The King, Unfulfilled

Gotta an indie bookstore!

The King of crummy movies, but, fortunately, that's not all. (Monte Dutton sketch)
The King of crummy movies, but, fortunately, that’s not all. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, January 8, 2015, 10:51 a.m.

Well, if it’s not Elvis Presley’s birthday. One can tell by the crummy movies on TCM. Elvis movies are good to write by. One can pay only mild attention and still get the gist of what is going on.

At some point, musical instruments will appear in the back seats of convertibles, the lobbies of hotels, and the garages of race tracks. Elvis sang so well that any band could follow him on an entirely original song. This even applied to marching bands.

By the way, Elvis made three racing movies – Viva Las Vegas, Spinout and Speedway – and two of them are on TCM today. Unfortunately, the NASCAR-themed flick, the last, is not on. How Bill Bixby and Nancy Sinatra failed to secure Oscar nominations is beyond me.

Not only was Elvis the King. Not only did he usher in the Age of Rock & Roll. Not only did he star in thirty-one movies, but probably twenty-five of them were among the worst hundred ever made. My personal choice is Kissing Cousins, but different people have different tastes.

Elvis’s greatness is underscored by his movies. Thirty-one bad ones. Roy Orbison, for instance, made only one horrible movie, The Fastest Guitar Alive. It’s a Civil War flick. Roy is a Southern spy with a bullet-shooting guitar. Lawrence Olivier is rumored to have passed on that one. Not only could Roy Orbison play a guitar. He could shoot one.

In summary, I’ve been to Graceland but didn’t buy the tee shirt. To paraphrase Bill Maher, I kid The King, but I recognize his cultural significance as an international symbol of commercialism. He was so good and yet so dependent on Col. Tom Parker, the ultimate symbol himself of “Hey, kid, just do what I say, and I’ll make you a star.” He did, Parker did, and it’s probably why The King died at forty-two. He made all that money, and, all the while, he wanted to be taken seriously as an artist, which he was in the rare instances that art was allowed.

In a sense, Elvis has always embarrassed me because he could have been so much better. Even his music detoured to the silly, factory-produced songs the movies forced him to sing. He was great at the beginning, and great at the end, and, in between, a magnificent voice singing stupid words.

I remember the day he died like it was yesterday. I was drunk when I heard the news and drunker afterwards. During the few moments when I was, um, out in public, as when, um, I purchased more beer, there were people weeping uncontrollably. I can remember how Big Don Fulmer opened up one of the cheap eight-track players he sold along with bootleg tapes at Don’s PDQ, and “Love Me Tender” was playing as I asked what was on special. Big Don just cried and waved his hands toward the cooler.

Let’s see. I was nineteen. A man could buy beer legally at nineteen in those days. Woman, too.

“Operator, operator, get me Las Vegas, quick!” But Lucky Jackson is off to Los Angeles to pick up a motor

Who am I kidding? I always watch Viva Las Vegas because Ann-Margret’s in it.

Imagine if time had unfolded differently, and Elvis Presley starred as Riley Mansfield in an adaptation of my novel, The Audacity of Dope. It could have turned The King into an artist. Or maybe an artiste.

Read my short fiction at Thanks.

