Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Senior Prom at Scatman Crothers High

I wrote previously that I did not have a senior prom. Well, there was one. 20 Black couples went to the Apollo Theater. For a host of reasons, I didn't qualify. But, I wonder if the pictures below would be representative of what I might have seen that night. Props to Mr. Anonymous from the Barbara Judith Deluxe Furnished Apartments on Hollywood Boulevard for pointing these out to me. Of course, we find these photos amusing now. But, what happens next January if we see similar snapshots coming out of the next Presidential Inaugural Ball.

No other words from me are needed.

Dinner last night: Hamburger at the Tap House in Tuckahoe.

NYC Celebrity Sighting: Robert Klein walking slowly and gingerly down Sixth Avenue.

Friday, May 30, 2008


For me, nothing is more relaxing than a baseball game. In person at either Shea Stadium or Chavez Ravine, I can totally decompress by sitting with my scorebook and watching the day's story unravel before my eyes. Because, indeed, every Major League Baseball game is essentially a short story. Within the space of two to three hours, a plot will unfold. Characters will intertwine. And there will be some conclusion to a very interesting storyline that is perhaps much different than the game/short story from the day before. A baseball game is supposed to be free flowing and easy. No more than the stimulus of a cool breeze on a summer's day.

Except, of course, if you're watching said game on ESPN.

I've written previously about their Sunday night baseball broadcast crew, Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, who are the audio equivalent of a tooth extraction. They take on the mantra from ESPN that their network virtually invented whatever sports they are telecasting on that given day. If ever my teams are featured as the Sunday night game, my mute button is pressed and I might even use the local radio play-by-play as a substitute. Miller and Morgan are just that bad.

But, when I am on the road in NY, I often find myself needing ESPN's weekday baseball coverage in order to keep up with the Dodgers. Such was the case the other night when I felt the urge to watch the Blue Crew list through another non-hitting barrage versus the Chicago Cubs. My hosts for the evening were Chris Berman and former pitcher Rick Sutcliffe. Admittedly, Berman is the worst sport announcer ever to come out of a mother's womb and is better suited to managing a Pizza Hut. Sutcliffe's best days were on the mound and not behind a microphone, where he displays all the excitement of a funeral director taking some widow through a sales brochure of caskets. These two chuckleheads spent the middle three innings of the game essentially talking up Sutcliffe's singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch. Barbra Streisand's last concert tour didn't get this much build-up. But, I wanted to watch the game, so how bad would it be to endure them?

Freakin' bad. The dribble emanating from Messrs Berman and Sutcliffe was worse than I could have expected. When Dodger reliever Takashi Saito had his problems in the ninth inning, Sutcliffe kept telling us that he hadn't gotten a save in a week, as if his mediocrity was being caused by non-use. Wrong. If Sutcliffe had looked at some game notes, he would have seen that Saito worked two innings on Sunday, striking out five in the process, for a win in extra innings. Of course, Berman was too busy thinking of his next unclever thing to say. Naturally, he became infatuated with all the obvious gags that can be deduced from Dodger infielder Chin-Lung Hu. Hu is at short now. Hu is hitting. N'yuk, n'yuk. n'yuk. In comparison, I like to think about Dodger sportscaster Vin Scully during Hu's major league debut last Fall. Scully simply said "Hu is now playing second base and we won't say that ever again." And he never did. But, Berman naturally overplayed it so much it was probably like the day he found out how to lift up comic strips with Silly Putty.

But, the really annoying thing about ESPN's baseball coverage these days is the constant onslaught of information. A scrawl at the bottom of the screen. Constant and ever-updating stats at the top of the screen. By the end of the night, I was exhausted and had a headache that would probably rival Teddy Kennedy's. All of it rendered me senseless.

Over and over, I read about Pedro Martinez' rehab appearance in Class A ball. Somebody on the Braves went on the disabled list. Scores were updated from out-of-town on a pitch-by-pitch basis. I was expected to read that the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez had sex with his wife Tuesday night and "it was terrific."

At the top of the screen, the brain drain continued. You saw what the batter's average was with a 0-1 count. Then a 0-2 count. Then a 1-2 count. Then a 2-2 count. On and on and on and on and on. If arsenic had been handy, I would have emptied the bottle.

ESPN takes a very simple and relaxing sport and turns it into another version of the Iraq War. In the process, I can't believe that there are very many folks in the audience who give a shit what how many homeruns Manny Ramirez has hit while wearing blue boxer shorts.

Just give me the basics. Better yet, just give me nothing and I will construct my own fun.

But, I guess that would be too easy for our already overloaded society.

Dinner last night: Snacks at a wine tasting event in Fort Tryon Park.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Return of Scar Tissue

The best part of doing a daily blog is that there are moments in life that repeat themselves. And the more likely repetitive moments are those that revolve around chronic body issues.

Such was the case on Memorial Day weekend, which was made more memorable for me due to a recurring back problem being egged on by some nasty scar tissue. And it dawned on me that I had posted on this once before. Actually, it was the second entry I ever made in this blog. So, like a trusty episode of "I Love Lucy," here it is all over again. Just know that the pain this time was just the same.

Every once in a while, there are medical conditions that become the hot diagnoses. Do you all remember about fifteen to eighteen years ago when anybody who was feeling tired or stressed was diagnosed as suffering from Epstein Barre syndrome? Okay, now tell me how often you have heard about that disease since then? Does no one get this anymore? Was there a vaccine that I never heard about? During my last physical, my doctor gave precautionary shots for tetanus and whooping cough. Is he incompetent? Did he forget to give me the Epstein Barre inoculation? I think not.

And, then, back in the 90's, any kid from the ages of 5 to 12 who acted up was diagnosed as ADD. "My son just shot the DHL guy. I guess he's ADD." "My daughter won't eat broccoli. Yep, ADD." Now, I do realize that this is a legitimate condition. As a matter of fact, I know there are quite a few people in my business world who are in their 40s and clearly were never diagnosed with ADD, primarily because it was not the hot condition at the time. But I digress...

Over the past month, I have heard about five or six people tell me that the cause of the pain somewhere in their body is due to scar tissue. This concept is used whether they have had surgery or not. My thought is that there is somebody who works in marketing for the Mayo Clinic who comes up with this stuff.

So, I go to my chiropractor this week for this nagging muscle pain around my lower abdomen. It is partly attributed to the fact that I sit writing on a computer almost seven hours a day. (And, of course, this blogging exercise is now an added factor). But, as she is working on my deep tissue massage, she notes, "Hmm, you have a scar there. I am betting this is a scar tissue issue." I think about it for a second and realize that, yes, I did surgery six years ago in that precise region. (This was the operation where I donated some sporting good equipment to St. John's Hospital.)

I never had Epstein Barre. I am not ADD. But, I am now a full fledged card carrying member of the Scar Tissue brigade. And I am crouched over in pain proudly.

Dinner last night: Grilled Chicken Teriyaki as I settle into NYC.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Wednesdays

Even Indy can't help you here.

---Amazing news! To all those kooks who lined up for hours overnight to see the latest Indiana Jones adventure over the Memorial Day weekend: I checked the papers this morning and the movie is still playing!

---And it will probably still be playing in a couple of weeks as well.

---And it will still be around in a few weekends when I finally get around to it. Without some slob sitting behind me and gabbing on their cell phone. Or texting plot points to some other lemming at home.

---The Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood were actually showing the movie every hour on the hour. You can't even get a city bus that frequently in Los Angeles.

---This week, there will probably be a similar frenzy for "Sex and the City."

---And as much as I liked the show, it will be nothing more than 4 episodes strung together.

---The media hype for that thing is insane. I can't believe that Entertainment Weekly turned over an entire issue to a comprehensive guide for the show and the movie.

---Except my surprise was shortlived when I remembered that HBO is producing the movie. Which is owned by Time Warner.

---Which publishes Entertainment Weekly.

---That's what I call two degrees of exploitation.

---I was propelled to TiVo Oprah last week when she staged a cast reunion of one of my favorite TV shows, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

---It was just love that was all around. So was Oprah. Very, very, very round.

---The host looked awful and will probably be pushing some new fad diet very soon.

---Doesn't anybody realize that a person who yo yos that much in the weight department must be a psychological mess?

---Oprah was sporting major HAS. High Ass Strut.

---She looked like somebody asking you to read the third line from the bottom at the DMV.

---So, the Catholic archodiocese in Los Angeles is hitting on its parishes to pay that 700 million dollar legal bill as a result of all that "extra guidance" some priests were giving altar boys.

---That sucques for the average churchgoers who think they're dropping some dollar bills into the offering basket for the good of the church and the surrounding community.

---Little do they know that they are paying to feed a starving attorney in Bel Air.

---And if Hillary had thought about it, here's what she should have said about what happened with the Democratic nomination in 1968.

---"Let's not forget that Hubert Humphrey didn't get the nomination till the convention in August."

---By mentioning Robert Kennedy's assassination, she pretty much blew her chance to be on Obama's ticket.

---As cold and calculating and shrewd as Hillary is, even I know she wouldn't have been that stupid to think of that statement in advance.

