Friday, October 31, 2008

The Co-Author from Hell

As I was trolling around the New Release section at Borders, I was mildly intrigued by the memoirs just released by Tony Curtis. I'm always a sucker for these Hollywood autobiographies and I was curious to see if Tony is going to be truly forthcoming about his well-rumored philandering and drug use. Besides, he was one of the stars of the movie that came in at #2 on my list of Top 25 Favorite Films---"Some Like It Hot." With a 30% off sticker, the purchase made sense.

Only when I got the damn thing home did I closely survey the cover. Yes, these would be Tony Curtis' reflections. But, there was a co-author listed. Peter Golenbock.


Now let me tell you the story of how my path crossed with this guy, who is widely known among sportswriters as one of the biggest assholes who ever scrolled paper into an electric typewriter.

Like scum on a pond, Golenbock has manuevered his way through a series of sports biographies. I actually read a few of them. There was one about Billy Martin, which spent about half of the book listing historical accounts of Martin's blood alcohol content. There was one I didn't read. Mickey Mantle was the subject and it was roundly dismissed because Golenbock dreamed up a fictitious backstory to Mantle's childhood, and the author was not shy in admitting this.

Then there was the Golenbock tome that I purchased and read with unflagging interest. "Amazin'." Allegedly, an oral history of the New York Mets. All he had to do with this book was stitch together interviews with loads of folks who had been associated with the Mets since 1962. How badly could he f^#k this up?

Pretty badly, as it turns out. Throughout the pages, Golenbock would recount Met history in between all the personal reflections from his interviewees. And, as he did so, Golenbock relayed one factual mistake after another. Not just one or two. I could pretty much find an error on every other page. A book that should have been as definitive as Webster's Dictionary was the Hurricane Katrina of the literary world. When he got to the 1986 World Series and went into great detail about how cold it was at Shea Stadium on that Sunday night for Game 1, I wanted to heave the book through the nearest window. I was there that night. Yes, it was cold. Very cold for a SATURDAY NIGHT. Indeed, anybody who has the slightest interest in baseball knew that Game 1 of the World Series started on a Saturday night right through the 80s and into the 90s. And this is documented on tons of statistical websites, baseball history books, etc..

I looked at the book jacket and copied down the publisher's website. There would be a carefully toned, but pretty snarly e-mail that trashed this monumental waste of my time and money. As examples, I used about four or five of the more obvious mistakes. I felt better doing so and really expected nothing in return except the standard e-mail reply "your letter will be reviewed shortly."

Well, not only did the publisher respond but they also forwarded my e-mail to Mr. Golenbock's manager. Mrs. Golenbock. And she was none too happy that I had been so forthcoming about my thoughts on her husband's shitty book. Or so I learned from the e-mail that she sent me.

At first, Mrs. Hack was quite defensive about her hubby's work. As a matter of fact, she told me that I would be happy to know Peter's proofreader is one of the best in the business. But, knowing how much I wanted to make sure that subsequent printings of this book were emended, she asked me to go through the book and write down all the errors for her.


Given I didn't want these two idiots to think that I took their offer for a fall internship lightly, I answered her back. I asked her to tell me how much Peter's proofreader was paid and that I would correct his several hundred missteps at twice the salary. I also contended that said proofreader might not be the best in the business and probably, in another book, missed the fact that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1942.

My offer was naturally dismissed.

Yet, the story continues. About a month later, I am reading the Mets' monthly magazine, "Inside Pitch." A writer takes on the topic of Golenbock's "Amazin" and announces that it is a must-read and must-have for all Met fans. The article looked like it was copied directly from the publisher's press release.

Enter Len's letter to the editors of "Inside Pitch."

I related about 10% of the errors I found in Peter's book and then also told about the subsequent exchange with the author's frau. I closed with the announcement that "Amazin'" was a must-burn for all Met fans. For some reason, I included my e-mail address.

Yet, the story continues.

Several weeks after my letter appeared in the pages of "Inside Pitch," I got another e-mail. From famed NY baseball writer Jack Lang (who has since passed away). As a matter of fact, Jack, who was not up-to-date on this new-fangled e-mail contraption, wrote that he was having his son type up his note to me. Essentially, on behalf of sportswriters all over the NY area, he wanted to thank me for publicly, and at last, calling to attention what a horrible writer and disservice Peter Golenbock has been for almost two decades. Apparently, Peter's lack of talent and knowledge has been whispered around NY press boxes for years, but no one dare mention it in print. But, I did. As a thank you, Jack asked me for my address so he could send me his own definitive version of Met history, which he did in short order.

About a year later, I noticed that "Amazin'" had been released in a soft cover version. I wondered about the status of Mr. Golenbock's proofreader and whether even the five or so bloopers I had cited were even considered by his dopey wife. I turned to the section on the 1986 World Series.

Yep, Game 1 was still played at a freezing Shea Stadium. On a Sunday night. Nobody bothered to do a thing. Mr. and Mrs. Golenbock didn't give a shit. Perhaps they were already moving on to court Tony Curtis.

I have yet to crack the binding on the Tony Curtis tome. But, given that Tony's input was probably crucial, he certainly wouldn't get the facts of his own life wrong. Right?

Still, I wouldn't be surprised to read his memories and reflections on making "Some Like It Hot." That hit comedy from 1959 which co-starred Jack Carson and Marilyn Maxwell.

Dinner last night: Braciole at Maria's Italian Kitchen.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Fan Letter

The other day, I found a fan letter in my mailbox at home. Not mine, of course. But I guess the mailman is in no mood to cart back to the post office any mail addressed to the late Don Knotts, who lived in my condo building up until two months before I moved in.

Every once in a while, you get this reminder that Barney lived around these parts. While his young widow has already sold the apartment and moved out with her 1.2 million dollar winnings, he still winds up with some packages. It took a good year before somebody bothered to cancel his Daily Variety subscription. Or perhaps, like Don, it expired. As late as last winter, the Motion Picture Academy was still sending him DVD screeners of Oscar-nominated movies. These usually wind up for grabs in the lobby and a great community service for the people in the building. And, from time to time, he gets fan letters. Somehow, they wind up in my mailbox more often than not.

So, I opened the hand-written envelope that Don got the other day. From some guy in Bumfuk, Texas. The note talked about how this guy just loved Don and was hoping that he would see him back on television very soon. The dude also included a 3X5 index card in hopes that Don would autograph it and return the scrawl in the enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope. The guy stressed that he was Don's biggest fan.

So big a fan that he didn't even know that Don Knotts died in 2006. That might explain the absence from both the small screen and the planet itself. I mused about what to do with this. Indeed, the sender could be an idiot since he obviously hasn't read a newspaper in two years. And, since he apparently did enough research to find Don's home address, how did he miss the note on Wikipedia that Deputy Fife had cashed in his last bullet a while back? But, still, I was impressed with the fandom he expressed. Perhaps, this guy took a lot of time and effort in composing his thoughts for this lifelong hero. So, throwing it directly down the garbage chute was not an option.

But what next? I looked at the blank index card. Why dash the gentleman's hopes and dreams? Maybe I should let him think that Barney Fife lives way beyond reruns on TV Land. I could simply sign Don's name and send it back. Gee, it's not like I'm forging his name on a check.

At the end, I opted for tough love. The guy needed to know the truth. I enclosed a note back to him that said the following:

"Mr. Knotts passed away in February of 2006. Keep him in your heart and your mind as I am sure he loved all his fans equally as much."

The guy in Texas will receive this and wonder who answered him. My worst fear is that he will want to develop a friendship with this person who had a connection to Don Knotts. He will send a follow-up note.

And I hope this one lands in my neighbor's mailbox.

Dinner last night: Pastrami reuben from Clementine's.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday, Wednesday, Go Away! Come Again Another Day!

Everybody has to deal with some drips every now and then.

---"Ladies and gentlemen, here are the 2008 World Champions---Your Los Angeles Dodgers."

---Slap! Okay, I'm awake now.

---Has there been anything more sleep-inducing and pathetic than this year's World Series? Botched left and right. Spanky and Alfalfa did a better job putting on a show in the garage.

---First of all, Saturday's Game 3 was rain delayed and didn't begin till after 10PM Eastern time. It did not end till sometime in the early morning.

---And they say kids can't watch the World Series? Most easily could have watched the ninth inning while having their Sunday morning Cocoa Puffs.

---What does that say when baseball's TV competition is Saturday Night Live?

---Then, on Monday, they tried to play the potential Series winner for the Phillies in some storm that only James Michener could have dreamed up. They finally suspended it when outfielder Jayson Werth was found floating face down in right field.

---So, there was a chance that the World Championship would have been decided by five inning game. Blasphemy!

---The only solace for me was that it was Phillie fans getting rained on. If only one of them had the good sense to bring along a bar of soap...

