Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sherlock Holmes-less

Of all the wonderful mysteries that have involved this legendary detective, the latest one is the biggest.

How the hell did this movie get made?

And why?

Even Sherlock Holmes himself would be hard pressed to discern the answer. And his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was too busy this past weekend spinning in his grave. And probably posthumously kicking himself over and over. "Why, oh why, didn't I protect the rights to my marvelous stories so that they wouldn't fall into the public domain and get hacked to death by cheeseball directors like Guy Ritchie?" Well, I might be paraphrasing, but perhaps the esteemed author said something like that by last Monday morning.

Oh, don't get me wrong. If you're twenty years old and the most reading you have ever done is the help screen for your newest X-Box game, you probably liked "Sherlock Holmes." If you're like me and you read all the stories when you were a kid and fondly remember such Holmes portrayers as Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett, you likely were hunting for the most rabid Hound of the Baskervilles you could find to take a big chunk out of your neck. Because nothing in this movie has anything remotely to do with Holmes, Watson, or 221B Baker Street. Oh, the names are there. And once in a London blue moon, they slip in something from the books. But, other than that, I could have been watching the latest Batman installment. Or a Homeland Security instructional video. Or a DVD on the proper way to fold your napkin at the dinner table. It's that nonsensical.

Director Guy Ritchie, who once was married to Madonna, includes us with her in a very revered group. Because he's now fucked all of us. Not content to let the Doyle stories serve as the basis for his plot, Ritchie throws in a kitchen sink of movie ideas that will overflow and flood our brains. At various different times, "Sherlock Holmes" is a Kung Fu movie, an episode of "24," a James Bond adventure, a sequel to the dreadful "Fight Club," and a documentary on "Riverdance." But, never once is it about the detective we have come to see. Instead of looking for a speckled band, Holmes and Watson are Marvel Comic superheroes here to save the world one country at a time.

As the latest incarnation of Holmes, Robert Downey Jr., who is usually most reliable in anything he does, is an unmitigated mess. For the first hour of the film, I literally thought my hearing was on the fritz. I couldn't understand a word he said, and, given the fact that I saw this movie in Grauman's Chinese which sports the best movie sound system in the world, I figured my next purchase at Barnes and Nobles would be a sign language manual. Well, luckily or unluckily, my friend had the same problem.

For some mystical reason, Downey spent the entire film playing Holmes as if he was Buddy Hackett. Or Myron Cohen telling a dirty Yiddish joke at the Copa. The only bright spot was the scene where Downey, as Holmes, is tied and handcuffed naked to a bed. Was I the only one who got this delicious irony for Downey, who has spent many a drug-soaked evening wandering the hills of Malibu in the same fashion?

No one else was any better and the ultra-sloppy special effects looked like nothing more than some discarded computer files at your Photoshop 101 class. The closing segment on the London Bridge looked about as real as Raquel Welch's last botox treatment. Of course, in this film, you never saw but a flash of the infamous Professor Moriarty. Perhaps they are saving him for a dreaded sequel. Hey, maybe they're saving the good script for the next movie as well.

Prior to the film, the audience at the Chinese Theater welcomed the rolling back of the curtain (yes, folks, a movie screen curtain!) with anticipatory hoots and hollers. They were primed for some good entertainment. But, at the conclusion, there was an odd development. In Hollywood, when a good movie ends, there is usually applause. After "Sherlock Holmes," there was dead silence. The audience filed out quietly as if they had just taken one last good look at a dead uncle.

So, perhaps, that is the real mystery here for which the game will be afoot.

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappointed Moviegoer.

Dinner last night: Panini with prosciutto, mozzarella, and sundried tomatoes.




Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Last Wednesday of 2009

Bombs away!

---Looking at this highly explosive underwear used in that plane fracas last week, there is now a new definition of "having a load in your pants."

---The burning question is why didn't this creep simply detonate while he was locked in the bathroom.

---After all, isn't that what Van Heflin did in "Airport?"

---My guess is that, since this was the end of a long flight, those bathrooms were so trashed that the guy didn't have room to pull the trigger properly.

---And he probably couldn't toss it down the toilet since it was undoubtedly already clogged with paper towels that aren't supposed to be thrown down there.

---This jerk tried to blow up his crotch. Does he really think that, in the afterlife, Allah has a new parts department?

---Now, we have the requisite hand wringing from President Urkel and company about lax airport security.

---Duh. The folks working the gates at any airport are one job removed from salting the French Fries at McDonald's.

---And now you won't be able to go to the bathroom during the last hour of any flight.

---The only thing that resulting from that new rule will be mega-profits for whatever company makes the industrial solution that cleans those seats.

---By March, most airliners will smell like your neighborhood nursing home.

---I can't believe the surprise from anybody that this nutjob could be loose. Or even exist.

---White House Press Numbskull Robert Gibbs was pretty laughable on TV. Said that the guy was on a watch list. And they were watching him.

---Not so much.

---Everytime something like this happens, it's the same folks. With the same qualities.

---Religion? Check.

---Ethnicity? Check.

---Skin tone? Check.

---So how come they're still patting down Grandma at the airport???

---Hello, Dummies. There are people in this world who have hated America for years.

---Long before Urkel. Long before Bush 2. Long before Clinton. Long before Bush 1.

---So, all the speeches and olive branches and Muslim unity really mean nothing. You might as well try to stab a grizzly bear with a Q-Tip.

---Here's my New Year greeting. Blow the shit out of them.

---Should old acquaintance be forgot...

---Blow the shit out of them.

---Let's drink a cup of kindness...

---Blow the shit out of them.

---Heck, it's not like there will be a lot of collateral damage. There's nobody over there. Most have migrated here.

---You think I jest? Take a look at any Beverly Hills shopping mall in December. You'd swear that Nordstrom's opened up a store in Baghdad.

---The health care bill passed through the Senate on Christmas Eve. The clock is now ticking.

---You officially have four years to plan your farewell appointment with your doctor.

---Twenty million more people enter the system. And no new doctors.

---You do the math. Because nobody in government apparently did.

---Went for my annual physical yesterday and I brought that up to my doctor. And he agreed!!!

---That's why he's MY doctor.

---By the way, I have the bloodwork of a 20 year-old.

---And the right knee of an eighty year-old.

---If you care, I'm in great health.

---The Obamas are on holiday vacation in Hawaii. I owe anybody $2,000 for a photo of Michelle getting her hair wet.

---A safe bet. She won't. Because the hair is a weave!!

---Ever see a Black woman at a public pool?

---Your honor, the defense rests.

---Just like the New York Giants last Sunday.

---And, is it me or can I actually tell the days that POTUS has hit the Just For Men dye bottle?

---Some days, he look as young as a whip. And, on others, the salt in his hair reminds me of Benson during the first season of "Soap."

---Or Chicken George in the last installment of "Roots."

---Every year around this time, I gain new readers.

---And I'm guessing, after that last riff, I lose them just as quickly.

---It's another wonderful holiday week in Los Angeles. Everyone worthwhile has cleared out of town. Except for me.

---Finally, with no traffic, you can complete a half-hour drive in 45 minutes.

---The only jerks still in town (except for me) are Mexicans looking to have their picture taken with Spiderman on Hollywood Boulevard.

---You can also tell it's the week between Christmas and New Year's. The only way you can get into Lawry's Prime Rib is if you're an out-of-town fan for one of the Rose Bowl teams.

---Here comes the Rose Parade!

