Thursday, January 31, 2008

How To Murder Your Sinuses

Guilty as charged, Your Honor. But, I would like to plead to the lesser charge of manslaughter, as my actions are not intentional. It is simply happening as I go about the simple act of trying to live my life.

You inherit a lot of your health issues from your parents. I did get some good stuff from my mom. Super-low and consistent blood pressure. And hair follicles that just don't know how to turn gray. But, on the downside, I apparently was gifted with her rotten sinuses. Because, over and over, I am reminded just how bad they are.

I can remember my mom really suffering with sinus headaches when I was a kid. She would ingest the popular medicine of the 60s, Allerest, like they were Skittles. And, then she would have to lay down and nap for an hour or two. Once, she made the grand mistake of taking a pill and downing it with a can of Coke. The combination of those two apparently render any human being virtually comatose, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that both may have been found on Heath Ledger's night stand. But, I digress...

I'm pretty sure Mom's lousy sinuses, later to be bestowed upon yours truly, were also aggravated by her life-long unrequited love affair with Kent Cigarettes. And, thanks to closed windows, I got to breathe in that crap myself. The end result was a child's nasal passageway that could have been manufactured by Edsel.

So, in the NY-located portion of my adulthood, I managed to mess up my sinuses simply by getting up in the morning. In college, I eschewed my mom's daily elixir of Allerest for virtually constant snorts of Afrin, which later prompted enough rebound to make Kobe Bryant envious. After kicking that habit, I had very little to my avail, and I simply waited for the quarterly sinus infection, which showed up as regularly as my bank statement. I would score an extra bonus infection or two during the winter when you would get to enjoy all that marvelous indoor radiated heat coming through air vents that hadn't been cleaned since Eleanor Roosevelt had straight teeth. And any soupcon of dust would send me into sinus distress. I'd walk into somebody's dusty house and start to shake like Don Knotts. And, if there was a cat in the vicinity, forget it. I once spent a holiday meal seated on somebody's cold front stoop because little Felix had left nary a sofa cushion unshed.

But then, I moved to Southern California. And I apparently forgot to pack my sinus issues, because, for the first several years, I was infection-free. It was as if I had traveled to Lourdes and I left my half-filled Ocean saline spray bottle alongside somebody's cane near the holy water. I no longer could instantly spell the name of the latest hot antibiotic. Oh, there were enough small breathing bumps that required me to begin a warm relationship with an ENT. But, here in sunny LA, we only had to date casually and no rings were exchanged. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Sinus pressure free. Of course, I did help this along a bit. A daily sinus rinse with warm salt water. Ocean Saline always handy. Every once in a while, a half dose of an Allegra pill. And a cleaning lady who comes every two weeks. I adopted a time-intensive regimen whenever I was required to fly. But, all in all, bacteria were no longer using my nasal airway as their winter condo.

Until two weeks ago. When I set up my sinuses as if they were traveling past the Dealey Plaza grassy knoll without the bubble top on the limousine. It all started very innocently. Several days before I was to fly to NY, I had to physically pack up my LA office area. While I would be gone, the building was going to paint and lay down new carpet. I had to open and empty every single file cabinet. I had to pull out dusty Pendaflex folders that contained papers dated 1990 something. Since I had just gotten over a cold developed last month while going up and down a 38,000 feet high elevator four times in one week, I guess I was still vulnerable. The dust particles began to wave at my lungs. I started to cough over the weekend.

My flight to Gotham City the following Monday went okay, but I started to feel the constriction of my throat as I walked through JFK's Hertz location. The temperature outside was in the 20s, but the heat inside was close to 90. My sinuses were being instantly freeze-dried. By the time I got to my Westchester apartment, which was also heated, my sinuses were going the way of the Writer's Guild. On strike. I slept overnight in the dry, heave-inducing heat and I developed a sinus pounding that, like Mike Douglas' co-host, would be with me all week.

Over the course of the next three days, my sinuses would undergo wildly temperature swings that would render them catatonic. The only time I would enjoy a mild respite was on Wednesday night, when I saw "Young Frankenstein." You might have read how well that turned out. All the while, my head felt like that episode of "I Love Lucy" where Little Ricky won't stop drumming. Ker-bang. Ker-bang. Ker-bang. I was in an eternal construction zone.

By Thursday, I needed some sort of relief, especially since I was facing another cross-country Petri dish on Friday. When I had lived in NY, there used to be a lot of those walk-in places where you could get instant relief from an ankle sprain or a jammed thumb. They no longer exist, as they have been all consumed by major hospital groups. Most of them went belly up, because certain folks in our population would use and abuse them like emergency rooms.

"My baby got the sniffles."

"Ma'am, your baby is 15."

Whatever the case, those urgent care facilities have, like my sinuses, completely dried up. I started to collect referrals of friends' doctors, none of whom could see me before President's Day. Finally, my good NY friend, the Bibster, hit on a brilliant idea. Why not call my West Coast internist and see if he could help? I've written about Doogie Howser previously, when he bailed my knee out of trauma with a cortisone shot. Sure enough, I did and he did. Got me loaded up with some antibiotics, over-the-counter recommendations, and a kickass cough syrup that could incite a three day nap.

The flight back to LA? Given I had just started on the medications, it was horrific. I felt a little like Franklin Delano Roosevelt did while he was having his portrait done just before he slumped over in 1945. Frankly, if some terrorist had stood up and stormed the cockpit, I probably would have held the door open for him. And bring him a coffee and a danish.

But, by Saturday morning, a rain-soaked Los Angeles was still most inviting. And the pressure is virtually all gone. But, it persists just enough to remind me. To kiss my housekeeper the next time I see her. To throw out manila folders that were first filed in the last century. To avoid NY during any months where furnaces are on.

And I could tell my mom to lose the Kents. In hindsight only.

Dinner last night: Turkey burger at Earth, Wind, and Flour.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Wednesday Before Super Sunday and Super Tuesday

Remember when "super" referred to the guy who fixed your toilet.

---Speaking of which, nothing has clogged up our sewers more than the catcalling candidates for the Democratic nomination.

---If the Republican Party is supposed to be the one of sexism and bigotry, how come it's the Democrats who are so good at both?

---All of a sudden, Bill Clinton thinks he's Don Rickles at the Sahara. Either he's really loyal to his wife. Or there's a cute White House intern he's got his eye on.

---And Ba-lack Osama is no better. He's played the race card more than Carol Channing has sung "Hello Dolly."

---Oh, so African-Americans do know how to go out to vote?

---I heard this sound bite on the news this morning. They were interviewing some African-American lady on her voting choice in California's upcoming primary.

---"I ain't voting for Obama because he's Black. I'se voting for him because he's intelligent and knows how to talk good."

---This is a woman who is judging a level of intellect???

---I'll take two books of stamps, please.

---In the picture attached above, do you think Fat Teddy is giving him his drink order?

---How completely and utterly stupid is the state of Massachusetts, who have kept re-electing this gin-soaked waste for the past 40 or so years?

---Maybe Teddy is telling Obama Bin Laden what really happened to Mary Jo at the bridge.

---I love that this fat load, clearly the dumbest of all the Kennedy children (and that includes the retarded one they exiled to Minnesota years ago), loves to tout civil rights, but lives in a state that is whiter than the walls at Bellevue Hospital. And you know that the only minorities found in his neighborhood are carrying trays.

---I got a weird e-mail from the California Board of Election, reminding me that I registered as a "decline to state" voter. Makes it seem like I did something wrong by calling myself an Independent.

---But I am allowed to ask for a Democratic ballot and I will.

---And I will hold my nose and vote for Hillary.

---Because I don't need to be hearing my father's comments from the great beyond.

---"I can't believe you voted for that spook."

---Well, my record's intact. I never watched a single one of Bush's State of the Union addresses.

---I got caught in one of the many torrential downpours in Southern California last Saturday night. I felt like I was on Disneyland's Splash Mountain ride. Without the log.

---And this wardrobe tip: Wet cashmere smells.

---Speaking of thrill rides, I was in a movie theater lobby and, for the first time ever, I saw a disclaimer posted at the box office.

---If you were buying tix for Cloverfield, you are reminded that the jerky handheld camera movements could make patrons ill as if they are on a rollercoaster.

---While they were at it, why couldn't they just tell us that the movie also sucks?

---From a pot on the baseball hot stove: With the Mets' acquisition of Johan Sebastian Santana, they have almost completed a totally Hispanic starting rotation for 2008. They are pressing righthander Maine to change his first name to Juan.

---Santana is a proven pitcher, but who's left in their minor leagues? Galen Cisco?

---With the exciting Giants in the Super Bowl, I may actually have to break my 26 year embargo of the game and watch the freakin' thing.

---It all depends what's on at the same time on Turner Classic Movies.

---Or whether or not there's a particularly tough Sudoku puzzle in the Los Angeles Times.

