Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Tuffy's Operation

Now that Tuffy had arrived, I was all over my Schnauzer bias. In fact, I was now a Beagle boy all the way. I couldn't get enough of them or Tuffy. The fact that the New York Mets mascot was also a Beagle named Homer just made me feel even more special. To me, there was no other dog to own.

During her first months in our house, Tuffy and I were inseparable. Except for school hours, we were together constantly. In retrospect, she really became the sibling I never had. And one I didn't have to share the television set with.

The after-school walk around the neighborhood was my favorite time of day. Up 15th Avenue, down 14th Avenue, over across First Street, up Vista Place, and then down 15th Avenue to home. We'd stop to talk to any of my friends that were out and about. Tuffy would pause occasionally to sniff and do her other outside business. Everybody knew her name. She was our neighborhood's version of the Cheers bar. And nobody was prouder than me. This was my dog. A constant companion.

Until...

...my mother uttered those words that I didn't comprehend.

"Tuffy's going to have THE operation."

Huh? The mere mention of this sent shivers up my spine. You see, in those days of my youth, I was convinced that any surgery was a death sentence. Ever since my uncle, my father's brother, had gone in for some routine procedure and ended up dying a couple of weeks later, I was sure that a scalpel on any part of your body was an immediate call to the grim reaper. In my mind, nobody survived the operating table. Now, my dog was headed there. Why?

"The doctor needs to do something so she doesn't have babies."

Huh? I think I was still buying into that "God puts a seed on your plate and then you have a baby" nonsense. I needed more information. And, besides, don't we want a lot of cute little puppies? A houseful of Beagles?

"We're not made of money."

Oh, that, again. How many times are you going to trot out that chestnut?

My mother explained to me as best she could the process of spaying a dog, although, at no time, did a male dog in heat enter into the story. Still, this was probably the first ever explanation of sex that even remotely entered my mind. Frankly, I didn't give a shit about the logistics. Tuffy was going under what may be the sharpest knife ever known to man. And it would be done in a doctor's office. And she would have to spend the night there.

I cried non-stop for three days.

As the day of reckoning approached, I spent more and more time with my dog. I figured this was it. The end. She'd be on the table. There would be the usual complications. Nurses would be frenzied, running in and out. The vet would come out to me and say, "Sorry, there was nothing we could do." I became more and more attached to Tuffy in what I figured were her final days.

To make matters worse, I wasn't even going to be part of the entourage taking her into the doctor. That would be my mother and her girlfriend. For me, it would be a "regular" day. In school, listening to somebody drone on about long division. Sitting in class, I hit on a scheme that would disrupt the plans. If I were sick, my mother couldn't take Tuffy to the vet because she would have to come and get me from school.

I doubled up in pain and began to wail. I needed to go to the nurse's office.

Off I went to Mrs. Gueft and her office full of Band Aids and tongue depressors. Unbeknowst to me, the entire Grimes School had read into my charade. You see, my mother had told my teacher, Mrs. Popper, about Tuffy's surgery. And Mrs. Popper had told Mrs. Gueft. And I am guessing Mrs. Gueft had even alerted the Daily Argus, the city newspaper. So, my grimacing and dramatic clutching of my abdomen would all be for naught. They all knew what was behind my hysterics.

"Mrs. Gueft, don't you want to call my mother to come get me?"

Negative response. I would be fine. Just lay down and relax.

I reclined on the cot in her office. This was not working out the way I planned. And, worse, my dog was going to be dying at the hands of some butcher. Probably within the next hour.

"Mrs. Gueft...."

Shhhhh. Just relax. She promised I would feel better.

The only problem now was that my stomach was really starting to hurt. In earnest. But, the boy who wanted to cry "Beagle" was now perceived as the boy who was crying "Wolf." And, as far as the school nurse was concerned, I was barking up the wrong tree.

"Shhhhhh, lay still."

Eventually, the pains subsided. After a few hours, I was allowed back to class. And then went home to a Tuffy-less house. I was delighted to hear that Tuffy had lived, but I was pissed nonetheless. To demonstrate my anger, I refused to speak to my mother. But, downstairs, my grandmother was no help.

"Tuffy's going to be fine. I had the same operation."

Oh, wow, that was way too much information!

My dog came home the next afternoon and was really out of commission for the next week or so. She simply slept in her box. Lying on her back, I could see the doctor's handiwork. A two inch wire stuck out of her stomach. I started to cry again. Would she ever been the same again?

She was. And delighted us all for the next eighteen years.

Dinner last night: Sirloin burger at Wolfgang Puck's Grill in LA Live prior to seeing Sandy Koufax and Joe Torre at the Nokia Theater.



Saturday, February 27, 2010

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - February 2010

Seeing this movie was a special memory of my birthday celebration that year. And it's still as glorious as ever.


Dinner last night: Grilled cheese with apple and bacon plus some homemade tomato soup.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Just Another Awkward Friday

More snapshots from Hell. I don't know why this baby is smiling. He's next.


For once, they're not looking through bars.

Toucans bite as she will soon painfully discover.

My three sons. An arsonist, a molester, and a serial killer.

It was a bitch sliding these things down my birth canal.

"Dad, I told you. I'm in the witness protection program. No photos!!!!!"

Dinner last night: Chicken and ribs at Bandera.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

All The News That's Shit to Print...

We can all dream, can't we??




Dinner last night: Leftover meatloaf and salad.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Curling Up With Wednesday


Just when you thought there would be a Wednesday where we had nothing to talk about.

---Any idea what's going on with the skaters in these photos? Is that frosting on his arm? Looks like one of those squiggly lines you'd find on a Drake's Cup Cake.

---Excuse me, waiter, I ordered the Olympic skater without lettuce, please.

---This is why I don't watch the Winter Olympics. Well, actually it's one of a hundred reasons why I don't watch the Winter Olympics.

---That, and I refuse to curl. Ever.

---The unbelievable thing about the Olympics here in Los Angeles is that, despite the fact we live in the same time zone as Vancouver, NBC is still showing the friggin' thing here on tape delay.

---Another one of a hundred reasons why I don't watch the Winter Olympics.

---How does Bob get his own sled? Somebody, please e-mail me with the answer.

---From the "Needle in a Haystack" Department: Find me a male Olympic ice figure skater who is not gay.

---Or a Russian female skater who is not plug ugly.

---Perhaps the only women in the world who are safe from Tiger Woods.

---And maybe even then...

---He apologized to us all. He has let us all down.

---Who told Tiger Woods he had to be accountable to me? After all, he didn't fuck any of my relatives.

---Yet.

---He didn't wreck my car. Or damage the tree on my front lawn.

---Yo, Stupid, I don't care what you do. As long as you keep acting the fool so I can write lots of gags about you.

---It's all catnip for this kitty.