---Out here in Los Angeles, it is shown on every single channel. English, Korean, Mexican, Armenian. And I think Bob Eubanks does the commentary on all of them.

---Seriously, there is one station here that airs the parade on a loop constantly. I think they finally stop it around Labor Day. Most of the flowers have been dead for months.

---This blew my mind. I parked my car on the street and popped a coin in the meter. (One of the few in LA that hasn't morphed into a pay station.) But I noticed I was hanging over into a red zone, so I got back in to move it slightly.

---You follow me so far?

---So, I get out of the car and proceed to the store I am checking out. But, a parking enforcement cop pulled up and approached me. A Black woman, FYI.

---"Sir, you need to put some money in the meter."

---I explained I already did. And, besides, there was already time on it.

---"That's a fine anyway. Yassir."

---Huh????

---Miss Thing pulled out some slip of paper that stated "failure to put a coin into a meter" is a 45 dollar fine.

---I couldn't believe what I was hearing. But, what if there is already time on the meter. Is that still a fine?

---"Yassir."

Welcome to America. But I still say we blow the shit out of them.

Dinner last night: Chicken crispers at Chili's.





Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Last Week:

Over Christmas weekend, I actually got two identical e-mails from two different readers. With the very same question.

"If you tell us every day what you had for dinner the night before, why don't you tell us what you got for Christmas?"

I can't believe anybody is interested. And, since I did a lot less feigning awe and wonder as I opened gifts this year, I'm actually proud to comply. Far be it from me to disappoint my revered readership. In no order of importance:

A bottle of wine.

"All Quiet on the Western Front" DVD.

"A Letter to Three Wives" DVD.

Valerie Bertinelli's newest book "Finding It." (I am such a tool and I have a friend who knows it.)

A gift card to the Arclight Cinemas.

A Barnes and Noble gift card.

A Dodger watch from Fossil.

A Dodger car flag. (This gets hung in my room due to low garage clearance.)

A book "Sixty Feet, Six Inches" by Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson.

A US Marine Corp mug by our weekend houseguest, my pseudo-nephew-Marine stationed now in Yuma, Arizona. Indeed, his presence here with my friends was a gift in itself.

"The Golden Age of Television" DVD collection.

"Grand Hotel" DVD.

"500 Days of Summer" DVD.

Tickets to the Eagles at the Hollywood Bowl in April.

Eight dance lessons. Yes, folks, this will be multiple blog entries for sure.

"High Society" DVD.

A Pearl Bailey long playing record album. Yes, this was a gag gift.

Three Pearl Bailey CDs. Not a gag gift.

A Rosemary Clooney CD collection.

A book on the Ed Sullivan Show.

And a partridge in a pear tree.

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - December 28, 2009

Just in case you might still be doing some Christmas shopping for those Greek Orthodox smokers in your life...


Dinner last night: Leftover ham.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - New Year's Eve



Some of this you and I have discussed before. Some of it not. This essentially is a blog flashback episode. But, given this week's holiday, it's time to remember one more time.

Past New Year's Eves.

The photo above is historic as previous blog entries will remind you. You may recall my tale of serving as the seven-year-old bartender for some family gatherings on December 31. Here I am on one of those infamous nights. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any photos of some relatives lying drunk underneath the buffet table of cold cuts and German potato salad.

It all came about because I had nothing else to do at these parties usually held at some relative's home or perhaps even our own freezing meat locker of a basement. At this age, I was in a party purgatory. I had nobody my age to play with. My older cousins were usually sequestered in some dark corner of the house with whatever girlfriend or boyfriend they were either groping or being groped by at the moment. They didn't need me hanging around with my nagging questions. "Why are your hands there??" I often heralded in the new year with the greeting, "go away, kid."

So, I wound up with the adults, listening to dirty jokes that I didn't get. I'd camp out at the liquor table. My family was so proud of the array of bottles that they would feature at these soirees that I actually have uncovered photos of nothing but booze.

To keep myself busy, I would help my father make the drinks. At first, I was relegated to the placement of ice cubes. Then, I graduated to the insertion of tonic, Tom Collins mix, or whatever soft beverage was being included. At some point, my father decided to go and have some fun on his own and I would man the cocktail dispenser all by myself. Each relative would come up and direct me how ot make whatever libation theyr were desiring. And, pretty much, every dialogue included this exchange:

Relative: "Whoa, you put way too much booze in there."

Me: "Okay, I'll start over."

Relative: "No, no, don't throw it out. I'll drink it."

This happened every single time. It's no wonder why most of my family was tanked by 12:15AM. At this point, they didn't give a shit whether it was New Year's Eve or Arbor Day. When I canvassed my dad's slide of these parties, I could actually tell what time the photo was taken from the looks of some of those faces. In one shot, I saw some distant uncle modeling certain body parts made out of balloons. Now, regardless of your age, every family member at this party was R-rated. Except for me. Hell, even Grandma and Tante Emma would get into the act with a polka.

Back then, this photo meant nothing to me. In retrospect, it looks like a senior citizen center's production of "The Children's Hour."

And, given the stress level of my solitary confinement at these gatherings, I couldn't even calm myself by eating. Not that the food we put out was bad. But, for me, there was one bowl on the table that tainted everything else.


Herring in sour cream. The odor was nauseating. It permeated the entire buffet. The ham smelled like herring. The pickles smelled like herring. I started to smell like herring. And I have no idea who the fuck was eating this shit. I think my grandfather did. As a result, there might have been some years where I avoided him until July or August.

While these parties sometimes lasted till 2 or 3AM, I usually didn't. I'd get bored and head up to bed, carefully tiptoeing around some oversexed cousin who was crawling on top of some date on the stairs. I vowed that the next New Year's Eve would be better for me. It never was.

Oh, it would be years later that there would be some year-end celebrations that would be memorable for me. In college, we once welcomed the passage of time with a raucous hockey game in the dorm hallways, using a friend's crutches as sticks. There'd be another year where I went to a taping of the Tonight Show. As it recorded at 530PM, the audience was coached on how to sing "Auld Lang Syne" six hours early.

There was the year where my fractured shoulder was in a sling and I could barely reach for the dice playing Trivial Pursuit at a neighbor's house. There were years when I remembered what I saw my cousins doing and I put the memories to good use myself. And there was the fateful Eve where I returned from a house party to hear that my mom had just lapsed into an irreversible coma at the hospital. Suddenly, the herring smell years paled in comparison.
And then there was my favorite New Year's Eve of all time. 1984. I had wavered on definitive plans when a good friend called with a bright idea. He and his wife were going downtown to an oldies club called Shout. In the truest spirit of marketing, the place played the song several nights that night. My friends even had another girl going, so we could easily divide the drink bill equally four ways.
To be honest, I don't remember who they brought along, because I danced with so many people that night. The evening was electric. One big hit from the 50s and 60s after another. At several points out on the dance floor, we toasted catcher Gary Carter, who the Mets had just obtained in a trade. At midnight, they dragged out "Shout" one more time. And we did. I kissed a few of the patrons around me. I had no clue who they were. I didn't give a shit. It was that free. And easy. And spontaneous.
We had so much fun that, by January 2, I was already making plans to duplicate it the following year. And we kept spreading the word around amongst other friends as if we were sharing a secret handshake. By the time December, 1985 had rolled around, most of the names in my Filofax had been invited. And I had a girlfriend, to boot. A non-stranger to kiss at the stroke of 12. This was going to be super-electric.
It was horrible.
What had been spontaneous the year before was now over-planned to the hilt. And the cast of thousands of my friends didn't exactly mesh. It was the Hindenburg of celebrations. To make the gloom even more pronounced, we got word in the middle of the evening that Ricky Nelson had been killed in a plane crash.
To this day, I still don't know what happened from one year to another. I'm not even sure the club stayed open much longer. New Year's Eve eventually returned to "crapshoot" status as far as I was concerned.







