Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - March 31, 2008

Not so much a guffaw as a titter. But, still very clever. This is a depiction of all the world's conflicts since World War II. As told by food.

Dinner last night: Pizza with kalamata olives and sausage from Rosti.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite Films: #1!!!!!

And then there was one. I know some friends are baffled now that I have dropped "Some Like It Hot" down to the second slot on my list of favorite movies. I revisited both that movie and "The Apartment" last year, and I realized that, as a seasoned and perhaps jaded/cynical adult, the latter film resonates with me a bit more now than it ever did. In its sheer simplicity, it is incredibly complex. Because, indeed, "The Apartment" can't be called a comedy. Yet, there are hearty laughs throughout. It can't really be called a drama, simply because of the aforementioned laughter that pops up continually. Yet, smack in the middle of the movie, there is incredible darkness that would rival the most dramatic of films ever presented by Hollywood. So, realistically, "The Apartment" fits into no particular genre. It exists solely as a slice of life. The ups and downs. The hills and valleys. The sweet and the sour. It is the experience of yours and mine. It is ours. And, even though it depicts at its core a business world of almost 50 years ago, "The Apartment" is as true a reflection of the human condition as ever presented by any art form. It is no fluke that my two favorite movies of all time were both written and directed by the masterful Billy Wilder. As a matter of fact, "The Apartment" is the movie he made directly after "Some Like It Hot." There are some similarities, most notably the wonderful Jack Lemmon who stars in both. But, indeed, no two movies could be further apart. "Some Like It Hot" makes you laugh. "The Apartment" makes you laugh. And think. And feel. I did not see "The Apartment" till well after I got out of college. Now, it's one I see every year, usually during Christmas break when a lot of the film's action takes place. It is an essential part of my annual film viewing. But, every time I see it, there is some new emotion or nuance that reveals itself to me. Perhaps it's a look or gesture from Shirley McLaine or Fred MacMurray that I missed. Maybe it's a line of dialogue that I suddenly realize was set up by another line of dialogue one reel earlier. There's always some new discovery for me. Utter brilliance which the following trailer barely can describe.

The last time I saw "The Apartment" was on a big screen when UCLA opened their new Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood. You could tell that the movie still worked amazingly by the fact the audience started to hiss whenever Fred MacMurray (playing one of the great film dirtbags of all time) spoke. Shirley MacLaine was in attendance for a question and answer session following the screening. She could not stop talking about the movie, which she admits to having not seen for over 40 years. She, too, was seeing things in the film that she had never seen before. After a half hour, the moderator wanted to wrap it up. She asked him if he had any place he needed to be, because she wanted to talk some more. And she did for another hour! And I could keep going as well. But, you should sign off the computer and go watch it for yourselves right now. It was the Oscar winner for Best Picture of 1960. "The Apartment" is my winner for Best Picture of all-time! Dinner last night: Bratwurst at the LA Memorial Coliseum.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Scenes You Can't Turn Off V 8.0

Another gem from "I Love Lucy."

Ethel May Potter, we never forgot her!

Dinner last night: BBQ Pork from Panda Express.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dodgers 2008 Preview

Even if new Dodger Manager Joe Torre takes his usual 20 minute power nap during the sixth inning of every game this season, the Dodgers should manage to win at least 5 to 10 more games in 2008 than they did under Grady Little in 2007. From my season ticket perch in Loge Aisle 144 last season, I was continually confused by Grady's almost uncanny ability to make the worst possible game decision at the worst possible time. And, when pressed post-game on his bad judgment calls, Little would basically tell you "I had my reasons." Yes, he was a nice man, but it was very easy to see why alcoholism was rampant in Red Sox Nation during 2003.

Grady also lost control of a Dodger clubhouse that he never really ran completely in the first place. Dodger GM Ned Colletti had put together a mix of veterans and rookies that needed delicate handling for the chemistry not to implode. Of course, when two of said veterans include the always crabby Jeff Kent and Luis Gonzalez, it doesn't take more than a Bic lighter to recreate Nagasaki. Of those those two, only Kent remains and, given the number of spring training injuries he has endured already, he could be one of Jerry's Kids by Labor Day.

So, yes, the mere change from Little to Torre should guarantee the Dodgers about 8 more wins in 2008. Now, if you do the math from last year, eight more wins would get the Dodgers the NL West title. But, of course, you don't play the game of baseball on paper. Just ask the Mets, who are still waiting for Tom Glavine to finish that first inning against the Marlins.

When Joe Torre had immediate success with the Yankees in New York, I always thought he had stepped in shit. It was a team that was on the verge of being a dynasty with some young players already in place to achieve stardom. Many baseball pundits felt that you didn't need to be a genius to be a good manager with that Yankee era. But, I think Torre proved his worth later on in his Yankee run when he had less to work with and still managed to keep getting into the playoffs.

So, as he comes into SoCal, Joe will find himself with a team very similar to those 1996 Yankees. But, instead of a Derek Jeter or a Bernie Williams, he will find a James Loney and a Matt Kemp, both already making their mark but perhaps heading for superstardom. I've already gone out on the limb by announcing that Loney will be the NL MVP sometime before 2012. And there are other young folks here that could be poised to make Joe Torre look like Albert Einstein all over again. Andre Ethier. Chad Billingsley. Jonathan Broxton. Russell Martin. With the very careful handling that Torre does specialize in, his biggest and only challenge in Los Angeles might be finding good bagels on Sunday morning.

But, that is not to imply that the Dodgers will have clear sailing from here to Catalina and back. Except for the woebegone Giants, whose youngest player is in his 50s, all of the NL West looks to be improved. Torre will have to get some breaks other than in the wrist or ankle.

Infield: First baseman James Loney reminds me of Keith Hernandez without the "Just for Men" TV spots and he should be planted there for years to come. This is shortstop Rafael Furcal's final contract year and he is looking to rebound from an injury-plagued 2007. He is also looking for a contract extension, so that always seems to ramp up the incentive. When he finally gets into a game this spring, the Dodgers will live with Jeff "Don't Call Me Gramps" Kent at second base because he can still swing a bat. The Dodgers were severely hurt by promising third baseman Andy LaRoche's Vero Beach injury and they thought they had a suitable replacement in Nomar "Don't Call Me Gramps" Garciaparra. Wrong. Nomar immediately went down as well, which is not a surprise since he can break his foot by spitting out a sunflower seed. Until LaRoche gets back in May, the Dodgers will employ a third base committee of Chin Lung Hu, Tony Abreu, and perhaps even Ron Cey, if he answers his e-mails.

Outfield: At one point, GM Ned Colletti must have thought that Major League Baseball was going to use softball rules in 2008, because he went out and got 4 quality outfielders. He lured Andruw "My Mama Doesn't Know How to Use Spellcheck" Jones for centerfield and, hopefully, the long season will help him to pare down the Ralph Kramden physique he showed up with in spring training. Both Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp deserve to play. And, given the fact that he's owed 10 million dollars plus for the next four years, it is tough to sit Juan Pierre on the bench. While Pierre throws like your kid sister and can't hit more than a single to center, he's the proverbial rabbit on the basepaths that gives opposing pitchers and catchers fits. It will take all of Torre's Kissinger-like diplomacy to give all four of these guys their daily due.

Catching: Russell Martin is the best fielding and hitting catcher in the National League. He also played too many games in 2007 and needed to rest more. It will take all of Torre's Kissinger-like diplomacy to make sure that happens.

Starting Pitching: It could be one of the best staffs in the NL. Or one of the most ordinary. Brad Penny can be an ace, but he needs to remember the season is more than 100 games long. As long as he spends more time on his delivery than on what hot actress is sitting behind home plate, he should be okay. Same with Derek Lowe. As long as he spends more time on his delivery than on what hot sportscaster is sitting in the press box, he should be okay. Chad Billingsley is 23 with tons of upside, but can suffer from control problems. But, he's also recently married and should not be distracted by any hot women anywhere in the stadium. The Dodgers signed veteran Japanese hurler Hiroki Kuroda, which sounds like fertilizer for your bonsai tree. He has looked outstanding in the spring, but, given the shorter length of baseball seasons in the Far East, Asian pitchers tend to run out of gas state-side by August 1. The fifth starter will be either Esteban Loiaza who once headlined with Charo or journeyman Chan Ho Park who is named after a baseball stadium in the city of Chan Ho.

Bullpen: Closer Takashi Saito got a late start in the spring, but he should be light outs by April. With Kuroda on the team, he now has somebody to discuss sushi with in the clubhouse. The rest of the bullpen should be fine. Expect to see that Scott Proctor has thrown over 200 innings by May 15.

Manager: Joe Torre is an upgrade and his calm clubhouse demeanor will be welcomed. The right guy for the right team at the right time.