---I laugh at all the morons whose children have been disappointed by their "role model."

---So, there is somebody's son out there who strives to be a pro golfer at country clubs that discriminate against his own race? Wow, it's great to have ambitions in life.

---Official press release: Tiger Woods is the latest inductee into the Black Fuck-Up Hall of Fame.

---Sorry, Tiger, we're behind on the paperwork. We're still processing the awards for everybody in Haitian government.

---But, once you're in, you'll love the company around you.

---Al Sharpton, Marion Barry, OJ Simpson, Mayor David Dinkins, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

---And that's just the east wing. Our curator will be in touch.

---He's been tied up reviewing the application from some guy named Obama.

---The Republicans have as much chance supporting Urkel's health care plan proposal as they do presiding over a gay wedding.

---To our POTUS, the definition of "bi-partisan" is "my way or the highway."

---All of this shit will go into effect by 2013. Which gives me three years to contract any diseases that I'm going to get in my lifetime.

---Here's the details on the Len Stimulus Plan. I have begun the slow process of finding somebody to renovate the kitchen and the bathroom of my NY abode.

---I went through a contractor/designer search engine and got ten callbacks in the first 15 minutes.

---Either business is really bad or a lot more people read this blog than I thought.

---By the way, whoever gets the gig with me will be honored. And it's one job more than Obummer has created in the past year.

---The American Idol competition started up again last evening with twelve nondescript chicks singing the tunes of some artists I may have heard of.

---After two hours, I was still perplexed. Is this a singing competition interrupted by commercials? Or a commercial competition interrupted by some songs?

---I miss Paula Abdul. Who doesn't want to see a weekly fender bender on the freeway?

---It was Ellen Degeneres' first official night as judge and, at least, she couldn't be biased. They were all girls.

---By the way, has anybody seen her in a dress and heels? Ever????

---Even with the two women on the panel, Randy Jackson still had on the most make-up.

Dinner last night: Pasta with pesto and chicken.




Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mister Softee


A-ha! Got ya.

From the title, you probably thought this was a misplaced entry into my weekly Sunday Memory Drawer. All about the ice cream truck and that annoying song.

Wrong.

This is just my way of offering an explanation and perhaps even an apology. Because, folks, I meandered into a theater playing "Valentine's Day." Yes, that "Valentine's Day." Yes, the same movie that was allegedly booed at an industry screening. Yes, the same movie that was given the grade of "F" by Entertainment Weekly.

Not only did I see it...

I liked it. Call me...

Mister Softee.

Actually, ice cream is a good metaphor to use in this film review. Okay, there are those isolated moments in life where you crave a gooey hot fudge sundae. All the things that are bad for you. Loaded with calories and not a single nutritional value attached. But, you want the exhileration of that hot fudge sundae. Even though it can kill you. Even though your stomach will ache thirty minutes later. Screw it all. Make mine with chocolate chip ice cream, please.

That, my trusted readers, is "Valentine's Day."

Everybody should know walking in what is in store. This is a Garry Marshall film, for Pete's sake. Except maybe for "Pretty Woman," Garry's never been known for making anything but heaping spoonfuls of cinematic Velveeta. Here, he tries to do an American edition of the wonderful "Love, Actually," one of my truly favorite movies. You know he's not going to achieve that level of British class. But, still, you're in there rooting for him. Garry's a nice guy. I've met him. I've had the experience of peeing next to him about five or six times. He's a goofy dude from the Bronx. What's not to like? Go see the movie. Maybe you'll laugh. Maybe you'll cry. And, most likely, you'll forget about it as soon as you're in the car on the way home.

I knew all that. I expected all that. And that's probably why I don't feel like I wasted my time. In reality, I felt a helluva lot better after "Valentine's Day" than I did after seeing the dreary and hopelessly overhyped "Avatar." As Garry might say, go figure.

Even as I describe the events of "Valentine's Day," it's going to sound like a putrid mess. It's one of those movies where you need a GPS to figure out which character is which. Everybody is disconnected in the first hour, but you know they will all come together in the second hour. And then you'll curse yourself repeatedly for not seeing the obvious links that wouldn't even have eluded Helen Keller.

"Valentine's Day" spins around florist Ashton Kutcher who may run the only flower shop in Los Angeles because every single person in this movie winds up there at one point or another. Well, anyway, Kutcher has just proposed marriage to girlfriend Jessica Alba on what will be his busiest day of the year. Which day is that? Valentine's Day, of course.

Kutcher's best galpal is Jennifer Garner, who is dating Patrick Dempsey, who is really married to a character played by some actress who doesn't make the list of twenty actors listed in the opening credits. Jennifer doesn't know he is hitched, so you know there is heartache right around her corner.

But, wait, there's more. Jamie Foxx is a sports reporter hanging with PR agent Jessica Biel whose client is Brett Favre knock-off Eric Dane whose agent is Queen Latifah. As you can tell, the script for "Valentine's Day" is a complete run-on sentence.

But, wait, there's more. Topher Grace works in the mailroom for Latifah's agency and his girlfriend is Anne Hathaway who secretly works as a phone sex operator. Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo, who Marshall uses in so many films that I'm convinced they go together to the Ralph's supermarket every week, are babysitting some ten-year-old boy who may or may not be attached to somebody else in the cast. Ah, wait, they're his grandparents. I finally figured that out halfway through the movie.

But, wait, there's more. Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts are strangers sitting together on a fourteen hour flight into LAX. Why fourteen hours? The script needed a reason to keep them away from all the other cast members so you can't figure out how they fit into the rest of the story. Meanwhile, the two airhead Taylors of Hollywood, Lautner and Swift, are high schoolers (????) who do nothing but swallow buckets of each other's saliva. Their story is so disconnected from everything else that I kept thinking it was from a trailer for Garry Marshall's next movie. Actually, I'm sure it was a trailer for Garry Marshall's next movie.

All of these folks come together sort of in the last third of the movie. Some things start to make sense. Some things remain as mysterious as the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. But, still...

I was having a good time.

Garry makes the film more fun by interjecting a bunch of in jokes and I might have missed half of them. Two car service drivers are holding up cards for their passengers "Madison" and "Unger." Shirley MacLaine plays a retired actress and one of her old movies plays on a wall at a Hollywood cemetery. And, of course, it's really a Shirley MacLaine old movie. And, as her car whizzes by the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Julia Roberts has a line referencing the fact that "Pretty Woman" was shot there.

Almost mystically, there were some plot twists in the last fifteen minutes that caught me by surprise and actually pleased me. And the final resolution of the Julia Roberts story brought a tear to my eye. That and my self-discovery that I now have a crush on Jennifer Garner and absolutely despise her real-life beau/lummox Ben Affleck.

Make any sense? Make no sense? What can I tell you? I like a good hot fudge sundae.