These days, I keep it quiet. A nice dinner out with some West Coast friends. I try to call my East Coast pals at 9PM so we can still celebrate New York New Year's Eve at the same time. But, the one constant throughout all the years? I've always been sober.That's because I always make sure never to get a drink from a seven-year-old bartender.
Dinner last night: Sausage, pepperoni, and mushroom pizza at CPK.



Saturday, December 26, 2009

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - December 2009

One of my alltime favorites....and especially for the holiday season.


Dinner last night: Christmas dinner as catered by Marie Callendar's---ham and all the fixings.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas From My Blog to Yours...

....and from my tree to yours. Make it a special day!

Dinner last night: Sausage and pepper sandwich at Maria's Italian Kitchen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

T'was The Night Before Christmas (With Bonus Commentary)


Just imagine us in front of a warm Christmas Eve fireplace. Snug as bugs in rugs. And I open this book to read it aloud to all assembled. How utterly delightful! How comforting! How could I possibly get through the whole thing without making a bunch of snarky comments?

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

Okay, it's me now. An ignoble start to this Christmas chestnut, because right from the get-go, you find out they've got rodents in this place.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

Giving rise to another horrible childhood nightmare when Monte, my "alleged friend" up the block who liked to spew a lot of Catholic hate my way, told me that St. Nicholas was obviously Catholic and didn't visit Protestant homes.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

I have never dreamt of fruit. Even once.

And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,

Bedtime headwear? The only person I ever saw in a nightcap was Fred Mertz. And what's with the nonsense about a nap? When you go to bed at nighttime, it's not a nap. It's called "going to sleep!"

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

If there ever was commotion in our neighborhood, we didn't immediately think it was Santa Claus. It was probably Vicki's mom next door coming home drunk from the local gin mill. Once, she fell right through my grandmother's lilac bush.

Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter and threw up the sash.

"Threw up the sash?" You never should have tried to eat it in the first place.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of mid-day to objects below,

If I was reading this as a kid, I would have started to giggle at the mention of "breast" and probably not get through the rest of the poem. I'm just saying...

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

This is one of the only Christmas passages that gave you any perspective on the size of the reindeer. Were they babies? And, if so, is this not animal cruelty? Making these things run all over the world in one night??

With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

Had we no prior experience with Christmas, would we immediately know it was St. Nick? On any street corner in December, there are tons of imposters. There are myriad ways that a scam artist could bilk thousands of unsuspecting children on Christmas Eve. After all, nobody is awake to demand proper identification.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name; "Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!"

Okay, no mention of Rudolph. When does he get invented? And perhaps he was nothing more than a urban legend designed to get Gene Autry a couple of Gold albums. And don't you wonder just a little about Vixen? With a name like that, I wonder which of the other reindeer she was doing. The smart money is on Dasher.

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!

I typed that just as Clement Moore wrote it originally. What's with the inability to capitalize properly?

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

Dry leaves? How do these turn up in a winter poem? My guess is that Moore started writing this in September or October and simply got sidetracked during the process. I know just how deadly writer's block can be. Who knows? Maybe this was supposed to be "Twas The Night Before Halloween."

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, with the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

So is this proof that Santa only brought toys? That runs contrary to some other images we have. Of Mr. Claus riding a Norelco razor up and down some snowdrifts. And Santa was prominently displayed on that carton of Kent cigarettes my mother always got as well as the box of Canadian Club my dad got from his friends around the corner.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

The way our roof was arched, there was absolutely no way that the sleigh and reindeer could have kept their balance. At least, three of those suckers would have tumbled off. Right into Grandma's lilac bush, lying next to Vicki's drunken mother.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

You see, this always presented a major problem in our house. There was one chimney fireplace. In Grandma's dining room. And it was sealed with cement. I once asked her how Santa Claus could get in. She told me not to ask a lot of stupid question.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soots;

Dressed in fur? Are we absolutely 100% sure that there was a Mrs. Claus? Because the image I'm getting is Liberace. Except no gay guy allows himself to get this dirty ever.

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

You see a sprightly old gentleman? I'm seeing a homeless bum down in Santa Monica.

His eyes---how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

Possibly warning signs of rosacea or even high blood pressure.

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

One verse later, we have our medical diagnosis. "Mouth drawn up like a bow." He's had a mild stroke.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

A stroke brought on by heavy smoking.

He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

I never understood. Do me a favor. Take a jar of jelly and empty it into a bowl. It doesn't shake. It just lies there. Inert. Now, if Moore had known about Jell-O at the time, this reference would have worked. But, then, you have the rhyme problem. Jell-O, bellow, hello, mellow. The whole poem falls off the proverbial map.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

Another misnomer. Fat people are not always happy. Most are depressed, having eaten themselves into a coma for deep seeded psychological reasons.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

Or maybe I did. An old guy winking and making overt gestures. Hello, Pedophile.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

Head twisting. Body jerking. I'm thinking Parkinson's. What about you?

And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

Once again, I'd ask my grandmother how Santa could get out with a sealed up chimney in our house. Once again, I'd hear, "You ask too many stupid question."

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle,

I never knew what a thistle was, let alone how much down you got from one. And, how about the noise this bunch generates as they leave? For what purpose? Aren't they simply going to fly over to the house next door?

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Yeah! Me, too!

Dinner last night: BLT sandwich at Islands.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Walking in a Wednesday Wonderland

Let me be your diversion for these last shopping moments. Better you spend time here than in the malls. Let's face it. You were going to buy the wrong thing anyway.

---Thank God we are also nearing the end of Christmas music on the radio.

---If I hear Jose Feliciano and "Feliz Navidad" one more time, I can't guarantee that I won't be violent the next time I see a blind guy with a guitar.

---And, after you've heard Eartha Kitt and "Santa Baby" for the 10,000th time...

---Oddly enough, she died last Christmas Day.

---"Santa Baby, no need to get out of your bed, I'm dead."

---If Burl Ives had been Jewish, what kind of career would he have had?

---That guy must have looked at the month of December like a tax accountant views April.

---Rumor has it Burl was a big ole Commie back when. So, I'm thinking he dug Santa's red outfit.

---I worry about the "Winter Wonderland" song.

---"Later on, we'll conspire as we dream by the fire."

---Conspire?

---According to Webster's Dictionary, "conspire" means "to do something wrong or illegal."

---Which makes "Winter Wonderland" the official Christmas carol of the Taliban.

---By the way, how is it that our government satellites can track Santa Claus every Christmas Eve and they still can't find Bin Laden?

---I'm sure you've heard that "Sleigh Ride" song with the horses.

---Clip, clop, clip, clop, clip, clop.

---It might remind you of Christmas. Me, I think of the old opening to the Yonkers Raceway show every Saturday night.

---"Clippity, clippity, clippity, clop. Yonkers Raceway, that's the stop."

---Luckily, I can avoid the usual Christmas music shit by tuning into Sirius Satellite in the car. Where the Christmas music channel plays a lot of stuff you never hear.

---Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Pearl Bailey, Dean Martin. All wonderful!

---Back in the day, every musical star did a Christmas album. Whether or not they were Christians.

---It's fun to hear "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful" sung by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.

---Two well-known Sephardic Jews.

---And Paul Anka jingling all the way.

---One of the biggest bastards ever to see the inside of a Hollywood recording studio.

---I guess it's okay to be that angry when you're short and ugly.

---Some of the records and artists are a little too obscure, though.

---They've played Christmas carols as sung by the New Christy Minstrels.

---What makes them new? Is that to say there were Old Christy Minstrels.

---And, are they singing "Silent Night" in black face? I mean, they're minstrels, right?

---Has anybody ever seen or known a Ray Conniff Singer? Do they really exist or is that just a musical urban legend?

---But, still...props to Sirius for putting good stuff on the air. And not playing any Christmas music from Band Aid.

---"Do they know it's Christmastime at all?"

---I'm guessing yes. Because there's shit under the tree.

---I also want to hurl everytime I hear that Mexican ditty.

---"Mamacita, donde esta Santa Claus?"

---I know. Santa's in the trunk of the car, alongside Uncle Alberto.

---Thankfully, I've only heard "Christmas Shoes" once this year. That dreadful mess about some kid who wants to buy shoes for his dying mom because she's going to meet Jesus on Christmas Eve.

---Because nothing says holiday joy more than Mom on a heavy morphine drip.

---And I'm thinking that it's not so easy to meet Jesus on Christmas Eve. I mean, it's the guy's birthday and I'm sure there's a long line.

---Do we suppose that Tiger Woods will be getting a Christmas goose?

Dinner last night: Pork tenderloins and grilled plantains in a holiday celebration hosted by some good friends.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Evolution of an Office Christmas Party

Office holiday parties have become the event from Hell. But, these days, the hard part might be getting to agree on what the party is. The following gag has made the internet rounds lately. It's designed for laughs. But, most of it might be sadly true.


From: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

To: All Employees

Date: October 1, 2009

Re: Gala Christmas Party

I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23rd, starting at noon in the private function room at the Grill House. There will be a cash bar and plenty of drinks! We'll have a small band playing traditional carols, so feel free to sing along. And don't be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa. A Christmas tree will be lit at 1PM. Exchanges of gifts among employees can be done at that time; however, no gift should be over $10 to make the giving of gifts easy for everyone's pockets. This gathering is only for employees! Our CEO will make a special announcement at that time!

Merry Christmas to you and your family

Patty

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

From: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

To: All Employees

Date: October 2, 2009

Re: Gala Holiday Party

In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Hanukkah is an important holiday, which often coincides with Christmas, although, unfortunately, not this year. However, from now on, we're calling it our "Holiday Party." The same policy applies to any other employees who are not Christians and to those still celebrating Reconciliation Day. There will be no Christmas tree and no Christmas carols will be sung. We will have other types of music for your enjoyment.

Happy now? Happy Holidays to you and your family.

Patty

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From: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

To: All Employees

Date: October 3, 2009

Re: Holiday Party

Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table, you didn't sign your name. I'm happy to accommodate this request, but, if I put a sign on a table that reads "AA Only," you would no longer be anonymous. How am I supposed to handle this?

Somebody?

And, sorry, but please forget about the gift exchange. No gifts are allowed, since union members feel that $10 is too much money and the executives believe $10 is a little chintzy.

REMEMBER: NO EXCHANGE OF GIFTS WILL BE ALLOWED.

Patty Lewis

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From: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

To: All Employees

Date: October 4, 2009

Re: Generic Holiday Party

What a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20th begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and drinking during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon at this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees' beliefs. Perhaps the Grill House can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party or maybe package everything for you to take home in a little foil doggy bag. Will that work?

Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Weight Watchers to sit farthest from the dessert buffet. Pregnant women will get the table closest to the bathroom.

Gays are allowed to sit with each other. Lesbians do not have to sit with Gay men. Each group will have its own table. And, yes, there will be a flower arrangement for the Gay men's table.

To the person who inquired about crossdressing, the Grill House asks that this not be allowed, because of potential restroom confusion. Sorry.

Booster seats will be provided for short people. Low-fat food will be available for those on a diet. I am sorry to report that we cannot control the amount of salt used in the food. The Grill House suggests that people with high blood pressure taste a bite first. There will be fresh "low sugar" fruits as dessert for diabetics, but the restaurant cannot supply "no sugar" desserts. Sorry!

Did I miss anything?

PL

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From: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

To: All F#%^ing Employees

Date: October 5, 2009

Re: Friggin' Holiday Party

Okay, I've had it with all you vegetarian rat bastards! We're going to keep this party at the Grill House whether you like it or not. You all can sit your asses down at the table furthest from the "grill of death," as you so quaintly put it, and you'll get your goddamn salad bar, including organic tomatoes. But, you know, tomatoes have feelings, too. They scream when you slice them. I've heard them scream. I'm hearing them scream right NOW!

The rest of you shitheads can kiss my ass in Macy's window. I hope your holidays suck a big one.

Drive drunk and die!

The Bitch from Hell

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From: Joan Bishop, Acting Human Resources Director

To: All Employees

Date: October 6, 2009

Re: Patty Lewis and Holiday Party

I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Patty Lewis a speedy recovery. I'll continue to forward your cards to her.

In the meantime, management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party. Everyone can take the afternoon of the 23rd off with full pay.

Happy Holidays!

Joan

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Dinner last night: Turkey burger at the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - December 21, 2009

My favorite scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Meow.


Dinner last night: Bacon, cheese, and onion omelette at Cafe 50s Diner.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Christmas At My House (An Old Photo Essay)


Well, my house from many years ago. As you can see from the above picture, Christmas was a huge deal when I was about four or five. Packages were exquisitely wrapped. The tree, albeit artificial, was beautifully decorated. Train tracks and a winter village were underneath it. Toys were plentiful. By the time I was ten, the holidays became a bit more robotic. In fact, Mom and Dad tired of the tree decoration activity. Instead of "taking it down," they simply put a plastic bag around it and stored the thing up in the attic. The very next year, the tree was completely restored in the space of five minutes. A cup of hot tea took longer to do.



But, in the early days, it was all about watching me open my gifts and then pose for pictures. My father was quite enamored of his new Argus technicolor camera. I was asked to hold each present or toy up and then smile. Or, as this photograph shows, try to smile. By the way, I will go on record by saying that I have never been able to read music. I have no idea why that sheet music is open for me to play, as if I'm either Ferrante or Teicher.


When I was finally done surveying the loot in our second floor abode, I'd head downstairs to see what Santa brought me at Grandma and Grandpa's. Usually, the Santa that stopped there simply made a quick cash run at the bank. There was usually an envelope containing five or ten dollars underneath their artificial tree, which really only made an appearance for a year or two. They essentially gave up with the stock excuse patented exclusively by my family.
"It's too much trouble."
Well, at least, they were honest. They didn't bother. Unlike the folks upstairs who stowed away the tree along with the winter coats. Ours was the only Christmas tree in the neighborhood that had to be vacuumed every year.



