Wednesday, November 22, 2017

This Date in History - November 22

Finally!   After all these historical Wednesdays, we at last hit the date that changed America forever.   Let's see what else happened on this fateful day.

498:  AFTER THE DEATH OF ANASTASIUS II, SYMMACHUS IS ELECTED POPE IN THE LATERAN PALACE, WHILE LAURENTIUS IS ELECTED POPE IN SANTA MARIA MAGGIORE.

Hey, Pope, you can't say that Santa Maria Maggiore hasn't been nice to you today.

1307:  POPE CLEMENT V ISSUES THE PAPAL BULL PASTORALIS PRAEEMINENTIAE WHICH INSTRUCTED ALL CHRISTIAN MONARCHS IN EUROPE TO ARREST ALL TEMPLARS AND SEIZE THEIR ASSETS.

You mean Simon Templar?

1574:  SPANISH NAVIGATOR JUAN FERNANDEZ DISCOVERS ISLANDS NOW KNOWN AS THE JUAN FERNANDEZ ISLANDS OFF CHILE.

Now that's clever marketing.

1718:  OFF THE COAST OF NORTH CAROLINA, BRITISH PIRATE "BLACKBEARD" IS KILLED IN BATTLE.

"Mrs. Blackbeard jumped up and cried 'oh, no.'  The pirate ship sailed on."

1837:  CANADIAN JOURNALIST AND POLITICIAN WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE CALLS FOR A REBELLION AGAINST THE UNITED KINGDOM IN HIS ESSAY "TO THE PEOPLE OF UPPER CANADA."

And my mother used to say Canada was "Upper US."

1869:  IN SCOTLAND, THE CLIPPER CUTTY SARK IS LAUNCHED, ONE OF THE LAST CLIPPERS EVER BUILT.

A big deal apparently because it got its own liquor bottle.

1899:  PIANIST HOAGY CARMICHAEL IS BORN.

No, he did not invent the sandwich.

1902:  PHYSICIAN WALTER REED DIES.

Not in need of his own hospital now.

1921:  COMIC RODNEY DANGERFIELD IS BORN.

Gee, his 42nd birthday sucked.

1924:  ACTRESS GERALDINE PAGE IS BORN.

Gee, her 39th birthday sucked.

1928:  THE PREMIER PERFORMANCE OF RAVEL'S BOLERO TAKES PLACE IN PARIS.

How raveling.

1935:  THE CHINA CLIPPER INAUGURATES THE FIRST COMMERCIAL TRANSPACIFIC AIR SERVICE, CONNECTING CALIFORNIA WITH MANILA.

But it's no Cutty Sark.

1940:  ACTOR TERRY GILLIAM IS BORN.

Gee, his 23rd birthday...oh, you get the point.

1942:  WORLD WAR II - GENERAL FRIEDRICH PAULUS SENDS ADOLF HITLER A TELEGRAM SAYING THAT THE GERMAN 6TH ARMY IS SURROUNDED.

That took a lot of chutzpah.

1943:  WORLD WAR II - US PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER CHURCHILL AND CHINESE PREMIERE CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEET IN CAIRO TO DISCUSS WAYS TO DEFEAT JAPAN.

Hope somebody had a handicapped parking spot.

1943:  TENNIS STAR BILLIE JEAN KING IS BORN.

Big deal, she beat up a guy.  Not the first and not the last.

1954:  THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES IS FOUNDED.

No animals were harmed in the founding of this society.

1955:  ACTOR SHEMP HOWARD DIES.

The second greatest man to die on this date.

1958:  ACTRESS JAMIE LEE CURTIS IS BORN.

So you know what Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh were doing last February.

1963:  IN DALLAS......

Do I have to finish this?   Seriously, think about how history was altered on that day when he was shot.

1963:  FOOTBALL PLAYER HUGH MILLEN IS BORN.

And is a complete afterthought.

1963:  WRITER ALDOUS HUXLEY DIES.

Back seat, dude.   Brave new world and all.

1963:  POET C.S. LEWIS DIES.

Nobody noticed.

1968:  THE BEATLES RELEASE THEIR WHITE ALBUM.

You couldn't call it that today because it would be considered racist.

1974:  THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY GRANTS THE PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION OBSERVER STATUS.

What about bathroom privileges?

1975:  JUAN CARLOS IS DECLARED KING OF SPAIN FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF FRANCISCO FRANCO.

So this wasn't just a Chevy Chase joke?

1977:  BRITISH AIRWAYS INAUGURATES A REGULAR LONDON TO NYC SUPERSONIC CONCORDE SERVICE.

