Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Our Class Is Going Where?

Driving around my hometown of Mount Vernon, New York the other day, I naturally passed by my grade school on South 11th Avenue.  The Grimes School. From the recent photo above, I think you could make it singular, not plural. Just plain Grime School.

A few blocks away, I saw a school bus and this carted me back to a marriage of those images.  School trips I had in elementary or junior high school.

Ah, the memories.

Over the years, I've heard about some really nifty class trips taken by the kids of my friends. Washington DC, Canada, Europe.

Me? I went to Manhattan. Twice. On two of the perhaps most miscalculated excursions for seventh or eighth graders.

I had a music teacher, Mr. Ferraro, who liked to indoctrinate us all in the various forms of musical presentations. At Christmas time, we dug into "Amahl and the Night Visitors" for a while. And, for some reason, he loved to get us wrapped up with Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. Remembering now a little bit more about Mr. Ferraro, I probably should not have been surprised by that.

And then he tried to bring us into the world of opera.

He got us a special deal to go down to the Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center for a Wednesday matinee performance of Mozart's "The Magic Flute." For weeks before, we took entire classes to listen to the music and read the libretto. Every nuance of the story was studied and digested. God help us, we were going to get cultured.

Except Mr. Ferraro had goofed. He had acted so quickly on that great deal of tickets he had neglected to note that this afternoon's performance of "The Magic Flute" would be done in German. "Die Zauberflote."

Huh????

All the English libretto advance work went up in flames as the first word was sung by somebody who might as well have been reading us "Mein Kampf." The scene in our balcony turned ugly very quickly. Bic pens were hallowed out to be used for spitballs. Mr. Ferraro got the brunt of the spit-laden wads. Never before had Lincoln Center been the scene of such a battle. Three hours of singing the word "schnitzel" over and over seemed longer and more deadly than the Battle of the Bulge.

My class trip two years later wouldn't be much better. It was English class taught by Miss Dennis, a nasty bit of business who also loved to cram some Broadway dramas down our windpipes. Remembering now a little bit more about Miss Dennis, I also should not have been surprised. Nevertheless, she wanted to bring us to the "theatrah" and did so by scoring a great deal on tickets to a Wednesday matinee performance of Joseph Heller's "We Bombed in New Haven" and it bombed in New York as well. This would be my first ever Broadway show. It is miraculous that it was not my last.

Perhaps this was a play that Miss Dennis desperately wanted to see. Because, had she done a little homework, she would have realized that this was not one suited for a bunch of thirteen-year-olds who were still being challenged by last night's episode of "I Dream of Jeannie." I think this was an anti-war piece. Or existential? Or about saving an endangered mule? 

We had no clue. This thing was so far over our heads, most of us wound up in catatonic states high up in the balcony of the Ambassador Theater. With Bic pens not available, we resorted to another teen-age pastime: snoring. I've done some research and I see that this play starred Jason Robards Jr., Diana Sands, and Ron Liebman. Unless they were appearing on the back of my eyelids that afternoon, I never saw any of them.

The yellow school bus never looked more inviting than on the trip home from these two disasters.

Dinner last night:  Sausage, peppers, and onions at Carlo's.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - March 2017

Fifty years ago this month.  Remembering one of Mary Tyler Moore's rare big screen appearances.

Dinner last night:  Chateau briand at the Hilton Woodcliff Lakes.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Hey! Did You See That Sign?












Dinner last night:  Skirt steak at Kingside.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Un Dia A La Vez

No, you didn't hit the Spanish button on your computer.   I'm just trying to join the diversity bandwagon.  Of course, if you're watching any TV show these days, you can't avoid that diversity bandwagon.   So many people have climbed on board that the wheels are starting to come off.

The latest example is a new Netflix series that is a reworking of the popular Norman Lear sitcom of the 70s and 80s, "One Day At A Time."   You probably know that if you read Spanish and saw today's blog entry title.  Indeed, Lear is working actively with Sony and Netflix to re-imagine and re-engineer all those famous "social content" sitcoms.   I am sure in short order that Archie Bunker will be a Black conservative, George Jefferson will be a Muslim, and Maude Findlay will have just gone through a transgender process.

Everything old is diverse again in 2017.

Okay, so first up for a 21st century update is the old "single mother in Indianapolis" concept that starred the late Bonnie Franklin, Mackenzie Phillips, the late Pat Harrington Jr, and Valerie something or other.  All right.  I admit to watching that show but largely due to raging hormones for that...er...Valerie something or other.