By noontime on Christmas Day, we would all gather at some relative's house for the usual feast. In my family, there was some complex grid that showed who had hosted last year and who was due to host this year. Thanksgiving and New Year's also played into the rotation and I vaguely remember that Albert Einstein had to be consulted on this mechanism at some point. I dreaded the days where we would stray from our own home. Think about it. I had just met all these great new toys and I was immediately pulled away for several hours. The earliest vestiges of my separation anxieties.
Dinner would usually be turkey, ham, or even roast pork. At some point, somebody would say the wrong thing to somebody else and the latter would spend most of the mealtime sulking and smoking on the back porch. Eventually, Dad would call for a truce and a concurrent photo opportunity like the one shown above. That's Grandpa in the foreground, looking a bit forlorn. Had he just attended his own pity party on the back stoop? Perhaps. Mom is clearly positioned right behind, holding up a drink and probably hiding a cigarette behind her back. The photo itself is a little fuzzy, but, at this point in the party, so was the vision of most of the folks in this snapshot.



The other problem for me when we were forced to spend the day at somebody else's house was the need for me to dress up. And go outside. Unfortunately, my mother pretty much dressed me in whatever was that year's fashion from the little boy pages of the Spiegel catalog. You really couldn't make the most of the holiday by fooling around or playing. These were your "good clothes." I couldn't get them dirty at all. Heck, my mom would flip out if a crease was mussed.


But, on those Christmases that we hosted, I could go to town. Or, at the very least, the back yard. With fresh snow. As an only child and with cousins that were older than me, I desperately needed somebody to talk to. This snowman sufficed. At least until about two weeks later when the temperature hit 40 degrees. That's Grandma peering out of the house window. Probably making sure that I'm not fooling around with anything in her rhubarb garden.

Kudos to my dad for contributing to this piece with his photography. You see, the pictures did come in handy. I can see his voice right now.
"What the hell is this internet thing?"
But, thanks to him, everyone shown here is alive again. At least for one more day.

Dinner last night: Risotto with sausage and mushrooms at Fabiolus.




Saturday, December 19, 2009

Classic Newsreel of the Month - December 2009

Christmas as it might have been seen by moviegoers in 1945.


Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Scared of Santa - Today's Bonus Entry





Your Holiday Week Movie Guide for December 2009

A great vintage photo of the Radio City Music Hall entrance from a Christmas back in the 50s. It had to be winter. Look at the clunky boots on the lady in the foreground.

I'm wondering what the movie was at the time of this snapshot, because it doesn't look crowded. I can remember being in a line down the block for the requisite holiday flick and stage show, complete with a Nativity scene that always made my mother cry and had live animal smells that made my eyes water.

Spending your Christmas time off with the latest Hollywood releases is a tradition for many of us. It's also when studios are more likely to put out good stuff that might be Oscar-bound. Or maybe not. Here's what is out now or coming shortly. Your delightful holiday diversions. Or maybe not.

Avatar: James Cameron finally follows up on Titanic from about twelve years and everyone is expecting the same box office juggernaut. I say, "phooey." From what I have seen and read, there will be little interest from anybody over the age of 25. The target audience are those goofballs who who think that video game graphics are an art form. Titanic appealed to the masses. Avatar will appeal to the asses. And, three hours of 3-D images will incite optic tumors from ghost to ghost. I hear that sneak preview audiences walked away nauseous. The creatures in the trailers look ridiculous. Smurfs with botox injections. One female "thing" looked like a cross between Blue Man Group and Joan Van Ark. I cannot be bothered.

Brothers: You have a very short memory. I wrote about this yesterday.

The Princess and the Frog: I hear that this misguided Disney cartoon is way overrated. Most critics reviewed it favorably because they didn't want to appear racist. Just so you know, all the human cartoon characters are Black. I assume the frog is green.

The Blind Side: Uh oh. Here are four words you never ever hear. "Sandra Bullock Oscar Buzz." I hear it's a real crowd pleaser. So are people being gored during the run of the bulls in Spain. Now, if I could go see Sandra Bullock get gored by a bull, I might get myself a large buttered popcorn.

It's Complicated: A romantic comedy with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin. But the title alone is bothersome enough. Word of advice: don't name your movie with something that can be used as a gag in a critic's review. "Mr. X, what did you think of the plot?" "Well, it's complicated."

Me and Orson Welles: I had high hopes for this. Word of mouth tells me I was overly optimistic. I hear it's as dull as dirt. Plunk down your $10.50 and watch old paint peel. I can do that in a tenement for nothing.

Did You Hear About The Morgans?: Yes, I did. They're horrible.

My Son, My Son, What Have You Done: A man slays his mother with a sword. Now that what's I call Christmas!

Nine: Director Rob Marshall hoping to recapture "Chicago" magic. But, the advance buzz is not good. And it got a bunch of Golden Glove nominations which is a bad sign since those Foreign Press correspondents don't speak English. But, it's a musical and Sophia Loren is in it for about five minutes. No complaints here.

Invictus: As I wrote last month, I'm tortured about this one. I tend to see anything Clint Eastwood directs. But, this is some dreary true story about that idiot Nelson Mandela and some soccer player played by Matt Damon, who never fails to wear his liberalism on his sleeve. Plus it's got Morgan Freeman and it's been, what, two weeks since his last movie. I'll probably see it, but I'll hate myself in the morning.

The Lonely Bones: Peter Jackson directs some pathetic mess about a little girl who falls victim to a serial killer. Now that's what I also call Christmas. The reviews were awful and that's probably a good thing.

The Young Victoria: Queen Victoria in her first, turbulent year of reign. I'm asleep by the second reel.

A Single Man: Good buzz about some gay guy who considers suicide. And, of course, there were also "colored women who considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf." I have no idea what that joke means, but it's the end of the year and this blog is running on fumes.

Everybody's Fine: Robert DeNiro reconnecting with his family. I saw it last week in New York. Everybody's just so-so.

The Road: I saw this as well in New York last week and I was disappointed to learn that Dorothy Lamour was not in it. It's an incredibly depressing tale about the end of the world. Stay home and simply watch Katie Couric.

Precious: I am awaiting the award season when we will see dumbbells fawn over this mess with false praise. I still contend it should be viewed as a comedy with a laugh track.

An Education: I got around to this one fairly early. I think I liked it, but I can't remember a single frame of the film. Not a good sign for Oscar voters who have an even shorter attention span.

Sherlock Holmes: I'm a big fan of the detective and Robert Downey Jr., in that order. Unlike Michael Jackson, I'll be there.

Up In The Air: After my rave review, you still haven't seen it??? I'm already prepping my second look. The best film of the year and maybe the decade. The early Oscar favorite. Run, don't walk. Even better, fly. Get it?

Alvin and the Chipmunks The Squeakquel: Some poison and a broom is all we need.

Crazy Heart: No clue except the ad features Jeff Bridges playing a guitar. So, if you've been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to hear Jeff Bridge play a guitar, this just may be your movie.

Fantastic Mr. Fox: Still lurking around the multiplex woods. And I'm still staying home.

Broken Embraces: Penelope Cruz in something Spanish. Or perhaps it should be something Spanish in Penelope Cruz. I'm thinking you can see the whole film simply by standing in line at the DMV.

2012: Been there, vomited that. Perfectly awful in any year.

New Moon: I thought "twilight" was another word for "local anesthesia." And somewhere in that sentence is a perfect description for this movie.

Dinner last night: Ham salad sandwich.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

And It Ain't Groucho and Chico...

Several days after seeing the new film, "Brothers," I still have not formed an opinion. Or, to be more exact, I have formed multiple opinions that change from moment to moment. The good news is I'm still thinking about the movie. And maybe the bad news is that I'm still thinking about the movie.