Don't bother looking for frequent flyer miles.

1980:  ACTRESS MAE WEST DIES.

Come up and see her some time.   Way up.

1986:  ACTOR SCATMAN CROTHERS DIES.

I'm guessing that wasn't his real first name.

1987:   TWO CHICAGO TV STATIONS ARE HIJACKED BY AN UNKNOWN PIRATE DRESSED AS MAX HEADROOM.

A big deal for about 32 seconds.

1990:  BRITISH PRIME MINISTER MARGARET THATCHER WITHDRAWS FROM THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADERSHIP ELECTION, CONFIRMING THE END OF HER PRIME MINISTERSHIP.

I'll bet this was a good day down in the coal mines.

1992:  ACTOR STERLING HOLLOWAY DIES.

Winnie the Pooh!

1995:  TOY STORY IS RELEASED AS THE FIRST FEATURE LENGTH FILM CREATED COMPLETELY USING COMPUTER GENERATED IMAGERY.

The first Pixar film and still the best.

2005:  ANGELA MERKEL BECOMES THE FIRST FEMALE CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY.

But she did not take her oath on Air Force One.

Dinner last night:  Leftover lasagna.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

When 35 Became 36

Since everybody refers to Trump simply as 45, I thought I would extend the numbering back to when John F. Kennedy was replaced by Lyndon Johnson.  That transition, numeric or otherwise, provides the main plot points of "LBJ," a new film by Rob Reiner.   I haven't seen Rob in his Dodger season seats for about a year and a half now.  Ah, so this is what he's been up to.

Oddly, the director prefaces this film's subject as somebody he hated back in the day.  After all, Johnson is the guy that threw us full bore into the Vietnam catastrophe and Rob, of course, was a peace loving protester in the late 60s. But, this movie covers very little of that.   Like last year's "Jackie," "LBJ" focuses mostly on the days between the assassination in Dallas to the new President's first speech to a joint session of Congress several days later.   And, also like "Jackie," this film takes you through a stylistic, yet imperfect journey.  

Not to say that the attention to detail is not spot on in "LBJ."   Kudos to the production designer in charge of setting the mood and the locations.   Not to say that the acting isn't great.   Woody Harrelson really captures Lyndon Johnson and the others are also no slouches.   Particular attention should be paid to Michael Stahl-David as Bobby Kennedy, Jeffrey Donovan as JFK, and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Bird.  Indeed, Donovan's JFK might be one of the best portrayals of that President on screen as it never falls into complete impersonation.

Oh, "LBJ" held my interest and its running time is nice and tight for a change.  But still, as it played out, I felt it was oddly superficial and never really delved into the inner workings of it all.  It came off more as a documentary and, frankly, I would probably have liked to see a documentary in the first place.  No new real ground was broken for somebody like me who has sucked in a lot of 20th century Presidential history.  It was intriguing to see the LBJ-RFK feud played out on the big screen, but there was no new information imparted. And, to me, they left out one scene I really would have liked to see.   It is well researched that, when Air Force One arrived back in Washington with JFK's body, RFK literally knocked over LBJ as he boarded the plane in his hurry to reach Jackie.  I missed that and it was a dramatic moment that could have enhanced the film.

Rob Reiner is making the rounds with this movie and did a Q and A at the screening I attended.   That tells me this is going to be a hard sell during the awards nomination season.   Especially if people like me find it as ultimately unsatisfying.

I liked it.   But I didn't love it.   And therein lies the issue.

LEN'S RATING:  For the authenticity alone, three stars.  Overall, two-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Beer bratwurst.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 20, 2017

An annual Thanksgiving classic clip from "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Dinner last night:  Steak and pan roasted tomatoes.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Remembering One Friday After Thanksgiving

Here we are again.   The week where we go off the rails.   Thanksgiving week.  

Starting with airport traffic, then the usual arguments among family members over turkey, and finally the running of the bulls into every shopping mall across America.

Are we having fun yet?

Personally, I love and embrace the notion of hosting friends for Thanksgiving Day dinner.   I view it all like a scientific process, beginning with the compilation of necessary cooking ingredients.  I start prepping and chopping and baking on Tuesday.   If you plan your time accordingly, cooking for that holiday should not be complicated.   The key is to keep your dishwasher going.  Over the course of three days, mine is running non-stop.

For me, the so-called "Black Friday" is one where I put my kitchen back in order.  I rarely leave the house and will usually bury myself on the couch with a movie or a book.  The fact that my friends and I have mercifully given up the tradition of swapping Christmas presents allows me to stay far from the department stores until sometime in January.

