Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 30, 2009

Old people fighting? Always funny!

Dinner last night: Thanksgiving leftovers.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Going to the Doctor

At least you got a lollipop when it was over.

When I was a youngster, I dreaded a visit to my pediatrician, Dr. Fiegoli. Because there was pain involved. Vaccinations, always in the most tender part of the arm. Sometimes a needle in the ass. And, with his Snidely Whiplash-like moustache and booming voice, it was tough to find a comforting moment while you were lying on that wax paper.


I'd look at him with acute indignation. Are you fucking kidding me??? Or whatever the five-year-old version of that expletive is.

As I wrote a few weeks back, Dr. Fiegoli made house calls when I was sick at home. Even the doorbell heralding his arrival gave me shudders. But, when I was healthy and needed to see him for the annual physical or some school-mandated shots, I was dragged to his home. The waiting room was quiet. Serene. As comfortable as your grandmother's living room. The only thing missing was plastic slipcovers. But, beyond the door, there were sinister doings at hand. Enter past that portal and your body openings and extremities didn't stand a chance.

Yep, Dr. Fiegoli was going to take the simple act of looking into your ear and turn it into an act of pre-meditated violence.

My wails would start as soon as I was put on the examining table. Frequently, my mother was his appointed accomplice. Holding me down like Bruno Sammartino trying to pin Gorilla Monsoon on last Saturday night's episode of Heavyweight Wrestling. Now I eyed both of them suspiciously. Did they plan these manuevers in advance? Don't you realize I'm just a kid??

One visitation to Dr. Fiegoli's House of Horrors ended very differently, though. Usually, the bestowing of an all day sucker was performed after he was done probing the one-hour sucker that was me. But, oddly, my mom and I were led into his office. Have a seat, please. I was confused. And I only caught every other word out of his mouth.

"Should have...concerned...maybe a Vernon Hospital."

I looked at my mom. She had a worried look on her face. Obviously, Dr. Fiegoli was not talking to her about last week's episode of "Ben Casey." I surveyed the situation at hand and applied my kindergarten-grown logic.


My non-audible scream morphed into tears. I was consoled immediately. It would be okay, said Dr. Fiegoli. Oh, and, here, Mom, is the card of a recommended surgeon.


At home, over the soothing influence of some Bosco-infused milk, my mother explained the issue at hand. To paraphrase for those of you with weak hearts, something in the groinecological area (thank you, Archie Bunker) had not happened as it normally would have in a BOY of my age. So, to prevent complications way down the puberty road, it was wise to have it taken care of now. With surgery. Back then, there was no such thing as an outpatient procedure. You were knocked out, cut up, sewed back together, and it all required an overnight stay. My mom got a little off-topic by starting to talk about all the ice cream I would get to eat after the operation. Er, excuse me, lady, we ain't talking tonsils here.

"Oh. Right."

The specter of this surgery hung over my head for a while. And then it was rarely talked about at all. In fact, it was pretty much ignored. The good news is that my parents never pressed the point. The bad news is that my parents never pressed the point. And, eventually, the visits to Dr. Fiegoli became infrequent. There were virtually no annual physicals. The problem was there. The problem wasn't there. Even I forgot all about it.

Until years later...

And how that's for a Sunday Memory Drawer cliffhanger. The saga continues next week.

Dinner last night: Sausage cacciatore @ Miceli's.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - November 2009

Be forewarned. Jerry Lewis is coming our way!

Dinner last night: BLT sandwich at Cafe 50s diner.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Thousand Days...or So....

This photo would be great if my last name was Kershaw. It is not. But, the young leftie is one of my favorite Dodgers. And this is my favorite baseball number. So, there's one more thing you just learned from this blog, which this week (Wednesday) featured its 1,000th entry.

Yes, a thousand days...or so. Just like JFK's administration, which explains why the bubbletop is on my limousine today. Oh, there were a few times where I posted twice in one day. And I reserve the right to do that again when situations warrant my comments. A Dodger World Series win. Obama falling down the stairs of Air Force One. But, generally, I'm here with you once a day and I am so friggin' delighted that you are as well.

Site Meter has shown me with readers in Canada, Germany, Holland, and, on one day, Africa. I'm guessing that person hasn't been back since. And who would blame them?

Feeling pensive and retrospective, I ambled back to Day One, Post One. How did this start? Remember when? Please cue the usual flashback music.

Jell-o, this is Jack Benny speaking. This is 2009 Len with commentary. As you can see, I was experimenting with colors back when. And apparently channeling dead radio hosts. What was I thinking? Readers would have to be over 80 to get that reference. Perhaps I should have stopped right then and there.

Well, not really. But I am commencing a new chapter in my world. I have been intrigued by some of the personal blogs I have read from friends, people in the industry, etc.. I never really got into doing a daily journal, but this might be a good venue to start. You'll have to admit that reading this daily journal is a lot more fun than reading the works of Sylvia Plath, who is continually searching how to kick the stool out from under her feet.

I can muse everyday on whatever is on my mind. Hopefully, this will be a good way to stay connected with folks. And, this is an ideal offshoot of that Christmas newsletter I do---an annual device which has obviously been well-received, although I start it as a complete goof. Now this brings up an interesting development. Once I started spitting this stuff out on a daily basis, I thought I could naturally cut down on that Christmas newsletter. After all, I've clued you all in on the most important developments of my life here. Why do I need to repeat it on some fancy Christmas stationery? So, when I hit the holiday season of my first blog year, I pretty much went down to a one-page newsletter and simply pointed everybody to a blog link. You have no idea the negative reaction that received. What am I? A word machine? Keep in mind that this sucker is free. Where can you find this kind of merriment on a daily basis? And you want extra at Christmas time?? How about a tip for the service I am providing? Like your mailman. Your newspaper delivery guy. Your housekeeper. The man who picks up your garbage. Okay, I actually went one too far. One might counter that the last reference might be too easily linked to my blog.

It will take me a while to learn how to upload pictures and all those other do-hickeys on my computer. And I am sure that, at some point very early on, I will write a completely captivating entry only to lose it in cyberspace. Actually, the picture loading got pretty easy. Recently, however, they have moved some shit around the site to make it more difficult. Loading more than one picture into a single entry has become Michelle Obama-like. Yep, a bitch. And, as for losing one whole entry, yes, I did. Twice.

I will have to learn not to vent on anyone I know personally, as they could potentially read it and stop sending me Christmas cards. And, true to my vow, I never have ripped on somebody I know. No, wait, yes, I did. And I was the one who stopped sending Christmas cards. So, there!

Will this be a politically correct forum? I see no hands raised. That's good. It means you have been paying attention to me all these years. I've actually been even more politically incorrect than I thought I could be. I am wondering how easy it will be to maintain a daily blog while imprisoned in a concentration camp buried deep in the bowels of South Chicago.


r instance, if I wanted to comment on "American Idol", you will not be surprised if I refer to that Sanjaya guy in terms that will signify his heritage from a God-forsaken country in this world where the flies are bigger than the meal on your plate. By the way, I now understand how that kid is surviving from week-to-week when he sounds like Rose Kennedy doing a cabaret act in Vegas. All his calls have been outsourced. If he somehow goes the distance, I am guessing the first contract he will sign is with Dell Computers. And I am thinking he has tons of support in this country. Go into any Seven-11 when they open up the Idol phone lines and tell me if the counter help isn't on a cell phone at the time. And there it is, folks. The very first politically incorrect comment in Len Speaks. Granted the reference is now very dated. Sanjaya?? Really??? But I was letting you know right from the get-go that there would be no restrictions here. Hopefully, you have all realized by now that I am an equal opportunity offender. The only folks in the public eyes that are off limits to my lampooning are those that I have direct association with. Like ________. And_________. Oh, yeah, and ___________.

Voila......c'est le blog pour Thursday, March 15, 2007. That's pretty much the sum total of what I remember from nine years of French class. That and...."ou est la salle de bains?"

Thanks for reading. As soon as I get sufficiently liquored up, I'll start on the next 1000 posts.

Dinner last night: It was Thanksgiving. You're kidding, right?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Your Thanksgiving Day Bonus Newsreel

If you're gearing up to be first in line for a doorbuster sale tomorrow morning, you are no friend of mine. Please return your Len Buddy card ASAP.

In the meantime, here's a golden oldie to help you pass the time...and the cranberries. While a lot of other bloggers are posting some musical rendition of "Turkey Lurkey Time" from the Broadway musical "Promises Promises," I would not stop so slow. Besides, I did that last Thanksgiving.

Instead. this wonderful newsreel comes from the mid 60s. The Munsters riding in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! Have a great holiday! Come back here tomorrow for Post # 1002!!!!

Dinner last night: Sausage and olive pizza at Maria's Italian Kitchen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

If Today Were Wednesday, November 27, 1963...

Jeez, I hope Walter Cronkite gets that choked up if we land a man on the moon.

---Okay, everybody can come out from under their beds. The shooting has stopped.

---The nation came to a stop last Friday at 1:30PM Eastern time. And it didn't get restarted until the following Tuesday.