Now there are those that will argue the original was loud and shrill and I won't put up an argument to that.   It's amazing how raging hormones will tone down what others hear as histrionics.  Indeed, I did enjoy that show when it was not preaching from Norman Lear's political soap box and concentrating more on typical teenage issues like dating.  

To those of you who thought the first edition of "One Day At A Time" was loud and shrill, well, cover your ears if you want to sample Season 1 of the reboot.  It will challenge your auditory senses in ways not imaginable.

Right from the get go, you know this is "One Day At A Time."  The opening credits feature the old theme song but with a salsa twist.   The apartment set is virtually same, although it has been moved from Indianapolis to a Hispanic neighborhood in East LA.  There is even a lummox of a handyman named Schneider, albeit a trifle younger.  And, in even better news, the show is once again shot in front of a live studio audience, many of whom must be amped up on sugar because they scream delight at every joke.

But, in 2017, the old Romano/Cooper household has been replaced by a Cuban-American family.   Elena is newly separated from both the military and her husband.   Now she's doing her best, earning a living as a doctor's assistant and raising two snarky teenagers.   Instead of two girls, the kids are now a girl, Penelope, and a younger boy/con artist named Alex.  

Also deviating from the original is the inclusion of Lydia, their feisty live-in grandmother.  Rita Moreno has scored this role.   Rita's in her 80s but playing 70 and actually pulling that off.   The only problem is her character is so super annoying that she will get old in a hurry.   She's trying to be the same comic relief that Estelle Getty provided on "The Golden Girls."  Except Moreno's delivering every line like Manny Pacquiao in the 8th round of a prize fight.   How do you say "oy" in Spanish?

I've sampled four episodes so far and the tone is typically loud and overbearing when it comes to social issues.   Again, just like the original, the series is a lot more interesting when the plots are kept simple.  And the screaming is kept to a minimum.  But, as I've said, this is 2017 and we are going to have this type of content crammed down our throats like it is castor oil.  Indeed, another diversity box is supposedly clicked later on in Season 1 when I hear that Penelope announces that she is...  Okay, you connect the dots.

At the end of the day, I really have nothing against reboots like this "One Day At A Time" especially if they continue to push the multi-camera, live studio audience format.  But, this one feels like change for the sake of 2017 change and, while mildly entertaining, it's really pointless.

And trust me.   There are no raging hormones as I watch this one.

Dinner last night:  Spicy cashew chicken at the Cheesecake Factory.





Wednesday, March 22, 2017

This Date in History - March 22

Happy birthday, Stephen Sondheim.   A Broadway genius.

238:  GORDIAN I AND HIS SON GORDIAN II ARE PROCLAIMED ROMAN EMPERORS.

Having co-leaders of a country never works.

1508:  FERDINAND II OF ARAGON COMMISSIONS AMERIGO VESPUCCI CHIEF NAVIGATOR OF THE SPANISH EMPIRE.

Hopefully with an expense account.

1622:  JAMESTOWN MASSACRE - ALGONQUIAN INDIANS KILL 347 ENGLISH SETTLERS AROUND JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA DURING THE SECOND ANGLO-POWHATAN WAR.

Powhatan sounds like a perfect name for a future Indian casino.

1630:  THE MASSACHUSETTS BAY COLONY OUTLAWS THE POSSESSION OF CARDS, DICE, AND GAMING TABLES.

So there goes the casino idea.

1638:  ANNE HUTCHINSON IS EXPELLED FROM MASSACHUSETTS BAY COLONY FOR RELIGIOUS DISSENT.

Meanwhile, her Westchester County parkway is one of the worst roads to drive in the nation.

1765:  THE BRITISH PARLIAMENT PASSES THE STAMP ACT THAT INTRODUCES A TAX TO BE LEVIED DIRECTLY ON ITS AMERICAN COLONIES.

And we've been nailed ever since.

1784:  THE EMERALD BUDDHA IS MOVED WITH GREAT CEREMONY TO ITS CURRENT LOCATION IN THAILAND.

I've got a take-out menu for Emerald Buddha somewhere in this house.

1871:  IN NORTH CAROLINA, WILLIAM WOODS HOLDEN BECOMES THE FIRST GOVERNOR OF A US STATE TO BE REMOVED FROM OFFICE BY IMPEACHMENT.

I'm surprised there haven't been thousands of politicians facing impeachment.

1872:  IILINOIS BECOMES THE FIRST STATE TO REQUIRE GENDER EQUALITY IN EMPLOYMENT.   

Before they could vote?

1887:  ACTOR CHICO MARX IS BORN.

