Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Black Day at Washington Junior High

Here's what used to be my junior high school auditorium. At the time, it was named after some guy "Wood." Now, as with pretty much everything in Mount Vernon, New York, it has been renamed to honor some Black leader who's probably bilked the city of thousands of dollars. But, I slightly digress...

While Washington Junior High was about 65% Black, my two years there were fairly calm and all the students played nicely in the sandbox. There was a decided Motown flair to all of our class assemblies in this cavernous theater. Pretty much, every gathering included three of my Black female classmates lip syncing to the Supremes. And they would dress the part. With gold sequined evening gowns perhaps lifted from Mom's closets. I didn't think much of it at the time, but, in retrospect, I now wonder just how bizarre it was that three seventh graders would be strutting the stage like a couple of street walkers on 110th and Lenox. These days, I am thinking this kind of performance would be provoking a parent-administration conference or two.

Beyond that, my junior high years were fairly calm and innocuous. Half of my class had already been with me since the second grade. The other half were from different elementary schools and we bonded nicely. Those of us who were the smartest kids in the class in our early years were now merging with some whiz kids who might actually be smarter than us. The change in the IQ pecking order was sometimes a little unsettling. But, despite the intelligence reset button, all was free and easy.

Until....

I had one of those public moments that a seventh-grader can't possibly live down. The type of embarrassment that never goes away. Obviously, as I write it, it has lasted to this very day.

It started all very innocently. We were in our social studies class, which was taught by a young man named Mr. Clarke. The girls loved him for his movie star good looks. Granted if he was that handsome, one could argue what the hell he was doing with his maps and globes in front of a bunch of schlumps like us. But, still, Mr. Clarke had the kind of dimples that made even these eleven and twelve year-olds swoon.

And he knew it. Because he particularly liked to tease/flirt with some of the smartest girls in the class. One of those "lucky" ones was Kathryn.

She was one of the newest brainiacs in our midst. And she upset the balance because her presence just set the bar higher for those of us who used to be the big cheeses when it came to report cards.

And, apparently, Mr. Clarke thought she was the flavor of the month as well. Thinking back, his behavior was probably a little suspect. Today, he would be a whole segment on "Dr. Phil." But, in the old days, he was just a giddy nuisance to Kathryn. Until the day he decided to playfully chase her around the room. All of a sudden, I was being taught geography by Harpo Marx.

The class laughed gleefully as Mr. Clarke tracked Kathryn up and down the aisles. He was like one of those lions stalking a gazelle on the Animal Planet. None of us were old or bright enough to realize how inappropriate this all was.

As my bad luck would have it, I was seated at the head of the aisle right next to the classroom door. Kathryn winded her way around the back of the room and then started down my aisle. Headed for the door. I was the last line of defense for Mr. Clarke.

"Don't let her get out."

I always did what my teacher told me to do. I stood up and firmly placed myself in the aisle. It was as if I was a tackle and the offense had the ball on the two-yard-line. Except this wasn't O.J. Simpson barreling down on me. It was a skinny twelve-year-old with mousy brown hair.

It all happened way too fast. Kathryn charged toward me and the door. I held my ground and my entire body to stop her. The next thing I knew she was in my arms in a virtual hug. An unintentional public display of affection that certainly got the reaction of everybody around me.

"WHOA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

It was just like how the Friends studio audience first reacted when Ross and Rachel kissed.

Neither Kathryn or I could live down that moment for the next two years. This five second slip in judgement manifested itself over and over into every possible joke imaginable. We were a couple. We were married.

"Did you and your wife study together for the algebra test?"

Oh, fuck off.

At this tender age, there is nothing worse than a perceived social life. And it got worse when the mothers in our class started to talk as mothers frequently do. And damage control was activated one afternoon when I came home from school.

"What's this I heard? You were hugging and kissing Kathryn in class?"

D'oh! Let me go and drink that Clorox right now. And then the news got shared in the house. And more questions. From Grandma.

"You got yourself a little girlfriend?"

D'oh! We can't possibly be out of Clorox, can we???

It was a scar that didn't heal for the duration of junior high school. The only perk?

Mr. Clarke gave me an A+ for Social Studies.

Dinner last night: Garlic chicken at South Point.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - January 2010

This movie scared the pellets out of me when I was a kid. Mainly because the organ music is so damn creepy. Enjoy.

Dinner last night: Ham salad sandwich.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Retro Facebook

If only this annoying site had been around for ages and ages:

John F.Kennedy Okay, country, I'm asking.

Stevie Wonder ghrtywhjfmfhwqast

Abraham Lincoln Enjoying a wonderful show at Ford's Theater and.........yeow!!!!

Jesus Christ>Pontius Pilate You're kidding, right??

Marilyn Monroe is ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong has a new puppy and watching those small steps.

Lee Harvey Oswald Anybody seen my curtain rods?

Lou Gehrig remains the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.

Katharine Hepburn is amazed how her Parkinson's goes away during an earthquake.

Pablo Picasso Blue.

Moses>God You're kidding, right??

Albert Einstein is having a bad hair day.

Bill Buckner still waiting for his defensive replacement.

Judy Garland Damn!! Out of toilet tissue and........

Jean-Paul Sartre wondering what's the point.

Godot On my way!

Babe Ruth The ball's going over there.

Sylvia Plath is looking out the window and digging all the dark clouds.

Michael Jackson What does this IV do?

Kiefer Sutherland 11:58:57, 11:58:58, 11:58:59, 11:59:00....

Osama Bin Laden Yoo hoo, I'm over here!

Joe Biden took the Which Snow White Dwarf are you? quiz and the answer is Dopey.

President Barack Obama became a fan of President Barack Obama.

Dan Quayle became a fan of Potatoes.

Dr. Kevorkian had a great day in Farmville. He now has all these wonderful vegetables. It will be a shame when he has to kill them.

Dinner last night: Rigatoni and meatballs.








Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nobody Loves Chachi

For those of you who thought there was absolutely no way that former teen heart throb Scott Baio could ever be connected to the White House, take heed. It is possible. And the days have been less than happy for Joanie Cunningham's former main squeeze.

Maybe you read about it. Baio, who has already twice hit "empty" on the career-o-meter, got some nasty press over one of this tweets. It seems he found a rather unflattering photo of one Ms. Michelle Obama and posted a comment on the unfortunate picture.

"I can't believe he wakes up to this every morning."

As I am a big, big fan of the FLOTUS (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), I couldn't click the snapshot fast enough.

To say it is "unflattering," well, that's being American Red Cross-kind. The photo is horrible. But, it also bears out everything that I have heard about Michelle from people who have worked for or with her.

"She's a screamer."

"Stay away from her."

"An arrogant bitch on wheels."

Naturally, these are not the types of platitudes you hear from Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann on MS-DNC. Frankly, the only place you can learn those kinds of truths is here on this blog.

And, from what I gather, Scott Baio's Twitter.

Now, for all the reasons that should be painfully obvious to anybody who visits me on a daily basis, I was amused by it all. But, not so those who read Scott's tweets. Forget the relatively harmless comment. From the reaction Baio got, you would think that he had taken up residence in the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository with a high-powered rifle and a bag of chicken wings. Chachi started getting death threats. He was labeled a racist. Marion Ross was advised never to send him a Christmas card again.

The guy fell into such a PR hole that not even the Fonz himself could pull the dude out. Before you knew it, Baio was compelled to apologize for his offensive humor. He was forced to explain that it was only a "joke" and, oh, by the way, point out that some of his best friends are Black.

Okay, maybe I lost my Scott Baio decoder ring, but where in his tweet do you find a racist remark? If you saw the picture, his one-liner works equally well if the person is Black, White, or Asian. It would be as funny if it was Conan O'Brien's wife, Sidney Poitier's wife, or even Al Molinaro's wife.

But, you see, despite it all, Michelle Obama is still off limits. She is inexplicably revered for her fashion selections, her philosophical opinions, and her life choices. You are not allowed to think otherwise, whether it be true or not. Innocuous or not. Warranted or not.

Yep, I know folks who have worked directly with her at points during her law career. Everything I wrote above was told to me on more than one occasion by more than one person. When you put candy flavoring in my cough syrup, I'm still aware that it is medicine. I don't, for one moment, think that the cough syrup is really a milk shake. But, day after day, we are asked to consider that our most public figures are god-like. We bow at their altars and are not chastised for doing anything less.

