Monday, May 21, 2018

Monday Morning Video Laugh - May 21, 2018

A classic Rodney Dangerfield scene from "Caddyshack."

Dinner last night:  Roast chicken and vegetables,

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Sunday Memory Drawer - 1968

Here we are, on May 20, 2018, smack in the middle of two of the most impactful events that I can vividly remember from my childhood.  Fifty years ago, I learned just how horrible our world can be.   A young mind altered forever.

The year 1968 was the first year I really became aware of the universe I was going to be part of.   Sitting uncomfortably between an innocent childhood and an uneasy adulthood.   I was starting to be on my own.   I finally traveled outside of a five block radius for my schooling and separated from my cocoon of grade school pals.  Heck, this would be the first summer I had my own little seat plan for the Mets out at Shea Stadium every Saturday.

About the world, I was a little ignorant.   And it was certainly bliss.

Indeed, I was becoming more aware of the world even before we went into assassination mode.  I had a class in school called "Current Events."   The teacher was a guy with big ears named Mr. Cawley.   The required textbook?  You needed to subscribe to the New York Times, which was delivered to you in your homeroom.   

For the first several weeks, Mr. Cawley spent his time detailing how the news stories were grouped in the New York Times.   Hell, he even tutored us on the correct way to fold the paper for reading on a crowded train.   But, once that housekeeping was out of the way, we essentially were required to read the front page in class and then discuss it.   The news stories cascaded out and not in a good way.

Vietnam.

Anti-war protests.

Urban riots.

And, for years when my dad brought home the Daily News every night, all I had paid attention were the pages which told you what time a movie started.   Or what Dagwood was up to with Mr. Dithers.   

For the first time, I noticed a world and its problems.

Then we had Thursday, April 4.  I was watching the nightly "I Love Lucy" rerun on New York's Channel 5 Metromedia when they cut in with the news about Martin Luther King Jr..  In those days, both my parents worked nights so my only adult supervision in the house was my grandmother.   I ran to share the bulletin.  As usual, there was cynicism.

"He preached non-violence but every place he went, there was a riot."

Thanks, Grandma who returned herself to a black and white image of Merv Griffin interviewing Xavier Cugat and Charo.

Not much longer into the night, we heard the stories about anger and violence and stores being burned to the ground in places like Harlem, New York.  

I went to school the next day and there was a different feel immediately.  Given the fact that Mount Vernon, New York was a town quietly divided along a 50/50 racial composition for years, you would think there would be issues.  I mean, a prominent Black man had been killed by a White gunman.   Well, somebody in my school administration probably had the same sense so they acted proactively.   The entire school was summoned for an assembly where calming words were spoken.   And, for some strange reason, we were serenaded by one of the big radio hits of the day.

Paul Mauriat's "Love is Blue."  

Nothing really happened at our school, but I remember my English teacher, Mrs. Taylor, telling a harrowing story.  She lived in Manhattan and, in her morning commute, had passed by Harlem buildings in flames.  

Naturally, we gobbled up all the accounts of these stories in the New York Times during Mr. Cawley's class.

Dr. King was barely cold when horror hit us again in early June.   And that news, which happened in a time zone three hours earlier, came to me in a very different way.

As I said, my dad worked nights and usually came home about 1AM.  We had developed a little sweet ritual.   If the Mets were playing on the West Coast, he would always leave me a little note on the kitchen table telling me what the score was when he got home.  I would find it in the morning.   Well, on the morning of June 5, the note wasn't about the Mets but the fact that the Dodgers' Don Drysdale had moved closer to setting a consecutive shutout innings streak.  

And, oh yeah, a little postscript on the baseball news...

"Bobby Kennedy shot."

Oh.  Thanks, Dad.

Heck, I had seen him only last fall on the steps of Mount Vernon's City Hall.  At this juncture, Kennedy was still alive in a Los Angeles hospital.  So, when I arrived at school that morning, there was no mourning.   We were instructed to pray...an odd circumstance in a public school.  I remember that my homeroom teacher was an older lady, Miss Flynn, who also happened to be my typing teacher.   She led a morning prayer and broke down in tears midway through.
Of course, RFK barely lasted twenty-four hours and Miss Flynn couldn't even manage to get to school the next day.

Again, I watched a numbness set in as we glued ourselves to the TV for all the details and the funeral coverage.  America had been sucker punched again.

The ignorant child was now fully awake.

The summer of 1968 found me going about my usual business.  My first year of seats every Saturday with the Mets.  Playing softball in the neighborhood lot.   A Strat-o-Matic baseball league with my best buddy Leo.  

All around the mundane, we heard the news.

More violent protests.

Riots at the Democratic convention.  