Get-a your tootsie frootsie ice cream.

1888:  MY GRANDFATHER WAS BORN.

Oddly enough, he died on March 23...the very next day...78 years later.

1894:  THE FIRST PLAYOFF GAME FOR THE STANLEY CUP STARTS.

Even then, the playoffs were too long.

1912:  ACTOR KARL MALDEN IS BORN.

American Express Card Member Number 1.

1920:  ACTOR WERNER KLEMPERER IS BORN.

Hogan!

1930:  COMPOSER STEPHEN SONDHEIM IS BORN.

Merrily He Comes Along.

1931:  ACTOR WILLIAM SHATNER IS BORN.

I use the word "actor" loosely.

1939:  WORLD WAR II - GERMANY TAKES MEMEL FROM LITHUANIA.

Germany took everything in those days.

1945:  THE ARAB LEAGUE IS FOUNDED WHEN A CHARTER IS ADOPTED IN CAIRO, EGYPT.

This league featured a DT....Designated Terrorist.

1958:  FILM PRODUCER MIKE TODD DIES IN A PLANE CRASH.

Married Liz Taylor, won an Oscar, and then died.   Life ain't fair.

1960:  ARTHUR LEONARD SCHAWLOW AND CHARLES HARD TOWNES RECEIVE THE FIRST PATENT FOR A LASER.

Just in case it ever comes up when you're a contestant on Jeopardy.

1972:  THE US CONGRESS SENDS THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT TO THE STATES FOR RATIFICATION.

See how long this shit takes to pass.

1978:  KARL WALLENDA OF THE FLYING WALLENDAS DIES AFTER FALLING OFF A TIGHTROPE BETWEEN TWO HOTELS IN PUERTO RICO.

Well, he said he would be right down.

1992:  US AIR FLIGHT 405 CRASHES SHORTLY AFTER TAKEOFF FROM NY'S LAGUARDIA AIRPORT, LEADING TO A NUMBER OF SUTDIES INTO THE EFFECT THAT ICE HAS ON AIRCRAFT.

Duh.

1993:  THE INTEL CORPORATION SHIPS THE FIRST PENTIUM CHIPS.

In Ranch and BBQ flavors.

1994:  ANIMATOR WALTER LANTZ DIES.

Woody Woodpecker weeps.

1995:  COSMONAUT VALERI POLYAKOV RETURNS TO EARTH AFTER SETTING A RECORD OF 438 DAYS IN SPACE.

He obviously had a lot of vacation time coming.

1997:  THE COMET HALE-BOPP HAS ITS CLOSEST APPROACH TO EARTH.

Slow news day...that March 22, 1997.

2013:  BASKETBALL STAR RAY WILLIAMS DIES.

From my home town of Mount Vernon, New York.

2016:  ACTRESS RITA GAM DIES.

And I bet she had nice ones.

Dinner last night:  Roast beef sandwich at the NY abode.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

38 Minutes

That's how long I lasted in the theater before I picked up my stuff and left "Song To Song."   This is a movie that goes down in Len history as the very, very first film that I have ever walked out of.   

Think about it.   I go to the movies a lot.   I've seen tons of them in my life.   For this to be the very first that drove me to the exit early, this has to be pretty monumentally bad.   Especially when you consider ticket prices of $17 and up these days.

But, indeed, "Song To Song" was disastrous to epic, 9/11 proportions.   I mean, I innocently considered it because I wanted to have a nice Saturday night out.  I look at the logline and see it's about the Austin, Texas music scene and several romantic entanglements amongst its characters.   You look at the cast and you are intrigued.  Michael Fassbender.   Ryan Gosling.   Natalie Portman.  Rooney Mara.   Cate Blanchett and Holly Hunter in support.   Easy to buy in.

But I should have paid attention to the fact that the director was legendary blowhard Terrence Malick who photographs landscapes and calls them movies. To say that "Song To Song" had no plot would be an exaggeration.   There was very little dialogue as his characters simply spun out fields or puddles or apartment drapes.   

Surprise, surprise...there were four other people who left before we did.   Had we acted sooner, we could have crawled into Kong:Skull Island next door.   Too late.

As I write about this complete waste of an evening and money, I am getting even more incensed.   The less said about "Song To Song," the better.

LEN'S RATING:  Is it possible to grade a movie with less than zero stars?

Dinner last night:  Leftover franks and beans.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Morning Video Laugh - March 20, 2017

This month we continue the tenth anniversary celebration of this blog with this classic Monday morning laugh.   Watch where you're going.

Dinner last night:  Franks and beans.