---Usually on Super Bowl Sunday, I find the longest movie in the local theater. The only other people there are old ladies and gay men.

---But I'm dying to see New England get taken down a peg. After years of whining about losing, the super successful Patriots and now the big bully Red Sox now make that whole area of the country annoying.

---And they've been voting for Kennedy since 1895, so that's strike three in my book.

---Senator Kennedy, your vote is?


Dinner last night: Turkey pastrami reuben sandwich from the Cheesecake Factory.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Theater Restoration

But, not the way you think.

After my horrendous evening in NY's Hilton Theater last Wednesday, I needed the glory of playgoing to be reconciled in my mind pretty darn quickly. Between the mess on the "Young Frankenstein" stage and the tourist kunckleheads who now comprise the majority of the Broadway audience, I wanted to know that it was still safe to go back into a legitimate theater. It's the old equestrian adage. When you fall off a horse, you have to get right back on.

As fate would have it, my new steed would gallop by a few nights later. In a rather prescient move last Christmas, I had gifted my good friend, Mr. Anonymous, with tickets for LA's Reprise theater organization's staged reading of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple." And, with the traditional "ticket rule" intact, I was treated to the second ticket. So, three nights after my NY Broadway sewer back-up and still juggling sinus infection-required dosages of antibiotics, saline spray, Sudafed, and cough syrup, I ventured out into the rain to see just how bad another production could be.

I lived and I will tell about it.

Reprise is one of those theater companies that takes old musicals and plays and gives them a semi-staged onceover. Usually, they're light on the production values and the sets are strictly Ikea. I've gone to a few of their shows and, generally, they are quite good. In light of the news that Jason Alexander is now the artistic director for Reprise, they decided to hold a two-night-only charity event to raise money for the future. And the gimmick would be a reunion of "The Producers" for the LA production of Mel Brooks' hit musical---Martin Short and Jason Alexander. Given I thought that Short/Alexander were a much better and focused pair compared to the Matthew Broderick/Nathan Lane coupling from NY. Later on, the latter two would do "The Odd Couple" on Broadway. I heard the results were horrible. I bought these tickets for Mr. Anonymous, expecting little.

I got a lot. Compared to the million dollar fireworks and sets that dominated "Young Frankenstein," the Reprise reading looked like it had a budget of about 15 dollars. There was a single door that was probably "borrowed" from the Warner Brothers prop department. There were two tables and a bunch of folding chairs perhaps left over from the bar mitzvah of Mr. Alexander's son. The way they made Oscar Madison's apartment messy was simply by spreading around the sections from Saturday's Los Angeles Times. The whole thing looked like it had been financed by your cheapest relative.

None of it mattered. Because, when you get right down to it, good theater is all about the performances. And the words on the page. No one has ever contested the brilliance of Neil Simon's original play. But, at this staged reading, it seemed all new. I knew the jokes that were coming, but the cast put their own unique spin on it, as if Neil Simon himself had phoned in new lines the day before. It was as fresh as it was originally produced on Broadway in 1965.

Over time, "Oscar" portrayers Walter Matthau and Jack Klugman have always made it seem like their character got all the funniest moments. But, with the chemistry they shared, Jason Alexander and Martin Short seemed to manage once again to re-focus their performances, so that they both had moments to shine. And Short's always welcome mugging had more than several opportunities to be displayed. They both made extremely smart choices in all their beats on Saturday night.

While the cast was completely "on book" and holding scripts in their hands, you almost didn't notice. They remarked that they had only rehearsed first last Thursday, I got the sense that the entire cast had been stewing their roles in their heads for several weeks. I saw better polish in this simple staged reading than I did in the entire two hours plus of "Young Frankenstein." The whole "Odd Couple" cast was top notch and I even enjoyed Patrick "Rules of Engagement" Warburton, one of the worst actors on TV today, as one of the poker players. If you can leave the theater liking an actor you normally despise, some real work has been accomplished.

In a sidelight, it was pouring rain the entire evening and intermission found most of the audience huddled outside under a couple of makeshift tents. As I eavesdropped on several conversations, I was surprised to hear several folks talking about how much the dialogue seemed to be lifted from the movie. Didn't they know that it was a play before it was a movie and a TV show? With this much audience stupidity about, had I suddenly been transported back to NY? But then I saw Jacqueline Bisset sipping a Diet Coke and that shook me back to West Coast reality. And, of course, you don't go to a theater in NY and see Eugene Levy cheering his SCTV buddy from the front row.

It was simple. It was professional. And it sure was welcome.

Theater was back in my good graces.

Dinner last night: Italian grinder sandwich.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 28, 2008

More carefully selected snippets for cat haters.

Dinner last night: Dried cappacollo sandwich.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite Films: #10!!

A few weeks back, when I wrote about "The Band Wagon" on this list, I admittedly could have flipped the rank of that movie and this one. Indeed, they are both that good and, in a lot of respects, the same movie. Both came out very close to each other in 1952 and 1953 from the Arthur Freed MGM factory. They're both the best film musicals that MGM ever did, and that's a formidible statement when you consider the list of great movies they produced.

But, there are two main reasons why I rank "Singin' In The Rain" a little higher. First off, you need not go any further than the title number. Has there been any other moment in film history that has been shown more than Gene Kelly sloshing around in the gutter of the backlot? And, when this clip starts, is there anybody out there that turns it off before the end? Unlike any other scene in the history of film, you never ever get tired of watching Gene Kelly dance with his umbrella. This is cinematic magic at its most amazing. I have seen this film a quite a few times in a theater with a live audience. And this scene elicits rousing applause every single time. But, then again, so does every number in the movie. Watch the "Moses Supposes" number.

What get lost, however, in the midst of several other dynamite numbers from Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and young Debbie Reynolds is the sterling and Oscar-nominated performance of Jean Hagen as the ditzy diva, Lina Lamont. If Hagen does this role in any other movie, she would steal the picture. And she does come damn close to completing the heist. But, frankly, nobody steals anything from Gene Kelly. Nevertheless, "Singin' In The Rain" is a musical comedy, primarily because Hagen singlehandedly provides the comedy as the silent movie actress who can't make the jump to talkies because she sounds like a duck with her web feet stuck in a Cuisinart. She is absolutely irresistible. You need to see this movie one time and simply focus on her performance. The irony about her role in the film is that Reynolds' character dubs the singing for Lina. But, you will note that, for several songs, Reynolds herself is dubbed.

"Singin' In The Rain" was voted as #5 on the AFI List of 100 Best Movies, and I believe it came in at #1 on the AFI list for Best Musicals. And, as much as I have seen it, I could watch it tonight on Turner Classic Movies or my DVD and still be as entertained as I was when I first saw it as a kid. There are very, very few movies you can say that about. Fifty years from now, nobody's going to be watching "Happy Gilmore."

Dinner last night: Milan pizza at CPK.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Google Ron Paul

That's what all the signs around town, both Los Angeles and New York, say. They're showing up as much as those other loons at football games who hang banners that point you to that Gospel of John verses.

"Google Ron Paul."

So I did.

And, in this Presidential election, the role normally played by Ross Perot will now be portrayed by...

To say this guy is a screwball is an understatement. Anybody that blows their vote on this fossil will also cast a ballot for Britney Spears to be PTA president. Paul has been hanging around Texas and Congress for years. He's already 72, which means that he's the wrong age to be President but the right age to be calling Bingo numbers at an assisted living facility.

If you take a peek at his political positions, it's clear that he should be running on the Clueless ticket. The reason why he's getting so much attention is because he's so vehemently against the Iraq War. But, if you read his stances on the other hundred or so issues facing this country, you'll quickly get the idea that he's getting most of his information from watching Larry King. He's all over the map. He hates the war, but advocates guns. He is pro-life, but will also take the opposite stance on the federal level. He is against the federal income tax, the war on drugs, and the Patriot Act. I call him Liberative. And Conserval. Take your pick. As far as I'm concerned, the only decision I would entrust to him on a daily basis is whether to have soup or salad as an appetizer.

But, of course, he says the things stupid Americans want to hear, so, in low IQ homes in Nebraska, he has credibility. And, then, there's his picture above, which makes him look like your friendly neighborhood Walgren's pharmacist. Ultimately, he'll go nowhere in this election. But, until that moment when he realizes that his future lies in front of a checker board, we get to listen to his mindless dribble. And appreciate that the fact that this is a great democracy, where even a lunatic can run for the most powerful job in the world.

Dinner last night: Chicken salad sandwich after flying back to LA with a full-blown sinus infection.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Abby Normal

You see to the right the cast album of Mel Brooks' new musical, "Young Frankenstein."

I'm not going to buy it.

After my foray into the Hilton Theater (note to Broadway: theaters should be named after playwrights, lyricists, or composers, not hotel chains or blonde bimbos) Wednesday night to see the show, I saw a lot of these CDs piled up at the theater gift shop. Nobody else was buying them either.