Here's breaking news from me: most of them are not gods. But, perish the thought if we even dare say that in a public forum.

Chachi wound up having to do tons of damage control and naturally was compelled to remove the link to the photo from his Twitter before many people could save it.

But, I did. And I am proud to display it here. And, yes, folks, I cannot believe he has to wake up to this every single morning.

Oh, I'll go one step further. I look at this mess of a photo and I imagine one of those comic strip clouds over her head. Just what the hell is Michelle saying here?

"Barry, I don't give a shit that you're watching Sportscenter. Get off your half-Black ass and take out the fucking garbage!"

Or something like that. Meanwhile, Mister Ed is on the phone, MIchelle. He wants his teeth back.

Go ahead. Send me your comments. I'm happy to receive them in the glorious name of free speech.

Dinner last night: Sausage, pepperoni, and mushroom pizza at CPK.



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wha'cha Talkin' About, Wednesday?

I guess it really will be different strokes for Gary Coleman. In the prison shower.

---Arrested again. And, for me, there is nothing more fun than a celebrity mug shot.

---I'm guessing there's some big and burly convict already licking his chops. And ready to shell Gary like a peanut at a baseball game.

---Todd Bridges was a convict. Dana Plato was a suicidal mess. And now this...

---Just what the hell was Conrad Bain doing to these kids?

---Gary was busted for creating a disturbance.

---And Charlie Sheen is out on bail???

---Well, they say 83 million people watched that Haiti telethon last week.

---I guess I would have made that 83 million plus one. But, I had other important plans.

---Like cleaning my electric razor.

---I'm sorry for all the devastation down at that armpit in the Caribbean, but, once you read all about the corruption in the government, I'm not feeling so bad.

---Both Clinton and Bush tried to give that country funds over the past twenty years. And it got squandered by the ruling families in charge.

---Oh, well, could-a, would-a, should-a. Now Haiti can be proud. They have the world's largest open air mausoleum.

---I'm supposing that most of the survivors will have Mount Vernon, New York addresses by the end of the year.

---To me, the Haitian government and the New Orleans City Council are interchangeable. Two bunches of assholes who sell their citizens down the river.

---So to speak.

---Has we passed the expiration date for feeling bad about Hurricane Katrina? E-mail me please.

---Meanwhile, all the earthquakes down there might simply be Teddy Kennedy rolling over in his grave.

---If the state of Massachusetts, which is the unofficial headquarters for screaming, wild-eyed liberals, can elect a Republican, that should give you a rough idea how the rest of the country is feeling.

---All my kooky pastor, who is as nutty as a leftie can be, could focus on was Scott Brown's nude centerfold.

---If it was a Democrat taking his clothes off in a magazine, she would have said it was an expression of artistry.

---But, frankly, who wanted to see Teddy Kennedy naked?

---Other than some twenty-year-old on the beach at Hyannis Port?

---Or some cute waitress at a Starbucks on the Cape?

---Or that perky intern from Georgetown Law School?

---Just so you know, I've raised my personal terror level to "orange."

---Bin Laden has announced that he was behind the Christmas Day bombing.

---I think I even saw his name stenciled onto the underwear.

---I guess that's how you keep your laundry sorted when you're out in the hills of Afghanistan.

---Who took a bigger hit last week? Obama or Leno?

---Frankly, if they wanted to remove Obama from the White House and move him into the 1130PM time slot on NBC, I'd be fine with that.

---Joe Biden kind of reminds me of Ed McMahon anyway.

---My mother had a better handle on economics than Obama.

---Translation: my mother couldn't balance a checkbook ever.

---Mom was also the class mother when I was in the fifth grade. What significance does that have?

---She didn't need a teleprompter when she talked to the class.

---Who screwed more people in 2009? The White House or Tiger Woods. Please discuss.

---It's official. I never saw a single second of Conan O'Brien hosting the Tonight Show.

---I love all these stand-up comics who are backing Conan and dissing Leno.

---I can remember when Conan first got his show. And the same stand-up comics were bitching because Conan had never once done a stand-up act anywhere.

---It's tough to feel sorry for somebody with a 25 million dollar severence package.

---I wonder if he insisted that NBC pick up his COBRA payments.

Dinner last night: Steak and salad.




Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Winter Weekend in Los Angeles

This is the stuff that only happens in Los Angeles.

The winter months frequently unleash days and days of torrential rain. That happened last week. If you're in another part of this country, you probably heard the news reports. Flooding. Mudslides. God enacting his revenge for Hollywood making Seth Rogan a star. As a result, Los Angeles is now floating somewhere off the coast of New Zealand.

Drama, drama, drama.

Well, you never heard what happens after the soaking. Frequently, a rainbow as shown above.

Or a snow-capped vista as seen in this photo above. Snow served just the way I like it. From afar. When it is beautiful and not slippery.

Because of the layout of the city, you pretty much can't drive anywhere without seeing these magnificent landscapes looming up at you. I look at these wondrous views and imagine that this is where Paramount Pictures got the idea for their long-standing logo.

When you're done looking at the scenery on a weekend like we just had, you can press on in the cool, cool, cool of the evening and sample some other things you can't do anyplace else.

Like taking a leisurely nightime walk down Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. With the glorious smell of fireplaces doing their job in one home after another. With the cool, crisp air invigorating you. You can't do that usually on January 23 in Yonkers, New York. Heck, the simple act of just strolling the downtown streets of Getty Square could kill you, thanks to the knife-wielding prowess of somebody named Miguel.

Instead of clogging a multiplex on a Saturday night, Los Angeles always affords you the opportunity of seeing a classic movie on a big screen. The way they are supposed to be enjoyed. Such was the case the other night when the Aero Theater in Santa Monica celebrated the 50th anniversary of this still-powerful "Elmer Gantry." A screening that was made more profound because one of its stars, Jean Simmons, had just died blocks away the night before.

Luckily, one of the film's co-stars, Oscar winner Shirley Jones, is alive and well and also willing to go out on a Southern California winter's evening. After the film, she spoke to the audience about the film, answered questions, and even let her husband, the ultra-bizarre Marty Ingels, upstage her from time to time. And Miss Jones got herself a perk as well. A photo opportunity with yours truly.

I'll bet that Shirley Jones didn't think she would be so lucky when she got up on Saturday morning. But, then again, you never know what you'll do or see on a winter's day in Los Angeles.

Dinner last night: Leftover ravioli and meatballs. Why is Italian food always better the second day?


Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 25, 2010

There is a new level of stupidity in Hollywood. Danny Glover says the Haitian earthquake was caused by global warming. What an asshole!

Dinner last night: Ravioli and meatballs.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My First Night in Brooklyn

For a great deal of my youth, Brooklyn was the borough way "down there." Except for one car trip to Staten Island, it was the New York borough I had spent the least amount of time in. For my family, the Bronx was a breeze. Most of our relatives still lived there. Queens was the home of the Mets. Enough said. And Manhattan was the place you headed for those special occasions of fun. Radio City Music Hall. The circus. My eye doctor on E. 68th Street.

Brooklyn presented way too advanced a car trip for my dad. It easily felt into one of his major prohibitive decrees often discussed here.

"It's too far."

"It's too crowded."

"It's too hot/cold."

Done. Brooklyn might as well have been on the planet Uranus. Admittedly, it was no loss. My family had no ties there. And, frankly, it wasn't until I got to Fordham University before I even met somebody from the far-off borough.

And it was because of one of those new alliances that my very first trip to Brooklyn came about.

To go on a date.

Let me backtrack just a bit.

This guy was one of the first friends I made at WFUV. He was an oddity to me. From Brooklyn and, even more amazingly, always seemed to have a girlfriend. Usually, they were about two or three years younger and still in high school, but they were girlfriends nonetheless. I remember one even was still wearing braces. That was definitely a stretch for me, since I myself had been retainer-free since I was fourteen. But, who was I to quibble? He had a girlfriend and most of the rest of us didn't.

One of his later year models, who happened to be a high school senior, took a particular shine to a couple of us, especially me and my college roommate. She didn't understand why any of us were not busying ourselves with the opposite sex. I didn't understand either. At a Christmas party in our dorm apartment, she vowed to change our status for the new year.

You see, she had "some friends."

