Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Working the Hollywood Christmas Parade


This annual holiday tradition in Los Angeles happens today. It used to be called the Santa Claus Lane parade, then the Hollywood Christmas Parade. Now, it's the Hollywood Santa Parade. Whatever the case, this was once a big deal and star magnet. From the days when they got the likes of Bob Hope, Lucy and Desi, and Jack Benny to ride on floats, all they get now is the overnight jock at Hot 97 and perhaps some empty-headed bit player from "The Bold and the Beautiful." I can remember watching it in syndication when I was a kid in NY. This year, it's probably going to wind up on public access next to a repeat of last month's City Council meeting.

But, whatever the case, nobody is going to take away from me the experience of actually working at this travesty for about five years straight when I first moved to Los Angeles. I was a volunteer. A community organizer, if you will.

A friend of mine from church (now sadly deceased) used to be in charge of the parade volunteers. So, I was sucked into this "insider's" look at the parade. Except the first year, my assignment was less than plum. Armed with a walkie-talkie that I couldn't figure out, I was stationed as "crowd control" in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. To make matters worse, I was forced to fear this hideous red vest that made me look like an accident flare on the 405.

While I was not exactly sure why, I allowed myself to get vacuumed up into this disaster the following year. Except this time around, I was put where I indeed belonged. In the celebrity gathering area---the so-called "green room." Which happened to be conveniently located in the bar of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. This is where the D-listers fortified themselves for the upcoming drive down chilly Hollywood Boulevard. I saw Santa Claus poised on a bar stool sucking down a beer. The "renowned" Lorenzo Lamas was there with his whole family and was screaming at his nanny. Comedian Rip Taylor sauntered in and, almost immediately, a parade official pointed discretely at Rip's head. This was the signal that his wig was crooked. Rip gave it a slight tug at the side and recreated his hair styling feng shui.

This would be my perch at the parade for the next three years and nothing could have been sweeter. Watching celebrities behave badly and then slap on an instant smile for the hordes of adoring fans lining the gutters outside. And, of course, this parade offered the location of what would become one of my most ignoble celebrity encounters. I've written about here before, but it bears a repeat reading.

The last year I worked the parade, I was stationed at the door to the "green room." My job was to welcome the celebrities as they drove up and entered the hotel. So, a car pulls up on schedule and out comes two heralded TV moms. Marion Ross from "Happy Days" and Florence Henderson from "The Brady Bunch." Why these two were carpooling is still a mystery to me. But, nevertheless, out they popped and approached the door. Unbeknownst to me, there were three 10 year-old girls lurking about---probably hotel guests. As soon as they saw Mrs. C and Carol Brady, they ran over for autographs.
Marion Ross was a total pro to these kids. Ever gracious, she thanked them for recognizing her and personalized autographs for each of them. Florence did the same, but I could see only the faintest glimmer of a smile.
Now, it was my turn. I held the door open, ready with a smile and a hello for their entrance.
Marion Ross came over first. She wished me a good evening, a Happy Holiday season, and thanked me for holding the door open for her.
Florence Henderson approached next. Once again, I held the door open, ready with a smile and a hello for her.
Except Flo scowled at me.
"You needed to do a better job keeping those kids away from me."
Huh??? I was stunned by her brazen nastiness. All I could mutter was a voice-cracking "Excuse me."
"You heard me. We can't get blindsided by autograph hounds when we show up for these things."
In my own world of suitable responses, I wanted only one. "You fuckin' bitch!" But, I needed to be professional, even though I doubted if I would ever work with her, since she really hadn't done anything new after The $100,000 Pyramid in 1985. I also felt compelled to say something as a semi-representative for the parade.
I responded. "I am sorry, Miss Henderson. I did not see them. And I am sure they are very excited in seeing somebody they have enjoyed on one of their favorite reruns."
She dismissed me with a frown and a wave of her clenched fist. I hoped that she would choke on her Polident-cleaned dentures. Or maybe somebody would bash her skull in with a bottle of Wesson Oil. This woman had parlayed a career out of some crappy TV show that was almost 30 years old. She owes any celebrity to those kids who are, for some bizarre reason, one more generation enamored with that pre-teen-targeted sitcom.
I didn't work the parade the next year. Not if I couldn't live up to Florence Henderson's high standards.
Dinner last night: Asian steak at the Catalina Bar and Grill.


















Saturday, November 29, 2008

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - November 2008

If ever you have the chance to see this on a big screen, please do so. The only way to truly enjoy it.


Dinner last night: Pepperoni pizza at Vito's.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Full of Crap

Those Saturday morning infomercials on TV can be hilarious. And habit-forming. I remember the one from about ten or fifteen years ago. Ron Popeil, that genius inventor, had that spaghetti maker and then was spraying some sort of string or paint on his head to cover up bald spots.

There are others that have become legends. That lady who used to put clothes in a plastic bag that would suck the air out and essentially vacuum wrap your wardrobe for the winter. And there are miracle mops of all shapes and sizes. As if you need an act of God to wipe up a spill on the kitchen floor.

Now the infomercial that is flooding the airwaves is all about your colon. Not the punctuation mark. Your ass. And how backed up we all are. At any given moment in time, we each have about 10 to 20 pounds of excrement that is clogging our internal organs. And the toxins have no place to go but through the pores in our skin. I am looking at my own right now and I see nothing like this. But, apparently, I am crapping right through the hairs on my arm.

The big expert on this subject right now is this creepy looking guy named Klee Irwin. He's got a bunch of pills that will get you moving in just the right way. Literally. He pledges to help you unclog whatever has been stuck in your intestines since the moon landing. If you want to get re-acquainted with the strawberry shortcake served at your eighth birthday party, this guy can help with that reunion. Because, throughout the half-hour, he reminds you that you will be amazed at what you see in your toilet bowl. He talks about length and width and I wonder just how quickly this idiot runs through rulers. According to Klee (even the freakin' name is weird), John Wayne's autopsy uncovered that the cowboy had over 40 pounds of shit in his body probably dating back to meals he had while making "Stagecoach" with Walter Brennan. This fact has been widely refuted as an urban legend. You wonder just how much of the other garbage Klee spews is worthless as well.

Not worthless to him. A two month supply of this swill is $130. It can be at your door in days and then you can be praying to the porcelain god in short order.

These crazy infomercials must exist for a reason. Because there must be fools out there who buy into all these idiotic claims and notions. The dumbing down of America continues. What most people don't realize is that the human body fully contains the capacity to do its own cleaning. If you follow a sensible diet and have a kernel of knowledge, you don't need Klee Irwin's pills. I would love to see just how big a house he lives in.

Even more importantly, I wonder how many bathrooms he has in those mansions.

Dinner last night: Thanksgiving Day repast of the usual fixings.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from Macy's - 1963

I found these home movies (not mine) of the parade from November 28, 1963. All this mayhem---less than seven days after Kennedy was assassinated. Amazing. By the way, my favorite balloon was always Popeye.



Dinner last night: Dried cappacollo sandwich.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday: The Last Day for Some Turkeys


And those that make it past Thursday will probably be cutlets by Christmas. You just can't win.

---Flying back from NY, JFK Airport has an interesting car lane. "Kiss and Fly."

---Cute idea, but I hope your towelhead cab driver doesn't get any bright ideas.

---Monday at JFK was quiet, but the check-in desk people were already armoring up for Tuesday and Wednesday.

---With all these folks headed to Grandma's, is the food there that good?

---It wasn't at mine. She could do baked goods splendidly, but...

---Best example: Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup was used on top of spaghetti.

---I had a real nut next to me in business class. She pissed all over the meal choices because she tries to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

---Except this dimwit proceeded to down one glass of champagne after another while simultaneously inhaling chocolate chip cookies.

