Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy 1966 from Johnny Carson and Ben Grauer!

Amazing footage of a New Year's Eve years ago.


Dinner last night:  BLT at Junior's Deli.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Year at the Movies...Or How I Wasted a Lot of Time and Money in 2010

Well, everybody else ends the year by making a list.  Why not I? 

I have decided to compile a list of every film I went out to see in 2010.  I'm talking new releases, not classic films that usually get my attention.  Last week, I went out to see "Ben-Hur" at the Egyptian.  I'm not including it in this entry, nor am I going to mention the pictured-above "Sex and The City" which came out several years ago.  You get the idea.  If it's a new release and I saw it in a theater, it will be recognized below.  Has this gotten way too confusing for you?

So, here goes.  In order of my attendance:

Gigante:  To do this, I obviously started a written list.  This was the first one I wrote down.  The only problem is that I have no recollection of what this was.  A foreign movie?  I can't even find it on IMDB.  Was this part of my 2010 New Year's Day haze?

Up In The Air:  Okay, this is more like it.  I originally saw this in 2009, but loved it and paid some greenbacks to see it again.  My favorite of 2009.  And probably 2010.

Crazy Heart:  Jeff Bridges' Oscar turn and well deserved.  Are there any country singers who don't drink to excess?

Avatar:  I was off for MLK Day and my power went out so I needed a place to go for a few hours.  That's the only reason why I went to see this overhyped mess. 

A Single Man:  I was in Oscar mode trying to see all the nominees.  Colin Firth was impressive as a suicidal gay guy.  He was even better later in the year as the stammering King George and he will win the Oscar for that performance.

The White Ribbon:  Still chasing Oscar nominees and this was supposed to win for Best Foreign Film.  It didn't.  All about some German town and the sinister Lutherans who ran it.  I'm proud to know that my religion, too, can show some warts.

Valentine's Day:  One of those ensemble comedy films with about two dozen related or maybe unrelated stories with a gaggle of big names, none of whom have more than two lines.  Somehow, director Garry Marshall managed this traffic jam.  I liked it.  So, sue me.

Brooklyn's Finest:  More dirty cops in the NYPD.  About as original an idea as putting milk on Rice Krispies.

The Ghost Writer:  Pierce Brosnan and Djinn From the Bronx who will see anything he does.  Usually dragging me along for comic relief.

Hot Tub Time Machine:  1986 is now nostalgia.  I can remember it like yesterday.  Except, it was almost 25 years ago.  I enjoyed this raunchy comedy, but would have enjoyed a few jokes at Bill Buckner's expense.

Waking Sleeping Beauty:  A marvelous documentary on how Walt Disney's animation division re-invented themselves in the 80s and 90s.  So good that I bought the DVD and have watched it again.

Oceans:  One of those digital 3-D documentaries that made you look at fish for 90 minutes.  I'm trying to remember how and why I ended up there.  Perhaps this was a hostage situation.

City Island:  A dysfunctional family drama set on that strange oasis in the Bronx.  Years ago, my family used to go to City Island a lot.  Except we weren't dysfunctional.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Yes, we were.  I'm meandering off-point.  Probably because the movie wasn't very memorable.

Please Give:  An underrated independent comedy about a dysfunctional family in Manhattan.  My family didn't go to Manhattan a lot.  But we still were dysfunctional.  Don't believe any denials I previously made.  I'm menadering off-point again because the movie, while decent, didn't last long in my mental crevices.

Iron Man 2:  Should have stopped at Iron Man 1.

Sex and the City 2:  Should have stopped at Sex and the City: The TV Show.

Joan Rivers - A Piece of Work:  This might have been my favorite documentary of 2010.  It might also be one of my favorite overall movies of 2010.  A compelling and candid snapshot of Miss Rivers.  She certainly let us see all the warts.  And some of the liver spots.

Solitary Man:  Michael Douglas as some creep trying to reconnect with his family.  This may have been a documentary.  Okay, it's not cool to kick a guy when he's down.  But, throat cancer aside, I've heard that he's a real shithead.

Toy Story 3:  Much darker than the first two.  Did anybody else make the same holocaust connotations that I did?  That said, this franchise never gets old and is always a highlight whenever a new edition is released.

Restrepo:  A documentary detailing the aftermath of more military screw-ups in Afghanistan.  Or was that Iraq?  Or was that Vietnam?  Or was that Valley Forge?  Obviously, history repeats itself.  And repeats itself.  And repeats itself.

The Kids Are All Right:  There's so much Oscar buzz around this movie that I'm convinced the Academy has been rendered deaf and dumb like Jane Wyman in "Johnny Belinda."  This is not the worst movie I saw in 2010, but pretty damn close.

Inception:  More mystery accolades thrown at this bloated mess of a movie.  Nothing more than a video game with a script.  Oh, what am I saying?  There was no script.  A true piece of crap.  This is not the worst movie I saw in 2010, but pretty damn close.  Please stop Christopher Nolan before he directs again.

The Tillman Story:  The military has screwed up even one more time.  A documentary about the cover-up of this football star's death in battle.  A riveting story albeit one that shows you only one side of the tale.

The Switch:  Who knew?  A horrible idea that sort of worked.  Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, some mishaps with sperm, and, amazingly, a movie with some insight and heart.

Flipped:  Rob Reiner's latest coming-of-age saga was ignored by moviegoers, but not me.  There was nothing new here, but the soundtrack was dynamite and singlehandedly elevates the movie to one of my favorites of the year.

Going the Distance:  So, I like Drew Barrymore.  Is that such a crime?  Well, the way she looks in this mis-conceived concoction, maybe she should be outlawed.

The Town:  One more good thing about Ben Affleck directing?  Maybe he'll act less.  This movie is not as good as the reviews made it out to be.  It's overwrought and overdone.  I'm guessing that the film critics gave it a hall pass, since they were stunned that Ben could do anything that was even remotely coherent.