Stopping by Cinema on a Rainy Afternoon

I settled for a movie and could've done worse.
I settled for a movie and could’ve done worse.
[cb_profit_poster Movies]Clinton, S.C., Saturday, January 11, 2014, 9:45 a.m.
From time to time, I get that “Here in Topeka” feeling, even though it’s actually in Clinton. It’s from the old Loretta Lynn song “One’s on the Way”: Here in Topeka / The screen door’s a-bangin’ / One needs a huggin’ and one needs a spankin’ / And one’s on the way.
Even though I’m overwhelmingly confident that I’m neither pregnant nor going to be, I relate to the song, anyway.
Sometimes I also find romantic relevance in the name of the Peter O’Toole/Katharine Hepburn movie “The Lion in Winter.” No, my life’s not mundane. I’m just a lion in winter. Yeah.
Yesterday I attended a movie. In a theater! It’s the same every time. I get through with some meeting or errand. I’ve got a few hours to kill. I go to the movies. I never end up watching the movie I really want to see. Invariably, the next showtime is an hour away, so I settle for the best available convenient option. Yesterday what I really wanted to see was “Inside Llewyn Davis,” but I settled for “Saving Mr. Banks,” and that was fine. I could’ve seen “The Wolf of Wall Street,” but I don’t care much for wolves or Wall Street.
Opinion on “Inside Llewyn Davis” has been sharply divided among acquaintances, Twitter followers, Facebook friends and the like, which was part of the reason I wanted to see it for myself.
“Saving Mr. Banks” has an unbelievable cast that includes Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Paul Giamatti, Colin Farrell and Bradley Whitford. It’s not a classic, but it’s a solid, competent movie. I liked it. I didn’t love it. I think, if I’d seen “Inside Llewyn Davis,” I probably would’ve either loved or hated it. Ah, well, I guess I’ll see it on HBO or something one day. Or, maybe, in a couple weeks, when I’m on a short road trip selling my novels, I’ll have some free time and see it then.
Most of the movies I see in theaters are animated because I pick up my grand-nephew Alex (who turns 11 on Monday) and see something with a name like “Happy Feet,” “Cars,” or “Ice Age” and a number after it.
Alone, I wouldn’t go to see a “Mary Poppins,” but I enjoyed a movie centered on the making of “Mary Poppins,” which, of course, I saw when I was younger than Alex is now. Hanks makes a fine Walt Disney. Hanks makes a fine anything except Sherman McCoy (“The Bonfire of the Vanities,” a wretched film from a splendid novel).
It’s time to bring this to a conclusion so that I can write about a conflict between ranchers and oilmen in 1946 Texas. It’s more interesting than my trip to two bookstores, followed by a Disney movie and Sam’s Club, where I picked up such exciting items as shampoo and ginkgo biloba.
And a bag of oranges. I think I’ll have one now.
It cost about $20 to see a movie and buy a small drink and fried cheese sticks (cheaper than any of the popcorn options). Then I had supper at Sam’s Club, where a hot dog, drink and slice of pizza cost $3.65. Go figure.
I promise that my new novel, The Intangibles, is a great deal more compelling than this blog. If you’ve read The Intangibles already – and why wouldn’t you? – I’d appreciate a customer review at, or It doesn’t take but a few sentences to let others know what you think.
[cb_profit_poster Peace]

Buried Treasure

This photo was taken at Utopia in June when the weather outside was different.
This photo was taken at Utopia in June when the weather outside was different.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar1]Clinton, S.C., Thursday, December 26, 2013, 9:55 a.m.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
I haven’t been playing too much music lately. I’ve been busy writing fiction. (John Clark photo)

Lo and behold. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is on TV.

I’m just half watching it. I’ve seen it a dozen times, at least, and many more if I count half watching. Jean Arthur just greeted James Stewart at the train station.

It’s romantic, idealistic pap, but in Frank Capra’s film lies the essence of America. I wish we could find it again.

I had a funny thing happen the other day. I was looking for something in the pile of books, magazines and miscellany that covers the loveseat. I found two sheets of paper edging out from the edge, on the floor. I looked at it and discovered a song I’d completely forgotten writing. The paper, typewritten because it was printed from my laptop, is slightly stained from what is likely spilled coffee. It’s saved, of course, but the folder dubbed “lyrics” is crowded with old songs, new songs and snippets I haven’t yet turned into songs. It’s easy to get lost in there.

I started fooling around with it, but I couldn’t remember the original tune. I adapted a chord progression that is simple. Maybe I’ll remember the way it was, eventually, or maybe I won’t. I’m going to sing it the way it is now Thursday night in Columbia at my friend Bentz Kirby’s open mic. In fact, I’m going to perform two new songs, “The System’s Down” and “It’s Only Fiction.”

Here’s the song, “The System’s Down,” that came in from the couch.

Some fool in California / Deleted my account / And some dude that owes me money / Lessened the amount / The man who fixed my washer / Took me for a spin / And when I checked the mailbox / It all began again.

The system’s down / Tension’s up / Bills are high / Banks corrupt / I’d rather be a writer / Than a pencil-pushin’ fool / And I’d rather break the law / Than obey these dadgum rules.