Sure, I had read the lousy reviews beforehand. I figured that some of that bad buzz might be attributed to Broadway snootiness driven by the ultra-high top ticket price, which is the equivalent of your first mortgage payment for a 700 square foot Manhattan condo. And I knew 'Young Frankenstein" was going to be nowhere close to being as excitingly clever as "The Producers." But, at the same time, it had to be better than "Xanadu." Or that stupid "Grease" revival which features lead actors that were cast by having some schmucks in Iowa call NBC's toll-free number. And, at the very, very least, I was hoping for a pleasant evening of theatrical diversion, albeit at the tough-to-swallow price of $ 120.

Wrong, wrong, and now a little poorer.

What made "The Producers" so startingly good is that there was an element of discovery for the theater goer. I saw the original production when it first opened in NY with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. I later saw the LA production that was even better, thanks to more tempered and focused performances from Jason Alexander and the always delectable Martin Short. The first time I saw the production number with the old ladies tapdancing around with walkers, I marveled at the creativity. I did the same with the "Springtime for Hitler" moment which wonderfully expanded upon the way it was presented in the original film. There was none of that when I saw "Young Frankenstein."

To say that Mel Brooks' latest musical is no "Producers" is an understatement. It's not even close to the canned Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show in terms of entertainment return on investment. Sure, the pyrotechnics are spectacular, especially in the scene where the good Doctor Frankenstein gives life to his monster. And the sets are marvelous. But, sets can't sing. Or dance. Or act. Nobody left the Hilton Theater humming the Transylvania town square.

"Young Frankenstein" is probably my favorite Mel Brooks movie and other fans will be happy to know that all the most memorable jokes are transferred intact to the stage. Where wolf, there wolf. The mention of Frau Blucher causing horses to whinny (by the way, Blucher is German for glue, in case nobody really thought about that joke previously). What hump? Etc., etc., etc.. It's all there in person. But, still, the life has been drained out of the dialogue just as if the show went through the same brain transferrence that the monster does. It's an open bottle of club soda one month later.

Whereas the Susan Strohman choregraphy in "The Producers" was inspired, there is nothing nearly as inventive in "Young Frankenstein." Most of the numbers look like dancing you would see in the 10PM show on the Queen Mary.

The acting is equally as lacking. Roger Bart is totally miscast as the lead. He works okay in musical numbers, but he kept changing his voice while doing dialogue. I thought I was watching Fred Travalena at Harrah's. There was a grating quality to his performance that completely undercut any likeability you are supposed to develop for his character. Sutton Foster, who usually plays the thankless role of Inga, didn't even bother to show up on Wednesday night, and perhaps she was the smartest one in the bunch as she apparently settled in at home to watch the latest American Idol auditions. Megan Mullaly, the biggest "star" in the show, plays the Madeline Kahn role of the fiancee and, except for five minutes early on, she could literally spend the entire first act having a ribeye steak at Gallagher's. Unfortunately, Megan is still demonstrating some of those nasty acting tics she developed after years of working with super-hack James Burrows' non-direction on "Will and Grace." Here, she once again delivers some lines with her breasts, and that's fitting given that her two biggest numbers contain nothing but anatomical references. The ballad she sings after getting poked by the monster is called "Deep Love" and, trust me, it has nothing to do with the most inner depths of the emotion. The guy playing the monster was serviceable, but, even after reading the Playbill, I still can't remember his name. And Christopher Fitzgerald as Igor/Eyegor did echo the portrayal of Marty Feldman, albeit with some corrective eye surgery.

At the act break, I realized that the past hour and fifteen minutes had flown by like two weeks and that I could not remember a single musical note from the absolutely dreadful music. I loathed the beginning of the second act the way I fear a doctor wearing a plastic glove. But, just as I was going to officially put my John Hancock on the death certificate, out comes the famous "Puttin' On the Ritz" number, which finally applied the electric paddles to an otherwise stillborn evening. This song is terrifically expanded on the stage, and there was finally music and lyrics to savor, which made sense because it's the only song in the show that was outsourced, having been essayed by Irving Berlin some eighty years ago.

The only other thing that was able to raise my chin off my chest was the performance of Andrea Martin as Frau Blucher. Admittedly, I would pay good money to watch this amazing talent open a can of Chunky Soup. Everytime she walked onto the stage, she was as welcome as your next pay check. And the role is greatly fleshed out on the stage, and probably has been increased even more since rehearsals when they realized the magic wand she waves over this whole production. For my money, they could keep giving her more to do every night until it's essentially a one woman show.

So, do the math. One superlative performance and one good production number. Worth $120? Probably not. Worth 60? Maybe. And, since I know scalpers were outside the theater selling tickets for half price, that might be your best ticket to Transylvania. But, hurry. There were empty seats in the back and that wasn't the case for "The Producers" the first two years of its Broadway run.

By the way, no such Broadway excursion would be complete without another observation of the increasingly slippery slope of the NY theater going audience, which is now one rung above frequent diners at the Olive Garden. The Hilton Theater is one of those old vaudeville houses on 42nd Street and it has been lovingly restored, given that one of its theater neighbors has been converted to a McDonalds, complete with a glittery marquee. But, there's a huge gift shop in the lobby that resembles the store you walk through after getting off the Tower of Terror ride at California Adventure. I was expecting to see a wall where I could buy a picture of me sitting in Row P, not enjoying the show. And it's the first time I've ever seen an ATM in a legitimate theater lobby, similar to one you would see stationed outside of J.C. Penney's in the local mall.

As for the folks around me, it's more of the same. People bringing pretzels, Raisinets, and cocktails back to their seats. And there's a new phenomenon. Just like those numbskulls that rush out of a movie theater when the closing credits start, a whole host of idiots now run out of Broadway theaters before the curtain calls. I look at them all and know that none of them could possibly have anyplace important to be. Those that stay provide the requisite standing ovation, which is now rendered as completely meaningless on the Broadway stage since now every single performance of anything gets one.

Even though I did not like "Young Frankenstein," I stayed for the curtain call. And applauded. And cheered when Andrea Martin took her bow.

And really wished I had liked it more. During the final number, the cast sings about the possibility of Mel's next possible musical production, an adaptation of "Blazing Saddles."

I might just stick to watch the DVD, which I got for $14.95.

Dinner last night: Antipasto salad.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dear Mr. Met...

Well, not really. But the letter below is my first correspondence with the wonderful powers-that-be from the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club. As you may know, my Saturday seats at Shea Stadium are unlikely to transfer to the new dump they are building. It's time now for me to become a pebble in Jeff Wilpon's shoe.

To: Mr. William Ianniciello Vice President, Ticket Sales and Services, New York Mets, Shea Stadium, Flushing, New York 11368

Dear Mr. Ianniciello:

In a separate communication, I have remitted my payment for my 2008 Saturday plan for my 2 Loge seats (Section 7, Row E, Seats 1 and 2). In the past 40 years, this annual news did not merit a written announcement. But, indeed, given the upcoming move to Citi Field and the ramifications of that transition, I realize that this recent transaction will probably be my last.

It is clear to me from the careful wording of your correspondence which accompanied my 2008 invoice that there will be no room for partial plan holders at Citi Field. As you stated, "Full Season Ticket Holders for 2008 will have priority in purchasing Full Season Tickets for Citi Field in 2009, before any determination on the use of remaining seating inventory." With a seating capacity diminished by 10,000 seats and an intense desire to sell as many full season tickets as possible, it is readily apparent to me that, at the very, very best, I might have Saturday tickets somewhere closer to the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge.

You may be looking at my return address and wondering why somebody in Los Angeles would care about this. Well, sir, I care a great deal. My parents first purchased this Saturday plan for me in 1968 when I was still a youngster. The Saturday ritual was part of my life throughout high school, college, and then my adult life. These seats every Saturday have been much more than just a date on my calendar. They have been a very significant component to the highlight reel of my life. Despite re-locating to Los Angeles 10 years ago, I have still maintained this family tradition and even personally attend 5 or 6 of the annual 13 Saturday contests.

I believe I merit a more concise blueprint for my future as it pertains to my Met ticket plan. I would be naive to think that I am the only person who has held a partial plan as long as I have. But, at the same time, there can't be many of us. And, hopefully, you are learning that those folks are equally as distressed as I am. I also plan to look for definitive answers in other venues as well, most notably the media.

It is incredibly sad to me that a major part of my life may come to an end in such an ignoble fashion. While some history books are meant to be ultimately closed, I was always of the mindset that this particular compendium of life memories would not be completed for some time. To even consider that there will be a New York Met home game on a Saturday without tickets in my back pocket is unfathomable at the moment.

Thanks for considering this letter.

Cc: David Howard, Jeff Wilpon.

Unlike the 2007 Mets, I am not going down without a fight.