---These apes proved to be as classless as ever by throwing mustard at Rays Manager Joe Maddon's granddaughter.

---Mike Douglas is dead. We no longer need anything in Philadelphia.

---So, it's not Always Sunny in Philadelphia?

---Commissioner Bud Selig always has this hangdog look. Surveying the tsunami during Game 5, he had the appearance of some guy who just discovered that his wife wants the den painted again.

---Outside of Randy Johnson, is there anybody more ugly in baseball than the Phillies' Shane Victorino? Shane, go away. Please, Shane, go away!

---Rhetorical question: just how many mirrors does Shane Victorino break in the average clubhouse?

---Perfect timing. Clay Aiken's coming out just as OJ Simpson is going in.

---Rim shot. Bada bing!

---So, with the economy these days, the only thing that can put down a deposit on a Mercedes is a pigeon.

---Rim shot. Bada bing!

---I'm here all week. Please try the veal and remember to tip your waiter.

---Everytime I see John McCain these days, I think that he's everybody's grandfather's choice to be President.

---So, according to Obama in that radio interview from 2001, the Constitution is essentially unconstitutional???

---Listening to Barry Big Ears' economic plan, I might as well just send my ATM pin number to some Black family on the south side of Chicago.

---Unless, of course, they've already been murdered. Right, Jennifer Hudson?

---You think the Oscar winner might be rethinking her Obama endorsement? Her Christmas gift list just got shorter by three and it is Barry's hood, right??

---I actually saw this with my own eyes while driving around on Saturday night. Two fruitcakes in West Hollywood have a Halloween display in their yard and they have hung a dummy of Sarah Palin in effigy.

---Okay, okay, okay. I will pause so that some of you can look at the words "dummy" and "Sarah Palin" in the same sentence and snicker.

---Done? I will continue. The LA Police got some complaints about this and pretty much looked the other way. Of course, they said, if this was a hanging dummy of Barack Obama, they would consider it a "hate crime."

---Okay, so let me see if I got this right. A dummy of Sarah Palin being hung? Funny. A dummy of Barack Obama being hung? A hate crime.

---Anybody got the National Organization of Women on speed dial?

---I look at these two jerks who defended this as "art" and I want to vote "Yes" on the proposition that allows anybody to run over another annoying citizen with their car.

---I saw some clips of Barry Obama's wife, Michelle, on with Jay Leno. She should not be photographed from behind.

---From that angle, she reminds me of my grandmother's attic. Yep, lots of junk in the trunk.

---From what I saw, if they had hung a dummy of Michelle, the rope might have broke.

Dinner last night: Sandwich and salad.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Most Civilized Election

Well, you had to know that I wasn't talking about this year's Presidential travesty. Nope, I am referring to the race for Student Union President of Stuyvesant High School in New York City---a battle that is marvelously captured in the new documentary, "Frontrunners." Here again is one of those early afternoon diversions from errands at the local art moviehouse nearby. And I am so glad that I was divertible.

The filmmakers here were most intuitive. Indeed, the election process in "Frontrunners" very much mirrors what is happening in our country right now. The only difference is that it is civil. It is polite. It is serious. It shows that democracy, now slowly disappearing in our nation, can still work. If only Messrs. Obama and McCain would view this movie and see how it really should be done.

Stuyvesant High is a pretty restricted school. Apparently only three percent of applicants get accepted. This means there is a high geek quotient in the class. But, still, these kids are very likeable. At the opening of the movie, you meet four candidate slates: a president and a vice president. These four teams will campaign through a singular primary process. Then, two slates are left standing for the ultimate campaign and subsequent election. And, just like in real life, they go through televised (on closed circuit) debates, seek the endorsement of the school newspaper, and each adopt their own focus on issues. It's the electoral process I remember from when I was a kid. It's taken seriously by all the participants and that's what is so refreshing to see.

Naturally, it is politics and there are angles to be worked. One young man selects as his running mate an Asian girl, as he is mindful of the fact that 50% of the student body is Asian. One girl is an actress and uses that talent to cover up her lack of experience. Sound familiar? The ultimate race comes down to two students, who also amazingly mirror the current battle for the top job in our country. One has tons of experience in student government. The another is a lot more ambiguous, but wants to "change" some things around the school. Given this was shot about two years ago, the filmmakers must be slapping themselves silly with their prophetic abilities.

The school election day is shot in such a way that an incredible amount of tension is built up for the viewer. You don't know who wins until the faculty advisor informs the loser. Yet, that kid wielded such an admirably austere campaign that there is really no losing. The student looks wistful for a moment, but then moves on. As I waded through "Frontrunners," I was pleasantly reminded that there are still smart kids in this land.

While exhilerated by the film, "Frontrunners" also prompted a bit of sadness. Why can't our own electoral process be as civil? Issues used to be discussed. Opinions used to be tolerated, even if they're not on the same page. Why do our Presidential candidates find themselves having to trade pre-scripted one-liners with late night comedians? I can easily remember such former Presidential hopefuls like Robert Kennedy and Richard Nixon visiting with the likes of Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas? Were they subjected to cheap shots and joke set-ups? Hardly. Find these interviews on You Tube. You will be astonished at how appropriate they are.

The kids on the school newspaper in this movie are also different. You watch them deliberate over their endorsement, carefully weighing each and every issue that faces the school. They are smart, fair-minded, and the ultimate journalists. Compare them to some gutless shithead like Keith Olbermann and you will realize just how much of a hinderance this piece of crap is to our world. If the kids at Stuyesant High can do it, why can't the adults at Fox, MSNBC, and CNN? I salute the former and I am grossly ashamed of the latter.

"Frontrunners" also brought me back to my own high school days with a resounding thud of regret. These are active kids who are involved in their school up to 4 or 5 o'clock every day. I, however, majored in early dismissal. The sooner I was home, the better. Why didn't I do more? How different would I have been today? High school years pissed away, and with the exception of probably one friend, I have nothing to show for it. A missed opportunity, most certainly.

But seeing "Frontrunners" was not. Find out for yourself.

Dinner last night: Shrimp and chicken gumbo at the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - October 27, 2008

Halloween is coming. Boo.

Dinner last night: Salami sandwich.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Officer Joe Bolton

Officer Joe Bolton is probably the first person I remember from television. Every afternoon on WPIX, Channel 11 in New York, he'd swing that billy club and host a half-hour of Three Stooges shorts.
I would plan my very busy five-year-old day around this event. There were no parental worries about me watching or idolizing Moe, Larry, and Curly. I've never poked anybody in the eye or banged somebody over the head with a metal pipe. I have wanted to, but never really moved to that level. Nevertheless, Officer Joe and the Stooges were the highlight of my day.
I probably thought Bolton was a real policeman until I realized that he would turn up on the station at all other hours of the day. He did station breaks, filled in on the nightly news, and probably spooned out chili con carne in the WPIX cafeteria. But, for the time while I thought he was a cop, I guess my parents thought it was okay for me to idolize a person of such authority. This notion prevailed, despite the fact that he was the bridge between some of the most insane acts of comedy violence ever filmed.
Officer Joe would also become the first celebrity that I would ever meet. One day between bangs and clangs, Joe announced that he would be appearing that night at a Catholic school feast on Bronxwood Avenue in the, of course, Bronx. It was a Friday and my father was available for chauffeuring. I began the usual begging and received the typical paternal responses.
"It's too far."
"It's too hot."
"It will be too crowded."
Nevertheless, as per usual, Dad caved. And while it wasn't that far or that hot, it was certainly crowded. I wound up standing next to my hero, who gifted me with an autograph and a glossy photo. I was hobnobbing with the stars.
The epilogue to this story is, however, more noteworthy. Years and years and years later, I was enjoying a trip down memory lane with my good friend, the Bibster. This very Catholic school feast came up in conjunction with meeting Officer Joe. After a few oral coincidences, we discovered that we probably had stood alongside each other for the Officer Joe meet and greet, as his dad obviously relented to the notions of too much distance, too much heat, and too many people. Fifteen or so years later, we would reconnect as friends, sharing an early memory we never knew we had.
A small world indeed.
Dinner last night: Honey walnut shrimp and garlic chicken at Panda Inn.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Classic Newsreel of the Month: October 2008

The last time in American history that this country was truly united. Everybody follow the bouncing ball.

Dinner last night: Beijing Beef at Panda Express.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"Mop Please, Netflix Aisle # 3"

The absolute glory of the Netflix service is the ability to catch up on movies you have missed over time. My queue of future flicks is about 100 movies long and contains a mix of classics I have somehow missed and recent theatrical releases which I might have been interested in but didn't want to bother burning the gas to get to the theater. Sometimes, I find a gem amongst these selections. Other times, I discover that my original perception of the movie was correct and it was widely overrated.