The bozo at the register / Tipped himself my five / My doctor checked my blood / And declared me still alive / The cowboy with a badge / Said I drove too fast / And if I didn’t shut up / He’d gladly whip my ass.

The woman I’ve been dating / Likes my brother twice as much / The bottom of my feet / Are painful to the touch / My ex-wife thinks I’m / Overwhelmed with cash / But all that’s really overwhelmed / Is the can that holds my trash


My favorite ball team / Has lost five out of six / My mother got mad at me / And called me a sonuvabitch / I couldn’t help but question / Who it was that shared her bed / Looking back those are words / I wish I hadn’t said.


I’ll shoot a video of it tonight if I can remember.

By the way, if you’re in Columbia or just happen to be in town, stop by Utopia Food & Spirits (3830 Rosewood Drive) at 8 p.m. Or, bring your guitar or whatever and be there by 7:30 to sign up. It’ll be fun either way.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar2]

Flick Picks from a Non-Critic

This is actually in New Mexico, but it could be from "Lawrence of Arabia."
This is actually in New Mexico, but it could be from “Lawrence of Arabia.”

[cb_profit_poster Acting]Clinton, S.C., Monday, November 25, 2013, 1:31 p.m.

Monte Dutton Who else would it be?
Monte Dutton
Who else would it be?

I’m slogging through a biography of T.E. Lawrence by Michael Asher. I bought it several years ago because “Lawrence of Arabia” is my favorite movie.

The bio is entitled Lawrence: The Uncrowned King of Arabia. It’s going to take me a while to get through it, but I’m impressed by it. Lawrence was a fascinating, complex man, and I think David Lean’s film is the best ever made.

I love movies, particularly old ones. If you don’t like “Lawrence of Arabia,” watch it on a big screen, preferably in a theater. It’s an incredible cinematic accomplishment.

I used to have a Top 10 of favorite movies, but they add up over the years and get shuffled about. I really need to put more thought into this, but since I’ve got to get this blog done so that attend to more of the day’s duties, here goes:

(1.)             Lawrence of Arabia. I doubt I’ve ever seen any actor in any movie as impressive as Peter O’Toole in this one.

(2.)            Giant. My father loved it. Elizabeth Taylor was never more beautiful. The fight scene in the diner is one of my favorites.

(3.)            Patton. Most movie dialogue that I can quote is from comedies. George C. Scott is overpowering. “I can assure you, Padre, because of my intimate relationship with the Almighty, that if you write a good prayer, we’ll have good weather!”

(4.)            Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. The worst observation on our times that I can possibly make is that when this great Frank Capra film was remade, it starred Adam Sandler in the role made famous by Gary Cooper.

(5.)            Little Big Man. Dustin Hoffman has never been better. This is sort of a Coen Brothers film that predated the Coen Brothers.

(6.)            Pulp Fiction. Maybe the all-time ensemble cast.

(7.)            Blazing Saddles. It’s hard to judge an outlandish comedy by the same standards of a Lean epic, but Mel Brooks deserves a place.

(8.)           Crazy Heart. The movie wasn’t made until about 20 years after I read Thomas Cobb’s novel. When it was over, I wept a little because Bad Blake reminded me of my old man, who never picked up a guitar in his life.

(9.)            The Grapes of Wrath. How we’ve lost as a society the sympathy for the downtrodden expressed in Steinbeck’s great novel. The cream of Henry Fonda’s impressive crop.

(10.)        True Grit. The original, by a nose. The remake is really the better movie, but I love the first better because Glen Campbell is so bad, and it amuses me. The only flaw is what I liked best. Maybe my favorite movie line is John Wayne’s: “By God, she reminds me of me.”

By the way, yes, I love “Citizen Kane,” not to mention “Casablanca,” “Bridge on the River Kwai,” “Red River,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Goodfellas,” “Tender Mercies,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Stripes,” “Animal House,” “North by Northwest,” “Hoosiers,” “Pleasantville,” “Seabiscuit,” “American Beauty,” and dozens of others.