Dinner last night: Hanger steak and mushrooms at Metro Marche.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

There Will Be Wednesday

Don't worry. No bad hats or creepy looking kids in today's post. Just me. On two coasts.

---I scored 26 out of 30 nominations in my Oscar pool. Who the hell thought about that Cate Blanchett movie about some English queen?

---I'm betting Cate didn't even have it down on her sheet.

---And Tommy Lee Jones from that Elah movie? Was that actually shown in theaters? For general admission?

---And Michael Moore got nominated again for Best Documentary with that Sick-o flick-o? With no writers, how will anybody know when to boo?

---Well, the terror threat in this country is officially over. American Airlines has returned to real silverware in business class.

---And I swear that I saw box cutters on sale at a souvenir stand in LAX.

---I feel totally safe on American these days. I understand Al Qeida hates the fact you have to purchase snacks on board.

---Overheard conversation at Baggage Claim in JFK as it took forever to get your stuff. Business Exec 1: "I guess baggage people work a lot slower when the temperature is below 25." Business Exec 2: "Nah, they're all off for the holiday."

---I wish I could say I made that up.

---Oprah on line 2.

---You know you're back in NY when you turn on the radio and you immediately hear an oldie on WCBS-FM. And then they cut to Mr. G with the weather. Aural comfort food.

---Except they have this weird way of introducing him. They play the song from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride in Disneyland.

---"Yo ho ho ho, it's the weather with Mr. G."

---If you think the writers strike has prevented any good new comedy from showing up on TV, you have not been watching the Democratic debates. I close my eyes and this could be a Norman Lear sitcom with Bonnie Franklin and Jimmie "JJ" Walker.

---Don't you wish both Hillary and Balack Osama would get down in the mud and end it all in a deathmatch? Inside one of those cages where Bruno Sammartino used to do battle with Gorilla Monsoon.

---And, since I'm listed as an independent voter in California, I get to vote for one of these idiots on Super Tuesday. Although I am counting on a last minute surge to get Adlai Stevenson on the ballot.

---Here's a sure-fire way to make an African-American fidget. Ask them to explain to you why they are voting for Obama Bin Laden.

---I've done this and the results are hilarious. You'll hear all sorts of bizarre rationales.

---"He wears nice suits."

---"He recycles newspapers at home."

---"He prefers Pepsi to Coke."

---All but the obvious. Just say the words. It's okay. I would do the same thing if a White Lutheran Met/Dodger fan was on the ticket.

---Oprah again. Line 3.

---This country can talk till it's green in the face about the commitment to ecology. But, why is it that, every single Sunday, I have to sift through more flyers and coupons to get to the actual newspaper? It's all paper, folks. And trees.

---And now you get into a rental car and advertisements are hanging from the mirror. More paper. More trees.

---Ed Begley Jr. on line 4.

---I was a little chilly Sunday. Watching the Giant-Packer game in frigid temperatures while it was around 50 outside in Los Angeles. I felt a little guilty changing into a sweatshirt.

---Why is it that some players always transcend their team? It's "Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers." And "Brett Favre and the Green Packers."

---When do we get to hear "Eli Manning and the New York Giants?"

---I'm a little confused with the jet lag. Did I hear right? There was an anti-Martin Luther King demonstration conducted by Diana Ross and the white supremacists?

---Speaking of the diva. This just in from my roving LA reporter, Mr. Anonymous. Fresh from her appearance as a Kennedy Center honoree, Miss Ross is spotted in a Ralph's supermarket on the corner of Beverly and Doheny. Pushing a shopping cart containing hot dogs and Cheez-its.

---Just goes to show. Even rich people wearing no make-up can eat like slobs.

Dinner last night: Grilled chicken salad.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Special Tuesday Video Laugh in Honor of MLK Day

The future new "first lady" of the country. Hard at work.

Hi, Bob and Goodbye, Emily

You probably heard that actress Suzanne Pleshette passed away over the weekend at the age of 70. She had been battling cancer for the past few years, and I'm almost certain it was lung-related. And, that wouldn't surprise me given she was second only to U.S. Steel in terms of smoke output. As I write that last line, I am thinking she would no doubt laugh heartily if it turned up in that great blog in the sky.

Now, the passage of time creeps on and closer still. I'm realizing that people that I have have enjoyed on television in my own young adult years are now passing on. I can remember being glued to the TV set every Saturday night during those years when the Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show held down the 9-10 hour on CBS. Coupled with All in the Family, M*A*S*H*, and The Carol Burnett Show for one season (1973-74), there was no better nightly line-up on TV ever. And that includes all those so-called "Must See TV" Thursdays on NBC. But, I digress...

Suzanne's passing reminded me of a very odd connection we had with her about 14 or 15 years ago. When two gullible writers in New York were starting out and trying to make as many Hollywood connections that we could. From 3000 miles away.

The truly amazing thing about celebrities like Suzanne and others who worked in "the business" in the 60s and the 70s is how accessible they are. There's probably no way these days that anybody, without a conduit at a major talent agency and/or an act of God, could get hold of somebody like a Patrick Dempsey or a Teri Hatcher. And, the younger and hipper the star, the bigger the wall. Yet, you would be surprised how this older bunch deals with the public. If you reach out to them, they do eventually reach back to you. And, they do read their mail!

Such was the case a decade and a half ago. My writing partner and I were working to gain some footholds in the TV world, after having some early developmental success in NY. That was the time when television was going back into its history and trying to pull forward one of the classic stars for one last fling with the public. For Pete's sake, some genius actually thought they could make a sitcom star out of Faye Dunaway.

We decided to try and tap into this trend. From our vantage point, it was high time for Suzanne Pleshette to come back to series television. So, we did what we always did when we had a bright idea like this. We wrote a letter. Perhaps it was the way we framed the prose, but we had frighteningly good success at making connections in this way. To this day, some of our letter recipients remain friends and even business associates.

Well, we had three ideas we wanted to pitch to Suzanne. My writing partner hit on a brilliant angle. He remembered that, as she did brilliantly for so many years, Suzanne had been on The Tonight Show (the real one with Johnny Carson) one night and complained that she was not getting many film or TV offers anymore. She made a comic plea that she would be happy to consider anything and would do so if somebody sent her one dollar. So, we sat down and crafted a note, citing this very request. And, of course, we attached one crisp new dollar bill. We found her business address and off it went.

Two weeks later, I am in my then-new NY apartment and I am having a stove delivered and installed by two guys who made Stan and Ollie look like Rodgers and Hart. The password for that day was apparently "inept." As I watched these two morons try to figure out to connect electricity without turning us all into Gary Gilmore, my phone rings. Calling from California, it is Tom Gallagher, Suzanne's manager and husband. I Ralph Kramdened for about ten seconds. This was the very guy I had her lovingly complain about on the Carson Show for years. He asked it was a bad time. And, then, almost on cue from my kitchen, there was a loud clang. I was so annoyed by the clumsy goings-on in my apartment that I started to vent on the phone with Tom. And, it must have sounded pretty damn funny because I had the guy in laughter-provoked convulsions for about ten minutes. All because I was saddled with expert appliance installers, Hose-A and Hose-B. Gallagher wanted to know if my partner was as funny as I was. I replied that, not only was he just as funny, he also selects day laborers a lot better than I did. More gagging and coughing on the other end of the phone.

"Send me your ideas. We want to read them. And, by the way, Suzanne loved the dollar bill bit."

We sent off our ideas the very next week. Over a short while, I got to have two other phone conversation with Tom Gallagher. Each time, we would chat and the guy would be coughing his head off with guffaws. When I later heard that he had died from lung cancer several years later, I realized where all the coughs were coming from. Probably the same carton of cigarettes that Suzanne was smoking from.

Ultimately, Tom called and passed on the ideas. He acknowledged they were clever, but Suzanne was focused on some other things, perhaps designing a nifty new pattern for her line of bed linens. But, I am still astonished how this all began. With a single letter. And, just to show you how top notch these two were, we eventually received a note thanking us.

And they attached the dollar bill. Top notch people and they are always missed.

Dinner last night: Teriyaki chicken and thai noodles.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 21, 2008

TV News looks so much more interesting overseas.

Dinner last night: BLT at Cafe 50s.

Tuesday: Coming to you from NYC!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite Films: #11!!

On cold and wintery Sunday afternoons, I used to love to listen to my grandmother tell me about the World War II years. She had four sons, all of them in the service at the same time. One of them, whose name I now bear, didn't come back. As a matter of fact, he got killed in France just two weeks before V-E Day in 1945. So close and yet...

These chats fueled my undying interest in WWII. Since then, I have gobbled up every book on Roosevelt's presidency, every radio broadcast on the overseas battle, and every single movie that depicted what it was like living in the United States from 1941 to 1945.