Call me Mister Softee.

Dinner last night: Meat loaf, macaroni & cheese, and broccoli.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - February 22, 2010

More gold from Johnny Carson. "Friends, it's your Tea Time Movie..."

Dinner last night: German cold cut sandwiches.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - How We Got Tuffy

You've seen this picture of my beagle Tuffy before. Sadly, it's the only photo of her, so it will turn up everytime I do a piece about my childhood pet. The good news is that this is also the only known snapshot of our kitchen sink and stove. Trust me, that's welcome news for all.

Picking up on the birthday thread from last week, Tuffy was the present I got for my eighth birthday. After about a year of family deliberation, it was finally decided that a dog could be added to our household. Trust me, the discussion prior to her arrival made the Yalta Peace Talks during World War II look like an episode of the "Rachael Ray Show."

You see, Tuffy wasn't supposed to be Tuffy. Lucy, I'll 'splain.

The dog acquisition dialogue had begun the summer prior. Usually precipitated by my annoying question. When can I have a dog?

"Ask your father."

Dad?

"Ask your mother."

Mom?

"Ask your father."

Round and round and round it went.

Other voting precincts checked in. The grandparents downstairs. First, Grandpa.

"What do you want a dog for?"

"Grandma?

"I'm not going to clean up all that poop."

Got it. So, you can see how hard it was to get them all on the same page. Once it was confirmed that, yes, a pooch would be coming at some point, we needed to decide just what breed to get. Now, I had cousins who owned a collie. Forget the cute Lassie connection embedded there. A boy and his dog. My cousin's collie was a virtual horse that may or may not have run some races as a trotter at Yonkers Raceway. There was really no need and/or desire to have a dog like Lassie in our midst. First of all, I rarely fell into a well. And Grandma had already essayed a keen observation on my cousin's pet.

"That dog makes a lot of poop."

Other relatives had a cocker spaniel and my mother had a desire to duplicate that. As for me, I was less than interested. The cocker spaniel didn't look like a "guy's dog." Maybe a guy living in West Hollywood. I imagined proudly walking my best friend up and down the block. I couldn't see doing that with a cocker spaniel. To me, this breed was the perfect target for a firecracker up the ass. Sadly, we actually had kids in our neighborhood who specialized in just that kind of flagrant activity.

Ultimately, we settled on what we wanted for a dog. One of those miniature Schnauzers. With the slight German connection, we thought this would make it an easier sell for Grandma.

"They still poop."

Okay, got it.

For the next several months, we immersed ourselves in all things Schnauzer. We even went to the local pet store and bought a book devoted to the care and wellness of a Schnauzer. Even the names we started to debate all took on that general German flavor as well. Potentially, our dog could be named after a food.

"Sauerbraten."

"Schnitzel."

"Rheingold." That was Grandpa's suggestion.

Or an actual German person.

"Hans."

"Helga."

"Johann."

At various points, we referred to our still-coming dog with every possible German word or name in the Berlitz book, except perhaps for "Adolf."

As my birthday approached, I'd ask the same question every day.

"When is Schnitzel coming?"

Soon, I would hear back. But, as we got closer and closer to my special day, the answers started to change. And sounded more and more ominous.

"Ask your father."

Uh oh. I smelled another argument brewing. Apparently, Dad had been entrusted with the shopping and acquisition of said animal. And was probably late coming through with the goods.

My birthday came and went. No dog.

"Where's Rheingold?"

The previously terse responses had morphed into sneers and grunts.

Uh oh.

I came home from school the day after my birthday. As I bounded up the stairs to our part of the house, I heard the sound of a chain being dragged against the kitchen floor. Was this at last Johann? Or had we purchased a slave?

I ran down the hall into the kitchen and was greeted by my parents. And my new dog.

It was not a Schnauzer. It didn't look like Schnitzel or Hans or Sauerbraten. After months of studying books about Schnauzers, I was floored as I stared at the little dog on the floor.

"What's that???"

Mom sneered.

"That's a beagle."

Oh.

What had happened was that my dad had gotten a deal. In his part time job delivering oil for his cousin, my father had a pet store as a client. The guy had all these beagles in the window and Dad cut a bargain. For a full breed beagle, my father had negotiated the price of 25 bucks for the dog. Hey, he had secured the animal. He had done his part. And, after all...

"We're not made of money."

Oh.

Mom and I had to regroup quickly. All the names we had on our list no longer fit. For about a week, our beagle was simply referred to as "the dog." And no one name seemed to work. How we arrived at the ultimate choice? I have no idea. Our new arrival just sort of emerged into "Tuffy."

And, despite my disappointment those first days, Tuffy and I became inseparable. It was truly a boy and his dog. We operated as one entity.

Until...

To be continued.

Dinner last night: Sausage cacciatore at Miceli's.




Saturday, February 20, 2010

Classic TV Theme of the Month - February 2010

Laverne and Shirley. Without Shirley. Weird.


Dinner last night: Kobe beef hot dog at Blue Plate.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Your Weekend Movie Guide for February 2010

This is a great photo of the wonderful Alex Theater in Glendale, circa the late 1960s. Frankly, this restored gem doesn't look that much different today. Last weekend, I got to enjoy Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" there on its big screen. Pure cinematic nirvana.

As for this weekend, pure cinematic junk. Here's what is playing at the local multiplex sewers. You know our monthly drill. I'll flip through the movie pages of the Los Angeles Times and give you my knee jerk reactions to the crap we are being handed by Hollywood. Just remember to flush afterwards. And, employees, please wash your hands.

Crazy Heart: The role which will give Jeff Bridges a Best Actor Oscar in a few short weeks. The movie's about your typical down-on-his-luck-boozed-up country singer. To its credit, the film takes some unexpected turns and it should be seen for the mere reason that it dares to be a little different from the usual tale of your typical down-on-his-luck-boozed-up country singer.

Valentine's Day: The box office smash of last weekend. Methinks that people will be less inclined to see "Valentine's Day" the weekend after the holiday. Another one of those romantic comedies that features two dozen B-list actors running around in one dozen different short vignettes lasting no more than four minutes each. Director Garry Marshall works all the time, but has he made a good movie since "Pretty Woman?" Meanwhile, Garry is the man I'm most likely to run into while peeing in a mens room. I see him in front of a urinal at the Hollywood Bowl practically every summer Saturday. At "Murphy Brown," I was introduced to him in the bathroom just as we both were going to lose some water. And he did wash his hands before shaking mine.

Shutter Island: The Martin Scorsese horror fest finally opens. The trailer's been running in theaters since last summer. I've watched it so much that I actually think I've already seen the movie. Leonardo DiCaprio officially replaces Robert DeNiro as the man that Scorsese simply can't do a movie without.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians in the Lightning Thief: A Harry Potter knock-off. But the ad says it's based on the best selling novel. In what book store, please? I've never heard of Percy Jackson, the Olympians, or the Lightning Thief.