---You know it's pretty serious when Crusader Rabbit gets pre-empted.

---Also killed last Friday: Vaughn Meader's career.

---Has anybody checked to see how Angie Dickinson is doing?

---Upon hearing the grim news about the dead President, Angie fell to her knees.

---Which wouldn't be the first time.

---I was on a class trip to the public library when the news came out. Suddenly, all the librarians were huddled around and crying.

---I figured that I forgot to return a book.

---"I promise. I'll return "Henry Huggins" by Beverly Cleary next time."

---There was admittedly a lot of confusion last Friday. At one point, somebody thought TV game show host Tom Kennedy had been shot.

---You don't say?

---Then, we heard all about the assassin. Somebody said it was a person with three names.

---I was convinced they were going to arrest Mary Tyler Moore.

---Of course, we'll never know what really happened. Because that Jack Ruby silenced him for life.

---The police all knew Ruby because he runs a bunch of strip joints in Dallas. But, I'm thinking they know him not because they've raided the place.

---Let's face it. Cops love that holy trinity. Handcuffs, a naked girl, and a pole.

---The last thing Kennedy heard before the gun shots came from the Texas Governor's wife: "Mr. President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you."

---Except maybe for that guy up in the window with the rifle.

---My father's reaction to the news: "This is why we don't have a convertible."

---The Dallas Police Force looked like an episode of "Car 54." Was that Toody and Muldoon escorting Oswald out?

---"Ooooh, ooooh, Francis, this is the guy who shot the President."

---I saw the shooting live on TV and immediately called for my grandparents to come watch. My grandfather's reaction?


---Which was basically who my grandfather blamed everything on.

---Elvis Presley?




---Liz Taylor breaking up Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds?


---Don't you think that, at least once on the flight back from Dallas upon Air Force One, Jackie looked down at her dress and thought "gee, I'll never get these stains out."

---And, come on, Mrs. K, pink after Labor Day???

---Or is it "no white after Labor Day?" I forget. I missed the last episode of "Girl Talk" with Virginia Graham.

---So, there is such a thing as a Texas School Book? Is that different from a New York School Book? Does every state have their own school book?

---And you thought Khrushchev's wife was ugly? Ladies and gentlemen, the new First Lady of the United States, Lady Bird Johnson.

---Wouldn't that make the President Lord Bird Johnson?

---When the new First Couple landed in Washington DC on Friday, he asked for our help and God's.

---And maybe also a little assistance from Max Factor for the missus.

---I'm curious what the scene was like in Hyannis Port when they told the old man JFK was dead.

---"Mr. Kennedy, they've shot the President."

---"Yeah, I know. Lincoln."

---Then he threw some oatmeal at his nurse and promptly took a nap.

---With all TV programming cancelled for the weekend, CBS finally figured out a way to beat "Bonanza" in the ratings.

---Now CBS Chairman Bill Paley wants to know if we can shoot a President every week.

---As for me, I'm focusing only on good news for the rest of the week.


Kudos again to the Bibster for his invaluable assistance in another one of these historic Wednesdays.

Dinner last night: Chicken tenders from Islands.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I was ready to turn in my moviegoers card. After the CGI sewer spillage of "2012" and the message-wielding mallet that was "Precious," I needed to have my cinematic senses replenished.

"Pirate Radio" did the job.

This is why you go to the movies. To be entertained. To be engrossed. To be educated about some event or some people you never knew about. "Pirate Radio" took me to a world of which I had only heard anecdotal snippets . Now I'm an expert on 60s British rock radio. Who knew?

Apparently, during that decade, rock radio stations were virtually verboten in Great Britain. So much so that government officials often went to great lengths to shut the upstarts down. And those broadcasters then went to even greater lengths to keep the music coming. And, in this film, you meet one such bunch. They followed the "pirate" classification to a capital P. They grabbed a boat and headed for the high seas. The SS Radio Rock. A ramshackle barge that is the studio and the home address of a family of also-ran and fledgling disc jockeys.

The one American platter player is portrayed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who once again provides a master class on how an actor can do something different in every movie he does. Tom Hanks and Robert Di Niro, please take note. It is possible to vary your performance from film to film. The rest of the disc jockeys are the usual collections of misfits. From stoners to kids. You learn pretty quickly that one young teenager is a virgin and has never met his father. You don't need a slide rule to know that, by movie's end, he will get laid and discover his dad is among the air personalities on the boat. Predictable? Hell yes. But, you can still have a fun ride even if you know where you're going.

Of course, back in England, there is one government official who has Radio Rock in his crosshairs. Kenneth Branagh plays the villain in this piece and, with his 60s haircut, glasses, and mustache, he looks just like Floyd the Barber. In another slick piece of casting, the aforementioned virgin's mom shows up for ten minutes. For nine of those minutes, I didn't even know Mom was being played by Emma Thompson behind these ugly Twiggy-like sunglasses and a Diana Rigg leopard coat from the Avengers.

"Pirate Radio" was directed by Richard Curtis, who helped create the "Mr. Bean" TV show and also was responsible for my latest favorite Christmas classic "Love Actually." Curtis is a master storyteller who loves to incorporate pop music into his films. He does it in spades here, as "Pirate Radio" provides the best movie soundtrack compilation since "American Graffiti." As a result, we wind up with a film that has to be seen and heard. And the tunes here run the gamut. From the Rolling Stones to, mystifyingly, Herb Alpert croaking through "This Guy's In Love with You." He never sounded better.

At the end of the movie, Pirate Radio literally and figuratively sinks. But it is saved by its fans---literally and figuratively. Spoiler alert: imagine an episode of "WKRP in Cincinnati" set on the Titanic. Again, I'm revealing here nothing you won't figure out an hour earlier. But, still, you want to walk the plank. And please stay for the closing credits, which are set against a montage of practically every rock music album ever pressed.

Movie theaters are apparently safe again.

Dinner last night: Back in LA for a Taylor Ham sandwich.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 23, 2009

Closing in on my 1000th blog post, let's go back one more time to my very first Monday Morning Video Laugh. This NEVER gets old.

Dinner last night: Leftover sausage and peppers plus side salad.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Some years back, I was actually asked this question by a work colleague in New York.

"When is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?"

I replied that I was not sure. October sometime?

The idiot said, "Oh," and walked away. I made a mental note never to speak to that person ever again.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an integral part of the holiday's celebration. Right along with football, cranberries, and a post-dinner nap on the couch with your pants unbuttoned. And, for the complete sensory experience, you have to watch the parade on television with either one of two smells emanating from your kitchen. Sauted onions for stuffing. Or a pumpkin pie baking in the oven. It all goes hand in hand.

When I was a kid, I was totally into the balloons, because they were all my favorite cartoon characters. Popeye. Bullwinkle. Bugs Bunny. Somewhere along the way, Macy's went off the track and started devoting balloons to commercial sponsors. Because I'm a big fan of the Snuggle Bear? When you're ten years old, you really don't give a shit about what fabric softener your mother is using.

Back in my youthful days, the parade was always hosted by Lorne Greene and Betty White and they were delightful. Later on, they were replaced by the idiots from the "Today Show," who introduced every float as written on the cue cards. It all became a lot less spontaneous. "Guess who's coming, kids? I can see his sleigh." Duh.

I dreamed always of going to the Macy's parade one year. Of course, this would never happen as it fell totally into my father's tried and true trilogy of excuses.

"It's too crowded."

"It's too far to drive."

"It's too hot and/or cold."

Thanks, Dad. Again.

It would be years later that I would finally see the parade live. Up close and in person. And I would do so for five Thanksgivings in a row.

A company I worked for in New York had offices on Broadway. Third floor directly opposite the Ed Sullivan Theater. With picture windows that were ideal for parade viewing. It became an annual party for employees and clients plus their kids. A continental breakfast was served and then folks would line the windows as soon as the first drum roll was heard.

We were eye level with the balloons. And, despite the fact all these rubber creatures were now nothing more than commercial placements, they were still spectacular to look at. And it was also a great way to see just how broken down they were. The number of patches were plentiful as they did their best to keep the air from going out of Snoopy's ass. It obviously required a lot of surgery to get Underdog through Times Square every year.

Up in our penthouse of viewing, we were above the hordes on the street. Folks down there brought their own ladders in an attempt to get a better look. It was fun for us to watch the ladder climbers eventually fall off their perches sometime during the morning. While the parade was certainly the main attraction, the curbside morons were a delectable side show.

One year, one of our sales managers was standing next to me at the window. We started cracking wise about some of the Hollywood hasbeens that always seem to show up in the parade. Before you knew it, we were getting laughs up and down the row of windows. A ha! An audience. Our color commentary was appreciated.

"Ah, Joanne Worley is the old woman in the shoe. She has a lot of children and no real career since Laugh-In."

"When do we tie some strings to Al Roker and float him down Broadway?"

"The Popeye balloon has a big tear down his crotch. Must have been a rough night with Olive."

The next year, one of our annual guests, a young boy, came up to me.

"Are you and that guy going to make jokes again this year?"

There was a look of hope on the kid's face.

"We would be happy to."

