. Yesterday I came across a quotation that fascinated me. "'The general was in fine form this morning, wasn't he? Ha, ha, ha!' Dulles would chuckle." Was Dulles laughing? Or was he speaking the word "ha" three times in succession? The dialogue tag "Dulles would chuckle" seems to indicate actual laughter... or at least chuckling. But encasing the "Ha, ha, ha!" in quotation marks, and carefully separating them by commas, as if indicating their individual distinction... hmm. It seemed to me (and a check of the endnotes proved me right) that this "Ha, ha, ha!" business was lifted from a secondary source. So another author had originally recorded Allen Dulles going around saying, "The general was in fine form this morning, wasn't he? Ha, ha, ha!" Then, I suppose, the author of the current volume, the one I am reading, had to make a decision. But if he really thought that Dulles was chuckling, why didn't he write "'The general was in fine form this morning, wasn't he?' Dulles would say with a chuckle"? That would not have violated the original author's "Ha, ha, ha!" (which, honestly, when standing alone like that, looks - thanks, in part, to the exclamation point - much more like forceful barking than a chuckle). Maybe he was hedging his bets. All right, I am done with this subject. I mean, I have other thoughts about the typographical representation of laughter as it has stylistically evolved, and what part that plays in my perception of the... eh... but... forget it. [Postscript, added after some hours of brooding consideration: I neglected to touch on the "would," that is, the fact, as reported, that Dulles "would" chuckle, implying numerous instances of the general being in "fine form," and so, perhaps, the accompanying chuckle became habitual, insincere, formal, rote, in which case, spelling it out as "Ha, ha, ha!" seems perfectly reasonable.]

Sunday, February 07, 2021

An Expression

You've probably been on pins and needles! Is that an expression? Anyway, in August I told you I was "blurbing" a book with an owl in it, but I couldn't tell you the name because I wasn't sure it had been announced. Now, thanks to the twitter account of Bill Boyle, I see that the forthcoming publication of the book has been announced, and it is a novel called IVORY SHOALS ("click" here to preorder), written by John Brandon. I hope you feel as relieved as I do!

Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Terrors of the Night

I was trying to think of the last time I saw Lee Durkee. First we bought a house and moved away from the town square, so we're no longer walking-distance neighbors with Lee... and then a thing happened where no one can go outside anymore anyway. I guess I last saw Lee at a reading at Square Books in late February for his novel THE LAST TAXI DRIVER. That was just a couple of weeks before we knew that going to readings was deadly! But Lee and I still keep in touch through the occasional email, like the one where he told me I'd like something called THE UNFORTUNATE TRAVELLER by a sixteenth-century writer named Thomas Nashe. Lee knows what I like! So I got out this book that has THE UNFORTUNATE TRAVELLER in it, and the piece right before that is also by Nashe... something called THE TERRORS OF THE NIGHT. So, just to paint you a picture in my expert way, the last page of THE TERRORS OF THE NIGHT is facing the first page of THE UNFORTUNATE TRAVELLER. So on the last page of THE TERRORS OF THE NIGHT, Nashe talks about "those doleful quiristers of the night, the scritch-owl, the nightingale, and croaking frogs." There it was when I opened the book, right in front of my face, proving once again my theory that every great book has an owl in it, if that's what my theory is.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A Strange Year

You know, we still have a television, with channels and everything, the kind of television where you sit there and flip around the channels, and last night, after Dr. Theresa had gone to bed and I was still awake, I sat there idly flipping around the channels and what do you know, here was the live-action film version of THE FLINTSTONES, and just as I arrived at it, Kyle MacLachlan was lording it over Fred Flintstone, sitting in Fred Flintstone's office chair, putting up his feet on Fred Flinstone's desk. So, Kyle MacLachlan's feet were in the foreground, a la Quentin Tarantino, and I could not help but notice that the soles and bottoms of the toes were coated in what appeared to be a fine blue dust, like Kyle MacLachlan had gotten his feet dirty walking around on the set of THE FLINTSTONES. But! Of course, it was an artistic choice! (If it really happened. My eyes are not what they used to be... maybe those were shadows on the bottoms of Kyle MacLachlan's feet!) But I think either the makeup department or Kyle MacLachlan said, you know what? A caveman would have dirt on his feet. Put a little dirt on there. Make it sort of bluish dirt. Anyway, then they cut to a new scene, which began with a closeup of Elizabeth Taylor! And I was like, that's right, in the back of my mind I knew that Elizabeth Taylor was in THE FLINTSTONES. But it still didn't seem right or possible. Elizabeth Taylor! 1994 was a strange year.