Prognosis: The Dodgers could win the division. But so could the Padres. And the Rockies. And the Diamondbacks. And the Rockies. This figures to be the tightest race in baseball. With the Dodgers celebrating their 50th season in Los Angeles all year, you can expect many inspiring appearances by the likes of Steve Garvey, Fernando Valenzuela, and the guy who sells peanuts on the third base side of the Loge. And lots and lots and lots of traffic.

Dinner last night: Hamsteak.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mets 2008 Preview

One more year for me as a Met fan. One last year for me at Shea Stadium. And, as the calendar moves on its merry way, I find myself less and less engaged with the New York Metropolitans.

When I moved to Los Angeles 11 or so years ago, I remained at first firmly committed to the only baseball team I ever loved. I maintained my Saturday plan tickets in Section 7 of the Loge, and even managed to attend 4 or 5 games per season while residing on the West Coast. With cable and streaming radio, it is very, very easy to keep a baseball allegience alive even if you don't live in the team's home city.

And I did. Until a few years ago.

My gradual (and still incomplete) disconnect from the Metsies has nothing to do with the distance between New York and Los Angeles. It has nothing to do with a lack of knowledge on the team. With the internet and other media, I am as wired on the Flushing bunch as ever. No, my slow leak on Met fandom has everything to do with the team itself. And its ever changing and incredibly diverse composition.

When I was a kid and then a young adult, I got to enjoy several years of great Met baseball. And a lot of seasons of absolutely putrid Met baseball. But, regardless of the caliber of play, I had players I could identify with. Guys I had followed from Tidewater or Norfolk and up through their rookie years and then sterling careers. Cleon Jones. Tom Seaver. Jerry Koosman. Jon Matlack. After some lean years, there were others. Dwight Gooden. Ron Darling. Sid Fernandez. Darryl Strawberry. Mookie Wilson. Those players that weren't homegrown came in carefully crafted trades and you learned to love them just the same. Donn Clendenon. Don Cardwell. Felix Millan. Keith Hernandez. Gary Carter. Even in their championship years of the late 90s, I could still hook onto some favorites. John Olerud. Mike Piazza. Edgardo Alfonzo. Al Leiter. John Franco.

Now, in 2008, I find that there are virtually no Mets that I can say I am personally engaged with. Except perhaps for David Wright or Jose Reyes, there is no homegrown talent that you can say "I remember when." While I am not so naive to think that, in this age of free agency, any team could survive without dipping into the bank to outbid somebody else for that one guy who can turn the team from also-rans to champs, the Mets seemed to go overboard. With an over-emphasis on the Latin market, which is even more unconnected to me. Buy a Beltran. Sign a Delgado. Lure a Santana. It's all so much less personal for me.

When the Mets did their 2007 el-foldo last September, I was certainly disappointed. But much less so than I would have thought. And a lot less so than I might have been had there been a Mookie or a Cleon or a Darryl on the team. While it was probably devastating for some Met fans, I felt oddly unmoved. I simply made other plans for late October.

So, I wonder if 2008, with the Mets closing Shea Stadium and moving to a smaller park that will probably have no room for a Saturday ticket holder like me, is one of my final moments as a true Met fans. Does the trial separation translate to a final divorce? I don't know. For now, I am still paying attention. And cheering. For a team that may clean up the National League. Or wallow in injury-plagued mediocrity.

Infield: David Wright finds himself as the only regular without an accent. Jose Reyes has promised to curtail his showboating ways which did a lot more to rile up the competition than the Met front office is probably willing to admit. They are holding with Luis Castillo at second. Of course Carlos Delgado has been sidelined with so many injuries he should be walking around with an iron lung. He's one more old Spaniard on a team which looks like the crew that sailed with Magellan. The fact that GM Omar Minaya signed Olmedo Saenz as an infield back-up is a complete mystery. From first-hand experience of watching him be a literal dead weight on the Dodger bench in 2007, I can tell you the only thing slower than Olmedo's metabolism is his bat speed.

Outfield: There's Carlos Beltran in center. And Carlos Beltran in center. And, oh, yeah, there's Carlos Beltran in center. Moises Alou can be counted on for about 20 games in left field, as he recovers from every ailment found in the AARP handbook. Somebody named Ryan Church will anchor right field, and his main claim to fame is that he's the only player Minaya has traded for without a Z or an accent in his last name. Where are Bruce Boisclair and Don Bosch when you really need them?

Catching: Where are Mike Piazza and Jesse Gonder when you really need them? New catcher Brian Schneider is serviceable, although he can barely hit. But, at least, with somebody in this position, Casey Stengel will be happy to know that there won't be any passed balls.

Starting Pitching: Despite what you may have read or heard, newly acquired Johan Santana can only start once every five days. He also cannot assume the governorship of New York, develop a vaccine for AIDS, or tell us where Bin Laden has been living the past six years. He is a terrific pitcher, perhaps the best in the game right now. But, he can give you a solid seven innings approximately once a week. The Mets still need four other guys to fill in the other starts. Pedro Martinez looks to be back, but I am sure even he has a guess in the clubhouse pool as to when he will be on the disabled list this season. Usually by August, Pedro needs more rest between starts, so get those tickets now for those two mound appearances he might be making in the month of September. John Maine might be the key to it all. He looks like he has arrived. But, then again, he looked like he had arrived last season, too. By August, he was laying down about as much as one of Elliot Spitzer's whores. Oliver Perez can be exciting. He also can be about two subway stops away on some pitches. Forget about El Duque, who should retire and spend the summer planning his grade school reunion with Fidel Castro. Where is Craig Swan when you really need him?

Relief Pitching: I have gone on record saying that the Mets will never win a world championship with Billy Wagner as their closer. Note to all Met fans: Billy Wagner is their closer this season. Connect the dots, please. Wagner is as overrated as Trevor Hoffman who has amassed over 500 saves in games that never counted. Wagner is fine in a ninth inning when he is up by three runs. But, the slightest hint of trouble unravels him like a Walmart sweater. As for the rest of the bullpen, they are adequate at best. Where is Larry Bearnarth when you really need him?

Manager: Willie Randolph is a good man, but he let the team fall apart last September and he must be held accountable for some of that. At the same time, there was no reason for the sleazebag Wilpon ownership to let him twist in the wind as if he had just been elected church council president of the Trinity United Church of Christ. For some inexplicable reason, Met fans hate his every move and that's unfair. If the Mets get off to a slow start, Willie will be on the petry dish by May. Despite the public support, I also get the sense that GM Omar Minaya doesn't like him either and is dying to replace him with Xavier Cugat.

Prognosis: This Met roster is very old and brittle. Despite Santana and some heavy bats, the going will be a lot tougher than they think, especially if the Atlanta Braves rebound as well as everyone expects in honor of Bobby Cox's 120th straight year as their manager. If they can get some non-bone-related breaks, they should win the division, but it is not a lock. They will, however, run away with the cockfighting title in the South Bronx.

Dinner last night: Dried cappocolla wedge with side salad.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter Wednesday

Make mine incredibly scrambled.

---So, Pope Eggs Benedict welcomed some Muslim convert. Wait till the guy find out he can't eat camel on Fridays.

---Maybe that's how we get Bin Laden out of hiding. Have him win a church raffle and then watch when he comes to collect his new convertible.

---Hey, I'm just happy the Pope remembered that he can make public appearances. He's been like the Vatican version of "Where's Waldo?"

---The only person we've seen less of lately is the Wright Reverend Wright.

---It's amazing how he just vanished before our eyes. The church website is gone. He's nowhere to be found.

---It's like the Sopranos had him "disappeared." Maybe his car is parked next to Adriana's out at Newark Airport.

---The betting line is that the Obooboo camp paid him off to go sit in some Alabama Motel 6 and watch "Good Times" reruns on TV Land.

---You want to find Wright? Start tracing calls to KFCs that deliver.

---I can't believe how people were gushing over Obooboo's speech last week. If Wright doesn't show up on You Tube, Ba-lack would have had absolutely nothing to say about racism in this country.

---By the way, the new pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ had an interesting Easter Sunday sermon. He compared the recent treatment of the Wright Reverend to the crucifixion.

---Gee, I've been saying the same thing. Sort of.

---"Jesus Christ, when are they going to nail that guy?!!"

---Fun Stat of the Week: Over a four year period, Obooboo donated over 27 thousand dollars to the Wright Reverend's church.

---That's a lot of money from somebody who wasn't paying attention.

---Introduction of the week: Mr. Last Rites, please say hello to the Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign.

---Do the soon-to-be-jailed Mayor of Detroit and the former Governor of New York trade Christmas cards? I'm just saying...

---That Kwame guy was knee deep with hookers. But, of course, he was a "victim of circumstance."

---"Victim of circumstance" is Ebonic for "Guilty as shit."

---The Dodgers will draw 115,000 people for that Coliseum exhibition game vs. the Red Sox on Saturday.

---Meanwhile, the Marlins will draw about 20,000 less for all 81 home games this season.

---Over 100,000 people in a single spot and I think there are only two bathrooms, tops. I am going to start curtailing my liquid intake on Thursday.