And another holiday tradition was born. And I was a heck of a lot funnier than Matt Lauer.

Dinner last night: The always welcomed sausage and peppers at Carlo's.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Classic TV Theme of the Month - November 2009

And to think that one of these co-stars now sleeps with Streisand...

Also you will note that Marcus Welby lived in what was Beaver Cleaver's house. And it's now a home on Desperate Housewives' Wisteria Lane. Universal Studios recycles everything.

Dinner last night: Turkey panini.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Your 2009 Holiday Movie Guide - December Releases

Oh, how I wish there was still a holiday show at Radio City Music Hall. With lines wrapped around the block under the holly-laden marquee. Instead, we have a bunch of folks waiting to get a Starbucks coffee while they inch their way to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

As for the rest of us, we've got the trash being unloaded by Hollywood on a weekly basis. Here I am with the December list of holiday releases. God bless us everyone. I wouldn't wish this shit on Ebenezer Scrooge.

Brothers: Natalie Portman plays a wife who screws with her brother-in-law when her husband goes missing in Afghanistan. When you run out of batteries, I guess a girl has to get creative. (December 4)

Everybody's Fine: Robert De Niro is the dad. Drew Barrymoore, Kate Beckinsdale, and Sam Rockwell are the kids. They all need to reunite. My guess is that the movie title is ironic. Any bets that one of them is dying? (December 4)

Armored: All about robbing an armored truck. And an audience at the same time. (December 4)

The Last Station: Helen Mirren and Paul Giamatti fight over Leo Tolstoy's estate. A must see for the Jackson family this holiday season. (December 4)

Serious Moonlight: Meg Ryan holds husband Timothy Hutton hostage in an effort to fix their marriage. Hello? Is this a feature film or an episode of Dr. Phil? (December 4)

Transylmania: Okay, wink, wink. There's a letter missing. Ha ha. Very clever. I get it. It's about a bunch of college kids comically battling a vampire. And the cleverness probably stops with the title. (December 4)

Up in the Air: Great buzz about this George Clooney vehicle about a corporate downsizer who is obsessed with his frequent flyer miles. The trailer shows lots and lots of American Airlines locations. Look hard. I'm bound to be in this movie someplace. (December 4)

The Lovely Bones: The very overrated director Peter Jackson goes a little smaller this time. It's all about the murder of a 14 year-old girl. Now, that's holiday fare. It's A Wonderful Death? (December 11)

A Single Man: Colin Firth as a gay English professor. If they also made the character a Jesuit priest, they could have filmed this at Fordham. (December 11)

Invictus: Okay, it's Clint Eastwood directing, so he never makes crap. But, I may be challenged to see this thing, which is all about that screwball Nelson Mandela and some rugby player. Making matters worse, it stars Morgan Freeman, who obviously had a Tuesday to kill one week. Can somebody please stop casting this guy as the quintessential stately Black man? (December 11)

Avatar: It took him almost 12 years, but James Cameron finally follows up "Titanic" with his next movie. I saw the trailer. It's in glorious 3-D. That's an image, not an apartment. There's a Marine in a wheelchair. There are creatures in some remote land. Expensive rocks. Everything but the kitchen sink. No, wait, I think I saw one of those, too. (December 18)

Did You Hear About the Morgans?: No, I didn't. That was the name of my mother's parents, but they died when she was eleven. I never saw any pictures. I have no clue about this set of my grandparents. Ooops, sorry. You weren't asking about them. This is a movie title? Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant as a bickering couple? I got nothing. (December 18)

Nine: Rob Marshall of "Chicago" fame tries to adapt another so-so Broadway musical into Oscar gold. With such musical giants as Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, and Judi Dench. But, on the other hand, Renee Zellwegger pulled it off. I'll give it a shot. (December 18)

The Young Victoria: Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria. Bring your favorite pillow and a Snuggie. Personally, I am waiting for the Young Victor/Victoria. (December 18)

Police, Adjective: An undercover in Modern Romania..... Modern Romania??? Don't bother to finish. I am out of here. (December 23)

Alvin and the Chipmunks The Squeakquel: "Christmas, Christmas, time is near. Time for joy and time for JEERS" (December 25)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell, and Heath Ledger one more time. They say this is his last performance, but I'm convinced somebody filmed him in the morgue. This is a fantasy from Terry Gilliam. I can't imagine anybody walking up to a box office and reciting the whole title when they ask for a ticket. Even the shortened versions are tough. "One for Imaginarium, please?" "Can I have two for Parnassus?" The filmmakers really should have thought this through. (December 25)

It's Complicated: Romantic comedy with Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, and Meryl Streep. God bless whoever realized that this kind of movie could star somebody other than Katherine Heigl or Matthew McConaughey. But, here's a warning. I understand that you see Alec Baldwin's big ass naked. And, of course, the words "Alec Baldwin" and "big ass" are admittedly redundant. (December 25)

Sherlock Holmes: Robert Downey Jr. as the famed detective. I'm a sucker for the Conan Doyle character. I've read all the books. And I like the cast. I guess I'm in. (December 25)

The White Ribbon: Cruel activities at a German village right before World War 1. Okay, more German bashing?? How come we never see anything about the barbaric behavior of the Dutch? And how good could this movie be? It didn't even get the pre-holiday release. (December 30)

The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond: Described as an "unproduced" screenplay by Tennessee Williams. Now, that's a major red flag for me. The guy wasn't stupid. He didn't allow it to be produced for a reason. It probably stinks. And he knew it. And now you will know it, too. (December 30)

Dinner last night: Had a big lunch, so just some cold cuts and salad.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The End of the World As We Know It

According to the Mayans' goofy calendar, the end of the world is scheduled for December 21, 2012. But, realistically, the collapse of humanity might have started with the release of 2012. Because, as disaster movies go, 2012 is a disaster of a movie.

Don't get me wrong. I love those kinds of flicks. They were a mainstay of my youth as essayed by the campy likes of Irwin Allen. Put a bunch of big name stars on the back end of their careers into some sort of natural calamity. Get them wet. Get them hot. Get them scared. You got yourself a damn good cinematic ride.

I can remember them all with glee. Pilot Dean Martin has knocked up stewardess Jacqueline Bisset and then must fly a jet damaged by a bomb made by Van Heflin. Robert Wagner is having an affair with his secretary and then burns to a crisp. Shelley Winters has to swim around the bowels of a sunken cruise ship. She performs stunts worthy of Shamus at Sea World and then dies. Lorne Greene hoists his co-workers out of an earthquake-damaged office building with nothing more than a rope made of pantyhose. Jennifer Jones falls out of the scenic elevator in the world's tallest building on fire. Not only will the fall kill her, but the producers deliciously make her hit a terrace on the way down.

Fun, fun, fun, fun.

2012, trying to follow in the same footsteps, is not, not, not, not. But, as the ad tells us, "we were warned."

With special effects that look about a grade below those on a video arcade game at Nathan's, 2012 tells the story of the end of our planet. The disjointed plot points in the first five minutes point to the world's ecology as the reason behind the mayhem. Warming, cooling, tides, the sun. Who the hell could figure it out? I am guessing Al Gore was front and center on opening night, chowing down on a box of Goobers. I'd hate to think that this is going to be my ultimate fate for not using a government-sanctioned light bulb.

Amid all the obligatory introductions of characters you don't give a shit about, we meet John Cusack, a renowned author who also seems to be the driver of a stretch limousine. Obviously, book royalties are not what they are used to be. He, of course, is divorced from his wife with two kids. There is a stepfather in the mix. Family dysfunction and planet doom. What a dramatic mix. If that's not bad enough, the little daughter wets her pants regularly. What is this world coming to?

For some bizarre reason, Los Angeles gets hit by nature first. Cusack pilots his limousine through the firestorm and manages to do so without even being in the car pool lane on the 405. I want him taking me the next time I am late for a flight out of LAX. Meanwhile, the LA roads are littered with debris and it's still not as bad as the first day of every month when Mexicans who can't pay their rent must strap their mattresses to the car roof and find a new hovel in Garden Grove.

Back in Washington DC, we meet the government and, as in real life, I'm unimpressed. Danny Glover plays the role of a Black ineffective President and that would have been an original concept if 2012 had been made two years ago. Now, it's like watching the news. To compound the issue, Glover speaks with a lisp. Is it his acting choice or simply bad dentures? We never really find out, as the President is washed out by a tidal wave. If only that would really happen in 2012...

This mess could have used the help of some big name guest stars. All we get, however, is George Segal. Yes, that George Segal. He plays a jazz musician on a cruise ship, which is probably a step up from what the actor's really been doing lately---appearing at the opening of a Rite Aid on Fairfax. But, in 2012, that's all you get. The guest cast of any Love Boat episode would have sufficed. We didn't even merit that.

2012 is two and a half hours long and feels like a week. The last hour of the movie is incomprehensible. The survivors head to China where the US Government has stashed away some giant arks. When were these built? You have no clue, except this might have been where our stimulus tax dollars went. Perhaps jobs created that were "ark-ready." Of course, it's a race against time before the last tsunamis hit. It was impossible to understand what was happening next. There were so many crashes and explosions. We were constantly told to brace for impact. I began to feel like the instructor at a driving school in Chinatown.