I had been intrigued by the trailer. A home impacted by the deployment of a Marine to Afghanistan. I wanted to feel some of these sensations. In short order, I will soon have my "psuedo" nephew go through the same process. He'll be a part of the 30,000 troops that President Urkel will be sending there in 2010. Naturally, it's on our minds and I wanted to learn just a little of what the feelings might be here on the homefront. With this film, I learned a lot. And learned very little.

Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal are the brothers and that is a slam dunk. For years, I've been getting those two actors mixed up. Marine Captain Tobey is married to high school sweetheart Natalie Portman and they have two obnoxious daughters. He is the golden boy. Jake, meanwhile, has been a jailbird and the resident familial fuck up. So, there you have it. The white sheep and the black sheep. When Tobey's character is a helicopter crash over in Terroristville, he is presumed dead. As soon as his memorial service is over, Jake slowly takes over his brother's role as father and husband. Within fifteen screen minutes, he and the missus are swapping spit in front of the fireplace.

But, wait, as the Slap Chop guy on TV says, there's more. Tobey and a buddy really survived and they are being held captive in a Taliban sinkhole. Ultimately, Tobey is forced to kill his pal and you just know that's not the easiest thing for him to get over when he finally returns stateside. He spends the rest of the movie staring into space, busting up kitchen cabinets, and accusing his brother of screwing his wife. An episode of Gomer Pyle USMC this isn't.

By the end of the movie, the white sheep and the black sheep have exchange wool colors and Tobey winds up in a mental hospital that is hopefully not connected to Fort Hood. Everything is ambiguous at the end.

Just like the war itself.

In my parallel universe, I don't know what to make of the upcoming surge there. I certainly want all those terrorists busted and dead forever. At the same time, I realize there is a price. A dear one, perhaps. Maybe, my opinion of the film is a direct correlation to my opinion of the war. And, frankly, I have no confidence in the POTUS' ability to lead a military operation, when the sum of his past organizational experience was probably chaperoning the local Boys' Club to a White Sox game.

So, yes, one more time, my emotions are scattered. About everything. Yet, after seeing the harrowing scenes of torture depicted in "Brothers," I am sure about one thing. Anybody who wants to go easy on any prisoners we have captured is an idiot. You watch what these animals do in this film and you will want to become a fan of waterboarding on Facebook. These pigs get everything they deserve.

I'm also confident about another thing. My "psuedo" nephew doesn't have to worry. I don't think his brother is going to make a run at his girlfriend while he's overseas.

Dinner last night: Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Only Two More Shopping Wednesdays Till Christmas

If you haven't started shopping yet, you might as well not bother.

---And start talking in a lot of Yiddish.

---Oh, by the way, please, no more desk calendars. By the time I remember I have one, it's July 20 and I'm over six months behind.

---As soon as it's December 1, I start practicing.

---"Oh, how nice, thank you. You shouldn't have."

---"Really, you shouldn't have."

---"Seriously, this is too much. You shouldn't have."

---What I'm really saying...

---"What the hell were you thinking?????"

---"YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE!!!!!!"

---After walking around New York for a year, I have decided the perfect gift for lots of people.

---Intelligence. Can you order that from Eddie Bauer?

---All over midtown Manhattan, there are loads of idiots mindlessly walking around with their heads cocked upward at a 45 degree angle.

---And then bumping into the next person.

---I don't remember the same frenzy when I was a kid about Christmas at Rockefeller Center.

---It's a freakin' tree! And, by January 15, it will be compost.

---With all the senior citizens shuffling their walkers into Radio City Music Hall every two hours, I have an interesting thought.

---At the end of every performance, how many seats are wet?

---And, no, I'm not talking about a leaky Diet Pepsi.

---Meanwhile, at West Side Story, they have devised a wonderful product. A sippy cup that actually allows you to bring in your drink from intermission.

---The person who invented this. Now, that's the dude who needs to get a Nobel Peace Prize.

---Spotted in American's JFK Admirals Club yesterday: Ted Danson and wife Mary Steenburgen.

---Ted and I made eye contact. I said, "cheers."

---Well, I thought it was clever at the time.

---Later on, they were three rows ahead of me on the flight. A good six hour look at the bald spot on his head.

---Then, as I left baggage claim, I walked right into hapless Dodger owner Frank McCourt.

---As a full season ticket holder, I felt I had the total right to say something.

---"Hello, Mr. McCourt."

---I startled him. He waved sheepishly.

---A deer in headlights. Perhaps he thought I was a process server. I hear he's seen a few of them lately.

---Maybe he thought he was being outed. Who were you there to pick up, Frank? Certainly not the missus.

---Hmmmmmmmm......

---On the flip side, Tiger Woods is now hiding out in Sweden.

---Yeah, there's all ugly women there.

---I'd say he's the big winner for 2009. But, frankly, when you think about it, Nancy Pelosi has fucked a lot more folks in the same time frame.

---Obama graded his first year and gave himself a B+.

---Obviously, there's a bell curve.

---My entire NY week was incredibly unsettled. My abode there had a demonic thermostat.

---If the temperature outside was 50 degrees, the heat was on and the apartment was a hellish 80 degrees.

---When the temperature outdoors was 25 degrees, the temperature inside was 50 degrees.

---I wasn't sure when I should call the building super or an exorcist.

---You think it's broken?

---My sinuses sure think so.

---They're now as clogged as the 405 Freeway the day before Thanksgiving.

But, thank goodness that's where I am today. And, goodbye, Juan Pierre. Thanks for everything you did this year.

Dinner last night: Evelyn's Favorite Pasta at the Cheesecake Factory.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ghosts of Christmases Past

PBS stations all over the country are currently airing a compilation of King Family Christmas shows as part of their pledge drives. Not only would this make me inclined not to donate money, but I've also thinking about asking for my money back from my previous contributions.

You probably remember this loopy bunch from television shows back in the 60s. A surefire way to make me go to bed before my usual time. They showed up usually at Christmastime. Joyously singing carols while most of America scratched their heads trying to figure out who the hell they were.

This was homespun entertainment so sweet that dentists probably refused to watch. Little King children dancing gleefully. Teenage King cousins (including Tina Cole later on "My Three Sons") were popping their zits along with each chorus of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Even Grandma King gets wheeled in and out, years before her equivalent in another family got run over by a reindeer. There is such merriment that your head hurts after five minutes. An ice cream brain freeze without the chocolate syrup. And they wonder why American youth in the 60s turned to sex and drugs.

When I was a kid and I watched this dreck, probably because nothing else was on, I couldn't fathom this depiction of a family Christmas celebration. Who the hell were these aliens? What planet are they from? Is it tough to land a spaceship during a holiday blizzard?

I contrast the King Family with what I saw and heard at our own Christmas gatherings. While the Kings were sitting around the house stringing beads and singing "Jingle Bells," we had our own Yuletide exchanges over the turkey and yams.

"Stop telling me how to raise my kids."

"If you're going to fart, do it away from the table."

"I can't believe you're serving turnips again. Nobody likes them."

"The dog is up on the kitchen table, chewing on the loin of pork."

All of the above are taken verbatim. Dinner would succumb to a mercy rule and everybody would retreat to their respective corners for a nap. Then, an hour or two later, there would be dessert.

"What, no pumpkin pie this year??"

"There she goes again, telling me how to raise my kids."