The Wolfman: Universal dusts off another monster from their archives. With the latest version now loaded with gut wrenching special effects and idiotic video game graphics, I'm guessing that the original from the 1930s is still ten times better. And that was probably shot with a single camera in Lon Chaney's basement. One more example of how catering to the 18-to-24 year-old male is killing the movie industry. Meanwhile, Anthony Hopkins co-stars and who is surprised by that? The guy makes about two movies a week. I don't think he even bothers to read scripts beforehand. "Mr. Hopkins, we'd like you to appear in..." "Yes, when?"

Avatar: The most overrated movie in film history. Listen closely. This is the exact same script as "Dances with Wolves."

Up in the Air: I've reminded you about this movie at least three different times. If you still have not seen it, I've lost all hope in you.

The Book of Eli: A show of hands, please. How many people are sick and tired of Denzel Washington? Er, hold on, I can't count that fast. Denzel's becoming another hack who can't say "no." "Mr. Washington, we'd like you to appear in.." "Yes, when?"

Tooth Fairy: Extract, please. And don't even bother with the quarter underneath the pillow.

When In Rome: Don't do as these Romans do. Who greenlights this shit in the first place?

Dear John: Another sappy teenage romance. Return to sender, address unknown.

From Paris With Love: Another piece of action garbage with John Travolta. He must have the same agent as Anthony Hopkins and Denzel Washington. It must be against their religion for Scientologists to say "no."

Edge of Darkness: Not to be confused with "The Edge of Night," which was one of my grandmother's favorite soap operas. One of those thrillers with Mel Gibson. It might be fun to see so you can try and figure out which scenes he's drunk in.

A Single Man: A great performance by Colin Firth in a very dreary movie about some gay guy dealing with the tragic death of his lover during the 1960s. Julianne Moore tries to do a British accent and she comes off like somebody in a YWCA production of "Oliver." If you're in the mood for some good old clinical depression, this is your movie.

The Last Station: The film sports Oscar-nominated performances from Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren. It's all about the last year of Leo Tolstoy. Heck, I'm still trying to catch up on all the other Leo Tolstoy years I've missed.

The Good Guy: Why do I know that this is not "The John Edwards Story?"

The Ghost Writer: Something that co-stars Pierce Brosnan, but the good news is that, unlike "Mamma Mia," it's not a musical. We won't be subjected to Brosnan sounding like a partially-crushed cat on the side of the freeway. Roman Polanski is the director, so it's a pretty safe bet that it was filmed elsewhere.

North Face: Either a documentary on mountain climbing or Joan Rivers' first seven plastic surgeries.

The Girl on the Train: Not to be confused with "The Boy on the Bus" or "The Baby on the Escalator." That's my way of saying I know nothing about this movie and I don't have a better joke to insert here.

Blood Done Sign My Name: Winner of the "Most Confusing Title of the Week" contest. A movie about civil unrest. It stars Ricky Schroder and who knew that he was Black?

Happy Tears: Not to be confused with "Sad Smiles" or "Ambivalent Toenails." Again, that's my way of saying I know nothing about this movie and I don't have a better joke to insert here.

The Young Victoria: Stifling a yawn, stifling a yawn, stifling a....sorry, I couldn't do it. YAWN!

Dinner last night: Ham sandwich with side salad.




Thursday, February 18, 2010

And Another Thing About Facebook....

We know that TV shows can "jump the shark." What about social networks?

I vote "yes." And I made that momentous decision last week. How did I come to this point in my world. Let me digress a trifle.

I got sucked into Facebook about a year ago when a friend innocently sent me a link. She wanted me to confirm that I was a friend. Apparently, over 35 years of good times wasn't enough validation. I needed to acknowledge it on the internet. Other longtime participants in my life also chimed in one by one.

"Where are you? When are we going to be friends?"

That's funny. I thought we were.

But then others approached me. People who I had even less contact with it over the years. Eventually, I lowered my standards for the required confirmation. Haven't seen you in 40 years? No problem, you're a friend. Worked with you for about ten minutes at Fordham's WFUV? No problem, you're a friend. Barely know you except for the fact that we work in the same company and I pass you at the soda machine? No problem, you're a friend.

And they wonder why there's an immigration debate in this country.

Well, if America can't figure out how to close their borders, I have.

I'm officially closed. At least on Facebook. You better have made a major dent in my existence for you to even get a sniff of my connectivity in the future.

The Farmville cow-tipping point came for me last week on my birthday. Out of sheer ignorance, it had taken me a year of Sundays to figure out that Facebook alerts you about upcoming birthdays for your "friends." Now, I'm a little old school about these kinds of things. Call me old-fashioned, but I'm from the "it's-somebody's-birthday-I-send-a-card-with-a-stamp-and-maybe-even-call" school. And, thanks to a Filofax where I actually write notes down in, gasp, ink, I have never had a problem remembering anybody's special day. Oh, for Pete's sake, I even send out anniversary cards for friends who are still married. What the hell is wrong with me?

But, none of that mental capacity is needed on Facebook. Because the site reminds you of birthdays. Regardless of how close or remote a friend you are. I signed onto Facebook on my birthday morning to find dozens of well wishes. From friends near and dear. And from people I barely know. Gee, thanks. The pals that count sent me cards. Actually delivered by the post office. Some even combined that salutation with a call. That was all so special.

But, then there were the work associates. We stand side-by-side at a urinal perhaps once every two weeks. But, since we're also connected on Facebook, my birthday becomes another one of your daily obligations.

This point got driven home two days later. One such person at the office had sent me a birthday greeting. With my awareness raised on all things Facebook-appropriate, I then noticed an on-line reminder. This person's birthday was the following day. Crap. Now, even though I normally wouldn't extend a greeting to this person, I felt compelled to. And just how do you wish "Happy Birthday" to somebody you barely speak with except for an isolated business question? Well, that's exactly what I decided to write on this guy's wall.

"Happy Birthday."

Not even an exclamation point. Perhaps that was my way of de-emphasizing it all. I felt that even those two simple words were way too much for the minimal level of relationship we have.

I know that some of my real friends have made great re-connections via Facebook. I've heard from some blasts from the past as well. But, I will argue that, for every welcome return of a long lost chum, there are ten others that were better left in the past with the Silly Putty and PF Flyer sneakers.

I had one kid from my neighborhood who found me. Actually he rediscovered my childhood buddy Leo and I got attached to the link. This was back when my Facebook confirmation requirements were decidedly relaxed. We were again "friends." And, over the next several weeks, I wished we weren't. He sent me messages with his phone number. Er, no. He wanted to talk. Er, no. Meanwhile, I'm looking at his life on-line. As a result of marriage, he's immersed himself into Indian culture, just short of wearing a sari and installed a dot in his forehead. That's fine. If you want to be able to cut the cashier line at CVS, that's your business. But, then, I see that he's taking all these stupid Facebook quizzes.