And then there is "Ali." Although I was intrigued by the subject matter when this was first released about six or seven years ago, I never got around to plunking down the greenbacks to see it in the local multiplex. I put it on my Netflix queue about a year ago and finally it turned up in my mailbox.

I should have marked it "Address Unknown." To say this movie is utter garbage is an insult to dumpsters all across the United States. I am guessing rodents wouldn't even sniff at this piece of swill---certainly the worst biographical movie ever to be turned out by Hollywood. And that includes "The Babe Ruth Story" starring William Bendix.

I held on for "Ali"s entire two hours and thirty seven minutes and I am totally confused as to why. Perhaps, it is a penance that will get me fast tracked through the pearly gates. "You sat through "Ali? God welcomes you immediately." The movie was a complete disaster from opening frame to the very last mention of copyright infringement. As if anybody in their sanest of conditions would want to copy a single second of this dog poo. I wanted to scream to director Michael Mann, "Please curb your film!"

Where to start? "Ali" stars Will Smith and that's always a bad sign for any movie. This is one of those roles that the Stale Prince thought would grab him an Oscar. This hack of an actor is straining so hard to get the gold statue that you want to give him megadoses of Phillips Milk of Magnesia. Indeed, he did get nominated for this mess, but I am guessing that the jig was up when voters actually saw it. Now, Will Smith is a horrible actor on his best days and a deranged Scientologist on his worst days. As Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay, Smith approaches the role by adopting every exaggerated tic and mannerism that the boxer had. What results is more a Saturday Night Live sketch than a serious movie. Billy Crystal did a better impersonation of Ali years ago. Billy used to also do sportscaster Howard Cosell and he certainly could have given Jon Voight some tips as well since the latter plays the ABC pompous gasbag in "Ali." Voight wears a black bathmat on his head. Or is it a dead meerkat? Or is he channeling Fess Parker as Davy Crockett? Whatever the case, every time Voight is on screen, I couldn't forget for a moment how bad the headpiece looked. It's an ominous sign when you're paying more attention to the toupee than to the actor underneath it.

Of course, director Mann can't help but remind us of the glory that was Muhammad Ali. And the fact that he is Black and maligned. I was expecting to see Barack Obama's name on the credits as "Assistant Production Manager." The last third of the movie is spent in Africa as Ali boxes George Foreman there with that "rope-a-dope" nonsense. When you see how Foreman is pummeled in this movie, you know where the real guy got the idea how to tenderize boneless chicken breasts for his grill. This melee is all choreographed against African chants from frenzied natives who just adored the fact that Ali was there absorbing his familial roots, despite the fact that the boxer himself was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Johnny Weissmuller got closer to Africa on the backlot at MGM-Culver City.

As I watched "Ali," I thought even harder about the guy being glorified on the screen and realized this was revisionist history at its best. Muhammad Ali is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of the 20th Century. For Pete's sake, he was introduced as such when they carted him out to wander around the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Yes, he had an impressive boxing record and is now allegedly this great philantrophist. But, I would also add that Ali/Clay was also a complete asshole, a criminal, a wife abuser, an adulterer, an ego-maniac, and a dirtbag. Plus he completely stole Nipsey Russell's nightclub act and that, to me, is a rephrensible act. But, because he took too many shots to the head and now needs a GPS system to pee into a toilet, all...or forgiven. Even though I knew the outcome of the movie, I was still hoping and praying that one of the opposing boxers would kick the Velveeta right out of him.

"Ali." A loser by a TKO. When I put this red envelope into the mailbox, I was surprised that it didn't get spit back into the street.

Dinner last night: Dried cappacollo on sourdough bread.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How Do You Spell "Ripoff?"

I love a box office. The seemingly disembodied head behind a glass partition. Sometimes you speak through a little hole in the window. Often, the person is shielded even more by venetian blinds as if those tickets for Patti Lupone in "Gypsy" are really coveted by enemy agents. WME. Weapons of Mass Entertainment.

But there is something delightful about making such a transaction. Walking up to that Broadway theater lobby. Or, in Los Angeles, driving downtown on a Saturday morning to get the hook-up from some guy parked behind the Ahmanson Theater will-call window. And you can do a better job of finding the right seats. You can get a real-time response to such questions as "are these full view?" or "will there be an annoying buffoon sucking on a sour ball candy anywhere around me?" Whatever the case, I am all about the personal touch and certainly not afraid of one-on-one conversation with a fellow human being.

Translation: I almost never buy tickets on-line.

Except, of course, when I have to. And that was the case recently when, as a full season plan holder, the Dodgers set up a special on-line pre-sale for extra post season tickets. For every scheduled playoff game, I am allowed on one day and time the ability to purchase up to four extra tickets. Since this is the time of year when I suddenly find myself with five dozen close friends as opposed to the usual one dozen, I like the ability to serve as ducat dispenser for those allegedly close to me. As long as they have the money to pay.

But, all this means is that I have to commence dealings with Ticketmaster. The dreaded on-line ticket sales arm of what used to be the Third Reich. I am convinced that, when blond and blue-eyed minions showed up to hear Adolf Hitler speak, they were holding computer-written tickets emblazoned with the Ticketmaster logo and a swastika. How else can I explain the injustices these thieves offer up to the generally unassuming public?

Let's take a look at my most recent on-line transactions. For every ticket to a playoff game, you are presented first with a "facility charge." Six bucks a ticket. Facility of what? Mine? I'm the one who did the heavy lifting. I navigated through the Ticketmaster website. I'm the one who tried to discipher that stupid anagram or configuration of letters that is impossible to read. For that alone, you should credit me at least ten bucks.

Then, there was a per-ticket "convenience charge" of seven bucks. Whose convenience? I am paying seven bucks plus to Ticketmaster because I had the good sense to buy a PC and become semi-computer-literate? Indeed, Ticketmaster is doing nothing for me but simply printing out a ticket on a computer and putting it into an envelope. And there are now times when you can print the ticket yourself. Even more convenience for me and less work for Ticketmaster. There is often an additional charge for that. probably because I also had the good sense to buy a printer when I was originally purchasing the aforementioned PC.

Now, with the Dodger games, I wanted to help out my "friends" and put some pre-paid parking into the mix. After all, one of my buyers is the guy who purchases 25% of my games every season and he is quite accustomed to the red carpet treatment when it comes to driving his vehicle to Chavez Ravine. Luckily (?), Ticketmaster makes this available as well. And, inexplicably, they have not jacked up the price. And, amazingly, there is no facility charge. But there is a tack-on cost of $2.50 for my convenience all over again. Once again, I am penalized for being reasonably saavy when it comes to hitting a "print" button.

While all these playoff tickets showed up in my postman-controlled mailbox alongside my phone bill and a package of coupons from my "good friends" at the Promotional Shopper, the actual act of Ticketmaster affixing a regular postage stamp to all of this, the order processing fee was $4,10. And, of course, since I bought multiple games at the same time, each game's tickets had to be "processed" separately. When I was done getting all these extra seats for the Division Series and the NLCS, I had paid Ticketmaster over 225 dollars in fees alone. And, you lose that whether or not the games are played. For tickets not used, the cost is credited back to your account. But they keep all the postage charges and still send you the tickets. Four days after the Dodgers were eliminated from the postseason by the Phillies, I received in the mail four extra tickets for each of the World Series games that were not to be played at Chavez Ravine. After all, Ticketmaster still needs to be paid for all the hard work they put into my order.

Give me that weird guy behind the venetian blinds any day. At least, he might actually tell me to "have a nice day." And, last time I looked, there was no fee for simple human courtesy.

Dinner last night: Pasta and meatballs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Harpo, Chico, Groucho, Zeppo, and Wednesday

Oh, horse feathers!!

---Go, Tampa Bay Rays! I am rooting for you in the World Series.

---And seeing where my teams generally wind up, this is not a good thing.

---Who's going to explain to Phillie fans the concept of "4 out of 7?"

---I look at all those neanderthals in Citizens Bank Ballpark and I wonder how many of them have bookmarks in "Dick and Jane Got to School?"

---These are fans who would boo Jesus.

---"Hey, Christ, it's been weeks since you did the Lazarus bit. What have you done lately?"

---Watching the Red Sox mount that comeback in the eighth inning of Game 7, I had a nagging thought. Who would they have wanted up with the bases loaded? Jason Bay or Manny Ramirez?

---Also, watching that young kid pitcher, David Price, wiggle out of the jam for the Rays, I had another nagging thought. If only Joe Torre had shown that much faith in Clayton Kershaw coming out of the bullpen.

---Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon reminds me of Bill Cullen without the limp.

---Of course, all the World Series hoopla will go for naught since we will have another series of games ending around 1AM Eastern time.

---I can remember when kids would listen to the World Series on transistor radios in class. Now they barely know the games even exist.

---Watching the postseason, I had one more nagging question. The Mets didn't make it???