---It gave Obama's people to bring up one more time the one thing they always swear they don't bring up. Racism.

---Of course, they think it's totally cool when that big yap, Michelle Obama, goes on 60 Minutes and tells America that, as a Black man, Barack could be easily shot at a gas station.

---I got an easy solution for that. Don't buy your gas in shitty neighborhoods.

---On third thought, I am guessing that Obama hasn't seen the business end of a gas pump in about 10 years.

---"Hey, I'm on a quarter of a tank. Somebody go fill me up."

---By the way, brain-tumored Ted Kennedy was piloting a sailboat over the weekend. With his condition and past driving record, would you want to be a passenger on that thing?

---Watching Willie Randolph uncomfortably sit alongside Met GM Omar Minaya during a press conference that pretty much announced that Willie still hasn't been fired, he looked to me very much like Elliot Spitzer's wife. (Thanks to the Bibster for that nifty comparison)

---Or Fredo Corleone on his way to the rowboat.

---The Dodgers' Andrew Jones is having surgery on his knee and will be out from four to five weeks. I needed a rest anyway.

---His daily physical therapy will be conducted at Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles.

---The supreme class act, Mike Piazza, announced his retirement from baseball.

---Which means that, if Fathead Roger Clemens finally does the same this summer, those two could potentially enter the Baseball Hall of Fame together five years from now.

---I think they will need to have the two plaques separated.

---Mike can be enshrined in Cooperstown. Roger can be hung up in Sing Sing.

---I am guessing that Clemens doesn't get in on the first ballot.

---Or the 17th ballot.

---Or ever.

---Watching the Dodgers play the Cardinals over the weekend, I got the opportunity to be re-acquainted with the most overrated manager in baseball, Tony LaRussa.

---Scoring a game he manages makes my scorebook look like Stevie Wonder was doing the play-by-play. Scumbucket Tony makes so many double switches I'm shocked the players can even figure out when they're batting.

---And, of course, the reputed genius LaRussa is so super clever because he bats the pitcher eighth instead of ninth. Like that makes a difference.

Dinner last night: Sausage and peppers at Earth, Wind, and Flour.

---See how stupid that looks.

And tomorrow, all this cheap sarcasm comes to you from NYC.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Welcome to the Major Leagues

Sometimes, they turn into the real deal. Mostly, the lofty expectations foisted on them throughout the minor leagues wind up in the ashes somewhere on a Triple A ballfield in Bumfuk, Iowa.

But, when you get to be a part of something that could be historically special, it becomes as noteworthy for you as a baseball fan as it is for the rookie phenom that is being displayed for the first time. A prospect that has the "can't miss" tag around his neck.

Such was the connection I had with the Dodgers' newest pitcher, lefthander Clayton Kershaw, on Sunday afternoon. After several years of hearing about his potential which ranges from a drop-off-the-table curveball to perhaps raising Lazarus from the dead, this 20 year-old with the name that reminds me of a 70s band was slated to make his major league debut against the St. Louis Cardinals.

And luckily I was also scheduled to be there. Sometimes, the luck of the draw works in my favor. Every season, when I select the 35 or so games that I will keep from my Dodger season ticket package, I never know what I am going to get. How many games will be lopsided? How many times would I get stuck watching Esteban Loaiza start? (Thanks to young Kershaw, no more) It's a crapshoot. But, I got myself a lucky break when manager Joe Torre saw last Sunday as the perfect slot for Clayton's major league initiation.

I noticed the electricity as soon as I walked in. Twenty minutes before game time, there was a big crowd already in place. The late-arriving LA fanbase today had a damn good reason for not missing the first pitch. The fans cheered as Kershaw walked in from the bullpen after warming up. They yelled when he was announced in the starting lineup by the PA guy. As he pitched to his first batter, some tool named Skip Schumaker, the crowd started a rhythmic chant.

"Let's go Ker-shaw!"

The kid, who was not even an embryonic egg when the Mets last won the World Series in 1986, did not disappoint. Even though he gave up a first inning run and threw 32 pitches in that frame, he did strike out the side. And, after a semi-bumpy start, he would finish up with a six inning stint. Two runs, five hits, one walk, seven strikeouts. Crap, Brad Penny hasn't had that good an outing since last August. Kershaw left the game in a position to get a win, but ultimately didn't. The Dodgers won in 10 innings and, by that point, Clayton was probably already having his milk and cookies in the clubhouse.

Who knows what Clayton Kershaw will ultimately be? Sandy Koofax or Sandy Becker. It is a question that won't be answered for years. He will get Waterford Crystal treatment this year. They don't want him to pitch more than 170 innings by season's end, which means that, by August, he might be the 2008 edition of Joba Chamberlain for Joe Torre. Let's face it. At the age of 21, Dwight Gooden threw over 270 innings and we all know what happened there.

So, on Sunday last, the new experiment in hype, Clayton Kershaw, looked to be destined for greatness. His next start will be versus the Mets in Shea Stadium next Friday and that connects the boy to me in an odd way one more time. Because that brings me back to two similar major league debuts that I attended.

The first was when I was very wet behind the baseball ears. I was still going to Mets games with my father and that meant probably no more than 3 games a season depending upon his work schedule. As luck would have it, on one Friday night vs. the Cincinnati Reds, we got to see the first start ever of another highly touted pitching phenom, Dick Rusteck.

Yes, Dick Rusteck.


Dick Rusteck.

This kid's entrance was even more impressive than Kershaw's. A 9 inning shutout win. The world was his.

He only started two more games that year. He never won another game. Injuries cancelled him out completely. That was the sum career total for Dick Rusteck. And I saw his only major league victory.

Years later, my dad and I had a similar opportunity on another Friday night at Shea versus the Cincy Redlegs one more time. The Mets were in one of their many fallow periods, but help, like Charlton Heston as Major Dundee, was on the way. We had heard many a tale of this Strawberry kid. Tales of balls he hit in Norfolk that landed somewhere in Provo, Utah. He was finally deemed ready for the major league dinner table. And his first game was to be on May 6, 1983.

In those days you could be spontaneous and go to a baseball game. And my father and I, intrigued that the Mets would have their first real power hitter since Frank Thomas, decided to see what it was all about. Oddly enough, only about 16,000 other people had the same idea.

Darryl Strawberry went 0 for 4 in his first major league game, although he did walk and stole a base. There would be many homers to come and an almost guaranteed Hall of Fame career. However, liquor, cocaine, and Darryl himself would have other ideas.

So, my next one to watch for me is Clayton Kershaw. Who knows, who knows? But, just in case, I kept the ticket stub from Sunday, May 25, 2008, and placed it in a drawer.

Maybe, just maybe.

Dinner last night: Cuban sandwich at the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - May 26, 2008

I hope it's available at CVS.

Dinner last night: French Dip at Cafe 50's Diner.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite TV Shows - #19!

When I was a kid, I loved loved loved Fridays. Not only was school done for the week and the weekend of play was at hand, it was the one weeknight that my bedtime was not under Nazi control. Translation: I could stay up till all hours, as long as I kept the TV in my room and me quiet. Not an issue. I didn't want to do anything that might endanger my Friday night watching Johnny Carson and "The Tonight Show."

This was when late night talk shows were true entertainment. Spontaneous, funny, educational, always interesting. Nothing like the over-rehearsed publicist-driven offerings now hosted by Jay Leno and David Letterman. I made a pledge the day Johnny Carson said goodbye that I would never watch late night talk shows ever again. And, except for peaking at the usually clever first 15 minutes of David Letterman, I have held to that promise. I am very, very content in living with my memories of "The Tonight Show" when it really was "The Tonight Show."

I looked forward to those Friday nights with Johnny. What old friend would I get to see that evening? Tony Randall teaching us the origination of some obscure word. Suzanne Pleshette complaining about her husband. Pearl Bailey pulling Johnny out to join her in a soft shoe dance. Jimmy Stewart reading one of his poems, perhaps dedicated to the paper clip. Joan Embery from the San Diego Zoo putting some creature on top of Johnny's head. Don Rickles popping out to surprise Johnny during a Japanese bath. Maybe Carnak. Or Aunt Blabby. Or Art Fern. It was always a roll of the dice, but it almost always came up a winner for me.

Once I actually had to expand my viewership beyond Friday. In a much ballyhooed event, that crazy crooner Tiny Tim was going to actually get married on a "Tonight Show" episode airing on, gasp, a Monday (and school)night. This precipitated about three weeks of Kissinger-like negotiations with my mother to be allowed to stay up for the nuptuals. I had to commit to going to bed at 7:30PM for several hours, so that my eight hour plus sleep time would not be disrupted.

My love for "The Tonight Show" also provided me with my first-ever attendance as a member of a studio audience. Long, long ago, Johnny's gabfest was based in NC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. And the age limit for tickets was a very loose "15." I would send for tickets and then my friend Leo and I would truck down there for the 530PM taping. As soon as we got home, I would send for more tickets the very next day. I continued to do this for about four years. And we relished the 1230AM commercial break where they always showed the audience and we would clamor to see us enjoy that 15 nano-seconds of fame.