We all have our little preferences. “Fever Pitch” was just a harmless baseball movie, but the story, revolving around the 2004 Boston Red Sox, is so resonant that I could watch it once a week.

Some movies I thought were great but have little desire to watch them more than once. “Million Dollar Baby” and “Platoon” are examples.

My favorite actor may be Robert Duvall. My favorite actress was probably Katharine Hepburn. That’s a tough call, though, as I’m torn between Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, James Stewart, Fonda, Robert DeNiro and Jeff Bridges on the male side. My preference for Hepburn is clearer among women.

Occasionally, I even watch a silent movie because it’s fascinating to watch how skillful filmmakers had to be telling a story without dialogue. Mostly I like the comedies.

I think I tilt toward old movies because I admire the craftsmanship of Lean, Capra, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and others. Nowadays it’s possible for a bad movie to be successful because its special effects are so incredible. I marvel at the way Ford’s films were shot.

My favorite sports film is “Bang the Drum Slowly.” My favorite racing movie is “The Last American Hero.” My favorite animated (okay, semi-animated) is “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” I don’t care for horror much.

Sometimes I fantasize about having one of my novels turned into a movie, but I’ve little writing in writing screenplays. I’m still trying to master novels.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]

A Movie, Some Music, a Book on the Horizon

I'll play anywhere, sometimes when there's no one to listen ... except for the guy who snaps the picture. This is at the fishpond on the farm. Just kidding. It's the Pacific Ocean.
I’ll play anywhere, sometimes when there’s no one to listen … except for the guy who snaps the picture. This is at the fishpond on the farm. Just kidding. It’s the Pacific Ocean.

[cb_profit_poster Acting]Clinton, S.C., Friday, October 4, 2013, 9:19 a.m.

Four of us went to the movies yesterday. Ella, Anthony, Alex and I saw “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.” It’s possible that items of food could one day come to life and threaten the world. There’s money in food. While watching the movie, I wondered if a man could invest in Popcorn Futures.

I wonder if those gigantic tacos make kids squeamish about Mexican food. I guess not. After all, the gigantic tacos, which were food processed from the monster robots in “The War of the World,” wound up being the good guys, uh, things. It was obvious from the beginning that the scientific genius was going to wind up being diabolically evil.

Thanks to Alex, I’ve seen lots of animated films. My favorite, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” goes back to his mother. Alex, having a similarly practiced eye, told me he thought “Cloudy 2” was really good for a sequel.

“You know, the sequels aren’t usually as good,” he said. He was thinking of “Shrek Forever After.” I was thinking of “Caddyshack 2.” As we continued to walk back to the car, Alex added, “You know, ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2’ could be the best sequel ever.” I was thinking “The Godfather, Part II.”

There may be a bit of a generation gap.

11:59 a.m.

I tied things together rather nicely in my day-and-night trip to Columbia. After the movie, I drove over to Utopia Food & Spirits, where there’s an open mic every Thursday night. I wanted to try out a new song, “Hell to Pay,” in front of an audience.

I thought it started at 8, so I got there at 7, figuring I’d join my friends Frank and Anne Adams for supper. It actually started at 8:30, so there was plenty of time to kill. I fiddled around on social media and watched the beginning of the Texas-Iowa State game.

I had a wonderful time. I didn’t go on until fifth or sixth in line. I performed three songs – “Hell to Pay,” “Scuppernongs & Muscadines” and “Uh, Huh,” all relatively recent – and was in good voice. I was a little keyed up. I probably should have had another beer before I played, but it never seems to be obvious to anyone but me. I just felt a tad frantic.

“A tad frantic” is probably to be expected. If I weren’t “a tad frantic,” I’d probably be uninspired.

So … all is well.

12:18 p.m.

When this new book is out, this second novel, I can use any help you can offer. If there’s a place you know where I fit – please, no narrow doors – let me know about it. As many of you know, my first novel was about a musician, and the lyrics of songs I wrote for him are scattered throughout The Audacity of Dope. While I was publicizing Audacity, I frequently brought my guitar and alternated between talking about and reading from my book and playing a song or two from it.

The Intangibles, which will be available at month’s end at, and on this website, isn’t about a musician, but I’ll probably still bring a guitar with me. It just works well. It spruces up a book signing.