"I don't want to play Boggle because you cheat."

"Tuffy just crapped all over the kitchen floor."

Now that's what I called a family Christmas.

Dinner last night: Turkey burger.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - December 14, 2009

Um, er, um, er, okay, yeah, um....





Obama's Home Teleprompter Malfunctions During Family Dinner

Dinner last night: Sausage and peppers at the NY abode.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My Operation

The official name of my scheduled procedure was "orchiectomy." Go ahead. Look it up in a dictionary and you will finally figure out what the hell I've been talking about for the past two Sundays.

My urologist did all his cutting in St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica. I remember seeing the place on television during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. There were a lot of cracks in the building back then. I hoped and prayed that there wouldn't be a shaker while I was under the scalpel. The same way I fear having a cavity filled during a trembler.

For some reason known only to doctors, nurses, and insurance companies, these outpatient surgeries are always scheduled for the early morning hours. This requires you to get there even earlier than you would for a flight out of LAX. First of all, there are tons of forms to fill out so the hospital is totally protected if you choose to die during surgery.

As I repeatedly signed my name, I kept thinking that these autographs might be worth something. If I happen to... I also start to consider that the doctor might make some extra dough by working on the carpel tunnel syndrome that is certainly developing as I manuever through Page 112 of the hospital disclaimer.

"Who do we call?"

If I die? Well, Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, and then maybe my roommate in that order.

"Who is here with you?"

You mean the person that you can slip the box of Kleenex to if I check out? Well, my roommate dropped me off and will pick me up when I am ready to go. There was no reason to keep him here in these ultra-depressing surroundings. So, you can keep the tissue.

These hospital workers have a tough job when patients like me show up. When we're nervous, we like to babble. Even if it's only in our minds.

When you appear for one of these slash jobs, you watch the nurses go about their business in almost robotic fashion. You realize that they do this every single morning of the week. And the only way they can go through this successfully is by being structured and regimented. I wasn't a name or a person. I was simply "Room 24" and the "830AM surgery in OR 2."

At St. John's, they shuttle you to your own personal little "green room" to prep for your big appearance on the table. There, you can disrobe, gown up, and panic in privacy. I did so quickly and immediately hopped up on the gurney, which would be my home away from home for the next three or so hours. To while away your time, St. John's equips these rooms with a television. I turned it on to see Matt Lauer and Al Roker yammering about the weather in New York.

I immediately turned it off. Oh, my God, the last television I would see is "The Today Show." My life is ending with such emptiness.

Another knock on the door. A different nurse rolled in an EKG machine. Not only was I going to be under a knife in less than ninety minutes, but now I was going to endure the heartless pain of those little stickers pulling off my body hair. She went about her business, layering me with those little electronic Post-its. A pause as she flipped the switch. Another pause as she stared at the machine. Hmmmmmm.

"I'll be right back."

She returned with another nurse, who also stared at the machine. She turned to leave.

"I'll be right back."

Nurse Moe and Nurse Larry were now joined by Nurse Shemp. They all surveyed the nothingness that was apparently my heartbeat.

"I don't know how to tell you this but you might be dead."

Already?????

They contemplated their apparently faulty equipment. I looked for the exit sign. And then peered down at the floor. I tapped Nurse Moe on the shoulder.

"I think the machine works better when it's plugged in."

Three of the reddest faces ever to be seen in a hospital. The three nurses laughed hysterically. I wished I could join in. Now I couldn't wait to see what fresh hell would be awaiting me in the operating theater.

Another knock. The door opened slightly. A mild-mannered bald man stuck his head in.

"Would you like a prayer?"

Given what I had just seen with the three idiots and the EKG machine, I certainly needed one. And I was feeling fairly ecumenical. But I asked the guy what religion he was.

"I'm a priest."

Hmmmm. At this point, I didn't really care. But, suddenly, the face of my grandmother flashed before my eyes. Heck, she didn't even like it if you dated a Catholic, let alone have one doodling with some rosary beads before they went off to surgery. If my last moments were indeed Catholic ones, there would be no living with my grandmother in eternity. I lifted my head off the pillow and spoke to the priest.

"Nah, I'm good."

It wasn't more than ten minutes later that I was on my way. A rapidly speeding gurney through the halls of St. John's Hospital. I was wide awake and got to see all the other patients on their respective ways to a meeting with a very sharp object. In my own surgical suite, KRTH. the local oldies station, was blasting out of the speakers. A nurse, busying herself with my doctor's weapons, was singing along.

"STOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE....BEFORE YOU BREAK MY HEART....."

I quickly searched around for the dude who would be administering the knockout punch. I had only undergone anesthesia once before in my life when I had a small cyst removed. That was minor. This would be the Big Kahuna of deep sleep. And I was fully braced for the usual instructions. Start at 100 and count backward. Friends already advised me that you never get past 98. Suddenly, a tap on my shoulder.

"Hello, Len."

It was my smiling doctor.

And that's the last I remember. I didn't even get to count. An hour later...

"Hello, Len."

My smiling doctor again. I was still on the gurney in the operating room. The same nurse was still fooling with the now-sullied scalpels. And she was still singing.

"TALKIN' ABOUT MY GIRL....MY GIRL....."

The next half hour was admittedly hazy for me. I heard my doctor's voice in short spurts.

"Everything....fine....biopsy results....next week.....Vicodin."

I totally slept through the gurney ride to the post-surgical recovery room. But, when I did come to, I found myself side-by-side with the rest of the outpatients. And each one of their moans was louder than the next. I felt like I was lying in the streets of Atlanta as depicted in "Gone With The Wind." A nurse came by.

"How are you feeling?"

Fine. Can I go home?

Another nurse came by with a cup of some liquid.

"Here's some apple juice for you."

Thank you. Can I go home?

Another half hour. Another round of wails from the patients around. What specifically had been done to them? The nurse came back to my gurney.

"Your clothes are underneath. If you can get dressed..."

Done. In five minutes. Can I go home?

They finally got the message and called my roommate. He picked me up fifteen minutes later. With my senses totally relaxed by the fading anesthesia, he asked me what I wanted to eat.

"Entenmann's Pound Cake and a Diet Snapple."

I have no idea why. But that pound cake and that Diet Snapple never tasted better.

Oh. sure, the next few days were a little rough. My stitches down below were courtesy of Swingline Staplers. I finally figured out why the doctor had mentioned Vicodin. I needed it at night. Showering, of course, was a bitch. I couldn't get the bandage wet and I didn't want to, since I had already peeked under the dressing.

I was now Frankengroin.

So, the odyssey that had begun when I was five years old and sobbing in Dr. Fiegoli's office was finally over. A long journey that ended with the news that...

"The biopsy results were negative."

Dinner last night: Grilled pork chops at Bobby Van's Grill prior to the latest Broadway revival of "West Side Story."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Classic TV Theme of the Month - December 2009

A truly terrific sitcom that should have lasted much longer than it did. As a matter of fact, the opening credits probably ran longer than the show itself.


Dinner last night: Angel hair with black olives and tomatoes at Underhill Crossing in Bronxville.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Merry Christmas From Sky Mall

Just in time for your holiday shopping. Another foray through Sky Mall. For some of the most useless junk ever offered for sale.


Take, for instance, this eye gouger. Well, it's designed to shoot marshmallows, but you just know that there will be people who take it to extremes.