As I got older, I got to watch "The Tonight Show" a lot more than just Friday nights. And it was the ideal way to end a day of college or work. Because it was spontaneous. Television you will never ever see again. Whether it was a celebrity or maybe an animal, you didn't know what to expect.

It's one show that I truly miss to this day. And now I go to bed on Friday nights at the same time I go every other night.

And I long for one more chance to stay up late with Johnny.

Dinner last night: Ribeye steak with sauteed mushrooms at Porterhouse Bistro.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Classic Newsreel of the Month - May 2008

A new monthly feature. From the day when people were not over-informed by the media. Some folks only found out what was in the news by either reading the daily paper...or seeing one of these newsreels in the local movie house.

Here's one that touts the opening of the New York World's Fair in 1964.

Dinner last night: Double dip ham sandwich with potato salad and cole slaw: the Friday night pre-game dinner at Philippe's.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The New York Mess

So I can get in a few games there in this, the final season for my beloved Shea Stadium, I have coordinated three New York trips over the span of the next five weeks. Because, indeed, for probably just a little while longer, I am a proud Saturday plan ticket holder for the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club.

Now I'm wondering what the hell I'll be seeing when I get there.

The Mets, who had apparently accepted the divine right of the next powerhouse baseball team two years ago, have evolved into an enigma. Big contracts with impressive stats and little else. Their late season collapse in 2007 is one for the baseball ages, perhaps one of the worst team performances ever. Not only did the Mets miss the playoffs, but they markedly contributed to the suicide rate in NY, as well as ruined Christmas for their fans. And, like the elephants that they are, the Met fans have not forgotten.

But, if you look beyond the disaster of last September, you will see that the Mess have been aptly named for a lot longer than just one measly month. If you look at the record for every game since last June 1, they are essentially a .500 ball club. Win one, lose one, win two, lose two. Over and over and over and over. If this is a powerhouse club, they are most assuredly in the energy conservation mode. In a room full of neon lights, the Mets are 30 watt bulbs. And it certainly doesn't help that those super-flimsy lights came with some pretty high prices.

Now the fans are clamoring for manager Willie Randolph's head...or whatever other body part they would accept. I stream WFAN on my computer and listen to "Sal from Bayonne" and you would think that Willie was seen in the background of the last taped message from Osama Bin Laden. Forget the fact that the Mets are really just one hot streak from being back in the thick of a playoff run. Randolph, a longtime lieutenant of the Yankees and Joe Torre, is viewed very much as a denizen of the edifice at 161st Street and River Avenue and probably should have stayed in the navy pinstripes. This is as ludicrous as Rosie O'Donnell's notion that George Bush secretly hid dynamite in One World Trade Center. But, nobody really listens. As far as the average Met fan goes, Willie should be toast, hold the jelly.

Unfair notions on all counts. Willie Randolph is doing the best he can do with the team he was given. It's like putting Ethan Allen furniture in a Bronx walk-up tenement. General Manager Omar Minaya, who has also batted .500 with the players he has brought to Flushing, has constructed a team without paying attention to age and team chemistry.

And, yes, folks, I will start this roll all over again. Ethnicity.

I've written previously (and with a bit of vitriole) the Met GM's penchant for engaging players who all have a "z" in their last name. I've been a proponent that a better ethnic mix is always needed for any team sport. Heck, I didn't make up that hypothesis. Countless sports writers have hinted to this psuedo-fact over the year. Latin ball players tend to be cliquey, lackadaisical, and very selfish in the clubhouse. And, now that Shea Stadium has apparently turned into the Flushing, New York branch of the San Juan Boys' Club, a tricky combination to begin with has been made even more challenging.

And, suddenly last night, I remembered something I once heard about Willie Randolph. And now I know why the rope is getting tighter and shorter for the Met manager.

A friend of mine in LA used to be very involved in the Yankee organization. And, as a result, he became a pretty good friend of Willie Randolph. Indeed, after Willie finally got his dream job as major league manager with the Mets, my friend was initially engaged to co-write a book with Randolph. Long story short, I would hear things come out of my friend's mouth that were direct quotes from Willie.

And Mr. Randolph had a lot to say about the composition of the Yankee clubhouse earlier this decade. At that time, there was an increasing Latin influence to that clubhouse. And there was plenty of friction that never ever got reported in the papers. And I just remembered this quote from Willie through my friend.

"You need a balance."

And now I hear and see all the frustration he is having now. And wonder how much he got to say about the current clubhouse composition of the Mets. And I read some of the misguided statements he blurts out to the press. And I think about that comment again.

"You need a balance."

Is Willie Randolph a good manager? Perhaps. He hasn't done it long enough for us to judge that definitively. Is he getting a raw deal from the Mets? You bet your boots.

The deck is stacked. But you just know that, at the end of the day or next week or next month, it won't be Carlos Beltran's fault. Or Jose Reyes' fault. Or Omar Minaya's fault.

I'll be there next Saturday to inexplicably add to my own personal mental torture when the Mets host the Dodgers at Shea. I wonder if Randolph will be there as well.

Right now, I'm probably the only sure thing.

Dinner last night: Penne with olive oil and garlic at Maria's Italian KItchen.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's Prom Season

And somebody you know and love might be subjected to treatment as shown in the vintage photo above.
I got lucky. For the first time in my entire high school tenure, I was actually delighted to go to a predominantly Black school. We didn't even have an official prom. The event essentially became twenty Black couples going out to the Apollo Theater in Harlem. As I was neither Black or a couple, I did not qualify.
I've heard nothing but horror stories from people who actually had one. Vomit on tuxedos. Dates falling asleep in public places. Coming with one date and leaving with another. Not getting invited. The male flip side of that. Inviting somebody who very unregretfully declines. It's way too early in life to have these pressures thrust upon you.
Why don't high schools host one big "dress-up" party? Pair off there if you so desire. Or just hang with your friends and make fun of the teachers.
Believe me, the trauma of formal affairs doesn't get any better with age. Years and years after my non-prom, I was working at an entertainment company that had a premiere broadcast held at, of all places, the Apollo Theater. Now, keep in mind that Harlem is just a place I ride a train through. But, this night was a gala affair. And it was black tie and date required. Luckily, this was a particular rare moment in time where I could easily comply on the latter.
The irony didn't pass on me that I was finally going to the Mount Vernon High senior prom at the Apollo Theater. And, even as a adult, there was enormous nonsense attached. What to wear? What color tuxedo? What tie that would not clash with the outfit of said date? Weeks and weeks of bullshit. By the time the evening arrived, I was mentally exhausted and would have preferred to spent the night at home watching "Cotton Comes to Harlem" on HBO. And, of course, I accidentally ripped something off the back of said date's dress, which created more chaos than Hurricane Katrina.
At least, I didn't throw up. But, thinking of it all today makes me want to.
Dinner last night: Cervelat on English Muffin.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dodger Third Baseman Blake DeWednesday

And Mr. Snarky is on deck.

---Blake DeWitt (pictured) is the accidental third baseman for the Dodgers. He wasn't supposed to be playing higher than Double A ball this season, but, due to injuries, he has assumed the job and won't let go.

---Batting over .300, 6 for 6 with the bases loaded, and only 22.

---And now, in the role of Wally Pipp, Mr. Nomar Garciaparra.

---Thus far this season, Blake is the "feel good" story, while Andruw Jones is the "look lousy" story of the year.

---Now Mr. Misspelling has fluid on the knee. Are they sure it's not gravy?

---The Dodgers will have to find something for him to do. I'd suggest making him a hot dog vendor, but he might eat right through the profits.

---I haven't seen somebody go South so quickly since Al Sharpton heard there were voting machine malfunctions in Florida.

---By the way, it has come out that the big fat Reverend owes beau bucks in back taxes.

---How can you be behind in your income taxes if you don't have a discernible job?

---Just what are the specifications and requirements to be a lazy, loud mouthed oaf?

---Unfortunately, to watch the Mets play the Yankees on ESPN Sunday night, I was forced to get ear cancer by listening to the worst play-by-play team ever, Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.

---Big Head Miller is so freakin' effected with his pompous name pronounciations. Carlos Bell-tron. Adrian Bell-tray.


---And when does somebody tell Joe Morgan he didn't invent the sport of baseball? I've never heard somebody speak so well, yet say so little.

---Why, he could be a Black candidate for President.

---Barack Obama, on Good Morning America, told everybody to lay off his wife.

---Trust me. I had no intention to lay on her whatsoever.

---Next time you see footage of her on the nightly news, watch the way she walks.

---Yep, Michelle Obama would be our initial First Lady with flat feet.

---Please send those orthotics to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

---Seriously, she lumbers and waddles. Sort of like a duck on the Jerry Lewis Telethon.

---Hopefully, she'll be proud of America when she's able to find herself a good podiatrist.

---Hillary's only hope is if the ball goes through Bill Buckner's legs.

---The way Mrs. Clinton is hanging in there, you begin to think she has photos of Obama in bed with Miley Cyrus.

---I guess she figures every husband sleeps around.

---There's a great radio commercial here in Los Angeles for a plumbing service. They will guarantee that the guy who shows up for the service call will smell good.

---Now, who wants to be the one to get close to find out?