But, "The Best Years of Our Lives" is the only movie that took it all one step further. It examines the lives of three soldiers after the war is over. They return to their small town, fresh from battle, but unaware that their biggest challenges are yet to come. Fredric March won an Oscar for his portrayal of a banker trying to assimilate back into his career. There is a scene where he is reunited with his wife, played by Myrna Loy. They walk slowly to each other down a long hallway. It is wordless and beautiful, perhaps the most romantic moment in film history. Dana Andrews plays a fighter pilot, still holding scars from dropping bomb after bomb. Now, with the war over, he can't hold onto a job or a wife.

And then there's Homer, played by non-actor Harold Russell. He won an honorary Oscar for this role as a Navy guy who comes homes without his hands. And this ain't CGI magic, folks. Those hooks are real. Watch the scene where he encounters his family for the first time. And they realize, with their own eyes, what has happened to him.

"The Best Years of Our Lives," expertly directed by William Wyler, won 8 Oscars, including one for Best Picture. I never got the irony of the title until recently. That, indeed, the best years for these folks may have been the years when they were actually away as soldiers. And it still rings true today for the most obvious reasons. Because this country loves to send folks into battle, but has no clue what to do with them when they come home. The dilemma has been consistent regardless of the conflict. Korea. Vietnam. Iraq. The homecoming for most is always bittersweet.

And I think about those who don't come home. My never-seen uncle, for instance. The emotions that were tied to that loss were something that my grandmother never really touched on in those long Sunday dialogues.

Probably because they never really healed.

Dinner last night: Ham steak at Musso and Frank's.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What Could Be This Year's Oscar Nominations

Every year around this time, I get myself involved in a pool with some friends in New York. We select what we believe will be the Oscar nominations in six key categories. Then, that score gets transferred over to the actual award ceremony, where we try to pick the winners in every single category, including the Oscar for Best Head Explosion (Male) and Best Ear Lobe Chewed in a Sex Scene (Female).

I approach my picks by trying to read the Academy's mind. I look at the trade ads and listen to the buzz around Hollyweird. Then, I attempt to ascertain which faction will win out. The new young turks on line at the Ivy. Or the old hard-boiled farts who are also on line at the Ivy. Invariably, we do these picks and then, suddenly, somebody shows up on the list that we forgot about. Keep in mind that these thoughts are not what I would like to happen next Tuesday morning, but what I think will happen. If I had my way, Cletus from "the Simpsons Movie" would be nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Doris Day would get an honorary Oscar. Neither of those are in the realm of possibility. My selections are highlighted in green.

Best Picture: There are three locks so far. Everybody is in love with No Country for Old Men, not because it is a great movie, but because both the young and old voters are probably fantasizing about walking through CAA with an air-powered weapon and blowing a hole in their agent's head. Atonement is the kind of movie the Academy loves. There's romance and war and British accents. Juno gets this year's "Little Miss Sunshine" treatment, but it truly deserves the nod. That leaves three movies fighting for the last two slots. Sweeney Todd was fabulous, but probably too bloody for those Academy members trying to relax over the holidays and not throw up the Honey-baked Ham they ate for dinner. There Will Be Blood is way overrated and, in my mind, didn't feature enough blood. But, it's faux-epic and nobody really knows the difference anymore. The fifth slot will go to Michael Clayton, which just might be the most entertaining film of the year. And, it's about greed and corruption, so studio heads can identify.

Best Director: Back in the old days, this category almost always matched up with the nominations for Best Picture. But, in the past twenty years, it seems like the members work hard to exclude one or two of the directors up for Best Picture. If nothing else, it spices up the whole affair, with certain directors learning just how much their peers like their movie, but not them. This year, there is the potentiality of two such delicious snubs. First, let's talk about the solids. The Coen Brothers for No Country For Old Men will continue the juggernaut for this movie, which should be retitled "No Fargo for Anybody." It's not their best work, but it held my interest. Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will be Blood is another given, because it was long and dusty. If there is the anticipated groundswell, I am also expecting Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton. I am thinking the screws get put on the directors for Juno and Atonement. Jason Reitman, who helmed the former, doesn't even shave yet and will be given a writing nomination as the "Lee's Press-on Nails" consolation prize. I have frankly never heard of Joe Wright, who directed Atonement and I am thinking most of the folks at Nate N'Al's haven't either. One of the two available slots will go to Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, primarily because the first 30 minutes of the movie are seen through the eyes and mind of a 42 year-old stroke victim. After that, I lost interest in a film that basically told the story of this guy dictating a novel by blinking his eye. I winked a bit myself. Forty of them right to the end of this snoozefest. The fifth nomination may go to Sean Penn for Into the Wild, which was unbelievably unbelievable. He's been getting a lot of press lately, along with the DGA nom. Plus Hollywood hasn't done anything for him since they found his brother dead in Santa Monica a few years back.

Best Actor: There are three names that automatically get the early morning wake-up call next Tuesday.
Daniel Day-Lewis from There Will Be Blood is in virtually every shot of the movie. I think he might even have sold me my Goobers at the candy stand the night I saw it. He chews the scenery and does it all with this funky voice and his left shoe on. Johnny Depp from Sweeney Todd was luminous and also carried a tune quite well. Plus, he really looked like a serial killer, except the white streak in his hair reminded me of my high school biology teacher. And that look was not particularly fetching on a woman. George Clooney from Michael Clayton can now do no wrong. He's really the new Tom Hanks and might even be the better actor. He certainly is the one in better shape. The last two slots are up for grabs among a myriad of performances. There's Denzel Washington in American Gangster, but I think his portrayal of this creep was not exactly acting. I am hearing that Denzel has turned into a real dirtbag and probably abuses the checkout staff at Ralph's just like in the movie You also have Ryan Gosling who starred in Lars & The Real Girl, as this nut who fell in love with a mannequin, and didn't even have the good sense to drive in the car pool lane with it. I hear there was early buzz for James McAvoy's performance in Atonement, but that has waned. So, I'm picking Viggo Mortenson from Eastern Promises, a movie I didn't see, and Emile Hirsch from Into The Wild, a movie I wish I hadn't.

Best Actress: There are three definites. Ellen Page from Juno is truly the lovable pregnant girl that everybody remembers from high school, except for me. Julie Christie from Away From Her was simply marvelous and I can't remember when I saw a better depiction about someone in the early stages of Ahlzeimer's. Actually, the fact that I can't remember another performance has me worried as well. Marion Cotillard from La Vie En Rose was sterling as the tragic songstress, Edith Piaf. It reminded me in many ways of Judy Garland, who is now remembered simply as Britney Spears without the Facebook. I wish I could write that Amy Adams would be recognized for her role in Enchanted, but the buttlescutt is that she has run out of pixie dust. Somehow, Angelina Jolie from A Mighty Heart, a movie released last summer, has come out of nowhere to capture the Academy's voting hearts. I say the fifth slot will be grabbed by latecomer Laura Linney from The Savages. I would not quibble with this nod, as she is one of the few American film actresses who actually takes chances with her role selections. And she has yet to lower herself and co-star in some piece of junk with Matthew McConaghey.

Best Supporting Actor: I documented this category the other day. There's always one nomination given to some old coot for a body of work. This year, the official AARP-supported candidate is Hal Holbrook from Into The Wild, and he's absolutely the only reason to see this dreck. Another cinch is Javier Bardem from No Country For Old Men, although I am deducting points for the bad haircut. You can also assume that Philip Seymour Hoffman from Charlie Wilson's War will get a call. The Academy loves him, and, in this movie, he is the lone pedigree in a pound full of mangy mutts. In the oxymoronic role of a disturbed and corrupt corporate attorney, Tom Wilkinson from Michael Clayton will be summoned to stand in front of the Oscar judges. Because it was about two weeks long, I never saw Casey Affleck from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but everybody is talking about him. Maybe somebody in that family can really act. Personally, I'd like to see J.K. Simmons, the father from Juno, get nominated, but his performance might be too under-stated for the usually pro-scenery-chewing Academy.

Best Supporting Actress: This is the category where somebody surprising always pops up. If Joanne Worley did a film this year, this is where she might get nominated. The critical favorite is Amy Ryan from Gone Baby Gone, which was gone baby gone from theaters before I got to see it. Cate Blanchett from I'm Not There was supposedly amazing as one of 87 people to play Bob Dylan in this movie, and she now has an Oscar legacy of playing a smelly rock musician and Katharine Hepburn. Tilda Swinton from Michael Clayton also gets a limo ride come Oscar night. Ruby Dee from American Gangster may get called by Academy members who are super-appreciative of her getting to slap Denzel across his kisser. There's a whole slew of actresses who could fill the fifth slot. There's some forgettable name, Saoirse Ronan, for Atonement, as well as Vanessa Redgrave for the same flick. Jennifer Garner might finally merit some attention for Juno. And, frankly, Allison Janney from Juno stole every scene she was in. But, I'm guessing the fifth slot goes to Catherine Keener from Into The Wild, primarily because she has filmed a new movie every week for the past seven years.