---The famed Jewish deli, Canter's, is opening up a stand at Dodger Stadium. Because nothing goes better with a baseball game on a hot July afternoon than a big bowl of matzo ball soup.

---I am betting they're closed for Saturday day games.

---The American Idol Top 10 last night each sang songs from the year of their birth. There was not one song that I ever heard played on an 8 Track.

---The new frontrunner, David Cook, got major kudos for doing Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" as if he was calling into a suicide hotline.

---I'm not a fan of this guy, who looks like the jerk in high school who wouldn't let you sit at his lunch table.

---Goofy Paula Abdul was wearing some long black gloves and looked like Kitty Carlisle after joining Hell's Angels.

Dinner last night: Ground steak and pickled beets.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

She Can Talk

For some, Joan Rivers and her humor are acquired tastes. I, however, have always thought she was brilliant. Not on those red carpet shows with the constant "who are you wearing?" questions. Nope, to truly appreciate Ms. Rivers, you need to see her do stand-up---the traditional 45-60 minute act. Only then do you really get to the heart of her comedy.

I've seen her in person several times. Ages and ages ago, I got to watch her perform on one of my very first trips to Los Angeles. In a small night club buried in the old Century City office complex. You knew we were going to be her test market for new material when she plunked a cassette recorder down on the piano. That night, Joan, as an actress-comic friend of mine would say, "killed." We did not stop laughing for an hour. The pace of jokes was relentless and left us breathless. A short while later, I got to sample her anew when she was amazingly the opening act for Don Rickles (whom I will get to revisit in Anaheim shortly) at the Westbury Music Fair. All over again, I was gasping for air. I remember one barrage of one-liners that was probably one of my funniest ten minutes on earth.

Joan's career was torrid in the 80s, but, of course, even white hot coal eventually cools. She found herself less relevant and wound up on some red carpet at the Golden Globes chasing down Tony Danza. Or holding court with her jewelry line on QVC and making a mint from those Midwestern yokel women who simply adorn the glittery caress of cubic zirconium. As did most of the public, I lost track of Joan Rivers.

About a year ago, I was on the TV channel surfboard and came across a very recently taped performance of Joan's stand-up on one of those obscure cable networks. I settled in and so did she. As if I was being reunited with an old relative, I sat for the next hour all by myself and let her draw me in. And I laughed again. Long and hard. That evening, Joan told the first "World Trade Center and 9/11" jokes I had ever heard and, ever so skillfully, she made them work. Thoughts and dark humor that probably were rooting around in all our minds, but, as yet, never uttered. Joan managed to pull them off. And, in my mind, she was as hilarious as she was 20 years ago.

And, so, I was a naturally willing recipient when I got Christmas-gifted by "Djinn From The Bronx" with tickets to Ms. Rivers' new show at the Geffen Playhouse last Friday night. And there was quite the crowd to welcome her. Every Beverly Hills Jew over the age of 70. Every West Hollywood gay guy between the ages of 30 and 50. Doris Roberts in the row behind me. And us.

The production itself is a hybrid. Part stand-up, part autobiographical, and part sitcom.

We could have done without the last part.

I'm not quite sure why Joan that this show needed a plot or extra characters. Maybe it was insecurity. Maybe, given her age of 74, she thought she needed some moments to go offstage and rest for a bit. Nevertheless, the production was 66% fabulous and 34% blah.

Don't get me wrong. When it worked, it was flawless. When Joan fell into her stand-up routine, her timing was impeccable. The gags worked. Her delivery was pure Koufax. When it was time to be funny, Joan certainly was, lampooning everything from her own plastic surgery to the Olsen twins to Suzanne Somers. Indeed, since she has essentially become her own joke, our fourth row seats gave us a damn good glimpse at some of the worst plastic surgery this side of Cedars-Sinai. Her whole face looks as if it is entirely artificial and was manufactured by one of those Japanese toy companies. I would not be surprised if Joan's head is eventually recalled for containing traces of lead. But, I digress...

Joan uses the stand-up moments to morph seamlessly into some really serious self-reflections. You get the funny and the sad behind the funny. Truly, the comic and tragic masks of old. Joan sits down (at one point, on the floor, from which she has trouble getting up) and straight-talks us all. About her childhood, her rise to stardom, her descent from the very same galaxy, her husband Edgar's suicide which might be a direct by-product of the failure of her Fox talk show. She tells us about how life changed post-Edgar. Her estrangement from daughter Melissa, who, by the way, is now sporting the same Earl Scheib facial treatments. She revisits her public feud with mentor Johnny Carson---a disagreement now eternally unresolved. She may be hiding the wrinkles with beaucoup Botox, but she lets us see and hear all the blemishes from within.

Yet, all of the above gets more than a little upended when the show's authors (including Ms. Rivers) feel the need to bring in some inane characters and a threadbare plot that would make an episode of "Full House" seem like Noel Coward. There is some slop about a ruined dress and the need to find a new one in time for a red carpet affair. It is all a waste and a TiVo-trained audience was looking under their seats for the "fast forward" button. We wanted to get back to the funny. And the not-so-funny.

It's a shame that Joan thought her career and her life were not enough to entertain and enlighten us in totality. Perhaps, that's just one more mark of the neurosis of celebrity. Joan didn't need to try that hard.

As far as I'm concerned, she can always talk. And we can always listen.

Dinner last night: Hamburger and vegetables.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - March 24, 2008

Big wheels keep on rolling.

Dinner last night: Meatloaf at Marie Callender's.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite Films: #2!!!

Ha ha. Gotcha!

I know there are a bunch of my closest friends who just opened this post and are now completely confused. Because, for years and years and years, I've been saying how "Some Like It Hot" was my favorite movie of all time. And it comes darn close. But, as time and I have gone on, I recently realized that there is one movie that rises above "Some Like It Hot." By mere inches to be sure. But, nevertheless, given my current status as an adult cinephile, I realize that my #1 favorite film now achieves that honor solely because I myself have matured. More on that next week.

None of this is designed to diminish one iota what a tremendous movie "Some Like It Hot" truly is. A few years ago, the American Film Institute called it the greatest film comedy ever, and, in my humble opinion, it ran away with it like the 1927 Yankees. The movie is almost 50 years old and is still as fresh as the day it was released in 1959. Years from now, people will still be watching it and talking about the performances of Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis. At the same time, a half century from today, absolutely nobody will be remembering Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, and anybody else that is purportedly a screen comedian these days. Last year, when critics were gushing over the likes of "Superbad" and "Knocked Up," I was convinced that none of them have ever bothered to consider "Some Like It Hot." You have never seen a film comedy if you have never sampled this masterpiece from Billy Wilder.

"Some Like It Hot" also holds a very special place in my own personal film history, as it was the very first time I heard a movie theater audience laugh. Out loud. I was very, very, very young, but I distinctly remember going to Loews' Mount Vernon theater to see it. It was even more noteworthy since it was probably the only time I ever went to an indoor theater with both my parents in tow. Back in those days, your neighborhood movie house ran two pictures and you frequently didn't pay attention to start times. You just showed up when you wanted to. There were many times when we would show up and see the final 20 minutes of one movie, see the next one, and then leave at the exact spot where we came in. Very weird and I would never even fathom doing that today.

We inexplicably arrived to see "Some Like It Hot" about ten minutes from the end. I remember very little except that it was the big chase scene through the hotel. And the audience was roaring with laughter. I did not know what to make of it all. Many years later, I truly understood.

There is not one single wasted moment or line of dialogue in this whole movie. Every word has a purpose and a function. And, more importantly, it gets you to where Billy Wilder wants you. In the palm of his hand. Laughing hysterically till it hurt. I've read the screenplay several times and it is a master course in film comedy. It should be used as a textbook in film schools all over the country.

I've seen "Some Like It Hot" probably 30 or 40 times in my life. It never gets old or repetitive. I've seen it on TV and on the big screen. It never gets any less funnier than it was the very first time. When I walked into that Loews theater across from City Hall in Mount Vernon.

And heard all those people enjoying a truly phenomenal movie.

Dinner last night: Shrimp and chicken pasta at 17th Street Cafe in Santa Monica.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Snaps, Volume 2

Just as Obama asked, I want to do my part to continue the national discussion on racism. So, here you go, with a photo of good ol' Aunt Esther adorning this post. Straight from How's that for the Glory of Easter?

Yo mama’s so ugly that…

Yo mama's so ugly when she joined an ugly contest, they said "sorry, no professionals."

Yo mama's so ugly had to get her baby drunk just so she could breastfeed.

Yo mama's so ugly her face is closed on weekends!

Yo mama's so ugly her mama had to tie a steak around her neck to get the dogs to play with her.

Yo mama's so ugly her picture is on the inside of a Roach Motel.

Yo mama's so ugly I took her to a haunted house and she came out with a job application.

Yo mama's so ugly I took her to the zoo, guy at the door said "thanks for bringing her back."