---As much as I used to love Fox broadcaster Tim McCarver, who essentially taught my mother how to watch and enjoy a baseball game, I can see and hear the end of the line for him.

---Timmy, especially during that Manny flap, is starting to sound awful cranky. And, in one game, he referred to Frankie Frisch at least three times.

---Most viewers these days probably think Frankie Frisch is a character on "Family Guy."

---Sadly, history pales over time and younger viewers these days generally can't consider anything more than twenty years in the past.

---This explains why Met catcher Todd Pratt's homerun in the Game 4 of the 1999 NLDS was one of the top five moments in Met history.

---Huh??? In Met history, there is 1969 and then everything else.

---Barry Obama cut short his campaign to go to Hawaii and his maternal grandmother who is about to get the full length sheet over her.

---Probably as a result of injuries incurred by that bus he threw her under months ago.

---Like Tim McCarver, John McCain is starting to sound awful cranky.

---I've seen McCain's future and there is a checkerboard in it.

---I've seen John Kerry's name bantered about as a potential member of Obama's cabinet and I hope you are all satisfied now.

---Kerry made a joke about McCain wearing Depends. That's funny since it was Kerry who pissed away his political legacy in 2004.

---Would Colin Powell have endorsed Obama if he was five points behind?

---Since Powell has waffled his way through the Republican, Independent, and Democratic parties, the only thing that remains consistent is that he always look damn good in that Army beret.

---When asked by voters in Pennsylvania and Florida about who he was rooting for in the World Series, Obama said "both teams."

---That must be the same as voting "present" in Congress.


---Geez, even Rudy Guiliani wore a Yankee hat to Shea Stadium during the 2000 World Series. Now, that took a brass pair.

---Has anybody out there ever heard from one of these polling companies???

---I know a little bit about that business and I can tell you that it is virtually impossible for any of these places to develop a representative sample these days.

---If they are doing it via the telephone, forget it! Most people screen and lots more households are solely on cell phones and those phone numbers are not eligible.

---Inaccurate: 51%, Nobody Gives a Shit: 49%.

---There is a voting proposition out here in Los Angeles. Yes or no on #8. A "no" vote means you don't think that the right for gays to marry should be revoked.

---The result of all this is frenzy throughout West Hollywood, the aptly named "Swish Alps." Don't stand still anywhere near there as you might be blocking the way of two guys or two girls running to get their marriage license before Election Day.

---It's like a version of "The Amazing Race" that would air on the Logo channel.

---It's a shame that fashion designer Mr. Blackwell died and is missing this. He probably had a great yellow chiffon number that would be perfect.

---I've actually been invited to one such occasion and I have no idea which bride to kiss first.

---Maybe I should just vote "present."

Dinner last night: Leftover pot roast sandwich.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Winter of My Discontent?

Down comes the sign in Shea Stadium that heralded my Loge section---my baseball home---for over four decades. One more screw loosened. One more tear shed. One more day further away.

I was finished. I've said so right here. You read the eulogy and even commented on it with unflagging sympathy. My seats at Shea were gone and so was I.

But, just when I thought I was done. Like Michael Corleone in "The Godfather, Part 3," I figured I was out but now they have pulled me back in.

Well, maybe.

I've received the following communication from the Mets. Partial plans rise like the Phoenix from the ashes.

You may not be able to read the fine print, but I can. There is a 15 game plan that might fit. My Saturday plan always had just 13 games. This might be a no-brainer. There could be a place for me in Citi Field.

Yet, I have so many questions. I would still go to probably no more than 4 or 5 games per season, so would the others be easy to sell off? What's the price? What's the location? Will I be any closer than just to the south of Lake Ronkonkoma? Do I have to swallow the games they select for me? Will I see an awful lot of the Washington Nationals? Can I select only Saturdays? Why am I suddenly having renewed feelings for my first wife when my second one is so damn attractive? And, plus the new missus has been so alluring all the way to the middle of October? The first wife's been leaving me high and dry at the end of September.

I have a new baseball life and a new baseball team with great baseball friends and a terrific usher for my section.

What's the nag? What's the pull? I've moved on.

Well, maybe.

Okay, folks, this is a blog and designed to be interactive. What do you think? I'm going to ask the Mets for more information most definitely. But, then what? Do I hold onto a piece of my childhood, albeit a spruced-up, luxury suite-laden, definitely more expensive version of my childhood? For a team that I just don't love like I used to? Or do I leave my Met seats where I left them? In a heap somewhere around Section 7 of the Loge.

Essentially, how do I say "FU?" I say "FU?"

Not only is your counsel invited here, please refer to the poll on the right. Just as ACORN would tell you, vote early and often and frequently under a fictitious name.

Merci beaucoup.

Dinner last night: Grilled cheese and homemade tomato soup.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - October 20, 2008

Buckwheat passes away....again. Funny SNL. Naturally this comes from one of the years when the grossly untalented Lorne Michaels was not involved in the show.

Dinner last night: Pot roast, mashed potatoes, and spinach.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Game 5, 2000 World Series

I don't have to time travel too far back to pull this mental picture into my foreground. This is also on my mind since I just attended a Game 5 clincher for the Phillies at Dodger Stadium. And this little tidbit is a great way to close out baseball on this blog for a while.
Thursday, October 26, 2000. Unbeknownst to us at the time, this would be the last World Series ever to played at now-halfway-dismantled Shea Stadium. For the first time ever, it's the Yankees versus the Mets in the Fall Classic---a Subway Series in its truest sense.
We're at Game 5 and the Mets need to win to prevent the Yankees from clinching it all. In a very tight game, the Yankees manage to pull it together in the top of the ninth. As future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera attempts to close it out for the Bronx contingent, the final hopes rest on the shoulders of Mike Piazza. He offers one mighty swing and sends one soaring to the centerfield wall. On most nights, this is a home run. But, in the late October misty air of Flushing Bay, the moisture holds the ball in the air long enough for it to be pocketed by centerfielder Bernie Williams. The Yankees celebrate at Shea Stadium, of all places. Manager Joe Torre is hoisted aloft, sobbing all the while. Another great Fall for the Yankees. Another mighty fall for the Mets.
Watching from the third base of the mezzanine level are yours truly and my best friend from high school, Danny. Being true baseball fans and sportsmen, we did not skulk into the night with disgust. We stayed and watched the festivities. Next to us were two Yankee fans. A dad and his eight-year-old son. The youngster is decked out in the warmest of Yankee apparel. He is grinning from ear to ear. Danny and I remember the feeling of being there in 1986 when our own team was doing all the whoop-de-doing. We leaned over and shook the boy's hand in congratulations. He thanked us and continued to bask in his life's most significant moment to date.
It was the dad's response that has always stuck with me.
"This is great and all, but, for his sake, I hope they lose one of these years."
He continued in the role of Hugh Beaumont as Beaver's wise old dad.
"Ever since he got interested in baseball, the Yankees win every year. They need to lose so he can finally understand what it is to be a true fan."
Sheer brilliance and wisdom amongst the hot dog wrappers of Section 22. A father who truly knew how to balance life with fandom. I've taught about that exchange many times. Every time my team loses a playoff or a division title or a close game. And I think about that kid who, in the very next year, probably learned and cried a lot when the Yankees blew Game 7 of the 2001 World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
I wonder if the kid is still a Yankee rooter. I should do hope so. Because that would make him a real fan.
Dinner last night: Belgian Waffle at the Waffle in Hollywood.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month: October 2008

Another movie I used to watch constantly on Channel 5 Metromedia in NY.

Dinner last night: Chinese buffet at Panda Express.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What Is This Woman Now the Focus of Our National Election?

With grateful thanks to the Dodgers and their postseason games, I have been successfully able to totally ignore the two idiots running for President of this country. I heard the following lady is now a major focus of their last debate. Why?

Dinner last night: Taylor Ham sandwich.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Slow Death of Shea Stadium

The sadness continues. From a variety of different sources, the dismantling of Shea is being documented in photos. This must be what it is like to watch a friend die.

From up above, the trucks lining the field make it look like some loading dock down on the lower East Side. Or perhaps some pier where Tony Soprano might be operating.

Right now, it's hard to get two seats together on the first base side. Or even one seat together on the first base side. My location on the loge level is visible through my leaky eyes.

Behind home plate on the field level. These used to be luxury seats. Jackie and Aristotle Onassis sat there during the 1969 World Series. Pearl Bailey is flipping in her casket as we speak.

I didn't realize that Endy Chavez did that much damage to the left field wall when he made that catch in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Section 1 of the Upper Deck. In college, we would sit up there for $1.50. And there were actual seats to sit in at that time.

I really shouldn't watch this. But, it's all part of the processing. Sniff, sniff.

Dinner last night: Grilled bratwurst at the last Dodger home game of 2008.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Gee, I Hate Wednesdays...and the Phillie Phanatic"

Thank you, Mr. Met, for doing what I feel right now.