Frankly, we didn't do much in-depth analysis on her New Year's resolution. She liked us and allegedly had a stable full of available women down in Brooklyn. Three of us signed on immediately. We were told to hang tight. Perhaps, she needed to go into a laboratory to scientifically match each of us up with our ideal and maybe even lifelong mates.

The long awaited evening was scheduled for a Friday night in January. To make things smooth for all involved, we'd all go out together with our friend and his matchmaking honey. Four couples out on the town. Oddly enough, it coincided with a weekend that I was due to travel home. So, I had to alert one of the parental units as to this change in plans. I slipped in the news to my father.

"I'm going to Brooklyn on Friday night."

Dad turned on his usual robotic response.

"Brooklyn? What the hell are you going there for?"

Well...

Dad continued with his regular litany.

"It's too far."

"It's too crowded."

"It's supposed to snow." Dad was adapting his "it's too hot/cold" excuse.

I had to come clean.

"I've got a date."

That shut him up. My father was obviously fine with this development.

But he was right about one thing. It did snow. Like a son of a bitch. Not even the specter of a hot date could get us the way down to Brooklyn in that kind of weather. We made plans to reschedule.

But, my roommate decided to go off the original playbook. Without us knowing it, he went ahead and made plans for his own blind date. All by themselves. That was a daring move. And, luckily for me and my other single chum, one that presented us with some much needed information.

My roommate returned to our dorm apartment after his big meeting with Miss Catholic High School Senior. I asked him how it went. He was nonplussed.

"It was okay."

And???

"It was okay."

I heard you the first time. I decided to press a little softer for the details. I inquired as to what they talked about.

"Nothing. All she really wanted to talk about was her senior prom."

Oh.

Oh?

OH!

DING DING DING DING DING DING DING.

Like a great Sherlock Holmes, all the clues started to make sense as they were laid out side-by-side. The winter timing. Ideal to make the necessary bonds just in time for a May formal and a carriage ride through Central Park. I hadn't gone to my own senior prom in high school, mainly because it was nothing but twenty Black couples going to the Apollo Theater. I certainly wasn't going to one when I was three years older. And in Brooklyn, of all places.

We immediately scheduled an emergency meeting to figure out how to extricate ourselves from this revolting predicament. My roommate had obviously already fallen on his sword. But my other pal and I were still in the soup. Our big dates were scheduled for the following week. We had decided to double date. How could we possibly come down with debilitating cases of the flu in seven days??

At the end of the day and the week, we were still fine. And opting to be complete gentlemen. We would go ahead with our first and likely last dates.

As we crossed into the borough of Brooklyn, I felt no great accomplishment in finally setting foot there. Realistically, I hoped to myself that this virgin voyage would not be my last. It was bad enough we were entering into an always fearsome prospect of a blind date. But, obviously, this was one created with a hidden agenda. Me and a tuxedo. With some still faceless chick wearing a corsage and holding onto my left arm for dear life.

To this very day, I cannot recall anything about my date for the evening. Her name. What she looked like. How I felt when I first set eyes on her.

What I can remember is that every word she said seemed to come out of her nose.

My date was Penny Marshall. Well, a reasonable facsimile.

"Ya so funny, Len. Heh heh heh heh heh heh."

I hated Brooklyn with every fiber of my being.

Luckily, we all went to a movie, which automatically and fabulously cut down on prime dialogue time. But, of course, there was the requisite diner afterwards.

"I'll have the tuna fish. Whacha having, Len? Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh."

I love making people laugh, but this was ridiculous. I would have probably gotten the same giggles if I said her mother had just been hit by a bus on Flatbush Avenue.

My buddy's date was no better. And he was doing his best to upend his senior prom prospects as well. By resorting to the most inappropriate humor possible. At the time, Art Linkletter's daughter had just jumped to her death from a Los Angeles apartment high rise. Hardly a joking matter. You would think.

"Art Linkletter's daughter just played the Game of Life and lost."

Even I cringed.

At the end of the night, I stood at the front door with this chick for either ten minutes or maybe ten hours. It was excruciating. There was no mention of a senior prom, but I had a sense that she knew that I knew. And, together, we both knew that this whole deal was completely off the table.

I never saw her again.

My friend with the girlfriend wound up going to that senior prom several months later. I never asked if any of these three girls wound up getting dates. I didn't really care. I was done dating in that borough.

I would, however, be back to Brooklyn at some other isolated moments in my life. Two funerals. A wedding. A bunch of house parties. Two Brooklyn Cyclone games.

But, the rest of my NY dating life would be confined to the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Westchester. With some stories that may be still told here.

And others that definitely will not.

Dinner last night: Reuben sandwich at Cafe Montana.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Classic TV Theme of the Month - January 2010

Yes, he did have his own show. At least for one season.


Dinner last night: Grilled hamsteak and salad.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Your Weekend Movie Guide for January 2010

Here's another recent photo of one of my favorite childhood movie theaters. The Kimball Theater on Yonkers Avenue in, duh, Yonkers. It was decimated by a fire about six years ago. Yet, it was still allowed to languish until some homeless bums moved in and started another blaze. Will somebody please put this place out of its misery? Is there such a thing as a mercy killing for an old movie house?

And, if you want more pain, try a new movie this weekend. Here's what is out there stinking up the joints. You know the exercise. I leaf through the movie ads in the Los Angeles Times and give you my gut reaction as to whether you should see or flee.

Avatar: Scroll back one day on this blog and you'll read my comments. If you're too lazy to do that, it's your own fault.

Legion: When God loses faith in mankind, he sends in his legion of angels to bring on the Apocalypse. Frankly, God shouldn't give us so quickly. Look what happened in Massachusetts this week. Meanwhile, is the end of the world now featured in every movie coming out of Hollywood?

Tooth Fairy: Another laugh riot from the Rock. A hockey player serves as a tooth fairy. That is what I call an irony. Since most hockey players don't have all their teeth. I get it.

Drool: Another story about another desperate housewife who accidentally kills her husband. Uh huh. An accident? Like when Claudine Longet accidentally shot that ski instructor seventeen times? Meanwhile, must we now always be subjected to the perils of some desperate housewive or real housewife or whatever other kind of housewife is being shoved down our throats? My grandmother was a housewife and she didn't kill my grandfather. Or so she said.

Extraordinary Measures: Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford star in this movie about some guy who has to risk everything to get a cure for his children's life-threatening disease. So, the H1N1 vaccine is that hard to get?

The Book of Eli: And it's the end of the world AGAIN! More crap from Denzel Washington. The real movie I want to see with this guy is one that follows him around Hollywood with a hidden camera. Watching him pull constantly from his deck of 52 race cards, while continuing to bag any White chick he can get his hands on. This guy is a real pile of shit and a disgrace to our mutual hometown, Mount Vernon, New York. Of course, that's redundant since Mount Vernon is a disgrace unto itself.

Crazy Heart: Saw it and I recommend it solely so you can get a jump on seeing what will be Jeff Bridges' Oscar-winning performance. The movie is nothing but "The Wrestler" redone with country music, but the acting elevates it to a much higher level.

The Road: Guess what??? It's the end of the world AGAIN!!!! This is one of the dreariest movies I have ever seen. And I've seen my share of dreary. Get the special at the snack bar. A large popcorn, a medium soda, and a last clinical depression for just $4.50.

Sherlock Holmes: A true mystery. I have no clue why people are even bothering.

The Lovely Bones: A serial killer, a dead girl, and hopefully it is the end of the world for all those involved in the production.

The Princess and the Frog: It hasn't croaked yet. But will soon. From what I hear, this is not Disney's best work. But, that's what happens when you mix Cinderella with Shaft.

The Spy Next Door: Jackie Chan is the neighbor. As if there aren't enough Asians roaming around Los Angeles.

A Single Man: I've heard really good things about this drama that stars Colin Firth as a gay guy grieving over the death of his lover. I wanted to see it, but, poof, it has disappeared from theaters. How does one mount an Oscar campaign when people can't find the movie? Meanwhile, we can get all the Jackie Chan we want?

It's Complicated: I saw this over the holiday break and it's not the mess that reviewers said it was. There is nothing new about the story, but Meryl Streep and Steve Martin really make the material better than it has. However, you do have to sit through another over-the-top, scenery gnawing performance by Alec Baldwin, who almost singlehandedly murders the movie. But, his character is equally as unlikeable, so it sort of works. It's fun to go to a film where the audience is mostly over the age of 45 and they all identify with the jokes.