More turmoil in the war we were losing in Southeast Asia.  Every time a soldier from Mount Vernon, New York lost his life in Vietnam, my hometown stopped for a moment to reflect.

Was any of this going to ever stop?

Well, I had moved into adulthood in a big way.   And, from my vantage point, none of it ever stopped.  

The difference between 1968 and 2018 is fifty years.   And really little else about life in America.

Dinner last night:  Steak and shrimp stir fry.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Classic TV Theme Song of the Month - May 2018

The recent Netflix reboot made me think about this show again.   Oh, and Angela Cartwright.

Dinner last night:  Candied bacon and stuffed potato.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Your Weekend Movie Guide for May 2018

Crapola.   I can't believe "The Odd Couple" was playing at the Radio City Music Hall fifty years ago this month.   Meanwhile, if I read my history right, this was the movie that played the most weeks at that hallowed and missed movie palace.   

So what's going on in May 2018?  What movies will we be recalling in May 2068?   Will there even be movies then?   If the latter is the case, it will luckily spare us from the next comedy by Adam Sandler or Amy Schumer.   You know the monthly routine, gang.   I'll drift through the LA Times movie pages and give you my gut reaction to the junk polluting our theaters right now.  

Most of the following you won't remember a month from now, let alone a half-century away.

Avengers - Infinity War:   I might be the only one in the universe who hasn't run to see this.   And I'm kind of proud of that.

RBG:  NFW.   Those of you up on your abbreviations will get that joke.  Wait...this is about Ruth Bader Ginsburg???  Isn't she dead yet???

The Seagull:  Sounds like a college assignment.  Pass.

Beast:   No Beauty?

Disobedience:   One of the many charges Democrats are looking to nail Trump with.

Tully:   I can't wait to see how he lands the plane...oh, wait, never mind.

The Rider:  Something about a rodeo rider.   Yee-ha.

A Quiet Place:  Blog review coming.   Spoiler alert:  I recommend it.

Isle of Dogs:   One of those strange animation things that remind me of the old Davey and Goliath TV show.

Book Club:   If you're an actress over 75 and your agents didn't get you a part in this, fire them.

Pope Francis - A Man of His Word:   I think this is a documentary.   If not, I hope it's not Amy Schumer in the real world.

I Feel Pretty:  Speaking of Amy.  Try to find a guy in the audience.  I dare you.

Deadpool 2:  That's funny.   I thought they were up to Deadpool 4 already. There's a new one every week and I lose track.

Welcome to the Men's Group:  Probably the exact same script as Book Club except it's all men and they are younger.

Show Dogs:  A detective and his dog go undercover.  I was never allowed to let my dog get under the covers with me.   I'm just saying.

On Chesil Beach:   It's Saoirse Ronan again in some sort of romance.   Doesn't one of these come out every week, too?

First Reformed:  Ethan Hawke as a pastor with a declining congregation. That's like virtually every Protestant church in America.

Filmworker:  A documentary about working with legendary director Stanley Kubrick on a week when his restored...

2001: A Space Odyssey: is released to theaters again.   And I must admit that I have never seen it.    Maybe this go-round.

Dark Crimes:   Jim Carrey as a police officer.   Maybe he can investigate what happened to his career.

Always at the Carlyle:  A documentary about the NY hotel.

Angels Wear White:  Wait!  The Bowery Boys are back??

Carter and June:  A heist comedy involving evangelists, politicians, and mobsters.   So, essentially the Republican and Democratic Parties.

Cargo:  About post-pandemic Australia.  I missed the one about pre-pandemic Australia.

Dinner last night:  Salad.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Second Childhood Icon Documentary of the Week

Following the lackluster production that was Netflix' documentary "Bobby Kennedy for President," I then tackled the HBO four-hour look at another one of my childhood icons.   And all I can say is...

That's more like it.

In my Kennedy review the other day, I lamented the lack of interesting talking heads to help tell the story.   Well, you don't have that problem with "Elvis Presley: The Searcher."  While you don't see them on screen, there are many voiceovers from many different Elvis associates and admirers, including the likes of Bruce Springsteen and the recently late Tom Petty.   Plus there are lots and lots of sound bites from Elvis himself and the enigmatic manager Colonel Tom Parker.   The range of these contributors should not surprise me as one of the executive producers of this project is Elvis' ex-wife Priscilla, whose voice is also heard a lot.

The end result of all those voices is a much, much fuller story than the Bobby Kennedy effort on Netflix.  Plus there are lots and lots of clips of Elvis actually performing, which is pure gold.  That means you get to hear large portions of most of Elvis' hits and also learn how they came to be.   There was tons of new information imparted and I came away after four hours being much less than bored.  

This documentary essentially comes in two parts and the first one takes you up to his Army induction.  Admittedly, Part Two which covers his movie and concert years was incredibly more interesting, but that's a minor quibble.   The folks behind this program really knew what they were doing and their love for Elvis came shining through.