So the day after Thanksgiving is essentially a quiet one for me.   But I do remember one a long while ago.   A very special memory.

At a White Castle.


I will explain as we fondly remember that hamburger joint which still exists to some degree.   I mean, you can buy the frozen variety in your super market.

Now, the White Castle of my youth still sits in the very spot where I left it.  On the corner of Allerton Avenue and Boston Post Road in the Bronx, with the grills still cooking up those bizarre sliders of chopped meat, onion bits, and dill pickles.  This was the place of many good childhood memories.

And one lasting and final one from my adult life.

I don't remember how old I was when I first sampled that White Castle.  Maybe when I was five or six or seven.  But, most likely, I was in the back seat of some Buick as I anxiously awaited my father to roll down the driver's side window and give his order to some chick on roller skates.  Yep, she was probably a car hop who would be rolling back to us in five minutes with a tray full of goodies.  Next to getting pizza at Sorrento's underneath the White Plains Road elevated tracks near 233rd Street in the Bronx, White Castle was my favorite place to "eat out."

The combined flavor of meat patties with five holes punched into them and those fried onions was sheer heaven to me.  The sign on the building said "Buy 'Em by the Sack" and we did.  They were so small that I could wolf down five or six in one sitting.  We sat there in the car, constructing a dinner table out of the dashboard or maybe the back seat.  It was okay to get a little sloppy and those little onion bits would turn up on the leather interior days after the meal had been consumed.

My father would relate to me that this White Castle tradition had been handed down from a previous generation.  When he was a kid, they also got White Castle burgers, although I'm guessing it was a little harder to work the crank on the window that was needed to hold up the dinner tray.  Then, as he grew up, White Castle was the place to go after dances and movies with your dates.  I'd sit there hearing the stories, surveying the parking lot for any strands of history that hadn't been yet tucked away into a dusty book on a shelf.  This very drive-in restaurant had obviously acted as a very connective thread in the fabric of my family.

After a while, we stopped going and I completely forgot what a White Castle Hamburger tasted like.  Sure, there was one right across the street from Fordham University where I went to college, but we never went there.  We said they sold "murder burgers," not so much for the food quality but more because it frequently was the site of some robberies at gun point.

Yeah, White Castle disappeared from my world almost as quickly as it had appeared.

I flip the calendar pages ahead a number of years.  My father's prostate cancer had re-emerged and nestled in the bone of his leg.  Things were winding down for Dad, but he opted for a weekly chemo treatment anyway.  Usually, one of his cronies would pick him up and drive him every Friday for whatever injection he needed to have. 

So, getting back to the title of today's Memory Drawer, it was the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend and I was off.  I decided to give Dad's buddies the week off.  I'd do the honors of acting as driver for the day.  It was the least I could do for his pals who had so diligently helped him over the years.

As I helped him out of the doctor's office and into the car, I wondered what was next in the weekly routine.  Even when he was ill, my father was always all about a consistent schedule of events.  I asked him what happens next.

"Well, we usually go get something to eat."

Where?

"White Castle."

I was perplexed.  There wasn't one nearby in Mount Vernon.

"No, we go to the one down on Allerton.  Where we used to go."

Oh.  All the way down there, I thought.

Yes, all the way down.  And I shouldn't have questioned it for a single moment.

My father and I sat one more time in that parking lot.  The car hops were gone, but I brought the food out of the restaurant.  And we chomped down on five or six sliders as if the years had morphed all together into a single second.

I didn't know it that day, but it would be the very last meal I would share with my father.  Indeed, it was also the very last good memory I would keep of him.

When I went back to work after his death several months later, my friends in the office walked in and said they wanted to do something for me.  They brought in a wrapped frame.  It contained a colored sketch of one of the first White Castle restaurants.  I had obviously mentioned the significance at some point.

An odd way to commemorate my father?  Really it was the only and...best way.

The artwork still hangs in my New York apartment.   For some reason, I never moved it to California.   I should.   That way I could look at on the day after Thanksgiving.

Dinner last night:  Spaghetti with olive oil and shrimp at Gio Cucina.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Classic TV Theme of the Month - November 2017

You might remember "Make Room for Daddy," but what about "Make Room for Granddaddy?"

Dinner last night:  Hamburger.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Your Weekend Movie Guide for November 2017

Holy crap!  Is this movie already 50 years old???   "The Jungle Book" was one of the last movies Walt Disney actually supervised and brings us back to the day when the holiday season always meant one or two new releases for Buena Vista.  This one was obviously a big deal given the televised premiere with big stars in attendance.