The editing of the climactic scenes was so bad that you couldn't tell who lived, who died, or who was simply off at the Columbia Pictures commissary getting lunch. Filmmaker Roland Emmerich once again distingushes himself as somebody who couldn't direct traffic in the Sahara Desert at midnight. A Fellini movie without subtitles would have made more sense to me.

Eventually, all bad things must come to an end. And so does 2012. The audience leaves the theater in worse shape than the characters. The survivors live to start Day One of the new Earth. And the little girl no longer needs to wear rubber underpants. Praise God! Apparently, in this new order, the center of the world is now Africa and I may need to kill myself.

I would have loved to see 2012 in the hands of Irwin Allen. Or one of those goofy directors at Universal back in the 70s, who would have seen fit to cast this movie with Susan St. James, Eleanor Parker, and Marty Allen. But, instead, we got this swill.

Gee, the end of the world should have been so much more fun.

Dinner last night: Szechwan beef at Oriental Diner in Hawthorne.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Wednesday State of Mind

With sincerest apologies to Billy Joel...and anybody else I might offend today.

---No city looks better in black and white than New York City. Except, as you walk the streets, the homeless bums are still appearing in color.

---Meanwhile, back at LAX before I left, there was this page over the loudspeaker.

---"Captain Kirk, Captain James Kirk, please report to Gate 48B."

---You can't make that shit up. Who knew that the Enterprise made stops into Los Angeles?

---American Airlines is now exclusively showing NBC programs in-flight.

---And I don't watch them there either.

---And they worry about bombs on-board?

---NY is all abuzz over the court trials that will happen here for the 9/11 terrorist pigs.

---But these will be not military, but civilian trials. Because, apparently, the terrorists were also doubleparked at the time of the attacks.

---One more idiotic decision from President Urkel.

---That's sort of like capturing Adolf Hitler alive and having appear before Judge Judy.

---Well, it finally happened. I tuned into Saturday Night Live and I had absolutely no clue who the host was.

---January Jones. Some chick from "Mad Men." I had no idea.

---When they introduced "January Jones," I expected to see Pam Grier come out in hot pants with a big old Afro.

---Does anybody still watch this mess? They talk about Bernie Madoff. Let's think about all the money Lorne Michaels has stolen from NBC while producing this disaster the past twenty years.

---A memo to Sarah Palin: I don't care.

---Oh, I think she gets a bum rap from the morons on the left. But, if she really thinks she could be a national leader....

---But, then again....

---This is the country that elected a city councilman to be President of the United States.

---A memo to Levi Johnston: I don't care.

---The next time this guy cries for some privacy, remind him that we can all see his business in Playgirl.

---Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are going to co-host the Oscars. Well, they got that emcee selection half right.

---Because nobody screams "hilarity" to me more than that bloated pig of a Baldwin.

---Someone refresh me: wasn't Alec supposed to move out of the country four years ago?

---Now there's somebody I would like to see on House Hunters International.

---A memo to Megan Fox: I don't care.

---Who the hell is she anyway?

---I'm always bemused when I use in New York. Because, when I put in the Yonkers zip code to look for the nearest movie theater, I wind up with cinemas in New Jersey.

---True, the theaters are the closest in terms of miles. But, there's just one problem.


---So, actually, the only one who really benefits by using is Jesus Christ.

---TV stations are doing it both in Los Angeles and New York. Telling viewers to take videos and pictures with their mobile devices when they see news happening.

---"Be part of our news team" says one station.

---Uh-huh. That's a great way of saying that, "we've downsized to the barest bone and have no ability to cover news in this city, so you have to help us and, by the way, there's no pay involved."

---Or something like that.

Dinner last night: Virginia ham sandwich with German potato salad.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Best New TV Show I'm Not Watching

Once again, I'm brown shoes with a tuxedo. White pants after Labor Day. A horizontal stripe tie on a vertical stripe shirt. I am lost at the fair.

It seems that every television season brings one new show that becomes the darling of critics and audiences alike. Reviewed as if it stars Jesus Christ himself, the program takes on a viewing frenzy all its own. "Did you see 'blank' last night?" Normally, I pay attention to the critical hubbub and sample for my own edification. And, most of the time, I walk away scratching my head. This is the big deal?

I'm still puzzling over why I can't get into "30 Rock" when everybody else apparently can. I hate the characters. I find the setting unidentifiable. And the acting, led by the vastly overrated Tina Fey and the grossly obese Alec Baldwin, is mediocre at best. I've made several attempts to crash this party. I leave disappointed each and every time.

Then, there's "Mad Men." My God, this show is so good it can cure cancer. So says everybody and their brother. And, it has elements that normally sing to me. A retro setting. A continuing storyline. A mix of drama and dark comedy. So? Every season, I try to get into it. I'm asleep like a baby by the third episode. The show is so overwritten that it makes my head hurt. The acting is unimpressive. For those fawning over this creative spillage, it really is nothing more than "Knots Landing" with the wardrobe from "Peyton Place." And, frankly, "Mad Men" doesn't hold a candle to either of those two shows, which were among my most favorites ever. It's simply a soap opera which its actors take way too seriously.

So, this year, audiences and critics are tripping over each other to praise a new ABC sitcom, "Modern Family." The praise started to get piled on months before its premiere. The sick will be well again. The lame will walk. The deaf will hear. Thanks be to God for giving us "Modern Family."

I got sucked into this Oreck Vacuum of platitudes. I was intrigued. I recognized some of the cast members. The writer-creators were Christopher (son of the late David) Lloyd and Steve Levitan. Nice pedigree. They were involved with the likes of "Frasier" and "The Golden Girls." Good enough for me. I tuned into the premiere.

And watched the second episode.

And have not been back since.

This is family dysfunction on steroids. And nothing I haven't seen before. With characters that are stereotypes of other much better written characters. More importantly, I watched two shows. A total of 44 minutes of screen time. I did not laugh once.

"Modern Family" is shot like a documentary with that jerky hand-held camera motion that makes sponsorship from Dramamine a perfect marketing fit. This is admittedly part of my disconnect. It's personal taste, but I prefer my situation comedies to be shot in front of a live audience. The acting is better as the performers naturally feed off the audience reaction. It ups the creative ante a notch. And it just seems to be funnier. If you shot "Everybody Loves Raymond" with a single camera and no studio audience, I contend that the show might not have lasted nine seasons. "The Big Bang Theory," without that gleeful live audience, would be a big bust.

But, to show you that my preference rules are not hard and fast, I have found a new series that is done with a single camera and is not done in front of a live audience. Yet, it still works pour moi. Just like that health magazine that tells you to "Eat This, Not That," I'd like to point you in the direction of the show that directly precedes "Modern Family" on ABC every Wednesday night.

I watched "The Middle" initially because Patricia Heaton stars in it. I'm a fan, even though, if you mention her name to people in Hollywood, the knee-jerk reaction is immediately "bitch." But, since she's never done anything to me, I'll still tune in to anything she's working on. Granted "The Middle" breaks no monumentally new ground. It is really nothing more than "Malcolm in the Middle" with a parental focus. But, I've watched every episode and laughed out loud at least four or five times every week. The cast has jelled quickly. And the youngest child on the show, Brick as played by Atticus Sheffer, steals every scene he's in. I'm still trying to figure out if this is really an eight-year-old kid or a forty-year-old midget.

"The Middle" has been renewed for a full season. Good news. Plenty of time for you to sample it and back up my recommendation. "Modern Family" has also been renewed for a full season. Plenty of time for me to figure out what I'm missing.

Dinner last night: Chicken tenders and orso with roasted vegetables.

And tomorrow: New York, New York, a helluva town.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 16, 2009

David Lloyd died last week. Who, you say? Well, it's not a name you might know, but, to any writer, he was one of the most prolific TV scribes ever. You have heard his words on "Frasier," "Cheers," "Lou Grant," and, most importantly, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." That's where he got his start and did his finest work.

One episode at MTM ranks perhaps as one of the greatest sitcom scripts of all time. I think even TV Guide dubbed it so. "Chuckles Bites the Dust." The funeral of a clown. David Lloyd wrote it. He's gone, but we have it forever. Here's the final act of the episode. Maybe the best constructed sitcom scene ever. Fellow blogger and comedy writer Ken Levine wrote in his forum that he actually got to be in the studio audience the night this was filmed. This final scene was shot twice. Mary's performance was letter perfect both times. Sheer brilliance.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Afterschool Snacks

After a grueling day of arithmetic, there was nothing more exciting and inviting than getting that wonderful afterschool snack. And, I'm not talking about the dried fruit chips or the healthy apple that soccer moms today insist on. Nope, I'm talking about the out-and-out gross "mega calories from fat" treat that you could only pull off the racks from your favorite mom-and-pop grocery store. Screw the healthy stuff. Bring me the sugar-laden pastries. Besides, my mom was at work and miles away from our bowl of fruit.