Leap Year: Maybe it should have opened on February 29th of this year. Note that there is no February 29th this year.

Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Squeakquel: Road kill. Jeez, even I was a kid and watched their show, I much preferred the part of the program that featured Clyde Crashcup. Who is that, you say? What do you think Wikipedia is for?

Did You Hear About the Morgans?: From the box office receipts, nobody did.

Up In The Air: I've already seen it a second time. And it was just as marvelous as the first time. An almost perfect movie.

The Last Station: All about the final days of Leo Tolstoy. Sounds like there will be an essay due at the conclusion of the film.

Youth In Revolt: A Michael Cera comedy which apparently sat on the shelf for about three years. Always a good sign. The weekend it opened, I actually saw Cera in the lobby of the Arclight. And I think even he was going to see something else.

Invictus: Seen it. Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. It's a true story, but it still seems like I've seen the same sports film about fifteen times previously. The problem with the movie is that, if you don't know the rules of rugby, the last half-hour is completely lost on you.

The Hurt Locker: In an attempt to drum up interest for the Oscar voters, this terrific film is making the rounds again. A great action movie that was surprisingly and amazingly directed by a woman.

Nine: After reading the horrible reviews, I would have to say "nein."

The White Ribbon: A German children's choir during World War I. It is being touted as a likely recipient of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. I will see it because the trailer prominently features Martin Luther's hymn "A Mighty Fortress is our God." Interesting factoid: that is a German beer drinking song which Luther rewrote with more religious lyrics. Who says you don't learn anything in this blog?

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: Just typing the title alone turned me off from ever seeing this movie.

Precious: As I predicted, the groundswell of liberal Hollywood is starting to move toward this hokum. And I still contend that the Golden Globes should have placed it in the Comedy category.

3 Idiots: The first one to chime in with am Obama/Pelosi/Reid reference wins.

The Young Victoria: I'll see it when she gets a little older.

Broken Embraces: By that director who only uses his last name. Almodovar!! As if there are a lot of people with that same last name.

That's all, folks! Note that I did that without stuttering.

Dinner last night: Salami sandwich and salad.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Live From Pandora

When I first read about the movie "Avatar" months ago, I wasn't sure what I was reading about. Isn't "Avatar" a camera from the 80s? Or, was that "Vivitar?" Or "Konica?" Or "Yashica?" I was clueless.

Over the fall, this James Cameron movie was ballyhooed as much as the healthcare plan. I was equally skeptical about both. I saw the movie trailer and it looked like a Smurf nudist camp, which is going some since Smurfs usually only wore those white hats and matching diapers. Once the reviews came out, "Avatar" was proclaimed as the greatest film ever. "Gone With The Wind?" Phooey. It had nothing on "Avatar." Just think how cool it would be to see "Gone With The Wind" in 3-D. My Lord, Mammy wielding that pitchfork would be so lifelike. It's like the prongs are coming right at you!

On and on and on, the platitudes came. And, still, I had little interest. But I started to be interested in the word-of-mouth I was hearing from friends. Some around the ages of 25 to 30 absolutely hated it. Others around the ages of 55 to 60 loved it.

I read reports that people seeing the 3-D edition were leaving the theater nauseous. Vomiting in public has never been my strong suit.

I read other news items that the idyllic landscape presented in the movie is so lovely that folks are leaving the multiplexes in a depressed state. Okay, I like what I saw in "The Wizard of Oz," but that doesn't mean I want to buy the condo next door to the Scarecrow.

Hmmm.

Even though it is the type of sci-fi film that I generally don't like, perhaps I should sample it anyway? After all, it will be all the rage come Oscar time. And eventually it will help the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk.

Hmmm one more time.

Last Monday, it was pouring. I had nothing to do. I had wrapped up my fifteen seconds of remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Okay, I talked me into it.

And I have lived to talk about it. And write about it. Suffice to say that, as I left the theater, my vision was not keener. My hearing was not improved. And my arthritic right knee still creaked a bit.

Bodily functions not enhanced, I guess I simply would have to judge "Avatar" on whether or not it was an entertaining film.

It was. A little.

And the glorious special effects and groundbreaking 3-D photography? Was it that impressive?

It was. A little.

One of the best films of 2010?

No.

One of the best movies ever?

A resounding NO.

"Avatar" is just that. Okay. Nothing special. And, folks, the special effects are not so, well, special. Essentially, they are nothing more than what you would see in a video game if you had three hours worth of quarters. And, half the time, it's like the arcade attendant hasn't sprayed any Windex on the screens for weeks. The movie is, at times, that grainy and murky. A fish tank that hasn't been cleaned since Lloyd Bridges starred in "Sea Hunt."

The story? Not much more than an extended episode of "Star Trek." Avatars? Tribbles? All the same to me. The only difference is that all the creatures in this film have 16 inch waists and 36 inch chests. Somewhere in the mystical land of Pandora, there must be a very busy Jenny Craig center. Meanwhile, all the females in the Pandora tribe have weirdly distorted faces as if they all had active appointments with Joan Rivers' plastic surgeon.

There's some plot nonsense about humans going into tanning beds and coming out with their brains connected to these blue stick figures. For the first hour, I thought it was all about dream therapy. For the second hour, I thought it was all about cloning. By the third hour, it was all about me trying to control my full bladder.

The acting? There is none. The only two folks I recognized were Sigourney Weaver, who always seems to be hanging around with extra-terrestrial creatures, and Giovanni Ribisi, who I always see hanging around in the Arclight Cinema lobby. Nothing the actors do can compete with the relentless special effects and the hardware/software that director Cameron obviously bought on sale during a shopping spree through Japan. There are some flying dinosaurs and some evil mutations of killer Doberman Pinchers. The dogs usually wound up dead or injured. I started to wonder if I would read the following at the ending of the film: "No computer-generated animals were killed during the making of this motion picture."

All the graphics are just very expensive window dressing for a rather hollow and pedestrian story about a race war. The White people vs. the Blue people. So, obviously, if you go 140 years into the future, Obama's "change" didn't exactly last. At the end of three hours, it's all much ado about nothing and you don't need the mind of Shakespeare to figure out what happens next. The White people are evil and don't win, so I can only think that this is James Cameron's allegory for the George W. Bush years.

Meanwhile, some other elements got me thinking in different directions. I saw "Avatar" with those nifty 3-D glasses. At least, they were nifty when they were new. Mine were smudged by fingerprints and the stems looked a little gnawed on. For the extra three bucks, I don't get a new pair of 3-D specs?? Hello?? In this day and age of hand sanitizers, etc., I'm wearing glasses that have been on about two dozen heads before me!

At the afternoon screening I attended, I counted at least ten patrons who had come with babies in car seats or strollers. You're kidding me, right? You do realize that this is not a Pixar movie that will be over in ninety minutes. What is the logic behind these numbskulls? Has every babysitter in the United States been incarcerated?

And, as I listened to the inane dialogue, I noted all the 2010 expressions and phrases being uttered by characters living more than a century in the future. Has there been no language advancement? For Pete's sake, Webster adds new words to the dictionary every year. I can't believe that folks in the future will continue to speak like they're in a bad episode of "CSI."

I suppose I'm meandering now, but so did "Avatar." It held my interest but nothing else. Three days later, I've already forgotten 85% of the movie. And I am thinking that will ultimately be the opinion of the Motion Picture Academy as well. Oh, sure, it will get a lot of attention at Oscar time. Heck, just the votes alone from the telephone book of credits shown at the end will be plentiful. Yet, for every 25 year-old studio tech head who hasn't seen a movie made before 1990, there are also the old salts among the voting bloc. The old Jewish production heads now chomping down on pastrami sandwiches daily during the lunch rush at Nate N' Al's. I can hear them now.

"Avatar, schmavatar. No big whoop. Vat, all the meshuggah blue things flying around. Vat, no Leo DiCaprio. Vat, no schmaltz. And where was Celine Dion? Vat, no song. Oy vey. I'm voting for one of those nice Goyim. George Clooney, maybe Jeff Bridges."

Or something like that.

Dinner last night: Leftover andouille sausage with peppers and rice.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Best Performance by a Wednesday in a Comedy or a Musical

And the winner is....me.

