Category Archives: Uncategorized

Let the Tashlinesquerie begin!

I’m very pleased to announce that my book Tashlinesque: The Hollywood Comedies of Frank Tashlin, has just been published by Wesleyan University Press. That’s the cover, right there, below this very sentence.

If you would like to buy it, you can click on the “BUY TASHLINESQUE” menu link at the top of this page; it takes you to the book’s page on amazon.

When I am a little less swamped with work, I will post a much more substantive blog entry on Tashlin, Tashlinesque, and various other bits of Tashliniana. For now, though, here are a few notes about the initial wave of notice about the publication of my book.

I haven’t been able to help myself from searching for “Tashlinesque” on Google, and there have been a few interesting hits so far. (At the moment, so far as I know, there have not yet been any published reviews of the book; I expect/hope those to arrive soon.)

  • By far, the best of the current references to my book is this one, at a splashy and extremely pink blog devoted to the great Jayne Mansfield. I am honored to have my book linked by this site. Jayne Mansfield is greatly underrated and misunderstood.
  • One of the references is one that I knew was coming: a mention of my book at Mondo-Video.com, an excellent site produced by people who really love movies. I spoke with Justin, one of the webmasters, via Skype a few weeks ago; parts of that interview will be included in an upcoming episode of Mondo Video’s Podcast; here’s the promo page.
  • More to come, I hope. Being fairly new to this blogging thing, I’m quite fascinated by the “recursive linking” that drives it. So I’ll keep my eye on this.

Another really exciting occurrence occasioned by the publication of Tashlinesque is that I have received emails from Frank Tashlin’s daughter and granddaughter within the last week. Both have been extremely kind in their interest in and support for the book, and I hope to have more time to speak with them in the near future.

I’ll also admit to refreshing the amazon page for my book and taking a great interest in the way that the slowly climbing “sales rank” numbers presumably reflect, in some sort of abstract, impossible-to-quantify way, the fact that Tashlinesque has been promoted via email, listserv, Facebook, and other such channels. A few days ago, when one could only pre-order the book, its rank was something like 1,800,000; as of this writing, it’s #82,519. Watch out, Hunger Games! I’m angling for your Number One spot.

In the near future, I will use this blog to post additions, expansions, and explanations of some of the ideas in Tashlinesque. For now, though, I leave you with a photo of Jane Russell in a sudsy bathtub, taken on the set of Tashlin’s terrific 1952 film Son of Paleface. Would that every day were replete with such images.

Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Tashlin, and Jane Russell on the set of Tashlin's film SON OF PALEFACE

Renovations

The dozen regular readers of this site have probably noticed the recent redesign, which was a long time coming. With a friend’s help, I have made this website, I think, a bit more attractive and quite a bit more functional.

The site’s initial design was pretty plain, and the images and layout were somewhat arbitrary. (The banner image of Harold Lloyd [below], for instance, is a nice pic, but has little to do with me or my site.) OK, OK, the image of Klaus Kinski and a monkey (from the great film Aguirre, the Wrath of God) may have been partly inspired by the fact that I happen to be in the middle of a pretty interesting book by a travel writer who retraced Aguirre’s path in searching for El Dorado, but it’s still a little bit more on-target.

The new design is a bit more colorful and interesting; as well, with the addition of the bar of menu links, site navigation is more intuitive and functional. The site is no longer just a reverse-chronological collection of postings. Posts and essays are more neatly categorized now.

The chief changes:

  • I’ve updated and entered the contents of my CV;
  • The “Welcome” and “About Me” pages, while not exactly content-rich, are now I think pretty useful in providing a general sense of what this site is about;
  • I’ve included direct amazon links to buy my two books;
  • Most substantially, I’ve added a pretty lengthy section entitled (after some deliberation) “Other Works,” which contains links to various of my writings that can be found strewn about in the mustiest corners of the internet. (I sincerely hope that this will be a regularly updated section of the site.)

There’s some pretty decent stuff linked in that “Other Works” section, if I may say so; I’ve broken it down into sections: Film, Books, Music, and Videogames. About that last category: partly because I had no other sensible place to put them (and because I didn’t think they merited a menu-bar category of their own), I have included in the “Other Works” section the entirety of my output as a videogame reviewer for a now-slumbering game review site. That entirety amounts to about 14 reviews, some of which I happened to reread recently and found that they made me chuckle. They were enormously fun to write, and I hope they’re fun to read, as well.

Oh, also, I’ve included a couple pictures of my dog. No website is complete without pet photos. Here’s another, taken over the holidays.

Why? What was on top of YOUR Christmas tree?

Thank you for reading. More actual content coming soon!

Gleaning the Cube

Scowl all you want, Cube. I'm not scared to write about you!

The essay that I wrote about the fascinating star persona of rapper/actor/producer Ice Cube has just been published in the online journal 16:9. Here’s a direct link to it.