---I'd give bonus points if the guy's pants aren't drooping down his ass. I once had a washing machine repair guy show up and I saw more of his behind than his wife ever did.

---Anything that dropped on the floor I immediately offered to pick up.

---On last night's Idol finals, the long awaited Battles of the Davids, producers put the whole thing in the framework of a championship boxing match.

---Because Idol's core audience, pre-teen girls and their mothers, are always watching the fights on HBO?

---When they trotted out Jim Lampley, I'm betting half the audience didn't know the difference between him and John McCain.

---By the way, making the rounds on the internet is a gag about all the products that are younger than McCain.

---The only problem is that type of joke is older than anything else.

---I'm getting soft. Jeez, even I feel better for Ted Kennedy.

---Does anybody else note the irony that all three Kennedy political brothers are victims of something to the brain?

---Oddly enough, it took a brain tumor to do what the voting electorate of Massachusetts couldn't do for the last 45 years.

---Now, I'm wondering if he wasn't already having these brain blips as early as 40 years ago. Heck, then I would get it.

---"When I returned, Mary Jo and the car were gone."

And, even though I haven't drowned while carrying a Senator's unborn child, I am done here, too.

Dinner last night: Super All Beef Dodger Dog at the game, where my Billingsley shirt secured the kid another win.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Birth of a Nation

The red Netflix envelope had sat on my shelf since early April. Dodger games, American Idol, and various other diversions had gotten in the way. But, on last Sunday afternoon, the Dodgers were getting knocked out of their shoes again by the Orange County Angels. The temperature outside was close to 100 degrees, but the central air conditioning in my living room was a Chilly Willy cool 70 degrees.

Yep, it was a perfect time to finally crack the envelope and watch D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation."

Long before I put this 1915 three-hour-plus silent epic on my Netflix queue, I had wanted to see this classic. Indeed, I tried a few years ago when the famous Silent Movie Theater attempted one more time to show it on their big screen. It was listed for barely minutes before an Al Sharpton-like protest put an end to that notion, just as similar plans a few years before had netted the same unfortunate result. From what I read, the only way anybody will ever get to see this movie is via their own home screening. And, I get the impression that anybody looking to buy the DVD will be destined to do so while wearing an overcoat and dark glasses.

In the sanctity of my own centrist living room, I was finally able to see what all the fuss was about. And, as I thoroughly expected, it is director D.W. Griffith's sequel to William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing."

Yes, I am not Black. And, yes, none of my family was ever bound in chains, although one might argue that they were indeed slaves to tradition. And, yes, I really haven't ever been a victim of discrimination or hatred, although you should have heard some of the neighborhood comments about my childhood buck teeth or weight. But, as part of society, no, I pretty much got a hall pass thanks to my skin color and nationality. So, I might not be the ideal viewer to comment on whether "Birth of a Nation" is offensive. At the same time, I can look at it for what the movie is. A momentous film offering a viewpoint on a significant period of our country's history. And how different does that make "Birth of a Nation" from something like Oliver Stone's "Nixon," "All The President's Men," or, perish the thought, Steven Spielberg's ultra-revered "Schindler's List."

"Birth of a Nation" is about the Civil War and the Reconstruction period that followed. You follow a Northern family and a Southern family through these events and, naturally for dramatic purposes, they become intertwined. In epic scale, you see recreations of Civil War battles, many of which were filmed in the 1914 world of the San Fernando Valley. You see Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox. And then, Lincoln's call of an end to slavery, which is quickly followed by a great depiction of his assassination at Ford's Theater. That takes you through to the midway point of the movie, and is pretty impressive in its portrayal of real historic events.

But, that's not what pisses off all the protest groups and prevents this film from being publicly screened to this day.

For the second half of "Birth of a Nation," Griffith concentrates on the Southern family as it lives now in a world thrown upside down. Blacks are free. Blacks can now vote. And Blacks essentially control local governments. And, according to the script, mayhem and corruption ensues. There's one scene of some community meeting where rules and legislation is discussed while the predominantly Black forum spends their time carousing, drinking, and walking around without shoes. Everybody runs amuck, until the newly invented Klu Klux Klan rides to the rescue like John Wayne led the Calvary in countless other Westerns. End of movie. Almost. But, first, we see the two families one more time each surveying the mess around them and making the requisite "why can't we all get along?" notion. For good measure, Jesus Christ miraculously appears, perhaps on loan from Cecil B. DeMille.

Okay, so now I get what protest groups prevent us from seeing "Birth of a Nation" on a big screen where it belongs.

Well, sort of.

Yes, some of the Blacks are clearly stereotypes. Yes, some of their corruption is a little over the top. And the Klu Klux Klan is a bit laughable. But, at the same time, D.W. Griffith does credit a lot of historical sources for his script, including the then sitting President, Woodrow Wilson. And he does pop on a huge disclaimer at the very beginning of the movie. And, most importantly...

I am pretty sure that most of this is pretty darn accurate.

There are tons of history books out there that will back up the depictions in this movie. Yes, there was slavery in this country. And, yes, once it was abolished, there was a definitive (and over-the-top) reaction to it by the Blacks in the south. There was corruption. Let's face the facts. The way protest groups raise up against this film, you would think D.W. Griffith had tried to make "National Lampoon's Civil War."

As with everything in our society, all is depicted as black and white. Red and blue. Conservative and liberal. And none of it comes out the way it should be. Right down the heart of the plate. The middle. Where all opinions should reside comfortably.

Our lunatic politicians can talk and talk and talk till they are blue in the face (the only skin color that is truly 100% repulsive), but none of the issues are ever effectively dealt with it till they can be viewed from a moderate point of view. Because both sides don't get it.

I think about my shell of a hometown, Mount Vernon, New York. Once a wonderful quaint suburban city, Mount Vernon is now an urban armpit, ravaged by crooked politicians. And, guess what? It was equal opportunity corruption. First, it was an Italian (wink, wink)-dominated City Hall. After they skimmed the top and destroyed the bottom, the building was turned over to a bunch of equally evil Blacks and Haitians, who picked over what was left like vultures at a chicken farm. And, indeed, I now remember that, yes, I was an indirect victim of this.

After many years of working for a major accounting firm in Manhattan, my mother opted to make her last career choice by working closer to her Mount Vernon home. Through a friend, she would be the book keeper for a new bakery opening minutes from her apartment. She went through the process of quitting the Manhattan job and even set up the bakery office systems for a week or two. And, then, the bad news... The food license the owner applied for was denied. Because, in those days, the then-Mayor of Mount Vernon, Ronald Blackwood, had decided that new food licenses would only be issued to Black or Caribbean-born merchants. So, my mother was forced into an early and uneasy retirement. And, regretfully, for one isolated moment of time, I wish lynching was back in vogue. At least for Mayor Blackwood.

So, as it always seems to be, it's either one way or the other. Never the lane in between local and express.
We don't get to see "Birth of a Nation" anymore because there is an inability to accept viewpoints. And the issue is not what side the film comes down on. It's all about letting us make our own determination. And our own opinion. And allowing us to make intelligent choices. It's not whether D.W. Griffith is right or wrong. It should be about how we, as individuals, react to what he has to say.

So, somebody someplace somehow let us see "Birth of a Nation" the way it should be seen. And we'll make our own decisions accordingly. If it ever shows up here in Los Angeles up on that celluloid screen, I plan to be on the ticketbuyer's line.

As long as the theater is air conditioned.

Dinner last night: Pork chop with mustard cream sauce at Comme Ca in West Hollywood.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - May 19, 2008

This works best if you are originally from New York. Enjoy.

Dinner last night: Pepperoni and cervelat sandwich with roasted peppers on sourdough baguette.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite TV Shows: #20!

The funniest thing about this summer childhood memory is that I'm still doing it. And I already saluted this show in a blog entry last summer. But, I couldn't do this list of my Top 25 Favorite TV Shows without including it. I am going to reprint a lot of what I previously wrote below, but also include some new memories of "What's My Line?"

Thanks to the Game Show Network, the wonderfully infectious game show is still running just like it was when I was staying up late on Sunday nights to see it back when. It used to be situated right after "Candid Camera" and both those shows made me feel like I was part of the adult world. The adult world that was around the age of 7 or 8, but the adult world nonetheless. It is inexplicable that I am TiVoing a show that features episodes from over 55 years ago. But, it is the greatest time capsule we can ever have of the entertainment world as it existed in the 50s and 60s. It also transports me back to summers of old. When that huge kitchen electric fan was blowing beautiful breezes through the house. And I was allowed for two months to stay up and watch "What's My Line?"

"What's My Line?" was like a big party game at somebody's house. The panelists could have been some configuration of my parents, aunts, and uncles who used to attack some kind of board game after one too many Schaefer beers. Except the WML panelists were usually in formal attire with gowns by Bonwit Teller, while my family was decked out in EJ Korvette's finest.. The TV folks looked like they were having such fun guessing the occupation of a couple of nobodys. So were the folks at home. In what was perhaps the simplest form of TV games, we watched this as a family unit. My parents and grandparents gearing up for a week of work. I was prepping for another summer week of horseplay. And "What's My Line?" provided the best way to get that all started.