"What Kind of Woman Are You Attracted To?" Er, not interested.

"How Good Are You In Bed?" Er, definitely not interested.

Friendship regrettably cancelled.

There was also the WFUV connection forwarded to me by another friend. I barely knew this guy, but I somehow stupidly confirmed the friendship. The biggest Facebook mistake I ever made. This tool does nothing all day but post shit on his wall. Videos, updates on what he just burped, the quality of bowel movements. Do you have nothing else to do in your life? Do you ever read the newspaper? See a movie? Take a fucking nap? Try something that doesn't involve Facebook. It might even be exhilerating.

It took me only five days to cancel this asshole from my list of friends.

When I actually saw a bride update her Facebook status one hour after her wedding, I knew it was over for me. Oh, I'll still look at the site once a day just for pure voyeuristic purposes. But, other than that, don't write on my wall because I won't be writing on yours. And don't you dare poke me.

If you want to be friends, come see me. Call me on the phone. Schedule a lunch or a dinner. Listen to my problems after I listen to yours. Lend me money if I ask because I will do the same for you. Do all the things that are the hallmarks of friendship. None of which include the simple act of clicking on my name on your computer.

Dinner last night: Grilled steak salad.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Downhill Wednesday

I'm going for the world record in nastiness.

---Don't ask me who the guy is in the picture? All I know is that he's an Olympic athlete.

---I might know his name if I had the slightest interest in the Winter Olympics.

---I don't.

---I will go through the next two weeks not watching a single second.

---After all, the good stuff happened at the start.

---How many times can you watch some guy on a luge break his neck?

---Well, according to NBC, lots. I heard they reran the footage so much that they must have thought it was one of those "Law And Order" shows.

---Can you imagine some kid watching that with his family?

---"Little Timmy, when you grow up, do you want to be in the Olympics?"

---"Hell, no."

---Okay, now, I'm going to resort to a joke that has been overused the past few days.

---That poor kid was the biggest luger.

---We now return our blog to more original programming.

---Since luge racing is all about the weight, why are we bothering to use humans? Just load it up with a ten pound sack of potatoes.

---There's a scene I wouldn't miss. A gold medal being placed around a burlap bag of spuds.

---I did see clips of the opening ceremonies. When the ascension of the Olympic flame got stuck.

---Is anybody surprised? After all, look at how Canada has botched their health care.

---Wayne Gretzky had to wait about five minutes with the torch in his hand. He looked so uncomfortable that I thought somebody told he was going back to the New York Rangers.

---The funny thing is that, while the United States is covered in snow, the Winter Olympics in Vancouver has none.

---So maybe we don't call it "global warming."

---"Country-specific warming."

---Speaking of which, is it possible to recall Nobel Peace Prizes? Al Gore, we'd like yours back.

---And, while you're at it, we'll send extra postage so you can include Jimmy Carter's as well.

---It's official. Barbara Walters has announced that her traditional pre-Oscar show is ending.

---"This year, I'm doing my wast special."

---When I heard last week that Bill Clinton was rushed to the hospital with heart problems, I immediately wondered who he was with at the time.

---Bill has been voted "The Man Most Likely To Die Like Nelson Rockefeller."

---Does anybody know where Megan Marshack is these days?

---You all remember who she is, right?

---Right?????

---Clinton had just come back from working in Haiti and I can only imagine what that was like.

---"I'm sorry we found your son buried underneath all that rubble. You want to go out for coffee?"

---So, Homeland Security made a disabled four-year-old boy remove his leg braces.

---Let me get this right. A handicapped youngster is a threat? Underwear with TNT is fine?

---Then, again, we have that well-known terrorist, bloated director Kevin Smith. Southwest asked him to get off a flight for being too fat.

---"Mr. Smith, can you remove your lunch please?"

---So, Smith goes crazy with this in the press. The indignation! The nerve!

---The fact that his new movie opens next Friday and you can't beat this kind of free publicity.

---Fraud.

---Correction: Fat Fraud.

---Alec Baldwin and his daughter have had more public fights than Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston.

---You all remember who they are? Right?

---Right???

---Let's just admit that Alec Baldwin won't be getting any Fred MacMurray-type roles in the near future.

---Unless, of course, if it's "The Absent Minded Shithead."

---Senator Evan Bayh is quitting and again I must resort to a joke I keep hearing.

---"Bye, Byah."

---He is sick of all the fighting in Washington.

---Since he's been in Washington for years, we now need to check Mr. Bayh's eyesight and hearing.

---Since there's a large majority of the Senate that is over 70, the question should not be "have you seen the healthcare plan."

---"Can you see the healthcare plan?"

---I got an earful from my accountant when I had my taxes done last Friday. He now lives in Las Vegas but commutes to LA during tax season.

---He mentioned that Vegas' economy was in the dumper. I told that I wish I could help out but the President has told Americans not to go there.

---"Don't get me started!"

---Well, actually, I did. Because, for the next ten minutes, he sliced and diced POTUS.

---"The guy's got no idea how to fix the economy."

---"Surrounded by clowns."

---"The man is as dumb as a post."

---P.S., the city of Las Vegas is going to stage a huge boycott when Urkel shows up later this week. And my accountant, who said he has never gone to a political rally before, will be attending.

---Hope he finishes my taxes first.

Dinner last night: Grilled Taylor Ham and salad.



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oscar Nominees # 9 and # 10

You lucky blog readers. Today, you're getting two movie reviews for the price of one. And, since you pay nothing to be here in the first place, this is the bargain to end all bargains.

In my never-ending quest to keep you all well informed, I wanted to comment on all ten of the movies nominated for this year's Best Picture Oscar. The two that I missed are films that I essentially had no interest in seeing when they first came out. But, thanks to the glory of Academy screeners floating around my office, I am now able to say I've seen them all. And I paid nothing to see them. The same price you pay to read this every day. Everything comes full circle. But, I digress...

I figured "District 9" was nothing more than another alien invader movie. So, when it came out last August, it was only natural that I skip one of these special effects-bloated affairs. I was wrong.

A little.

Oh, this has got a bunch of CGI. And there are the requisite explosions that are designed to curtail your hearing for several hours. But, surprise, surprise, there is a story. Cue the fanfare. There is a story. And it is told in less than two hours. Who has "Ripley's Believe It or Not" on their speed dial?

"District 9" is set not too far in the future. A spaceship is stuck in the air over some city and the aliens can't get home. Apparently, none of them had the good sense to make a telephone out of old toys like ET did. So, they're trapped here and, because they're "different," the earthlings put them into some ramshackle concentration camps. We become very familiar with one very smart alien who also has a whiz of a son. Before it morphs into a sci-fi version of "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," they join forces with that always convenient plot device---the one earthling who has sympathy for their plight. We've seen it all before, but, somehow, "District 9" makes it feel new.