---The Golden Globes are always the best for bringing out the worst in Hollywood.

---For instance, who, in their right mind, would pick Ricky Gervais as the host? I never get this guy ever.

---Gervais is like the annoying kid in high school who gets invited anywhere simply he's the only one with a driver's license.

---His one-liners Sunday night were like the 1130AM mass at Good Shepherd Catholic Church two blocks away.

---Speaking of which, is it me or does James Cameron look more and more like an Irish priest every day?

---I loved the way Cameron thanked his wife for years of support.

---I guess the first four wives did nothing for him. Including one who was actually in the audience that night. Kathryn Bigelow, director of "The Hurt Locker."

---The Golden Globes are selected by about ninety foreign correspondents who barely speak English.

---And this is how Robert Downey Jr. wins something for "Sherlock Holmes."

Looking at the now zaftig Mrs. Tom Hanks, I can see that the happy couple is now doing the In N'Out Burger drive-through window as a team.

---Everybody who is anybody shows up at the Golden Globes. And they all fight to be included in those annoying cut-away shots.

---One unfortunate cut-away gave us all a good look of that lummox Pierce Brosnan smacking his lips when Kate Hudson came out as a presenter.

---Go home to your fat wife, Pig.

---And maybe you should give some thought to why your wife is using her pie hole as, well, a pie hole.

---Thank God for the Haitian earthquake. Now these stars have a reason to wear all new ribbons to these award ceremonies.

---These goofballs namedropped Haiti so much that I thought Harvey Weinstein had produced the quake.

---Each one blathered on and on about Haiti. None of them had given this country a second thought a week ago.

---Here's a joke I wish I had heard at the Globes: "Tonight, the Golden Globes are being seen in over seventy countries across the world. And that includes the country of Haiti."

---"Provided you were one of the lucky ones who got to loot an appliance store for a new 50 inch high definition television."

---That line can be easily adapted for the SAG Awards or the Oscars. It's yours for a buck. Interested? Call me.

---This year, as always, there were two young starlets on the stage to assist. They are each called "Miss Golden Globes."

---If you write the next joke, I'll send you a dollar.

---The rainy season has begun in earnest for Los Angeles. We officially are on storm watch this week.

---Which means 80-year-olds all over the city are clogging supermarket lines for that last Entenmann's Crumb Coffee Cake.

---People again are panicking about their homes being destroyed by mudslides.

---If you're so worried about that, why the hell did you buy a house on a hill in the first place?

---A home propped up on a stick.

---It's not like mud was invented in the last decade.

---I've personally being throwing it all my life.

---A perfect storm for LA motorists? An Asian girl driving through a downpour.

---We even lost power for about ten hours on Monday. Which will explains, my dear readers, the Tuesday post on Teddy Roosevelt.

---Folks, that was my emergency blog entry. I always keep one handy. Like a flashlight and a few bottles of water.

---"American Idol" without Simon? That would be like tuning into "I Love Lucy" just to see what Mrs. Trumbull is up to.

---Last night, I actually had a reader tap into this blog from Bangalore in India.

---Probably somebody from Dell checking in to see what I'm doing with my computer.

---I loved the fight over the Massachusetts Senate seat.

---Obama ran up there so fast it was like the episode where Beaver Cleaver had to fix the garage window before his parents came home.

---I know nothing about this Scott Brown guy, but he's getting a Christmas card from me this year.

---They keep calling it "the Kennedy seat."

---Frankly, who'd want to sit in it? After all, the springs must be shot by now.

---And who knows how many times that piece of crap passed gas into the seat cushion?

---"Len, you're speaking ill of the dead."

---You betcha!

---I have a rhetorical question for this cyber room. How come when you elect a President with a 52% margin, it's called a mandate? And when almost 60% of the country is against the healthcare bill, it counts for nothing?

---Roll that one around, folks.

Dinner last night: Chopped beef steak with rice and salad.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

If Teddy Roosevelt Had a Blog...

Theodore Roosevelt's ideas on Immigrants and being an AMERICAN in 1907. Still, applicable in 2010.

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language.. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

Is he still available to run for office?

Dinner last night: Prosciutto and mozzarella panini at Terroni.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 18, 2010

Even Adolf has something to say about Jay and Conan.



Dinner last night: Cajun stew with andouille sausage, peppers, and vegetables.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Tomorrow marks the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Stools and windows in places like the Post Office and the DMV will be unwarmed as the normal occupants use this opportunity to remember the Civil Rights leader by watching reruns of "Good Times" all day long.

In the picture above, then-President George Bush the First signs a bill that formalizes Federal support for this holiday. Behind him is the non-singing King family which today is now deliciously feuding over the old lady's dough now that she's gone to that great Gospel choir in the sky. I would pay big bucks to see a reality show about how these dumbbells and progenies of the esteemed non-violence advocate are trashing each other for their due share of the pecan pie.

Also note the following factoids. As you see above, the President signing this bill is a Republican. The President who first approved this holiday was Ronald Reagan. A Republican. The political party that is, according to Democrats, supposedly comprised of nothing but card carrying racists.

Your honor, the defense rests.

Okay, I'm dilly dallying here. You're probably wondering what kind of personal memory this nonsense will conjure up. How the hell do the dots connect between my life story and Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Here's how.

Years before Reagan signed the observance into law, there was constant clamoring for this to happen. And none might have been louder than the goofballs I went to high school with. Mount Vernon High School, now an armed camp that resembles a maximum security prison more than an educational institution, was always a microcosm of the racial divide which enveloped the city itself.

Mount Vernon was and is literally and figuratively divided in half by the commuter railroad line that cut right through the center of the city. The bottom half, or the South Side, was predominantly Black. The top half, or the North Side, was all White---a blend of Jewish and Italian families. I grew up on the cusp of the South Side, but, for the longest time, our neighborhood got a hall pass and we were mostly White and Italian. That didn't last long. As soon as the first Black family moved into the ugly apartment building across the street from our house, we knew it would all change. Grandma immediately got new locks for all the doors.

None of this ever sat comfortably together in Mount Vernon. There were neighborhoods you didn't dare enter after 6PM at night. Anything south of Third Street or Sanford Boulevard required a police escort. And, as I went through elementary and junior high school, I became more and more aware of how guarded I had to be in my hometown. By the time I got to high school, it went all, as they would say deep in the South Side, "off the hook."

Mount Vernon High School was as far away from the deadly South Side as possible. It was situated almost idyllically amid the richest homes of the city. A then-beautiful family neighborhood. Which was rocked to its core every school day as one bus after another pulled up to unload all the Black students from the Sandford Boulevard and beyond.

Indeed, at MVHS, the White kids were the minority. We knew it every day and in every deadly way. You had to hold your bookbag under your arm or it would be ripped off. You held tightly to your brown bag lunch or else Tyrone from shop class might be enjoying your Taylor Ham sandwich. And forget about even entering a bathroom if you had to pee. I held in my urine for three years. My bladder hasn't been the same since. The only White kids who got off easy were the Jewish ones, perceived as sympatico in the persecution department. Those dudes made sure to stay on top of whatever the most hip expressions were. And they always seemed to be totally up on the newest Motown artists. The earliest known form of "Whiggers."

But, for the rest of us Christian White folk, Mount Vernon High School was a treacherous place. We might as well have been going to school on the Mason-Dixon line in 1862.

Almost as soon as drops of blood started to ooze out of the slain Martin Luther King Jr., there were rumblings all over Mount Vernon and other cities that his January birthday needed to be a national holiday. It was positioned as an terrific way to honor this great American leader.

The Black kids in my school thought of it as an ideal way to get a day off in January. After all, you needed a rest break after going to school for two whole weeks after the Christmas vacation. And who wanted to wait all the way to February for the President's Day observance? For the longest while, the merits of this holiday were debated all over the country.

At Mount Vernon High School, the Black kids had their own idea.

One Monday morning, they barricaded themselves into the school cafeteria. And refused to come out till the school system gave them Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday off.

We heard the ruckus down the hall as it was happening. Whoops and hollers. Indians on the warpath? Nope, just most of the Black high schoolers throwing every lunch table available up against the doors. Naturally, even then, I caught this irony. The cafeteria was a natural safe haven. I noted that they certainly didn't barricade themselves into the school library. What fun would that be? Reading a book all day.