It begins in 1963, on the day of the Kennedy Assassination, and then it jumps ahead four years. Most of it takes place in 1968, in an imaginary South Carolina town named Fairmont where there is an imaginary college named Oconee. It’s a lot like this one, but the story could just as easily take place in Newberry or Greenwood or Gaffney, or, for that matter, small college towns situated throughout the South.

Like The Audacity of Dope, it’s written for adults, and if it were a movie, it’d undoubtedly be R-rated. There’s a lot of violence, civil rights, bigotry, religion, sin, sex, booze, drugs, cultural exchange and football. It’s my hope that you’ll get the occasional chuckle reading it, as well.

I can go to a book store and play a little music, or go to a coffeehouse and talk a little books. What I think I’ve learned how to do is entertain prospective buyers of my book a little better.

I hope you’ll let me convince that you really need to read The Intangibles. I’m getting that out of the way right upfront. You can reach me by email at or my book concierge, Rowe Copeland, at

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]

An Explanation of My Absence

Paladin Stadium, Furman University, as the season draws near.
Paladin Stadium, Furman University, as the season draws near.

[cb_profit_poster FlagFootball]Clinton, S.C., Friday, August 23, 2013, 10:08 a.m.

Sorry I missed everyone yesterday out there in Internet Land. It’s the modern equivalent of Radio Land, or TV Land, as in, “Hey, all you folks in Internet Land! How you been gettin’ along?” Oh, wait … since it’s the Internet, maybe it’s, “YOLO. So, like, Ima try to write err day. LOL. Nowumsayin?”

Normally I keep up a little better, but I spent most of the day and half the night in Greenville, where, in hindsight, I could have taken my laptop, and then I could’ve blogged from Barnes & Noble, as God intended.

Instead, all I had was my trusty iPhone, and it’s just too nettlesome to write a blog and post it from an itsy, bitsy technological wonder.

So, as I prepare for a night of local music (Jamlisco, at El Jalisco Mexican Restaurant, 1002 South Broad Street, Clinton, S.C, if Siri is keeping a scorecard on your belt) and a weekend of watching NASCAR on TV, here’s what went down in Greenville on Thursday.

I met with my valued book concierge, Rowe Copeland, in the Starbucks at Barnes & Noble. We talked about the next novel (The Intangibles) and the one (Crazy by Natural Causes) after that. We talked about writing, editing and publicizing. We do that every month. I drink coffee. She drinks tea.

This is the time where fiction overlaps. I’m trying to finish off the first draft of Crazy by Natural Causes – I’ve written two chapters this week, and there are 34 of them now – while, at the same time, starting the final push toward The Intangibles’ publication. This involves getting other writers to read it and offer what are called “blurbs” for the news releases and/or back cover. Soon shall arrive the pressurized, last-chance editing.

But enough of this mundane book stuff that is undoubtedly more compelling to me than to you.

Then I dropped by a locally owned bookstore, Fiction Addiction, to buy a book I’ve been wanting to read and to say hello the way we authors are prone to do when we have a book coming out soon. The book I bought is actually non-fiction, so it remains to be seen whether I develop a non-fiction addiction from Fiction Addiction.

Since I had some time to kill, I went to see a movie. Most of the times I see a movie in a theater, it’s animated and my grand-nephew (who is, of course, positively grand) is along. Usually, when I see another kind of movie, it’s just like Thursday and I wind up going not to the movie I really want to see but to the movie that’s about to start. This time it was “Paranoia,” with Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Amber Heard and Harrison Ford. Hemsworth was the bright, idealistic young technology geek who works for one bad guy (Oldman) and is sent to steal from the other (Ford), falls in love with the beautiful girl who can’t stand him at first other than she sleeps with him, and at the end, the bad guys, both billionaires, go to jail, which is realistic because that happens all the time in real life. Sorry. Spoiler alert. If you see the movie, I can’t imagine you not being able to see it coming.

Worth seeing, but nothing memorable.

It was hot when I arrived at the cineplex, so I left the windows in my car cracked about a half-inch. It apparently rained exceedingly hard while I was inside. I’m glad my books were in a plastic bag.