---It's truly a shame when nice things are wasted on assholes.

---The lady who invented the Slinky toy died at the age of 90.

---I'm guessing that, in her later years, she had more trouble getting down the stairs.

---Think about it. I'll wait.

---Well, Barry Obama is destined to be our first "green" President. Because he's doing a great job of recycling Bill Clinton's used employees.

---By the way, Mr. Bill has to be the happiest person in America now that his battleaxe will be flying around as Secretary of State.

---I'm thinking that he's been dancing around in his underwear like Tom Cruise in "Risky Business."

---Duane Reades in Chappaqua are buying up Trojan condoms in bulk.

---With the country's economy circling the drain, everybody is comparing this to the great Depression of 1929.

---Like they were there? Huge disconnect. Our unemployment rate is 8%. In 1929, the US unemployment rate was 30%!

---And people weren't out of work because they overspent for a 65 inch high def radio.

---Obama's already inched toward the center and dropped about a half dozen of those brain-dead campaign promises.

---If he's not careful, I may learn to tolerate him.

---But, have no fear, I will always detest you, Michelle.

---Who the hell eats a turnip anyway?

---Holidays in LA are great because everybody clears out of town. In a city where everything is supposed to be just twenty minutes away, you can actually get someplace in forty minutes.

---Unless, of course, you are mindless and need to hit a mall the day after Thanksgiving.

---Stores are actually calling it "Black Friday Sales" as if it's a good thing you are headed into Kohl's at 4AM.

---And if you're handing out gift cards this year, you better make sure that store is still in business come January.

---The only folks working on Thanksgiving are those D-list stars riding in the Macy's Parade. Of course, none of them can find work the other 364 days of the year.

---Who's that on top of the Empire State Building float? Why, it's Joyce Bulifant!!

---If the government bails out Citigroup, do we now change the name of the net Mets stadium to "U.S. Treasury Field?"

Okay, now go stuff yourselves!

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Signs of the Times

There's this nutjob restaurant and lounge owner near Pittsburgh. He uses the marquee outside to share his political messages. The following are not for the faint of heart---or the most liberal-minded.


Dinner last night: Back in LA for chicken and pasta in pesto sauce.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 24, 2008

Cooking for Thanksgiving a la Everybody Loves Raymond. A brilliant turn by Patricia Heaton.



Dinner last night: Old fashioned Sunday dinner from the deli: Salami and proscuitto sandwich with German potato salad and cucumber salad.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Great Cranberry Scare and Other Food Phobias



In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let's talk food.

When I was a kid, my favorite dish on the holiday table was always cranberry sauce. Still is. Now I'm enjoying a homemade concoction of this fruit, usually mixed with oranges or cherries. But it didn't get that fancy years ago. Nope, my family always opted for the can. The Ocean Spray can. The one you opened with a can opener and the cranberry sauce slid out in one gloppy mold. Just like we used to slip the dog food out of the Ken-L-Ration can. With the cranberries, they didn't even bother to use a knife to slide it. Somebody would simply take the metal lid and use that to cut up the mold. If Martha Stewart had witnessed this scene, she would have used that same metal lid to slice her wrists.

But that is what I knew about cranberry sauce and I loved it nonetheless. Except, of course, when there was a much publicized recall of Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberries one Thanksgiving. Seems there was some poison embedded or perhaps a little soupcon of botulism. Whatever the case, I was petrified. The moratorium was quickly called off within a month, but that didn't assauge me in the least. I would pass on cranberries for the next five years. I was convinced that there was still one can out there that had been ignored by the inspectors. Food poisoning was no doubt lurking right around the corner of Grandma's pantry.

Mashed potatoes scared me in another direction. One day during a family dinner, there was a pile of horseradish on the plate right next to the smashed spuds. It all looked the same to me. You know what happened next. I drank enough water that afternoon to sink the Bismarck. For the next several years, even though there wasn't a sprig of horseradish within a twenty five mile radius, I would not eat mashed potatoes. I was convinced that the dreaded hot stuff was lurking right around the corner of my dinner plate.

To this day, I am a tomato-phobe. Okay, I'll eat tomato sauce, ketchup, salsa, and stewed tomatoes as well drink tomato juice by the half gallon. But, a single slice of a ripe juicy tomato makes me nauseous. I will never forget how this started. Late summer in the Northeast was the time of year when fresh tomatoes could be purchased from an roadside stand. And I loved to just dump a little salt on one and bite in. Until one day, when I bit into a tomato that was pretty rancid. I heaved up oatmeal that I had ingested years before. That horrible taste has stayed with me ever since. I cannot get it out of my sensory perception.

But, explain to me how I will eat a slice of tomato when it's buried in a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich covered in mayonnaise.

I never said this blog was going to make much sense.

Dinner last night: Sausage and peppers at Carlo's in Yonkers.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Classic Newsreel of the Month - November 2008

Not a newsreel, but I'm keeping with the weekend theme. Here's the NBC news coverage of Times Square on Friday night, November 22, 1963. Gabe Pressman lives!!


Dinner last night: Veal Saltimbocca at Gianna's in Yonkers.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Photo Essay - My Trip To Dealey Plaza

I am a John F. Kennedy assassination geek. I've pored over all the books and videos and theories. I've stopped just short of putting the autopsy photos in my wallet. So, whenever business blows me through Dallas, Texas, I can't keep myself from taking another peek at this immensely historical location.

The famed Texas Schoolbook Depository, from which Lee Harvey Oswald "allegedly" killed the President, has been virtually gutted and transformed into the Sixth Floor Museum. The first time I was there several years back, I was touring the facilities with actor Steve Buscemi. I had no celebrity sightings last week, but I did go through it all one more time. And probably saw things I didn't see the first time around. Naturally, they don't allow photography inside. But, once I got out onto Dealey Plaza, I went to town.

The fascinating thing about this whole area is that it still amazingly looks the way it did in all the pictures and newsreels I have sampled from that fateful Friday. Here's the door of the building. It's not used anymore, but, back then, this is the entrance through which Oswald probably lugged his bag lunch of fried chicken.

Oswald's "alleged" perch is the corner window second from the top. Inside, it is glass enclosed and made to appear as it did in police photos. They've thankfully removed the chicken bones. You can't look out that window, but you can peer out the one right next to it. And when you see Dealey Plaza from that vantage point, you wonder how he got off three shots so quickly and so accurately.

This is what JFK saw at the beginning of the last minute of his life. Unless, of course, he was staring at the dandruff on the back of Governor Connelly's head.

This is the sign Kennedy would have seen a minute later if he had not come into close personal contact with some ammunition. The Stemmons Freeway gets you to Parkland Hospital. On that day, JFK did not pass Go, nor did he collect $200.

Nor did he get to go under the Stemmons overpass as planned. Sometimes, your vacation trips do take some odd detours.

The whole place is this hallowed historic landmark, but they still let you walk on the grass.

And, speaking of lawns, here's the infamous "grassy knoll." If there were other gunmen, this cement monstrosity provides oodles of places where a good clean shot can be made.

Looking up at the window about where Kennedy took the shot to the head. I took this quickly as I was destined to be the next Dealey Plaza roadkill.

There are two Xs on the street. The first one is called the "shoulder X." The one above is the "head X." X did get the square and the head. I'd like Charlie Weaver to block. These facts were illuminated to me by this bum who lives on the grassy knoll. Actually, there are several who actually provide a tourist service. They walk around, offer to take pictures, and sell you some newspaper devoted to conspiracy theories.

Here's the napping homeless guy who eventually became my docent for the day. And, yes, I agreed to pose for a picture holding the newspaper he sold me.

I am standing next to the stoop from which Abraham Zapruder shot his home movie of Kennedy's head coming apart like a pinata in a Mexican pre-school. The bum told me so.