Should you take these picks to Vegas? Heck, I wouldn't even take them to one of those Indian gaming casinos in Pacoima. But, as they used to say on the Lotto ads, you gotta be in it to win it.

Dinner last night: Salami sandwich and antipasto salad.

Friday, January 18, 2008

One More Good Reason Not to Vote for Obama

This picture is from one of my earliest posts and it bears repeating.

You can regurgitate all the so-called "positives" about this guy. He's smart. He's young. He brings new ideas to the table. He makes Oprah moist. Blah, blah, blah.

But, I get back to this very blatent misstep and it is commonly made by most leading African-Americans. They all possess an inherent inability to censure other African-Americans. The most intelligent and the most sensible African-American leaders never ever come out and, for lack of a better phrase, call a spade a spade. Obama should be keeping an arm's length from those screwballs who fancy themselves as being the moral benchmarks of their race. But, yet, here he is with his arm around one of the biggest frauds walking this country at the present time. A liar. A fraud. A rascist.

Now, Al Sharpton has jumped in to throw gasoline on another ash tray. Some poor bimbo at the Golf Channel makes a verbal faux pas and puts the words "Tiger Woods" and "lynching" in the same sentence. She apologizes to Woods immediately. He calls it a non-issue. Moving on? Nope. Because Sharpton elbows his way in to demand the reporter's firing. And, backs to the wall, the Golf Channel is forced to suspend her. In all this, do we hear Tiger Woods come out and censure Sharpton? Of course not. History repeating itself like a chronic case of acid reflux.
If I say more, I risk being called a racist. But, still, it happens again and again and again. Follow the logic and you wind up with OJ Simpson wandering the street for 11 years until he got caught one more time. Think he'll be convicted for this latest crime of his? Don't be sure until you get a good look at the jury.

So, Obama keeps talking about change in this country. He is the fresh voice to bring us all together. He will bridge every faction till we are all one. Blah, blah, blah. But, then you see him put his arms around Al Sharpton and he, too, builds a bridge. Because he makes a connection for purely political reasons and essentially becomes nothing more than what Sharpton is.

A liar. A fraud. A racist.

Dinner last night: Filet mignon, broccoli, and potatoes.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Despite the WGA strike and the cancelled Golden Globes, it appears that the Oscars will go on as scheduled. They are moving forward with the announcement of the nominations on Tuesday, January 22. At some point in the next day or so, I will offer here my two cents (actually one cent due to recession) on who will be nominated in the major categories.

But, as I am thinking about this now, there is one thing you can always count on. Somewhere among the Best Supporting Actor nominees, there will be the name of that one grizzled veteran who finally gets a chance at the gold. It's usually somebody that's been working for years with little to show for it. Finally, his agent gets an epiphany and gets the actor cast in a supporting role that will ultimately be his career legacy. There's also the thought that the guy might be dying soon, so the Academy quickly springs into "hurry up" mode. Oddly enough, this practice is not employed so much on the Supporting Actress side, although Ruby Dee might get a nod this year for slapping Denzel Washington in "American Gangster." For that, I'd give her the Nobel Peace Prize. But, I digress...

When you go back over Oscar history, it's amazing how many of those old codgers I could find amongst the nominations. And I just looked at the past 40 years.

1968: Jack Albertson, a winner for "The Subject Was Roses." He used it as a catapault to playing straight man to a Puerto Rican kid on TV.

1969: Gig Young, a winner for "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" Ultimately, he went out for groceries and then came home and shot himself. Obviously, Gristede's was out of yogurt.

1970: John Mills, a winner for "Ryan's Daughter." I think he played a deaf mute, which would come in handy on the awards telecast this year if the writers are still out.

1971: Ben Johnson, a winner for "The Last Picture Show." He had already amassed a ton of film roles, always playing the guy who was shooting Gene Autry right off his horse.

1972: Eddie Albert, a nominee for "The Heartbreak Kid." Forget "Green Acres." This guy was working in films as early as 1951.

1973: John Houseman, a winner for "The Paper Chase." He acted a little while longer, and wrapped up his career playing a driving school instructor in "The Naked Gun."

1974: Fred Astaire, a nominee for "The Towering Inferno." The classic "hurry up" move. Except it didn't work. And, the only footwork he exhibits in the movie is running from a burning elevator.

1975: George Burns, a winner for "The Sunshine Boys." Who knew the guy would live another 20 years?

1976: Jason Robards, a winner for "All The President's Men." In true Hollywood irony, they wanted to honor him for his long, illustrious career on the Broadway stage.

1977: Jason Robards, a winner for "Julia." Because they really, really wanted to honor him for his long, illustrious career on the Broadway stage.

1978: Richard Farnsworth, a nominee for "Comes A Horseman." Another one of those professional B western actors looking for one last round-up.

1979: Mickey Rooney, a nominee for "The Black Stallion. Andy Hardy Wants an Oscar.

1980: Jason Robards, a nominee for "Melvin and Howard." Because they really, really, really wanted to honor him for his long, illustrious career on the Broadway stage.

1981: John Gielgud, a winner for "Arthur." Because they really wanted to honor him for his long, illustrious career on the London stage.

1982: Robert Preston, a nominee for "Victor/Victoria." They were trying to right the 1962 "Music Man" wrong.

1983: Rip Torn, a nominee for "Cross Creek." Another stage actor needing to be recognized. They wanted to do it so badly that nobody heard of the movie.

1984: Pat Morita, a nominee for "The Karate Kid." He deserved something for selling Arnold's to Al Molinaro.

1985: Don Ameche, a winner for "Cocoon." Long overdue nomination for his invention of the telephone and the moustache.

1986: Michael Caine, a winner for "Hannah and her Sisters." They had stiffed him on the Best Actor prize for so long that they needed to re-purpose him.

1987: Sean Connery, a winner for "The Untouchables." It was an award for James Bond as much as this movie. And it's not like Roger Moore was going to be up for it anytime soon.

1988: Dean Stockwell, a nominee for "Married to the Mob." He was a kid actor in the 40s. He never really distinguished himself one way or the other. At the same time, he never ever stopped working.

1989: Marlon Brando, a nominee for "A Dry White Season." I am supposing that this was the last chance they would have to get him to come and pick up the other one.

1990: Bruce Davison, a nominee for "Longtime Companion." Another Dean Stockwell type who always had a pay check. A few years ago, I went to the memorial service of this actress from my church and he was there.

1991: Jack Palance, a winner for "City Slickers." The Academy was probably afraid NOT to give him one.

1992: David Paymer, a nominee for "Mr. Saturday Night." This guy, whose face is instantly recognizable, had appeared in every screen comedy made since 1983. Maybe they thought this nomination would finally make him go away.

1993: Pete Postlethwaite, a nominee for "In the Name of the Father." The Academy wanted to finally honor him for his long, illustrious career as an Irish bartender.

1994: Paul Scofield, a nominee for "Quiz Show." He had won originally years ago in the Best Actor category for "A Man For All Seasons" and he had bupkus for most of them since.

1996: Armin Mueller-Stahl, a nominee for "Shine." Must have been a weak year for old American actors. Perhaps they were all clamoring to get on "Seinfeld" that season.

1997: Burt Reynolds, a nominee for "Boogie Nights." Despite the fact that he didn't get Loni Anderson's vote.

1998: James Coburn, a winner for "Affliction." Because they knew he really had an affliction and that he would die soon. He did.

1999: Michael Caine, a winner for "The Cider House Rules." Lifetime Achievement Award: The Sequel.

2000: Albert Finney, a nominee for "Erin Brockovich." I remember when this came out. I was surprised by his performance. I was more surprised by the fact that he was still alive.

2001: Jon Voight, a nominee for "Ali." He was a young actor when I first started going to movies. Now, he's the old veteran. Good for him. Depressing for me.

2002: Paul Newman, a nominee for "Road to Perdition." Because he's always threatening to retire. You never know.

2003: All the nominees were young this year. There was a black drape covering the window of Nate N'Al's for the entire month of February.

2004: Alan Alda, a nominee for "The Aviator." After a long, long career, he is finally nominated for an O*S*C*A*R*.

2005: Another bad year for the old guard. On Oscar night, Nate N'Al's cuts the prices on pastrami sandwiches 25%.

2006: Alan Arkin, a winner for "Little Miss Sunshine." The quintessential Lifetime Achievement Oscar for a movie he is in about 20 minutes.

This year, there's another classic actor who will finally be nominated for an Oscar for the very first time. Hal Holbrook is a lock for his supporting role in the otherwise dreadfully overrated "Into The Wild." Hal doesn't show up until about 90 minutes into the movie, so you might want to wait till the DVD comes out and do a chapter search. This guy, who, for the longest time, thought he was Mark Twain, has been kicking around for close to 50 years. As much as I hated the movie, I hope he wins it. Because, as the Academy will always think,... never know.

