Saturday, June 30, 2007

Parental Guidance

It was one of my aimless summer evenings with nothing to do. At the end of the night, I am once again bemused and confused by the human sideshow around us all. I've discussed these types of evenings before. Baseball is done early. Nothing really compelling me to stay home. And I have a myriad of multiplex movie outlets within either walking or short driving distance. I choose the Century City mall theater, primarily because there is a nifty Chinese restaurant now in the food court. I scan the pages for the start times of some mildly diverting films. You know the kind. The stuff you don't necessarily want to see with another person, but one that could hold your limited interest for two hours.

Knocked Up. 6:40PM. Perfectamundo.

Knocked Up is one of those movies that got mystifyingly good reviews. It is heralded as a great comedy. I am always suspicious, since critics also hurled the same platitudes at crap like "Anchorman" and "Blades of Glory." The former did incredible damage to my retinas. Knocked Up is also coming in at 2 hours and nine minutes, which is five minutes longer than the greatest film comedy of all time --- Some Like It Hot. Is Knocked Up worth five more minutes of screentime? I doubt it. But, I head into the theater nonetheless, knowing fully well that the just ingested BBQ pork and fried rice might be the highlight of my night.

Okay, great screen comedy? Not by a long shot. It had its amusing spots. I don't see this Seth Rogan as the fabulous comedic actor that the reviews would purport him to be. Indeed, the whole story was rather slight and sitcomy. And very, very, very R-rated.

There are two pretty graphic sex scenes. There are numerous scenes of bong hits. And the F-bomb is dropped so much, I was convinced that the screenwriter was getting a royalty every time he used it like those two sisters who wrote the song "Happy Birthday to You." Most of the toilet humor above was totally unnecessary.

So, what's the big deal with all this? Well, the theater was jammed with parents and their 10 year-old children. I had to doublecheck the poster in the lobby. Yep, Rated R for drug use, language, and sexual content. There was a little girl seated next to me. She fidgeted through all the sex scenes, as her mother laughed liberally throughout many parts of the film. Two 12 year-old boys in front of me highfived each other with glee everytime the F-bomb was dropped. It was like they just scored big time on Asteroids. I wish I knew what the adult with them thought of the film. She conked out about ten minutes in.

This was the most R-rated of all R-rated films. And, yes, a parent can certainly accompany their children to such a movie. That is what I guess they call "parental guidance." I'm sure most of the adults there went home with their charges and had very frank conversations on the proper way in which you can get drunk and then have a one night stand. And I can imagine the lessons in grammar that ensured. "Hey, Mom, is the F word a noun, an adjective, a verb, or a participle?" From this movie, they wouldn't be able to tell.

Maybe I'm being too hard on these parents. Perhaps there was just some mass confusion in this movie theater. Knocked Up. Surf's Up. It's easy to mistake one for the other. I frequently can't tell the difference between a bunch of bong-hitting slackers and a few penguins surfing in Maui.

No, wait, maybe the title was misleading. Knocked Up. Folks might think it's a documentary on the history of alarm clocks in England. Isn't that the expression they use across the pond? Knocked up is akin to being awakened out of a sound sleep. Sure, that has to be the explanation. Because parents can't be that stupid.

Maybe the joke's on me.

Dinner last night: grilled bratwurst at the Dodger game.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Error: Mets

When I was in NY last weekend, I got the opportunity to see two stadium construction sites in one 24-hour period. Of course, I was at Shea on Saturday and you can't miss the lumbering new monstrosity that is literally ten feet away from the current outfield wall. I was amazed to see how much progress had been made there since I was last on the site in mid-May.

The following day, I drove by the old Yankee Stadium which is now buttressed by the burgeoning New Yankee Stadium. The Little League ball fields next door have been replaced by concrete and cranes, all designed to bring Lord Steinbrenner the 200 or so luxury suites he has been lusting for since the days when he had real hair.

It's going to be a glorious two baseball seasons for New Yorkers starting in 2008. Since both parks are scheduled to open in April of 2009, that means next season will mark the tearful closing days of both Shea Stadium and the Urinal Also Known as Yankee Stadium. It will be a completely simultaneous event.

Yep, the Mets blew it again. When it comes to all things away from the ballfield, the Mets never ever can get out of their own way, especially when it comes to the organization on 161st Street and River Avenue. The Metsies have always been played for patsies by the Pinstripe crew and this construction timeline is just one more black mark on their souls. Of course, this time around, the big ole raspberry goes to Met COO Jeff Wilpon, who has never struck me as being a rocket scientist. The hard hat he is wearing in the photo above is essentially a useless tool. In my opinion, it protects nothing vital. Of course, Junior Wilpon and I have a past ugly history from some nasty correspondence a few seasons back. He proved to me in those dialogues that he was a jerk. Point reinforced.

The Mets and Yankees have been clamoring for new ballparks since the 90's. Shea has been held together structurally with Krazy Glue. The place has been a dump that even Fred Sanford wouldn't live in. Indeed, it probably only had about ten good years in it. The stadium is 44 years old, but it looks twice its years. Yankee Stadium had its big makeover in 1976 and it really resembles nothing of the column-laden palace that was erected in the 20s. They talk about it as being hallowed ground, but the current Yankee Stadium has virtually nothing in common with the House That Ruth Built, except for the dirt where Derek Jeter regularly spits. It is still outdated and there is a nursing home-like urine in all the bathrooms. And Fat George, of course, has long craved those big corporate spenders who buy luxury boxes and frequent the seventh inning dessert cart.

Had it not been for 9/11, both clubs would probably have gotten their new ballparks by now. But, that national calamity very appropriately upended those plans for a while. It's tough to build a couple of moneymakers while construction workers are busy picking through bone fragments in another part of the city. But, obviously, enough mourning time has elapsed.

And the question bears asking. Since the Mets announced their Citi Field plans first, weren't they essentially trumped by the Yankees' later announcement to open their new park in the exact same month of the exact same year? Of course, they were. And, given the current rotation of opening days in New York, the team having the first home opener in 2009 would be....the Yankees. By opening new ballparks in the same season, the Yankees once again steal the Mets' thunder.

Moreover, closing seasons of old ballparks tend to be quite ceremonious and often poignant. The climactic days of Shea will now be in the shadows of the waning sun of Yankee Stadium, which, as I remarked above, is still revered even though it is a mere shell of its original incarnation. To boot, the Yankees in 2008 will give their grand old stadium one last big hoopla by hosting the All Star Game. Meanwhile, the Mets haven't hosted the Midsummer Classic since its inaugural season in 1964. The Mets once again get played.

It happens over and over and over. Heck, the Mets' closer, Billy Wagner, even copied Mariano Rivera's entrance song. As much as they try on the field, they can never get out of the way of the speeding bus. No matter what they do, the Yankees are always Wally and the Mets are always the Beaver. The latest boob to let this trend continue is the screwball up above wearing a helmet that is protecting essentially nothing.

Dinner last night: BBQ pork and fried rice at the Century City food court.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Prison Look


Summer is here. It's time for fun at the beach and the pool. Loads of folks dressing light for their flights to some oasis. Cool comfortable clothing is the order.

And it's also time for the rest of us to be subjected to the growing phenomenon of body art. When I was in JFK Airport the other day, there was a guy getting on ahead of me whose arms were literally covered in some sort of pattern that can only be LSD-induced for most people. A woman on the same flight was already in Pirates of The Caribbean 3 mode as Captain Jack Sparrow smiled at me from a spot between the clavicles of her back.

What the hell are these people thinking? You are sticking dye into living flesh. I don't care what kind of disclaimers they tell you. This can't be good. Why do I think that, twenty years from now, thousands of people are going to be in long term health facilities as a result of toxic poisoning.

Your body is not the Louvre. Are you that low in the self esteem department that you need this kind of attention called to you? And the stuff ain't pretty. Plus when the skin sags, Johnny Depp starts to look like Foster Brooks.

When I was a kid, there was one such tattoo parlor in my neighborhood. Joe's Tattoo Parlor. You could always count on about 4 or 5 motorcycles to be parked outside. The denizens all looked like they knew how to work those shirt folding machines you might in detention centers. When I had to go to the grocery or drug store for my mom, my path always took me past Joe's. And I always managed to hit my top "running an errand" speed as I passed by. Not that I was frightened by the customer base. Nope.

The whirring sound of that freakin' needle was enough to scare the Raisinets out of me.

Now, it's all so chic. Until you realize that it's not so smart to have your old boyfriend's name showing up on your arm in the wedding pictures.

Dinner last night: kobe burger at the Cheesecake Factory.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Happy Hump Day to You


Some reflections from NY, LA, and nowhere in between. Here I am in the Western Time Zone and thinking about my week in the Eastern Time Zone.

---Coming back to LA, the airport was full of families with kids. Vacation time.

---Doesn't anybody spend a summer simply sitting on a porch with a lemonade and a game of Strat-o-Matic?

---I was sitting adjacent to the restroom on the flight back. It is absolutely astounding how many people walk into that room in either stocking or bare feet?

---It's a public bathroom, for corn's sake! You might as well be in the bus terminal.