Yo mama's so ugly people go as her for Halloween.

Yo mama's so ugly she has to trick or treat over the phone.

Yo mama's so ugly she threw a boomerang and it wouldn't even come back.

Yo mama's so ugly that Yo father takes her to work just so he doesn't have to kiss her goodbye.

Yo mama's so ugly the government moved Halloween to her birthday.

Yo mama's so ugly the last time she heard a whistle was when she got hit by a train.

Yo mama's so ugly the psychiatrist makes her lie facedown.

Yo mama's so ugly they filmed "Gorillas in the Mist" in her shower.

Dinner last night: Baked spaghetti at Tanino prior to seeing Joan Rivers at the Geffen.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Barack Obama: The Lost Speech

This is what we should have heard last Tuesday.

My Fellow Americans:

Today I am going to talk to you about change. Not the unspecified, mysterious, and unsubstantiated change that I have been prattling on and on about for the past two years. No, the change I am talking about is the inherent ability that all of us free Americans possess when we need to backtrack on something we previously tried to pass off as a truth.

Yes, my friends, I am changing my story.

Last week, when my former friends at ABC News first released their story on some of the goofball rants and ravings of my spiritual advisor and brother, the Wright Reverend Wright, I pretended that I had never heard them before. I said that I probably wasn't there on those days when the Wright Reverend went on and on like a rabid dog.

Come on, guys. I was there. I belonged to the church for 20 years. How could I have possibly missed any of this? I truly appreciate those of you, especially my brothers in Mississippi, who publicly gave me the benefit of the doubt. But, I heard it all. And, yes, there were some Sundays where I thought the Wright Reverend was an absolute stitch. But, overall, I am truly embarrassed by my choice of religious worship and I now deeply regret the two dimes I placed in the offering plate every Sunday for the past 20 years.

Just as two great White songwriters, Lennon and McCartney, once wrote, I should have known better with a guy like him. Frankly, I should have distanced myself years ago when, at my Thanksgiving table while I was enjoying my second slice of pecan pie and the rest of my inner circle was playing Scrabble, the Wright Reverend tried to pass off "FUHONKY" as a legitimate triple word score. Indeed, beyond his absolutely satanic political views, never once did he ever bring anything when he was invited for dinner. Not flowers. Not candy. Not even an Entenmann's. Nothing. Michelle and I should have cut and run then. We didn't. I'm sorry for that.

It was all very poor judgement on my part. I promise not to do it again. I will change. Very much like the change we all need to embrace in this country. The type of change that reminds us that White people can also be victims of racism. Like the poor young White teenager in Mount Vernon, New York, who could never use the school bathroom for fear that some of my Black brothers would turn out the lights and steal his bookbag. The type of change that reminds us of the many double standards Black people enjoy in this country. Let's face it, if it was Hillary Clinton whose pastor was exposed as a Nazi-like loon, she would be working the express line at Albertson's faster than you can say "Monica Lewinsky."

But, I'm not here to make this a campaign speech. (WINK AT AUDIENCE) I'm standing before you as the man who wants to change us all for the better. To let us all know that racism in this country has decreased. That life has improved for all of us. That we are not living in the world that the Wright Reverend wants us to acknowledge. That there are no more high powered hoses. That it is now okay to laugh at each other and be just a little politically incorrect. That if my colored valet tells me an off-color joke I should be able to share it with you. Like the one about the Japanese World War Two fighter pilot who joined the Ku Klux Klan. Every December 7th, he bombs Pearl Bailey. (PAUSE FOR LAUGH). So, my friends, the only hope that is truly audacious would be Bob. And, even then, do I offend anyone if I say that my favorite movie of his is "The Paleface?" But, I digress...

Yes, I should have been straight with you right from the beginning. Yes, I went to the Trinity United Church of Christ. Yes, I was married there. Yes, my kids were baptized there. And, yes, I do own a White lawn jockey. I should have admitted it. I don't know why I didn't. I guess I believed Oprah when she told me that the American public was essentially gullible and stupid. I'll know better from now on. Now when I talk about change, I am starting with me.

I will live with this bad judgment for a long while. I know there are people who will be less likely to vote for me as a result. If you're thinking about my supreme punishment, I want you to remember that I do have to go home every night to Michelle and, with all that incessant yammering... Well, enough said.

I hope you accept this as my most sincerest apology. And, if you don't want to vote for me now, I will clearly understand. God bless you. And God bless the memory of Moms Mabley.

Dinner last night: Eggplant parmagiana at Maria's Italian Kitchen.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

WFUV Redux

Following up on my WFUV post from several weeks ago, I realized that I did owe Ms. Fordham Alumni Relations chick a thank you note for our lunch. And I also needed to formally decline her invitation to me to spend $25,000 for a table at WFUV's big fundraising gala in April. It was a tough choice for me. Enjoy one evening of rubber chicken and boiled carrots or...feed myself for the next 20 years.

To her credit, Ms. Fordham Alumni Relations chick did reply back to me in a letter. And, as you will read, she pretty acknowledged that I was right on most of the points I made.

Dear Len:

Thank you for your email note following our lunch at your "commissary." I enjoyed visiting with you as well and I truly appreciate your patience as I negotiate the complicated politics of WFUV and Fordham University.

As you suggested, I did study the three points of the radio station's mission statement. I suspect there are many people who would agree with you about the priority order of the three points.

Candidly, I admire your integrity not to support financially WFUV since it is not the student run organization where you trained. You are absolutely correct: contributions received through WFUV fundraising initiatives such as the upcoming gala, the on-air fundraising drives, the CD of the month club, etc. directly support the radio station's budget which does include salaries for the general manager and others.

However, if you truly want to support the students of Fordham, you will make a gift to the University. The radio station's budget is outside the University budget. Financial aid is our single greatest expense and without it we could not recruit and retain top-quality students. Tuition does not cover the costs of educating our students. Today's Fordham students depend on the support of alumni like you to help them succeed.

Enclosed is a business reply envelope and form for charitable contributions. Please consider giving generously.

I encourage you to contact me when you are in New York and we can visit the campus together.

Thank you, Ms. Fordham Alumni Relations chick, for hearing me out on this. It is much appreciated.

Oh...and my checkbook remains closed.

Dinner last night: Teriyaki burger at Island's.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Corned Beef and Wednesday

You don't have to be Irish to enjoy this. Just take two helpings of cynicism and add mustard.

---I am always thankful when I don't have to spend St. Patrick's Day in New York City. There's nothing worse than a game of teenage vomit hopscotch on Fifth Avenue.

---I didn't look closely. Was Elliot Spitzer marching this year?

---Any truth to the rumor that Bill Clinton was Clients 1 through 8?

---This high priced call girl, Kristin, is now being besieged by tons of offers. She promises to write a book as soon as she learns to read.

---Alas, it was too late for her to join this year's edition of "Dancing With the Stars."

---New York's new Governor, David Patterson, ain't messing around. He's not in office a day before he confesses to an extramarital affair.

---Blind, my ass.

---He gives a whole new dimension to the concept of "feeling somebody up."

---Apparently, Ba-lack Obooboo does what millions of American churchgoers do. He sleeps through 20 years of sermons.

---How can you trust somebody with your foreign policy when he can't even pick the right neighborhood church?

---Obama couldn't have thrown the Wright Reverend under the back of the bus fast enough. You would have thought he caught the guy doing a panty raid at Gayle King's condo.

---In his boilerplate speech on racism, Obooboo also inserted lots of tire tracks onto Geraldine Ferraro's back as well.

---Hell, her comments about him last week were historic. It was the first time I ever agreed with her.

---In Obooboo's half-hour speech on everything except what we needed to hear, he did not make one single prediction that I could use on my office NCAA brackets.

---Obama still hasn't explained why he sat in that church for 20 years. Essentially, he passed off Reverend Wrong as your crazy, foul-mouthed Uncle Moe who shows up on Thanksgiving with a little too much Thunderbird in his snout.

---Just to be clear, there are tons of white people I hate, too.

---Beaucoup de celebrity sightings for me over the weekend. Besides the Rickles and the Newharts dining behind me Saturday night, my flight back from NY included Mary Tyler Moore, who I spotted at baggage claim. Although it was tough to spot her in the blonde hair and trench coat.

---She's now a far cry from throwing that hat in the air. It looked like it would be a struggle for her to pull a stick of chewing gum from her bag.

---For the second week in a row, "American Idol" dipped into the Lennon-McCartney songbook with mediocre to disastrous results. I'm betting Yoko Ono was so distraught she was rooting around in her "hari kari" cutlery drawer.

---Nothing, however, could be worse than last week when soon-to-be-ex-Idol-finalist Kristy Lee Cook did the first ever polka version of "Eight Days a Week."

---There is nothing worse than the Beatles being covered by the Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland.