And, almost miraculously, they do it with some heart. In the hands of some young Hollywood schmuck/director like that asshole who did "The Dark Knight,", this tale would have droned on for almost three hours and my senses would no longer be functioning. But, this filmmaker is from Australia or New Zealand and really knows how to tell a story and then get off the stage. A director that can still do that in 2010? Priceless.

Is "District 9" Oscar worthy? Probably not. But, midway through the movie, I figured out why it was nominated. Because it plays the famous game, "Six Degrees of the Holocaust." The surefire way to Oscar recognition is to somehow connect your movie to the Jews during World War II. This one gets there in two degrees. Creatures that are "different." Number one. Confined to concentration camps. Number two. Done. Where do we mail the official notification of your Oscar nomination?

Following on the same rule of thumb, "Inglourious Basterds" gets there in one shot. It's all about Jews getting their revenge on Nazis. No wonder Hollywood has gone non-Lady gaga over this mess. I am betting that any development executive with the letters "stein" or "berg" in their last name has already seen it twice.

Despite rave reviews around me, I held out as long as I could on "Inglourious Basterds." I make it a lifetime practice to try and keep myself as Quentin Tarantino-free as possible. I think it's better for everyday digestion and bowel movements. Frankly, I'm not one who has ever been overly impressed with his unique style. Because, in my humble opinion, his style is essentially a combination of about 200 different styles. He throws everything up on a wall whether it makes sense or not. Most of the time, it doesn't. And he doesn't give a shit. That's why some people call him a genius. That's why I call him a hack.

Don't get me wrong. "Inglourious Basterds" held my interest. And I didn't realize I was completely wasting my time until it was over. Because I have no use for a filmmaker who wants to be totally inconsistent with his on-screen choices for the sake of appearing "different." It's a drama set during World War II. Yet, the music under the opening credits is "The Green Leaves of Summer," which was originally used in John Wayne's 1960 epic, "The Alamo." Later on, a character is putting on her lipstick to a David Bowie song. Then, another character talks about walking the red carpet at a movie premiere. Were Joan and Melissa Rivers working them during 1944 Munich? I think not. "Inglourious Basterds" is nothing but the hash you would order at the Thruway Diner. Whatever is left over in the refrigerator finds its way into the final product.

World War II historians need not apply to see this movie. There is not an ounce of authenticity within five miles of the film. Instead, "Inglourious Basterds" is more like one of those Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck cartoons from the 40s when even our Looney Tunes were devoted to knocking off the Krauts and the Japs. Bugs would hand Adolf Hitler a bomb. Ker-blooey. Er, that's all, folks. Well, that's what Tarentino gives you here. At the end, Hitler is riddled with so many bullets that you almost forgive him for the bad haircut. It's all so preposterous that even Anne Frank would be cringing.

Much has been made of the performance by Christoph Waltz as the devious Nazi officer. Not only has the Best Supporting Actor Oscar been giftwrapped for him already, he's probably already given his post-ceremony interview to the press. If he was good in the movie, it didn't show up on the screen. Waltz' portrayal is so over-the-top that it looked like a Paul Lynde guest shot on "Hogan's Heroes." This guy is involved in so many long-winded talking-at-a-table scenes that I was convinced I was watching Marlene Dietrich on yesterday's episode of "The View." I'm sorry, Mr. Waltz. In my mind, there is still a competition for that Academy Award.

At least, they had the good sense not to nominate Brad Pitt for his work in this film. Here, Mr. Pitt provides what may be the worst acting performance in the history of the medium. In what used to be a promising career, Brad is now on a downhill collision course that even Toyota couldn't repair. As an actor, Pitt has a much more promising future as a plank of wood. A complete train wreck of epic proportions. No wonder Jolie is ditching him. Those orphans he adopted may see this movie and fly right back to Vietnam or wherever the hell they came from.

So there you are. My take on Oscar Nominees # 9 and #10. One deserves to be there. One deserves to not be there. But, in Hollywood, you can never tell. If the producers of "It's Complicated" really wanted to be considered for the top award, they should have adjusted their plot so that Meryl Streep's first husband was not Alec Baldwin, but Oskar Schindler.

Dinner last night: Chile with chicken.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - February 15, 2010

Talk about overreaction.

Dinner last night: Grilled Taylor Ham sandwich.




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Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Birthday Parties


The picture says it all.
This was a celebration of one of my single digit birthdays. The other day, I enjoyed the recognition of friends for my most recent double digit birthday.
I was asked by several folks why I did not write about it in this forum on the very day. I had considered it for a moment and thought it would be a gross display of self-involvement. On the other hand, I'm writing about it today. And when the hell was this blog not all about me? So, the look in the above photo when I am perhaps five or six years old and the look I have now are one in the same. Both have me asking the identical question.
What the fuck am I doing here?
I can't always explain the present day Len, but I certainly remember little Len and those horrific birthday parties.
Like clockwork every February, one of these dreadful afternoons would be scheduled on the weekend closest to my birthday. Now, of course, you would think that a kid's birthday party would be a welcome event. Surrounded by my fellow schoolmates. Or my friends from the neighborhood.
Nah, that would be too easy. Instead, the guest list for these blowouts was populated with relatives and little kids who were the children of my mother's friends. The tykes you were forced to play with maybe once or twice a year while your respective mothers were dragging on cigarettes and gossiping over coffee in the kitchen.
Wow, fun for me. I had the only birthday parties that required the kids to wear name tags so I could know who everybody was.
To make an open wound ooze even more, my gaggle of cousins was also summoned for the celebration. Not that I had an issue with them. But, frankly, they were all several years older than me and probably resented the fact that they got dragged into these debacles. None of them ever seemed to want to be there and would have preferred to drink a smoothie made with Drano. I look at the photos of my cousins at these gatherings and I see anger coming out of every skin pore. Actually, I couldn't blame them. I didn't want to be there either.
I had no clue at the time but these parties provided the backdrop for a little competition between my mother and her alleged friends. Who could throw the best event? Who had the best cake? Who offered the best prizes for the required games that the kids would be forced to play?
My mother regularly topped all comers with the latter. She'd go out and buy some really nifty shit to award all the winners. Even better than the stuff I was getting and I was the one who should have scoring the best loot. Hell, it was my birthday!
One year, one of the prizes was a Colorforms play set. Popeye the Sailor. Back when, I LOVED Colorforms. Those toys could keep me occupied for hours. And I was a Popeye-a-holic. I could savor that new toy plastic smell already.
Except this was going to the winner of the "Pin The Tail on the Donkey" contest. Some six-year-old nobody that I probably couldn't stand. Destined to go home with something I really, really wanted.
I had no other choice. I needed to cheat.
Mom was naive enough to actually let me have a turn at the jackass on the wall. As the blindfold was slipped around my head, I managed to let it slide down a nano-bit so I could still see what was ahead of me. I got spun around and all that did was make me momentarily dizzy. I could still discern every minute feature of the donkey that was positioned in front of me.
In retrospect, I probably should have made the whole pinning look a little bit more random. I should have gotten it close to the ass, but off the mark enough to look semi-legit. But, I was six and not as crafty as I am today.
I precisely pinned the tail on the donkey. The work of an expert marksman. The entire room gasped.
I could hear my mother recoil in utter humiliation.
"How did he do that?!!!"
It was easy. Give me the friggin' Colorforms.
"Don't you want to let little Susan or Nancy have it? They got close, too."
Are you kidding me, lady? Give me the friggin' Colorforms.
"Those prizes are for the other guests."
Rules are rules. Give me the friggin' Colorforms.
I got the friggin' Colorforms. A day later, as I put Popeye, Bluto, and Olive Oyl through their sticky vinyl paces, something didn't feel right.
But the moment quickly passed. I loved those Colorforms!
There weren't many more birthday parties after that. And, two years later, I would get the birthday present of all time.
My dog Tuffy arrived.
To be continued.
Dinner last night: Garlic chicken and honey walnut shrimp at Panda Inn.