My photography work from the famous Zapruder perch. The bum suggested this camera angle.

The whole area has been perked up as you can see by the presence of a conveniently located Morton's Steakhouse, where I enjoyed a delicious ribeye steak with my Dallas buddy Bill. The bum did not join us.

Dinner last night: Pepperoni and olive pizza at Pizza Beat in Yonkers.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Billy Elliot: The Musical



As opposed to Billy Elliot: The Movie, which is something I barely remember seeing in 2000. It was a big crowd pleasing hit on the silver screen, but I think I used it to sleep off a heavy pasta dinner as I have virtually no recollection of any of it. So, how I ended up at the Imperial Theater last night to see the stage version of the movie is beyond me. Perhaps, it was the chance to see a Broadway show and have a fun night out with a friend. Or maybe I was still trying to wash out the bitter taste of my last Great White Way experience: that sinus infection with a full orchestra known as Young Frankenstein. Perhaps I was hoping that theater's positive attributes would be restored a bit.

Actually, I check "all of the above." And, for the most part, Billy Elliot: The Musical really did bring Broadway back to me in a grand way. Although I still left with one nagging question.

How does a movie that ran 110 minutes become an almost three hour production on stage?

Let's face it. All Broadway legit houses are now a tough sit. The leg room in the aisles is better suited for actress Linda Hunt. You wind up sitting in a crouching position and you feel like the Mets' Jerry Grote after catching a Sunday doubleheader. And, all around you, there are the new breed of Broadway theatergoers. Half are Euro-trash with accents that are hard to place, although they give you plenty of opportunity to do so. The two broads next to me kept up a running commentary through the show as if this was an episode of Mystery Science Theater. The other 50% of the crowd are the dreaded out-of-town tourists fresh from "all you can eat" at the Olive Garden with asses to prove it. If I had trouble sitting in these 1920 width seats, I can't imagine how Two Ton Tessie from Tennessee was dealing with Row F, Seat 111. Whatever happened to the days when Broadway audiences sported the likes of Dorothy Kilgallen and the other ritzy hoi polloi straight from a stool at Sardi's? The only soupcon of class in the audience last night was Angela Lansbury who provoked countless rubbernecks at the intermission. Her presence to me simply signaled that perhaps the oboe player would be found dead in the orchestra pit.

Despite the jerks all afoot, the show was a great reminder to me of just how good a Broadway musical can be. The plot is pretty simple: a young poor kid in England likes to dance ballet while the rest of his family is on strike from the coal mines. They give you a little newsreel history lesson at the beginning if you are, like me, totally unaware of the big battle between Margaret Thatcher and the coal miners in 1984. Frankly, I never paid any attention to this situation when it was happening, probably because I always had electric heat. But, nevertheless, fans of Mrs. Thatcher need not see this production. There are evil puppets and gigantic Mummers' heads depicting her throughout the show, and she comes off about as well as George W. Bush would in Iraq. Who knew a smart hair style and simple strains of pearls could be so scary?

Elton John wrote the music for this production, which started originally in England. And it's quite infectious. Naturally, the dancing is amazing: a weird combination of ballet and tap depending upon the number. Apparently, there are three different kid actors who alternate in the lead role and you can see why. The character never stops moving and, at one point, is harnessed so he can fly all around like Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan. The boy we saw was the Russian kid as opposed to the American kid and the Hispanic kid who also play the role. Our Billy Elliot, while a great dancer, did have a habit of telegraphing his lines as if his acting coach was Mindy Cohn from The Facts of Life. You know what I mean. "I've got a great line to read. Here it comes. It's a profound line. Wait for it. Here it comes. Here it comes. I'm going to say something important." Overall, it didn't distract me as much as the two fressers alongside me, who kept having a problem with the British accents. "What did he say? What did she say? It's so confusing."

A terrific first act gave way to a second act which started to feel a little long. Once the conflict between Billy and his dance-hating dad is resolved, the plot is over. Except the show goes on for another 45 minutes. When the writer put the final script through for one last spellcheck, he should also have tried to cut a few moments as well. The show seemed to end about two dozen times. And, of course, when Billy hops off the stage with suitcase in hand and exits up the aisle, you just know that such a wonderful poignant moment can't be the end. Because today's Broadway audiences from Arkansas and Germany need to have the big Vegas finale. It's almost required of all musicals these days. Out comes the entire cast in tutus and taps for a rousing number straight from A Chorus Line. Overkill that had Miss Jessica Fletcher dusting off her magnifying glass several rows over.

Despite the 10PM bedsores, Billy Elliot: The Musical worked tremendously. It was fun and entertaining and oddly nostalgic for what Broadway used to be. Crowd pleasing when the crowd was smarter and tougher to please. These days, Fannie Flagg reading the phone book on stage gets a standing ovation from Mort and Marge who drove in from Hohokus, New Jersey. When the crowd stood at the end of Billy Elliot, it was truly warranted. But, in these days of overpraising mediocrity, the accolades merely get lost in the shuffle.

I stood up, too. Once I got some blood circulating back into the legs that were wedged up against my chin. At 125 smackers per ticket, can I just get one inch more please?

Dinner last night: Pre-theater dinner of grilled pork chop at Il Melograno.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hot Tuesday, Chili Wednesday


I've been smoked out of California for a while. Hunkering down in NY for a bit, where the only real danger is presented by the old people already loading into Radio City for that stupid Christmas show.

---Flying out of LAX yesterday, the City of Angels looked like an ash tray at an Al-Anon meeting.

---Last weekend, the smoke was all over the place. I was outside and had a retro sense of smell.

---Mom?

---I haven't seen that much smoke in one place since my mother settled for a Bette Davis marathon on Channel 5.

---All the glue from those 600 mobile homes that melted created a stench that enveloped the city.

---And still Mayor Villaraigosa smells worse.

---My car on Sunday got covered with a fine layer of ash. Somebody left the skylight open at the local crematorium.

---I was driving around with either the remains of your living room sofa or your uncle.

---Of course, in LA, your home is either burning, shaking, or sliding down a hill.

---And there's no sympathy from me for those people who buy homes near wooden areas, faults, or on sticks that are stuck into a hillside.

---And when these knuckleheads rebuild, they will put their new homes near wooden areas, faults, or on sticks that are stuck into a hillside.

---From the word of mouth department: I know people who saw "Quantum of Solace" over the weekend and they all said it was dreadful.

---James Bond is dead. Thank you, Daniel Craig.

---By next weekend, the box office take will probably drop by 75%. Bond will now be marked down to 005.

---Jon Voight was on my flight east. He now joins the list of those celebrities I have seen more than five times. Like Richard Benjamin, Bob Newhart, and Teri Hatcher.

---Frankly, I wish I could see Teri Hatcher a lot more.

---New York is cold and the black gloves came out. So did all the bacteria and soot from the heating systems in most buildings. Just as black.

---That was not a racist comment.

---By the way, Obama picked a Black guy for Attorney General.

---Why do I think that all their White House kitchen help will be White?

---The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is propped up and being decorated, so all is right with the world.

---The holiday movie playing this year at Radio City is "Father Goose" starring Cary Grant and Leslie Caron.

---Well, it was in 1964.

---Call me a hardass, but I don't really care about the Obama's search for a family dog.

---But I would care if I'm on the White House lawn during the next Easter Egg hunt.

---So, now the American car industry wants a bail out, too?

---There's one easy way to fix the US car makers. Make better cars!!

---A year ago, I rented a Dodge while my Toyota was being repaired. The sightlines were horrible, the seats were comfortable, and I wondered what had happened to the tuna fish which once occupied this can.

---And, in the Chevy Trail Blazer I have today in NY, the rear seats are so high that you can't see anything in the rear view mirror.