Every afternoon, my neighborhood chum Leo and I would take whatever change we had in our pockets and head "around the corner." Now, we had two grocery stores at our convenience. Some butcher named Gene ran one and that was more of a place your mom would shop for dinner. Fresh meats and lots of canned vegetables. Not Del Monte or Libby's. Gene offered up the bargain basement variety of canned peas. By some company called Krasdale. If you were lucky, the creamed corn might have actually been vacuum packed within the past five years.

Since Gene's grocery was light on the heavy snacks, we always ventured a few storefronts down First Street to Charlie's Delicatessen. He had racks upon racks of baked goods, chips, and anything that was unreasonably bad for you. Besides, Charlie was a German guy and my family always preferred for me to patronize the "Dutchman." If there had been an Italian-run grocery store in our area, I'm sure Leo's parents would preferred he go there instead. But, I digress...

Charlie's snack racks definitely had to be on my dentist's hit list. There was nothing good there. At the same time, it was all good. Yummy, filling, and the type of food that just manufactured fat cells in your body. I had a few favorites.

Any bag of Tom's Chips was not one of them. In those days, you judged the merits of a grocery store by the brand of potato chips they offered. And you didn't mix brands. If you sold Tom's Chips, the store was low class. Probably in a crappy neighborhood. If you sold Wise Potato Chips, you were the equivalent of Nordstrom's in my eyes. Charlie had Wise. Done deal.

Actually, if I was in the mood for a non-sweet treat, I loved Cheez Waffles. Little salty waffle-like cracker sandwiches with "cheese" in the middle. I rationalized that this was all healthy, so it was okay to wolf down a whole bag. How many daily food requirements would I be meeting? Dairy, grain, starch. Cheez Waffles had it all. A complete meal all in itself. Except that probably wasn't real cheese. Or even Cheez Whiz. I didn't care. I chomped down on them nonetheless.

For the everyday sweet tooth and the future day cavity, there were Yodels. By the wonderful Drake's Cake company, which hopefully has a franchise in the afterlife. Admittedly, I probably haven't had a Drake's product since I was 10. No worries, before I hit that age, I consumed a lifetime supply. Yodels were these little chocolate and cream roll-ups. Dipped in even more chocolate. And you had to lick the wrapper because usually the chocolate had melted to that as well. You needed a bath after eating a package. The smarter kids in my neighborhood knew one thing. You didn't dare buy Yodels during the summer.

These chocolate hockey pucks went by different names. Sometimes, they were Ring Dings. Other times, they were Ding Dongs. The brand name was a variety of iterations on the bell concept. I didn't care. They always hit the spot. Now, Drake's did offer one twist on the Ring Ding/Ding Dong and that was a winner. Instead of the devil's food cake inside, there were a version with yellow cake and it was delicious. Always preferred, but rare to find. I apparently lived in a devil's food neighborhood.

To wash it all down, there was Yoo Hoo. The drink of champions. It was good enough for Yogi Berra. It was damn good enough for us. And there was even more rationalization at play here. After all, this was a milk product, right? And kids are supposed to drink more milk, right? Isn't that what President Kennedy just told us? This is probably why my dentist voted for Richard Nixon.

For some mystical reason, my Saturday afternoon purchase was always reserved for one very special snack.

A Slim Jim. Actually, two. Back then, they weren't that long. Probably six inches in length. I figured this was my protein requirement for the week. Because it was meat, right? Right????

I savored my two Slim Jims so much that I would eat them slowly. Craving every nitrate, morsel by morsel, as it slid down to whatever part of my stomach would try to process it. Every week, I'd run to Charlie's, get my Slim Jims, and then plop down in front of Grandma's TV to watch Charlie Chan Mystery Theater on Channel 5, Metromedia in New York. And I would slowly ease the "meat" out of the Slim Jims. I could make the two of them last for the entire show.

Truth be told, I still, from rare time to rare time, buy a Slim Jim. One day, I took it home and popped a Charlie Chan movie on the DVD.

It wasn't the same.

I went into the kitchen and got myself a fresh Bartlett pear.

Dinner last night: Hunan platter at First Szechwan Wok.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Classic Newsreel of the Month - November 2009

Where's this woman when we really need her???

Dinner last night: Sausage and Spanish rice.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Your 2009 Holiday Movie Guide - November Releases

In 1937, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was the big holiday movie at the fabulous Carthay Circle theater in Los Angeles. This palace was torn down before I got to it. Its place is now occupied by a dreary office building.

And speaking of dreary, here's what will dirtying our screens this holiday season. Oh, there might be an Oscar contender or two in the mix. But, for the most part, it's coal in all our cinematic stockings. I'll tackle the November releases today.

Precious: Have you heard? I already reviewed this here. And I have one nagging question: do movie theater concession stands take food stamps? (Running now)

Disney's A Christmas Carol: In 3-D, for Pete's sake! Meanwhile, all the clips I've seen make me think there isn't a single shot that doesn't feature some cheesy special effect. Groan. Rent the old version with Reginald Owen. Or even the 1962 cartoon with Mister Magoo. (Running now)

The Men Who Stare at Goats: Probably are the same guys who were hanging around the girls dorm at Fordham. (Running now)

Dare: Emily Rossum as an overachieving teen in a high school love triangle. Two counts that I have absolutely no identification with. (Today)

Oh, My God?: A documentary on celebrities' views on faith. Praying to the altar of Saint Botox. (Today)

The Messenger: A soldier just back from Iraq joins the Army's Casualty Notification service. Oh, it's a comedy. The Messenger? Go ahead and shoot. (Today)

Pirate Radio: Phillip Seymour Hoffman as an American DJ in 1960s England. An American Wolfman Jack in London. (Today)

2012: A disaster movie tied to the global doomsday date of December 12, 2012. For those who thought November 2008 wasn't bad enough. (Today)

Uncertainty: Never title your movie with a word like this. It can be too easily used for gags in a bad review. (Today)

Women in Trouble: Ten women keep bumping into each other over the course of a day. Directed by the guy who did "Snakes on a Plane." And somewhere buried in those two sentences is a very funny joke. (Today)

Fantastic Mr. Fox: And it really is a fox. No play on words. Stop action dreck that will make kids think that this is a lovable animal. And then some poor moppet will try to pet one at the zoo and get mauled. There is a reason they are called WILD animals. (Today)

Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans: Nicolas Cage as a good man gone bad in post-Katrina New Orleans. Have you noticed that we can't get away from mentioning that hurricane in movies now? Yet, the one movie I want to see has yet to be made. About the super corrupt city government that ignored the fact that those levees were damaged for the past 50 years. As far as I'm concerned, let's just make sure Emeril gets out safe and then we blow the place off the map for good. (November 20)

The Blind Side: I've seen the trailers for this garbage and was actually predicting lines of dialogue. It is that obvious. The always awful Sandra Bullock as some Southern snob takes in a fat, friendless, and homeless Black kid from the streets. Yeah, sure. Meanwhile, the self-serving Ms. Bullock in real life probably lives in a big Bel Air mansion behind a huge wall with lots of security. True Hollywood phoniness. Just like when the Kennedys were championing civil rights while employing lots of Black people to clean their own bathrooms. (November 20)

Broken Embraces: Penelope Cruz, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, and probably Not Me. (November 20)

The Twilight Saga New Moon: Here it comes again. Rhetorical question: do teenage vampires get acne? (November 20)

The Missing Person: A post 9/11 thriller with Michael Shannon and Amy Ryan. And that reminds me of this great screenplay idea that I have. A guy, working in the World Trade Center, uses the disaster as a way to start his life over. Everybody thinks he's dead, but he's not. Interested? Please call my agent at 310-***-*****. (November 20)

Mammoth: Just three weeks after it opened, is there a sequel already to "Precious?" (November 20)

Planet 51: Dwayne Johnson as an alien invader in an animated family film set in a world inhabited by little green people. Maybe Al Gore can be President there. (November 20)

Until the Light Takes Us: A documentary about black metal, a genre born in early '90s Norway. That's a long way of saying "I'll pass." (November 20)

Staten Island: All I know is that it's down around Brooklyn someplace. (November 20)

Me and Orson Welles: A first hand look at a Pink's Hot Dog. Actually, the real plot about a kid who joins Welles' Mercury Theater acting group sounds interesting enough for me. (November 25)

Ninja Assassin: Running away from any theater playing this. Chop chop. (November 25)

Old Dogs: Comedy with Robin Williams and John Travolta. No new tricks. (November 25)

The Road: Viggo Mortensen as a dad guiding his son through a postapocalyptic world. Also for those who thought November 2008 wasn't bad enough. (November 25)

The Princess and the Frog: Disney goes ghetto. This cartoon, a spin on the old story, has gotten a lot of heat because the Princess is a Black girl. Expect lots of other remakes. Snow White and the Seven Muggers. Pi'Nocchio. And, of course, there's always the Jungle Book. With an all new rap score and set in the south side of Chicago. (November 25)

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee: Ensemble drama starring Julianne Moore, Keanu Reeves, Blake Lively, and Alan Arkin. One of them is playing Pippa. That's just a guess on my part. (November 27)

Next Friday, I'll tackle all the December crap.