Saturday, February 13, 2010

Classic Newsreel of the Month - February 2010

The World's Fair is coming to NY. If it's February, 1964....


Dinner last night: Grilled chicken and grilled corn from Fresh Corn Grill.


Friday, February 12, 2010

The Hits of the 70s???

No single decade offered as many shitty songs as the 70s. One after another, these ditties featured ridiculous lyrics, goofy melodies, and ultra-questionable performers. If you take a snapshot of them all in one spot as I do below, you will definitely see what I mean. So, put on your high heel shoes and your Qiana blouses for the trip down memory lane. And, oh, you ladies can come along, too.

As we head out into Wella Balsam Land, try to think about what all these horrible songs have in common.

Billy, Don't Be a Hero: Pictured above in the album cover from Paper Lace. Yes, that Paper Lace. Who, you say? Paper Lace. Luckily, they disappeared as quickly as they arrived. This mess was all about some girl finding out Billy was killed being a hero in Vietnam. The song came out in 1974. Didn't the war end the year before? Billy was not only a hero, but incredibly stupid.

Magnet and Steel: "You are magnet and I am steel." I hear this crap and I immediately think about that toy with the bald-headed guy. You took a little magnet and moved the little metal shavings over his head so he could have hair or a beard. But, somehow, I don't think this is what inspired the writers of these inane lyrics.

Too Much, Too Little, Too Late: This might have been the last hit record for Johnny Mathis, who pretty much retired to the golf course after that. My writing partner sees him in the supermarket all the time. I don't really understand what the title is about, except I am reminded of it every time I hear the latest news out of Washington, DC.

Brandy, You're a Fine Girl: Brandy is obviously also very needy. And a much better liqueur. The song was performed by Looking Glass. Yes, that Looking Glass. Who, you say? Looking Glass.

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover: Frankly, I found Paul Simon's stuff very annoying after he split with Art Garfunkel. This song is just one example. Actually, this song is fifty of them.

Seasons in the Sun: A big hit for Terry Jacks, who joins Looking Glass and Paper Lace on the list of mystery talents. This song is all about somebody's dying letter to their relatives. One of about twenty tunes that is absolutely guaranteed to make me switch it off in about five seconds.

Annie's Song: "You fill up my senses." With that awful cologne of yours. Unfortunately, the 70s was a banner decade for the endless wailing of John Denver, who I had the misfortune of seeing in concert once. On a date with some pain-in-the-ass who filled up my senses...with rage.

A Horse With No Name: What ever happened to the group America? Well, I'll tell you. They played at a corporate sales meeting I attended about ten years ago. This particular song always intrigued me. If a horse has no name, can it be in a race at Belmont? How could the track announcer function? "And, around the turn, it's Anonymous. Anonymous, by four lengths. Anonymous, by five lengths. Anonymous wins!"

The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia: That's when the looting began. Vicki Lawrence with a musical career??? What was next? Lyle Waggoner dancing with the Joffrey?

Thank God I'm A Country Boy: More vomit induction from John Denver. Thank God he was a country boy. He sure as hell wasn't a pilot.

Me and Mrs. Jones: "We've got a thang going on....do dah do dah do dah." Billy Paul's big hit. He did nothing after this. Perhaps he returned to a life where he lived comfortably off the revenue his mother made selling fish sticks.

Song Sung Blue: Even Neil Diamond could make a mistake in the 70s. Another one of the top 20 songs mostly likely to make me change the dial within five seconds.

Having My Baby: Paul Anka's last big hit was in 1959. And then this swill in 1974. The comeback that we could have all done without. This is a totally self-involved disaster by a guy who is well known to be one of the biggest shitheads to ever walk into a recording studio. Meanwhile, he's about four foot eleven.

Alone Again Naturally: Gilbert O'Sullivan's only hit and who was he trying to fool with that name? A bizarre mix of gleefulness and clinical depression. The only medications that could treat both of those mental capacities simultaneously were probably found in Judy Garland's purse.

Have You Ever Been Mellow: Olivia Newton-John also clogged the airwaves in the 70s with some aural sugar rushes. I would listen to her music and I could actually hear cavities forming in my mouth.

Muskrat Love: The Captain and Tennille. Enough said. And I always thought the Captain looked a little bit like a rodent, too.

Knock Three Times: We used to have a very special name for the artists involved in this crime. "Tony Orlando and Puke."

Brand New Key: One of the worst songs of any decade. Some dumbbell simply named Melanie (although her last name was Safka) put together this thing which might have caused cancer of the ears. They say the song was banned by some radio stations for being sexually explicit. Huh?? "I've got a brand new pair of roller skates, you got a brand new key. I think that we should get together and try them out you see. I been looking around awhile. You got something for me." Oh, I get it. Sort of. Maybe I'm weird, but I never automatically connect roller skates or keys to genitals.

Love Will Keep Us Together: At least, the Captain and Tennille were consistent.

Sunshine On My Shoulder: John Denver, that sunshine on your shoulder will soon be behind you as your plane does that nosedive into the Pacific. Now, it's not sunshine anymore. It's lots and lots and lots and lots of salt water.

So what does all this dreck have in common?

They were all went to # 1 on the charts.

And my parents thought that growing up during the Depression was hard?

Kudos to the Bibster for helping me with some of the research for this piece.