---Cheez, is the government also going to ante up for CC Sabathia, too?---Once President Barry looks at the federal ledgers, he's going to realize that he had more money to work with when he was running that NAACP cupcake sale.

---The most dangerous person in America right now is Nancy Pelosi. She's acting like some crazed housewife running around Kohl's with her husband's credit card.

---Will somebody give that lady some laundry to sort?

Time to chill out. And I'm in the right place to do it.

Dinner last night: Grilled chicken teriyaki and sesame noodles.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Sitcom is Alive!!!

Stop the presses! Tear up that death certificate! The television situation comedy has a pulse.

Faint, for sure. And what I have been seeing this season, the patient could easily suffer a relapse. But, I sample them every year because it is my business to know what is out there for our consumption. Oh, sure, NBC's got those Thursday night comedies which continue to be lost on me. I have no use for "My Name is Earl" as I find it impossible to like a show that features some peckerwood as the main character. "The Office" has little charm and my office tends to be much funnier. Molly Shannon is in some new junk that had such a jerky camera movement I was convinced it was filmed on the San Andreas Fault. And, despite periodic attempts to get into this media darling, "30 Rock" remains not my cup of tea.

Moving to CBS, I have no use for Julia Louis Dreyfuss' either old or new adventures of either old or new Christine. There's something called "Worst Week" which poisoned my vision after five minutes. Note to producers: don't put a negative word in your title. The viewers will automatically agree.

CBS Monday nights? I have trouble following "How I Met Your Mother" and ultimately don't care how you met anybody, thank you very much. I still watch "Two and a Half Men" only because I want to see Conchata Farrell's weekly three lines as the housekeeper. The humor and subtlety on that show has completely escaped and each week is now as inviting as a bus station toilet.

But "Two and a Half Men" producer Chuck Lorre has a winner about an hour earlier. In its second season, I heartily recommend to you "The Big Bang Theory."

Okay, it's not perfect. But it is a sitcom shot with four cameras in front of a live audience that is truly and heartily laughing like I used to hear on "Everybody Loves Raymond." The dialogue is smart, the casting is impeccable, and it brings you some characters you have never seen before on TV.

I watched from its premiere last season and the early episodes were bumpy as the writers searched long and hard for the character voices. But, now, everybody has their chops down and this show is humming. The true proof of the pudding is that American Airlines is now airing episodes and the laughter around the cabin is deafening.

"The Big Bang Theory" brings some new folks to television. Leonard and Sheldon are two mensa geniuses working in some scientific think tank. Their friends are also hyper-intelligent: one of them is a kid from India whose parents communicate with him from New Delhi via Webex. They are all geeks and weird and the type of people you find at comic book stores and sci-fi conventions. In one episode, the four of them dug down into a game of Klingon Bobble. It made no sense. It was hilarious. The protagonist in all this is their next door neighbor Penny, who is hundred times less smart and works as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory. In a way, this becomes a family comedy. An unrelated, terribly strange family, but a family nonetheless.

As Leonard and Sheldon, Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons channel younger versions of Frasier and Niles on steroids. More specifically, Parsons (pictured) is just about set to run away with this show. His delivery and timing is so spot-on that the writers are now gravitating toward him. He gets more and more of the plots and could be to this series what David Hyde Pierce was to "Frasier" and Michael J. Fox was to "Family Ties." This sometimes is not a good thing. You never want one character to upset the complete balance of the series. My fear is that this might happen in Season 3 or 4. But, until then, Parsons is gold and should also win some at the next Emmy Awards ceremony.

More importantly, "The Big Bang Theory" raises Lazarus from the dead. It brings back to our living rooms a traditional situation comedy that is really not as high concept as is written on the page. At the end of the day or the episode, it's funny. And that's all I want.

Dinner last night: Chopped salad from the Dressing Room.

Tomorrow from NYC!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 17, 2008

The best man is not always the best man.


Dinner last night: BLT at Cafe 50s.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Forward Roll

This is that time-honored athletic feat, the forward roll. Also known as the somersault. Trust me when I tell you that is not me in the picture. Because I have done one of these things just once in my life when I was about eight years old. And never again.

It was during my ill-fated attempt at attending a summer day camp. The Boys Club-sponsored Camp Mohawk. I was supposed to be there all summer, but I lasted just two weeks. What was supposed to be a field trip or some great activity every day turned out to be perhaps one bus trip and nothing but a daily eight-hour-long gym class. And, on one disastrous day, there were gymnastics. Rings, the ropes, and the balance beam. To me, all crap that is better left in the backyards of China.

But, it all started with the basics. We were to learn the proper way to do a forward roll. You know. You squat into a crouch. Lock your arms around you for support, tuck your head, and over.

Except I was afraid of it. A fear of being upside down, which also means I have no future as a pineapple-adorned cake. When it was my turn to crouch, tuck, and roll, I pretty much locked into position and wouldn't move. There was no way I was going to do this. The psychopath who doubled as our loving camp counselor wanted no part of my obstinance. He grabbed my feet and flung me over. I thought my neck was broken and did what any eight-year-old would do. I cried. Now, if this had happened in today's litigious society, this chowderhead would have been fired by the end of the day. But, back then, when I got home and told my parents about the inhumane treatment I had received from Attila the Hun, I got a non-reaction. And the usual command.

"Can you run to the grocery store? We're out of pickled beets."

With my back seemingly broken, there was no way I was going to run anywhere, regardless of our dire need for vacuum packed vegetables.

Of course, this forward roll phobia was now ingrained. And was reactivated every school year when our gym class moved to the mats every winter. So as not to repeat the torturous day camp scenario, I would concoct a plethora of ailments to get the much-craved gym excuse. Knowing approximately when gymnastics would be done in class, I systematically began to walk with a sprained ankle several weeks before. I treated the nurses' office as if it were my own condo and even got to the point where the lady was going to adopt me.

My parents decided that you conquer fear by meeting it head on. One school year, they made it their personal mission to get me to roll forward. My mother demonstrated it, probably with a cigarette in her mouth. My father showed me several times, perhaps as a result of one too many Schaefers at the local gin mill. And then out came the piece de resistance. The deal closer.

Grandma.

She told me that, if she could do one, so could I. And, then she promised that seeing would be believing. Out into the hall she went with every single cushion from every sofa and chair in the house. Laid out from wall to wall, Grandma had constructed her own Gold's gym. And, in lickity split fashion, she bent down, tucked her head, and rolled over. Only once. That was probably all her 70-plus years could muster. I was impressed. I was nonplussed. I was ashamed for making such a fuss all these years.

And, the very next week, I got my annual medical excuse for gym class.

I was happy to know that so many people in my family were so ahtletically gifted. As for me, I would simply write about it years later.

Dinner last night: Bacon burger at Pig N' Whistle.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Classic TV Theme of the Month - November 2008

The theme was sure infectious, but it was even more fun tuning in to see which TV C-listers were getting work that week. There are some real surprises in this typical opening from the show's first season.




Dinner last night: Sausage pizza from Maria's Italian Kitchen.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Your November 2008 Weekend Movie Guide

This theater in Yonkers, NY is a favorite memory for me and my neighborhood friends, most notably blogger and reader 15thAveBud. It was easy to walk to and always had a double feature on Saturday afternoons. Unfortunately, we don't have many of these little gems left. But, if you're opting for the techno-saavy and glitzy multiplex this weekend, here's what you might find in my regular monthly feature. I'll flip through the LA Times and give you my gut's gut on whether you should. Or, more likely, shouldn't.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua: Still hanging around and still missing the newspaper spread out on the kitchen floor.

Quantum of Solace: For the first time ever, I am not looking forward to a James Bond installment. After the ultra dreary Casino Royale, I am not digging Daniel Craig as 007. Is George Lazenby still alive? Granted he was predeceased by his career.