---I am betting not every guy hits the toilet on the first shot. You wanna walk in that???

---I saw a trailer for a new horror movie "Captivity." It stars Elisha (see above) Cuthbert, formerly Kim Bauer of "24." On that show, she has been stalked by terrorists, mountain lions, wife abusers, and other deep dark denizens. She obviously doesn't get a break in her movie career either.

---She probably doesn't know how to leave the house in the morning unless there's duct tape over her mouth and electrical cord tied around her wrists and ankles.

---I saw "1408" a good old fashioned horror movie. Poltergeist in a hotel room. John Cusack is one of our more underused and underappreciated actors.

---Lots of fun, but totally predictable. You'll know the false early ending when you see it. Pay attention to the clock radio. That tells you how much time is left in the movie.

---What happens to Cusack in that posh NY hotel room is nothing compared to what is really happening in hotels all over the city.

---The March of the Killer Bedbugs. I know three people who wound up with them hitchhiking in their Louis Vuittons.

---So when you see that hayseed scratching himself silly in the Times Square ESPN Zone, you'll know why.

---Hey, everybody, Paris Hilton is out of jail!

---Now, all those folks in LA should now resume looking both ways before they cross the street.

---I see her first post-hoosegow sit is with that noted journalist Larry King.

---The toughest question he ever asked is "does that come with cole slaw?"

---The question that Larry should be asking on a daily basis is "does anybody have a Beano?"

---I was at the Mets-A's game Saturday night at Shea. Dominic Chianese, Uncle Junior from "The Sopranos," sang the national anthem marvelously.

---I overheard this from two airheads behind me. Guy 1: "Gee, he's got a great voice. I didn't know he could sing." Guy 2: "Yeah, and he remembered all the words. Doesn't he have Ahlzeimer's?"

---I had to turn around and see if this was said with a straight face.

---It was.

---Morons.

---I also got treated to a day at Coney Island to see the Single A Brooklyn Cyclones play on the boardwalk at wonderful Keyspan Park.

---Minor league ball is a hoot. They do anything and everything to keep the crowd engaged between innings. Ball tosses. Hot dog races. Some guy dressed like King Kullen dancing on the dugout.

---The only thing missing was Bob Barker and that damn Plinko game.

---It must have been glorious back in the 50s when the Dodgers were your neighbors. The true neighborhood ballclub.

---They're commemorating the fact that the Dodgers deserted Brooklyn 50 years ago this season. A bunch of the oldtimers are still bemoaning this.

---With all due respect, get over it!

---Back in 1956 and 1957, the Dodgers were drawing about 6,000 people per game. If they had stayed in NY, they would have moved to Long Island or Westchester by now. Face facts. The neighborhood changed. Like they all do.

---And, speaking of which, what a dump my home city of Yonkers has become! I went to Best Buy on Central Avenue and it looked like London after the blitzkreig.

---Was there an airlift from Bangladesh and nobody told me? I felt like I was in another country.

---I am now requesting they put signs in store windows. "English Spoken Here."

---I still don't know whether or not they had what I was looking for. BECAUSE I COULDN'T FIND ANYBODY WHO UNDERSTOOD ME!!!

---You know that sign they put up for apartment rentals? "If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home by Now."

---Well, as far as Yonkers is concerned, "If I Still Lived There, I Would Have Moved By Now."

Home, James!

Dinner last night: back in LA for a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich from Clementine's.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cool Summer Reading





With the summer season upon us, I will, from time to time, draw on some special memories of summers past. They came fast and furious during this trip to NY.

I can tell you that, as a kid, the months of July and August always prompted some voracious reading on my part. There was always something different about diving into a book when you didn't have to as opposed to when it was assigned to you by some nutty seventh grade English teacher. All those designated "must-reads" ever did was promote the opportunities to make sport of the titles.

Silly Ass Marner.

Great Expectorations.

And the boys locker room classic: A Sale of Two Titties.

Reading on hot and humid nights was a completely different thing, though. I couldn't wait to hit a book around 9PM and go till about 12 Midnight. Even then, my reading preference tended to be more film and sports biographies. I would attack a novel from time to time. Usually, if some best seller was being made into a movie for summer release, I would race to finish the book before seeing the film. I remember vividly the breakneck speed at which I finished "The Godfather." And, for this innocent youngster, Page 27 was more education than I ever needed.

But, the simple act of nightly reading was not the complete nirvana. I had another bizarre ritual that went along with it hand-in-hand.

I did not grow up in central air conditioning. Far from it. We had one room that was air conditioned. The living room. The rest of the house was up for murky grabs. The only cooling process was this huge window fan in the kitchen. Now, my father had this scientific procedure that managed to effectively cool the whole house by simply shutting some doors. The fan drew a healthy breeze from all other open windows and, voila, a cool night for all.

I loved the sound of that fan. Especially when it was on high. For me, it was akin to listening to the roar of the ocean. The fan in the kitchen was situated right next to a china closet. And there is where my summer nightly reading took place. With a tensor lamp and me wedged in between the fan and the china closet with a good book. It was almost like my own private little cave.

To this day, the sound of an electric fan does a little more than just comfort me. It blows me right back to Don Corleone, Rhett and Scarlett, and a biography of Charlie Chaplin.

And that is way too cool.

Dinner last night: grilled chicken salad as I clean out the NY fridge.





Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - June 25, 2007

Chop, chop.





Dinner last night: footlong hot dog at Brooklyn Cyclones game in Coney Island.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Playbill Channel


I got a rare New York treat the other night and went to see the latest revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Company." It seems that the new spin to put on his musicals is to have the actors also play the musical instruments. I saw them do this about two years ago with "Sweeney Todd." I can't wait for some producer to try this with "Follies" so we can watch a couple of 80-year-old broads marching around and playing tubas. Nevertheless, Broadway is always a hoot, and, in this show (which is closing July 1), Raul Esparza's rendition of "Being Alive" at the end of the show is worth the lofty price of admission.

So, I go back to my apartment and read through the Playbill. Then, as I have done with every Broadway show I have seen in my life, I tossed it in this file cabinet drawer.

Except I now cannot close the drawer. I was astounded by the amount of Playbills I have accrued over time. Many of them are dog-eared and others are faded. I probably should have popped them into some protective binder. But, no, I threw them haphazardly around like they were old TV Guides (I never saved any of them).

Before I sort through this mess, I have decided to pull a bunch of them out one-by-one. As sort of a life memory quiz, I will look at each Playbill and try to regurgitate some memorable factoid about each show. Let's see how this goes. I am simply going to reach in without looking...like the monsignor conducting a raffle drawing for a new car.


Sophisticated Ladies: I vaguely remember seeing this tribute to Duke Ellington. Must have been 25 years ago at least. I vaguely remember not liking it. I vaguely remember enjoying parts of it. I vaguely remember remembering.

My Fair Lady: No, not the original with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. How old do you think I am??? This is my favorite musical with a no-name Brit cast.

Present Laughter: I saw a Noel Coward play? Apparently. I actually saw George C. Scott live on stage. Apparently. And, listed in smaller roles, I apparently also saw Nathan Lane and Christine Lahti at very early stages of their careers.

Precious Sons: I have no recollection of what this play was, when I saw it, what it was about, or whether I enjoyed it. I hope the meal was good that night. The small cast includes Judith Ivey and Ed Harris. Not just unmemorable. Memory-less.

The Graduate: Oh, yeah. A brutal night in the theater. One of the worst evenings I ever spent on the planet, let alone a Broadway theater. The stage version of the movie was a sewage spill. Kathleen Turner took her clothes off, but you could see nothing because they reduced the lighting to 30 watt bulbs. I remember being pissed because the theater was full of tourists, who gave this a standing ovation. It was like they heard Bennigan's was giving out free buffalo wings. One slob in the row ahead of me was munching on potato chips. I think I spit my gum on his coat.

Chicago: This was when the revival of the revival first opened. I actually saw Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking. A great production that inspired the movie. Reinking fell about ten feet into the orchestra pit and that was the most original choreography of the show.

Neil Simon's 45 Seconds from Broadway: A Neil Simon play from about 15 years that never became either a movie, a TV show, a musical, or, apparently, a good play. I have no clue what it was about, except it probably was based on about five minutes of his life.

The Music Man: Arguably one of my top ten Broadway experiences. This is the revival that came out about 9 years ago with Craig Bierko and Rebecca Luker. My favorite music of all time and they did it justice.

Night of the Iguana: I am not sure how I saw this, except perhaps I had a book report due. According to the cast list, I saw Jane Alexander perform live. I also once saw her crossing a street in Westwood.

Whose Life is It Anyway?: This was ages ago. Mary Tyler Moore took the male lead. I had seats in the very front row. Depressing, of course. As are most plays about people with broken necks and spines.

Show Boat: This was the revival about 15 years ago, and I remember liking it a lot. Nice cast. Audra McDonald. Rebecca Luker. Elaine Stritch. Oops, I went one too far, didn't I? I do recall having a fight with the woman next to me who would not dissolve a sour ball in her mouth.