Beyond the odd occupations which frequently ranged from lady umpire to a false teeth polisher, the best part of the show for me was when they would truck out a mystery guest for which the panel was blindfolded. Whoever was in NY showed up live on Sunday night to stump the panel. They were usually in town to promote some movie or their week-long upcoming engagement at the Copacabana. When you watch these damn things on the Game Show Network forty or fifty years later, it is like unopening some cigar box of junk you buried in your yard ages ago. Watch here as Lucy and Desi try to stump the panel at the very height of their "I Love Lucy" popularity.

You never knew what to expect. Danny Kaye pops in to talk about kids getting those little orange boxes to trick or treat for UNICEF. Beyond those stupid blindfolds, you can actually see the mental wheels turning on each of the regular panelists, Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen, and Arlene Francis, who was so cool I wanted her to be my mother. They're all trying to figure out who's in town or who is opening in a play. One of the contestants had a job sorting out Minnesota Twins tickets for the 1965 World Series that was starting later in the week.

Since the show was live, host John Charles Daly often references something that happened that day. A blizzard. A heat wave. The Pope's visit. The New York Football Giants' winning field goal. It's such a great timeline of life that the show should run on The History Channel.
Of course, "What's My Line?" had to endure almost on-screen deaths of two regular panelists. On some night in 1956, Fred Allen dropped dead on the sidewalks of New York, while walking his dog. The very next night, he was supposed to be on WML, and, of course, with much grief, the show did go on. The same thing happened in 1965 when Dorothy Kilgallen went home from the program one Sunday night and promptly went buns up in bed. They just reran these shows in sequence on the Game Show Network and it is very eerie to watch someone on "live" TV who you know will be dead in less than 12 hours. They still don't know whether it was a combo of booze and pills that did her in. Or, reportedly, she had some inside dope on President Kennedy's murder and got offed by the mob. Nevertheless, the following week's show was a study in how people deal with heartbreak over the loss of a friend. And it is all there in black and white fuzzy tape.

Whoever at producer Goodson-Todman had the foresight of taping all these live broadcasts was a genius. Because we can still enjoy this weekly cocktail party of life to this day. The darn thing ran for almost 18 years on CBS, and they amazingly have almost 98% of all the shows.There was always a guest male panelist. And when it was the quintessential Groucho Marx, watch out.

Gee, why couldn't my parents be that funny at their parties?
Dinner last night: Proscuitto, moazzarella, and Kalamata olive panini at Fabiolous Cafe.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - May 2008

In a neverending attempt to populate this blog on a daily basis, here's a new monthly feature.

Frankly, they don't make movie trailers the way they used to. These days, most trailers receive a big "ho hum" from me. Some even get booed in LA. But, in the "good old days," you saw only one or two before the double feature. And they really made you want to know when that picture would be coming "up by us."

Here's a grand one for the classic western, "The Big Country." I got to see this on a big screen several years ago at the Egyptian. In one of his last public appearances, Charlton Heston was there. And, no, he wasn't yet putting Raisinets in his ears.

Dinner last night: Leftover pasta salad

Lamenting: Modern Day Parents

Okay, before I even get started here, let me present your argument back to me.

Yes, I am not a parent.

Yes, I don't have an emotional investment in a child that I helped to create.

Yes, I am the least qualified to discuss any of this as I am what I would call a "Summer Parent." I take some kid in my official title as "Psuedo Uncle Len" and treat the hell out of them. Ball games, movies, Disneyland, restaurants every night. Then, when we are done, they go home to you for all the dirty stuff that comprises parenting in 2008.

At the same time, I watch and listen and learn from the youth around me. Some that I know, others that I don't. I remember my own upbringing in an admittedly less scary world. And then I listen to the author of the book in the upper right on two talk shows and my unspoken perceptions are openly validated at last.

Kids today are softer than a roll of Charmin.

While I have not yet read this book, I am already buying into the notions. Ms. Marano paints the picture of an ever increasing number of psychologically-conflicted college students. The end result and direct by-product of years of perhaps well-meaning, but excessive over-parenting.

I see kids headed out to ride on a bicycle with enough bodily protection that they could battle the 300 Spartans. I listen to parents reciting their offsprings' daily schedules. 15 minutes of piano. 45 minutes of homework. Pick you up at little Sally's at 5:42PM because we are due at Grandma's by 6:27PM. And, by the way, don't stand outside because you will be the victim of a drive-by molesting or worse. And don't look at any strangers because they are all bad. Be very careful because the Earth is burning to a crisp and we will all likely be dead in 50 years anyway. And, if you do all that, I'll let you spend an hour on the X-Box where you can use your computer skills to annihilate mankind.

It has never made any sense to me. Then or now. And we wonder why kids are popping Ritilin pills like they are Skittles.

The author's point is that, in our eternal determination to provide a good future for our children, we are robbing them of their youth. And any ability to grow. Because one can argue that you learn more from failure than you do from one cushy success after another. Just go to any bowling alley where there is some urchin's birthday party in progress. And there are covers over the gutters, so every kid's throw down the lane is pre-destined to hit a pin. Where the hell were these things back in the day when I was bowling with my cousin and hitting scores so low that they would rival Paula Abdul's IQ? How does a kid learn to bowl if he or she doesn't understand the consequences of rolling a ball incorrectly? Everybody is pre-ordained for success. There are no bumps in life.

Oh, yes, there are. And these children are done no service by layers and layers of physical and emotional padding. Because, at some junction, little Emily or little Jacob, your life is going to suck. Maybe and hopefully momentarily. But it will reek to high heaven at some point and even the fact that your parents, via cell phone, are in your back pocket, there may not be much they can do for you at that juncture.

Yes, I know the world is much different than when I was a kid. I can recall once, at the age of 10, returning from the grocery with some staples my mom needed: milk, cheese, a package of Kents. A car pulled alongside me and some cretin asked me to hop in because my mother wanted me to come right home. I kept walking and then proceeded to run. Because that's exactly what my folks had told me to do. They did it once. But I never forgot it.

Yes, things were different. By the time I was 10, I was going to the movies by myself. By the time I was 12, my friends and I were hopping the subway to head out to Shea Stadium or Yankee Stadium. At this very early point in our lives, we already knew how to "change at 149th Street-Grand Concourse." I can't imagine any parent (and rightfully so) allowing this today in the Big Bad Bronx. But, at the same time, there needs to be a happy medium someplace. Protecting kids, but also preparing them for life. Keeping them close, but away from you. Softly toughening them. It is an art now lost.

Okay, this is not to suggest that my parents were ignoring me completely. Within my freedom, there were plenty of restrictions. One summer day, I had just gotten my allowance. My mom told me I could walk several blocks to 241st Street, where there were some stores featuring stuff I might want. As I ambled down White Plains Road, a 3 way light bulb got brighter over my head. There was a really great toy store on 232nd Street. A scant nine blocks away. The only barriers? Some really "big streets" I was not allowed to cross.

6 lanes of 241st Street. 6 lanes of 238th Street. 6 lanes of 233rd Street.

I did it nonetheless. A nifty new set of Colorforms.

When I came home, the Toy Detectives, AKA Mom and Dad, went to work.

"Where did you get that?"


"Where did you get that?"


In what was about two weeks of intensive interrogations, I was ultimately outed. And then subject to another concept that is alien to the youth of today.

I got punished.

Not a time-out. Not a pat on the ass. Flat-out stuck-in-my-room-with-no-TV-or-radio-or-toys punished.

I didn't get hit much. But I can tell you that both parents and both grandparents each did it once right across my kisser. I can remember when my grandmother did it. She, my grandfather, and I were in Woolworth's. And they were talking German to each other. So, I thought it would be cute if I did the same thing. But, of course, all I knew how to do was make gibberish sound German. That was fun for about ten minutes until my grandmother slapped me soundly from left to right. Ach du lieber.

Needless to say, I never did it again. Nor did I do again whatever offense prompted the backhand from the other three parental figures in my life.

I learned. It only took one time. And I would never do it again. I was toughened anew.

Even in college, I experienced an incident that showed my parents were not that lax. In freshman year, I joined the Fordham University newspaper, "The Ram." Back then, the staff was entrusted with completely laying out the paper at some print shop in the bowels of Greenwich Village. And you all had to take your turns down there on some Thursday overnight. As a lowly freshman, I wanted to demonstrate my eagerness, so I immediately signed up.

Our work was done at about 230AM, so I needed to begin the long trek up to my bed in Mount Vernon, New York. Of course, I had no idea how to do this. I was subway-experienced, but I had never been south of Times Square. And I made every mistake in the book on these dark and lonely station platforms. I'm looking for the express on the local side. I'm waiting for the local on an "express only" line. Somehow and someway, I managed to crawl my way to 205th Street in the Bronx to wait for the bus to Mount Vernon.

Which had stopped running at 2AM.

I have never been more scared than that night when I attempted the two mile lonely walk from 205th Street to Gun Hill Road, where I hoped to pick up the 2 Train. The streets were deserted. My mind was wandering. My death was impending.