Madagascar 2: Liked the first one and liked this one a little less. This is the flick I saw at the Studio Movie Grill in Dallas. Movie: 2 stars. Pizza: 3 stars.

Slumdog Millionaire: Irish director Danny Boyle teaming up with Regis Philbin? Either way, we lose.

Body of Lies: I have skipped because people have told me it's utterly confusing. I don't need to spend 14 bucks to have that happen. A movie that, for me, falls victim to belt tightening.

Synedoche, New York: Charlie Kaufman's movies are totally incoherent and I wouldn't see this even if the economy was doing well. A mystery talent as a director.

Changeling: Good, old fashioned movie making.

W.: I went to a bargain matinee because I was curious. Josh Brolin was quite good, but, at the end of the day, did this merit a movie?

High School Musical 3 Senior Year: Singing and dancing in high school? I was lucky to get home with my bookbag in one piece.

Rachel Getting Married: Didn't this already happen on Friends?

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: One more movie about the Holocaust. Enough please! Let's just hope those stripes aren't brown.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno: When does Hollywood give Seth Rogan that temporary restraining order?

Happy-Go-Lucky: Home movies of Sarah Palin's last moose hunting trip.

What Just Married: One long inside joke about a Hollywood producer. I liked it, but I doubt it plays well at the Studio Movie Grill in Plano, Texas.

Twilight: I'm not a twelve-year-old girl. I saw the lead from a distance at that Dallas mall and that's pretty much the sum total of eye time he will get from me.

The Haunting of Molly Hartley: Did Bob and Emily finally have a child?

Max Payne:...in the neck.

Secret Life of Bees: Don't tell me we have to bail them out, too??

Role Models: To my great surprise, I saw this movie. And, to my even greater surprise, I liked it. For one of those raunchy guy movies, it had quite the sweet story. Okay, I enjoyed a Paul Rudd movie. We have inched even closer to the apocalypse.

Soul Men: Noteworthy only because it's the final screen appearance of Bernie Mac and Issac Hayes. Er, that's not enough for me. I'll say goodbye to you guys right here.

Pride and Glory: Is this like that old sitcom Hope and Faith? Might be great on a double bill with Sweet Charity.

A Christmas Tale: Holiday family dysfunction from France. Is there any other kind? Tout Amour Raymond?

JCVD: Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself in a pseudo-documentary about Jean-Claude Van Damme. Jean-Claude Van Damme Amour Jean-Claude Van Damme?

Pray The Devil Back to Hell: Perhaps a movie about the current mantra of the Republican National Committee.

I've Loved You So Long: Some dreariness from Kristin Scott Thomas who is simply Ambien on the silver screen.

Fireproof: Holy roller Kirk Cameron fights arson and meets Jesus. All before lunch.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Remember the day when you ran to see a Woody Allen movie? Now, he's pretty much exclusively in the "rental" category.

Antarctica: No clue what this is about, but I do know some Republican friends who are moving there.

As for me, I will be seeing Tyrone Power in "The Razor's Edge" at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.

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


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dinner in a Movie


One of my more confusing and yet pleasing haunts on sojourns to Dallas has been the Studio Movie Grill. I've been there twice already and it is the strangest concept yet. You eat your dinner in the theater while the movie is playing. I will illuminate.

Of course, this is a great way to combine two Saturday night excursions in one sitting. Also amazingly compact. If you go on a movie date and you just can't wait to ditch the other party, you no longer have to sit through a seemingly endless dinner after enduring some piece of dreck with Sandra Bullock. This way, your evening is over in half the time and you can go home to curse the person who set you up with whatever horror you picked up earlier that night.

You buy your tickets to whichever film and screen you want to see. The ticket seller hands you a menu and then you're off to your dining/viewing room. It's a regular theater except there are counters and fancy snack tables scattered about. A waiter comes by. You can eat before the film, which certainly makes those pre-show real estate ads and movie trivia quizes go by a lot quicker. Or you can make the mistake I did the first time I was there and order the rib basket sampler to show up 30 minutes into the flick. There is no messier experience than eating pork ribs in the dark. I am still seeing specks of barbecue sauce underneath my fingernails.

The other night, we had a pizza before the movie and this worked fine. But, repeating a previous sin, sundaes were ordered for dessert. And they showed up mid-film. I found so much chocolate sauce on my face that I must have looked like baby's first birthday party. Of course, we're not talking restaurant fare from Wolfgang Puck. Your choices here are burgers and sandwiches and pizza.

When the movie ended, I looked around the empty theater. A much tougher clean-up. Unlike popcorn kernels, ketchup poured over French fries is not easily swept up. And, from what I could see, if the patrons around me are as sloppy in their own homes as they are in these theaters, I need to start a carpet cleaning service based right outside Plano, Texas.

Dinner last night: Grilled ham back in LA.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Deep in the Heart of Wednesday

Greetings from the Heartland of America. Chevy trucks in every driveway.

---Here I am in a state that actually voted for McCain. They are waiting for a late surge of absentee ballots.

---Actually, I think some of the goofballs here are still waiting for Alf Landon.

---I saw a fresh new bumper sticker: "Don't blame me. I voted for John McCain."

---Yeah, the only hope they want to see here is in "The Road to Morocco" with Bing Crosby.

---There's already a long line of senior citizens waiting their turn to play checkers with George W.

---When you fly into Dallas, you realize how flat and brown it is.

---You have to land before you can tell how stupid it is.

---There's a steakhouse on every corner and probably not a single cholesterol controlling statin in the entire state.

---My hotel here is always the Westin Galleria and there's a mall and an ice skating rink right in the lobby. Ice skating in Texas seems as odd as sunscreen in Alaska.

---I woke up Tuesday to find every 12 year-old girl in the city of Dallas descending upon the mall and the hotel because the star of "Twilight" was going to be making a personal appearance that night.

---It would have been like a pedophile went to Candy Land.

---By the way, most hotel rooms now have flat screen TVs. Except they never adjust the aspect ratio.

---My eyes never adjusted and everybody I saw the next day looked like that kid on "Family Guy."

---Had my first experience on Dallas' Light Rail system. The only trouble is there was nobody that light on it.

---Is there a bum convention in town?

---So, the Lincoln bedroom overnight guest list has gone from Winston Churchill who managed his country with brilliance and now probably Oprah Winfrey who has singlehanded contributed to the dumbing down of America.

---You just know she's going to get up in the middle of the night and clog the toilet.

---On election day, I loved those tears rolling down Jesse Jackson's face.

---They were not sobs of joy. It was the day when his race-baiting business model finally collapsed.

---I wonder if he's having a clearance sale. Picket signs half off. Bricks and rocks are 10 for a dollar.

---And now Al Sharpton might as well see if he can get a gig as the next spokesperson for Jenny Craig.

---To celebrate Obama's election, my pastor wants to put together a time capsule which we will open in five to ten years.

---I suggested that my contribution should be a copy of my 2008 tax return.

---Since the gay marriage proposition got voted down in California, the homosexual community en masse held a protest in front of a Mormon temple near my house.

---Helicopters flying around all night made me feel like I was sleeping in Hanoi.

---Best picket sign I saw on TV: "You have 5 wives. Why can't I have one?"

---Like the Mormons are any better. If one out of every four people is gay, which one of the Osmonds is tagged?

---I've always had my thoughts about Marie Osmond. As if she was never under the gym bleachers with her best friend Trudy?

---Okay, everybody knows Nancy Reagan is a loon, but Barry Obama didn't need to throw her under the bus in his first press conference.

---Let's see if Michelle can fit into one of those signature red dresses. With that fat ass, she'd look like a fire engine speeding down Wilshire.

Getting on my horse and riding West. See ya tomorrow, cow pokes.