They're Playing Our Song: Well, heck, I was bound to pick up this Playbill. I saw the freakin' show five times. It was one of those Broadway experiences of serendipity. I loved it so much that I had to treat all my friends to it one at a time. In retrospect, the score was just okay, the script was a little sitcom, and it really was only about two characters. But, it became the only musical score that I would sing out loud to completion at home. This particular Playbill must have been early in the run, because it lists the original players, Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz.

Picnic: It's one of my favorite movies and I wanted to finally see the stage play in some revival from about 15 years ago. Kyle Chandler and Ashley Judd played the leads. I didn't think she appeared anywhere unless it was a B movie with Morgan Freeman. I remember preferring the movie over the play.

Carousel: Wow, I recall this evening. It was a Lincoln Center revival and another great performance by Audra McDonald. But, there was more to the evening. I was taken by a friend and her then 15 year-old daughter as a Christmas present. I almost didn't go. My mom was on a respirator at the time and we were just waiting for the inevitable. They convinced me to partake in the show as a respite. I know I was a mental mess by the end when they did "You'll Never Walk Alone" (which, by the way, was not written by Jerry Lewis). But I will always be grateful that they coaxed me out that night. She died the next evening.

And that's a good stopping point. The file cabinet is closing again.

Dinner last night: grilled sausage and peppers at Shea Stadium.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Price Is Wrong

One more snapshot of the retiring Bob Barker. And the dumbest contestant in TV game show history.




Dinner last night: salami sandwich and cole slaw.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The D Train to 50th Street


I'm in New York, my birth city. And, as often happens here, my mind wanders to the past.

Is this not a glorious shot? Radio City Music Hall was a destination spot for me only about three times a year. But, when I was a kid, nothing provided me with more eager anticipation than the prospect of visiting the theater nestled at the corner of 50th Street and 6th Avenue.

Those were the days when a trip to the movies was an event. But, in the case of RCMH, it wasn't just a cinematic voyage. It was a three hour journey to another world. Because you didn't just get one of Hollywood's finest pictures. There was always a 35 minute stage show that always included one or two high-kicking numbers from the Rockettes.

Since I lived in the so-called opulent burbs, a RCMH day was a trek. The ubiquitous "trip downtown." Always the D Train from the Bronx. Starting at 205th Street. You got off at Rockefeller Center. For some reason, when my mom was doing the escort honors, she needed the assistance of this other distant relative in my family to guide her through the transit maze. Despite the fact that the RCMH route was virtually a straight line, my mother's sense of direction convinced her that she needed our own personal Indian guide, "Aunt Edie." But, then again, my mother could get lost taking butter out of the refrigerator.

Back in those days, you could actually get on the subway at 205th Street and never have to go outside. You'd come up into the subway concourse at 50th Street and walk right over to a Radio City box office window conveniently located at the subway entrance. You'd buy your 99 cent ticket, walk up a flight of stairs, and find yourself in the middle of that palatial lobby. If you truly want to experience that grandeur for yourself, rent Woody Allen's "Radio Days." He recreates it beautifully.

My mom would handle the Christmas and Easter visits to RCMH. My dad, for some reason, would be the one who would take me once during the summer, usually during his vacation. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that I never went to RCMH with both of my parents. Maybe that was the harbinger of things to come. I do recall that my mother liked to sit in the balcony, while my father preferred the orchestra. I was the unfortunate product of a mixed-seating marriage.

The Christmas show always featured the wonderful Nativity scene. So beautiful in its majesty. This, of course, was forever ruined for me years later when I saw them walking the camels out on 51st Street---being led by one of the elves/midgets who was taking a drag on a cigarette at the same time.

A vivid Summer memory of RCMH came on one of my trips with my father to the desired orchestra seats. The film was the original "Odd Couple" and I can never ever remember seeing my dad laugh as hard as he did that afternoon. On the other end of the memory register is one Radio City trip which was followed by the requisite meal in some restaurant that had a tablecloth. My measles made an untimely appearance right after the shrimp cocktail and I promptly threw up as mightily as a college freshman on Homecoming weekend.

Before the show, you were treated to a small little recital from this grand Wurlitzer organ which slid in and out of the wall. Add to this the actual stage that would rise up from the floor and then disappear out of sight. The half-moons that surrounded the screen. The opulence of the bathrooms. The glorious staircase in the lobby. This was what going to the movies was all about.

I literally learned to read by surveying the movie ads in the newspapers. I remember, particularly, the Radio City advertisements in the NY Daily News.
You would actually see movie start times listed as 10:33AM and the stage show slated to follow at 1256PM. It was such amazing precision. I wondered who was responsible for managing this process. And how could I, an eight-year-old who was good with arithmetic, get his job?

For me, Radio City Music Hall was worth the hour-long rickety ride on the D train with people who never seemed to cover their mouths when they sneezed. Because, at the end of the ride, there was a treat waiting like no other. The building is still there. It has been restored and it is used for concerts, the Tony Awards, college graduations, and senior citizen field trips around the holidays. The Christmas stage show still exists, but it is now a canned mess that is about 90 bucks per ticket. Those buses pulling up from retirement villages in Hohokus, New Jersey, clog the streets outside as people clamor to get a taste of what they think they remember from years gone by. But, it is not the same.

I get to walk by Radio City Music Hall frequently on my trips back East. I just did so this morning. Sometimes, the janitors are working and the lobby doors are open. I peek inside quickly. But, it is not what I see that grabs hold of me. It is what I don't see.

My mother in the balcony sneaking a smoke under her seat.

My father convulsed with laughter in the orchestra.

Walter Matthau throwing a plate of spaghetti against the wall.

"Now, it's garbage!"

Smiles that have passed on.

Dinner last night: pizza rustica and shrimp cocktail at Harvest on Hudson.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bada Bing Bada Boom

This was all over the news yesterday. A whole video devoted to Hillary Clinton picking her campaign song. Of course, she does it in a complete spoof of the last scene from the Sopranos.

While I salute the creativity, I expect more from a Presidential candidate than a SNL sketch. And one that lampoons the mob, for Pete's sake. I'm wondering how she even recognized Bill when he walked in. I'm guessing they haven't dined together one-on-one in about 13 years. And, at the end, you will see Johnny Sack walk through.





Dinner last night: wonderful spinach lasagna at Insieme prior to attending the most recent revival of "Company."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wednesday is Sundae at Carvel



It's hot and humid in New York, so I'm a little cranky.

---The picture above must bring back memories. In LA, it is now very chic for movie studios and production companies to order Carvel Ice Cream cakes for wrap parties. They are all clamoring to know how the crunch layer inside is made. Carvel tells them it's a big secret formula.

---I used to work at Carvel. I know what the mystery recipe is. They take the smashed up Flying Saucer crumbs, mix in some chocolate Magic Shell-like sauce, and then they quick freeze it.

---Secret formula revealed. Sue me.

---T-shirt spotted at Dodger Stadium over the weekend. "We Will Never Forget." Underneath a picture of Mister Rogers.

---Huh?

---I thought he died of natural causes. Where was his neighborhood? In Iraq?

---On Sunday, I got to watch the Dodgers' promising rookie James Loney crumple to the warning track in a blue and white heap after slamming into the right field plexiglass scoreboard. He's the third outfielder the Dodgers have lost to injury because they removed the padding from the outfield wall.

---Put the cushions back, fools. There is no need for one more informational assault on our senses. How necessary is it for us to know that Derek Lowe has thrown 73% of his pitches for strikes?

---There was a nifty Father's Day promotion at Chavez Ravine. After the game, you and your son or daughter could go onto the outfield grass and have a good old fashioned catch. The line stretched all the way into the parking lot.

---If you're going to go into Dodger Stadium and play catch, dads, I would suggest you use two hands. Lots of balls being chased all over the place. Clumsy oafs.

---Of course, I'm just jealous that I never got to do the same. My father would never have agreed to such a gimmick. He'd use his pet excuse.

---"What do we want to go there for? It's too crowded."

---He said it so many times to me that it was like a one word sentence.

---"Whatdowanttogothereforit'stoocrowded."

---Geez, I hope he dropped that in the afterlife. "Heaven? What do I want to go there for? It's too crowded."

---Today would have been my dad's 87th birthday. I really hope it's not crowded there.

---In his memory, I would also share with you some other sage advice he would always impart.

---"If a car is more than five years old, drop the collision."

---"Don't buy the last soda from a vendor. Always wait for the fresh tray."

---"Always take your driving lessons in a cemetary. Because you can't kill anybody."

---If I were somebody working for Freemantle Media or Goodson-Todman or whatever they call that company which produces "The Price Is Right," I'd be really pissed at Bob Barker for suggesting that Rosie O'Donnell would be the ideal choice to replace him as host.

---Hey, production company, did you get the license plate of that bus he just threw you under?

---I think Bob has eaten one too many dog biscuits. That fat slob wouldn't get it. She's too egomaniacal to realize that the show is not about the host. It's about the nuts in the studio audience. Plus she's so much fun to work with.

---It's actually time for her to be spayed and neutered.

---There should be a website devoted to retail clerks who have been abused by this tub of lard.

---If they hire Rosie, the staff at the Grove's Barnes and Noble (right next to CBS Television City) should start applying for their gun licenses now.