An introduction to and expansion of some of the ideas in that just-published essay may be found in my earlier post on Cube.

Corrections and country music

Greetings, all eleven of you kind people who read this infrequently updated blog! The first month of the academic year has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of work that I have had to do – including many meetings, which are just oh so much fun – which means that the blog has been a fairly low priority lately. And since I don’t want to make insubstantial blog entries, I decided it was better to wait. Still, I do hope to post more frequently in the near future.

The purpose of this long-overdue post is actually to do some updatin’ and clarifyin’ of a few of the points that I made in a couple of my earlier posts.

In this post, I discuss the difficulty of quantifying the features of cinema; my main example is shot scale, the basis for which is “the human figure,” an object that comes in lots of different shapes and sizes. I see now, as I did in writing that post, that I have an opportunity to post that extremely excellent photo of Muggsy Bogues and Manute Bol (RIP), and so I will do just that.

Can't really get enough of this one.

In that essay on the unquantifiability of film style, I make an offhand reference to what I called “the one true kilogram”: the one that’s under a bell jar in a lead-lined basement in a French research lab. (Its actual nickname is “Le Grand K,” which is far better than my lame coinage.) It turns out – and this article has been making the rounds lately – that even that Mother of All Kilograms is itself not entirely quantifiable! It’s been “losing weight” over time – to the tune of several atoms every few years! – an occurrence that actually has some fairly serious ramifications not just for people who like to measure things (known as metrologists, no kidding) but for science in general. An excellent article by Jonathon Keats in Wired addresses this very subject.

And here’s a good, interesting MetaFilter discussion/thread about the article, which I read before I got to Keats’s piece in my actual hard copy of Wired, one of the two magazines I still subscribe to. (The other is Mojo, still the best rock music magazine in the world.)

More substantively, a lawyer friend of mine (who asked not to be identified) wrote to me to point out a few errors with some of the information in my post on the mild verbal ambiguities in the old jingle for Shasta cola. His points really are accurate, and I felt that, in the spirit of, you know, scholarship, I should include them here.

My friend – whom I’ll call Philbin, for ease of verbiage, and because I like the sound of it – takes issue with my point that “companies turn their products’ names into verbs all the time,” remarking that this “is something they avoid like the plague, since the result is genericization, which results in a loss of trademark rights for the name involved.” Of course, Philbin is correct. I composed that entry too hastily, and should have noted that it is not the companies that turn their products’ names into verbs, but, rather, us regular folk, when we use “scotch tape” to refer generically to any adhesive tape, or when we use “googling” as a verb, for instance.

Philbin himself notes the irony that occurs when companies respond indignantly (in letters to the editor, e.g.) to such usages, which, after all, are the result of the fact that language is a living, changing entity: “Of course, the very fact that a company finds itself compelled to send letters like this, or even to file lawsuits, constitutes a tacit admission on their part that the term is, in popular parlance, being used as a verb, and has lost its capacity to distinguish the source of the goods or services involved.” Indeed.

Philbin further points out that my example of Dr. Scholl’s gel insoles was a poor one, “because ‘gel’ was never a Dr. Scholl’s trademark or product brand in the first place. ‘Gellin’’ is no more an example of the phenomenon than ‘I’m lovin’ it’ would be an example of genericization of a McDonald’s mark, because McDonald’s has never asserted that ‘love’ (as a noun) is a McDonald’s trademark. In order to serve as valid examples of the phenomenon you’re hoping to demonstrate the existence of, someone in the ad would have to say, ‘I’m Schollin’ as I’m strollin’,’ or ‘I’m pounding down a Quarter Pounder® … I’m quarter poundering!’ or something along those lines.”

My point should have been that brand names are diluted by the public, not by the companies who come up with them. Hopefully, this does not weaken the post too thoroughly. It certainly doesn’t weaken that Shasta ad with Barry Williams, I’ll tell you what.

Speaking of weakening, Philbin the lawyer also notes that my use of the phrase “weaken the copyright” is not accurate, either, since I’m really talking about weakening trademarks. Contritely, I admit to conflation of those two terms. Good thing I’m not a patent attorney. Like I was saying, film studies is an excellent field of study for those of us who are not very good at quantifying things. And it all comes full circle.

Speaking of trademarks, here’s the late, great Porter Wagoner performing “That’s My Trademark,” a song of his own composition, on television (anyone know the name of the show?) in 1953.

I had never heard his own (truncated) version of that song before – I know it from Carl Smith’s version, which is also excellent.

No video per se, alas – just a nice picture of Carl Smith, who, like Porter Wagoner, died only recently.

Even though it really has nothing to do with the actual contents of this post, let me here declare that old time country music is the best. You can find a treasure trove of it here, and on lots of other fine sites.