Mushroom and sausage pizza at the Studio Movie Grill in Plano, Texas. Blog details to come.




Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Family Feud



Except for sports stations during the baseball season, I've never been a big fan of talk radio. (This despite having an association with several of the bigger national hosts.) I've always assumed the average listener to be a shut-in seated in a wheelchair, busying himself until it's time to watch the nightly news and then Wheel of Fortune.

But, last spring, the Dodgers were moving back to their old radio home, KABC. To get set for the season, I made KABC a locked-in button on my AM dial in the car. I must have been practicing my speed in punching up the station because I found myself starting to listen to it. Before I knew it, I was sucked in like a piece of carpet lint under an Electrolux.

While most would call KABC a conservative-leaning station, their daily hosts offered me enough of a variety of opinions that this moderate and centrist didn't feel dirtied more or less in any one direction. For instance, their morning guy, Doug McIntyre, is closer to a moderate than you would expect to find on such a station. Moreover, the guy is very funny and married to actress Penny Peyser, who I always thought was a fox. Doug is a geek when it comes to Presidential history and the show is always an education for me.

Their afternoon drive guy is another delicious story. Larry Elder is a liberatarian, but always seems to make an awful lot of sense from that very extreme end of the spectrum. More importantly, Larry is that rare Black guy who calls out his own race. Indeed, Elder's contention is that the only racism in America for the past twenty years has been Blacks hating Whites. As a result, you mention his name to Black people and they snarl uncontrollably. When I was purchasing one of his books at Borders, "Stupid Black Men," a Black man on the checkout line behind me actually called me for reading such trash. Meanwhile, the book makes thousands of salient points, and Elder actually was writing about the rantings and raving of Reverend Jeremiah Wright two years before anybody knew who he was.

Their midday guy is somebody named Al Rantel, and I am less familiar with him. He was off the air for a long while recuperating from cancer, but, when I finally sampled him for a bit, I found his opinions a little wishy washy. He seemed like the kid at the school lunch table who would always side with the one who was winning at the moment.

Yet, over the last seven or eight months, I felt I learned an awful lot about the political scene in this country. Some of it I bought. Some of it I didn't. But, it was all compelling radio nonetheless.

And then there was Election Night. While I eschewed much of the TV coverage to watch some Popeye cartoons from the 30s, I did dial into KABC for their roundtable wrap-up featuring McIntyre, Elder, and Rantel. And I was horrified to hear the level of vitriole between these three guys. It seems that, while they did not subscribe to any of Barack Obama's stances on the pertinent issues, both Doug and Al confessed to voting for him. When pressed as to why, they both raised the obligatory flag for "change." To say that this did not sit well with Larry Elder is an understatement. He pressed them for a better rationale. They had none. This erupted into a live on-air argument that sounded like a bunch of uncles fighting at the Thanksgiving dinner table. As engaging as it was, it was also incredibly unsettling.

Of course, they all took this into separate corners on their respective shows. Doug called in to Larry's show the next day in an effort to explain himself a bit more coherently. No dice. The anger from both guys surfaced all over again. I wondered to myself how much fun it would be to go to this year's KABC Christmas party. Now, all three guys are referring to each other with nasty nicknames and I am thinking that KABC's general manager will be blowing a whistle very shortly. Indeed, Elder has even gone as far as to say that McIntyre and Rantel have softened their political stances because they don't want to be targets for unemployment if the Democrats put the Fairness Doctrine in play during 2009.

Of course, I thought about my own surroundings. I considered those friends that I can discuss politics with and those that I can't. I remembered an argument during coffee house at my church just one month ago. Crazy statements of intolerance from my nutty pastor that had some congregation members scrambling for the door. I know of one person whose McCain/Palin bumper sticker prompted his car to be keyed and doused with coffee by a well dressed Black woman who also screamed that this complete stranger was a racist. Unfortunately, none of this went away the day after Obama's election win. And none of it will be gone anytime soon.

Healing at both KABC and our nation will take a long, long while.

Dinner last night: Ribeye steak at Morton's in Dallas. Right across from the Texas School Book Depository. Photo essay on Dealey Plaza coming next week.



Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 10, 2008

Seeing is believing. Mr. Ed hits an inside-the-park homerun off Sandy Koufax at Dodger Stadium.


Dinner last night: French toast at Cafe 50s.

Dinner last night:


Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Class Trips


Over the years, I've heard about some really nifty class trips taken by the kids of my friends. Washington DC, Canada, Europe.
Me? I went to Manhattan. Twice. On two of the perhaps most miscalculated excursions for seventh or eighth graders.
I had a music teacher, Mr. Ferraro, who liked to indoctrinate us all in the various forms of musical presentations. At Christmas time, we dug into "Amahl and the Night Visitors" for a while. And, for some reason, he loved to get us wrapped up with Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. Remembering now a little bit more about Mr. Ferraro, I probably should not have been surprised by that.
And then he tried to bring us into the world of opera.
He got us a special deal to go down to the Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center for a Wednesday matinee performance of Mozart's "The Magic Flute." For weeks before, we took entire classes to listen to the music and read the libretto. Every nuance of the story was studied and digested. God help us, we were going to get cultured.
Except Mr. Ferraro had goofed. He had acted so quickly on that great deal of tickets he had neglected to note that this afternoon's performance of "The Magic Flute" would be done in German. "Die Zauberflote."
Huh????
All the English libretto advance work went up in flames as the first word was sung by somebody who might as well have been reading us "Mein Kampf." The scene in our balcony turned ugly very quickly. Bic pens were hallowed out to be used for spitballs. Mr. Ferraro got the brunt of the spit-laden wads. Never before had Lincoln Center been the scene of such a battle. Three hours of singing the word "schnitzel" over and over seemed longer and more deadly than the Battle of the Bulge.
My class trip two years later wouldn't be much better. It was English class taught by Miss Dennis, a nasty bit of business who also loved to cram some Broadway dramas down our windpipes. Remembering now a little bit more about Miss Dennis, I also should not have been surprised. Nevertheless, she wanted to bring us to the "theatrah" and did so by scoring a great deal on tickets to a Wednesday matinee performance of Joseph Heller's "We Bombed in New Haven" and it bombed in New York as well. This would be my first ever Broadway show. It is miraculous that it was not my last.
Perhaps this was a play that Miss Dennis desperately wanted to see. Because, had she done a little homework, she would have realized that this was not one suited for a bunch of thirteen-year-olds who were still being challenged by last night's episode of "I Dream of Jeannie." I think this was an anti-war piece. Or existential? Or about saving an endangered mule? We had no clue. This thing was so far over our heads, most of us wound up in catatonic states high up in the balcony of the Ambassador Theater. With Bic pens not available, we resorted to another teen-age pastime: snoring. I've done some research and I see that this play starred Jason Robards Jr., Diana Sands, and Ron Liebman. Unless they were appearing on the back of my eyelids that afternoon, I never saw any of them.
The yellow school bus never looked more inviting than on the trip home from these two disasters.
Dinner last night: Sausage and peppers sandwich at Vito's.












Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wow! It's a Puppycam!

Because we all need to smile now and then. Feel free to travel back here frequently.




Dinner last night: Orange chicken from Panda Express.

Friday, November 7, 2008

"It is 10PM. Do You Know Where Your Children Are?"


A whole bunch of decades ago, this was the announcement made just prior to NY's Metromedia Channel 5's nightly newscast hosted by that always ominous sounding anchorman Bill Jorgensen. He could make the Mets' winning the World Series sound like a nuclear attack. This guy really gave me nightmares.

The same announcement could have been the pitch meeting for Clint Eastwood's newest movie, "Changeling." At the very least, director Eastwood knows how to tell a story and always in a highly stylized manner. You might not like his films but you always leave the theater knowing you have learned something and seen something. Generally, you don't get the same feeling after a Will Smith movie. Except perhaps that you learn that you've seen nothing for your fourteen books.