Suddenly, a car came careening down Webster Avenue. Right at me with headlights emblazoned.

Maybe "The Ram" could print this as a headline: "Freshman Found as Road Kill."

The car, which appeared bigger than any I had seen before, stopped short of hitting me. I heard a familiar voice as I was blinded by the headlights.

"What the hell are you doing?!!!"

It was my father.

Since I hadn't been too specific about my evening plans, he had spent every hour since midnight driving the route from Fordham Road to Mount Vernon.

I got into the car expecting a verbal onslaught.

Times and punishments had changed. I got silence.

And I never did that again.

One last parental preparation of the adult world I would be joining.

There were no bowling alley bumpers on that Bronx thoroughfare that night. It was a fact of life. One that children don't experience today.

In the ultra-seasoning I got from my parents, there was one that I do wish they had skipped. They dragged me to see my first open casket wake at the age of 5. It has stayed with me forever. To this day, I will avoid this like the plague. So, for those of you planning ahead, if you want me there when your time comes, close the box please.

Now, most of my friends are great parents. Their kids are in high school and college, all delightful with great viewpoints of life and a wonderful tendency to laugh at all my jokes. They're fine. It's not that youth I am fretting about. It's the next generation. The pampered. The guarded. The babied. The wimpy.

And, sadly, the truly f$%ked.

Dinner last night: Antipasto pasta salad.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"And a One...and a Two..."

I was actually startled to learn that the Chicago Cubs are still holding to that stupid tradition of having some lukewarm celebrity lead the crowd in a rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field. This comes to mind because I just saw perhaps the worst ever singing of this by the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo, who obviously had one too many Old Styles before his warbling last Sunday. Take a look at this jerk. It's a good thing that he can hit some receivers because he's at a loss connecting with musical notes.

This ultra-silly tradition started years ago when the Cubs' former announcer, the late and overly liquored Harry Caray, used to stammer, stumble, and slosh his way through the song every game and then uttered an incoherent shout to the home team.

"Lesssssss shget sschum runs!"

I remember my roommate once saw me watching this and he was convinced it was a put-on. Sadly, it wasn't. It was one more in a series of embarrassing moments extended across the lifetime of one of the biggest jerks ever to call a major league baseball game. The guy was so pickled for so long that, ten years after his death, he probably hasn't decomposed one iota. Harry started back in the 40s and 50s with the St. Louis Cardinals and was run out of town after being caught diddling with some broad in the Gussie Busch family. He bounced around from job to job, always blatantly rooting for the home team and breaking every journalistic rule in the book. Some thought he was a fun watch. I always thought that the guy was one "Holy Cow" from having a scotch-provoked stroke right on the air. His charm escaped me totally.

In his last years, Cub fans lived for the sight of Harry propping himself up in the press box to butcher "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" one more time. And he never disappointed. One rendition was always worse than the last.

After Harry hoisted his glass for the last time one off-season, the Cubs decided to honor his memory by continuing the tradition one more year by having some hackneyed celebrity do it every game. I remember Dodger announcer Vin Scully telling the tale that he was asked to do the song when the Dodgers were visiting Chicago. He willingly complied for Harry. But, Vin was perplexed when they asked him to do it again the following season. Vin declined.

"The first time, I did it for Harry. The second time, I would be doing it for myself."

Nail squarely hit on the head. Now, this stupid tradition just gets more and more mangled every time some C list actor or athlete looks for their golden moment in the Wrigley sun. Enough already. Retire them. Harry's dead. Let's move on.

Fans don't need to be led through this ritual like sheep. Every Dodger game we readily stand and can easily sing all by ourselves (and in tune) to the strains of organist Nancy Bea Heffley. They do it the same way at Shea Stadium with a bonus rendition of Lou Monte's "Crazy Mary." The point is that the seventh inning stretch should be about the fans, not some jackass whose movie is opening at local theaters this Friday.

We're done.

Dinner last night: Meatloaf and knockwurst platter at Kate Mantillini's.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Wonderful World of Wednesday

No fairy dust sprinkled here.

---This is a head scratcher. The list of the top 10 most popular names came out and there are so many tied to the Bible. Matthew, Joshua, Jacob, etc..

---Yet, more people are foregoing organized religion than ever before.

---One of the most popular girl names is Isabella, and I know how important it is to name your daughter after the queen who told Christopher Columbus to buzz off.

---Also, another hot name for girls is Madison. Because your child should be named after a street.

---I'd like you to meet my son. 58th Street.

---The good news is that neither Hillary, John, or Barack made the list.

---You get the impression that Hillary's hanging in the race just to pee in Obama's pool?

---That whole super delgate nonsense makes as much as sense as the entire third season of Lost.

---Did anybody ever hear of Myanmar before last week?

---Sounds like a sinus headache tablet to me.

---Or one of those chocolate covered marshmallow cookies.

---So, people are going nuts about all the destruction there. But, the biggest problem is that this alleged country has been run by a bunch of dirtbags for years.

---Like the city of New Orleans.

---All the tornados and cyclones around here and the rest of the world has got all those global warming hysterics riled up again?

---If you go into any US history book (admittedly not taught in our schools anymore), you will read about loads of similar storms ravaging our country back in the 20s and 30s.

---It's called "weather."

---If anybody knows the temperature setting on the central air conditioning in Al Gore's Tennessee mansion, please give me a call.

---Saw this on a guy's T-shirt in Bloomingdale's. "Licensed Sex Trainer."

---He was walking around with his two young children.

---"Daddy, what does that mean on your shirt?"

---It means your father is an idiot.

----Speaking of which, the Mets are conducting an interesting pre-game ceremony this whole last season at Shea Stadium. They have somebody remove one more game number from the centerfield wall in a countdown to the closing of the park.

---So, I'm thinking this is really cool. They're bringing back famous Mets and/or their fans as a tribute to the stadium. Nice.

---And then I'm watching the game last Monday night and the guy removing the number that evening is...

---The President of Bermuda.


---Must have been a slow night at Shea.

---The freakin' President of Bermuda!

---Who's next???

---"Ladies and gentlemen, the head of the accounting department at Charles Chips."

---Just let me know when they're bringing back folks like Jack Fisher and Al Jackson.

---And Jim McAndrew from Lost Nation, Iowa.

---Meanwhile, Dodger Stadium has gone crazy with customer service. Last weekend, I felt like I had walked into Nordstrom's.

---"May we help you?"

---"Has this game been a pleasant experience for you?"

---"Is there a specific player you would like us to curse at for you?"

---"I mean, other than Andruw Jones."

---The only thing missing was a personal shopper slathering the mustard, relish and onions onto a Dodger Dog for you.

---It's so bad for Andruw at Dodger Stadium that the crowd booed him for just showing up on Diamondvision to wish his mom a happy Mother's Day.

---Or maybe she's just a horrible cook?

---From the Then and Now Department: When I was a kid, a guy who lasted only five or six innings and regularly gave up 3 or 4 runs was probably your fourth or fifth starter on any major league roster.

---Today, that pitcher gets over 15 million dollars a year, viewed as the best hurler in baseball, and is named Johan Santana..

---Watching American Idol whittle from three to the final two, I am now sure the finals next week will be the long anticipated battle of the Davids. Archuleta vs. Cook.

---Archuleta's dad, who should be nicknamed Daddy Dearest, has apparently been banned from the studio.

---Why do I get the idea that, if Little David loses next week, he will be grounded for the summer?

---Or bound, gagged, and thrown down into the basement.

---The more I see the commercials for the upcoming Sex and The City movie, the more I realize that the audience will be nothing but unattached women and male costume designers.

---And, yeah, probably me.

Dinner last night: Teriyaki Chicken at the Cheesecake Factory.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Lamenting: Doubleheaders

