Saturday, April 21, 2018

Classic TV Theme Song of the Month - April 2018

The TV Tarzan looked like he just got out of college.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just a sandwich.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Your Weekend Movie Guide for April 2018

Well, Easter was a little early this year.   It was usually April when my mother would make the unfamiliar trek on the subways from Mount Vernon, New York to take me to the Easter show at Radio City Music Hall.   She really loved the "Glory of Easter" stage show.   She wasn't going to church these days, but she would never miss this presentation.   Another great example of something that is not there anymore.

What are the big cinematic attractions this April?  You know the drill, gang. I'll sift through the entertainment pages of the Los Angeles Times and give you my knee jerk reaction to what's out there.

Looking at this ad, I barely remember this Disney movie.   But it's still likely to be ten times better than anything playing in 2018.

Beirut:   I remember Eddie Murphy's old joke on SNL.  "Beirut?   The guy on the Yankees?"

Ready Player One:  Lots of video game folks ran to see this.   I am not so I did not.

Lean on Pete:   I hear great things about this boy and his horse tale.

A Quiet Place:  A horror movie that features virtually no dialogue.   Because if you speak, the monsters kill you.   If only this was real life.

Blockers:  Parents dealing with their 16-year-old daughters' contest on losing virginity.  By the way, it is allegedly a comedy.

Sweet Country: An Aboriginal man goes on the run after he kills a white man in self-defense.  When does the sweet stuff come in?

Isle of Dogs:   Animated and the trailer seemed stupid.   Woof.

You Were Never Really Here:  Okay, I won't be.

The Death of Stalin:   A great comedy about the death of the dictator.   Laughs aplenty.  I mean it.

Finding Your Feet:    On the eve of retirement a middle class, a judgmental snob discovers her husband has been having an affair with her best friend and is forced into exile with her bohemian sister who lives on an impoverished inner-city council estate.  And say that three times fast.

The Rider:  A true story about a young rodeo star who suffers a head injury after falling off his horse.   Christopher Reeve should have taken note.

Chappaquiddick:  Reviewed here the other day.   An annoying reminder about how dumb Teddy Kennedy...and subsequently the state of Massachusetts...were.

Where Is Kyra:  Michelle Pfeiffer is a fragile woman is already stressed from a fast-paced world when her mother dies and she must find a means for survival while hiding her struggles from her new boyfriend.  Kiefer Sutherland is the boyfriend and any of his love interests are immediately doomed.

The Leisure Seeker:   Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland find romance. Great to see father and son working.

Rampage:   Dwayne Johnson as....oh, who am I kidding?

Tomb Raider:  Who is Lara Croft and why does she get movies made about her?

I Can Only Imagine:  There's no logline so I guess the title is appropriate.

The Miracle Season:  A high school girls' volleyball team loses its star player to a tragic accident.   So this is not about the 1969 Mets?

Sherlock Gnomes:  Gnome way.

Black Panther:  Been there, hated that.

Acrimony:  Tyler Perry's latest...and who am I kidding again?

Love, Simon:   A gay teenager looks for love.   Just like Andy Hardy except he was straight.

Super Troopers 2:  A second one??  Already???

Dolphins:  Another Disney nature movie...this one about...guess?  Flipper's attorney on line 3.

Duck Duck Goose:  A cartoon feature about...guess again?

The House of Tomorrow:  A 16-year-old lives with Grandma (Ellen Burstyn) in a geodesic dome.   Astroturf optional.

Ghost Stories:   These titles are getting too easy.

Gray Matter:  Aliens walk the country.  Build the wall.  Oh, wait...different aliens.

Let's Kill Grandpa This Christmas:  Just so you know this title isn't a metaphor, the family really wants to kill him this Christmas.

Little Pink House:  A small-town paramedic.   Sounds more like a TV series on Lifetime.

I Feel Pretty:  An Amy Schumer comedy.  For me, that's always a tragedy.

Kodachrome:  Ed Harris and Jason Sudeikis play a father and son on the road looking to develop a roll of film.   Where's a Fotomat when you need one?

Dinner last night:  Hot dog at Shake Shack.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

American Eye Dull

What goes around...well, you know.

Back in 2007, when I first started this blog, one of the major features was my weekly review of the proceedings on the then-Fox show "American Idol."  It was so much fun to be snarky about the program.   And, frankly, during those years, America was consumed with all things Idol.  You had your favorites.  You waited anxiously to hear what Simon Cowell had to say.   I will even admit to having dialed in with a vote from time to time.

Pretty quickly, I lost interest and eventually so did the rest of the country.   As soon as Cowell left, the judges lost their bite and the ensuing conga line of the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban were as uninteresting as the contestants.