"Changeling" tells the allegedly true story of Christine Collins, a single hard-working mom in 1928 Los Angeles, whose son suddenly disappears. The LA police, as inept then as they are now, find the kid, but Mom says it isn't. How can that be? I'm not saying. But the journey is one, while a trifle long at 2 hours and 30 minutes, you want to make. Because the personal drama and police corruption and sleazy political machinations could have been ripped out of the pages of today's Los Angeles Times. The story grabs hold and doesn't let go. There are two plot threads that you know will come together. Yet, you are still surprised when they do towards the end.

Clint crafts a terrific visual treat. It almost appears as if the movie was filmed eighty years ago. The trolleys, the automobiles, the sparse landscape of then downtown Los Angeles all look and feel right. The only thing missing was a shot of people lined up for a 10 cent French Dip sandwich at Philippe's, which was already in business back then.

Thanks to the director, I can now say that I have finally enjoyed and appreciated Angelina Jolie as an actress. Now, I will admit that she is a kook who can act. She actually looks like she was there in 1928 Los Angeles, worrying second-by-second over the son that has apparently morphed into the smog. Despite the trauma of her life, you never see the character without about a pound of lip gloss on her face. Of course, that was the way it was back then. Lots of women wouldn't leave their houses if they hadn't applied make-up with a spatula. The make-up alone should get an Oscar nomination. It almost acted like another character in the movie.

Nevertheless, as much as I enjoyed "Changeling," a major plot point nagged me as I left the theater. And bothered me the next day. And is still bothering me today. When the Angelina Jolie character tries to explain to the police that this kid is not her son, she does so by showing that his height is smaller and that this kid is circumcised while her son was not. Even though that would be a solid line of defense in most courts, the cops dismiss it all. Yet, the easiest way this woman could have fought back was by simply showing them a picture of her son. I could not believe that this mother didn't have a single photo or even one of those tintypes. Of course, had this happened, the movie wouldn't have been longer than your average Popeye cartoon. Who knows? Maybe the real woman did not have a photo, so Eastwood focused on realism. Yet, it's still a plot turn that almost sinks the movie.

But doesn't. See it. "Changeling" is for smart moviegoers. And, if you're from New York, it will remind you of that sinister Bill Jorgensen all over again.

No wonder I haven't been sleeping at night.

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

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Stuff My Parents Threw Out

"You don't play with this anymore. It's going in the garbage."

And, with that abrupt dismissal, some toy or game of mine winds up in the garbage. Or even worse...the Salvation Army. Now I look at some of those childhood relics on e-Bay and watch as one man's trash becomes another man's...well, refuse. But, nevertheless, money changes hands here and it's just one more opportunity for me to be reminded to say...

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Take, for instance, the Game of Life pictured on the right. It was an education in itself. You moved your little convertible around the board. You went to college, you got married, and you had kids. All the while you are trying to achieve the American Dream. Unfortunately, the game didn't include real life dilemmas. Divorce, illness, and probate. You will note that this original version has a picture of Art Linkletter on the box and his picture, for some bizarre reason, was also on the game money. Did he indeed endorse this? No clue, but it all led to a rather tragic irony years later when his drug-laden daughter fell off a West Hollywood building terrace. The joke became this: Art Linkletter's daughter played the Game of Life and lost.


My neighborhood friends and I loved the home version of any TV game show and Password was no exception. We fought over who got to be Allen Ludden and we also picked celebrities we wanted to be. Nobody ever selected Peggy Cass. The problem with this game was the little leather packets the secret words came in. It used that red 3-D nonsense and, if the plastic got dirty, the password would indeed be secret to everybody.

I can't blame my parents for tossing the 1964 Met yearbook. I'm the culprit there. Who knew that this revised edition of the first Met season at Shea Stadium would be worth so much money to collectors? If I had known the dough I could have made from it, I wouldn't have ripped it up in disgust during a July 1965 losing streak.




Puppets provided the very first forum for me to put on shows. Not for an audience. For myself. I would have these things talking to each other for hours. And belting each other in the head. I had three of the four pictured on the right. I didn't own a blonde bombshell. I can't believe there was ever such a thing as a Jayne Mansfield puppet. Imagine the jokes you could do about where you put your hand.


When I got a little older, I graduated to the ventriloquian action figure. More commonly, the dummy. I would carry Jerry Mahoney everywhere. At one point, his arm fell off and my grandmother took him into her bedroom for the "operation." I waited outside the door and held my breath as she threw Jerry under the sewing machine needle. But, the body, just as in life, eventually failed him. Plastic, however, is forever. I still have Jerry's head and it sits atop the microwave oven in my NY apartment.

These little Disneykins are also worth a lot of jack on eBay these days. For me, they were again characters that would play out on the storylines in my mind. My favorite spot to play with them was during the summer around the big fan in the kitchen. Each part of the window around the fan was another apartment in this big building that was cooled by this huge spinning machine. I told you I was weird, didn't I? The cast list for this drawer always decreased over July and August as, one by one, each of these Disney characters fell during the fan and would reside inside the fan screen until my father would take it down in September.



Around the time that Sean Connery got hot as James Bond, they made some action figures from some of the characters. Oddjob was the killer in "Goldfinger." He would kill people by flinging his derby hat at them. And the action figure worked the same way. You snapped the arm and the hat went flying. I think it was two good snaps before the hat fell down behind my grandmother's couch and wasn't going to be retrieved until it was time for spring cleaning. My father was happy to see me get tired of this thing. He had some concerns. "You're playing with a Chinese doll?"

Ages before Alex Trebek and countless computer games devoted to the TV show, there was this home version of Jeopardy. It had the all-encompassing label of "for ages 10 to adult." Is that to say that a ten-year-old could actually match up with an adult in intelligence? While today's version is easily loaded on any PC, this game was actually a bitch to set up. You had to manually slip in the dollar tabs on each and every question for each and every category. By the time you were ready to play, it was either time for Soupy Sales or bed.

Dinner last night: Grilled chicken sandwich at Islands.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Forecast for Wednesday: Sunny with a Chance of Rain

To that half of our country who is pissed this morning...I told you the sun was coming up today regardless.

---It's official: let the race for 2012 now begin!

---Now Sarah Palin is free to do a sitcom for Fox. Sarah, I have ideas. Call me. We can do the pitch meeting together.

---And McCain can finally get back to the early bird special at Boston Market.

---Why do I think he has six months of "Murder She Wrote" episodes backlogged on his TiVo?

---Wait till Obama gets into the White House and sees all those secret passageways JFK used to shuttle in the babes.

---There'll be one major difference between an Obama presidency and a Kennedy presidency. I doubt Angie Dickinson can still get down on her knees in the Oval Office.

---JFK's first year in the White House was called Camelot. And that's probably because he did.

---I will pause while you get that joke.

---Still waiting.

---Still waiting.

---Okay, I can move on.

---While Chicago celebrated like crazy last night, I'm guessing they would still trade in an Obama victory for a Cub World Series parade.

---Oprah was probably so excited she might even have slept with Stedman.

---Good news for Obama's illegal alien aunt: under his term, she can get a driver's license, too.

---All voting at the same Chicago polling place: Barack Obama, William Ayers, Louis Farrakahn, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

---I doubt they carpooled.

---I still think that our electoral process should have the loser become the vice president. A great way to force bipartisan unity. The only diff is that the President gets the window office.

---Now that electioneering is over, the global warming hysterics can finally stop flooding my mailbox with literature devoted to saving the environment.

---If you're thinking you might need an ultrasound three or four years down the road, I would suggest you make your appointment now.

---Is it possible to pre-plan for cancer?