Next I drove out to Furman University to watch the Paladins practice football for about an hour. The stadium has been renovated. It’s lovely. Not only did I graduate from Furman, but several members of the current coaching staff are old friends. In an upset, while I was watching, Joe Davidson walked up. I’ve seen Joe once in the past 30 years. That was when Furman played at Pitt in 2004 (and lost in overtime). He lives in Pittsburgh but comes down to Greenville on business four or five times a year, he said.

What a surprise. That, and, of course, Small World. Those phrases are repeated in many languages when coincidences occur.

After practice, Joe and I chatted with Bruce Fowler, the head coach, assistants Tim Sorrells, his son Jordan (who was a second-generation Furman QB) and Jimmy Kiser, Paladin Club director Ken Pettus and Sports Information Director Hunter Reid.

I said “hey” to several others.

Fluor Field, Home of the Greenville Drive.
Fluor Field, Home of the Greenville Drive.

Then it was off to Fluor Field to watch the Greenville Drive lose to the Rome Braves with Steve Grant, Cathy Breazeale and Bill Butler. Steve, AKA “Pa,” and Bill, AKA “Butts,” played baseball at Furman, and we, uh, barely watched the game from a suite overlooking the right-field line. We bumped into Ron Smith, Furman’s baseball coach, on the way out, and continued our reminiscing at the Liberty Ale House behind Fluor Field’s Fenwayesque left-field wall.

I had a beer that tasted like it had an orange peel in it. Orange peels actually taste great after a while.

I got home at about midnight, which is to say, David Letterman Top 10 Time.

I skipped a blogging day for the first time in more than a month. I’ll double up soon.

This blog is so much about me, and probably of limited interest to you, that it might even be more interesting to give my advertisers some business. Just a thought.

[cb_profit_poster Lottery1]

Assorted Thoughts of Wednesday

Near Petaluma, California.
Near Petaluma, California.

Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 10:37 a.m.

Last night I watched Steve McQueen in “Bullitt.” Remember when actors didn’t talk so much? Clint Eastwood is the last one standing, I guess.

McQueen epitomized 1960s cool. I don’t think anyone now matches McQueen, but Brad Pitt wishes he did. He has aspirations.

Then again, this is a more talkative age. Maybe actors talk too much because people talk too much. I do not exclude myself from the indictment.

My sister Dee Dee would’ve turned 50 today. She died last summer. I was talking to my mother yesterday, and it occurred to me that a sister and two close friends have died at either 49 or 50.

This morning’s revelation: John F. Kennedy’s birthday was also May 29.

Coincidence? Completely.

11:04 a.m.

The funniest thing on TV is the small print in the pharmaceutical ads.

I finally memorized the words to a song, “Scuppernongs and Muscadines,” I wrote several months ago.

I wrote a new song, too. “All I Ever Did Was Hurt.” As you may suspect, it’s not a feel-good tune. It’s the kind of song one would memorize while drinking, and that’s not a good way to memorize.

I’ll provide more details soon, but suffice it to say I will be appearing in Winchester, Va., on June 22, and in the Philadelphia area on June 29. I’ll talk about my novel, The Audacity of Dope, preview my next, The Intangibles, and perform some songs. I’ll sign books if I do my job well enough that you want to buy them.

The Virginia appearance is at the Winchester Book Gallery and will begin at 5:30 p.m. (that’s a Saturday). It begins with a reading from The Audacity of Dope, followed by a musical performance. I’ll perform songs from the novel, the lyrics of which are scattered through the book.

Circle the dates. I’ll be following up with more information about my version of what NASCAR once called “the Northern Tour.”

11:48 a.m.

If a rumor is flying, and no one will deny it on the record, it’s true.

In decades of journalism, I’ve known few, if any, exceptions to this rule.

Most people who go out of their way to be confrontational have something to hide.

The truth is never more apparent than when being vehemently denied.

Football coaches often remind me of generals. Basketball coaches often remind me of car salesmen.

No good comes from reaching the point in life where you think the world owes you something. It’s the beginning of the end. You’ve got to work your way from the cradle to the grave, and that’s just the way it is.