---Whoa boy, did Rachael Ray get a load of screen time at the Daytime Emmys!

---By the way, she's obviously spending a lot more than 40 dollars a day on food.

---I settle in for my flight east and pull out American's in-flight magazine because they have a really nifty Sudoku puzzle in there

---Except somebody's already messed it up. In pen! And it's wrong!

---Yo, people, just watch the Eye on American shorts and leave the challenging stuff to the smart folks.

---Because of you, inept Suduko solver, I actually had to steal the magazine of the guy next to me when he wasn't looking.

---Everybody's so surprised that LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is getting a divorce.

---Is it your first day on the planet earth? I could have told you that guy was a sleazebucket when he was campaigning. For Pedro's sake, he had two kids out of wedlock in the early 90s!

---What I didn't know is that his last name is a fake. It's a combination of his last name (Villar) and hers (Raigosa). If you're his wife and knew his past track record alleycatting around City Hall, why would you do that???

---The only thing that get this jerk's attention is a flash bulb. He wants to be Governor.

---Yeah, California already has one. Arnold Schwarzeneggerschriver.

---That's probably about 130 points in Scrabble.

---God help the state if he gets in. Except California will have the cleanest pools and nicest mowed lawns in the nation.

---Villaraigosa always has this shifty grin on his face. Like he's got his head propped up on a rake as he watches the homeowner's 15 year-old daughter taking a sunbath at the pool.

---Hey, I'm not saying our political leaders can't have marital problems. But, at what point do we draw the line and tell them to zip it up?

---I hear Big Bill the C is still running around Westchester and violating the personal space of any woman under 30.

---Why do I go to New York anyway? It's so crowded here.

Dinner last night: honey baked ham sandwich and cole slaw.




Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Who You Calling Crazy?



It was one of those spontaneous moments I have from time to time. I went down the block to Nordstrom's for their semi-annual men's sale. I came out with three pairs of socks. But I walked right into the lobby of the new Landmark Theater, which I chronicled in an earlier post. Remember? The gay fight over reserved seats. Well, anyway, one of the features of this theater is that three of the smaller venues inside are called "living rooms." Yep, about fifty seats in there. They're either loveseats, couches, or single leather chairs. It's probably akin to something Spielberg has in his house. Well, anywho, I'm noticing that one of these so-called living rooms has a picture starting momentarily. "Crazy Love." A documentary. I had basically skimmed the reviews of this, but, nevertheless, I went in. I had hankering to sit on leather for a bit.

Where the hell have I been? I had no clue what this story was all about. And I'm even more surprised since, apparently, it is one of New York City legend. It's essentially narrated by the principals, but, not knowing the story, I had no clue how this turns out. You see the two people in current day interviews, but, other than a bad wig and dark glasses on the lady in question, this was all a mystery to me. Still, it was a riveting 90 minutes

Back in 1957, lawyer Burt Pugach is driving around the Bronx with a friend as they troll for pretty women. Burt comes across 20 year-old Linda Riss and is instantly smitten. She is, too, but much less so. He basically wages a D-Day-like assault trying to win her over. He wines and dines her in the best places that 1950s New York has to offer. And he does ultimately get her to his side. But, she discovers one small problem. He's already married. She tells him to hit the bricks.

Burt comes back and shows her some divorce papers that demonstrate he and the missus ain't a-happening no more. Linda takes him back. But, wait. Her mom does some homework and discovers that the smart attorney Burt forged the divorce decree. She kicks him to the curb again. Who knew the Morrisania section of the Bronx was this juicy?

Because I don't regularly peruse the archives of the New York Post, I had not one clue where this was all going. Linda next gets engaged to your basic nice guy next door. This, of course, is certain doom in my mind. When Burt discovers this, he starts to stalk Linda and promises to hurt her if she goes through with the marriage. And he does. Sometime in 1959, he hires two thugs to go up to her front door and throw lye at her face. She is blinded. This explains to me the dark glasses. And, then, after I keep seeing a succession of lousy wigs, I have another realization. Her hair was burned off as well!

From the screen shots of sensational headlines, I discovered that this was big old news in New York back then. Burt is caught and spends about ten years in Attica. Linda never marries. Except when he is released, he immediately sends her a dozen roses. And she takes him back again! But, this time, there's an added bonus. They marry! And they become media stars showing up on Mike Douglas, Geraldo Rivera, and, I kid you not, Joe Franklin.

Happily ever after? Movie over? Wait, there's more...

Sometime in the late 90s, a young woman comes out and alleges that Burt has been stalking her. And a lot of the lines he throws to her are very similar to the prattle Linda got from Burt back in 1957. And this all gets dragged out in the New York Post once again. I was astonished. How did I miss this? Cheez, you would think I would remember a decade-long nap. Nevertheless, Linda stands by her man and he gets off the hook again. The movie ends with the two of them in a Bronx diner. They are fighting all the way out to the parking lot. But they remain together.

I know there's a little bit of nuts in each of us when it comes to romance. Those hormonal emotions can play all sorts of trick on our sanity. I can remember my own experiences in that venue with some carefully executed drive-by surveillance. But, is the line that blurred for folks like Burt and Linda? He's obviously deranged, but she clearly has a serious blind spot (no pun intended). Who's more crazy in these cases? A friend's sister actually stalked her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend. She eventually tried to stab them with something sharp. But, ultimately, she got off and wound up continuing her law practice! Because it turned out the guy was an asshole. Does being a creep trump being even temporarily insane?

There's a woman who has lived next door to me in New York. She's had a succession of three boyfriends living there with her. Each time, I am treated to a longrunning series of loud verbal battles. Is she too stupid that she keeps making the same bad choices in men over and over? Or is this something engrained in her that she actually enjoys being a personal victim?

There are no answers to the many questions posed in "Crazy Love." But, go see it...and formulate your own conclusions.

Dinner last night: chicken salad sandwich at the Cheesecake Factory.

And tomorrow, reporting from NYC...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - June 18, 2007

An internet classic. Be sure to watch all the way to the end.




Dinner last night: teriyaki burger at Islands

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day - TV Style

If only it could really have been like it was on TV. A salute to dads now and forever. And with a little twist at the end. Enjoy.









Dinner last night: chicken tenders at the Arclight following a showing of....."Once." Who knew Dublin street musicians could be entertaining? Well, shut my mouth.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

What's Playing?


The Saturday dilemma. What to go see tonight? I thought I'd let you in on the intricate process that goes into making such a decision. Join me as I troll the movie listings in the Los Angeles Times as I grope for a Saturday night diversion. I will address each film as I come upon the ad. Total gut reaction.

Nancy Drew:Get a Clue: Since I am not a pedofile, I wouldn't be caught dead going to this movie. I heard a film critic's 10-year-old daughter report on the radio that the film was dull. Yo, Warner Brothers, that's your target audience.

Shrek The Third: I actually saw this two weeks ago. As is the case with the third installment of most films, the fumes are starting to sift into the theater. Nevertheless, it had some cute moments. A pleasant enough time waster, which was helped by the fact that I saw it in the Cinerama Dome.

DOA: Dead or Alive: DOA indeed.

Sneak Preview of Ratatouille: I will wait so I can see this at the glorious El Capitan Theater. I am curious to see how they are going to make vermin likeable. If they are successful, let's see if Pixar can then tackle the Bush White House.

Eagle Vs. Shark: A small indie film from Australia. Apparently, it's that country's take on Napoleon Dynamite, which I didn't quite understand when it was produced in English. I can't imagine how addled I would be when they throw in the Australian lingo. Skip.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: If I can conjure up a 7-year-old son by 8PM tonight, I may go. Didn't see the first one.

Hostel Part 2: There was such a thing as Hostel Part 1? The ad says "Quentin Tarantino Presents." Page being turned immediately.

Surf's Up: Thumbs down. Haven't I made myself clear? Enough with the friggin' penguins!!!!

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: a slight possibility to see. The first one was okay. The terrible word of mouth scared me from the second one. And I hear that, unless you saw the second one, the third one won't make any sense. Plus I heard from the kids (ages 20 and 17) of a friend that it was horrible. Once again, that's the target audience!! I may not walk the plank. The slight chance for viewing comes from the fact that it's at the aforementioned El Capitan and there's a great ice cream parlor next door. Of course, I could save the 14 bucks and head to Carvel.

Spiderman 3: Despite seeing the first two, I still haven't sampled. I blame it all on the Godfather Part 3.

Oceans Thirteen: the first one was lots of fun. The second one was a mess and primarily an excuse for Clooney and his minions to visit Italy. I heard the third one goes back to the original premise, so it might be passable Saturday night entertainment. But, still? Remember the time when the only "3" you saw in a movie title referred to stooges?

Waitress: Already seen, enjoyed, and documented. Check it out for Andy Griffith alone.

Once: I'm hearing good things about this small independent film about street musicians in Dublin. And that's why I may skip it. It's about street musicians in Dublin.

Knocked Up: this got incredibly good reviews, but I won't be misled again. The advance good word is very similar to what they said about "Anchorman" and I am still waiting to get those two hours credited back to my life. And this thing runs over two hours!! This film has got "watch out for side effects" written all over it.