Dinner last night: Frankfurters.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More Fun With Photoshop

Here's what we might see in a Washington DC school ten years after Bill Clinton left office.

Dinner last night: Salisbury steak at the Cheesecake Factory.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Color Me Wednesday

What was that Procol Harum song? A whiter shade of pale?

---So, from this series of Sammy Sosa photos, we can see one more side effect of steroid use.

---Your muscles bulge, but you also wind up looking like Duke Ellington.

---So does this now work in reverse? When does Mark McGwire start looking like Idi Amin?

---Just for the record: I consider myself white enough.

---Speaking of baseball, I watch a little bit of the Yankee celebration at New York's City Hall. Where the World Series trophy was dedicated to the absent and ailing George Steinbrenner to great cheers from the crowd.

---I have a question. Since when did that fat bastard become such a beloved character? You'd think he was Burl Ives singing "Frosty the Snowman."

---From the Very Short Memory Department: It wasn't that long ago when Boss George was feared by all his employees, who were regularly fired, re-hired, and then fired again.

---As far as I'm concerned, that dirtbag deserves every bit of oatmeal drooling from his mouth onto his shirt.

---Rapper Jay Z apparently became the good luck charm of the Yankees during the postseason. Which I'm sure further confused the mind-scrambled George.

---"Who's that? Horace Clarke?"

---I watched Game 6 of the World Series from a Dallas, Texas sports bar. Where you can still smoke.

---Cough, cough, cough.

---Maybe it was the second hand smoke that prompted all the shooting at Fort Hood.

---Of course, it had to be something crazy to make that well meaning guy snap like that.

---How about he's a freakin' terrorist????

---I am laughing that some news reports are still calling him the "alleged" shooter.

---And OJ Simpson is still the "suspected" killer of Nicole and Ron.

---I am waiting to hear that this idiot "accidentally" shot 13 people.

---Jeez, this country really is like the Roman Empire in its waning days.

---Oddly enough, I got out of Texas alive last Thursday. A few others didn't.

---The only time I ever see any of those dreary morning news shows is when I'm in a hotel room.

---Watching the awful "Today Show," I laughed out loud at Matt Lauer's "Holocaust-like" haircut. I love these idiots who embrace the skin tight hair dos. Trying to be hip. Trying to be trendy.

---And also trying to cover up the fact that they've lost their hair.

---Lauer is still as dumb as a post. And the last time he delivered any hard news, he was riding a bicycle.

---You can't watch these shows without the never ending news crawl at the bottom of the screen.

---This was "breaking news" last Thursday: "Tonight on Jay Leno---Wanda Sykes and Rachael Ray."

---Good to know. Now I know how to steel myself for the day.

---And what the fuck happened to Al Roker? This asshole looks anoxeric. Like one of those shrunken skulls you see on the tram tour of Universal Studios.

---Al looked like a chocolate bunny three weeks after Easter.

---I flipped over to "Good Morning America" for a few moments. Then, I realized that the objective of my morning was to wake up, not go back to sleep.

---Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of "Sesame Street." And times have changed.

---Dieticians have gotten involved to curtail just how many cookies the Cookie Monster eats.

---Meanwhile, Mom and Dad are still trucking the youngins over to McDonald's for dinner.

---Does Tickle Me Elmo have a case for physical abuse?

---Michelle Obama was on the Sesame Street broadcast and Big Bird was delighted.

---There was finally somebody else on the set with more junk in the trunk.

More importantly, today is Veteran's Day. Remember somebody.

Dinner last night: Grilled steak salad.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Juno Comes to Harlem

What say you, Len? First, the Michael Jackson movie and now you went to see this? Blog readers must be scurrying out to Los Angeles, ready to lay their hands on my forehead and check for a fever.

Folks, I'm a movie fan and I will check something out if it's well reviewed and destined for Oscar nominations. The reviews for "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," admittedly a mouthful for any marquee, were just glowing. And, from what I read, actress/comedienne Mo'Nique is destined for a Supporting Actress nod and I'm already curious. I sheepishly admit to having watched and, gasp, enjoyed her sitcom "The Parkers." How could this woman, who played such a buffoon on TV, make this major career leap?

Have I explained my reasons for seeing this film to your complete satisfaction?

Oh, yeah, there's one other. It's the type of movie that might make great and hilarious blog fodder if I really, really thought it was a mess.

And now you won't be surprised when you read on. And hopefully giggle along with me.

"Precious" is going to get all those Oscar accolades I've already mentioned. The always liberal Hollywood will be convinced that this movie is going to be listed as one of Michelle Obama's favorite movies of 2009 and that will be enough for them to come out in droves. After all, the usual gaggle of phony do-gooders like Tom Hanks and Barbra Streisand will extol every frame, thereby making them feel a lot better about themselves as their stretch limousines, complete with full open bar, whisk them through the really shitty sections of town on the way to the Kodak Theater. I realize that's a run-on sentence, but then again so is "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire." A run-on title as well as an incredibly run-on plot.

The credits show that this movie is "presented by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry" and that makes total sense to me. Because it's one more of those two dodos' salvos at the White society that has amazingly made them both so friggin' rich. Once again, only Black people can experience poverty. Only Black people can have trouble against the system. Only Black people can be downtrodden. Sadly, I know plenty of White people who can check off each of the aforementioned boxes on their application to Hard Knock Life Land.

But, nevertheless, we are still forced to chow down on notions that are certainly less viable in 2009 than they were in 1969 or 1979 or even the 1987 in which the movie is set. And, if they want to talk about how racist America has been in its history, I'd love to direct all comers to my high school years when most White kids were afraid to enter a bathroom for fear of losing their loose change, their Geometry textbooks, or their lives. Personally, I held in my urine for almost four years. Luckily, when I was seeing "Precious," I only had to do so for two hours.

This grizzly little yarn is set in Harlem of 1987 and that's the only way the filmmaker can get away with the complete pile-on of dilemmas that beset the title character of Precious at every turn. In 2009, life is a lot better for folks like Precious and we all know it. But, then again, you wouldn't have an Oscar contending movie if you showed just how advanced our society is today.

Precious is 16, attending junior high school, and looks more like Shrek than even Shrek himself. She has the figure of a small townhouse and a face only a father could love. And, actually, he does. Twice. And she winds up with two babies as a result. You never meet Dad because he has already absconded to whereever deadbeat fathers live in the minds of Hollywood screenwriters. So, Precious is stuck with Mom, who also was sleeping with Dad from time to time.

Mo'Nique plays the mother as if she's Cruella DeVille on crack. A Black woman without a booth or a stool to call her own during work hours, Mom sits home all day watching TV, smoking, and eating pigs feet. In between, she throws her daughter around the living room. Given the girl's size, she should be off the couch, perhaps pursuing a career as a WWF lady wrestler. At one point, Mom heaves the 19 inch television at Precious, only to realize that she now has no way to watch "227" on Saturday night. At the same time, Mom needs Precious as the kid is her ticket to extra welfare payments every month. A great portrayal of how Black women know how to completely work "the system" to their advantage. In its own squalor, the movie does manage to impart a lot of truth.

Thanks to a teacher, who admires the girl's ability to do long division (I'm not kidding here), Precious is pointed in the direction of an alternative school which looks like a hip hop version of the girls from "The Facts of Life." Subtitles would have been appreciated for these scenes. I had no idea what any of these girls were saying.

Not that Precious is any bargain herself. She's not above walking into a fast food joint and stealing a 10 piece bucket of chicken. But when Precious writes a few words down on a notebook, her counselor immediately thinks she's Maya Angelou. So, now most of the audience realizes this ultra-obvious plot point---Precious has an amazing talent that will go unfulfilled. Because life's ugly turns will get in Precious' way of earning a Pulitzer Prize. Before the movie is over, we'll all deal with Downs Syndrome, AIDS, rape, physical abuse, and even some quick shots of Patty Duke appearing on the $100,000 Pyramid. Yes, Mom does watch a LOT of television.

Director Lee Daniels, whoever she or he may be, regularly hits the audience over the head with a sledge hammer. By the end of the first hour, you want to go out to the rest room to count the welts on your face. It is that heavy handed. Mariah Carey shows up for a bit and actually seems to be channeling Rhoda Morgenstern in her portrayal of a social worker. Eventually, I discovered that, while Precious was the abused child, it was really the audience that was taking the slaps to the face.

At the end, you are supposed to feel hopeful because Precious has conquered some demons and appears headed off with her two kids to the welfare rolls of New York City. In the sequel, she'll probably learn that the ability to write some nifty poems still doesn't put a McDonald's Happy Meal on the dinner table. And we'll be expected to feel that pain as well.

Even the closing credits were horrible. Using some fading font size that made you feel like you were reading the very last line at a Lenscrafter exam. The mess had come full circle. From the first frame to the barely readable very last word.

So, you've been warned. Next March, the number of Best Picture nominations will be doubled. Regardless of how large this kid is, there will be plenty of room for Precious. If you have even the slightest bit of interest, you might simply wait till the awards telecast. I'm afraid you'll be seeing most of the really good clips that night.