"Let's play two!"
That was the daily battle cry of the Chicago Cubs' longtime hero, Ernie Banks. This classy guy never played in a World Series game, but certainly you didn't hear a whole lot of whining from him about that. He was simply content to put on a uniform and play America's pastime from sunrise to sunset. And that included a bunch of doubleheaders in Wrigley Field, which didn't even have lights until 1988.
Of course, Ernie would be much annoyed if he was still hitching up the stirrups as an active player in 2008. Because doubleheaders as we used to know them no longer exist. Those Sunday afternoons devoted to two games, usually starting at 1PM and then winding up around 7PM. These days, the Yankees and the Red Sox usually play a single game in that same time frame. But, back then, this was one neat day at the ballpark. Tons and tons and tons of baseball. Two games for the price of one. Such a deal.
I went to a few of them when I was a kid and they were still regularly scheduled. Armed with my scorebook and a brown bag filled with two Taylor Ham sandwiches, I was neatly tucked away for a day full of memories. I craved a doublebill and my father reluctantly complied for a while. I figured he saw a bargain with two games offered for the price of one ticket. Eventually, his participation fell to the hands of that dreaded four word declaration. "Too long to sit." My dad would ultimately adapt this time-honored phraseology into other great excuses. "Too hot to stand." "Too far to drive." "Too crowded to go." He turned it into a science. But, soon enough, I was old enough to battle them by simply going off to enjoy said event with my neighborhood friends. And that most certainly included a baseball doubleheader.
I remember a bunch of them. There was one on a long ago Independence Day when, in the first game, the Mets' Tom Seaver once again flirted with a no-hitter until the Padres' Leron Lee broke it up with one out in the ninth inning. There was another late August one in 1984, prompted by a rainout, where the Mets swept the Padres and showed their fans that years of suffering were paying off thanks for the efforts of Dwight Gooden and Keith Hernandez. Indeed, I go back deeper into my annals for a doubleheader I didn't attend. When the Yankees hosted the Minnesota Twins one hot Father's Day in the non-refurbished Yankee Stadium for the first ever Bat Day. Despite my pleading, that one was denied to me via a festival of Dad's excuses. It was too hot to stand. It was too far to drive. It was too crowded to go. The hat trick. What made this even more devastating to me was that the fact that most of the other kids in my crowd went. All summer long, I was the only one playing baseball without a Tom Tresh bat.
You don't get these opportunities anymore. Whereas teams used to regularly schedule seven or eight of these Sunday doubleheaders every season along with the impromptu twi-night double dips precipitated by early season rainouts, we are denied now the chance to enjoy six or seven hours of baseball for one admission. Teams now don't want to give up single games of ticket, hot dog and beer sales for the sake of playing two games for one admission. And, now, you don't even get this via a rainout. Because, in these greediest of days, major league franchises have now discovered the wonderful financial gluttony of a day-night doubleheader. There's one game in the afternoon. Then the crowd files out, the stadium is allegedly cleaned, and then you have to buy a completely new ticket to see the game at night. The Mets just did this last weekend when their Friday night game vs. the Reds was washed out. They did a double admission twinbill on Saturday, and I am betting that season ticket holders would be irate every time this happens. But, the Mets should not be singled out as the only money grubbers in baseball. Every franchise does this now. And it sucques.
Despite the double admissions, there are other financial benefits that teams enjoy as a result. A few years back, I was at the daytime first game of one of these travesties at Shea. I engaged an usher in a conversation and he also explained to me that state labor laws are constructed so that the employees do not get overtime on these days. So, essentially, they are working two games in one day, but getting less money than they would if they were attending to a traditional doubleheader. Another buck saved so we can pay that overrated fifth starter 10 million dollars a year.
Time passed and there is only an illusion of progress. We can gripe all we want, but nothing changes. I adapt my father's adage one more time.
"Too frustrated to complain."
Dinner last night: Beef quesadilla with a medley of corn, peppers, and onions.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - May 12, 2008

Stupid is as stupid does.

Dinner last night: The BLT from Cafe 50's Diner.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Top 25 Favorite TV Shows - #21!

I will pause for a moment, so you can all ask the question in your own fashion.

"What the hell is that?"

I would expect very few of you will remember "Bracken's World." It aired for just 41 episodes on Fridays at 10PM on NBC from September 19, 1969 through December 25, 1970. The drama had marginal ratings in its first season and pretty much tanked during its second year, which was cut short at mid-season. And, in the truest sense of being forgotten, it is dreadfully hard to even find anything about it anywhere. No one reruns it. There are a few truncated episode guides on the internet. There are no clips on YouTube, except for a photo gallery about Leslie Nielsen (he joined the cast for the second year) set to the second season theme song which was done by the Lettermen. Some joker on eBay is actually selling VHS dubs of selected episodes. The first season theme song (which I still hum to this day) is on a TV Theme Songs website, but I can't figure out how to load the musical link to this link. Nevertheless, largely, the show is long gone and even longer forgotten.

But not by me.

"Bracken's World" was my first foray into Appointment Television. Oh, sure, there were a bunch of shows from my childhood that were never missed. But, this program was indeed exclusively my own. Nobody else in my house watched it. Not my parents. Not my grandmother. I had one good friend in the neighborhood who was equally addicted, but she and I were essentially the smallest fan club possible.
I didn't give a shit. I loved it!

There was a lot going on for me in the fall of 1969. Those months would provide for me the most golden memories of my childhood. The New York Mets went from last place to first place and wound up their most amazing season with a World Series win over the Baltimore Orioles. Given that most of my friends "up the block" were Yankee fans, this, too, was a feat and an enjoyment exclusive only to me. I suddenly felt validated as a sports fan.

And "Bracken's World" gave me credence as my first hour-long "adult" drama that I was watching all on my own. It was mine. Only mine.

"Bracken's World" was just what the title said. A world run by movie mogul John Bracken. It was the story of Century Studios and, given that it was shot on the 2oth Century Fox lot, they really didn't need to modify too much signage. Ironically, my current LA apartment is probably on part of the Fox backlot that was sold off by Darryl Zanuck to cover some huge debts. Somehow, I'd like to think that I am living right now on part of what was "Bracken's World."

Century Studios was a throwback to the way that movie studios like MGM or Paramount used to be. Big communities with lots of people in residence. The house director. The studio head's executive assistant. The acting coach. The stunt man. The Marlon Brando wannabe. A family in a work environment. It made me decide right then and there that I wanted to be in the entertainment business. Up until I ran into "Bracken's World," I always thought I was going to wind up as a veterinarian. This show changed that all for me. Permanently.

And then there were the three resident starlets on the show. One Marilyn Monroe type, one Grace Kelly type, and one Loretta Young type. There was something for everybody's tastes. And those three beauties, played by Karen Jensen, Laraine Stephens, and Linda Harrison, made me move toward adulthood in a completely different way. Perhaps that's another reason why I was watching this all by myself.

Another great thing about "Bracken's World" was they dragged in tons of cameos and guest stars. People who were just walking through the studio. Debbie Reynolds. Ricardo Montalban. Edward G. Robinson. Janet Leigh. Ida Lupino. A who's who of Hollywood back numbers. Hell, during a bulk of the first season, Bracken's assistant was played by the legendary Eleanor Parker, and she has pretty much disappeared ever since. Great stuff for a starstruck kid who suddenly realized that there was a lot more to life than a Jerry Koosman victory.

Sadly, "Bracken's World" never really caught on. I have some theories why, especially in light that it did have an okay-sized audience its first season. During that initial year, Bracken was never seen a la the disenfranchised voice they used on "Charlie's Angels." He was always on a conference call from New York or Cannes or some other place where you normally find studio moguls. The producers, in an effort to spice up the show in its second season, elected to show us all John Bracken and the role was played by Leslie Nielsen. With all due respect to the actor who shares my birthday, this move did not work. The Bracken character was much more imposing and powerful when you were removed from him. It changed the series and not for the better.

The other second season turn-off was the direct result of a poor choice of plotlines. In the second episode that year, they decided to kill off the alcoholic wife of house director Kevin Grant, played by Peter Haskell. They did so in a story very reminiscent of what happened to Sharon Tate at the hands of Charles Manson. The only problem is that this aired only about a year after the real event and it certainly was way too fresh in the minds of the viewer. A major disconnect.

I wish I had some audio and video to show you. I don't. But that's the way it always was with "Bracken's World." It wasn't just Bracken's. It was mine as well.

And apparently mine alone.

Dinner last night: Thai steak salad at 17th Street Cafe.

Celebrity Sighting Yesterday: Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon walking down Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

In Honor of Mother's Day

More jokes from the DMZ of this "racially divided" country. Redd Foxx would be mighty proud.

Your mama's so old that...

her memory is in black & white!

I told her to act her age, and she died!

I asked to see her birth certificate, and she handed me a rock!

she owes Fred Flintstone a food stamp!

Jurassic Park brought back memories!

the key on Ben Franklin's kite was to her apartment!

she has all the apostles in her black book!

she DJ'd at the Boston Tea Party!

she needed a walker when Jesus was still in diapers!

she went to an antique auction and three people bid on her!

she walked into an antique store and they kept her!

I've seen stale raisins with less wrinkles!

she's got hieroglyphics on her driver's license!

if she were a car it would be time to roll back her odometer!

she drove a chariot to high school!

she took her driver's test on a dinosaur!

she used to baby-sit Yoda!

vultures constantly circle her house!

it looks like the Wrinkle Fairy tap-danced on her face!

they ask to check her bags... and she's not carrying any luggage!

Dinner last night: THe first Phillippe's Friday of the baseball season---a ham French Dip sandwich with potato salad and cole slaw.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Your 2008 Summer Movie Preview - July & August

This is a photo of the AMC complex that is literally a ten minute walk from my LA apartment. And it will be filled this summer with lots of people being subjected to mindless and witless entertainment.

Here's my service to you. Culled from my "inside" info, here's what will be headed your way come this July and August.


The X-Files: Hell, didn't they make this movie version of the TV show once before? Are people actually clamoring to see more of this stuff years after the show went off the air? What have I been missing? Have I been abducted by aliens? Anybody???

Hancock: Will Smith in one more attempt to demonstrate that he can act. As usual, he will fail.

The Dark Knight: Heath Ledger's last role ever. As the Joker in this Batman sequel. Note to all: Cesar Romero died of natural causes. I'm just saying.

Step Brothers: Another sidesplitter with Will Ferrell, who has made way too many movies the last few years. Probably one of the most overrated comedic actors in the history of the world. I also don't like the guy. Have you noticed?