I also started to realize that the show was incredibly manipulative to the extent of being practically rigged.  I mean, how is that they always managed to find some sob story amongst the early contestants and then that person managed to go to the top 12.   It seemed way too convenient.

When Idol went off the air two years ago, I might have watched the final episode for old time's sake.  Or maybe I didn't.  That's how memorable it all had become for me.

But, in 2018 where prime time television has probably just four or five useful ideas, ABC chose to resurrect Idol because "America was clamoring for it."  If they were, it was the quietest clamoring in history.   Perhaps it was all conjured up because people were distressed that Ryan Seacrest actually had less than five full time jobs on television.   I know I was worried that there might be an hour or two of the day without Ryan.

I was more than a little disgusted that ABC brought Idol back at all.  You see, I had a friend whose hour-long drama was all set to make it to the schedule. Except, once the network struck a deal with Idol, they needed to clear three or four hours of the prime time schedule for it.   There went some pretty promising shows.   There went my friend's program.  

I have been watching the ratings since Idol came back and I noticed that all the clamoring isn't being translated to audience metrics.  To say that nobody seems to care is an understatement.

But, I was curious enough to watch a couple of weeks in a row.   And, boy, was I sorry I did.

First off, the whole thing seems to be as mechanical as it ever was.   Some people might like to wear an old sweater.   The problem is that this version of Idol is moth-eaten, right down to Seacrest's overly amped "dim the lights."

Then there is the manipulation of the audience with the absolutely saddest stories from contestants.   Here's somebody born with just one leg and one arm.  Prop them and they will sing their heart out covering some Adele ballad. It's amazing how the producers manage to find those tales.   And then, once again, the same contestants somehow succeed.   Ugh.

Perhaps the worst part of this new iteration is the judging crew.   It's headed by Lionel Ritchie and he's obviously involved to pay off some extensive plastic surgery bills.  Then there's Luke Bryan and I will wait a moment while you stifle a yawn.

And then there's Katy Perry who is a complete idiot.   The major problem is that, unlike the original judges, Perry has totally forgotten that she's not the star of the show.   All her critiques are essentially all about her.  When one young and good looking metal rocker did his number, her histrionics were embarrassing up to the point where she pretended to faint on the stage.   The sad part is that somebody took the time to revive her.

I doubt I'll watch any more of "American Idol," but I also realize I will likely be drawn to the finale out of sheer boredom.   And I will lament whoever made the decision that America was actually dying to see more of this mess.   

But then there are folks out there who like to rubberneck car crashes.

Dinner last night:  Hamburger.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

This Date in History - April 18

Happy birthday in Heaven to Perry Mason's favorite secretary.  She just passed a little while ago.

1025:  BOLESLAW CHROBRY IS CROWNED IN GNIEZNO, BECOMING THE FIRST KING OF POLAND.

This is the second time the name "Boleslaw" has shown up here in a month and I simply can't resort to the coleslaw gag again.

1506:  THE CORNERSTONE OF THE CURRENT ST. PATER'S BASILICA IS LAID.

I didn't even know the cornerstone was sexually active.

1518:  BONA SFORZA IS CROWNED AS QUEEN CONSORT OF POLAND.

Bona Sforza sounds like a treat for Italian dogs.

1636:  ENGLISH JUDGE JULIUS CAESAR DIES.

Clever name your folks gave you, Julie.

1689: BOSTONIANS RISE UP IN REBELLION AGAINST ST. EDMUND ANDROS.

Andros must have been a Yankee fan.

1775:  DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, PAUL REVERE AND OTHER RIDES WARN THE COUNTRYSIDE OF THE TROOP MOVEMENTS.

One lone voice from a home on the way:  Shaddap!  You woke the baby!

1831:  THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA IS FOUNDED.

Where the tusks are looser.

1848:  AMERICAN VICTORY AT THE BATTLE OF CERRO GORDO OPENS THE WAY FOR INVASION OF MEXICO.

Back when the invasion was going south and not the other way around.

1881:  BILLY THE KID ESCAPES FROM THE LINCOLN COUNTY JAIL IN NEW MEXICO.

Who let the kid out?  Whoop, whoop, whoop.  Who let the kid out?  Whoop, whoop, whoop.

1906:  AN EARTHQUAKE AND FIRE DESTROY MUCH OF SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA.

I left my heart...and a whole lot of other body parts....in San Francisco.

1907:  MOVIE COMPOSER MIKLOS ROZSA IS BORN.

He did the fantastic score for "Ben-Hur," among hundreds of others.

1912:  THE CUNARD LINER "CARPATHIA"  BRINGS 705 SURVIVORS FROM THE "TITANIC" TO NEW YORK CITY.

Leonardo DiCaprio was not one of them.