I knew he spent his latter years playing concerts in Vegas and around the country but I had no idea to what level.   The closing credits reveal that Presley indeed performed over 1,600 concerts over a six or seven year stretch.   No wonder he wound up addicted to uppers and downers.  No wonder he was dead by the time he was 42.

All in all, this documentary brought back some solid memories and gave me new information.   A total winner.

And much, much better than the Bobby Kennedy yarn.

LEN'S RATING:  Three-and-a-half stars.   

Dinner last night:   Roast chicken at Westside Tavern.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

This Date in History - May 16

Happy birthday to Remington Steele.  You'll notice I didn't say James Bond.  There's only one actor who would get that accolade.

218:  JULIA MAESA, AUNT OF THE ASSASSINATED CARACALLA, IS BANISHED TO HER HOME IN SYRIA BY THE SELF-PROCLAIMED MACRINUS AND DECALRES HER 14 YEAR-OLD GRANDSON ELAGABALUS, EMPEROR OF ROME.

Go to your room Julia.  And no television!

1204:  BALDWIN IX, COUNT OF FLANDERS IS CROWNED AS THE FIRST EMPEROR OF THE LATIN EMPIRE.

The sixth Baldwin brother.

1527:  THE FLORENTINES DRIVE OUT THE MEDICI FOR A SECOND TIME AND FLORENCE RE-ESTABLISHES ITSELF AS A REPUBLIC.

For me, Florence will always be a maid to the Jeffersons.

1532:  SIR THOMAS MORE RESIGNS AS LORD CHANCELLOR OF ENGLAND.

Later on, he opened up the girls dorm at Fordham University.  The only guy to have any kind of success in there.

1568:  MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS, FLEES TO ENGLAND.

Whooosh!

1770:  14 YEAR-OLD MARIE ANTOINETTE MARRIES 15 YEAR-OLD LOUIS-AUGUSTE WHO LATER BECOMES KING OF FRANCE.

Oh, you crazy kids!

1843:  THE FIRST MAJOR WAGON TRAIN HEADING FOR THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST SETS OUT ON THE OREGON TRAIL WITH ONE THOUSAND PIONEERS FROM ELM GROVE, MISSOURI.

My grandmother's favorite TV western.  Paging Ward Bond.

1866:  THE US CONGRESS ELIMINATES THE HALF DIME COIN AND REPLACES IT WITH THE FIVE CENT PIECE OR NICKEL.

The one coin that has been neglected and maligned over the years.  I love my nickels.

1868:  PRESIDENT ANDREW JOHNSON IS ACQUITTED IN HIS IMPEACHMENT TRAIL BY ONE VOTE IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE.

So there were college interns in the 1860s??  Who knew???

1905:  ACTOR HENRY FONDA IS BORN.

Little did he know what a big mouth his daughter would be.

1918:  THE SEDITION ACT OF 1918 IS PASSED BY THE US CONGRESS, MAKING CRITICISM OF THE GOVERNMENT AN IMPRISONABLE OFFENSE.

From what I can see, nobody ever enforces this law.

1919:  PIANIST LIBERACE IS BORN.

Do diapers come with sequins?

1920:  IN ROME, POPE BENEDICT XV CANONIZES JOAN OF ARC.

As if being burned at the stake wasn't enough.  Now they shoot her out of a cannon.  Oh, wait.  I read that too fast.

1928:  BASEBALL PLAYER/MANAGER BILLY MARTIN IS BORN.

Drunken dirtbag.  I once watched him pee in the snow.  Check my archives for the complete story.

1929:  IN HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA, THE FIRST ACADEMY AWARDS ARE HANDED OUT.

And the first Best Picture was........Wings!  Check it out on Blu-Ray. 

1931:  ACTOR JACK DODSON IS BORN.

Howard Sprague of the Andy Griffith Show!!

1951:  THE FIRST REGULARLY SCHEDULED TRANSATLANTIC FLIGHTS BEGIN BETWEEN IDLEWILD AIRPORT (NOW JFK) IN NYC AND HEATHROW AIRPORT IN LONDON.

Just curious.  What or who the hell is an Idlewild?

1953:  ACTOR PIERCE BROSNAN IS BORN.

I once saw him in a movie theater.  He looks much older in person.  Oh, the wonders of make-up and special effects.

1955:  AUTHOR JAMES AGEE DIES.

His most famous book was "A Death in the Family."  Boy, he got that right.

1956:  CANDYMAKER H.B. REESE DIES.

RIP.  Rest in Pieces.

1957:  FEDERAL AGENT ELIOT NESS DIES.

God says he's not so untouchable.