Waiting for Superman:  An evenly-written documentary about problems in our public school systems.  Surprised?  Anybody?  What is amazing is that the filmmakers took such an unbiased look at the reasons why schools are so fucked up.  And, guess what??  It's not all George W. Bush's fault.

Secretariat:  The movie did nothing at the box office, but I'm a sucker for a film about a horse.  Might have gotten a bigger audience if they had the stallion actually talk.

The Social Network:  Loved it and now I hate Facebook even more.

My Dog Tulip:  It's amazing what I will go see when it rains.  How did I wind up at this British cartoon about some mutt?  Anybody????

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger:  # 14 if you are compiling a list of reasons why Woody Allen needs to retire.

Hereafter:  Clint Eastwood knows how to tell a story.  Even if it is a dull one.  The best part of the movie was in the first ten minutes when he recreates that South Seas tsunami from several years back.  The most realistic special effects in years.  James Cameron and Christopher Nolan, please take note.

Winston Churchill - Walking with Destiny:  Can I pass up a documentary on WWII?  Apparently not.

Morning Glory:  This died at the box office, too.  You expected big explosive comedy from a movie featuring Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton.  But, everything comes off like a sparkler during a rainstorm.  Harrison actually appears to be angry at appearing in the film.  I don't blame him.

Jews and Baseball:  For about two minutes, you heard Vin Scully on the soundtrack.  That automatically gets Oscar buzz from me.  Can I pass up a documentary on baseball?  Apparently not.

Love and Other Drugs:  The advance word was that the sex in this film was so hot, hot, hot.  Frankly, I saw more heat in our college dorms.  And there was nothing going on there either.

The King's Speech:  This is the early favorite to win all the big Oscar awards in February.  A fascinating story about how Norm Crosby became the King of England.  Or something like that.  One of my more exhilerating film experiences of the year.

All Good Things:  Ryan Gosling as that murderous millionaire.  The movie was okay, but I forgot all about it by the time my car key went into the ignition.

Casino Jack:  Kevin Spacey chewing up the scenery as crooked DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  Jon Lovitz is hilarious in a supporting role. 

Little Fockers:  Documented here just the other day and, yes, this might be the worst movie I saw in 2010.  Scroll back to Tuesday, my puppies, and read why.

The Fighter:  Way, way overwritten yarn about a couple of Massachusetts boxers.  Christian Bale is being touted for the Supporting Actor Oscar, but, buyer, be aware.  During the closing credits, you actually hear from the real guy he is portraying.  You'll see that Bale is not acting, but mimicking.  I am officially sick-to-death of people cursing with Boston accents. 

How Do You Know:  It is hard to believe that James L. Brooks, creator of the Mary Tyler Moore Show and director of "Terms of Endearment" and "Broadcast News," put together this Three Mile Island of a movie.  Horrible and sad, all at the same time.

Somewhere:  Sofia Coppola continues to try and direct films.  The good news is that she has given up trying to act in films.  A self-centered actor bonds with his young daughter for a couple of weeks.  Before you think that this is a Disney film with Fred MacMurray and Hayley Mills, Sofia has a very, very dark outlook on life.  And apparently an axe to grind when it comes to movie audiences.  A 90 minute commercial for Hollywood's Chateau Marmont Hotel.  And mental illness.

As I compiled this list, I got very sad.  There are few gems here.  And, from the looks of the five dozen or so trailers I saw in the past month, 2011 promises us another bucketful of cinematic shit.

And still...I will be plunking down my debit card at the box office.  We never learn.

Dinner last night:  Ham sandwich with cucumber salad. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This Day in History - December 29

Love is all around.  Except maybe on this blog.  And, especially not for...

1170:  ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY THOMAS BECKET IS ASSASSINATED BY FOLLOWERS OF KING HENRY II.

A Canterbury Tale not worth telling a second time.

1778:  DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY WAR, 3,500 BRITISH SOLDIERS CAPTURE SAVANNAH, GEORGIA WITHOUT FIRING A SHOT.

Who was commanding these troops?  Deputy Barney Fife?

1786:  DURING THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, THE ASSEMBLY OF NOTABLES IS CONVENED.

What the hell is a notable?  Knowing the French, this involved wine.

1813:  BRITISH SOLDIERS BURN BUFFALO, NEW YORK, DURING THE WAR OF 1812.

Gee, those Brits are feisty on December 29ths throughout history.  And how hard is it to burn Buffalo in the middle of the winter?  They must have about 39 feet of snow by now.  Meanwhile, what's with the noteworthy War of 1812 event happening in 1813?

1845:  THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS IS ADMITTED AS THE 28TH U.S. STATE. 

Most of the people there still think Texas is a separate country.

1851:  THE FIRST AMERICAN YMCA OPENS IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS.

And, for the first time ever, husbands have someplace to go after getting kicked out of the house.

1890:  UNITED STATES SOLDIERS KILL MORE THAN 200 OGLALA LAKOTA PEOPLE IN THE WOUNDED KNEE MASSACRE.

Burying lots of hearts at Wounded Knee.  Now it's probably a gaming casino.

1911:  MONGOLIA GAINS INDEPENDENCE FROM THE QING DYNASTY.

But they got to keep the popular Chinese buffet item, Mongolian Beef.

1936:  ACTRESS MARY TYLER MOORE IS BORN.

Since the Dick Van Dyke Show started in 1960, this gives you an idea on how young she was when she got that part.  And how old she is today.

1938:  ACTOR JON VOIGHT IS BORN.

I mention it only because I see in the neighborhood drug store all the time.  I've also been on the same plane with him to NY not once, but twice.  Jon, please stop stalking me.

1940:  DURING WORLD WAR II, THE LUFTWAFFE FIRE-BOMBS LONDON, KILLING ALMOST 200 CIVILIANS. 