This method of holding a lunch line hostage naturally presented a curveball into your school day. If you were like me and brought your lunch from home, you could really eat it anywhere. But, for those craving such normal cafeteria offerings as sloppy joe sandwiches and chicken chow mein, you went hungry till 3PM. Why?

Because the school administration sat back and did nothing.

Maybe it was fear. Maybe it was because the teacher's lounge was still open and there was plenty of salisbury steak for them. But, the silence from the principal's office with regard to the "Taking of the Cafeteria" was deafening.

Since this whole fracas was a big part of my day, I figured this would be nifty news for all the local media.

Nothing. In the local paper. On the radio. On the television. Nothing.

Nothing when the takeover extended to Tuesday.

Nothing when the takeover extended to Wednesday.

Nothing when the takeover extended to Thursday.

I wondered to myself if any of this was really happening.

By Thursday noon, the masterminds behind Cafeteria-gate were getting bored. And perhaps a little stir crazy. Maybe they had run out of Cheetos. They decided to expand their realm of power.

I will never forget what happened next. I was sitting quietly in a class working on a quiz. From outside, we heard more whoops and hollers. And several loud crashes.

The Black kids had stormed the administration offices.

Suddenly, we heard the sound of the public address system being activated. And a piercing voice blasted out of the classroom speakers.

"WEEZE IN CHARGE NOW. NO MORE SCHOOL TODAY!!!"

No one around me uttered a word. Not even the teacher. When the next bell rang, everybody picked up their belongings and quietly left the room. And headed for the exits. To go home.

In the local newspaper the very next day, there was a small item detailing what had happening. Buried in the second section near the want ads.

The very next year, the Mount Vernon School System made a special provision to allow that those who wanted to observe Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday could do so and be excused from school.

I went to my classes as usual.

Dinner last night: Sausage pizza at Boho.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Classic Newsreel of the Month - January 2010

Meanwhile, over fifty years later, there are still fires that start out there.


Dinner last night: Sirloin steak and salad.


Friday, January 15, 2010

All Awkward All the Time

More photos that were better left undeveloped.

Thank God for the orchid. Meanwhile, it looks like she has a little more chest hair than he does.


The perfect Halloween costume for that little piece of shit down the block.

When I look for Halloween costumes, I always check the Old Testament first.

The consequences of sex with Kobe Bryant.

What a novel career. Wedding and funeral planning at the same place. One stop shopping.


What happens when your Easter Bunny visits Three Mile Island...

In about five seconds, Dad's backpack is going to feel a lot lighter.

Dinner last night: Bacon, cheddar, mushroom, and onion omelette at the Cheesecake Factory.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Name Change, Please

I completely forgot this picture from my last trip to Dallas. We found this dentist in a strip mall on our way to dinner.

If you had this name, why would you choose a career in dentistry?

Dinner last night: Chicken salad.






Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday with an Asterisk (*)

Today, I am even prouder of Roger Maris.

---Anybody surprised by Mark McGwire's admission of steroid use?

---Anybody??

---Anybody???

---Is that a hand up way in the back???

---Finally, that big dope, who reminds me of the old cartoon character Baby Huey, comes clean.

---For Pete's sake, my father even knew he was on the juice.

---And he's been dead since 1991.

---Gasp! Does this mean Jose Canseco knew what he was talking about?

---That's like hearing that Joe Biden is making sense.

---Big Dumb Ox said the reason he took steroids was to make his body feel better.

---Er, that's why my mother took steroids.

---She didn't hit over five hundred homeruns.

---Although she did have a great on-base percentage.

---The way Big Dumb Ox sobbed in front of Bob Costas, I wondered if he was really that contrite. Or maybe he had just watched "Old Yeller."

---From what I could see, Big Dumb Ox has shrunk a bit. He still had a good two feet to tower over his interviewer, that moron and alleged inventor of baseball Bob Costas.

---Big Dumb Ox claims that his manager and former Italian shoemaker Tony LaRussa didn't know he was taking steroids.

---LaRussa wouldn't have seen him taking the juice if there was a ten inch hypodermic needle sticking out of his ass.

---So, Big Dumb Ox cheated in 1998 and tells us about it in 2010. On that timeline, we should be hearing Clinton tell us what he really did to Monica Lewinsky sometime next fall.

---And where has Big Dumb Ox been since 2001? He says he wanted to start a family.

---But, his oldest son is in his 20s.

---Oh, you mean you wanted to start a family with another wife. I get it.

---I suppose steroids can enhance all parts of your body.

---Big Dumb Ox also claimed that he called Roger Maris' wife to apologize.

---I know she hung up on him like he was a telemarketer selling carpet cleaning.

---Looking at Big Dumb Ox, I noticed a neck that was incredibly shriveled. Like that old broad who threw the jewelry overboard in "Titanic."

---Yeah, right, steroids don't have any side effects.

---Let's talk Rihanna. The former punching bag for Chris Brown is now dating Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp.

---Now, I know that Matt is a pretty nice and easy guy. So, if Rihanna shows up with face bruises now, we know who the real problem is.

---I actually saw her on a British talk show last week. She achieved levels of stupidity that previously have been unreached.

---And then there's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

---I've thought for some time that Harry is in the early stages of dementia. Which is a perfect reason why he is one of the designated architects of our new health care bill.

---Last year, Harry apparently said Obama was electable because he didn't speak with a Negro dialect unless he wanted to.

---It's been years since I saw that word in print. I almost had to look it up.

---Harry Reid is a complete embarrassment and the state of Nevada should be ashamed that he is their representative.

---But, then again, what do you expect from a state where pole dancing is taught in middle school.

---If somebody that's not a Democrat had made that Negro reference, they'd be unemployed today. But, since he is a Democrat, he simply gets a hall pass and the opportunity to order more paper clips for his office.

---Even Al Sharpton accepted Reid's apology. Somebody get Don Imus on speed dial.

---So now I want to hear those times when Obama did want to speak with a Negro dialect.

---Maybe when he picked the new Supreme Court Justice.

---"Here come da judge!"

---Or when he raced to the Capitol to push through the Cap and Trade Bill.

---"Feets, do your stuff!"

---Hey, I'm just as guilty. I've used the word myself.

--"When the arthritis in my right leg kicks in, boy, does my knee grow!"

---Yeah, I'm groaning right along with you.

---But you smiled. Just a little. I could tell.

---Cleaning out my DVR, I finally caught up with CBS' broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors. Usually a grand show and one of my highlights every year.

---I had to stop watching it this time.

---Oh, I paid attention to the tributes for Robert DeNiro, Mel Brooks, and Bruce Springsteen. But, the entire show was littered with constant reaction shots of POTUS and FLOTUS.

---I've been watching this for years. Never have I seen such a focus on the President and his Missus. Not with the Reagans, the Bushes, the Clintons, and the Bushes-the Sequel.

---We had to see them laugh. We had to see them bop to the music. I was surprised we didn't follow them during the commercial breaks so we could watch them both take a whizz.

---Stop already!!!

---It's called the Kennedy Center for a reason. And they're not Jack and Jackie.

---Heck, they're not either George and Weezy.

---A 7.0 earthquake destroys Haiti.

---That's probably about $3.46 in property damage.

---The loss of life would have been greater except most of the Haitian population has already relocated to Mount Vernon, New York.

---From the Downside Department of Driving a Hybrid: The motor is so quiet that you can forget to turn off the car.

---How do I know that? Trust me. I do.

Dinner last night: Cuban turkey burger at BJ's.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Johnny Carson Has Died...Again

If NBC could write create comedy shows that would duplicate the hilarity that has been provided from their own ineptitude, the network might not be languishing in 117th place. From what I am hearing, there are some Korean soap operas that were getting higher ratings than Jay Leno at 10PM. "Knots Randing." But, then again, my old Kenner Give-A-Show Projector used to get more viewers in my parents' kitchen than what NBC has been pulling in over the past few years.

Let's face it. The days of "Must See TV" have gone by the boards. Chucked onto the side of the road along with Silly Putty eggs, hula hoops, and Cabbage Patch Kids. It is hard to believe that this is the network that used to house the likes of Bill Cosby, Cheers, St. Elsewhere, and ER. And, at the end of every NBC evening, you had the warm and comfortable video Snuggie called the Tonight Show. With Johnny Carson.