La Vie En Rose: I saw it last week and generally liked it. But, how do you say "scissors" in French? Way too long. It was like ingesting bernaise sauce as a beverage. But, it's a fascinating story about Edith Piaf, the French version of Judy Garland. Or is Judy Garland the American version of Edith Piaf? They're really interchangeable. Great singers with screwed up childhoods. They both wither away to the size of a hamster and die in their late 40s. The only difference is Judy had the added indignity of doing it on the toilet.

Paris Je T'Aime: Been there, done that. It's essentially 20 different two page scenes from some acting class on the Sorbonne. I felt like I was going through the postcard rack at the Eiffel Tower gift shop. I liked it...un peu.

Mr. Brooks: I don't do Kevin Costner films voluntarily.

Brooklyn Rules: I don't do Alec Baldwin films voluntarily. He plays some mob thug. And the acting challenge is where?

Gracie: the only thing more uninteresting than a soccer game is a movie about a soccer game. Kicking this officially to the curb.

Uh oh, I think I have to look at the revival houses. Check in tomorrow to see what box office ripped me off this week.

Dinner last night: following up on a new pre-Dodger game tradition. French Dip Ham sandwich with potato salad and cole slaw at Philippe's.



Friday, June 15, 2007

Remembering Tony Randall


It's interesting how I came to today's post. I was looking at veteran comedy writer Ken Levine's blog. Truth be told, his daily efforts were the early inspiration for what I am doing here. In fact, from a visual standpoint, I modeled mine after his. Imitation is the sincerest form of....blah, blah, blah.

A little while ago, he had posted an entry on some personal dealings he had with Tony Randall. It happened on one of Tony's sitcoms following "The Odd Couple" that Ken and his partner got one of their first assignments. He had very fond memories of Tony and recounted some stories on what a professional stand-up guy Tony was. In the true spirit of blogging, that post prompted comments from over a dozen other people who had similar encounters with Mr. Randall. And then my mind had one of those epiphanies very much akin to a Nestea plunge.

Hell, I have my own Tony Randall story.

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away (namely the Bronx), I was working at Fordham University's WFUV-FM, 50,000 watts serving the New York Metropolitan area, thank you very much. Most of my friends were working in play-by-play sports, and I, unfortunately, was incredibly inept at this. Indeed, on-air anything at the time was a huge stretch for me. When the microphone turned on live, I always sounded like Kevin Arnold asking Winnie Cooper out on a date. "Um, er, um, er, er, um, er, um, er." However, when I was being recorded for future broadcast, I could sound like Alistair Cooke. And, if I had a cold at the time, I would sound like....Alistair Cooke with a cold. But, of course, I am digressing...

To exploit this amazing phenomenon of being an extraordinary pre-taped radio personality, I took to developing regular Entertainment Tonight-like features for the station's evening newscast. I was the Leonard Maltin of 191st Street. And I slowly gravitated to attempting some "on the phone" interviews with celebrities.

Back in the day, it was a lot easier to gain access to celebrities. And they were a lot less snarly about who they were dealing with. All you had to do is call their publicist and they would set up the specified time for the phone interview. You would write up about some questions that would take about 15 minutes to answer and the rest was very easy. Most people were very nice and I eventually gained carte blanche with who I wanted to speak with. And, one week, for some bizarre reason, I decided that I wanted to interview Tony Randall.

Being a New York resident, I knew he would be easy to track down. In fact, it took just one call to his publicist and it was all booked. Mr. Randall would call me at the radio station the following day at 11AM.

Sometime during the night, I had a panic attack. It was summertime and, at 11AM in the morning, there was usually no one at the radio station. And I certainly wanted to convey to Mr. Randall that this was a top notch organization. So, I concocted a plan to answer the phone with one voice and then proceed to transfer Tony to me. I would then answer the phone in the tape studio with my regular voice. Tony would think he was dealing with something of the caliber of the Associated Press. End of panic attack.

The next morning, I showed up at the radio station three hours early, as I became convinced that my appointment would be upended by some wildcat transit strike. I got the tape machine set up. I checked for the appropriate volume levels. And then I sat. It was only 930AM.

Mr. Randall was as prompt as New Year's Day. At the stroke of 11AM, the phone rang. I quickly answered with the pre-rehearsed voice, which I am sure sounded like Don Pardo before puberty.

"Good morning. WFUV."

The voice on the other was unmistakably his. "Mr. Len........, please."

"Hold on, I will transfer you."

So far, so good. I hit the hold button.

Or so I thought.

I immediately hung up on Tony Randall. I never want to experience that dreadful realization ever again. The phone immediately rang again. Once more, I opted for the Don Pardo voice. But, this time, I probably sounded like Don Pardo doing an imitation of a pig being slaughtered. The voice on the other end was once again totally recognizable, but a little more pointed.

"Mr. Len.....please."

I did not need to prolong this agony with a lame excuse.

"Hold on, I'll get him," my voice cracked. This time, I almost broke my finger holding down the hold button. I waited about 20 seconds and then picked up the phone. With my real intonations, I introduced myself.

After the opening pleasantries, I began my questions. I was enraptured by the man. He was bright. He was funny. He was ultra-engaging. For ten minutes, I was pulled into some amazing stories about show business. This would be my best celebrity interview yet. I am thinking that I could perhaps keep him talking for at least a half-hour. I wondered how much tape I had left.

I had plenty. Because I had never turned the machine on.

Somehow someway, I mustered up the courage to interrupt him mid-memory. I decided to be as upfront and aboveboard as possible with my horrible faux pas.

I blamed it on the invisible engineer on the the other side of the control room glass. Mr. Randall was more than gracious and agreed to start over.

"Have you got plenty of tape loaded?" he asked. When I said yes, he replied, "Good, because I've got a lot to say today." I then almost broke another finger hitting the record button on the reel-to-reel deck.

And, yes, he had plenty to say. He virtually repeated every story he told originally. Every inflection was the same. Every chuckle was intact. Almost an hour later, I was out of questions.

"Is your interview over?" he asked.

I wondered if the tone of his voice signified that I had taken up too much of his time. "Yes, we're done."

I was stunned by his next words. "Good....because now I'd like to interview you."

And he did. He asked me about what I was studying and what I wanted to do with my career. (Despite my best efforts, I had obviously been outed as a college student.) He asked me how I liked Fordham. And, then, he took me through his memories of going to the movies on Fordham Road. Vaudeville shows he had seen. The Loews Paradise. I couldn't shut him up. Before I knew it, it was 1PM and we were still gabbing like teenagers. I figured I was being invited over for Thanksgiving.

But, the conversation did eventually end. I promised to send him an edited version of the interview, which now would have to be broadcast as a mini-series. And he and I hung up.

It actually was the best celebrity interview I ever did. Because it was so completely organic. I did dub off a cassette tape and forward it to his publicist. Two weeks later, I got a note with the return address labelled "Tony Randall, ___ Central Park West, New York, New York." In an incredibly legible penmanship, Tony thanked me for the tape and wanted me to know that I was always welcome to call him again.

Of course, I never did. I knew I couldn't ever top that day.

Dinner last night: I had a big lunch, so dinner was a Klondike Bar.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Behind the Scenes at Blogger Central


On the occasion of my 100th post, I thought it would be fun to reflect on the first 100 days. (Didn't they do this for JFK?) And I want to give you a little snapshot on how this all gets put together every day.

The main objective of starting this sucker was to develop some sort of daily writing regimen that forced me to be creative every day. Well, mission accomplished. Sort of. The true mark of any writer is the ability to procrastinate and get around the process of writing every day. In that respect, mission accomplished as well.

Yes, there's been a post every single day. And, yes, I am including those Monday video laughs, because it requires me to show some creativity in finding those blasted things. But, indeed, over the past 100 days, there have been whole chunks of weeks where I have not been able to write a thing. At the same time, there are some days when the mind is extremely fertile. It didn't take me long to figure out that I could store future posts as drafts and use them for those days when the mental tank is empty.

Certain posts, when written, are deemed as "evergreen." There is a subject matter that can be relatively timeless. That goes into the so-called can for future use. There have been several posts that sat awaiting turns for more than a month. Because, despite my sincere intentions to use them, somebody opens their mouth or something screwy happens in the world...and I can't resist.

I've written these things at home. I've written in the office. I've written in New York. I've written in Logan Airport when I was delayed for five hours. I have taken to carrying index cards with me, so I can jot down a funny line as soon as I think of it. I start compiling those Wednesday rants on the preceding Saturday and update them right up until Wednesday morning.

I find myself being more attentive to the world around me. I read the morning paper a bit more closer. And I find myself questioning the things around me more than usual. So, along with the increased creativity skills, my mind is getting exercises of other types as well. And the latter is always a terrible thing to waste, regardless of whether you contribute to the United Negro College Fund. (Did they just disband that or is it now known as the United African-American College Fund?)