What is the definition of "almost?"  198?  199?  Just curious.

1947:  ACTOR TED DANSON IS BORN.

Cheers!

1949:  KC2XAK OF BRIDGEPORT, CONNECTICUT, BECOMES THE FIRST UHF TELEVISION STATION TO OPERATE A DAILY SCHEDULE.

Does anybody these days even remember UHF?  When I was a kid, it was nothing but Spanish game shows and wrestling.

1975:  A BOMB EXPLODES AT LA GUARDIA AIRPORT IN NEW YORK CITY, KILLING ELEVEN PEOPLE.

Okay, at least, it's not listed as "killing almost 12."  Those New Yorkers like to get things on the nose.

1973:  BOSTON RED SOX GENERAL MANAGER THEO EPSTEIN IS BORN.

So the guy now running the Red Sox was born after the Mets made their second World Series appearance in 1973???  Games that I myself attended.  Crap.

1997:  HONG KONG BEGINS TO KILL ALL THE NATION'S 1.25 MILLION CHICKENS TO STOP THE SPREAD OF A DEADLY INFLUENZA STRAIN.

Which is why, for three months afterward, you could get Kung Pao Chicken very cheap at your local takeout place.

2009:  FORMER PRO WRESTLER AND FOOTBALL PLAYER STEVE "DR. DEATH" WILLIAMS DIES.

Would he still be alive if he called himself "Dr. Birth?"

Dinner last night:  Leftover ham and veggies.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Christmas Coal in Your Stocking

In a season full of holiday confections, "Little Fockers" is a two liter bottle of Castor Oil.

Hollywood does it again.  The assholes out here can't leave well enough alone.  They strike comedic paydirt with "Meet the Parents."  Thinking there's a lot more gold to be mined, they do the sequel "Meet the Fockers," which was dreadful.  The third installment "Little Fockers" is even worse and might be the unfunniest comedy ever made.  I sat there stonefaced like Buster Keaton for ninety interminable minutes.  I got more laughs watching Ted Kennedy's funeral, but that's just me.

Sadly, Hollywood can't get into their numb skulls that initial success in a movie doesn't necessarily mean there are more stories to told about those characters.  Oh, sure, the mindless twenty-year-old will show up on opening weekend of any piece of crap, especially if it's got the second or twelfth sequel.  But, you don't need a health insurance plan that allows for brain surgery to know that most tales are tapped out the first time around. 

That was the case for "Meet the Parents."  While clever and amusing, I knew right from the get-go that there was no juice left in the dysfunctional dynamic between the hapless Greg Focker and his sociopathic father-in-law.  Done and done.  Yet, producers keep going to the farm where they try to milk a dead cow. 

For the second movie, they try to raise the comedic ante by including Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand as the other set of in-laws.  The only problem is the writers forgot to give them something to do.  In "Meet The Fockers," the inclusion of Hoffman and Big Mouth Babs was akin to somebody inviting Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse over to your house to cook and then asking them to microwave a couple of Lean Cuisines.

As soon as I heard there would be a "Little Fockers," I expected very little.  Frankly, had I not been invited to a free screening with free popcorn, free Diet Coke, and free parking, I had zero interest in seeing it. 

And, after 90 or so minutes, I, too, was freed. 

There are so few laughs in this movie that I needed to doublecheck the advance press to make sure that the script hadn't been adapted from a short story by Sylvia Plath.  There is nothing in this film that remotely works and I began to wonder if somebody had actually turned a camera on Obama's stimulus plan.  Everything is that misguided.

In "Little Fockers," they flesh out the cast even further with the added participation of Jessica Alba and the returning Owen Wilson.  Several years back, Wilson tried to commit suicide and perhaps he's having those thoughts again.  Frankly, after seeing his work here, I don't have a better solution for him.  In this third chapter, the producers have added new settings, new characters, new kids, and an iguana in an attempt to throw as much on the wall as possible.  Nothing sticks. 

Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro continue as the leads, mostly likely because both are planning expensive home renovations planned.  DeNiro, in particular, needs to call it an acting career.  He now plays every role, whether it be drama or comedy, as if he's working behind the counter in an Italian bakery.  Regardless of the quality of the script, DeNiro will work for pennies.  I doubt if he even uses an agent anymore.  It seems like his script coverage is provided by a bunch of four-year-olds at a Tribeca pre-school.

And, along with stashing Bobby D up in a corner of the attic, can we also please retire forever Hollywood's persistence to make running gags out of erectile dysfunction products?  Viagra-like drugs are now the official crutch of mentally barren scriptwriters.  Those jokes were funny the first one hundred films they were used in.  The next one thousand?  Not so much.

The bloated Miss Barbra is back and, floating around whale-like in a caftan, she appears to be in search of a canasta game.  Again, she's given nothing to do.  Dustin Hoffman shows up in the first and last reels of the movie.  Originally, he had opted out of doing this movie, but somebody made him reconsider at the last minute.  I am guessing that agent is now working a stock room at the Home Depot.

Sitting in the movie audience that showed even less emotion than Mount Rushmore, I knew there would be no big laughs.  I decided aim lower and count the mere giggles and titters.  By the movie's conclusion, I still had four fingers left on one hand.  The crowd exited silently as if they had all just recited the 23rd Psalm in Latin.

Rumor has it that there's a fourth Focker movie planned.  Still, that gives us enough time to write our local congressperson to prevent any future injustices presented to the innocent public.  But, if there's money to be made, Hollywood will try it.

And, in the end, we are all focked.

Dinner last night: A wonderful post holiday meal at the home of good friends Leo and Connie.  Pulled pork, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, sauteed mushrooms, and cinnamon rolls.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - December 27, 2010

A super clever parody tied to our overly computer-happy world.

Dinner last night:  Leftover ham.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - New Year's Eves Present and Past


This is me at a very early age celebrating the new year of 19__.  Oh, you didn't think I was going to give that information up readily, did you?