Dinner last night: Chorizo with pasta.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It Will Be Wednesday with Gusts Up to 70 MPH

Not sure what it's like where you are, but it's sunny and almost 80 degrees in Los Angeles.

---Pro football season started for me last weekend. I finally watched a game. After all, there's a New York team in the playoffs.

---The Giants look good, but a team has to run down the clock better than they did. When you are ahead and you get the ball with two minutes left in the game, you can't let the other team get one more shot at a touchdown.

---Towards the end of the game, the Giants offense had about as much movement as a nursing home during a Dulcolax shortage.

---I loved watching that Dallas Cowboy Terrell Owens cry after the game. There's something fun about seeing a guy, wearing a $30,000 earring, with crocodile tears.

---Then, he probably got into his Jaguar and drove to his 20 million dollar home to do some more sulking.

---Now, I'll watch the game in Green Bay next weekend. Just to see a bunch of Midwestern idiots get frostbite in zero degree temperatures with snow piling up in the holes of those swiss cheese hats.

---By the way, this just in: Joe Namath has guaranteed that there will be another Jet victory---sometime.

---I went shopping for a new comforter and it was nearly impossible. How come they all look like they belong on King Farouk's bed?

---When were solid colors banned from our country?

---If you've been having sleep issues, you should have watched the Golden Globes award announcement on Sunday night.

---Unless, of course, you get really amped up watching Mary Hart open her electric bill.

---Nobody cares about the freakin' Golden Globe winners anyway. The only reason anybody tunes in is to watch a liquored up celebrity accept an award with toilet tissue stuck to his or her shoe.

---Plus the awards are decided by 82 foreign correspondents who are here on work visas.

---And probably buying all those butt ugly comforters I saw at Macy's.

---Do any of my contemporaries remember this? When I was a kid, every January, there would be TV announcements that advised all aliens to report their current addresses to the government.

---We stopped doing this? When? And, more importantly, why???

---All the aliens in this country would need six months to get their acts together. And, by sending in home addresses, I am guessing whatever computer server the government would use probably crashes.

---This is the autoreply if I ran the country. "Thank you for considering America as your country. Right now, we are not taking new applicants. But, we will place you on the waiting list in the event something opens up around the year 2019."

---But, we will never close the doors. To quote my good friend, Mr. Anonymous, "Welcome to America. Here's your booth. Here's your stool."

---I went to see "There Will Be Blood" on Saturday night. I'll let you know what I think when it's over.

---Geez, did the film editors go on strike, too? I was at the Arclight longer than the night staff was on duty.

---You get an idea of how f-ed up Congress is when you hear them butchering names at the first day of the steroids investigation. Commissioner Selleck? Somebody tell them that the Commissioner is not the guy wearing the Detroit Tigers hat.

---American Idol started up with their audition round, proving once again that most people in this country now entertain delusions of mediocrity.

---And also you realize how many parents give their kids weird ass names. There was one young girl named Temptress.

---Of course, Mom was a real lulu, too. One of those "full-figured" women who can only get out of the house if they remove a wall.

---Instead of inventing dopey names for her kids, she ought to be spending time finding out where the cottage cheese aisle is at the local A & P.

---I often wonder if anybody bothered to check a mirror before they headed out of the womb.

Dinner last night: Homemade tomato soup and liverwurst sandwich.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tears and a Frown

Just when you thought you couldn't read one more thing on Hillary's crying jag prior to the New Hampshire primary last week...

I'm certainly not looking to take my turn with the whip. She's pretty much covered with welts without me, thanks to the endless drone of talk shows, radio gabfests, etc.. Blah, blah, blah. Was the crying real or manufactured? Did it help get her some New Hampshire votes when she was clearly behind Obama Bin Laden. Did she just peel a Vidalia onion for Bill's lunch?

My answers to those questions are "I don't know," "I don't know", and "Probably." But, there is one thing I am sure of. The emotion was genuine. And not because she was suddenly behind in her chance to help make this country great.

You see, I have a story in my memory bank that goes back about 15 years. It is valid and has always sculpted my conception of what Hillary Clinton really is. As a result, I never bought any of the junk about her being the poor jilted wife when Bill got caught holding Monica Lewinsky's dry cleaning ticket. I have seen through every single thing this woman has done or said. I don't believe there's been love in this marriage since Chelsea was conceived. Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman probably had a closer relationship when they were married for six weeks back in the mid 60s. From my vantage point, there has not been one true moment in her life for years. And I've thought that since about 1994.

I have a very good friend, who will remain nameless here, but will certainly remember that he was the one who provided me with this tale. Back in the early 90s, he worked in pretty lofty political circles. And he had access to a lot of what was happening in the Presidential campaign between Bill Clinton and Papa Bush. My friend always counseled that a lot of what happens behind the scenes never ever makes it to the nightly news. In a sense, the beat writers adhere to a "gentlemen's agreement" with regard to the really damaging stuff. That's how you go 15 years before anybody realizes Franklin Delano Roosevelt couldn't walk. And one of the areas that got the super-stick Teflon treatment was Billy's alley catting. Because there was a lot, lot, lot more of it than you think.

On the first run for the White House, Clinton's staff was used as pimps. If Bill saw somebody in the crowd that melted his butter, he would direct some go-fer to "bring her to me," as if he were Emperor Claudius. One day, Slick Willie saw a pretty African-American girl and she apparently rated further investigation. He snapped his fingers like Sinatra used to do at the Sands in Vegas and some lackey immediately jumped to the task. When the young lady came to the back, it was sitcom-like laughs for all concerned, because the girl turned out to be the daughter of the then-Democratic party bigwig, Ron Brown. The legend gets a little fuzzy after that as to whether Bill was able to guess the flavor of the girl's Kool Aid. Nevertheless, this all stayed with me. Of course, I didn't use it to judge Clinton one way or the other. I'm not naive enough to think that other Presidents didn't have similar dalliances, except for maybe Nixon. I remember thinking about Hillary. If the stories are all true, it would have to be very tough to remain as the devoted wife.

Flip the calendar pages about a year or two later. I'm on the Nordic Track ski machine at my local gym. As usual, the televisions are all tuned to Brokaw/Rather/Jennings. And it's the day when Ron Brown, among others, is killed in a plane crash somewhere in Bumfuk, Czechoslovakia. All three channels have the same footage. Bill and Hillary walking up to the front door of the Brown family townhouse in DC. They console the widow and the daughter. Bill hugs both. Hillary hugs the wife. And then, she "air hugs" the young girl. That's like an "air kiss," but even less personable. At that very moment, I stopped skiing and experienced a political epiphany.

"Holy shit, she knew all along."

And, since then, I have been of the opinion that she's known about every single one of them, including Monica Lewinsky. And she has used them all to her advantage. I wouldn't be surprised if she hits them all up for a contribution to her campaign.

So, is Hillary a masochist? Why did she stay with the guy all this time? The answer is pretty simple. Everything ties to what is happening right now. This is her moment. This is her time. The political career she has at this very moment is the alimony payment she would normally have demanded after divorcing Bill. After years and years and years, she is now the star. The Clinton we talk about. She has geared every action, every word, every gesture for this year. 2008.

And now, somebody named Barack is peeing in her pool. And everything she has suffered and endured and focused on for the past 30 years might be over.

When that happens to anybody, they cry.

And she did.

It was the first truly sincere moment I have seen from her.

Dinner last night: Omelet at the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 14, 2008

I don't want to hear any complaints about our Congress after you see this.

Dinner last night: Reuben sandwich at Cafe 50s Diner.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite Films: #12!!

"Bye Bye Birdie" was my first non-edible obsession. When I initially saw it when it arrived at the Loews Theater in Mount Vernon, I couldn't get enough of it. Because I wound up seeing it six times over the next seven days. I'm not sure why I skipped a day, but it must have been, in the most Biblical of senses, our day to rest.

This movie also probably marked the official grand opening of Len's Hormones. The ribbon cutter was none other than Ann-Margret. The poster to the left gives her limited justice. As a matter of fact, there was a similar pose on the cover of the stereophonic long playing soundtrack record and I will tastefully refuse to tell you what I used to do with that record jacket. And, in an incomprehensible twist, the other thing that made me love this movie was the presence of Paul Lynde as the father. I was, of course, way, way too naive to understand all the sordid details of Mr. Lynde's private life. All I knew was that I thought the guy was a stitch and that I wished secretly my father was just like this guy. Years later, I doubt that I wanted my dad to be cruising Santa Monica Boulevard looking for teenage boys.

I played the "Bye Bye Birdie" soundtrack on my record player constantly. I knew all the words to every song and wanted desperately to be in the show if it ever was done in my school. In retrospect, I creep myself out at how nuts I was about this movie. And now I wonder what the hell drew me to it, beyond Ann-Margret's multiple scenes in Spandex.