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl: Because they can't sell enough of those freakin' dolls in those restaurants and stores, which will be uncovered five years from now as being major brainwash centers.

The Wackness: Ben Kingsley as a shrink who buys pot from his teenage patient. And he gets his Zoloft from Lindsay Lohan.

Mamma Mia!: The trailer looks like they captured all the fun of the Broadway show. Plus Pierce Brosnan sings!

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D: A high tech remake of the great 1959 movie with James Mason and Pat Boone. The latter was super cheesy with lizards posing as dinosaurs. Something tells me it will remain the classic after the release of this computer-enhanced disaster.

Meet Dave: Eddie Murphy plays a one-and-a-half-inch tall alien. Probably short on laughter as well.

Hellboy II: It will have to be a cold day in...

Baghead: About a guy who wears a paperbag over his head. And, ultimately, we all do look alike.


Pineapple Express: Stoners witnessing a murder. Or maybe it's a documentary about plans to build a subway in Honolulu.

Tropic Thunder: The trailer about some actors filming an all-time real film about Vietnam was actually hilarious. But, only because Robert Downey is playing a guy who undergoes some skin pigmentation so he can be a Black actor. I may order advance tickets now.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2: No guy should see this movie on purpose.

Towelhead: A 13 year-old Lebanese girl is molested by her Texas neighbor. Light comedy. Bring the kids!

Crossing Over: Harrison Ford comes back one more time this summer in a drama about illegal immigration. But, who wouldn't want to see "Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Border Patrol?"

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: When I saw Brendan Frasier in the elevator of the Arclight parking garage, he said nothing to me about this movie coming out.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Woody Allen, who has spent his last few movies in England, moves down to Spain. So, expect the following in films to come: "Annie Jimenez," "Take The Euro and Run," and "Hannah and Her Many Husbands."

The House Bunny: A Playboy Playmate becomes the house mother of a sorority. Nothing like that ever happened to me at Fordham. All we ever had was gay Jesuits you needed to avoid.

Hamlet 2: Even Shakespeare gets sucked into the typical Hollywood greed thing. Actually, it's about a drama teacher putting on a rather irreverent production. The trailer was quite funny.

The Rocker: Not sure what this is. But I can tell you that's what you would find my grandmother sitting in every afternoon from 2 to 4PM.

Dinner last night: Dried cappacollo on sourdough roll.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Clapping with One Hand - 2008 Version

I know people right now with health problems. I know folks who are unemployed. Still one or two others are dealing with personal losses. So, I should be thankful that I am feeling fine, working, and generally happy.

Except when the Mets play the Dodgers. The annual inner torture began anew this week with the Flushing gang showing up in Chavez Ravine. And it tore at my psyche all over again.

Not to prolong the agony this season, I sold my season tickets for two of the three games played in Los Angeles this week. So, I slated myself to go only to Monday night's opener of the series. And that brought to bear one more tentacle of an already unwieldy emotional octopus.

Chad Billingsley, a solid young pitcher who I have followed through the Dodger system, was starting. Now, I have a Chad Billingsley shirt that I wear whenever he is set to pitch a game I am attending. And that little quirk has paid off. Because Chad has won every game when I wore the shirt.

Why was this tormenting me? Because, previously, I have set a pretty rigid criterion whenever I attend a Met-Dodger contest. I traditionally wear "non team specific" wardrobe. I certainly wanted to honor that as my little tip of the nodescript cap to my dual fandom. But, at the same time, I actually considered whether that was fair to Chad Billingsley.

I also thought an awful lot about how stupid I was being about all this.

I have had alleged friends chastise me for actually rooting for two different baseball teams. I have been called a traitor and a turncoat. There have been threats of tar, feathers, and evenings relegated to listening to nothing but Rosie O'Donnell.

I think about the many years I spent bleeding Met blue and orange (never black). I consider my Saturdays in Section 7 of the Loge at Shea Stadium---a love affair that will be immortalized in print this June in a magazine devoted to the closing of the Flushing ballpark. I remember the people that sat alongside me for so many games and so many life moments. Leo (not a Met fan in the day, but a good friend). The Bibster. Malcolm. Danny. My father. For one game as she displayed her baseball knowledge as passed along by then-Met announcer Tim McCarver---my mother. I wonder how I could do this. Perhaps be just a little biased by rooting, for shame, against the Mets.

And I muse about my adult life in Los Angeles. When I didn't know too many people and badly needed to. And a friend from church shepherded me into her Sunday Dodger tradition with two other nice ladies always decked out in royal blue. And that all expanded my life so richly.

Yet, whenever I see a clip of the home run that Dodger Mike Scioscia hit against the Mets' Dwight Gooden in Game 4 of the 1988 National League Championship Series, I have an ache in my stomach that hurts as much as it did when it happened on that cold October Sunday night. So, the Met pain still lingers, even though I now smile whenever I see how the Dodgers won the World Series two weeks later.

I realize that, perhaps, my baseball home the rest of my life just might be Loge, Aisle 144, Row G, Seat 1 and 2 at Dodger Stadium. It likely will never be at Citi Field as us lowly Saturday ticket plan holders at Shea may not pass the financial smell test of the Wilpon ownership. I go back and forth. The past, the future. The past, the future. The past, the future. The first wife, the second wife. The Mets, the Dodgers. Tugging, tugging, tugging always.

This will always be an internal dialogue. A lifelong struggle. Certainly not life or death or illness. But, to me, important nonetheless.

So, Chad Billingsley won Monday night as the Dodgers beat the Mets, 5-1.

And, yes, I did.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick...

Dinner last night: Roast chicken with rice, mushrooms, and broccoli.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Ba-wa Wednesday

That was the week that was. Wacky, wild, widiculous.

---Add to my ever growing list of annoying idiots the name of Barbara Walters, who is now touting her memoirs across the country. Yesterday, she plopped her shriveled ass down on Queen Oprah's loveseat.

---Of course, the big news is that this old fossil once had a long-standing affair with former Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke, who also happens to be Black.

---This brings to mind that scene from "Blazing Saddles" where Madeline Kahn is asking Cleavon Little if it's true what they say about Black men.

---Barbara Walters concurs: "It's twue, it's twue."

---Barbara's big revelation wouldn't be such a big deal if the senator in question was dead.

---But he's not. And he's married.

---Mr. Brooke, that was the front and the back of the bus that just ran over you.

---Ms. Walters tells her audience that her story is something most women could identify with.

---Uh-huh. Because I have a lot of female friends who have had affairs with Black senators.

---And make 12 million dollars a year for sitting on that morning cluckfest, "The View," with a soundtrack that sounds like the "Chicken Run" movie played at the wrong speed.

---Or have access to cafe society for being nothing but a hack journalist.

---Like those questions she used to ask on those "probing" questions you used to ask on those celebrity profiles.

---"What kind of tree would you be?"

---"When did you first learn that you could sort laundry?"

---"How hard or soft is your stool after you eat a big meal?"

---Okay, I made the last two up.

---I think.

---Grandma's appearance with Oprah came one day after that other fraud showed up there. Tom Cruise.

---Mr. "Dumb as a Post" showed again how thoroughly classless he is. A man who needs directions to get out of a car wash.

---Everytime I see this lunkhead touting his bizarre life messages, I think about those goofy teenagers stationed outside the Scientology center on Hollywood Boulevard, offering "free" stress tests to tourists.

---They have given over their minds to this evil phenomenon most likely because they think they will get an autograph from Cruise.

---It is 10PM. Do you know where your children's minds are?

---So, in their never ending quest to help bridge sexes, races, and nationalities, the three would-be Presidential morons all make appearances on some World Wide Wrestling special.

---A sport that regularly promotes violence, sexism, racism, and hatred to young viewers.

---I can't make up this mayhem.

---Hey, Hillary, that pounding sound you hear is Obama warming up Mariano Rivera in the bullpen.

---I went to Dodger Stadium on Cinco De Mayo, where it quickly became Sinko De Mets.

---When exactly did they sell all those blue Dodger sombreros?

---If there were any immigration authorities at the game, they must have been nervously fingering their handcuffs all night. For them, it was probably like the Willy Wonka chocolate factory.

---I was actually waiting for a bull to come in through the center field gate.

---And, speaking of Andruw Jones,...

---The hits just keep on not coming.

---When do they officially rename the "Mendoza line" after Jones?

---If Andruw was dealing black jack in Vegas and the player said "hit me," he probably couldn't.

---Jones automatically has an 0-2 count before he even leaves for the ballpark.

---Indeed, Las Vegas might be a good spot for Andruw to be for a month or so. That's the Triple A home of the Dodgers.

---This is Joe Torre's first real test. He has three outfielders hitting over .300. And Andruw not even hitting an idiot's IQ.

---And, speaking of an idiot...

---Just how many women did renowned family guy Roger Clemens actually sleep with?

---And how the hell did he miss Barbara Walters because she was apparently making the rounds?

---Every time I read about another lie told by Fat Roger, I secretly wish I was reading the morning paper and eating a bowl of Cheerios at the Mike Piazza breakfast table.

Dinner last night: Pot roast.