Well, the New Year's holiday is at hand again this week and it brings to mine memories both good and bad.  Getting the latter out of the way first, my mother went into cardiac arrest and lapsed into a coma just before midnight one year and passed away a week later.  That year, I got my lowest point of the twelve month period done by January 15.  It could only get better after that.

Years ago, some friend had told me that the way you spend New Year's Eve pretty much dictates the type of year you will have.  For some inexplicable reason, I have subscribed to this theory, although I can easily refute it with a number of salient examples.

Take, for instance, the year 2010.  It's been rough for some of my good friends, but, pour moi, not so bad.  But, if you judged the year by my experience last December the 31st, you would be thinking this would be my worst year ever.  New Year's Eve 2009 was just that bad.

There had been no definitive plans made.  Frankly, the night is very overrated.  I'm content to have dinner with some good chums at a nice restaurant.  A friend and college pal out here picked up the gauntlet.  He'd arrange a gathering at Jar, one of my favorite Los Angeles eateries.  We had been there the year before and it was a delicious time on all sides of the plate. 

But, that year, most of my dining mates were out-of-town friends.  In 2009, the pickings were slimmer.  No worries, said my ambitious college buddy. 

"I'll just put a net out with a global e-mail and see who's available."

As it turns out, he managed to catch some fish.  Except I was not aware of most of the species.  And, by the end of the evening, I would have opted to throw them back into the ocean.

Putting together a fun dinner party at a restaurant does require some scientific precision.  None was used that night as my trying-to-be-helpful friend threw together a table of mismatched socks.   All these losers were available on New Year's Eve for a reason.  We covered possibly every unlikable human trait in the book.  Obnoxious.  Phony.  Boring.  Pretentious.  Yep, when you got that e-mail at 5:30PM, it was no surprise that none of you had any plans for New Year's Eve.

Surveying the dinner crowd hunkered around table that night, I had a sickening thought.

Oh, my God, am I a loser just like them????  Maybe I'm obnoxious.  Phony.  Boring.  Pretentious.

Nah.  Impossible.     

It took forever for the clock to strike twelve.  And, as I waited patiently for this holocaust with martinis to conclude, I recalled other New Year's Eves where things had gone better.  Or not as badly.

Oh, sure, there was one where my fractured shoulder was in a sling and I could barely reach for the dice playing Trivial Pursuit with some neighbors.

There was the year when a bunch of completely bored and over-served college sophomores played hockey in an elevator bank, using somebody's crutches as a hockey stick.  

There were those family gatherings when I was a kid when the goal was to stay as far away from the one food item on the table that made me gag.

Vita Herring in sour cream sauce. 

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 family New Year's Eves 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.

Except 2009 at Jar dining with a pack of wolves/strangers wasn't.  As some asshole across the table kept talking about his Buckwheat Zydeco record collection, my mind wandered even further from the restaurant.

To my best New Year's Eve ever.  Yep, I've told the tale here before.  But, given all my newer readers, it's worth sharing again.  For some of you, it's new information.

December 31, 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.

Last year, the "crapshoot" completely bankrupted me.  I vowed never to let that happen again.  This year, I planned ahead.  I'll be at Disney Hall with some good friends enjoying Kristen Chenowith singing Broadway show tunes with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. 

If a net is cast out at 530PM, I will be officially swimming in calmer waters.

Dinner last night: The traditional Christmas ham dinner.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bi-Coastal Christmas Wishes

From one big Christmas tree in the middle of Rockefeller Center...

...to one smack in the middle of my living room in Los Angeles...
...that looks even cooler with the lights on...

All the best for a happy and healthy Christmas. 

The heck with political correctness.

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas!!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Dinner last night:  Proscuitto and provolone with roasted red peppers.



Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Card Photos Courtesy of the County Jail

Another holiday fruitcake.
If you're thinking about a present for this guy, how about a gift card from "The Art of Shaving?"
The Ghost of Christmas Stoned.
Butterflies are free. On this holiday, she is not.
"I swear I didn't know that Tickle Me Elmo was under my coat."

 Can the shirt be returned for a full refund?

Dinner last night:  Quiche Lorraine at Monsieur Marcel in the Grove.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Everybody Loves Santa Claus....Well, Not Really


Dinner last night:  Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and salad at an annual Christmas dinner with some good friends.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

This Day in History - December 22

"Ward, I'm worried about this date in history."

69 AD: EMPEROR VITELLIUS IS CAPTURED AND MURDERED BY THE GEMONIAN STAIRS IN ROME.

With my bum right knee, stairs kill me, too.

1807:  THE EMBARGO ACT, FORBIDDING TRADE WITH ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES, IS PASSED BY THE U.S. CONGRESS AT THE URGING OF PRESIDENT THOMAS JEFFERSON.

But how will we get our really cheap clothing??

1809:  THE NON-INTERCOURSE ACT, LIFTING THE EMBARGO ACT EXCEPT FOR THE UNITED KINGDOM AND FRANCE, IS PASSED BY THE U.S. CONGRESS.

Well, that didn't last long.  Frankly, I can't get behind anything that promotes non-intercourse.

1851:  THE FIRST FREIGHT TRAIN IS OPERATED IN ROORKEE, INDIA.

"Freight" in India means "people."  Lots and lots and lots of people.

1864:  SAVANNAH, GEORGIA FALLS TO GENERAL WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN, CONCLUDING HIS "MARCH TO THE SEA." 

Who wants to go to the shore in the dead of winter?

1890:  CORNWALLIS VALLEY RAILWAY BEGINS OPERATION BETWEEN KINGSPORT AND KENTVILLE, NOVA SCOTIA.

With a daily shuttle to that freight train in Roorkee, India.

1894:  THE DREYFUS AFFAIR BEGINS IN FRANCE, WHEN ALFRED DREYFUS IS WRONGLY ACCUSED OF TREASON ON ANTI-SEMITIC GROUNDS. 