Dinner last night: Pasta with olive oil, garlic, mushrooms, and spinach at Maria's Italian Kitchen.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 9, 2009


Dinner last night: Chicken curry salad sandwich with corn chowder.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My Lunch with Mel Brooks

Well, sort of. We were in the same place. We were literally one table away from each other. I could pretty much hear his whole conversation. If I talked as loud as he did, he could pretty much hear my whole conversation. And he could see what I was eating.
That's where the root of this story lies.
Years ago, I was lunching with a producer-friend of mine at the 20th Century Fox commissary. If you think this is particularly glamorous, you've been watching way too much Entertainment Tonight. I've eaten at both Fox and Warner Brothers, and all the people around you tend not to be stars. They're office people, prop masters, and computer programmers. The closest I ever got was seeing George Clooney stop at the cashier for a pack of Altoids.
But Mel Brooks behind me at Fox was very real. You couldn't miss the manic voice. It bounced off all four walls. I knew he was there, but my friend and I just kept talking. The trick is that you really try to zone in and not focus on the people around you. The waiter brought our food. Mine was a club sandwich and a side of French fries. I started to chow down. I noted that the cacophony at the table behind me had subsided. Mel was off peeing. But his companion was not. She tapped me on the shoulder.
"Excuse me, you're eating French fries."
"You'll have to hide them before Mel comes back."
"Mel loves French fries but he's on a very strict diet right now."
"He can't see you eating French fries."
How does one respond to a request for covert dining? I wondered what kind of consequences would result if Mel Brooks saw my French fries.
"He'll go nuts."
I had no idea why, but I suddenly became conscious of offending Hollywood royalty. I took a piece of leaf lettuce from my sandwich and tucked the French fries underneath it. Mel walked by a few moments later. There were no air raid sirens. He had seen nothing.
Until he left about ten minutes later.
In a comfort zone, I had gotten a little loose with my fries. One had sidled over to the other side of my plate. Mel saw it as he walked by.
An icy glare. His companion quickly hustled him out the door.
I exhaled. Another day in Hollywood.
Dinner last night: Chorizo and scrambled eggs at Lucy's El Adobe.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Classic TV Commercial of the Month - November 2009

How can you go wrong? Delicious gum and a Herb Alpert soundtrack. Chew on.

Dinner last night: Honey ham sandwich.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Shopping Cart at Sky Mall

Another flight for me and another peak for you through some of the oddest junks every pictured in a catalog. Christmas is coming and you should be praying that none of this winds up under your tree. By the way, artificial ones of all colors are also available from Sky Mall.

A real honest-to-goodness taser. These are legal for sale? No shit? I want one for each room of my house.
Can't make it to Seventh Avenue in Manhattan? No worries. High cholesterol and artery cloggers can now be delivered in a nifty gift set from the Carnegie Deli. Nothing say "I love you" more than a fatty pastrami sandwich.

This is labeled as an "authentic Irish shillelagh." And, with this, you do what? Perhaps throw it right back at the asshole who gave it to you. Frankly, unless you frequent some bar on the corner of Bainbridge and 203rd Street in the Bronx, who will be impressed by this?

Here's a dandy. An oxygen bar. When the simple air around you just isn't enough. There's a special sepia-colored version for those who live in Southern California.

An assortment of bottle corks with your favorite reindeer characters. Here's a word of caution: if you've used them up all to the way to Blitzen, you might have a serious drinking problem.

This captivates me in so many ways. A head massager. Place it on your head and it does all the work. And answers to the name of "Helga." Happy endings not included.

Dinner last night: Chicken cobb salad on American Flight 2457 from Dallas.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

We Demanded It

So says the advertisement for "Paranormal Activity." The supposed # 1 movie in America. "You Demanded It."

I don't remember doing that. But, apparently somebody did. Mostly likely the mindless 18-to-24 age group, whose artistic benchmark for excellence up to now was a really good episode of "Gossip Girl." At the same time, the reviews for "Paranormal Activity" were quite good. The word-of-mouth suggested that I would be leaving the theater as a quivering mess on a gurney.

I got sucked in.

And "sucked" is the operative word here.

The scariest movie of all time? Perhaps. But, only if you have never seen another movie your entire life. I've gotten more jolts out of a Tom & Jerry cartoon than I did out of this 86 minute long Ambien pill. The two idiots in the movie get no sleep. The audience, however, gets plenty.

You probably know that this film was made for about $11,000 and none of the money appears on the screen. I'm guessing most of the dough was spent on Red Bull and pizza for the crew. The filmmaker used his own condo for the shoot, mainly because he, too, has experienced ghosts there. If they can resolve that minor sticking point, I'd like to put in an offer for the place. It had a great layout. I wish I could say the same about the storyboards of the plot.

The opening moment of the film is a thank-you card to the families of the two characters. This is to suggest that all of this really happened and that their fates depicted in the movie are real. Well, that would have worked except, on the day that I saw the film, the two leads were giddily posing on the cover of last week's Entertainment Weekly. Alive and well. Looking just as dumb as the people they "portray" in the film.

Micah and Katie, the real names of both the actors and the characters, live together and are visited nightly by some sinister spirits. Throwing key chains. Opening and closing doors. Tracking baby powder all over the house. They assume it's a ghost. I would assume it's nothing more than a sloppy relative. Nevertheless, if any of this happened in my abode, I would have checked into the nearest Holiday Inn ASAP. And immediately offered up the condo to an episode of "House Hunters."

Later on in the film, it appears that the evil spirits have come into the house on the coattails of the chick. Well, that's another revelation which would have stopped me in my tracks. Because I would have immediately checked her into the nearest Holiday Inn ASAP. And also renewed my membership on e-Harmony. When it comes to not getting a good night's sleep because ghosts are afoot, I'd quickly kick any girl to the curb.

Nothing makes any sense in "Paranormal Activity" and I would hope that the spirits in my house would be a lot more interesting. And, as for Micah and Katie, this is their first acting job. If, by acting, you mean laying around in bed and looking scared. Gee, I do that all the time just trying to keep up with fresh material on this blog. No worries. Come next and future Oscar nights, Katie and Micah will be watching the proceedings at a friend's house just like the rest of us.

At the "gripping" conclusion of the movie, it simply ends. There are no credits. Again, they want you to believe this is all real. I simply figured that everybody on the crew wanted their names off this piece of junk.

Dinner last night: Prime rib of beef at Chamberlain's Steak and Chop House in Dallas.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

If It Were Wednesday, October 22, 1969...

The MLB Network provided me with a great World Series diversion this past weekend. They reran NBC's complete coverage of the 1969 World Series. All five games. Thankfully, the Mets still won. I was sent soaring back to my childhood. And I got to thinking. What if I were blogging then? And it was the Wednesday following the Mets' Game 5 win on Thursday, October 16. That entry may have sounded a little like this...


---Take that, all you assholes on my block. Where are the Yankees this year? Heh? Heh? Heh?

---Yes, folks, this is Smugness, Third Period. There will be no quiz today.

---The Orioles scored only nine runs the entire Series. The only trouble is four of them were in the first game.

---Somebody needed to tell them that the Vietnam Moratorium last week was for the war, not base hits.

---If Swoboda doesn't make that diving catch in Game 4, that ball rolls all the way to the World's Fair Unisphere.

---Where the ball would be promptly mugged at gunpoint.

---Every time Manager Gil Hodges goes to the mound, he walks like he has a load in his pants.

---The entire Met team sang on Ed Sullivan's show Sunday night. Except they superimposed their birth names. Don Dyer. Frank McGraw. George Seaver.

---Later on, they did the same when Topo Gigio made his weekly appearance. And who knew that his real name was Leon Horowtiz?

---Watching the Series games on TV, I loved all the celebrities who came out to cheer on the Mets.

---Where were you in August?

---In 1966?

---When it was cold and rainy??

---Just what the hell is a Toots Shor anyway?

---I noticed that Jackie Onassis was sitting just a few seats away from Chief Justice Earl Warren. I can hear Jackie calling to him now.

---"Yo, Mr. Chief Justice, just one gunman? Phooey!!"

---Anybody know what Casey Stengel was talking about???

---I still think we should send him to the Paris Peace Talks.

---That would be one way to beat the North Vietnamese.

---"No more old man preese. We surrender. Big white flag."

---Er, what's with the pom pom hat, Nancy Seaver? Just who is your wardrobe consultant? Spanky from the Little Rascals?

---By the way, to all my teachers who assigned me homework during the World Series, none of you will be signing my yearbook.

---I really could have waited on the slavery chapter. After all, it's long gone and I'm betting we'll even have a Black president some day.

---As long as it's not one of the two goons who stole my bookbag in the cafeteria.

---And an addendum to those two thieves: My baptized name is not "White Mother Fucker."

---Who the hell is this singer Oliver and what's with the crappy song?

---"Jean, Jean, Jean, Jean, Jean...."

---How many weeks did it take you to write that lyric?

---Renowned beatnik Jack Kerouac kicked the bucket.

---His name sounds like something I took when I had the chicken pox.