1922:  ACTRESS BARBARA HALE IS BORN.

Made it all the way to 95.   She didn't get cheated.

1923:  YANKEE STADIUM OPENS.

The first one.  Just in case you didn't realize that.

1924:  SIMON AND SCHUSTER PUBLISHES THE FIRST CROSSWORD PUZZLE BOOK.

Finally people have something to do during long hospital stays.

1930:  BBC RADIO ANNOUNCES THAT THERE IS NO NEWS ON THIS DAY.

Well, that's good news.

1934:  ACTOR JAMES DRURY IS BORN.

TV's Virginian!!!!

1942:  DURING WORLD WAR II, JAPAN IS BOMBED DURING THE DOOLITTLE RAID.

That's hardly doing little.

1942:  BASEBALL PITCHER STEVE BLASS IS BORN.

And that's outside.  Ball four.

1945:  JOURNALIST ERNIE PYLE IS KILLED.

Now under one.

1946:  ACTRESS HAYLEY MILLS IS BORN.

I once saw her in the waiting room for an ultrasound.

1953:  ACTOR RICK MORANIS IS BORN.

Mommy, I shrunk your uterus.

1954:  GAMAL ABDAL NASSER SEIZES POWER IN EGYPT.

Several years before he started the United States' space program.

1955:  PHYSICIST ALBERT EINSTEIN DIES.

Well, there goes the Math club.

1958:  A UNITED STATES FEDERAL COURT RULES THAT POET EXRA POUND BE RELEASED FROM AN INSANE ASYLUM.

Having already gotten his pound of flesh.

1961:  ACTRESS JANE LEEVES IS BORN.

Daphne!!

1981:  THE LONGEST PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL GAME IS BEGUN IN PAWTUCKET, RHODE ISLAND.  THE GAME IS COMPLETED ON JUNE 23.

A tip of the cap to all those who stayed and had to go to work the next morning.

2002:  EXPLORER THOR HEYERDAHL DIES.

Kon-No-More-Tiki.

2002:  WRESTLER/PRO FOOTBALL PLAYER WAHOO MCDANIEL DIES.

I know of only one blog reader who will smile when he reads this.

2007:  THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES UPHOLDS THE PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION BAN ACT IN A 5-4 DECISION.

What the hell is a partial birth anyway?  The feet come out and the head stays in for a couple of years?

2012:  TV PERSONALITY DICK CLARK DIES.

Casket.   Flowers.   Mourners.  I got it.  "Things at a Funeral."

Dinner last night:  Leftover steak and tomatoes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Bridge Ahead

One more time, my Kennedy family infatuation continues.

First off, I've often thought of the 3 political Kennedy brothers as the Corleone family.   JFK was most like Michael, a bit ruthless but always able to cover it up behind a genuine persona.   Bobby was most like Sonny, doing the heavy hitting and also perhaps the one with the most mistresses.   And then there's Teddy, the true doppelganger for dumb schmuck Fredo.   

The new movie "Chappaquiddick" reminds me of the Fredo connection and totally reinforces it in my mind.   Jeez, Teddy Kennedy was a fucking idiot.

I guess you have to be over 45 and picked up a history book over that time to even know what the Chappaquiddick incident was.   On the 1969 weekend when man was first landing on the moon, Teddy and all his sycophants were boozing it on an island near Edgartown, Massachusetts.   They had a lot of the young girl campaign workers with them...wink, wink.   Well, Teddy and one of those chicks, Mary Jo Kopechne, left early...wink, wink.  Were they having an affair?  It's not really clear.   Allegedly, she was carrying his child.   That was never proven, unless you read the National Enquirer.

Well, anyway, Teddy's in a liquor haze and drives their car off a lonely bridge. The car submerges.   He gets out.   She drowns.   And then he spends the next nine hours trying to figure out his story and his future Presidential aspirations.

It's interesting to watch this film today in light of all the Trump nonsense with Stormy Daniels, Access Hollywood, etc..,   Because as sordid as that is all supposed to be, none of it holds a candle to the Machiavellian machinations Teddy and his gaggle of advisers used to cover up the truth here.   Not only are they sinister but some of the moments are downright hilarious.    I mean, the audience I was with was laughing out loud along with me.  Indeed, Teddy's wife makes a brief appearance and gets to utter one line of dialogue.

"Go fuck yourself, Teddy."

That single utterance is totally worth the price of admission.

Director John Curran was only nine years old when this all happened and the screenwriters weren't even born.   And, like those behind the movie "Jackie," they manage to get all the authenticity right.  If "Chappaquiddick" plays out a little clinically, that's not their fault.   It is the ultimate vagueness of what really happened that plays against them.  But still, my Google refreshment of my memory tells me that what is depicted here is pretty much close to the truth.