Years later, Richard Dreyfuss is wrongly accused of treason on anti-shark grounds.  Okay, that's the best joke I had for this.

1912:  FORMER FIRST LADY LADY BIRD JOHNSON IS BORN.

Lady lady?  First one to make a Jerry Lewis joke wins.

1915:  ACTRESS BARBARA BILLINGSLEY IS BORN.

And she just died.  The woman who always made me ask the perennial question: why did my mother vacuum the hallway in high heels?

1917:  GAME SHOW HOST GENE RAYBURN IS BORN.

When the labor pains started to kick in, Mrs. Rayburn screamed "blank."

1937:  THE LINCOLN TUNNEL OPENS TO TRAFFIC IN NEW YORK CITY.

Completely backed up on December 23, 1937.  So, is this date a big one to open up new public transportation shit or what?

1942:  DURING WORLD WAR II, ADOLF HITLER SIGNS THE ORDER TO DEVELOP THE V-2 ROCKET AS A WEAPON.

All because he messed up the oral quiz on pastels.

1947:  THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OF ITALY APPROVES THE CONSTITUTION OF ITALY.

Later on, the Constituent Assembly of Poland approved the Constitution of Ohio.

1949:  BEE GEES MAURICE AND ROBIN GIBB ARE BORN.

Just so you know that this author is still learning things every day.  I had no idea these guys were twins.

1953:  ACTRESS BERN'NADETTE STANIS IS BORN.

Good times, bad punctuation.

1956:  COLO, THE FIRST GORILLA TO BE BRED IN CAPTIVITY, IS BORN.

Or as his parents later named him.  Co'Lo.

1965:  IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, A 70 MPH SPEED LIMIT IS APPLIED TO ALL RURAL ROADS.  PREVIOUSLY, THERE HAD BEEN NO SPEED LIMIT.

Hey, why not?  After all, what was everybody rushing home for?  Mum's home cooking?

1979:  MOVIE PRODUCER DARRYL F. ZANUCK DIES.

Turns out December 22 was the shortest day for him.

1984:  BERNIE GOETZ SHOOTS FOUR WOULD-BE AFRICAN-AMERICAN MUGGERS ON A MANHATTAN SUBWAY.

I'm still wondering why we don't get this day off.

1990:  THE PARLIAMENT OF CROATIA ADOPTS THE CURRENT CONSTITUION OF CROATIA.

Since it worked out so well for Italy in 1947.

1995:  ACTRESS BUTTERFLY MCQUEEN DIES.

She knew nothing about birthin', but she obviously figured out how to manage the back end of the deal.

2001:  RICHARD REID ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY A PASSENGER AIRLINER BY IGNITING EXPLOSIVES IN HIS SHOES.

And you were wondering exactly when we started to remove our shoes at airport security?

2002:  SUSAN MARX (WIFE OF HARPO) DIES.

Now she's not talking either.

2002:  MARY MARX (WIFE OF CHICO) DIES.

WTF!  A suicide pact?  Cashing in on a bulk discount at the funeral parlor? 

Dinner last night:  Salad.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Albums from Hell


Gather around the record player at your Christmas gatherings and sing along with this horrible mess of holiday music.  You can start with Tiny Tim (shown above).  He's looking mad this Yuletide.  Maybe somebody didn't tiptoe through his tulips.
Because every shopping mall parking lots needs a bunch of muggers.
Oh, Heino. That Heino. Okay, anybody?
Why does this outer space galaxy home look like someplace Abe Lincoln lived in during the 1850s?
Making the Christmases fucking merry.
Oh, Bootsy Collins. Right. Bootsy Collins. Okay, anybody????
I'm not getting into that sleigh!
Here's something that should have been in Dennis Day's stocking. A box of condoms.
There are no words. Decking the halls and gassing the chambers. Does that dog look stuffed or what?


Dinner last night:  Grilled Taylor Ham on Kaiser Roll.








Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - December 20, 2010

The Christmas dinner from Hell.


Dinner last night:  Grilled Taylor Ham sandwich.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Christmas Cards

Tis the season to lick some stamps...fa la la la la la la la la.

Guess what?  They've even taken that fun away from us.  Postage is now self-adhesive.  No need to keep wetting your whistle so you can slobber up the back of a stamp for Aunt Helen.

I don't ever remember not sending out Christmas cards.  And, yes, folks, I do call them Christmas cards.  I was probably in the fifth or sixth grade when I started doing this process all by myself.  I was a semi-adult and this was a rite of passage.

"Hey, Mom, no need to sign your cards....'and Lenny.'  I've got it handled now."

I figured I was saving her a lot of work.  The gratitude was less than I expected.

"Do what you want."

As far as my mother was concerned, I could knock myself silly spending my own allowance to send out Christmas cards.  As long as I remembered that any cards to people who were not Christians must say nothing more than "Season's Greetings."  The way this was emphasized to me over and over, I decided it was a federal crime.  Nevertheless, it was the sword of Damocles that hung over me every single holiday season.

Hmmm.  My friend from gym class.  Is she Christian or Jewish? 

If I wasn't totally sure, it would bother me all day.  I longed for a directory of friends where religion was specified next to date of birth and favorite brand of candy.

Of course, I was even more bizarre in how I actually filled out my cards.  I would divide my friends into three tiers.  Some I barely tolerated.  Others who were closer.  And the last group was reserved for my very special chums.  And I wrote out my cards in that very specific order.  If your card was addressed within the first ten minutes of my process, you were definitely not high on my list.  Oh, yeah, hi, here's your card.

When kids started to write longer notes in their cards, I then obsessed over that.  You didn't want to simply sign your name if somebody sent you a greeting that was two chapters worth of "Crime and Punishment."  And you also didn't want to be the one getting longwinded when all you got back was "Happy Holidays, Russell."  It was always quite the annual dilemma.