---It's good to know that I can hate the Philadelphia Phillies on the West Coast as much as I did on the East Coast.

---There is no dumber team mascot than the Phillie Phanatic. This big green creature who, last week, took out a jack hammer to smash a Dodger helmet with dreadlocks.

---Great image to remember when this beloved creature visits a local children's hospital.

---And you wonder why your kids are growing up to be assholes.

---But, then again, a youngster in Philadelphia can't grow up to be anything else but an adult asshole.

---I look at all the fans in Citizens Bank Ballpark and you just know every single one of them has a cholesterol level of 300 plus.

---By the way, if Shane Victorino says it's okay to hit him in the ribs, I say, by all means, let's.

---Whose back is more against the wall? The Dodgers or John McCain?

---It's not like the Dodgers can bring in Sarah Palin to pitch the seventh inning.

---The Dodgers want to do something that nobody else does. Go to Philadelphia.

---If you're watching the playoff games on Fox and wonder why the crowd is so frenzied when they sign on, it's because they tell you to. You are prompted to start cheering 30 seconds before the Fox broadcast starts.

---What's next? An applause sign like they used to have on the Mike Douglas Show?

---I noted Monday night that the Dodgers bullpen collapsed right after Barbra Streisand was shown on Diamondvision.

---Sitting in the owner's box next to that lummox of a husband James Brolin, Babs was roundly and deliciously booed.

---The funny thing is that I had been looking in my binoculars several innings before and had mistakened her for Penny Marshall.

---For about two innings, Her Jewishness was sitting next to Tommy Lasorda and I had no idea what these two had to chat about.

---Of course, knowing Tommy, his first question to her might have been "And you are?"

---The Mayor of LA, Senor Sleazebag, was also there but left as soon as the photographers did.

---The way the smoke is settling all over Los Angeles, I am reminded of my mother's apartment.

---With all the voter registration fraud that the Obama folks are working on with ACORN, I am wondering who my parents will be voting for. I am sure they both just got re-registered.

---On Election Night, which reporter will be watching the exit polls at Sing Sing?

---It is official. I will now heretofore always refer to Obama with his given birth name, Barry.

---I am curious. Would that now be Barack Bonds?

---A sure way to give yourself a migraine? Look at the year-to-date changes on your 401K.

---I lost the equivalent of an entry level file clerk.

---When Barry discovers he can't do 90% of what he promises, how fast will it be before his most ardent supporters want to wring his neck?

---Because, if there is one thing Black people know how to do, it's get on and off a bus.

---Sorry, that was a little racist. But it would have been hilarious and unoffensive if Bob Hope said it on the radio in 1942.

---Tee hee.

---If you're worried about Sarah Palin being one step from the White House, think about what we would have on the other side. Nancy Pelosi two steps away. I wouldn't trust that cow to organize a pantry. Clearly, Nancy needs to be home doing the wash.

This is Len and I have approved the contents of this blog.

Dinner last night: Had a big lunch so just had some fruit.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bi-coastal Misery

I still remember the day and the feeling. A cold Sunday night around midnight on Flushing Bay about 20 years ago last week. The Mets and Dwight Gooden closing in on a NLCS victory over the Dodgers in Game 4. In the ninth inning, I look down at my scorebook and Gooden's pitch count. It felt like it was over 300, but it was probably closer to 110 or 120. That year's trusted Met closer, Randy Myers, was warming up in the bullpen. I circled it with emphasis on the page, almost breaking the pen point. When I looked at that scorebook several years later, I could still hear myself screaming.


Met manager Davey Johnson did not and left himself open to eternal secondguessing. A home run by catcher Mike Scioscia landed someplace on the World's Fair unisphere and a visit to the World Series was derailed forever. If Davey makes a different move, the Mets probably win and go to the 1988 World Series. And then gimpy Kirk Gibson never happens in Dodger lore.

To this date, sitting in fandom on the other coast, I watch all the Dodger 1988 highlights and I can certainly enjoy Gibson's WS Game 1 homerun and smile. But, still, whenever they show Scioscia's home run, I feel horrible all over again. Just like when that big kid in sixth grade gym class flung that dodge ball at those of my body parts located south of my navel and north of my knees.


Last night, in another Game 4 in another NLCS, there was that dodge ball all over again.


The Dodgers went down to defeat and now suffer a 3-1 deficiency to the Philadelphia Phillies, who exude about as much class as the Luftwaffe. But, for me, it was all amazingly repetitive and equally as crushing. Another non-pitching change that explodes like a suicide bomb driven into the Stadium Club. And a home run to right field that also might have landed somewhere near the World's Fair unisphere in Queens. Hit by some stiff who now shares the same middle name that Boston Red Sox fans bestowed upon the Yankees' Bucky Dent in 1978.

Matt Fucking Stairs.

The hand wringing can begin. Manager Joe Torre found himself a lefthander and a Mariano Rivera short. Going with starter Derek Lowe one inning too long in Game One, Joe went with Derek Lowe one inning too short in Game Four. You can't win. He played the cards dealt to him, but it's certainly reasonable to expect players to perform as they have all year. But he can take the scrutiny especially after years of being mentally abused by George Steinbrenner. Nevertheless, when you look at last night's game, you marvel at the wonderment of October baseball. The only thing that can make this classic contest an even better game is if your team is the winner. It's what makes postseason baseball great. Extreme jubilation and sheer deep and dark depression. Both experienced by the human body in the short space of just 24 hours.

Regardless of the pain that will get just a little worse in a few days, I will still be there for Game 5. Wearing my Billingsley shirt and hoping to guide the young righthander away from an alarmingly abrupt shakiness. There will be verbal bricks thrown at Phillies ace Cole Hamels who has mistakenly likened the 2008 Dodger fan to a deal-making, third-inning-arriving, wheatgrass-drinking, pot-smoking stereotype that was much funnier as a Johnny Carson joke in 1978. Besides, I want to be there for perhaps the last Dodger home game of the season and say "have a nice offseason" to all the season ticket holders around me. And, the winter is coming and I do need a new sweatshirt from the clubhouse store.

The grief processing has begun for me. To me, I liken this young Dodger team to the New York Mets of 1985. That bunch lost the division title to the St. Louis Cardinals on the next to last day of the season. I still remember that back breaker of a season, but, in hindsight, they needed to learn to lose in 1985 so they could experience how to win it all in 1986. And a similar youthful core will still be intact on Stadium Way in Los Angeles. Loney, Kemp, Ethier, Billingsley, Kershaw, McDonald, Martin. Sure, they'll need a few well-chosen veterans mixed in. Jeff Kent, of course, will be working on his motor bikes fulltime. Nomar Garciaparra will be seeking an endorsement deal with a pharmaceutical company that specializes in muscle relaxers. And Manny will be wherever his goofiness and his wallet wants him to be. But, the nucleus of a winning atom has formed.

So, in the pitch blackness of Game 4, there is brightness right around the corner. And who knows? I could be looking at this entry next week in retrospect and embarrassment while simultaneously making my Chavez Ravine driving plans for 2008 World Series Game 3. Let's face it, Wednesday's NLCS Game 5 is twenty years to the day that Kirk Gibson crawled around the bases. Maybe history and fate relish a tasty coincidence. And that would be some delicious second guessing I would savor.

Yet, now. Today. There is a sensation that is as real this year as it was in 1988 at Shea Stadium.


Dinner last night: Italian sausage sandwich at the Dodger game.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - October 13, 2008

Be careful where you stand on line at McDonald's. Watch the girl who moves into the picture from the left.