There are gaps, however.   The actual status of their affair and Mary Jo's possible pregnancy are glossed over.   Additionally, in any movie around the Kennedy family, the total absence of mother Rose was quite noticeable to me and several of my fellow audience members discussed just that on the way out.

Of course, we do get Bruce Dern as a drooling Joseph Kennedy, whose major appearance here is to croak out the word "alibi" and then slap his dim witted son.

One of the best things about this movie is the performance of Jason Clarke as Teddy.  Whereas lesser actors would do this as an impersonation, Clarke lays off the exaggerated mannerisms and, as a result, provides a more genuine portrayal.  

The now requisite historical update just before the end credits reminds all of the ultimate irony from this sinister crime.   Ted Kennedy never left the Senate.   As a matter of fact, the state of Massachusetts mysteriously kept reelecting this criminal until his bloated, boozed-up body finally quit in 2009.  

Some people talk about the Kennedys being cursed.   But the fact that this jerk kept his Senate job for another forty years, I would say this Kennedy was damn lucky.

I guess that's kind of anti-Fredo Corleone.

LEN'S RATING:  Three stars.

Dinner last night:  Ribeye steak and pan roasted tomatoes in balsamic jam.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday Morning Video Laugh - April 16, 2018

Who doesn't miss Mr. Bean?

Dinner last night:  Linguini with meat sauce.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Exploring a Family Photo

My search continues for memories left behind by my family.  Unfortunately, there is still very little on my mother's side, which remains a perplexing mystery for me.   But the paternal end of things is turning up some interesting relics.

My cousin Lisa is doing the same with Ancestry tests, etc..   Oddly, she is turning up about as much information on her mother as I am with mine.  But she dug up the above photo on our fathers' side and it is so revealing in so many ways.

A little history.   My paternal grandparents came to America in the early 20th Century.   They were not married at the time and they showed up separately.  Did they meet in Europe originally or was the hook-up here?  That is anybody's guess.   Indeed, their respective birth places change over the years.  In the 1920 census, my grandfather lists his birth place as Russia.  In the 1930 census, it was Poland.  In the 1940 census, both grandparents said that Germany was their homeland.  Hmmm.

Well, anyway, once they connected in the Bronx, New York, Grandma popped out four sons pretty quickly.   The oldest was August, named after my grandfather and my cousin Lisa's dad.   Next was Alfred, later called Fritz.  Then, Leonard or Lenny.  I am named after him.  The youngest son was Harold.  That was my dad.

So, from the photo above, we had to do some detective work to figure it all out.  Those are my grandparents in the middle.  Grandma's hair is dark.  I never saw that for myself.   Grandpa looks as stiff as a board.   But, as I zoomed in, I noticed something sweet and very unusual for my family.   Grandma and Grandpa are holding hands.   You would have had to be in my family to know that such public signs of affection are rare, to say the least.

Okay, so the three brothers from left to right are Fritz, Harold, and Augie.  They are all dressed in tuxedos which means this is a wedding.  But whose?  Well, although he is cut off a little on the right, Augie's tie seems to be different than the others.   So, Sherlock Holmes guess it's his wedding day.

Now, my cousin tells me her folks were married in November, 1946.  This would be eight months before my father and mother tied the knot.   Fritz' oldest son was born around 1945 so he was probably already wed in this picture.   The point being is that all three brothers had significant others who were probably at this gathering but didn't make the photo op.

Speaking of Fritz, you seem how big he appears to be.  That would be my memory of him.  He was the brother that was closest to my dad, but, frankly, the guy scared the bejeebers out of me every time this five-year-old saw him.  His appearance was that of a giant.   His voice was booming.  And every time he followed me up a flight of stairs, he'd give me a wedgie.  Charming.

I look at this photo and my dad appears small and relatively uncomfortable.  Comparatively, that was my image of him throughout life.   His personality was not one that would light up a room immediately.  Both Fritz and Augie had more bombastic personalities.   You heard their voices several rooms away.  My dad tended to blend more into the background.  He seems to do so in this photo as well.

Of course, as I am told the likely photo date from Lisa, I note that this would be about a short fifteen months after the fourth brother, Lenny, was killed in World War II.  Ironically, he died in action in the south of France just two weeks before the European portion of World War II ended in May of 1945.  So, Lenny is missing from this family photo and I wonder what the emotions were about that.

Or were there any emotions at all?  You never know because there is nobody to ask.   And they certainly never told me over time.   So we just have to be content with little glimpses of their lives in photographs like this.  

Fascinating and simultaneously sad.   Another reminder to ask the questions while you still have the opportunity.

Dinner last night:  Steak and shrimp with Szechwan sauce.