Of course, my own cards were not the only ones I was entrusted with.  My yearly chore also included my role as the personal Christmas secretary for Grandma downstairs.

My grandmother couldn't read or write, so she definitely needed my help. She would pull out this address book which she probably bought with ration stamps in 1943. And, then, we would go over every single address as she would then relate some anecedotal story about the person. One name sounded even more German than the next.

"Reinfleinschmidtschultz........"  The names went on and on.  As did the stories.

"Her uncle was a Communist."

"They used to live in the Bronx but they moved because they wanted to be big shots."

"She married a Catholic."

This was my own personal version of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The script never changed. The interesting thing is that most of the folks in my grandmother's address book were unknown quantities to me. They were all people she knew from years ago. Some of them came over to America on the boat with her. They lived in such faraway places as Michigan and Maryland and Staten Island. I doubt my grandmother had seen any of them in 20 or 30 years. But, they got a Christmas card from her every year. And they sent back.  I know because I'm the one who also had to read the incoming messages to Grandma.

Of course, this annual ritual also had the same beginning every year as well. It would start with this short exchange.

Grandma: "I don't think I'm going to send any cards this year. It's too much trouble."

Me: "If you don't send a card, all these people are going to think you're dead."

A short pause.

Grandma: "Okay, let's send."

We repeated that same scene year after year.

The Christmas after my grandmother died, I still sent all those people a card. With a short note telling them how much they had enriched my grandmother's life.

And that was the last time we heard back from any of them.

I send my own cards to this day.  I still sort them into groups of three.  You still don't want to be in that first grouping.

And, amazingly, some of the recipients are folks I haven't seen in a decade or two.  Should I cut down the work and save on postage?

Nah.

They'll think I died.

Dinner last night:  Pastrami sandwich at Greenblatt's.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - December 2010

My favorite Christmas movie of all-time.  What the heck did you expect?



Dinner last night:  Sausage and peppers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Your Weekend and Holiday Movie Guide for December 2010

Wow, it's the 1949 Christmas movie at Radio City Music Hall!  And this year's big Yuletide movie there is....nothing.  One of life's great injustices is that you don't get to see a film in this palace anymore.  At any time of the year.

But you do get to see lots of junk at horrible multiplexes.  And here's what Hollywood has to offer during this holiday season.  You know how this works.  I'll comb the Los Angeles Times movie pages and give you my gut call on whether you should bother.  Most likely, you'll be staying home and watching "On The Town" on Turner Classic Movies.

The Tourist:  This mess starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie got some of the worst reviews in years.  The trailer was incomprehensible.  Jolie's lips stretch over two city blocks.  How many more reasons do you need to avoid this movie?

The Fighter:  This has some decent Oscar buzz because Christian Bale apparently chews up scenery like it's a box of Skittles.  But, I hear the real nuanced and great acting comes from Mark Wahlberg.  Just goes to show that a Calvin Klein underwear model does have a future.

Casino Jack:  Kevin Spacey as a Washington DC lobbyist whose schemes lead to murder and corruption.  Was Rahm Emanuel a consultant?

The Tempest:  One more version of Shakespeare's ode to storm clouds.  With an all-star cast that includes Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Russell Brand, and most likely Betty White.

Love and Other Drugs:  Oy vey.  The buzz that this included tons of hot sex scenes got them my ten bucks at a bargain matinee.  Trust me.  It's as sizzling as last night's fajitas.  The couple making out behind you is more interesting.  In one of the more bizarre examples of product placement, this movie is nothing but a two hour commercial for Pfizer and Viagra. 

Burlesque:  Cher.  Aguilera.  Uninterested.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1:  My streak remains intact.  I have yet to see another Harry Potter movie after the first one when I declared the story done as far as I was concerned. 

The King's Speech:  The early front runner for the Best Picture Oscar and I highly recommend it.  A fascinating slice of history that I was completely oblivious to.  Who knew that Queen Elizabeth's father was Norm Crosby?

Tron - Legacy 3D:  One of Disney's greatest live action flopper-a-roos gets a sequel almost twenty five years later.  I didn't see the first one, I won't see this one, and, in 2035, I won't see the next installment.

127 Hours:  Also tons of buzz to watch some hiker hack off his arm.  The movie is 90 minutes long, so I am guessing the 127 hours are severely edited.

All Good Things:  A true story about that son of NY real estate mogul Sanford Marks who allegedly killed his wife.  I saw it last weekend and my interest was held.  But, there were about two or three supporting roles that would have been perfect for Betty White.

Black Swan:  Some creepy thriller about a ballerina played by Natalie Portman.  The Turning Point as if it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  Winona Ryder has a supporting role and who hasn't been waiting for her screen return?  Okay, except for the security guards at Niemann-Marcus in Beverly Hills.

Yogi Bear:  In 3-D!   Why?????????  What's next?  A digital restoration of Crusader Rabbit??? 

How Do You Know:  Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, and Jack Nicholson in what appears to be a rather banal romantic comedy.  But it was written and directed by James L. Brooks, so it might be worth a gander.

Rabbit Hole: Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as a couple struggling to stay together after their child dies.  Now that's what I call "fun holiday fare." 

The Chronicles of Narnia - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:  The third leg of this saga, which also marks the third time I will avoid this story.  At the very least, they're getting churned out faster than Tron.

Ward No. 6: An update of Anton Chekhov's short story about one man's descent into madness.  Another film featuring Rahm Emanuel as consultant.

Little Fockers:  The third installment of the Focker family and the second one was less funny than the first one.  I'm guessing the third one will be the laughter equivalent of a sympathy card. 

Gulliver's Travels:  Oy vey all over again.  Another remake of the legendary children's tale, this time with the grossly uninteresting Jack Black undoubtedly making a lot of midget jokes.  Give me the 1939 cartoon version anyday.  Paging Gabby.