---Does this all mean that Demond Wilson will be up for Kennedy Center honors next year?

---Listening to all those crazy exit polls, people were saying that the economy is the biggest problem facing America today. What about the New York Met bullpen?

---Okay, you Obama kids, no running around the White House halls with that grape soda!!

---From the silver lining department: won't it be fun to have that idiot Joe Biden hanging around for the next four years?

---Now, this lunkhead has already gone public with the news that our foreign enemies will most certainly challenge President Obama in his first year.

---Joe, can you give me some exact dates so I can clear my schedule?

---And, hopefully, it won't be during the summer. It's tough to sync up that international crisis around my Dodger games and the Hollywood Bowl.

I'm headed down to my bunker now. See ya for more laughs tomorrow.

Dinner last night: Salad bar from Gelson's.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Heartily Endorse for President...


...no one.

Gotcha. But, now that I have your attention...

A while back, I made the conscious decision in this blog to refrain from excessive entries on the Presidential race. And, except for the usual and frequently expected snarky bon mots on my Wednesday free-for-alls, I have pretty much held to that. I want this blog to be fun and memorable and inviting. Sadly, the American political scene is none of that.

Oh, I will vote today. On the way home from work, I will stop off at my friendly local synagogue and commune briefly with the industrious senior citizens of the Westwood community, some of whom have not been out of the house since Mamie Eisenhower picked out the Oval Office drapes. I will watch as they laboriously try to find my name, running their ruler up and down the registration page. And I will get my "I Voted" sticker, which apparently gets me a free Starbucks, a donut, and maybe even a La-Z-Boy recliner. These days, we apparently need incentive to enjoy freedom.

I will hold my nose and my breath and then imagine a Silkwood-like shower as I leave my chads carefully but regretfully punched. An incredibly easy process which I know later today will confound many of the idiots across the fair land---most of which probably voting for the first time in their lives. Finally, some of them at last care. And all that took was a candidate with a matching skin pigmentation.

At the end of today or any day, I don't really care how you voted, my esteemed friends. And, at the end of today or any other day, I hope you don't really care how I voted either. I guess the fact that we actually have the ability to still choose a leader is our ultimate and only victory. Because, truly, at the end of today or any day, we are all screwed. We have been presented with perhaps the worst choice ever offered to the national voting populace. In a campaign process that seemed to last for years and was perhaps one of the vilest ever. Lies, accusations, and mis-truths disguised as facts for an unassuming---and sadly, stupid---group of citizens.

I jokingly asked a British-born friend of mine if she thought England might be interested in taking our country back. After all, America's founding fathers fought for independence because they were enduring "taxation without representation." Well, shit, I'm being taxed (probably more in 2009) and nobody is representing me. The moderate-leaning independent voter who subscribes neither to the wild-eyed radical left or the wild-eyed radical right. So, I reasoned, why don't we just go back to England and offer them a deal? You get America and Manny Ramirez back for four years and an option for a fifth. Sadly, she thought that Britain is probably no longer interested.

Regretfully, I'm not interested either. While being a tiny bit closer to the moderate stance I crave, John McCain looked like he would have a great choice for President about 15 years ago. In 2008, he looked like he had a stone in his shoe the entire time. And, in reality, he had two major albatrosses around his size 15 neck. Apparently, he's been seen in some photos alongside George W. Bush and that, of course, is never a positive alliance. He probably would have been better off standing next to Ben-Hur's mother and sister in the leper colony. Of course, as soon as the economy tanked, McCain didn't have a chance. He could have reunited the original four Beatles on stage and still not moved in the polls. Forget that this economy started to head south more than a decade ago. The guy in charge right now is a Republican. John McCain is a Republican. See ya!

As for Barack Obama, he is in the right place at the right time. A liberal Ronald Reagan in 1980. This, despite the fact that he is absolutely the wrong guy to be in the right place at the right time. When he announces at a campaign stop that he is going to "change the world," I think about where I have heard those same words from a national leader. Perhaps that madcap guy with the bad haircut, the funny moustache, and a lot of blond 20 year-olds in goose step formation. Obama says he is going to unite the world and change our lives. Yet, he couldn't even get the south side of Chicago fixed. Just ask Jennifer Hudson who's burying her family at the moment. People have called him a prophet, Moses, the second coming, and John F. Kennedy. He is none of these things. Barack Obama is merely a smart and shifty politician who has gotten incredibly lucky as a result of a spot-on marketing campaign conducted by---Barack Obama. By March 1, 2009, with tons of promises he can't possibly keep, President Obama will be knee-deep in shit from his own sewer.

Essentially, with the economy the main issue, this election will probably find the public opting for the devil they don't know instead of the devil they think they know. And it will be a devil of a time for all of us regardless. Because, indeed, until this country moves away from the canyon that has been caused by the Democratic and Republican parties, none of us will have a chance. Democracy, or life as we have enjoyed it, is not infinite. The Roman Empire was apparently this bitching society. Yet, that lasted only 600 years. Any bets on whether the great United States of America makes it to 300?

And remember that it is the United States of America. Let me repeat. The United STATES of America. The states are supposed to be the focal point. The federal government is supposed to be there to merely set a framework and protect. Nowhere in the Constitution is there any mention of guaranteed home ownership or free cheese. The further we move from this tenet, the sorrier we become as a nation. Until this country has a true moderate perspective, we will continue to have these bipolar national mood swings that renders the nation as an incoherent mess.

Amid all the babble that has been offered up by McCain and Obama, the biggest problem of this nation right now has been largely ignored. Immigration. From a time of our hard working great grandparents and grandparents and parents, we have become nothing more than a third world dumpster. And I truly resent that my hard earned money and yours is earmarked for any of these people. Never discussed at all by the two fools on the ballot. Of course, if it had been mentioned, the first person to get dropkicked across the pond would be Obama's shriveled old aunt, here illegally in public housing illegally and donating money to his campaign illegally. Obama said he has had trouble getting in contact with her, but a London newspaper had no problem tracking her down. For Pete's sake, I have cousins I haven't seen or spoken to in almost 20 years but I would certainly know where to find them today if I had to. More bullshit served piping hot over toast.

In our new and changed world, I will also need to alert my chosen and favorite charities. I am generous with my money and always have been. With St. Jude's. Juvenile Diabetes. My church. With higher taxes, I (and probably a lot of other folks) will have less to give to them. Unfortunately, my chosen charity will now be some shiftless lazy slob on the South Side of Chicago.

So, if you can connect all of these dots, you probably can figure that my vote is going begrudgingly to the guy who looks like your friendly neighborhood Walgren's pharmacist. Looking at an unofficial poll of where 50 or so of my friends lean, the percentage breakout is about 75-25 in favor of McCain. My canvassing, like all the other ones, means nothing. Truly, McCain is a candidate whose time has come and gone a long while ago. Indeed, history dictates that we now need to swing back in that other crazy direction for a while. But, I am also well aware that we, as a country, will never ever be in a good place until that pendulum stops swinging at all. And I will add one more slice of my life. If the skin color of these two guys was reversed, my vote remains the same. I don't care what your color is. Except, of course, if it's green and you look like you will be throwing up on my shoes.

So, I now archive this election to my back burner. Given that there will be no Tim Russert running around with his slateboard, I will eschew the watching of any coverage. No need to check in with Brit Hume or Katie Couric or Keith Olbermann (will his aorta please shut down soon!). I will bury myself in the Little Rascals DVD collection. I will watch a bunch of depression-aged kids, both white and black, work side-by-side to build a makeshift fire engine. I will revel in what this country used to be. And will never be again.

But, for now...at least, today, freedom is still ringing. As for tomorrow, fun returns to this blog.

Dinner last night: Crispy spicy beef at the Cheesecake Factory.