An unexpected by-product was an enhancement of my computer talents. The first few posts were extremely primitive: they should have been drawn on the walls of caves. But, I finally got my chops down on how to use this blog site, which can be funky. I learned how to space paragraphs correctly. Loading pictures has been a breeze, but embedding videos less so. And, I have twice accidentally deleted whole drafts of posts, which I painstakingly had to recreate. In both cases, the final result was actually funnier than the original.

I never intended to do a posting daily. But, somehow, like Ranch-flavored Ruffles, I can't stop. The day is never complete without sending something through. Early on, I did more than one per day. That has stopped. Too much of me can be...too much of me.

Of course, as much as I write in advance, I do have to add the requisite dinner last night, because I am not so anal that I actually know what I will eat weeks in advance.

By the way, this whole post was written three weeks ago.

Dinner last night: grilled bratwurst and french fries at Dodger Stadium.







Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Very Special Wednesday - Post # 100



I've done 100 of these suckers. That's enough for syndication.

---Rosie is campaigning hard to become the new host on "The Price is Right."

---Let's make sure she hasn't confused this with "Supermarket Sweep."

---Watching the Tony Awards the other night, I counted only about 12 women in the audience. I was wavering on how to classify Angela Lansbury.

---On the High Def CBS channel, the Tonys were not even shown in HD. That translates to FU as far as Broadway is concerned.

---CBS spent the entire three hours touting some new garbage for the fall. "Viva Laughlin." By the time the Tonys were over, I think I had seen the first three episodes.

---Jay Johnson, who used to play Chuck and Bob on Soap, actually won a Tony for his one man/multi-dummy show. Can "An Evening with Ruth Buzzi" be far behind?

---I can remember when you would dress up to go to the New York theater. But, that was before Broadway became the dumping ground for Midwestern tourists. Now, they're showing up in sneakers and t-shirts from Dave and Buster's.

---Last year, I saw somebody in the Majestic Theater chumping down on potato chips during the performance. Hey, this ain't the dinner theater on Route 5 next to the Piggly Wiggly!

---Go to Times Square and try to find a non-chain restaurant for dinner before the show. Cheez, now the tuna melt at the 47th Street Howard Johnson's is looking good to me. Where is Mamma Leone's when you need her?

---I like this whole area much better before the Disney clean-up. The bums and the hookers gave it a lot more flavor. Now, all the mugging happens at the advance ticket windows.

---Dodger Dogs indeed. The Los Angeles Blue Crew will go nowhere if they can't stop hitting balls back to the pitcher.

---Their pitching staff is phenomenal and being wasted. Derek Lowe has three complete games and he has lost all three. It's like hiring Emeril to cook food for your cat.

---Juan Pierre's got great career stats, but he is now on his fourth team in seven years. That should have been a warning sign for the Dodgers. He's totally undynamic. I half expected to find him in a debate with the other Presidential candidates.

---There's nobody in that lineup you dread to face. You know, the type of hitter that makes the opposition say, "Aw, crap, such and such is up next inning."

---The only person in the Dodger organization that is truly scary is the owner's wife.

---At the Met-Dodger game Monday night, I saw Jerry Seinfeld hanging around a concession stand. He was wearing the dirtiest Met cap. Complete with sweatband stains. I think Ron Hunt wore it in 1963.

---Hey, Jerry, we know you made some coin from that TV show and all those DVD box sets. Neweracap.com. The hats are 32 bucks. It's time.

---My nightmare moment of the week: I looked at the fluffs running for President and thought that Hillary was the best of the lot.

---Barack Obama's wife has come out to warn us that she has "a big mouth." I have my formal disconnect notarized.

---The last thing this country needs right now as President is a Harvard-educated lawyer who hugs Al Sharpton in photo ops.

---So the guy from "Law and Order" has thrown his hat into the ring. How do we get Paula Adbul to run?

---Bill Clinton might be a little overconfident about his potential return to the White House. I heard he's already requested resumes on potential interns for the summer of 2009.

---Dry cleaners all over the Nation's Capital are keeping their fingers crossed.

---A national poll found Hillary a heavy favorite among Democratic primary voters who value long experience in government and policy-making.

---Huh? How long has she been doing this Senator gig? And she failed with that health care program. On what channel can I find the country that they are watching?

---You know that Al Snore is lurking in the bushes and waiting to pounce like one of those lions after a gazelle on the Animal Planet.

---He's letting all the rest of them trip over each other, so he can be the ideal candidate. It's too good a story to resist. He's cheated out of a win because people in Florida are only bright enough to work the early bird menu at Red Lobster. But then he comes to the rescue eight years later with a mandate from less than half of the population.

---A Hollywood ending, indeed. But he's still Al Snore with all the warts still intact.

---I don't care what they tell me at the polling place. I am voting for Adlai Stevenson.

---I heard a very funny item on the news last night. Psychologists are now saying that obese children should be called just that. Apparently, there are movements afoot to (no pun intended) sugarcoat how these kids are described.

---Parents actually want them to be called "calorie-challenged."

---I don't think the calories are challenging them at all. They seem to be ingesting them just fine.

---When I was a kid, nothing propelled me to watch my diet than the constant barrage of names I was called. Every large mammal and amphibian in the book. Believe me. That does the trick.

---It will totally prepare them for life ahead when they deal with the most vicious form of human life. Co-workers.

---If parents want to really do something for their little chubbies, how about avoiding family meals that come via a drive-through window?

---And that funny looking contraption in the kitchen is called a stove.

---You might also want to promote some physical exercise for Junior. Instead of leaving them with a soda can and a box of Fudge Sandies in front of their computers as they update MySpace.

---And here's something you never hear these kids say at the dinner table.

I'm done. On to the next 100.

Dinner last night: chicken sausage and pickled beets.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Finale and No Finality

With fanfare generally reserved for Presidential funerals, The Sopranos was put to rest on Sunday night. Arguably, it was one of the best TV dramas ever. In a lot of respects, you also might call it one of the best TV comedies ever. Whatever chad you poke on your ballot, the finale was generally met with disdain in Monday morning TV quarterbacking circles.

The last five minutes were perhaps the most nerve-wracking moments I have ever spent in front of a TV set. As Tony and Carmella sat down for a quiet family dinner in some folksy New Jersey diner, Tony surveyed the crowd. He was waiting for his kids to arrive, but, also, as an underworld hood would, he was checking out his surroundings always mindful of enemy gang members, Feds, and, given his girth, Jenny Craig consultants. Each time the door opened and there was a little jingle from the overhead bell, Tony steeled himself a bit. And so did we. Most of the patrons of the diner looked unhappy. This didn't throw me. We are, after all, in New Jersey, where a Turnpike rest stop is the virtual equivalent of Lincoln Center to New Yorkers. When the particularly surly guy from the counter went into the men's room, I was convinced we were seeing a Godfather replay. Remember how they taped the gun to the toilet for Michael Corleone? Meanwhile, Meadow was outside doing her best imitation of an Asian driver in her numerous inept attempts to parallel park. Finally, she dings her way into the space and scurries across the street to meet La Familia. Tony makes some goofy comment about onion rings. The bell on the door jingles. He looks up. Cut to black.

Most viewers thought their TV signals had gone kerblooey. Since I was also recording it via the HBO East Coast on my DVR as a backup, I immediately thought the overrun had messed up my set. I was not alone. If I had opened my windows, I would have probably heard the unified sound of remote controls being heaved against walls across the city. Not since the four Seinfeld numbskulls had the jail cell closed behind them has America uttered the following Peggy Lee imitation: "Is that all there is?"

My immediate reaction was disappointment and annoyance. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it made sense. This is Tony's life from now on. He has to be on guard every moment until the moment they actually lay him out in that funeral parlor which was getting all their business the past nine years. By laying out that final scene as they did, writer-director David Chase gave us a taste of what that kind of life is like. My phone rang right after the show. I flinched a bit. You know what? It worked.

I, however, apparently fall in the minority on this. HBO's server crashed Sunday night from the weight of all the dodos who needed some sort of bloody closure, as if Phil Leotardo's head becoming a crepe wasn't enough. People were screaming that they would disconnect HBO as a result. I can't blame them for that. They haven't introduced a true water cooler show since "Six Feet Under." And the future doesn't look, since they bounced their longtime programming guy because he couldn't keep his hands from around his girlfriend's neck.

The public outcry is hilarious. I was reading some Sopranos message boards prior to the finale. People were obsessing beyond imagination. Everybody had some inside track to the ending. This one sold salami to James Gandolfini in a Tribeca deli. Another one swept up Edie Falco's hair after she got it cut at a beauty salon. Everybody was clamoring to hold onto some sort of inside connection. And one spoiler after another was wrong. Carmela is shot in the Short Hills Mall. AJ becomes a rodeo clown. Paulie Walnuts puts a contract out on the hosts of "The View." It was insane overkill.

I got a lot of giggles from these nutty boards as these loons were speculating on how throwaway incidents from years ago would be connected to the finale and ultimately resolved. For instance, how would the beacon light that Tony saw in his coma be connected to the beacon that Carmella saw while in Paris? As if there was ever a master plan in David Chase's head for any of this. Most TV writers don't work that way. The only things they are ever expected to remember are good restaurants for lunch. Rarely are TV shows tied up that neatly. We're not talking the Star Wars trilogy here.