True Grit:  Normally I'd say this is a needless remake of a perfectly good classic.  But the Coen Brothers may add an interesting spin.  And I also know the guy who was Jeff Bridges' stunt double, so I'll slap on an eye patch and give it a look.

Unstoppable:  is Denzel Washington's ability to make crap.

Tangled:  Disney's holiday cartoon is a 3-D version of Rapunzel.   I'll pass and watch my favorite "Lady and the Tramp" at home.

I Love You Phillip Morris:  It's not about a cigarette addict.  Nope, it's another dreadful comedy with Jim Carrey, who's just as bad as second hand smoke.

Touching Home:  Ed Harris in a movie that clearly is not about the Dodgers during the second half of the 2010 season.

Get Low:  Robert Duvall in a true story about some hermit who threw himself a funeral while he was still alive.  This was out months ago but is making the rounds again because they are pushing Duvall for an Oscar nomination.  T'is the season to market an actor.  Fa la la la la la la la la.

Made in Dagenham:  A dramatization of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination.   Time have changed.  These days, they're firing both women and men.

Dinner last night:  Kung Pao Spaghetti with chicken at CPK.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Moron of the Month - December 2010

It's this guy. 

Yeah, I don't expect you to know who he is or even discern features from this quick and dirty photo I snapped on Tuesday at American Airlines Baggage Claim in LAX.  But, trust me.  He is a moron worthy of this month's award.  The epitome of classlessness.  I wish I had his name because I would load it all over the internet, so that, when this jerk needs an ego boost and Googles his name, this blog entry is the first thing that pops up in his search.

Alas, I don't have his name.  So, for the purposes of this story, let me use every bit of political incorrectness in my body and name him.  Even better.  Let's pretend it's really December 16, 1941 and my nickname for him is totally justified.

Dumb Jap Bastard.

Yeah, I know.  That's harsh.  I don't flippin' care.

Even you ever see this guy boarding a plane with you, please go back to Check-In and opt for the later flight.  Immediately.  Because you don't want to run the risk of being seated anywhere adjacent to this shithead. 

Unfortunately, I was.  In 24B on Flight 117 from New York to Los Angeles.  He was in 24A.  A nasty, nasty roll of my dice.  First, Pearl Harbor.  Now me.  In the last ten or so years racking up over one million miles on American Airlines, I have had my share of less than personable seat mates.  This guy, however, was the ultimate test hands down.

You know you've got a problem when he first shows up.  On his way down the aisle to 24A, he knocked three different people in the head with his computer bag.  And just kept going.  When the last person actually registered a note of displeasure as a result of his Samsonite collision, Dumb Jap Bastard muttered some broken English as an apology.  I shuddered as he approached my row.  I implored to God.

Please not here.  Please not here.  Please not here.  Please not here.

He threw his baggage onto the seat next to me.  Here.  I silently renounced my faith.

Dumb Jap Bastard knocked his way into the seat next to the window as if he was on the Chicago Black Hawks and he was fighting for a puck in the corner.  There was no thought that there was anybody remotely near him.  He plopped down and then started to pull his jacket off.  And promptly popped me in the head with his elbow.  Again, a muffled and incoherent apology.

Moments later as we awaited takeoff, Dumb Jap Bastard pulled out his cell phone and made a call.  Suddenly, he is chatting away in perfect English. 

Uh huh.  One of Len's standard rules of life validated again.  Whenever you see an Asian who pretends they don't understand what you are saying to them, they really do.  It's a complete act.  Watch in your own worlds and tell me if you don't see the same thing.  But, I digress...

Once aloft, Dumb Jap Bastard really got down to the business of being completely annoying.  Window up, window down, window up, window down.  Repeatedly over a five minute period.  Then the overhead light.  On, off, on, off, on, off.  Repeatedly over a five minute period.  A nervous flyer or perhaps a technician for American Airlines?  Whatever the case, he was getting on my nerves.

It was time to check out the magazine pouch.  American Way open, American Way closed, American Way open, American Way closed.  Was he perhaps trying to memorize an article for recitation?  Did he think the articles changed every ten minutes?  Whatever the case, the people around me were now starting to notice.  And I looked at them all helplessly and sadly.  Hoping to convey the silent message.

He's not with me.

Somewhere over Ohio, Dumb Jap Bastard figured it was time for a nap.  At least, the window shade, the overhead light, and the magazine pouch would get a rest.  As I watched a movie on my portable DVD player with Bose headphones on,  I suddenly noticed a foul smell on my left shoulder.

Dumb Jap Bastard was asleep.  Mere inches away from my face.  Mouth totally agape.  Hmmm.  Did we have some bad sashimi for lunch at the JFK lounge?  Because that's sort of what it smells like.  He eats rotten sushi and I'm the one who might throw up?  Where was the logic in this?  A well-placed elbow in the ribs turned Dumb Jap Bastard in the other direction. 

The beauty rest didn't last long.  Nope, it was now time to pull out his computer and watch a movie.  Something with Japanese emperors, warriors, and warlords.  How do I know this much?  Well, Dumb Jap Bastard violated a cardinal rule of air travel.  He was watching something without headphones or ear buds.  All around me, I heard the dreaded groans from the adjacent passengers.

I SWEAR, FOLKS!  HE'S NOT WITH ME!!

Or so my sad eyes tried to tell them.

News of my plight had traveled all over the aircraft.  When I walked to the back of the plane for a bathroom visit and some much needed civility, my flight attendant interceded.

"You're having a tough time with him."

A friend indeed.  She had noticed, too.  I wanted to make out with her immediately.  I explained that, in all my years, he had to be the worst traveling companion.  She acknowledged that he appeared to be a little fidgety.

"Fidgety?  A ten year-old with ADD and an empty vial of Ritalin is fidgety.  This guy's just an asshole." 