Dinner last night: Dodger Dog and onion rings at Game 3 of the 2008 NLCS.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Loews Mount Vernon

The Loews Mount Vernon movie theater
This cinema cathedral was the site of my first ever moviegoing experience. My mom took me to the first afternoon showing of "Tom Thumb." Unfortunately, we didn't get far into the movie. I was totally frightened by the dimming of the lights and the opening of the curtain. I screamed mercilessly, which was a bigger problem given that there was nobody else in the theater and the echoes had to be piercing. Disgusted, my mother dragged me out into the sunlight. I can still feel her anger as she ripped up the tickets out on Stevens Avenue and flung them into the gutter, waxing loudly about this big waste of money. At the time, the two tickets probably cost no more than $1,50. For several years thereafter, my movie attendance was predicated on start times. If it was the first show of the day, we always entered the theater ten minutes into the movie. Curtain already open. Lights already out. I was a happy little camper.
But, once I got over these phobias, the Loews Mount Vernon (like the RKO Proctor Theater a block away) would be an unbelievable childhood haven. Pronounced inexplicably "low-wees," this was one of these three-level movie palaces that just reeked of opulence. I remember the smoking lounge on the second floor was huge. I remember the smoking lounge mostly because my mother was there mostly.
The magnificent lobby was always full of fun litle gadgets that heralded movies that would be there in "coming weeks." Sometimes, there would be a big display that clicked through View Master-like screen shots of the movie starting next Wednesday. Indeed, I knew by heart the studios that had deals with Loews. They always got the latest films from MGM, Paramount, and Columbia after they came up from "downtown." And always the latest Jerry Lewis offering. When "The Nutty Professor" opened there, Jerry stopped there on a tour of theaters throughout Westchester. I remember watching the movie and then it suddenly stopped. The house lights went up and out bounced Jerry for about 2 minutes tops. Then, he left, but still it was exciting for me and my little friends since the only other celebrity we saw in Mount Vernon was TV Kiddie Host Claude Kirschner at the opening of a bank.
When I was old enough (probably 8 or 9) to venture to the movies by myself, I would spend whole afternoons and days at Loews. I probably saw "Bye Bye Birdie" four or five times in the one week that it played there. For some bizarre reason, I became entranced with the movie "Jumbo" and devoured that a few times over a weekend. After all, once you were in the theater, you could stay all day right through the double feature and then over again. This theater was also where I experienced the Beatles for the first time. Yep, I was there for the very first Mount Vernon, New York showing of "A Hard Day's Night."
For a little while, one of my neighborhood chums had a grandfather who was the chief ticket ripper at Loews. Even better, he would let us in without the ticket or the ripping. No matter what was playing, he got us in there. One day, we got the pass and settled in for the movie which made us all incredibly uncomfortable. It was a lot of women and men doing some things we had only heard about in passing whispers. I felt so dirty that I left, raising the eyebrows of the elderly ticket taker who actually got pissed that I was throwing back the free entry. My mom asked me why I was home so early. I replied simply that it was something with the Three Stooges and I had seen it already.
Years later, I saw the offending movie on TV. "Walk on the Wild Side." Jane Fonda barely dressed and living in a whorehouse. Uh-huh. So much for Parental Guidance.
Loews Mount Vernon didn't last for too many years after that as it died several years before the city did. It was replaced by a huge parking garage, which is ironic because there is absolutely no reason to go there.
Dinner last night: Lasagna at Miceli's.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Classic TV Theme of the Month: October 2008

Choo choo.

Dinner last night: Steak sandwich.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Your October 2008 Weekend Movie Guide

Well, I am guessing that Sabu won't be playing on your local screen this weekend. But somebody else might be. And, in an odd twist of fate, the movie might be worth seeing. Or probably not. Here's my monthly service to you refreshed anew. My eyes scurry through the movie pages of the Los Angeles Times and I give you my gut reaction to the dreck out there. Godspeed to us all. Given the crappy economy, we all need to be a bit more cost-efficient when it comes to spending that entertainment dollar.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua: Hopefully this becomes Studio City Road Kill very soon.

Rachel Getting Married: Does she have to? Anne Hathaway as a pain-in-the-neck relative as a family gathering. And who doesn't know one of those??

Nights in Rodanthe: Richard Gere, Diane Lane, and probably Not Me.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: This got pretty decent reviews and I do like Michael Cera's work. But, I have been burned by solid reviews of movies with an 18-24 age focus. Besides, I have a bunch of Thin Man movies in my Netflix queue.

Flash of Genius: If you would go see paint dry, you will definitely love, love, love this flick about the guy who invented the intermittent windshield wiper. My flash of genius will be to not see this.

Appaloosa: In Vermonts, the apples are looser. A western starring director Ed Harris. I think I'll mosey in the other direction.

Eagle Eye: Starring Shia LaBoeuf and, if his vision is that good, why all the auto accidents?

The Duchess: I abdicate.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: Why see this movie? I do it every day on this blog.

Choke: One more look at the New York Mets bullpen.

Blindness: Perhaps one last look at the New York Mets bullpen.

Ghost Town: I mistakenly saw this as a time killer and it turned out to be a time waster. Actually, this is perhaps one of the five worst movies I ever have seen. There was almost a mid-film walkout, but I wanted to finish my soda. I do not understand Ricky Gervais and why somebody thought he could carry a film.

Burn After Reading: I also saw this Coen Brothers latest production and enjoyed it despite all the strange quirkiness. Fun, but an acquired taste.

Miracle at St. Anna: Spike Lee tells us all about how Black soldiers got a raw deal during World War II. Last time I looked, Japanese bombers at Pearl Harbor did not adhere to a color-coded chart. One more Black dude crying racism while he sits in premium courtside seats at Madison Square Garden.

Blindness: Julianne Moore is the only one left in the world with eyesight. So, now we can add Lenscrafters to the list of stores closing.

W: Opening on Tuesday. Lunatic director Oliver Stone adds another President to his list of skewered and misguided films. This will be as subtle as leprosy. Given Stone's penchant for stretching the semi-truth, I wouldn't be surprised if they have George W. snacking on fried chicken behind a pile of boxes near a window on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Word of advice: if you find yourself sitting anywhere near Keith Olbermann, bring along some Handi-wipes

Rocknrolla: Fatachanca.

Body of Lies: Leonardo DiCaprio. Russell Crowe. Ridley Scott. Maybe Me. Maybe Not.

Religulous: A documentary by Bill Maher on religion in America. After years of avoiding him on television, I now get the honor of doing the same on the big screen. A miserable creep with no redeeming values or talent.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Still hanging around. Woody Allen moves to Spain. At some point, he will run out of countries.

City of Ember: The ad says that "Fans of the Chronicles of Narnia will love it." Which means this writer will avoid it.

The Express: A biography of Ernie Davis, the first winner of the Heisman Trophy. But, still, it's one more sports picture where somebody wins against all odds and that has gotten incredible dull to me. Won't anybody make "The Aaron Heilman Story?"

Quarantine: Some infectious disease traps people in their apartment building. Another great way for people to miss their mortgage payments.

Sex Drive: Aimed at the 15 to 17 year-old audience. When I was that age, I wasn't even driving a car, let alone...

Lakeview Terrace: Samuel L. Jackson terrorizes his neighbors. This must be a documentary.

An American Carol: A rarity for Hollywood. A comedy with a conservative perspective that skewers such liberal assholes as Rosie O'Donnell and Michael Moore. Probably a mess, but they get props from me from trying.

Good Dick: I don't want to know.

A Secret: A French movie that I actually saw. Quite good. A Jewish family hides some secrets about the Nazi occupation of France. The way the scummy French caved in there is no secret.

Happy Go Lucky: "Secrets and Lies" director Mike Leigh lets a bunch of actors improvise for another two hours. And, somehow, the results are always captivating. I have no clue what this is about, but it's probably more inventive than any of the movies listed above.

Dinner last night: Cervelat on an onion roll.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

More Words to Die By

Here we go again. A while ago, I ruminated here about those words and expressions frequently used in business. You know what I mean. Those phrases that sound as if they were developed in some marketing think tank designed to complicate our worlds in ways unimaginable. They hang around for a couple of months and then get replaced by even newer words. Just in my travels over the past two weeks, I have run into a bevy of more head scratchers---language twisters that had me digging for a dictionary.

E-enable: The first time I saw this was in an e-mail and I thought it was a typo. Or voice dictated by somebody who stutters. It probably has something to do with being computer literate. Or maybe it's all about some cable subscriber with access to E! Entertainment.

Recontextualize: I have no idea how to contextualize. Now you want me to recontextualize?? I will have to get back to you on this one.

Bricks and clicks: This was used in reference to a website. Perhaps one for some department store that sells both building supplies and Capezio tap shoes.

Mission-critical: This seems to be one stolen from NASA during Apollo 13. That's the last mission-critical I can remember. This was uttered by a sales manager, whose mission-critical is solely to ensure the commission is safely loaded into direct deposit every quarter. Unless you are a doctor or a surgeon, no one in business anywhere has a mission-critical.

Plug and Play: Another web-based expression. Not to be confused with Mattel's See and Say, which is a learning tool most business executives would be completely addled by in the year 2008. Go into any conference room and ask the people assembled there if they really knows what the cow says.

"We need to unbundle": When did we bundle in the first place? And why? The last thing I bundled was a pile of old newspapers in the basement and that's because my father told me to. But, apparently, lots of things in business these days are bundled, unbundled, bundled, and then unbundled all over again. I am waiting to get a resume which lists somebody's last job title as "Senior Vice President, Bundling and Unbundling."

Portals: Not longer are they doors or entrances. You go into portals. Portals gain you access to websites and digital platforms. Also the witch's lair in some Dungeons and Dragons game from the 80s. This word is a direct by-product of the video game generation now running and pretty much destroying our corporate infrastructure.

"Peeling back the onion": A way to get to the heart of a matter, business-wise. It's also a great way to start crying at the drop of a hat. Why not a radish? How about undressing? There are countless other ways to say the same thing without getting your hands all smelly.