There was plenty of closure for me. Meadow's got a career. Silvio's got a lifetime appointment for daily bed turns from the nursing staff. AJ's got a career in Hollywood, which makes him just one more thug out here. Paulie's got himself mob security and a cat. There were some postings that depicted the cat as a reincarnation of Adrianna. Frankly, if she needed to come back as an animal, she should have chosen to do it before she wound up spending two seasons on "Joey." Someone in Central Casting dug up Donna Pescow from "Saturday Night Fever." She was obviously buried in a rather large grave. And Frank Vincent, who played the pancaked Phil Leotardo, will continue his career of being killed in every role he takes. I'm betting he doesn't even survive the family home movies from Thanksgiving Day. Sunday's finale was certainly not a great commercial for SUVs either. I learned not to park mine on top of either leaves or somebody's grandfather.

So, the overeaction in disappointment will dissipate over the next few days and we'll all go about to concentrating on more important things like the Presidential primaries or Lindsay Lohan's next auto accident. And there are no alternate endings coming on a DVD boxed set. It's over, folks. Porky Pig has waved goodbye. Revel in what you had with "The Sopranos." I'll miss it in about 18 months when the next season would be normally starting.

Dinner last night: CPK Pepperoni Pizza at Dodger Stadium.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - June 11, 2007




Everybody loves a June bride. Not for the faint of heart.

Dinner last night: antipasto salad.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Final Episodes



NBC has been burning off the final episodes of this show, as it has been officially cancelled and won't see the light of a second season. I actually have been TiVoing it all season. I started doing so because the advance reviews were so good. And, while I was certainly not enamored by the early episodes, I remained tuned primarily because the cast is so good.

I think I can pretty much figure out why this show didn't catch on with the viewing public. First off, I am not a big fan of Aaron Sorkin. I never watched either "Sports Night" or "The West Wing." He overwrites his dialogue as if he is trying to do a polish of "Hamlet." Real people do not talk the way he writes. I know lots of clever people, but they do have their moments where mundane conversation is of the order. Not with Sorkin's characters. Every word from their mouths must be more profound than the last. And none of it sounds remotely organic or authentic.

Of course, you can get away with dialogue like that on "The West Wing" where they were always solving some crisis that was imperiling the country. (Has somebody finally told Martin Sheen that he's not really the President?) That type of scriptwriting is not germane when the major conflict of the week revolves around the production of a weekly SNL-like show. There's really no drama there that can engage the average viewer, who has never been in the position of jockeying to be the one that gets to wipe Lorne Michaels' ass at the weekly wrap party. You can't make relevant drama out of something that is inherently irrelevent. It's as if you start promoting Osama Bin Laden for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Nevertheless, I have found the cast to be dynamic. Matthew Perry has done a solid job of making us forget him as Chandler, especially when the writers went really inside to depict his character as having a prescription drug addiction. (I understand one of Perry's DUI convictions happened right in front of my apartment building.) I've always liked Amanda Peet and Timothy Busfield, the latter primarily because he and I shared a first class row and conversation on AA Flight 114 on September 20, 2001.

The set was amazing. The production values were there. And the cast was luminous. They tried in later episodes to develop plots that were not tied to that stupid show they are producing. But, it was too little too late. I would have ultimately liked to see more...of less.

One friend remarked to me that the sketches on the fake SNL show were not funny. I replied that they were at least paying attention to detail on that one. The real SNL has not been funny since Phil Hartman left.

I am sure they will try to amortize the costs even further by putting out a box set of the entire season. It's not worth the plopdown of a debit card. But, there's always Netflix.

Dinner last night: chicken tenders and mixed green salad at the Arclight following "La Vie En Rose."

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Siriusly.....

Howard Stern has gotten in the news a bit lately with all that "Sanjaya" fever. He was personally laying claim to the fact that this 17-year-old car alarm was persisting on American Idol because he was telling his fans to vote for him. Well, obviously, that was misguided math. With his move to Sirius, Stern lost probably about 5 to 6 million of his regular listeners. Yes, he had that many weekly people on his terrestrial radio show. And, since Sanjaya has now boarded that slow boat to India, Stern's alleged power of persuasion evaporated anyway.

I think it also pointed up something that I figured out a long time ago.

Howard Stern is no longer relevant.

Let me preface this. I used to be a big Howard Stern fan. I started listening to him in the early 90s and discovered that the "shock jock" label was a bit over the top. Sure, there were moments where I cringed. I could do without the focus on porn stars and bodily functions. But, overall, there was a lot of good stuff on K-Rock every morning. It was essentially an R-rated version of the old Jack Benny Show. Everybody on the show had their carefully defined characters and the dynamic worked. It was funny stuff. And, I wouldn't miss the last half-hour of the morning when he and Robin Quivers discussed the news headlines of the day. It was always a super-smart conversation that resulted in some riveting radio.

So why didn't I follow him to Sirius? Well, I can tell you that my disconnect with the man started much earlier than his satellite move.

Back when Howard was happily married to Allison with three daughter and comfortably esconced in his Long Island suburban home, Stern was the typical working stiff. He would go to work and spank some strippers, but you had a sense that he would go home at the end of the day and be...normal. If he got a little too crazy on the air, his wife would call in and you would hear those conversations on the air. If he would sneak out to Scores with the other guys from the show, it would be all about how to explain this all to Allison. It was almost like a super edgy, sexually ramped up episode of the Honeymooners. He was like Ralph Kramden overstaying too long at the Raccoon meeting with Ed Norton.

It was all very relatable and a great listen.

Then, he and Allison announced their plans to divorce. I sensed at that very moment that he was undergoing a change that would shift him away from his audience. In my humble opinion, it was a career/life altering event.

All of a sudden, the average Joe had moved out of the house to exclusive digs in Manhattan that are probably affordable to about 0.25% of his audience. He would yak now about the size of his limousine and how he would get into the hottest and trendiest places in town.

And he hooked up with Beth O, some box of rocks he probably found wandering around the Hamptons. Her talent is still yet defined, except she can probably touch her ears with her ankles. Now, they're engaged and the midlife crisis has gone full circle.

So, when he now fools around with buxom porn actresses on the air, he's no longer a guy trying to see how far he can get without his wife finding out. Now he's just a 53-year-old dirty old man.

He fancies himself now a political pundit. He spouts weird theories about government and claims to have inside connections, when indeed the most inside he gets is probably the men's room at Nobu's.

He used to blast the pomposity and complete insanity of Rosie O'Donnell. But, now he softens on her, since his beloved Beth O has had the opportunity to occasionally guest host on the View.

Like Joan Rivers becoming the very plastic surgery joke she used to make fun of, Howard now tolerates the same celebrity mediocrity he would once attack on the air.

And, he's working less now to boot. On Sirius, they run only four days of new shows. Fridays are reserved for reruns. Some of the shows date back as far as 1997. Folks who subscribed to Sirius primarily for Howard should be outraged.

We really can't tell how much of Howard's audience has left him because they simply didn't want to shell out twelve bucks a month. But, I am betting that a bunch of them didn't follow because he simply ceased to be interesting to them.

Count me in that number.

Dinner last night: prime filet and sauted mushrooms at the Grill on the Alley in a birthday dinner for my roommate.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Yawn


So, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks won hockey's Stanley Cup the other night.

And, in more interesting news, Afrin Nasal Spray is currently on sale at Rite-Aid.

Does anybody really care, except for the 20,000 or so fans who were in attendance down there in Orange County? Allegedly, the late night celebration was so ferocious that three people called in sick for work on Thursday.

I, for one, am happy that this trophy finally made it down to Southern California. And that no Canadian team has won this since the early 90s. Take that, Nuts to the North. You don't bother to help us with our border controls and half your country speaks French. Strike one and strike two.

But, other than that, the Ducks' victory is...........ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Despite making some inroads in its American popularity in the late 70s and early 80s, the National Hockey League now has virtually no relevance in this country. When Americans were paying attention, it wasn't exactly a golden goose, but more like a silver parakeet. Effectively, though, the year-long strike that the players waged two years ago pretty much killed both of those animals. America learned that, when they didn't have hockey to watch, they had about a million other things to enjoy. And that would include re-sorting cans of vegetable in the pantry and using a Dustbuster to vacuum lint from their navels.

I actually spent about ten years of my life as a hockey fan and three of them as a partner in season tickets for the New York Islanders! I had never followed the sport before, because, frankly, I couldn't follow the sport. But, when I showed up at Fordham University, I fell in with a gang of bad influences, namely New York Ranger fans. So, as if I had been confronted by Jim Jones, I was a likely target for conversion and, before long, I was kneeling at the altar of Ron Greschner. I even got sucked into one of those Ranger Fan Club bus trips to Montreal, which was probably one of the worst two day periods of my life. On this 8 hour ride to Canada from NY, I got to watch one of the Ranger fans suck down a gallon jug of white wine purchased at the 99 cent shop and then vomit all over the bus. Then, when they stopped the bus and tried to clean up the mess, some of the industrial cleaner got into the eye...of the guy who had chunked up the floor in the first place. I would have been more horrified, but said upchucker was actually one of the people in my group. I had to look concerned, but distance myself all at the same time. But, I digress...