She laughed heartily and even offered me anything in the liquor cart.  On the house.  I declined.  This may be exactly how alcoholism starts.

I went back to my seat for more medicine.  Dumb Jap Bastard had grown weary of the samurai movie.  It was back to the window shade examination.  Up, down, up, down.  And the yawns. 

Not your average yawn.  It was more like the wail of a wounded animal.  Frequently and he kept doing it throughout the rest of the flight.  Those around me probably started to worry.  Was that a moose call?  Had we been diverted over Canada?

On the second beverage run, my girlfriend/flight attendant tried to help.  She asked Dumb Jap Bastard if he was okay.  This was a useless query, because he retreated to his "non-English-speaking" mode.  Well, at least, she tried.  And he did try to find me a different seat.  This would have made little difference.  No matter where I would be on that plane, I would still be seeing the flickering of the overhead lamp and the incessant opening and closing of daylight through the window.  And, of course, the yawns could be heard by the people on the flight that left JFK an hour behind our plane.

The remainder of the trip continued to be a potpourri of pestiness.  Most of the time, he was violating my personal space and kept poking me in a variety of places.  I popped Flight Tracker.com up on my computer.  How close were we to LAX and a life without this man?

Eventually, it ended.  And I needed to document it all with the photo above.  The flash bulb got his attention and he looked at me with disdain.  My luggage was already in tow, so I needed to give him a quick parting shot.  One that is easily translated in any language.

I flipped him the finger.  Sayonara.  And fuck you.

Dinner last night:  Turkey burger at BJs.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This Day in History - December 15

That's bandleader Glenn Miller and, if you're in the mood, read on.

37:  FUTURE EMPEROR NERO IS BORN.

Those childhood violin lessons didn't really pay off, did they?

533:  BYZANTINE GENERAL BELISARIUS DEFEATS THE VANDALS, COMMANDED BY KING GELIMER.

Vandals who may have spraypainted the castle walls.

1256:  HULAGU KHAN CAPTURES AND DESTROYS THE HASHSHASHIN STRONGHOLD AT ALAMUT IN PRESENT-DAY IRAN AS PART OF THE MONGOL OFFENSIVE ON ISLAMIC SOUTHWEST ASIA.

In their never-ending search for swords of mass destruction.

1863:  IN ROMANIA, THE MOUNTAIN RAILWAY FROM ANINA TO ORAVITA IS USED FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Anina, Oravita....and Cugamonga.

1890:  SIOUX NATION LEADER SITTING BULL DIES.

Now it's Lying-Stiff-As-A-Board Bull.

1891:  JAMES NAISMITH INTRODUCES THE FIRST VERSION OF BASKETBALL, WITH THIRTEEN RULES, A PEACH BASKET NAILED TO EITHER END OF HIS SCHOOL'S GYMNASIUM, AND TWO TEAMS OF NINE PLAYERS.

None of whom were sporting any body ink at the time.

1905:  THE PUSHKIN HOUSE IS ESTABLISHED IN ST. PETERSBURG TO PRESERVE THE CULTURAL HERITAGE OF ALEXANDER PUSHKIN.

Long live bulletin boards.  No, wait.  Oh.  I thought it said push pin.  Never mind.

1919:  FARMER MAX YASGUR, OWNER OF THE WOODSTOCK ROCK CONCERT SITE, IS BORN.

And I bet he refused to clean up that mess.

1933:  COMEDIAN TIM CONWAY IS BORN.

So, if "McHale's Navy" was set in the 40s, that made him about 10 when he enlisted in the Navy.

1939:  "GONE WITH THE WIND" RECEIVES ITS PREMIERE AT LOEW'S GRAND THEATER IN ATLANTA.

Which future Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel was not allowed to attend because she was Black.  Nice going, Jim Crow.

1941:  THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOR ADOPTS A NO-STRIKE POLICY IN WAR INDUSTRIES.

But it apparently was totally okay to hit the picket line if you were a Good Humor Man?

1944:  MUSICIAN GLENN MILLER DIES IN A PLANE CRASH.

They are listing it on this date, but apparently they don't really know.  The movie version has it happening on Christmas Day, but that was just an excuse to let June Allyson overact and shoot for an Oscar.

1946: BASEBALL MANAGER ART HOWE IS BORN.

One of the worst choices ever to be Met manager. Of course, that's before the latest fool they just picked.

1960:  RICHARD PAUL PAVLICK IS ARRESTED FOR ATTEMPTING TO BLOW UP AND ASSASSINATE US PRESIDENT-ELECT JOHN F. KENNEDY.

Had we been successful, Lee Harvey Oswald might be alive today.

1961:  IN JERUSALEM, ADOLPH EICHMANN IS SENTENCED TO DEATH AFTER BEING FOUND GUILTY OF 15 CRIMINAL CHARGES AND WAR CRIMES AGAINST THE JEWISH PEOPLE.

Did this sentence actually get carried out?  Because I swear I saw him at LAX two weeks ago catching a flight to Bolivia.

1966:  WALT DISNEY DIES.

Move the Birds Eye vegetable bags.  I need to make room in the freezer.

1976:  SAMOA BECOMES A MEMBER OF THE UNITED NATIONS.

To honor the occasion, several Girl Scouts set up snack trays full of cookies outside.

1978:  PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER ANNOUNCES THAT THE UNITED STATES WILL RECOGNIZE THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA AND CUT OFF ALL RELATIONS WITH TAIWAN.

The guy remains to this day one of the biggest idiots to ever sit in the White House.

2001:  THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA REOPENS AFTER 11 YEARS AND 27 MILLION DOLLARS TO FORTIFY IT WITHOUT FIXING ITS FAMOUS LEAN.

So what was the point?  I thought this was one of those "shovel ready" jobs.

Dinner last night:  Back in LA for the Clubhouse Salad at the Cheesecake Factory.