Blah Blah Blog by Jessica Harper by Jessica
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Archive for January, 2009

For “Phantom” Fans: Talk About A Captive Audience….

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

An excellent story from Ken Tipton:

“In 1975, I was in the Air Force stationed in Iceland when “Phantom” came through and I worked a part-time job as the base projectionist. As it does in Iceland, we had a mammoth blizzard hit while I ran two movies.  An English comedy called “Alvin Purple” and “Phantom of the Paradise”.

We were trapped in the base theater for four days because of the snow and wound up running “Phantom” over and over and over. We had plenty of K-rations that were stored in the theater and we wound up giving away all the soda, candy, and popcorn for free. After the first day, we had people coming on stage to mimic the actors like they do at the “Rocky Horror” movie until we had a production of our own that was great. I was chosen as the winner of the various people who played “Philbin”.

The roads were finally carved out of the snow and ice and we all left vowing to NEVER watch that goofy ass movie again. But as the years went by, I grew to love it.

My SAG card is current and I understand that Brian has a remake in development. I will bust my butt to audition for that project.  What goes around does come around and I paid my dues with that movie.”


Weather Survey

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

In a random weather survey, I learned that, in spite of low temperatures in the midwest, my brother in Chicago finds humor in the conditions there. There are “invisible patches of ice in random spots on the sidewalks which, I must admit, bring a little comedy into the bleak winter days. Something about slipping on ice launches the entire body. All four limbs flail…and parcels shoot off in all directions. Come to think of it, you’d like it here.”

(He’s right. Due to a perverse sense of humor, I find the sight of people slipping on icy or wet sidewalks side-splittingly funny. One rainy day in L.A., while cruising down Ventura Boulevard, I witnessed a neat-as-a-pin guy with a designer umbrella fall flat on his ass, and I laughed so hard I had to pull over. I wonder if I’ll be a Heaven Reject due to poor attitude.)

Another brother in Arizona says it rains so infrequently there that he can’t remember where his mud boots are. A third brother lives five miles from me so I don’t need him to tell me that it was 85º here for ten days straight in January, setting a record. This made us all irritable; it just felt wrong. It’s now plummeted to 60º and we are experiencing a thing called humidity.

My sister in N.Y. says it’s dipping to 0º on Monday so she’s making beef stew. A daughter in Providence refuses to leave her college dorm (too cold) and is asking me to send her food supplies. A friend in Winnipeg says it’s 30º below and she wishes she were a bear (she’d hibernate), while Cousin Sarah says it’s 10º in Stockholm and the general gray is relieved only when the sun sets at at 4 p.m. and the sky is briefly orange.

But….my sister in Alaska reports the most dramatic weather.  Where she lives, near Fairbanks, it was fifty degrees below zero for two weeks. She could only go out for ten minutes at a time, covered completely except for eyeballs. Then, one night last week, the temperature shot up to 50º above and there were 100 m.p.h. winds. They lost one hundred trees and one sheep. (Can we find a way to blame this on Sarah Palin?)

By contrast, the most bland weather report comes from my friend Hannah, who points out that in Florida, the water and air are the same temperature: 72º. It must be weird to live in a place where nobody complains about the weather.



Monday, January 19th, 2009

The word ‘snarge’ is a new one on me. I heard it on the radio, after that plane swooshed into the Hudson river last week.  ‘Snarge’ is what’s left of a bird after it strikes an airplane and gets the engine treatment. You know, guts and feathers.

Just for kicks, I pulled out the Merriam-Webster’s for clarification, but there is nothing in that dictionary between ‘snarf’ and ‘snark.’ (In case you’re wondering, to snarf is to gobble up, eat quickly, like when my dog Oliver snarfed up a batch of lemon bars the other day. And ‘snark’ is defined as “a fabulous animal,” which is definitely not what I called my dog when I discovered the lemon bar snarfage.)

I did learn from other sources that there’s this whole Snarge Department (who knew?) at the Smithsonian (well, actually they’re called the Avian Remains Think Tank or something) that receives about 4000 samples of snarge a year, leftovers from  bird-meets-plane incidents. They analyze it to determine which kind of bird got pulverized. They can then advise airports to make adjustments, like move the pond that’s to the left of runway 32 because it attracts flocks of horned larks, who are serial strikers.

I also learned (okay, it was a slow day) that there are shocking bird strike tests being conducted. Testers shoot a chicken out of a cannon at a jet engine at close range, to see what damage the chicken inflicts. Hello? (Well, this was on the internet, so who knows.)

While we’re on the subject, the term ‘bird strike’ seems unfair. It makes the bird sound like a tiny terrorist. I mean, come on, when a plane engine chews up a horned lark, who’s striking whom? These and other gory thoughts are what spin my world….


Pantless In Vail

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

I just don’t get it. How did a man board a ski lift in Vail with the innocent intention of skiing with his child and end up hanging from the lift for a solid fifteen minutes, upside down and pantless? No, not panting, I said pantless. Pant-free. Sans pantalons. As in, fully exposed. Frostbite in unusual places.

There’s a long (boring) explanation offered here as to how this could have happened (along with photos much too graphic even for this racy blog) but it’s confusing and unconvincing. The truth, I suspect, is that something that could not happen simply did happen to poor Peter Pants-off. It’d be like having a meteor fall on your head, but much less likely. In fact, if it’s any consolation to poor Robert Redbottom, this event is historically unique.

Now I have a whole new reason to avoid downhill skiing, aside from the daunting prospect of finding a ski outfit that doesn’t make me look like a horse’s ass, and the weepy panic attacks on the bunny slopes. As long as there’s a possibility, no matter how remote, that I could end up dangling pantless from a lift, my skis will remain in the closet.


Underpants On My Head

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Coming up in the next few weeks: my new book for kids, intriguingly called, “Underpants On My Head.” It’s the second in a series (the first was “Uh-oh, Cleo,”and it’s a great choice for a kid who just got the hang of reading and wants a book with chapters. (Little, tiny chapters.)

Based on a true story from my childhood (I actually did wear underpants on my head once–ONLY once–see photo), an early review from Kirkus says this book is “HILARIOUS!” I consider this VERY high praise.

More on this book as we get closer to pub. date, late in January. Meanwhile, if you get too cold, try putting underpants on your head. I’m here to tell you it helps.


New Year’s Eve Rituals

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

I loved reading in the N.Y. Times today about how various cultures ring in the new year.

In Colombia, if you have an urge to travel in the new year (yes ma’am, I do), you walk around the house with a suitcase at midnight on the 31st.

In Denmark, if you have a particular wish for the new year, you make it while jumping off a chair. (If you’ve had too much aquavit or whatever it is Danes drink this could get ugly.)

In Venezuela, you buy and wear new yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve for good luck in the upcoming year.

Perhaps my favorite ritual is in Japan, where there’s an Abusive Language Festival: you climb a hill to an ancient temple screaming profanities at whoever it is who has caused you trouble in the old year. (When you get to the temple you chill and get happy.)
I think if I had to pick someone to curse at it would be U.S.Air for that nasty episode in a D.C. airport in November.

Not to be greedy, but wouldn’t one greatly increase one’s chances of overall happiness in 2009 by combining these rituals? I was thinking I could put on yellow underpants and jump off a chair while holding a suitcase and cursing U.S.Air. The trouble is, of course, my family would commit me to a mental hospital so I’d be unable to reap the benefits of my actions.