You want fruit? Sky Mall's got fruits. Pears. The gift that just keeps giving. Until, of course, the pears got bad and your present winds up in the garbage. Now, this would be a great companion gift to the marshmallow gun above. Load that sucker up with a Bartlett pear and watch your relatives scatter like cockroaches with the light turned on.

I cannot believe the number of devices on sale that protect your little kitty's privacy when nature calls. Does the lid close? Can you lock little Felix in that contraption and then toss it around the room? If so, I'm a buyer!

And you had no idea what to buy the asthmatic in your family? This nifty lung exerciser is just the thing. Meanwhile, my parents got one free every time they were in the hospital for a stay. Of course, my mother tried to light hers and smoke it.

Here's a great little treat for under the tree. Actually, the fun part happens even before you bestow the gift. You have to figure out where to hide the salami.

The crossword puzzle that fits on any wall. This is just perfect for those in your family who you suspect might have a future as a subway graffiti artist. If you're this bored, you might as well end your life right now.

Dinner last night: Pizza di Parma at Pizza and Brew.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Great Christmas Gift Idea


I am mortified. I am absolutely giddy. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

But, regardless, this is a monumental gift idea. Where else can you get a plant and a Nobel Peace Prize winner all in one box.

Dinner last night: Salami sandwich.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Remember, Wednesday is Sunday at....

But Wednesday is always nasty at Len Speaks.

---Tuesday was spent cooped up with a lot of sick people in a limited space.

---A small hospital? Nope, American Airlines Flight 118 out of LAX.

---This many sick people haven't been in the air since the Cambodian airlifts.

---Instead of earphones, they should have given out complimentary Kleenex.

---Or at least "tissue for purchase."

---Beyond the germs, there was another prevailing quality of the folks around me.

---Stupidity.

---The Black chick behind me wanted to stop us from taking off because she discovered she left her laptop at Security.

---If you can't remember to pick up big articles, how many times are you losing your keys???

---Then, Miss Thing decided to re-shuffle the bags in the overhead so she could be close to her undies.

---She proceeded to move my laptop case four seats away.

---Which I promptly moved back while she was getting her much-needed beauty rest.

---And that's because I didn't leave my laptop back at Security.

---It's amazing how empowered somebody feels just because she's got an apostrophe in the middle of her first name.

---The guy across from me got annoyed at all the circular ads in his newspaper so he decided to throw them in the aisle.

---Perhaps his housekeeper is working this plane as well.

---Americans are nothing but entitled assholes who think every public spot is an extension of their living rooms.

---Which must all look like Nagasaki after the blast.

---Speaking of flying, how many limos and private planes were needed to fly all those global warming hysterics to Copenhagen for that conference?

---That's like all those moronic, tree-hugging celebrities who shame us all ecologically and then insist on corporate jets to get them to the studio.

---Also, from the Double Standard Department: Oprah one day shows off her new Jimmy Choo shoes to the dumbbells in her audience. "Everybody has to have a pair."

---The next day, Oprah has a more serious show. Why are we all in such horrible credit card debt???

---Because you told them they needed a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes to survive.

---And don't buy all that hokum about the African Queen tearfully ending her talk show because "it's time."

---Bollocks. That show will come back on her new network, because the only way that thing gets off the ground is with her hosting a program on it.

---The woman is an absolute genius. She has totally clued into the fact that her audience is a bunch of dopes.

---Fatso is also hosting a holiday special next weekend. "Christmas with the Obamas."

---Now I miss Bing and the kids even more.

---Something tells me they won't be singing "White Christmas."

---Most used word in the Tiger Woods household last week? "Ooops."

---From all the chicks coming out of the woodwork, it looks like Tiger did a hole in nine. Or ten.

---I have become the victim of supermarket profiling. You know how their computers remember your bonus card and then decide the types of products you usually buy. Then, the register gives you coupons for those items.

---Well, the Ralph's Supermarket in Westwood keeps giving me coupons for Poli-grip.

---Just because, once a year, I buy Efferdent to clean my night guard.

---Discrimination!! Is this worth litigating?

---I'd bet I could win, too. If I had an apostrophe in my first name.

---Le'N.

---This morning, I walked by the Radio City Music Hall all decked out for Christmas. Wanna know what the movie is for the holiday season?

---Nothing Starring Nobody.

As I close this up, the body aches have started. Thank you, AA Flight 118 and its resident ratbastards.

Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich and salad.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

No Need to Hand Out Any Oscar Nominations

So, this year, they're nominating ten movies for Best Picture? Don't bother. The other nine don't have a chance. In the world of award justice, "Up In The Air" should be the only possible winner.

Several days later, this movie has stayed with me and stayed with me. In only the best possible ways. It's easily the best picture I've seen all year. Check me. It may be the best picture I've seen all decade. Check me again. "Up In The Air" just might be the best picture I've seen since "The Apartment."

Yes, folks, there I have said it.

You blog gremlins who have read me fervently over the past 32 months will remember that "The Apartment" is my absolute favorite movie of all time. Well, if you compare how the new George Clooney flick expertly blends the same romantic comedy and corporate intrigue that "The Apartment" so deftly did, you'll realize these two films are damn close in tone and subject matter. Writer-director Jason Reitman has followed up the wonderful "Juno" with this masterpiece and now I'm thinking we might finally have Billy Wilder's logical successor in our midst.

If you're not getting my point here, yes, I loved "Up In The Air."

George Clooney is rapidly and almost inexplicably becoming America's best actor and those of you who thought that honor belongs to Tom Hanks are in for the rudest of awakenings. Over the past few years, Clooney has learned to make wise and unpredictable acting choices while Hanks the bloated whale is busy stuffing his piehole at Liberal fund-raising buffet tables. Here, in Clooney's latest triumph, we see his most nuanced performance to date.

"Up In The Air" tells the story of Ryan Bingham, who works for a company whose sole function is to orchestrate mass corporate firings and/or downsizing. Ryan, whose biggest claim to fame is that he is closing in on tenllion frequent flyer miles with American Airlines, has an admittedly empty life. His main personal contact with people other than those he is shitcanning is with whatever chick he just picked up at the Admirals Club in whatever airport he just breezed through.

Enter Natalie Keener, a 23-year-old business school know-it-all, magnificently played by Anna Kendrick. She is going to redesign how Americans get fired. Instead of doing it in person, she devises a system where it happens globally. You get tele-fired via your computer screen. Downsizing turns into just another form of an X-Box game. Kendrick is so marvelous and adorable. In my next life, I want to be the same age and making out with her in a janitor's closet.

Despite the threats at work, Ryan suddenly finds himself falling for one of his road connections, played by Vera Farmiga. The push and pulls of Ryan's worlds is fascinating to watch. When you think you know what will happen next, you don't. The meticulous blend of corporate drama and romantic comedy never falters. Director Reitman doesn't ever fall off the highwire, as balance never wavers for a second. This is an almost certain nod for the Best Director Oscar. Clooney, Kendrick, and Farmiga should also clear the awards ceremony date as well.

Personally, the American Airlines tie-in and product placement registered high on my familiarity scale. I recognized several of the Admirals Club locales, although I'm apparently not as gifted in the pick-up department as Ryan Bingham. But, then again, I only have one million miles in my account.

At the end, loose ends are not tied up. Not everybody lives happily ever after. But, isn't life just like that? Another spot-on observation from a movie that will resonate with me for a long while. I'm already trying to figure out when I will see it again.

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

Tomorrow: Greetings and salutations from the Big Apple.