Dinner last night: Thai chicken pasta at the Cheesecake Factory.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Jeremiah

I asked my pastor for a favor on Palm Sunday. I respectfully requested that, in the event she is planning a sermon full of anti-American sentiment, she should let me know ahead of time. After all, who knows when there might be a Presidential campaign in my future?

By now, I am sure you have seen and/or heard some of the vitriole coming out of the mouth of Barack Obooboo's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and his last name is clearly "wrong." The guy is absolutely 120% vile in his Afro-centric and anti-American rants. But, drop a robe over him and stand him up in front of a Gospel choir and he allegedly becomes a respected member of the clergy. Frankly, the only way I really want to see him is wearing a blindfold in front of about 20 loaded rifles. Let's face it. If my pastor got up in front of a church that has the word "Christ" in its name and preached all this hate, our council would be meeting by 1PM and her bags would be packed by 3PM. But, instead, in Wright's parish, the congregation reacts with the same wild-eyed glee usually reserved for Kobe Bryant.

Wright is a horrible excuse of a human being, but, really, his actions are not what we should question here. No, what we need to decide is how much of his message of hatred has been absorbed by the good looking guy wearing the Armani suit in the front row. The dude that happens to be closing in on the United States Presidency.

Once ABC News released all the transcripts of Saint Jeremiah's preachings, which would have made Adolf blush behind his moustache, Obooboo had to act fast and distance himself from all the venom. He countered that he probably wasn't in church on the days where Wright was at his nastiest. But, at the same time, all this verbal vomit from the Wright reverend was culled from over 75 different Sundays. Okay, so I guess the one thing we can deduce from all this is that Mr. Obama is either sleeping in a lot or looking to duck the offering plate. The notion that Ba-lack has avoided most of his pastor's oral diarrhea is about as likely as my purchase of a two bedroom condo in Harlem.

Alright, let's assume that Osama Bin Laden has been there in church soaking in all the hatred right along with the other parishioners all dolled up in their "go-to-meeting" finest. How do you sit there and listen and not absorb? Or accept? I go to church every Sunday and have heard probably close to 400 different sermons from her. I pretty much get that she is a liberal feminist, who is a big fan of Hillary Clinton and totally committed to expanding religion on a multi-cultural level. I don't agree with her on a lot political issues, but I respect her viewpoint and appreciate the fact that she is not expecting to adopt it as my own. So, essentially, you could make the correlation that Obooboo can sit and listen to his maniacal demagogue of a pastor and use his mental filter.

You could, but probably can't.

My pastor doesn't rant and rave in front of a frenzied congregation. Indeed, Sundays in my church are about as animated as a re-sorting of the card catalog at your local public library. If I sat there in Obooboo's church and listened week after week, I couldn't help but be swayed and impacted. Ba-lack says that his minister doesn't represent his own personal opinions. Actually, he has hastened to add that he is repulsed by them. So, indeed, you love to go to your favorite restaurant despite the fact that you don't like the food? I've been frequenting Carlo's Italian Restaurant in Yonkers since I got out of college. I don't go there simply because the silverware is clean. There is obviously something there of substance that draws me back time and time again. For me, it's the sausage and peppers.

When it comes to Obama's regular churchgoing, what is it that has brought him to Wright's temple year after year? And how much of it goes beyond a freshly washed knife and fork?

We don't know. And it's just one more mystery surrounding somebody who should be raising so much more speculation at every single turn over the next several months. The more people I talk to, the more I hear folks being suspicious about his past, his conviction, and his financial backing. More and more, smart people I know are starting to believe he is in this race for reasons that are totally contrary to the pledges of unity we have been hearing. As for his potty-mouthed pastor, Obooboo can denounce and distance and deny all he wants. But, at the same time...

He was sitting right there taking it all in. The Wright message. Which clearly isn't.

Dinner last night: Hamburger and salad.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - March 17, 2008

Extremely off-color but hilarious. Have a f%&king great time!

Dinner last night: BLT at Cafe 50s.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite Films: #3!!!

Alfred Hitchcock has made dozens of great movies. The aforelisted Rear Window. The Birds. Psycho. Frenzy. Lifeboat. Saboteur, not to be confused with Sabotage. The Man Who Knew Too Much. Family Plot. The 39 Steps. The Lady Vanishes. Foreign Correspondent. Shadow of a Doubt. But, for me, there is only one I can watch over and over and over.

North By Northwest is perfect film entertainment because it intricately blends together drama, adventure, mystery, and intrigue. But, most notably, it does so with a helluva lot of laughs. Thanks to the magnificently layered performance of Cary Grant.

The guy oozed charm and sophistication out of every pore, but, in this movie, he manages to evoke tons of laughs with an impeccable delivery. As Roger O. Thornhill (the initials are ROT), Grant portrays the quintessential snobbish, pampered playboy whose main goal in daily life is to determine what time of night he can enjoy his first Bombay martini. But, as usually happens in every Hitchcock, an ordinary and innocent man is in the wrong place at the wrong time with definitely the wrong people. And the story spins from that, as said innocent guy must extricate himself from some pretty perilous situations. Hitchcock went to this well a lot, but, in North by Northwest, the water is his most refreshing.

I came to this movie later in life, and I really wish I had gotten to see it on a big screen when it probably first opened at the Loews Mount Vernon theater. Every time I have seen it, the experience, while still perfect, always changes just a little bit as I notice some new detail or nuance. There are location shots from NY's Grand Central Terminal that take you back to that train station as it looked circa 1958. The rear projection of a train going up the Hudson Line train tracks is authentic, especially since I rode that same railway for about 20 years.

North By Northwest is noted in film lore for two very specific sequences. The famous crop dusting scene has been shown on virtually every Oscar clip show ever staged, but it never fails to grip me one more time. And, the climax set on Mount Rushmore, while clearly a backlot replica, still remains as exciting as anything filmed for the big screen. In fact, this very ending prompted what was supposed to be the title of the movie. "The Man in Lincoln's Nose." Hell, even the trailer (and Hitchcock sure knew how to make those as well) is riveting.

If you get the DVD of this movie, there is a very well-known blooper still in the movie. In the Mount Rushmore observatory during the scene where Eva Marie Saint confronts Grant with a gun, watch the little kid sitting at one of the tables in the background. He is preparing for the subsequent gunshot by holding his ears. Even in its mistakes, the movie is captivating.

Unlike most of the other films on this list, I have no poignant or funny memory attached to seeing North By Northwest. All I can say is that I have enjoyed. Again and again and again and again. Perhaps one of the most perfect movies ever made.

Except maybe for the top two movies on my list. They're coming next.

Dinner last night: The 90th birthday celebration of a friend's (Djinn from the Bronx) dad at Madeo. I had the Chicken Pizzaiola with the Bob Newharts and the Don Rickles dining together in the next booth.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Happy Anniversary... me.

One year ago today, I posted my first entry onto this outlet of jackassery known as "Len Speaks." What began simply as a daily writing exercise has taken on a life of epic and bizarre proportions.

To be perfectly honest, I had absolutely no clue at the time that, one year later, I would still be doing this. I figured that, once the desired result of more inspired and regular creativity was achieved, I would have left the blog world behind and "Len Speaks" would become a cyber version of an eight track tape player. When I started it all, my intention was not to post every single day. I figured I would show up from time to time or whenever somebody or something stupid happened in the world. Of course, in the fabulous universe we all reside in, I shouldn't have been so surprised that somebody or something stupid happens every single day.

When I ultimately figured out how to put the head count on the side of the blog, I was quickly astounded how fast the numbers went up. It was like watching that counter on Santa Monica Boulevard that chronicles the minute-by-minute U.S. deaths caused by smoking. So, it said to me that there were actual people out there (not just the friends who have fallen victim to my daily indulgence) that are really reading this collection of mental diarrhea. And maybe some of them don't even know me.

Wow. I am momentarily humbled.

As I approached this annual benchmark, I went back to look at the beginning. It was as if I was conducting my own personal clip show. I see writing that is much less sharp. I watch myself grapple with fonts, colors, picture downloading, and video uploading. I read days where I am downright whimsical. I review other entries that find me frighteningly vicious and negative. I realize that I hate virtually all politicians, hypocracy, Rosie O'Donnell, and Oprah Winfrey.

I see very few comments from readers, but I get countless e-mails from others who prefer to comment in a more isolated forum. I notice that I have spurred the memories of some friends who I don't see as frequently as I should.

I read my weekly Wednesday rant and find some topical jokes there that are probably good enough to be in Jay Leno's daily monologue. I come across other comments that make me wince and wonder what gremlin snuck in to write that particular passage.

I look at some of the dates of the posts and I remember that I had written that specific piece weeks or months earlier. One recent post about confusing Jane Withers and Mary Wickes was actually a lost episode. I completely forgot that I never posted it in October when I first wrote it. I look at all the Christmas-themed memories from December and recall that I wrote all of them in a single morning. I see other examples of me writing in storage so that I will have something to upload every single day. To me, a daily blog entry is as regular as my Zocor intake every night.