"I'm operating at half band-width for the next two weeks": Huh? This was one guy's way of telling me he was busy the next 14 days. So now our mental processes are compared to electronic transmissions? If you suddenly go into a coma, do your loved ones call a doctor or Time Warner Cable repair?

And there's only one way to say this.


Dinner last night: Shrimp and Chicken Gumbo at the Cheesecake Factory.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Is It Getting a Little Wednesday in Here?

Hey, watch where you put that!

---One of the glories of having a team in extended postseason baseball is that it totally dominates your time. Translation: I have paid precious little attention to the Presidential campaign.

---Woo Hoo!

---Although Howard Stern did a great bit on Sirius. He sent a reporter to Harlem to scout out Obama supporters. Which he could find by throwing a pencil in the air.

---But when the same reporter told them some stances that McCain has on issues without mentioning his name, they had no clue that they weren't attached to Obama.

---And this proves what I have been saying for years: 98% of our population is stupid and doesn't deserve to vote.

---I guess it really is the RACE for the White House.

---This is a country too moronic to appreciate and experience democracy.

---Here's how you pick a President: find 20 of the top and unbiased historians, economists, and philosophers in the country and install them onto a blue ribbon panel. They accept submissions from people. Anybody affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic party is ineligible.

---The country would be fixed in about two years time.

---There's no charge for that suggestion, America. It's all part of my complimentary service as a grateful citizen.

---Like it or not, folks. We are headed into the worst four years of this country's history and we have the esteemed Democratic and Republican parties to thank for that.

---Wasn't the Vice Presidential debate on too late for McCain?

---I love Joe Biden's latest gaffe. Inviting voters to meet him for lunch at a restaurant that has been closed since 1988.

---I heard this the other day from some stupid Beverly Hills bitch in the chair next to me while I was getting a haircut: "I don't want Sarah Palin anywhere near the nuclear button."

---So is there really a nuclear button? What does it look like? Is it on the Oval Office desk right alongside a Swingline stapler? I need to know these details.

---Does anybody really believe this button would ever get pressed without a discussion involving more than 100 or so politicians??

---I think this sow was watching a little too much "Dr. Strangelove" during her last Botox injection.

---Of course, I have no confidence in Biden being near the button either. He might get confused and press it when he's really trying to call his Black valet for a shoe shine.

---Now that they might have found what happened to that crazy balloonist Steve Fossett, maybe they can go find Michelle Obama.

---Since the campaign has begun in earnest, she has been, as Tony Soprano might say, "disappeared."

---After all, she did have a lot to say. And maybe that's what you don't see her now. Because she did have a lot to say.

---Who is this guy? Achmed Imadinnerjacket.

---I'm just checking. Have I worked hard enough this week to pay your next mortgage statement?

---Watching the AL Division Series, I can officially announce that I am now sick to death of the Boston Red Sox.

---Why does Jonathan Papelbon remind me of some Sing Sing inmate on a work release program? He looks like the kind of guy who snaps the neck of parakeets for funsies.

---They showed author and Red Sox fanatic Stephen King in the stands and he now looks like some cadaver in one of his short stories.

---And who has their five-year-old child out at Fenway Park at 12 Midnight on a Sunday???? Is there not a school system in Boston? Or did Teddy Kennedy do away with them during one of his wet brain "episodes?"

---I am rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays. Even if their astroturf hasn't been vacuumed since Amy Carter was using flash cards.

---Of course, I am hoping and praying the Dodgers upend the Phillies. Their home city has done nothing worthwhile since, well, 1776.

---Unless, of course, you count cheese steaks.

---I put in a few extra hours of work today to get a head start on your mortgage payment for next month. Just so you know.

---The famed Phillippe's, a favorite Friday pre-Dodger game dinner stop for me and Mr. Anonymous of the Barbara Judith Deluxe Furnished Apartments on Hollywood Boulevard, just celebrated their 100th birthday by offering French Dip sandwiches for 10 cents.

---The line was out the door and down the block.

---And I am betting that half of them still won't pay their mortgage this month.

Dinner last night: Cervelat sandwich.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"So, How Was Your Saturday Night, Ron Santo?"

It's been a long time since I attended an October baseball clincher in person. Actually, the last time was Game 7 of the 1986 World Series in the now-being-dismantled-brick-by-metal-post Shea Stadium. If you're a baseball fan and your team is involved on the upside, there is a truly unique and special feeling when the final out is recorded.

That was last Saturday night at Dodger Stadium as the Los Angeles Blue swept out the eternally doomed Chicago Cubs.

Nobody in Dodgerland expected this to happen. The Cubs had won 97 games during the regular season and, after years of torment from curses brought on by billy goats, Steve Bartmans, and perhaps even the Republican party, 2008 was destined to be their year. They even went to the trouble of bringing in a Greek Orthodox priest to spray holy water all over the Cubs dugout to exorcise whatever demons that have lived there for the past 100 years. I saw the clip of this and was astounded at its utter ridiculousness. What would be next? Kerry Wood lying across the pitching mound while Father Damien intones, "The power of Christ compels you, the power of Christ compels you." Come on, folks. If you understand the Bible, God roots for no one baseball team. Except for maybe the time when polish from Cleon Jones' shoe wound up on a baseball in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series.

But, this is the Chicago Cub fan who needs to justify somehow his misery and negativity. There must be some mystical reason why the team has been relegated to also-ran status every single October since William Howard Taft was President. How about the team sucked for much of that time? How about that, in 1969, their bullpen was so bad down the stretch that it was probably anchored by Aaron Heilman Sr.? Maybe, while you blame some overzealous fan reach for a fair ball in 2003, your manager that year had completely butchered his pitching staff by the time October came around. For this Met fan who remembers 1969 very well, I think this is the continuing payback for then Cubs third base man and current announcing dirtbag Ron Santo's gleeful heel clicking after every Cub victory. It was bush league and Santo has Cub fans paying the price to this day. Of course, Santo no longer can click his heels because he no longer has heels to click.

For 24 of the 27 innings in the Division Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers clearly outplayed the alleged best team in the National League. And it was the greatest night in Dodger Stadium since Kirk Gibson broke a few tail lights in 1988. The crowd was electric and the chanting started way before the seats were warm. There were small pockets of Cub fans all about and they skulked around like they were in the Paris underground during World War II. Once exposed, they were duly noted and booed. One Cub fan, dressed in his LL Bean finest, walked by and called those assembled in my section "the most classless baseball fans in America." Huh? Having spent many a summer in Wrigley Field with close proximity to the famed Bleacher Bums, I can tell you that fandom is a far cry from the Vienna Boys Choir singing the Pachebel Canon in D. If Dodger fans were truly that classless, how come this shithead's girlfriend spent one whole half inning trying to balance a cup of beer on her head. If ever there was a moment for a beach ball to find its way toward her noggin...

Several rows behind, some blonde bimbette dressed in Chicago blue was drunk and shaking her business for all to see. Her boyfriend wondered why she was getting so much negative attention. Come on, if a stripper breaks into the Vatican to do a lap dance for the Pope, you can expect to see Security show up.

Given that this is LA, you can count on the A Listers and C Listers to show up at any important sporting event. I saw Pierce Brosnan up on the club level and wondered if he even knew where the hell he was. Vince Vaughn was shown on Diamond Vision wearing his Cubs hat and was roundly booed. Indeed, he should garner the same reaction every time he gets a movie role. And, with Joe Torre in the Dodger dugout, Billy Crystal couldn't be far behind. This asshole wound up in the owner's box jawing with Tom Lasorda who probably wished that the game had coincided with Yom Kippur. Crystal has had a man crush on Torre for years and secretly envisions going to Ikea with him to pick out a futon for their spare bedroom. I wished that Homeland Security had taken up a position at Dodger Stadium turnstiles to profile and arrest Yankee fans.

Playoff baseball is always a tense affair and the closeness of Saturday's game provided just the right mix of fun and cardiac infarctions. When Jonathan Broxton got the Cubs' own version of Alex Rodriguez-like October futility, Alfonso Soriano, to check swing his way into winter sports, the crowd was raised to the heavens. Celebrations took place on the field and champagne was sprayed all over the field level. Now they smelled as drunk as they really were. Joe Torre spoke to the throng and asked for more support to get them another eight wins. A bunch of fans started to chant that he run for President and I can't think of a better alternative right now.

The feeling took me back to another time and another place. It made the end of the Mets and our former home stadium a duller memory. It reminded me that, if you can't go home again, you do have an alternative. You simply move.

Dinner last night: Chicken and tortellini in pesto sauce.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - October 6, 2008

This could only come from overseas where commercials are still funny.