Regardless of what was going on in the world or your life, Johnny was the constant that was always there. A great monologue. Some banter that was always intriguing. Carnac. Tea Time Movies with Art Fern. Maybe a horny ocelot from the San Diego Zoo. And captivating, spontaneous conversations with folks like Suzanne Pleshette, Tony Randall, and even Jimmy Stewart reading a poem. You went to bed a little enlightened. Sparked to continue on for another day.

Indeed, for almost sixty years, there were just four hosts of the Tonight Show. Astounding consistency. Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny, and Jay Leno. The latter was on for the past seventeen years and I probably watched him for no more than seventeen minutes. Sorry, Jay. My Tonight Show host was Carson.

I grew up with Johnny. Negotiating with my parents to stay up on Thursday and Friday nights so I could tune in. When I turned sixteen and was of the appropriate studio audience age, my neighborhood buddy Leo and I used to trek down to Manhattan to watch tapings. We'd send away for tickets, go to the show, and then come home to send for the next pair of passes. I went even further with my fandom. I copied some of Johnny's routines and often tried to entertain my chums up the block. My dream job was probably to work for the Tonight Show.

Yes, folks, I was a big fan.

The whole franchise died a little for me with Jay. Frankly, tt was DOA on arrival when Conan O'Brien arrived. I've never understood his previous Late Night appeal. Conan reminds me of the Harvard graduate who has about twelve friends who think he is hilarious. For some reason, NBC seemed to believe there was hundreds more across the country clamoring for him. I beg to differ. There is a smugness to Conan that I never got. A notion that he is funnier and smarter than his audience. My e-mail message to Conan: "Oh, no, you're not."

In an effort to placate Conan's two dozen or so ardent fans, NBC gave him the Tonight Show. Not wanting to face an age discrimination suit, they dump Jay Leno to a prime time slot at 10PM. Kindergarten classes all over America knew that this was a move that would never work. NBC executives, however, did not.
Now, they're stuck. Multi-millions of dollars thrown contractually down a drain on a network which is the television equivalent of the Kansas City Royals. If NBC had been steering the Titanic, it would have started to flounder hours before they hit that iceberg.

Leno is stillborn at 10PM. Conan is predictably a red-headed test pattern with the Tonight Show. And NBC affiliates are so irate that you would think Nancy Pelosi had just been named Head of Programming. So, as you may have read, NBC is trying to fix this and fast. They're thinking of moving to Jay for a half-hour at 11:35PM. Then, Conan comes on with the Tonight Show at midnight and he probably would be hardpressed to get enough viewers for a bridge game. Since Jay's monologues are twenty minutes long to begin with, his 30 minute show would be giving us punchlines at about 150,000 dollars each. I don't think those kinds of prices were discussed during the last WGA negotiations.

Throughout all the recent hysteria, one sad fact jumps out at me time and time again.

Everything Steve Allen, Jack Paar, and Johnny Carson had built is now gone. In its place, we wind up with sophomoric humor and spontaneous conversations that were scripted hours before the show. With all the nonsense about how to save Jay and Conan, NBC has lost sight that they have effectively killed the Tonight Show. In retrospect, they should have left Johnny there until it was time for the undertaker to show up with the embalming needles. That was the network's first mistake. The second was replacing Leno with Conan, who should be banished to a life that essentially revolves around assisting some priest at requiem masses.

At the end of our day, we are left with all this mess. And, at the end of our night, we are really left with nothing.

Today, there is no longer a Tonight.

Dinner last night: Chicken tenders with side of risotto and spinach.



Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 11, 2010

More fun from the old but trusty Tonight Show.


Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Snow Days


Here's another angle of a previously posted photo. Me and Frosty in the backyard. I doubt I had little to do with his erection, so to speak. My guess is that my father crafted him and I was just made available for these Technicolor photo ops.
But, snapshots of freezing conditions tend to warm me now. Only folks who grew up in the cold can fully appreciate the heavenly nirvana that the winter season often provided those of us in the younger demos.
A snow day.
This is what kids lived for. Indeed, the weather stars had to align perfectly and almost magically for us to get a day off from school. Ideally, you prayed for a big snow storm that would begin around 9PM on Sunday. Then it had to go all night long. That would result in teachers getting stuck coming back from a weekend. A healthy snowfall in the overnight hours could potentially screw up the entire school week.
Sweet.
Now, living in Mount Vernon and in close proximity to New York City, our snow days were tougher to come by. Mount Vernon liked to fancy itself as tough a gotham as the five boroughs to the south. It was hard to get a snow day in New York City. Mount Vernon was almost as difficult. Half the time, the two school systems played a game of chicken, waiting to see who was going to cave into the snow drifts first.
But, if you went to bed and it was snowing, you could dream. And wait for the alert. Oh, sure, there were the radio stations that listed school closings. You'd wait alongside the radio to hear your mom's favorite morning host and hold your breath.
"Rye Country Day School closed. All South Salem schools closed. All White Plains schools closed. Mount Vernon schools will be open."
Shit.
Or whatever expletive I would use when I was a seven-year-old.
In Mount Vernon, there was another snow day alert system in place. If schools were to be closed due to inclement weather, they would sound the loud piercing fire whistle at both 7AM and 8AM. It was terrifying to listen to, but glorious at the same time. It meant that schools were closed for the snow storm. Or we were being bombed by Russia.
If it was confirmed that I was now free for the day, I could leisurely go about my favorite indoor activities. Colorforms. Reading my current book borrowed from the public library. "I Love Lucy" reruns. "The Hollywood Squares." All would be sheer bliss until the expected cry from below. Either from my grandparents or my parents.
"Come help shovel!"
Fuck.
Or whatever expletive I might use as a ten-year-old.
When I countered that I was just a kid and of little help, I'd get a horrible threat thrown right back at me.
"Do you want your father to have a heart attack and die?"
Well, er, no.
I'd go outside and make a feeble attempt at pushing some snow around. Eventually, somebody would notice.
"Oh, you're just making a mess. Go in the house."
Done.
Once the clean-up was over, I was free and clear to go play in the snow. If drifts were high enough in the yard, I'd take my dog Tuffy and watch her get lost in the yard. When I got older and graduated from cute little snowmen, we'd focus our time on constructing snow forts from the huge hills plowed by the Sanitation Department in the street. I'd seek out my neighborhood best friend Leo and we'd have ourselves a time defending some Alaskan stronghold from enemy attackers.
Or with the slight slope of 15th Avenue, we'd all commence belly flopping and hit the sleds. You had to be crafty at the bottom of the incline or else you would sled yourself right into busy traffic on First Street. Down there, you'd find Leo's kid brothers engaged in more sinister winter activities. Throwing iceballs at bus windows whizzing by.
Looking back, I don't think we had more than a handful of these snow days. The one I remember most happened around my birthday in February of 1969. A Sunday night storm that lasted into Monday. We didn't go anywhere for three days. If you lived in Queens where New York Mayor John Lindsay had forgotten that he had snow plows, you didn't leave your block until April.
When I went to college, we absolutely craved the prospect of a crippling snow storm for completely different reasons. Holed up in the co-ed dorms with no classes. Sadly, it never happened during my four years at Fordham. Essentially, the Jesuit-based school administration told us to go to chapel and pray to the Virgin Mary that the snow would melt. So much for twelve inches of snow and some sex, beer, and rock & roll.
Once you start working for a living, snow stories are no longer anticipated with glee. Because, even with eight inches of the white stuff on the ground, that usually isn't enough to close your office. When I commuted to Manhattan from Westchester, I used to laugh at the folks in the office around me. Those who had to travel the further in the blizzard all made it to work. The Manhattan dwellers, meanwhile, had major problems simply trying to cross the street.
I do recall one blizzard that crippled everybody and closed offices all over New York. Again, it was a perfectly timed storm. On January 8, 1996. It started to snow around 8PM on Sunday and it didn't stop until Tuesday afternoon. The entire metropolitan area came to a screeching halt. Myself, I hunkered down in my Westchester apartment and even remembered swimming laps in the pool downstairs. An odd thing to do on one of the worst days of the winter. I subsisted on chicken noodle soup, Taylor Ham sandwiches, and Turner Classic Movies. And ultimately unplugged the phone to stop all the annoying telemarketing calls that come in during the daytime hours.
By Thursday, New York tried to go back to work. The only problem was that Westchester commuters had no way into the city. Metro North had about five trains left that weren't stuck in some Doctor Zhivago-like snow drift. And it was even worse trying to get home. At 5PM, Grand Central Station was so crowded that it looked like Ellis Island in 1912. To make a bad night horrific, my train north broke down at the Sputen Duyvil station in the Bronx. We were all cast adrift in some dark neighborhood, each city block more sinister than the next. I had to piece together a route home that included a bus, a subway, and a lot of walking through slushy water. I didn't get home until 9PM. My feet didn't dry until August.
That would be the last major snowstorm I would live through as a New Yorker. I moved to Los Angeles the following year. Now, when I go back East, a few inches of snow are a personal delight. Because I know that I'm not there on a permanent basis. I always know I can go home. Where a predicted 20% percent chance of rain can cripple Beverly Hills.
Dinner last night: Chicken a la Romano at Fabiolus Cafe.
