I laugh all over again at the Monday video laughs and still think that my first Monday giggle (that lady punching another woman in a courthouse) is still my hands down fave. I look at how my diet has varied over the year with the day-by-day chronicling of my dinner. I can officially award "The Cheesecake Factory" as my most frequented restaurant in the Blog Season of 2007-08.

I find childhood memories that I cannot believe I remembered, let alone inscribe on an internet site. I discover that I am very nostalgic for days of old and that I really still miss my grandmother. I have taken some bizarre shots at my parents and I wonder what that is about. I find that this daily writing exercise has become very much a regular therapy session.

And I feel better about myself than I did a year ago.

Mission accomplished. Now on to Year #2. Feel free to join me.

Dinner last night: A late flight back to LA, so really I ate nothing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

My newest guilty pleasure. This is a website that is designed to provide a community service. If you are moving into a new neighborhood and you want to see how friendly it is, you simply pop in a zipcode and up pops any stories about problems in the area. So, essentially, if you see a lot of crabapples around, you skip the neighborhood.

Of course, this now takes on a life of its own. It's a place where the anger around us just overflows. And, pointing out the overall stupidity of our fellow man, the site is hilarious. Take a gander at this entry:

This man has serious obsessive compulsive disorder - he's a maniac who screams at his wife and kids to clean up the house constantly. He makes his sons shovel leaves out of the gutter on the entire block -- both sides. He trims our trees and bushes and throws all the trimmings all over our yard.. and the worst part -- he digs all over his property, trying to find cat poop, and then throws ALL of it over into our yard because we have a cat. (He does not DNA test it first, nor has he DNA tested our cat to find out if it is OUR cat's poop and not waste from the other 18 cats in the neighborhood. The man is truly a psycho. I pity his poor wife and children.

Now, would you want to move next door to him? What about this lady?

Just because someone is 90 years old, it doesn't mean they have nothing to do but to sit around and die. They could occasionally LEAVE THE HOUSE without fear of breaking to pieces. I had a teacher who still wouldn't retire at 89, my grandfather just bought a new house at 90, and there was a guy in my orchestra who was 96 and played with us until weeks before his death. Our downstairs neighbor also happened to own the building, so we felt we needed to walk on eggshells around her (or above her) and ignore her miserable stench. At first her and her daughter (the one who handled most of the business) and her son-in-law were nice, but pretty soon they showed their true colors as miserable, miserly, walking corpses. The daughter told us that she was nearly deaf, so that we should ring on the doorbell in case she fell asleep in front of the TV and it bothered us. So pretty much all the time she would fall asleep in front of her blasting TV at 1 in the morning, and the TV was not in the living room, but below one of the bedrooms. This was annoying to the point that one roommate had to wear earplugs, but we assumed that the benefit of this would be never getting noise complaints. When we started practicing with our band in the living room (no drummer and we kept the level of the instruments pretty quiet) at 3:00 in the afternoon on a Saturday she called the management company to complain that she was sick and trying to sleep. Wow, suddenly her hearing was regained! It's a miracle! And did she really have to call the management company? She owns the building! She could have just called us or rang on our door, and we would have apologized and stopped. But no, she wanted it to go on our "permanent record." From there on out any time of day (usually afternoon) when a stereo was on, she would call the management company and complain that we were holding band practice in the apartment without permission. I honestly should have complain about the stench wafting up from downstairs because it was vile. Maybe if we changed our music to sound like the laugh track of Everybody Loves Raymond she wouldn't have noticed.

The vitriole on here is astounding. Thanks to the internet, thousands of people can now avoid punching the wall in their bathroom. When you start reading these things, you can't stop. The potato chip of prose.

What an absolute joy it was living next door to Dick. A sad, old, pathetic and lonely husk of a man who compensated for these shortcomings by being an obnoxious, misogynistic, child-hating, male-prostitute hiring, petty and childish piece of trash. I can't remember which parts I miss most: The TV blaring so loud I'm sure it could be heard on the space shuttle at all hours of the day or night; the faked-to-make-you-think-he's-actually-happy-laugh during endless reruns of his favorite show 'Wings'; the homeless junkie piece of shit he hired to cook his dinners(!!) and sweep his front step who'd loudly sing Avril Lavigne so out of tune and so loud you thought there might be a constipated tyrannosaurus living through the wall; the glorious drug and alcohol filled parties aforementioned junkie piece of shit would host while Dickie was out of town; the aforementioned man-whore selling crack and who knows what else out of Dick's apartment; the boyish (Dick's only, like, fifty) stomping as loud as he humanly could up and down his stairs just to remind you he lives there; the spraying of the complex's garden hose through my upstairs bedroom window because I couldn't get a sick child to sleep; the abrupt blaring of his stereo if anyone spoke out on the courtyard so loud it brought the deaf lady four doors away THE DEAF LADY FOUR DOORS AWAY! out of her apartment because she felt it through the floor; the complete apathy from the management when informed of all this; the calling of the police three times to deal with his behaviour; the sexual harrassment of some male tenants; his ugly face; his stupid moustache; everything about him. Years later and I still wish him a horrible, painful death. Don't ever move here. Never, never, never.

Okay, one more...

Woman in this neighborhood that's aggressive, litigious and compulsive. Calls police for fabricated/trumped up reasons. Had a 70 year old gardener arrested for stepping on her lawn. Called Hazmat for neighbor emptying water into the street. Attracts and feeds rats - deliberately. Plays obnoxious loud music to discourage neighbors from using their yards. Reportedly peers in neighbors windows at night - not confirmed.

And one last one...

My neighbors have the noisiest f--k fests I’ve ever heard. Usually at around 8 pm to 11 pm. Could be any night of the week. Yesterday morning they started in at 7 am! And they always leave the window open! When the traffic dies down you can hear them out on the sidewalk. Until we realized what the noises really were, another neighbor and I thought they had a dog they were locking out of the house allowing to howl all night long. That’s how loud the woman is! We live in houses with maybe 5 feet between them and I can hear them through the walls. I really hate these people!!!!! They have their house up for sale. God I wish somebody would buy it! I’m thinking of leaving copies of the sale flyer at preschools & churches so I can get some neighbors with lower libidos.

Of course, you can rant on and on about your neighbors. Or you can take some action. Let me tell you about a problem we had out here about nine years ago.

When we were living in an apartment complex in Beverly Hills for a little while, our front door overlooked the pool area. There was an apartment directly below us that was essentially next to the pool. It was inhabited by a woman and two teenage kids. She would leave for the entire weekend to run off with her boyfriend. That left the two urchins alone to have night-long slumber parties every Friday and Saturday nights. We'd pound on the floor to no avail. It was extremely frustrating.

So, you can imagine my anger one Sunday night when I dropped a can of tomatoes on the kitchen floor. Two minutes later, there is a knock on the door from Mommy Downstairs.

"Could you please keep the noise down?"

Huh? She left so quickly that I had no chance to respond. But, my roommate had plenty to say when he got home several hours later and heard my story.

"We'll fix her ass."

Two days later, my roommate had to be working till 3AM. When I walked out of my bedroom to go to work, he had pinned a note to my door.

"On your way out, go see what I did."

In the middle of the night, he had taken every piece of pool furniture and stacked it up against their front door. The way it was all positioned, it would come crashing into their apartment as soon as they opened the front door. Neither of us had to be there when it happened. We could imagine the disaster. And that's all we needed.

And, apparently, that's all they needed. They moved out one month later.

Who needs to rant on a website? No, wait, I just did.

Dinner last night: Salami sandwich.

Tomorrow, back from LA, with my first anniversary celebration!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Other Women I Have Not Known and Loved

The whole Valerie Bertinelli book signing story aroused a bunch of other memories for me. As it turns out, she was not the only celebrity I had a crush on as I was allegedly growing up. There are a few more women/girls that melted my butter on the small screen.

Angela Cartwright: I didn't give her a second look from those Danny Thomas reruns when she played this annoying imp you wanted to push down an elevator shaft. But, then she hit puberty while apparently "lost in space" and, frankly, there was no gravity pull on some of her anatomical regions. She got pretty hot in her teenage years, despite the fact that she wore a ski parka that was made out of my grandmother's living room drapes. Unfortunately, she didn't have a long shelf life in my hormonal supermarket. Because, around the same time, she was modeling a one piece jump suit that was ideal for intergalactic exploration, I had already turned my attention to an older woman.

Barbara Feldon: She constituted sexy in my limited grade school world. While I thought she was incredibly cool, I probably had some deep-seeded arguments with myself. Did I want her as a girlfriend? Or a mother? Girlfriend, mother. Girlfriend, mother. But, then again, even at that early age, I should have probably reasoned that my mother never laid down on a tiger skin rug and purred at the camera the way Barbara Feldon did on those TV commercials. And I defy any of my friends to tell me that their mothers were able to do the same. Indeed, as I write this, I realize that this entire episode is my earliest ever example of "too much information."