I wound up drifting to the Islanders, so I could be different in my early doctrination to the sport. And, of course, it was ultra-exciting that my team actually won the Stanley Cup several times before the Rangers ever did. They apparently hadn't won the Cup since before Macy's had balloons in the parade.

But, then, a funny thing happened. As soon as I was out of college and saw these people less and less, I grew to care about hockey less and less. The sport for me was probably akin to dating somebody you didn't really like, but you did so because everybody else was in a couple. I realized that I no longer needed hockey as a validation for why these people should be friends with me. And I discovered that I didn't give a rat's puck about Wayne Gretzky or any other non-American interloper that became a revered star in the sport. I didn't really give a second thought to the Rangers' finally winning the Cup in 1994, except to make sure that I wasn't going to be celebrating anywhere near that same guy who threw up on the bus.

I think I'm not the only one. This is not a sport you can fall in like with. Yes, there are super-passionate hockey fans in this country. They own season tickets and go to every game. They marvel at the skating prowess of this one and the pinpoint stickwork of that one. But, beyond those folks, it's a hard sell. You don't find too many casual hockey fans. When you have nothing to do one night, you suddenly don't turn to a friend and say, "Gee, I wonder if the Kings are in town tonight."

I actually tried to come back to the sport a few years ago. I took a friend in LA to a Kings game as part of a Christmas present. We got great seats next to the penalty box and we could hear every grunt, groan, and curse. A guy with the same last name as me scored the first goal for the Kings, and it was tons of fun. I remember turning to my friend and saying, "Hey, let's do this a couple times next season."

The turkeys went on strike about three weeks later and didn't come back for over a year. That was officially the last minute of play for this sport in my life.

I wish it were an easier sport to embrace. But it does move too fast. And the players all have beards and are missing teeth. So, when they hold out for more money in a misguided labor move, it becomes very easy to erase them from your personal memory banks. Indeed, the Ducks' victory could be a solid marketing ploy that the league could and should exploit. But, you know they'll miss that power play as well. Because, as far as this country is concerned, the ice melted a long time ago.

Dinner last night: frankfurters and salad.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The World According to Gary

Gary Sheffield is the perfect candidate to play baseball in Japan. Because he could talk and talk and talk. And nobody would understand him. In Japan, you could blame it on the language barrier. When he talks here in the US of A, nobody understands him because he's just plain stupid.

He has banged his gums once again in the current issue of GQ. He talks about the racial problems in Major League Baseball. And focuses in now on the Hispanic baseball player. To paraphrase Sir Gary, MLB prefers players of color that are Latino, primarily because they are easier to control. And this comes at the complete expense of the African-American player.

Whacha talkin' about, Willis?

In one shot, Gary Sheffield essentially spits into the sea that Roberto Clemente crashed into back on New Year's Eve of 1972. Does he really sense that MLB is bending over backwards to accommodate Latino players only as an easy way to foster racial diversification? Is he saying that the Hispanic baseball athlete is really that easily prone to subserviance? Well, off the top of my head, I can throw some tequila on his fuego.

Manny Ramirez? Yeah, he's controllable.

Guillermo Mota? A known headhunter and now steroid user. A virtual choir boy.

Alex Rodriguez? Plenty of talent on the diamond and, apparently, in strip joints and hotel rooms. Plus he's got tons of class, yelling Little League stuff at opposing players like he's auditioning for the next straight-to-DVD sequel of "The Sandlot."

Gary's missed the point...again. There are just as many problem children among Latinos as there are with Whites and African-Americans in Major League Baseball. Perhaps, the sport is indeed gravitating toward Hispanic players because they are better. And because they play with passion. And because the fan base in so many cities is now becoming more and more Latino.

Gary has played the race card so many times that it's frayed at the edges. He could have easily been a member of OJ's legal team. And Gary gets away with it always.

Because he can hit, we always acquit.

The guy has always possessed an amazing talent. He wiggles that bat with such a menace. And his stats have always been superlative. Having semi-enjoyed him for a brief time here in LA, I would argue that many of his home-runs are hit with nobody on base. And that supposed cannon of an arm is a misnomer. Yes, he throws a lot of runners out. But, that's largely because he plays so damn shallow in the outfield. Compared to his outfield assists, there are just as many balls being hit over his head.

But still, he's a bonafide talent. And he delivers. For a while. Because Gary Sheffield wears out his welcome quicker than a crazy uncle with body odor at Thanksgiving dinner. Why would a guy with such enormous baseball gifts be passed around the league like a joint at Woodstock? Look at the stops on his tour. Milwaukee. San Diego. Florida. The Dodgers. Atlanta. The Yankees. Now the Detroit Tigers. You know that, given everything the Motor City has been through, they won't tolerate his nonsensical chatter for long. If he's so darn good, why hasn't anybody kept him long term? Sure, you get that immediate high, but then the Sheffield pill kicks in with all those annoying side effects. And Gary starts talking about the raw deal he keeps getting because he's Black.

Hmmm. How many teams did Willie Mays get shoved through in his career? How many stops did Tony Gwynn make before he retired? Do the math, Gary.

Also, Knucklehead, when you think Major League Baseball has turned its back on you completely, think about your uncle Dwight and whatever jail he is in right now. The multiple opportunities the sport gave him to right himself, in the hopes that he would one day eventually walk a straight line.

In my world, stupidity can be available in all colors.

Dinner last night: Garden Medley Salad with Grilled Chicken at BJ's

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day in Boston

Off my mind and onto yours...

---That's John Travolta in the photo above as he will appear in the screen version of "Hairspray."

---Obviously his dream role in more ways than one. The first drag Scientologist. Now we know what the "L" stands for in L. Ron Hubbard.

---Actually, he's better looking than Rosie.

---These lunatics set up shop on Hollywood Boulevard and offer free stress tests to all the yokels visiting Los Angeles from Nebraska. And they're gullible for anything free. It's like they're working around their local mall courts and they're given toothpicks of food samples from Panda Express. Washing their brains is something akin to laser surgery.

---Kool-Aid. 25 Cents Per Glass.

---The only one who showed any momentary guts against this savage cult was Brooke Shields, who blasted that peabrain Tom Cruise after he condemned her clinical attempts to get over postpartum depression.

---But the flying donkey didn't stay up long. As soon as Brooke got the invite to Tom and Katie's Italian lovefest, she packed her bags and made a mad dash for the cheese puffs on the buffet table.

---John Travolta talks about how his son's condition is coming along nicely as a result of his belief in Scientology.

---The kid is autistic. That doesn't clear up like a sinus infection.

---Have you ever seen one of these celebrity Scientologists actually crack open a Bible?

---ABC's idea for Friday night summer entertainment? National Bingo Night.

---Who the heck is going to watch this besides 90-year-old Catholic widows?

---Not to be outdone, CBS should institute Mah Johng Night. Live from Clearwater, Florida. With your host Jackie Mason.

---Melinda Doolittle Geek that I am, I recorded her appearance the other day on "Live with Regis and Airhead."

---Hmmm. When Regis was having his bypass surgery, there must have been another specialist also in the OR. The tightness in the chest has now been replaced by some tightness around the eyes.

---Domestic airlines are flying at a peak 80% capacity. Insiders are predicting that the delays this summer will be monstrous. And this is all being done with a downsizing of airline personnel.

---And most passengers on board will not be wearing shoes and socks.

---Dodger pitcher Chad Billingsley is the new Aaron Heilman. He's so darn good out of the bullpen that they never want to start him. But that's what he should be doing. Now, you worry if that will mess with his head the way it did with the Mets' Heilman.

---They're now called the Noo Jork Mezz. It's a matter of time before there are chickens walking around the concourses of Shea Stadium.

---The Regal Cinemas chain has a new gimmick. They will pre-select about ten patrons per show and hand them a device that is connected to the manager's office. If there is anybody misbheaving in the theater, you can hit this gizmo and the manager will come immediately.

---Hopefully with a loaded weapon.

---Seriously, where do I send my check? I want one of these suckers.

---With a tazer attached.

---Movie theaters provide one more example of how the dummies in the general public overstay their welcome. Everybody has this entitlement that, wherever they may be, it is simply an extension of their living rooms.

---So, don't look at me funny when I tell you to shut the hell up.

---And can we also end that stupid game we are forced to play at the concession stand?

---"You can get a large soda for a quarter more."

---Gee, thank you for the great lesson in economics, Mr. Theater Owner. But, I am totally capable to understand what I want to buy.

---Besides, the small size already features a 400% mark-up, so this quarter more thing is not exactly like a 401K program.

---Is there no end to the way we are pummeled with stats from Major League Baseball? Whatever happened to watching a game?

---Let's hear what Nomar Garciaparra's lifetime batting average is on Pentecost.

---Or how David Wright hits when there are runners in scoring position that have less than two testicles.

---There was a great line in the paper the other day and it was attributed to some statistics professor.

---Statistics are like prisoners: Torture them long enough, and they'll tell you whatever you want to hear.

I'll always tell you what you want to hear.

Dinner last night: bacon mushroom burger at Islands.