Dinner last night: BLT at Cafe 50's.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Sunday Memory Drawer: Grandma's Pantry

This room was a full-out treasure chest for me. Situated right off her kitchen, it was a full-sized room that had a counter where I could do homework. And there were shelves all the way up to the ceiling. Lots of places for me to hide whatever toy figurines or soldiers I was occupied with at the time. One side would hide behind the double boiler and the other would secrete themselves behind cans of Libby's vegetables. And I could hide myself in another corner and let it all play before me for hours and oodles of fun.
There were many other fringe benefits. My grandmother baked every single Saturday morning and there was usually some sort of cake or pie stored there. Pieces disappeared regularly. And, of course, her Poppin' Fresh cookie jar was always loaded with Jane Parker or Ann Page's finest chocolate chip cookies. Only the best that the local A & P had to offer. I still have that cookie jar here in LA and it's always filled. With chocolate chip cookies. The tribute that just keeps on giving.
One day, I noticed something else. My grandmother would go into the pantry, hop on a stepstool, and reach up to the very top shelf. Where apparently she was keeping some very special chocolate bars.
It didn't take many days after this discovery before I wanted to tap into this reserve myself. If my grandmother was hiding this candy, it must be damn good.
The stepstool still left me about three shelves too short for the reach. So, I essentially climbed gingerly from one shelf to another. The Wallendas had nothing on me, especially if there was a tasty treat at the end of the stunt. I got to that chocolate and munched. One piece and then another. And then another. She wouldn't miss a whole bar. I reasoned she probably had others stashed away all over the house.
And then it came. Or, in reality, there it went. About an hour later, I was sick to my stomach. And couldn't stop visiting a certain room in the house. Where I would be sitting and not standing. It was so bad that I missed two days of school and even was summoned to appear before the always feared pediatrician, Dr. Fiegoli. Nobody had any answers and I certainly didn't make the connection. Until my grandmother asked the question that begged for an answer...
"Who ate all my Ex-Lax?"

Dinner last night: Dodger Dog and onion rings at Chavez Ravine prior to the Dodgers' sweep of the Cubs in the NLDS.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

So What Do I Countdown Now?

It's been a staple here every Sunday. I devise some list of favorites and we count down from # 25 to #1. I've done my Top 25 Favorite Movies and then my Top 25 Favorite TV Shows. So what comes next?
I've had suggestions. My Top 25 Favorite Baseball Players or Games. That's limiting and ultimately boring for a lot of readers. Then we're getting a little too granular. My Top 25 Favorite Songs? My head would explode given that I can remember many a melody but nary a song title. I could go on and on and let it get sillier by the day.
Perhaps I could compile a list of My Top 25 Favorite Friends. Okay, I envision some problems there, especially when you're all surprised to see myself listed at #1.
I thought about what I enjoyed most about the two lists just completed. It was the memory bank that always seemed to be attached to the viewing of a film or the weekly watching of a TV show. That, for me as a writer, was the gold mined each and every week.
So, there we are. Put your socks and gloves back on. No more counting. The new feature? Every Sunday, you will take a look at my memory drawer. Something from the past that resonates with me and hopefully does the same for you. It could be something that happened when I was a kid or something that happened last week. I remember Sunday afternoons would often find me stretched out on my grandmother's couch while she rambled on about something that happened 30 years ago. And that is what I will try to recreate here every Sunday.
And that starts tomorrow when we talk grandmother's pantry.
Dinner last night: Chicken potstickers at Marmalade Cafe.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"Big Russ and Me" and Me

Several years after it was published and became a best seller, I finally caught up with this book. I am ashamed that I didn't read it while Tim Russert was still alive. I am heartsick that this paean to his beloved father is now a daily reminder that Dad actually outlived his son, a deadly quirk of life that should never even happen.

If you're like me and never dove into this tome, please make skidmarks and do it now. If you grew up in the Northeast circa the 60s and 70s, it is an absolute memory jogger. If you went to Catholic schools with nuns as teachers, it will sing to you even more. You will come away with a wonderful story of growing up and a renewed appreciation for whoever were your parents.

For me, the book is marvelous but bittersweet. Tim Russert got to experience his dad for many years into his adulthood. And, as a result, he had a lot more time to ask all the questions and get some of the answers. Big Russ' generation was one that really didn't offer personal information up very readily. I hear the same from my compatriots. My good friend and fellow blogger, the esteemed Djinn From The Bronx, lost her dad earlier this year. The deliciously erudite Mr. G. She's been talking about all the things she never heard or learned from him, despite the fact that he lived to the ripe young age of 90.

If Djinn From the Bronx is missing a few chapters, I, indeed, am missing an entire set of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. I could spent weeks asking the questions that I will never get answers to. From both my parents. And it is not like I have a lot of other sources for that info. For some strange reason, all their contemporaries (my aunts and uncles) got wiped out mostly over one single decade. I wonder how that happened. Yet, when I look at old family slides, I get my answer. In every picture of every family party or gathering, there are cigarettes and booze. And more cigarettes and booze. My father used to take pictures of the kitchen table where the liquor bottles were stacked up. I guess it was their bade of honor.

So, at the end of today, tomorrow, and eternity, I still am missing large clumps of history. If I could send just one essay test to the great beyond, here's what I would ask:

Dad, on several occasions, you tried to advance your life by changing careers. At one point, you studied how to be a court stenographer. Then, you learned how to repair TV sets. Why did you never follow up on either?

I am told that you were a huge Yankee fan in the 50s. You even went to several games a week. How the heck did you wind up a Met fan? Was this because of me?

I've heard that you were engaged once before. To some woman in church named Muriel. When you picked me up every week at Sunday school, you used to run into her and talk to her. What happened there?

Mom, you once mentioned that you dated my father's brother, who was killed in WWII. I was even named after him. How did you wind up with Dad?

Mom, you told me your parents died when you were 12. What happened to them? Why were there never any pictures of them?

And that's just the surface. There are many others I think of every single day. So, don't let this happen to you. If they're around, ask the questions now.

Dinner last night: Chicken salad wrap and pasta salad back in LA.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Moderate Leaning Voters Will Love This

Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich.

Tomorrow: Back in Dodgerland!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wednesdays are Down 4 3/8

Take stock in some sarcasm, which is always at a premium here.

---If Asians ran their financial systems the way they drive....

---Every time I hear about the Asian market, I think about yellow peppers being on sale.

---Walking through Flushing for the last Met game on Sunday, I felt like I was in an episode of "The Amazing Race." More Orientals were knocking me over on their way to a sale at Caldor's.

---In the space of two minutes waiting for the light to change at Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, I saw three separate fender benders.

---But I bet if you watched them drive the bumper cars at Coney Island, they wouldn't hit a single thing.

---That's the fun thing about stereotypes. 95% of the time they can be validated.

---So, is my new bank now called "Washington Manhattan?"

---"Chase Mutual?"

---By the way, for those keeping score, I have had a mortgage since 1993 and never missed a single payment.

---Overheard at the urinals at the last Shea Stadium game. Fan #1: "Rusty Staub was, like, the greatest baseball player evah."

---Fan #2: "He was not. You can maybe say he was the greatest red headed baseball player evah."

---Fan #1: "Okay, maybe the greatest red headed baseball player evah who could cook baby back ribs."

---One flush. Then another. Only in New York.

---Also at Shea during the closing ceremonies as former Met reliever Jesse Orosco was introduced: "Where the hell were you an hour ago?"

---To all those Yankee and Met fans without a postseason: On behalf of Ambassador Tommy Lasorda, I cordially invite you all to the safe haven of Los Angeles Dodger fandom to root against those asshole Chicago Cubs.

---Longtime Cub broadcaster and resident jerk Ron Santo would give up a body part to see the Cubs win the World Series. Except he has none left.

---Since the Cubs last won a championship, women now have the right to vote.

---And I think the last time they won something, Jesus had tickets in the club level at Wrigley Field.

---1908. All Dodger fans must commit that to memory and commence to chanting it on Saturday night.

---"Manny Goes to Chicago." Sounds like a children's book.

---1908 was also the last year Barbara Walters was sexually attractive.

---And the last time Oprah saw her feet.


---When the Dodgers had their clinching game at home last week, Lasorda walked the stands and thanked all the fans in the left field pavillion.

---Which was confusing to me since it's "all you can eat" in the right field pavillion.

---The good thing about being in NY for all the Shea hoopla was that I paid zero attention to the Presidential race. And the first debate.

---Remember the day when a Presidential candidate would go on a talk show and somebody like Merv Griffin or Mike Douglas would ask them only the most serious of questions?

---Now you have Letterman bashing McCann and the View getting Obama to mix up a batch of his grandmother's famous gumbo.

---Shame on all of them.

---I read somewhere that Obama's camp says he will win in a landslide. How does that happen when neither candidate is popular with more than half the population?

---Do the math, suckers.

---Note to self: dust under the bed since I will be living there the next four years.

Dinner last night: Turkey burger.