Karen Valentine: Oh, where have you gone? She was absolutely precious on "Room 222" and "The Hollywood Squares." She has gone the way of Cocoa Marsh and Remco Toys. Allegedly, she does a lot of regional theater and now lives in Connecticut, but I've never equated that state with oblivion. I actually got to do a phone interview with her while I was in college and I had to muster all my journalistic integrity to stop from asking her out right then and there. Also, her then-husband coming home was another buzz kill.

Bess Armstrong: This actress from the 80s never really had a huge career. Limited TV and film roles. Now, she shows up every so or often in a guest spot as somebody's parent on a Lifetime movie. But, if you want to really understand what I am talking about with regard to Bess, go check out the movie "The Four Seasons." Focus on the segment where they are on the yacht in the Caribbean. If you're a woman, ignore everything I just wrote. Or maybe not.

Linda Kelsey: A terrific actress from the Lou Grant TV show which is still being TiVoed on my set 25 years after it went off the air. While Linda is certainly quite cute, she was my first Hollywood crush that was not completely based on looks. Part of the magic for me was the character she played on the show. A self-assured, talented, hard-working news reporter. I was coming to grips that there was much more to the male-female relationship than physical attraction. I was becoming sensitive to the notion that women could be more than just sex objects. Of course, none of this made a shitload of difference in my personal life. Linda moved to Minnesota a while ago, and it's probably the only positive thing now in that state.

For whatever it was worth then or is worth now, I loved all these women.

And I still hate their husbands.

Dinner last night: Pasta with broccoli rabe, sausage, and garlic at Gianna's in Yonkers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Wednesday That Never Sleeps

Right now, I'm a part of it. New York, New York.

---I had a strange epiphany or two getting into the cab for LAX on my way to NYC.

---First off, why does the driver always have the front seat so far back that you have no leg room? Everytime I get into a taxi, I feel like John Glenn getting into Friendship 7.

---And why is it that every foreign cab driver, regardless of the city that I am in at the time, is tuned to the local NPR station?

---On Monday, my driver was listening to some story on the Jihad. So, is that how they do it? NPR is used to get coded messages to their American operatives?

---I'm always been a little suspicious of that Garrison Keillor guy. All that hometown mumbo jumbo and he probably goes home to pray to Mecca.

---Not only has real silverware returned to business class on American Airlines, they bombard you with plates. I felt like it was Dish Night at the old RKO Proctor's.

---To the flight attendant who spent two-thirds of the trip virtually straddling the guy in 11H: yes, we all watched.

---Somebody could have opened their window and she wouldn't have noticed.

---By the time we got to JFK, those two were picking out snap-together armoirs from the Sky Mall magazine.

---The other in-flight entertainment for me was big mouth Geraldine Ferraro sitting three rows ahead and buried in her crossword puzzle. I wanted to help her.
---17 Down: Biggest Presidential loser ever.


---22 Across: Ferraro husband.


---39 Down: Ferraro son (2 words).


---I hooked up with her again at baggage claim as she did the typical old lady thing and touched every bag that wasn't hers.

---At the same time she was reacting to the same CNN Breaking News on her Blackberry that I was seeing.

---NY Governor Spitzer Tied to Prostitution Ring.

---Another politician caught with their pants down. Literally.

---Now the only career possibility left for Spitzer depends on whether or not Fox picks up that stupid "Moment of Truth" show.

---There are already tons of opinion polls asking when Spitzer will pull out.

---For the hooker's sake, I hope he already has.

---PS: If I'm spending $4300 on a prostitute, she better be showing up with Huey Lewis & The News.

---The only problem with Spitzer getting bounced from his is that his replacement is some guy who is Black and legally blind.

---Which, when it comes to politics, some people might say is the same thing.

---The good news is that the only real skeletons he might have in his closet are some stolen macrame potholders from the Lighthouse.

---Billy Crystal, at the age of 60, is going to suit up and play an exhibition game with the Yankees later this week.

---Gee, where is a Roger Clemens fastball to the head when you really need one?

---Why doesn't Billy put his mouth down onto Derek Jeter's lap and get it over with?

---Billy, who claims to be the inventor of Yankee baseball, is taking his best shot by playing against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

---Heck, that blind Lieutenant Governor from NY could go 3 for 4 against the Pirate pitching staff.

---42 Across: Comedian Crystal.


---It's a rare day when you hear a public statement from Pope Eggs Benedict, who works about as hard as one of those window clerks at your local Post Office.

---He now says that people who pollute are sinners.

---I'll keep that in mind when he croaks and they keep shooting all that black and white smoke up into the air around Vatican City.

---I passed by Radio City Music Hall this morning and guess what picture is playing?

---Nothing starring Nobody. But, those two Oscar winning songwriters from "Once" are going to be appearing there in two months. Plenty of good seats still available.

---I saw two knuckleheads walking on Fifth Avenue and holding up a sign that said "9/11 was an Inside Job." Another attempt to show that we did this to ourselves.

---There's also a new book out that tries to prove that the United States deliberately provoked World War II.

---If these people are so incensed about how evil and maniacal this country is, I have one word for them.

---52 Across: M-O-V-E.

Dinner last night: Grilled chicken salad.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Handicapping American Idol Season 7

I have purposefully not tackled too much American Idol Season 7 in this blog to date. But, as in past years, I have been equally as engaged and drawn to this competition. Tonight, the newly anointed Top 12 Finalists begin the weekly elimination process and that's when the true fun (and talent) starts to emerge. For the first time ever, the Lennon-McCartney song trunk is being made available tonight, and I can imagine that Paul McCartney will be seated in front of his TV with a bottle of Maalox handy. Count on Yoko Ono to put her lawyer on speed dial for the night.

As they whitted the Top 24 finalists to the coveted Top 12 round, I can not disagree with those who have been eliminated already, save for perhaps one. And this fan was virtually giddy with delight when America voted to say goodbye to the ultra-annoying Danny Noriega, who can now begin his career at Supercuts. But, now the competition gets very sticky as this may be one of the best singing crowds that Idol has ever fielded. Here's my take on each of the Top 12 as the game begins:


Amanda Overmyer: She is this year's Janis Joplin and can do an amazing job with some vocals. But, ultimately, America will tire of her fashion sense, which is one notch above that of "The Bride of Chucky."

Brooke White: She is this year's Carly Simon knockoff, but has had some terrific moments. She, however, has admited to never ever seeing a R-rated film, so I wonder how she will hold up under stress. I wish she was in college when I was, because we would be married by now.

Carly Smithson: Idol goes international with this Irish bartender (is there any other kind?) She probably has the best voice of all the girls. There is one little annoyance for me, though. When she hits those big notes, the HD cameras give you a probing look at some very crooked teeth. She's a great reason why we should not accept universal health care in this country. I am also hoping that she opts for some longer sleeves, because the tattoos up and down the arm will turn off a lot of the voters.

Kristy Lee Cook: She has no real personality or style, and really has no business being in the Top 12. She sold her horse in order to raise funds so she could go on the Idol audition, so I am thinking that the equestrian vote may sustain her forno more than a week or two.

Ramiele Malubay: Idol goes Asian. She's a little too young, too tiny, and too emotional for me. On elimination nights, she sobs at the drop of a hat. But, she has some sneaky power in those vocals, so she will stick around for a while. Besides, I bet she's doing all the girls' nails on show night.

Syesha Mercado: The only African-American chick in the Top 12 this year, so Al Sharpton will probably be able to keep her around for a bit. Goofy Paula Abdul loves to keep harping on the fact that the word "yes" is contained in Syesha's name. But, then again, Paula can be fascinated by an ice tray. Syesha has a deep voice, but has yet to have a Melinda Doolittle moment on the show. Also, she needs to lose the Minnie House hairdo.


Chikezie: Using only his first name now, and that's good because it rhymes with his last name (Eze). That alone would have earned him Nipsey Russell's vote. He's the only African-American guy among the finalists, and he supposedly used to work as Homeland Security at American Airlines in LAX, so I have probably once removed my sneakers at his request. He looks like a nice guy, but he is way overmatched and will soon be returning to the airport and ensuring that passengers have placed their shampoo in the suitable containers.

David Archuleta: Has been unofficially nicknamed The Chosen One. Also may be answering to "Jesus Christ." He is the expected winner of the competition, but song choices for this 17-going-on-12 year-old may throw him some curve balls. It's tough to sing about broken and boozy love affairs when you have yet to attend your senior prom. David always speaks like he has asthma, but his singing is silky smooth. He will get the vote of any girl under 15 and all women over 75. I like the dude a lot, despite the fact that he seems just like the kid in high school who always has his backpack stolen during lunch period.

David Cook: For me, he's this year's Blake Lewis, whom I detested from last year. He plays his guitar and has some interesting takes on some rock ballads. But, his appearance is borderline homeless. He always looks like he blew dry his hair with an exhaust fan at Burger King. He will hang around for a while just to annoy me.