Ah, Hollywood the way it ought to be.   Gee, I wonder how special the releases will be this Thanksgiving.  You know the drill, folks.  I'll scour the entertainment pages of the LA Times and give you my knee jerk reaction to the crap being dumped on our cinema doorsteps.

Indeed, the meat on your Thanksgiving table might not be the only turkey you experience this month.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri:   Blog review coming.   Spoiler alert:  Recommended.

Mudbound:   The title alone is a turn off.

Wait For Your Laugh:  Documentary about the legendary Rose Marie.  I am actually going to see it tomorrow night.

Novitiate:   Fun and games in a convent.   That's a joke.

A Fantastic Woman:  From Chile.  That's all I got.

Murder on the Orient Express:   Blog review coming.  Major derailment.

Thor - Ragnarok:  I am so far behind when it comes to super heroes.

Lady Bird:  Reviewed here the other day.   Go see it so you won't be left out on Oscar night.

Last Flag Flying:  The annual "Steve Carell desperately wants an Oscar" film.

Victoria and Abdul:   I heard this actually will start a coma.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer:   Bambi's mother again?

The Square:  Me in high school?

The Florida Project:  If it's about them seceding from the nation, I'll see it.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected):   Don't waste your money.   It's on Netflix.   On second thought, don't waste your time there.

A Bad Moms Christmas:  Better known as the Joan Crawford Christmas Special.

Daddy's Home 2:  Time to call Social Services.

Blade of the Mortal:   Sounds Kung fu-ey to me.

Jigsaw:  Puzzle.  Is this Password?

Tyler Perry's Boo 2:   The streak is alive.  I still have not seen a Tyler Perry movie.

LBJ:  Rob Reiner makes the President rather uninteresting.   I can't wait to see what he does with Trump.

American Made:  Tom Cruise as a TWA pilot who flew missions for the CIA.  For those of you who remember what TWA was.

Angelica:  Sexual repression in Victorian London.   An oxymoron if I ever heard one.

Almost Friends:  A twentysomething slacker hits on a local barista.  You might need that extra shot of espresso.

Attack of the Killer Donuts:   My money is on glazed.

Cook Off:  A mock documentary about a cooking competition.   This is the type of movie Christopher Guest would soar with.   Unfortunately, he's not involved.

I Love You, Daddy:  Louis CK's vanity project, so see it before the authorities embargo it.

Justice League:  Batman and Wonder Woman team up.   Ben Affleck is Batman.  Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman.  Len is At Home.

Roman J Israel, Esq:  Denzel Washington's yearly scenery gluttony.   And, by the way, he's my next guess for Hollywood Sexual Predator.

Wonder:  A fifth grader is mainstreamed in school.   Julia Roberts stars.   I hear this is a five Kleenex movie.

The Star:  It's a little donkey's first Christmas.   This is a cartoon, not a documentary about the President lighting the White House Christmas tree.

Destined:  Something about living in a parallel universe.   I want the one where movies like this are not playing.

Mr. Roosevelt:  This is a trick.   It has nothing to do with the President.

Geostorm:  70 percent chance of sleeping in the theater.

Dinner last night:  Lasagna.






Thursday, November 16, 2017

Len's Recipe of the Month - November 2017

Sorry.   Just because it's November, I'm not going to bore you with a Thanksgiving recipe.   Nope, this one is perfect for any Sunday dinner.   It's ideal for slow cooking the day away.

Technically, this is called Honey Pork Tenderloin and the slow cooker makes it so moist and tender.   Simple to make, gang.

First, slice up an onion and lay it on the bottom of a crock pot.   Use a cellophane liner for easy clean-up.

With a 1 1/2 to 2 pound pork tenderloin in hand, make about four to five slits on the top.   Stick a clove of garlic into each one.  Lay the meat on top of the onions.  Put some kosher salt and pepper on top.

In a bowl, mix the following:

1/4 cup EVO.   Yes, that's extra virgin olive oil, you cooking neophytes.

1 cup of chicken stock or broth.

1/4 cup of soy sauce.

1/2 cup of honey.

Mix well and pour it into the crock pot.

Set the machine on low for 4 hours.   And you're done.

Pull the meat out and let it rest for 15 minutes while you make some sides of your choice.   In the picture above, I did some heirloom rice and broccoli.

Serve the meat with the onions.

Eat it up like a pig.

Dinner last night:  Lasagna.