1966:  THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CHINA ISSUES THE MAY 16 NOTICE MARKING THE BEGINNING OF THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION.

Culture in China?   That revolution ends with the May 17 Notice.

1974:  JOSIP BROZ TITO IS RE-ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE SOCIALIST FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA.  THIS TIME HE IS ELECTED FOR LIFE.

So are most postal workers in America.

1975:  JUNKO TABEI BECOMES THE FIRST WOMAN TO REACH THE SUMMIT OF MOUNT EVEREST.

Junko???  The first woman to do this was a clown??

1984:  COMEDIAN ANDY KAUFMAN DIES.

Or so we think.

1984:  AUTHOR IRWIN SHAW DIES.

Rich Man, Dead Man.

1985:  ACTRESS MARGARET HAMILTON DIES.

She melted.

1990:  ENTERTAINER SAMMY DAVIS JR. DIES.

One of the best.  Even with one glass eye.

1990:  PUPPETEER JIM HENSON DIES.

God ultimately pulls all our strings.

1991:  QUEEN ELIZABETH II OF THE UNITED KINGDOM ADDRESSED A JOINT SESSION OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS.  SHE IS THE FIRST BRITISH MONARCH TO DO SO.

Any excuse to buy a new handbag.

2000:  BODACIOUS THE BULL DIES.

No bull.

2003:  IN CASABLANCA, MOROCCO, 33 CIVILIANS ARE KILLED AND MORE THAN 100 PEOPLE ARE INJURED IN THE CASABLANCA TERRORIST ATTACKS.

Nobody's going to Rick's on this day.

Dinner last night:  Lasagna.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

First Childhood Icon Documentary of the Week

These days, the most reliable films to see are usually documentaries.   And not only are they landing in theaters, but on streams like Netflix, Amazon, and HBO.   The interesting feature is that those venues allow these real stories to be told to the fullest and are not necessarily mindful of running time.   

Now I watch two of them recently and both came in at around four hours stretched over multiple chapters.   Of course, I can contrast that to the recent HBO documentary on the life of the late Garry Shandling, which came in at four-and-a-half hours.   So, let's think about that.   There was more story to tell about Garry Shandling than there was about the lives of Robert F. Kennedy and Elvis Presley, who were the subjects of the two documentaries I just watched back-to-back.

Let's start with the Netflix show "Bobby Kennedy for President."  This was catnip for this kitty as he was one of several noteworthy icons from my childhood.   I remember when the Kennedys were a family of legend.   I recall Bobby's run for the White House in 1968.   As I wrote the other day, he showed up for a campaign stop in my hometown of Mount Vernon, New York.  And I can still conjure up the images of him lying in a pool of blood in a Los Angeles hotel.

So I was thinking that this four-hour, four-part story would be extremely compelling.  And, to a certain degree, it was.  Admittedly, I wouldn't receive much more new information as I have sopped up a lot of that over the years. And there was new footage I had not seen.  But the major disappointment with this production was the reliance on the same five or six talking heads.   A couple of lowly campaign advisors, some chick who was associated with Cesar Chavez and the lettuce pickers, and journalist Pete Hamill.   That was it.  Where was any of the Kennedy kids or grandchildren?  I realize Ethel is probably a drooling mess these days, but couldn't the film makers find somebody inside to sit for an interview?

The other beef I had was with the structure of the hours.   By the end of the third hour, Bobby is already assassinated and buried at Arlington Cemetery.  But there was still another hour to go??  I couldn't fathom what more could drag this tale out for another hour.

And there was really nothing.  A lot of Hour 4 is focused on Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin and the notion that he didn't act alone.  Okay, I didn't know much about that controversy.   And can't a Kennedy get shot without a conspiracy theory being attached to it?

Most of the final chapter is devoted to some of the campaign workers, a kook named Paul Schrade.   Paul was actually one of the other folks shot that night in the Ambassador Hotel kitchen.  I'm glad he survived.  I'm not glad that his story lulled me into a coma.  You see, Paul now spends most of his time hunting down the other conspirators.  Who knows?  Perhaps he's trying to connect Donald Trump to the death of RFK.  Whatever the case, Schrade's manic search stretches this documentary out way beyond where it should be.   When he gives a tour of the high school (now standing where RFK was killed) to the bus boy who held the dying Bobby's head in his hands, I threw up my hands in bewilderment.  Get over it, Paul.   Find a new hobby.  Ugh.

I was really looking forward to this look at some moments I vividly recall from my childhood.  But it turned out to that the sum was not equal to all the parts.  This documentary is ultimately a dull and lazy affair.

And then I watched the HBO look at Elvis Presley.   How would that compare?  Well, come back on Thursday for the answer.

LEN'S RATING:  Two stars.

Dinner last night:  Chinese dim sum.