Saturday, January 9, 2010

Classic TV Commercial of the Month - January 2010

Dig those groovy flying drivers.


Dinner last night: Grilled hamsteak at Musso and Frank's.


Friday, January 8, 2010

The Mets Answer Len

Recalling my letter to the Met owner as I included in yesterday's blog entry, my little throwaway line at the end, where I compared the Met customer service unfavorably to the Dodgers, really hit Fred Wilpon in the breadbasket. Next to Bernie Madoff, this might have been his worst moment in the past two years. After all, the guy still probably sleeps with a blow-up doll of Sandy Koufax. For this genius who constructed Citi Field to be all things Ebbets Field, my letter might have been the cowtipper.

About two days after I FedExed my missive to the Mets, I got a voicemail from some woman in the Met organization. She had gotten my note from Fred Wilpon and really wanted to address my concerns. She did not sound like some kid who had majored in sports marketing at Hofstra. This lady came across as the real deal. I was to call at my earliest convenience.

That would be the very next day.

The lady I was calling is big enough that she doesn't answer her own phone. Instead, she has an old-fashioned secretary. One of those gals who's still using carbon paper in her typewriter and undoubtedly smokes two packs of Chesterfields a day. For all I know, I could have been talking to Edna Stengel. I got to know her a bit over the next few days as the Met honcho and I played an extreme game of phone tag, aggravated even more by the bi-coastal time difference.

Finally, on Christmas Eve morning, we connected.

And spoke for an hour. The bigshot lady has been in charge of customer service for the Mets since 1995. But prior to that, and perhaps the very reason why my letter wound up on her desk, she worked here in Los Angeles. For the Dodger ticket office. As a matter of fact, she turns out to be personal friends with my two contacts there. I wanted to go down to Disneyland, get in a boat, and sing "It's A Small World" for an hour. She asked me what my Dodger seat number and aisle was. She immediately recalled that it was in proximity to first base. If this is what super servicing is all about, I wanted to sign up immediately. Was it too late to send her a gift basket for Christmas?

Over the course of the conversation, she addressed all my concerns. The leaky seats. The inability to see anybody in the Met dugout. The reasons why we were dumped unceremoniously into a LaGuardia flight approach. And she listened to me when I talked as well.

Of course, I soon discovered what also triggered this knee-jerk reaction from the Mets. They read and reread the section about my arthritic knee.

All of a sudden, I connected the dots. They were perhaps envisioning a potential law suit on behalf of a handicapped fan. Hmmmm.

I quickly assured her that I was not card-carrying member of "Jerry's Kids." Indeed, I told my new best friend that even friends with damn good knees had issues scaling the steep climb known as Mount Promenade Level. She kept on about getting seats in the handicapped sections. I told her I was not ready for this. By a longshot.

Still, at every turn of our chat, this lady was kind and genuine. She actually cared about my concerns and that is simply all I wanted. We made a phone date to talk again so we can set up a time where my adjacent seat buddies could go and pick out a new location for them and me.

In good faith, I wrote out a check and renewed again for another year with the New York Mets. I needed to do one more season of bi-coastal baseball seat plans like I needed a second navel. But, by simply listening to me and carrying on an adult conversation, this lady had sucked me in one more time.

Meanwhile, my letter apparently is still making the Citi Field rounds like one of my e-mail chains where you have to profess your undying love to ten unsuspecting friends. Yesterday, I fielded a voice mail from an assistant to Fred Wilpon's jerky son, Jeff. I countered with my own voice mail back.

"Thanks for calling me back. But I can only handle one new good friend at a time. See you in April."

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

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Annual Missive to the Mets

It seems like I do this every year, but, in reality, this is only the third time I've needed to approach the New York Mets about inadequacies with my partial season plan. As regular readers are well aware, I got totally screwed when the Mets moved to Citi Field. My longtime Saturday seats behind home plate in the Loge at Shea morphed into a low hanging cumulus cloud over Citi Field. Given the horrific year that the Mets had in 2009, we thought our options to move would be plentiful. But, initial contact with the Met ticket office resulted in some snarky conversations with some 24-year-old who majored in sports marketing at Pepperdine.

I decided to go straight to the top. Here's my letter to head Met honcho Fred Wilpon:

Dear Mr. Wilpon:

I am writing you as an ultimate last resort. As a longtime Met fan who still follows and supports the team from my homes in both Los Angeles and New York, I am trying to find a defensible reason to renew my "Saturday Plus" plan.

My family had a Saturday plan at Shea Stadium since I was a kid. Our first season was in 1968 and we kept the same Loge Section 7 seats until the closing of Shea Stadium. During the last offseason, we (as well as my friends in the adjacent seats for the past fifteen or so years) gave the Mets the benefit of the doubt. We thought that, while things would change for us, there would still be a good reason for us to stay attached ticket-wise to the Mets. We worked exclusively with a ticket representative (apparently no longer with the club) to ensure that our seats would remain adjacent to one another and "similar" to what we had at Shea.

We certainly knew that our new seats were in the upper deck or Promenade level. But, imagine our surprise that we found ourselves five rows from the top of the stadium with a view that doesn't even include the Met dugout! Moreover, now with my arthritic knee, a climb up thirteen steep steps makes going to a Met game a dreaded prospect. During our very first rain delay, we quickly discovered that the roof leaked directly onto our seats. Beyond the play on the field, the season for us was a disaster from one game to the next.

We acknowledge that the 2009 New York Mets were terrible. But, over my years at Shea, I kept a Saturday plan through many awful seasons. And rarely did I find it difficult to sell tickets to games I could not attend. No so in 2009. Once people saw my seat location, I couldn't give the tickets away. I swallowed hard on six pairs of unused tickets.

Both my friends and I entered this offseason committed to getting a new seat location for 2010. That was the requirement for our renewal. Yet, our efforts to discuss this with ticket representatives have been met with much less than cordiality. One young lady was downright abrasive and rude. "You have to send your money in by December 18 and then you'll go on a list to be moved." The threat was that we would lose our place in line.

After all these years???? How dare she???? How dare the Mets???? Would you buy a house you didn't want with only a faint promise that you could move someplace better? This is absolutely no way to treat fans, let alone such longtime supporters as us. Admittedly, we are not the much desired full season ticket holders you crave. We can't get into any of the exclusive dining areas you have erected in the ballpark. At the same time, we have been there year in and year out for a long, long time. Shame on you!!

Before handing over any money, I'd like to discuss this directly with someone in authority with the Mets. I do not want to end my multi-decade association with your team, but the nasty attitude from your organization may leave me no choice.

Mr. Wilpon, you have gone out of your way to emulate the Dodgers in your construction of Citi Field. But, one way that you should have copied your old favorite team (and didn't) is in the area of customer service. As a bi-coastal fan, I also have a seat plan in Los Angeles. The way the Dodger organization treats all its fans in a style that first started with the O'Malley family should be your model moving forward. We are treated here like gold nuggets. Any question or call is returned within 24 hours. I have one friend who actually received a call directly from owner Frank McCourt.

At Citi Field, we are nothing more than a French Fry order on line at the Shake Shack. You all have a lot to learn about being attentive to fans.

The Met organization has become an embarrassment. And it didn't have to happen.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you all about the Met response. And where I stand in 2010.

Dinner last night: Leftover grilled brats with pickled beets.