---"Rub this kerouac on your arms and the itching should stop."

---This guy was a slob, so Mr. Undertaker, you don't need to do the complete clean and rinse.

---Jack may be dead, but Beatle spokespeople are insisting that Paul McCartney is not. Lots of nuts are claiming there are all sorts of clues on record covers.

---What the heck? Maybe he does like to watch across the street barefoot.

---And you know what you really hear when you play "I Am the Walrus" at a really slow speed?


---Even at that speed, it's a lot better than...

---"Jean, Jean, Jean, Jean, Jean..."

---How come no one is suggesting that Jean is dead?

---If Paul really was dead, don't you think that Pete Best would be putting his resume in the mail right now?

---ABC has announced that they will turn "The Odd Couple" into a weekly TV show.

---Can't they leave well enough alone? It was a success as a play and then a movie. How the heck will it work on television???

Many thanks to the Bibster for some of the historical research. I wish I knew you then. We would have had such fun.

Dinner last night: Turkey club panini at the Westin Galleria Hotel in Dallas.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This Is It?

Yes, it is. Like it or not.

Surprise. I liked it.

Granted this is not the Michael Jackson documentary I really wanted to see. In my humble opinion, the really entertaining story would have been a hidden camera look at the rest of his family on the days following his death, er, murder. The dirtbag dad looking for easy money. The old lady clinging to her baby and his (?) children. All the brothers and sisters fighting over who got to sit where in the limousines headed to the funeral. It would have been the comedy of the year.

But, "This Is It," comprised of lots of rehearsal footage for the farewell shows Michael would never do, managed to entertain me nonetheless. Granted, I am neglecting to remember quite a bit as I absorb MJ for one last time. Pedophilia. Insanity. Drug addiction. The guy is being inappropriately canonized, but, then again, it's not the first time some undeserving asshole has been embraced by the public. But, we're not talking politics here today.

I cannot deny one thing. Michael Jackson was musically gifted.

This film was produced by the Michael Jackson Estate, so it naturally paints him in the most positive light possible. Whitewashed. But, then again so was Michael, so it's all following the designated plotline. But, as you watch the alleged King of Pop working with the producers, the crew, the singers, and the dancers, you can't help but see somebody who is truly devoted to his craft. And assumes very much a team player mentality as they work hard on the musical production numbers no one would ever see in person.

If you're looking for moments of diva-ism, they are not there. Although clearly crafted from a loving point of view, the candid camera does not lie. At least, with these folks on this bare Staples Center stage, Michael was a good guy. When there is a screw-up in a number or with a lyric, Michael doesn't explode. He keeps saying over and over. "That's why we rehearse." There are some genuine moments of kindness and professionalism that I truly did not expect.

This London show was destined to be a humdinger. Most of the background videos had already been shot. Michael cavorting with Rita Hayworth from "Gilda" or Humphrey Bogart in old film clips. A 3-D version of "Thriller" with the wonderful Vincent Price back from the dead one more time. "Beat It" performed with Michael scarily aloft on a cherry picker.

Still, it's the simpler moments that I really enjoyed. A sweet duet with one of the girl background singers. Working on choreography with some of the male dance team who would be propelled from holes in the stage like your morning raisin toast. The ultra-respectful words of advice he gives some of the musicians. For one song, Michael tells the music director that he wants an intro to sound like "somebody getting out of bed in the morning."

That jarred me back. There was one last morning where Michael himself didn't get out of bed. And, at the end of that day and his days, it was really all his own doing. But, at least, with this movie, you can put all that aside. And do the only thing he wanted you to do. Listen to the music.

A word of advice on seeing "This Is It:" Choose a theater in a decent neighborhood. I saw it in Westwood. The audience was quiet, appreciative, and applauded nicely at the end. But, I have heard tales of some screenings in, well, some less than nice areas. The audience screams constantly. Talking to the screen. People coming in costume, complete with sequined gloves. And sobbing throughout.

You get the gist, right?

Dinner last night: Grilled ham and cheese panini from Clementine's.

And tomorrow: Deep from the heart of Dallas, Texas. With a very different Wednesday rant.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Top Ten Baseball Games I've Been To

That's me on the Dodger Stadium mound at their Christmas party last December. As the World Series and baseball winds down for another season, so, too, do my nerves. A great sedative for the annual transition will be this fun little entry. A few years back, a friend asked me to rank the top ten baseball games I've actually attended. I managed to do it, but, now with a few Dodger moments under my belt, I needed to revise it. The following is based on several criteria. Importance of the game. The level of excitement. And how much fun I had. Naturally, the list is heavy with days from my life in Metland. But Dodgertown is starting to creep in. Enjoy.
10. July 24, 1984: Mets 9, Cards 8. A rather ordinary weeknight baseball game from a season where the Mets were actually starting to get good again. But, I remember it was loaded with strategy and lots of key game-turning situations over 12 innings. Plus I was there with the Bibster and that elevated the evening automatically. We had the best seats in Shea. Loge Level, Section 1 or 3, right behind home plate. "Watch the fake."
9. September 7, 1984: Mets 10, Cubs 0. The Mets are actually mounting what would be an unsuccessful pennant run against the shitheads from Wrigley. Dwight Gooden, who would be my mother's favorite Met, one-hits the Cubs. The only hit is a questionable ground ball muffed by Ray Knight. I was there with my high school best friend, Danny. Around the fourth inning, there was a commotion in our section. People started to swarm around somebody. A major star? Tom Seaver? The Mayor? Madonna? Nope, it was former New York local sportscaster Jerry Azar. Who, you say? Exactly, I say. The Day of the Locusts had finally arrived at Shea Stadium.
8. October 8, 1973: Mets 9, Reds 2. Game Three of the Championship Series at Shea. Bud Harrelson slides into Pete Rose and the Golden Gloves main event starts. Fans grow so irate that projectiles are hurled onto the field. Willie Mays, Rusty Staub, and Tom Seaver must act as peacemakers to the goofballs sitting in left field. I couldn't get that involved with the mayhem. I was there with my dad. You know how that goes.
7. October 6, 1969: Mets 7, Braves 4. My young fandom was finally vindicated. Behind the almost-as-young Nolan Ryan's solid relief effort, the Mets win their first ever National League pennant on their way to the World Series. This was the second year of my Saturday ticket plan and they gave me playoff tickets way up in the top deck behind home plate. We were high enough to talk to some dead relatives. The fans went crazy and stormed the field. I couldn't get that involved with the mayhem. I was there with my dad. Once again, you know how that goes.
6. July 22, 2009: Dodgers 6, Reds 2. Take heart, Dodger fans, the Blue Crew makes the list. Manny Ramirez Bobblehead Night. He pinchhits and knocks the first pitch out for a grand slam. A nightful of excitement jammed into about ninety seconds. The Loge Level bobbled all on its own.
5. July 10, 1999: Mets 9, Yankees 8. Beating the Bronx Bombers is always a plus. Doing it in come-from-behind style against one of the greatest relievers in history is even better. Mike Piazza hits a three-run homer in the seventh to tie the score. Matt Franco wins it with a pinch single off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth. Spatulas were needed to scrape Met fans off the wall.
4. October 8, 2009: Dodgers 3, Cards 2. This date makes its second appearance on this list. Game 2 of the 2009 Division Series between the Dodgers and Cardinals. Outfielder Matt Holliday muffs the final out and the Dodgers raise like Lazarus. Casey Blake's amazing base on balls was like a hitting or non-hitting clinic. Mark Loretta's pinch single sends us all home. My greatest moment to date in my season seats at Dodger Stadium. The entire stadium moved up and down. Did anybody check the Richter scales that afternoon? I got to enjoy this wonderful game with my childhood best friend, Leo, who had been the first person to ever sit in my Saturday seats at Shea. A terrific baseball bookend.
3. October 11, 1986: Mets 6, Astros 5. On perhaps the coldest day I ever spent at Shea Stadium, Lenny Dykstra hits one that hugs the foul pole in the bottom of the ninth of Game Three of 1986 Championship Series. A game that was full of marvelous strategic moments. We were skyhigh in the upper deck. I swear there was snow all around. The victory ultimately warmed us all.
2. October 27, 1986: Mets 8, Red Sox 5. I had finally arrived. I was witness in-person to a World Series win and celebration. Game 7. As Jesse Orosco was closing out the ninth inning, we all stood arm-in-arm. My best friend Danny and I had our arms around each other's shoulders. We knew that such a moment in our lives would be rare. How often do you get this lucky as a baseball fan? I'm waiting to see another one. I'm waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Okay, Dodgers and Mets, my clock is ticking.
1. October 25, 1986: Mets 6, Red Sox 5. The game for the ages. It will never be topped in my life. The comeback win to beat all other comeback wins. The body should not be allowed to tolerate such an emotional pendulum swing in the space of about ten minutes. Gut wrenching defeat. Heaven-reaching exhileration. And I was there! "A little roller up along first behind the bag it gets through Buckner here comes Knight and the Mets win it!" Or so said NBC announcer Vin Scully. I've come to love him even more now.

Dinner last night: Grilled steak salad.