Well, the music is quite underrated. There are shows/movie musicals that have been more successful, but I couldn't tell one song from another. Indeed, "Bye Bye Birdie" harkens back to a simpler time. You probably remember the plot. It was a parody of the real life hysteria that happened when Elvis Presley was inducted into the Army. Perhaps it's all this teenage angst that drew me in. It was a harbinger of things to come. Amid all the drama of the world, these kids seemed to be okay and even thriving. Maybe that was the future I was hoping for. That life would be so comfortable that I could sit on the telephone and talk to my friends all day like the kids of Sweet Apple, Ohio did.

And perhaps I would be grown up enough to dance around in a night club just like this.

Admittedly, it's probably a little weird that I would walk to grade school, singing the lyrics to "I"ve Got a Lot of Livin' to Do." I mean, think about it. "There are chicks just right for some kissing and I mean to kiss me a few." I can almost hear the call from my teacher and the school psychologist right now. The express train to puberty making no stops.

So, if I spent a year obsessed with "Bye Bye Birdie," big freakin' deal! I think I turned out okay. What did my parents think? Well, consider the song that could have been their anthem as well.

"Kids, I don't know what's wrong with these kids today."

Even though I pop in the DVD occasionally, I did get to see "Bye Bye Birdie" on a big screen a few years back when the Alex Film Society ran it. It was a true time machine. I felt like I was back in the Loews Mount Vernon, eyes riveted on the screen with a mouthful of Pom Poms. By the end of the night, I could swear that I was developing a new case of acne.

I went home that evening and wondered whatever happened to that record jacket.

And you really, really, really don't want to know what I was doing with it.

But, before you let your dirty minds go too far off course, keep in mind that I wasn't even ten yet.

Dinner last night: BBQ Ribs at Charcoal prior to the Arclight showing of "There Will Be Blood."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Scenes You Can't Turn Off V5.0

"The Lucy Show" had one great initial season and then went downhill like an out-of-control bobsled. But, this is one of the classic moments from the first year. It's amazing to see what they put these old broads through. Hilarious.

Dinner last night: Salad bar from Whole Foods.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Your January 2008 Weekend Movie Guide

Here we go. First one of 2008. Another Friday where I become your navigator to good movies and away from bad ones. I stroll through the LA Times Calendar section and comment on the movie ads as I see them. You have an added benefit this month as I saw quite a bit of this stuff during the Christmas break. Godspeed to all of us. I hope you spend your 10-12 bucks wisely.

The Savages: I saw this last weekend and it is an incredibly insightful look at putting a failing parent in a nursing facility. The writer and director of this film must have done it because it all rings true when I compare it to my own experiences. If you have ever been in this position in your life, run to see this movie. And it is one more validation that Laura Linney is one of the best actresses working today. She doesn't opt for cookie cutter roles that others clamor for. She digs down deep and it shows.

The Orphanage: A movie that is hopefully the destination for Britney Spears' children.

I'm Not There: About 75 people play the role of Bob Dylan. I know somebody who once shared a limousine with him. He reeked of poor hygiene. I'm glad I was not there, too.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Christmas is over. Kids are back in school. Pull this from the multiplexes please.

The Water Horse: The Legend of the Deep: I love the ads for this, which compare the Loch Ness Monster to ET. The trailers showed some of the cheesiest computer graphics ever. You could almost see the label on the side of the monster's neck. Made in Japan.

Enchanted: The best live action comedy to come from Disney since Fred MacMurray was flying around with the Model T.

Into the Wild: They have brought this mess back because director Sean Penn got a DGA nomination. They are now trying to make it sound like the lead is this unforgettable character that you will just love when, in reality, he is one of these mentally deranged kooks who's into nature and then dies after eating some poisonous berries. The only reason to see it is for Hal Holbrook's brief performance. I'm not sure if my watch was right, but I think the movie was about 3 days long.

P.S. I Love You: This got dreadful reviews. One of those movies that needs to come with the following disclaimer: No Men Will Be Permitted...EVER! P.S. I Can't Be Bothered.

Atonement: This has major Oscar buzz, so I may have to sample it. It has the look of P.S. I Love You but with a serious WWII setting. The other reason why I may see it is because a friend from church told me that Keira Knightley has really bad teeth and now I am dying to look.

Charlie Wilson's War: Didn't I warn you about this malignant tumor last week? Friends are coming back to me and saying that they wished they had listened to me. If you're dying to see Tom Hanks, wait till he's hovering over the Super Bowl.

American Gangster: I totally missed this movie when it first came out, so I took myself one afternoon to see it in one of those discount theaters where you wind up with gum on your pants. As most movies are, this thing is about 30 minutes too long. But, the story is compelling and Russell Crowe really takes some chances with his role selections. The scenes of domestic violence made me think I was watching Denzel Washington's home movies.

Sweeney Todd: This was a truly terrific evening of entertainment for me, given that I saw it in the spectacular Cinerama Dome. I've seen the show several times. Somehow, they cut songs but made the whole thing tighter. The only tune I actually missed was the opening "Legend of Sweeney Todd." Johnny Depp was marvelous. My one quibble is that this was a holiday release. Blood flowed as freely as egg nog at the office party.

The Bucket List: Show of hands, please. How many people are truly tired of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman? Hold on. I can't count that fast. It was one of those trailers where they showed you the only good scenes from the movie. These guys can go ahead and kick it already.

One Missed Call: And apparently one missed film.

In the Name of the King, A Dungeon Siege Tale: For those who just can't get enough of Jason Statham.

The Great Debaters: I'm on the fence with this one. Friends have told me it's quite good. But, the ad has six embedded words that absolutely scare the Raisinets out of me. Director Denzel Washington. Producer Oprah Winfrey. If I want to watch a bunch of black kids argue, I'd much prefer a game of Snaps. You know what I mean. "Your mama is so fat that..."

No Country for Old Men: I saw this a while ago and it is the leading contender for the Best Picture Oscar. While I liked it overall, the ending was terrible. It was sort of like having a great entree at a five star restaurant and then they give you a Jello mold for dessert.

I Am Legend: To tell you what I really think, I'm going to include a spoiler alert. Halfway through the movie, Will Smith's dog dies. After that, any heart and soul the film had went out the window, because, essentially, the dog is a better actor than Will. I have no clue what people see in this guy. The last half-hour or so is a visual bombardment of CGI that actually made me nauseous.

Juno: One of the best written screenplays in years. I've already seen it twice, because another movie I was going to see was sold out. Ellen Page is remarkable, but so is the whole cast. Any script that includes the word "shenanigans" is okay in my book. Jason Bateman is also in it, and he seems to be in everything these days. His presence also reminded me that, in the game of Six Degrees of Jason Bateman, I am only one removed. Jason Bateman was in "The Hogan Family" TV show, playing the brother of the actor, who is now my financial advisor.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets: The big holiday blockbuster that got everybody's money. Except mine.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: This film is depicted as uplifting. Apparently by masochists. I thought it was depressing as hell. It's a true story about some French guy who dictated a whole book by simply blinking one eyelid. Gee, if the dude had one of those nervous twitches, he could have written as much as John Grisham.

There Will Be Blood: The aforementioned sold out movie that precipitated my second viewing of Juno. The reviews from critics are fabulous. From my friends, much less so. It is on my list.

Dinner last night: BLT at the Gardens in Westwood.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tomorrow's Blue Plate Special

This is Bindi Irwin, the daughter of the late Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin and she's all over the press right now as her own Animal Planet show starts. She is essentially following in the hoof prints of her lunatic father, who pushed the jungle envelope one too many times and got what he was asking for. You cannot fool with nature forever. Let's face the facts. They are called WILD animals for a reason. We will never completely be on the same turf with them. Sooner or later, we piss them off and the fangs come out.

So, now they throw this poor 10 year-old into the mix to keep milking her dumbbell dad's cash cow. It's not like she's being deprived of a childhood as the kid has always been home-schooled, which means she will be better able to converse with a baboon than with the kid next door. But, at the same time, give the girl a break. Let her skip, jump rope, and have a Facebook like all the other youngsters her age. She may think she wants this type of life style now. But, who's saying she won't have a major breakdown 10 years from now and hold the lion cage at some Australian zoo hostage?

Who's to blame here? Well, first point your paw at her idiot mother, Terri, who's allowing her daughter to be exploited in this manner. And how creepy must it be for the kid to watch this footage which features a liberal smattering of Dopey Dad's mug throughout the show? The producers are no better. What a heartless way to keep a franchise alive? By destroying somebody's childhood.

And, of course, there will be plenty of handwringing down the line when the inevitable day arrives that finds poor Bindi being served as the hummus on some alligator's pita bread. Everybody will talk about how tragic the loss is. Mom will show up on Larry King the day of the funeral and talk about Bindi's courage and how she will pledge to carry on her work.

The time to be courageous is now. Let the child be a child. Bindi should be learning how to paint her toenails and not how to milk a rattlesnake.

Dinner last night: Dried Cappocollo sandwich.