David Hernandez: He completes the David hat trick. He's already gotten some press, since it has been uncovered that he very recently worked as a stripper in a gay dance club. His voice and song choice has improved each week, so he could be a surprise for a while. If not, we can expect to see him appearing at Rage on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.

Jason Castro: The only Idol contestant this year to receive the official endorsement of the slow kids on the school bus. Whenever he speaks, you can swear that he would be completely challenged by a "Walk/Don't Walk" sign. But, he's got a terrific style and would be a role model for an audience that already has a lower IQ than he does. I'd lose the Jimmy Cliff dreadlocks, since this is not "Mount Vernon, New York Idol."

Michael Johns: This good-looking Australian import also seems to be on a fast track for the top. He has yet to get a bad review from the judges, and I can swear that I saw Paula smacking her lips during one of his performances. But, personally, he has yet to register with me. And, if he doesn't thrive here, I hear "Days Of Our Lives" may be having an open call soon.


I wouldn't be so foolhardy to attempt and guess the ultimate winner. After all, America votes on this and you all know how well that can work out. But, if I was betting a small amount, I would speculate that the last two girls standing will be Carly Smithson and Brooke White and the last two guys on the stage will be David Archuleta and Michael Johns.

Nevertheless, enjoy! From week to week, it is rousing entertainment. And much more compelling than watching a bunch of actor retreads doing the samba.

Dinner last night: Grilled chicken teriyaki and vegetables.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - March 10, 2008

Funny but sad from the great "Candid Camera." Whatever happened to the typewriter?

Dinner last night: The salad bar at Gelson's.

Tuesday---from NYC!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite Films: #4!!

When I was a kid, I would spend a week every summer at my cousin Bobby's house in Suffolk County. To beat the heat on summer nights, we would like to go out into the yard with his telescope. Were we looking at stars? The Big Dipper? Nope and nope.

The next door neighbors. And the folks in the house down the block. And any other home that didn't bother to have their curtains sufficiently drawn.

Had I been exposed to "Rear Window" before that, I might have opted to bide my hot and humid time by simply flipping baseball cards against the front stoop. In fact, despite my film-o-file status as a youngster, I never really saw this movie until I was well into my 20s. For some screwy reason, this Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece was kept out from public consumption for years. There were five such Hitchcock films that were not seen for a long while. "Vertigo." "The Man Who Knew Too Much." "Rope." "The Trouble with Harry." And, of course, the picture at hand. Whatever the problem there was with film rights, it was finally resolved sometime in the mid 80s. And, in an extremely bold move, they were released one after another to local theaters. So, I got to see some 30-year-old movies the way they were supposed to be experienced. On that big old screen.

I fell in love with "Rear Window" as soon as the apartment shades go up in the very first frame. Considering you never really leave Jimmy Stewart's 400 square foot studio apartment, it is astonishing how open and widely-encompassing this story is. The plot's been repeated countless times by numerous movies, TV shows, mystery novels, etc.. Somebody sees something sinister that they probably shouldn't see. And then nobody believes that somebody saw something sinister that they probably shouldn't have seen. A cookie cutter plot, most assuredly. But, what comes out of the oven is "Rear Window" is so deliciously crafted, written, and acted, you could swear that this often thread-bare plot was just hatched yesterday.

Stewart and co-star Grace Kelly have never been better than they are in "Rear Window." You have to see this once just to concentrate on the minimal, yet incredibly sexy dialogue that goes on between these two lovers. Never has sexiness been conveyed with so little skin showing. At the same time, Thelma Ritter, as Jimmy's nurse and caregiver, commands every frame she in with some of the funniest and crispest repartee ever captured on the screen. Over a fifteen year period, Thelma was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar six times and never won. Yet, she was not cited in any way for her work in "Rear Window," and it was clearly her best performance.

Despite that star power, the actual set is the real highlight of this movie. Hitchcock lays out all the apartment windows in this huge courtyard with amazing detail and precision. Each occupant, some with very little or no dialogue, becomes a fully fleshed out character in the story and you genuinely develop feelings for each one of them, just as Stewart's character does from his window sill. Take a look at this stylish trailer for the movie from the days when they really knew how to showcase coming attractions. Indeed, some of the apartment dwellers are given back story in the trailer that is never even addressed in the film.

By the bye, the piano player shown is none other than the creator of "Alvin and the Chipmunks," so this movie actually affords him one positive thing to list in his bio.

"Rear Window" was beautifully restored several years ago and was again re-issued to theaters. If you can see it on a big screen, please do so. But, lacking that, it should be mandatory that the DVD reside in the home of every true film buff.

By the way, my cousin Bobby and I never really saw anything good.

Or did we?

Dinner last night: Teriyaki bowl at the Marmalade Cafe.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Scenes You Can't Turn Off V 7.0

Another TV gem made even more noteworthy by the recent passing of David Groh, who played Rhoda's husband. You know the set-up? Rhoda has missed the ride to her own wedding. But, this excerpt is stolen completely by Nancy Walker and Cloris Leachman. Enjoy.

Dinner last night: Eggplant parmagiana at Maria's Italian Kitchen.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Your March Weekend Movie Guide

Will there be a movie ticket in your hand this weekend? Let me be your guide through the crap that is filling the neighborhood multiplexes. Or, perhaps you can see something on a single screen palace like the Bruin pictured above. It's one of my favorite movie theaters in LA, and it almost makes junk easier to swallow.

You know the routine. I'll sift through the LA Times entertainment section and provide my gut reaction to the movie ads. Good luck to all of us.

The Other Boleyn Girl: There was an original Boleyn girl? This was in the newspapers? That's what I get for paying too much attention to the Presidential debates. I don't know any of these girls and don't want to.

The Counterfeiters: Saw it. This year's winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar. It's what would have happened if they gave Schindler a printing press. How many Holocaust-themed movies are one too many? Discuss.

Vantage Point: The trailer for this movie has been in theaters since 2003. I've seen it more times than the "Vitameatavegamin" episode of "I Love Lucy." And since it's only 90 minutes long, I've probably seen all the good parts already.

Semi-Pro: The movie Will Ferrell made when he had some free time last Thursday. I am so tired of this guy, and, frankly, I was done with his limited acting range when he was still on SNL.

Married Life: A new "sly comedy" with Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel McAdams, and Pierce Brosnan. The latter pretty much ensures that this movie will be playing exclusively on American Airlines Flight 34 by next Friday.

The Spiderwick Chronicles: Some CGI and cartoon junk for kids from Nickelodeon. The press notes say it is an adventure in "an alternative world filled with faeries and other creatures." Filmed totally in West Hollywood.

The Band's Visit: A band comprised of members of the Egyptian police force head to Israel to play at the inaugural ceremony of an Arab arts center, only to find themselves lost in the wrong town. Fayed Philip Sousa. I am sick and tired of feel-good stories about people living in the Middle East.

Chicago 10: This is a half-cartoon, half-live action movie about the trial of the activists behind the Chicago 1968 Democratic Convention rioters. The quintessential LOONEY Tunes. I am sick and tired of feel-good stories about ingrates living in the United States.

10,000 BC: I am sick and tired of feel-good stories about prehistoric men being eated by lions. Paging Fred and Wilma, please.

Juno: You still haven't seen it? You better have a damn good excuse. And have it notarized please.

In Bruges: Colin Farrell. Brendan Gleeson. Ralph Fiennes. Lots of accents. Bye.

Diary of the Dead: The campaign blogs of Mike Huckabee and John Edwards.

Be Kind Rewind: Another Jack Black comedy which is ultimately another Hollywood tragedy. Does anybody still rent VHS tapes? Discuss.

Charlie Bartlett: I already saw this and was underwhelmed. Some high school kid takes on the role of school psychologist complete with prescription pad. Dr. Phil Goes to Algebra.

Definitely, Maybe: I am considering this because critics have said this is several notches up from the usual chick flick. Possibly, probably, perhaps.

No Country for Old Men: The Best Picture winner still hanging around. There's still time to go and be completely disappointed by the ending.

There Will Be Blood: Lingering in theaters like a sinus infection. Only if you absolutely can't nap at home.

College Road Trip: It co-stars Donny Osmond, so I guess it can be THAT bad.

The Bank Job: For those who can't get enough of Jason Statham. As compared to those of us who don't even know who the hell Jason Statham is.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Perhaps, but from the looks of the ad, she won't make it past the opening weekend.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days: A very worthwhile 110 minutes. But, right-to-lifers, please stay home. This ain't for your side of the aisle.

U2 3D: 4get it.

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation: Certainly not a snapshot of my childhood. The ad says "in Portuguese, Hebrew, and Yiddish with English subtitles." I'm confused before I even leave the house.

Taxi to the Dark Side: About a car service that goes to Barack Obama's house. But it did win the Oscar for Best Documentary.

Dinner last night: Black forest ham sandwich on homemade pepper bread.