Never trust a man who seems obsessed with appearing younger than he is. I call this the John Edwards Rule. He’s not the first, though.

I guess I’m building my own set of Intangibles.

When I was in high school, we referred to the slogans on the locker-room walls as “the Intangibles.” It’s the origin of the title of my next novel, which is scheduled for publication in November.

I had to write a novel. I don’t have a locker room.

Flights of Fancy on Flights of Fancy

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
Maybe I can write a song about it.

Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, May 14, 10:31 a.m.

I like movies. They make me a jolly good fellow.

Wait a minute. That’s not movies. That’s beer. Someone requested the Tom T. Hall song, “I Like Beer,” last Friday night. I played a verse and a chorus off the top of my head. I guess I left it on the backroads by the rivers of my memory … now I’ve got to apologize to Glen Campbell and John Hartford, too. Sorry.

Whisky’s too rough. Champagne costs too much. And vodka puts my mouth in gear. This little refrain should help to explain, as a matter of fact, I like beer.

I’ve got to get beer off my mind. It’s in the morning.

What was I writing about? Oh, yeah. Movies. I watch a lot of them on TV, though not as many now because of the nettlesome presence of baseball season. On the other hand, I’m watching a lot more baseball and movies because I never rush to the airport on Thursdays and rush back home to bills, dirty clothes and full trash cans on Mondays.

I’m reading more. Believe it or not, I’m writing more. Life is good. Imagine how good it will be when I start making a living again.

Movies. I’m having a hard time getting started here. My mind is flitting about. It wouldn’t make a good movie. At this moment, my mind is no better than “Bonfire of the Vanities.”

I probably like old movies more than new. I think the advance in special effects has made quality in spectacle more important than quality in plot. Lots of really bad movies do well at the box office nowadays just because their stupidity is spectacular. Hmm. Come to think of it, the same can be said for TV, radio, writing, singing and, quite possibly, architecture. If I knew anything about architecture, I’d probably grouse about it, too.

I had a debate in my mind about comparing movie stars of today to those of yesteryear, and the only real conclusions I made were that Tom Hanks is today’s James Stewart and Jim Carrey is today’s Jerry Lewis. This isn’t to say either is an impersonation. I just think they represent the same contributions to culture, whatever that means. I can’t imagine James Stewart playing Forrest Gump. Nor can I imagine Hanks chatting with Harvey the invisible rabbit.

Stewart and Hanks are similarly likable. Carrey and Lewis are similarly wacky.

Others merely remind me at times of others. For instance, Robert Duvall reminds me a little of Spencer Tracy in that it seems to come so effortlessly. But Duvall is more garish than Tracy, whose excellence was understated. Maybe Gene Hackman is a better fit.

No one reminds me of Cary Grant. Hugh Grant reminds me of David Niven, though.

I see a little of Jean Arthur in Reese Witherspoon, a little of Marilyn Monroe in Scarlett Johannson, a smidgen of Katharine Hepburn (whom she portrayed) in Cate Blanchett.

Clint Eastwood is a bit like John Wayne, though terse where Wayne was gregarious. Daniel Day-Lewis is a tad reminiscent of Peter O’Toole. Matt Damon channels a bit of Steve McQueen.

Gary Cooper? Bette Davis? Henry Fonda? Lana Turner? Errol Flynn? Elizabeth Taylor? Lee Marvin? Jane Fonda? I got nothing.

Not even Bridget Fonda. She wishes. There is a descending staircase of Fondas: Henry, Jane, Peter, Bridget … but there’s probably another staircase below. Bridget Fonda has her moments.

Al Pacino? Meryl Streep? Jack Nicholson?

Hmm. Streep may actually be the modern Kate Hepburn, now that I think about it.

Times change, and so do the actors. Cooper would either be lost or highly adaptive in this cynical age. His times shaped him as much as the weirdness of today shapes Johnny Depp.

In short, this debate can go on and on with little chance of resolution. I’m sure I can argue every point I’ve already made from the opposite side. Even if I couldn’t, others would because, being human, none of us has the exact same perception of anything, in spite of all the assaults on our collective consciousness by vast forces seeking to make us all think alike.

For this morning, this has got to stop.