Dinner last night: Pork loin with caramelized onions, fennel, and grilled radicchio at Locanda Venetia.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The White Ribbon

Or "Das Weisse Band," as the poster above announces. This is a movie that just got nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar and I was intrigued by the trailer which featured a church choir singing "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Any film that includes some Martin Luther tunes on the playlist is going to get my money at the box office.

Okay, I liked the movie.

And didn't understand it.

Is that possible? Apparently. I can't explain it. Because I can't really explain what I saw. Does that make any sense? If it doesn't, don't sweat it. It's just one more link in the chain of confusion provoked by "The White Ribbon."

The film is set in some dreary German farming town sometime just before the onset of World War One. It reminded me a bit of the village where my grandparents grew up. Or, at least, what they told me about. In retrospect, Grandma and Grandpa were as buttoned up and closeted as some of the villagers depicted in the movie. Maybe it's a German thing.

Right from the getgo, in the midst of all this stoicism, weird and unexplained stuff starts to happen. Someone secretly strings up a thin wire that trips up the town doctor riding his horse. A lowly female worker falls through some rotten floorboards of a saw mill and dies. The son of the town's baron is abducted and beaten with a stick. The same happens to the village's resident retarded kid. Who is behind this? The narrator of the story is an older version of the town schoolteacher who we meet as a young man. He offers no answers in either incarnation. Thanks for the non-help, Professor.

There are lots of suspects. Most of the kids are creepy and remind me of the Von Trapp kids on some sort of Ritalin. The adults are no tall lager at the beer garden either. The church pastor is some strict dirtbag who believes in daily spanking and also ties down the arms of his youngest son at night so the kid won't jerk off. Pastor Shithead gets it thrown back at him when somebody kills his parakeet with a pair of scissors. Was it one of his kids rebelling? Was it a member of his congregation? Could George Bush have been responsible? We never know or find out.

Or maybe it's the town midwife? Or the young nanny? Or maybe it's the vandal who singlehandedly took a sickle to the village's entire cabbage crop? There were moments when I thought I knew what was going on. There were other moments where I had as much comprehension as I did when I took Calculus in the twelfth grade. P.S., I had virtually no comprehension when I took Calculus in the twelfth grade.

At one point midway through the film, there is a static long shot of a slow funeral procession. It stops so that someone can greet the grieving family. Who? We have no clue. Then the somber march resumes. This scene drags on for about four minutes. You can't tell who any of the people are or where they fit into the story. I could feel the befuddlement around me. One woman two rows behind me yelled out, "Who died?" No one shushed her. And, more importantly, no one answered her. They couldn't. Because nobody knew. I was so addled that, upon my return home, I e-mailed Roger Ebert's website to see if he knew. He hasn't answered me yet. Probably because he's still thinking about it. Eventually, my friend Dennis explained to me who was in the coffin. Maybe he was right. Maybe he's not. He's usually smart about these things. So am I. Usually. Except with this film.

"The White Ribbon" is 2 and a half hours in length and, while I didn't know what the fuck was going on, I don't think there was a single wasted shot. By the end, I was speculating on who had done what to whom. In my own mind, I had completed the plot the way I imagined it. I had chosen my own culprit. From what I could see from the silent reaction around me, so had most of the audience. Except for the one woman who kept asking, "Who died?" I will circle back to her at some point and tell her to call Dennis.

When you get right down to it, we all got the last laugh over the characters in this gritty little slice of life. Because, in their own petty outlooks on their village, we all know they were just days away from the war to end all wars. And, oh yeah, down the road, what do we see? A bad haircut and a funky moustache. Maybe that's what the point was. This is all a dandy recipe for creating the Third Reich. Take several blond kids with nasty attitudes, whip vigorously, and then slip them into some knee high boots.

I realized that the director was Michael Haneke who made another foreign mystery named "Cache" a few years back. I remember that I didn't understand the ending of that flick either. So, this must be Haneke's modus operandi for cinematic success. Total confusion of his audience. And complete engagement at the same time. Because, despite it all, I still liked the movie.

Or did I?

Please go see it. And then tell me what you saw. Or tell me what you think you saw. And then tell me what you think I saw. And I will tell you what I think you saw.

Let's face it. Several days later, I'm still thinking about "The White Ribbon." Two hours after I saw "Avatar," I probably couldn't remember the name of a single character.

So there you are. But, then again, maybe there you're not. The only thing that I can say with any confirmation is that the movie is shot in glorious black and white. Do you need any other reason to see it?

Dinner last night: Stirfry vegetables and rice.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

70% Chance of Wednesday

And look! The Weather Service was even nice enough to put "Wednesday" into the headline on their map. It's blog-ready!

---For the first time in over a year, they're shoveling something else these days in Washington, DC.

---Must have been a real bitch for the President over the weekend. Looking out the window and seeing all that white.

---Undoubtedly, it was no bargain for him being cooped up in the White House. The wife was home.

---Probably putting those two kids on the scales in her raging fight against American obesity.

---Here's my note to the First Lady: I'll put down the Hershey bar when you tell me how you keep your hair so straight.

---FLOTUS wants healthy snacks in school vending machines. Frankly, I can't see some kid scrounging around for two quarters so he can buy himself a carrot.

---New York is getting socked with the snow today and I don't miss those days.

---Here, in Los Angeles, we're getting mud. And the President actually may like that. Looking out the window and seeing all that brown.

---Yes, I am aware that it's Black History Month.

---Looks like the next politician to go down will be the optically challenged New York Governor Patterson. There are all sorts of rumors around.

---So far, they are nothing but blind items.

---No, it's not Blind Black History Month.

---I'm really not one to spread malicitious gossip.

---But...

---Allegedly, the good Governor was using state troopers to cover up some involvement with cocaine and prostitutes.

---But, I would never cast stones.

---Yeah, right.

---Meanwhile, Michael Jackson's doctor got arrested finally for unintentionally killing his client. The good news is that he's out on bail and you can still get an appointment.

---I am guessing the mornings are wide open.

---I am guessing the afternoons are wide open.

---Some day, you won't be able to say the same about his jail cell.

---No, it's not Horrible Black Doctor History Month.

---If you're willing to get a prescription from that guy, you might also be willing to renew your marriage vows with John Edwards.

---And that dirtbag will not be honored during White History Month.

---Oh, wait, there is no such thing.

---I was talking to a writer-friend over the weekend who has friends in the late night world. The word is that we should believe all the "nice guy" stuff printed about Conan O'Brien.

---The lovable redhead is apparently a creep to work for. Really mean to the staff.

---Also not due to be honored during White History Month.

---Oh, wait, there is no such thing.

---My streak is intact. Once again, I did not watch a single second of the Super Bowl.

---Which means I was totally perplexed by all the Sunday night Facebook entries. "Who dat?"

---I had no clue. I wondered "what dat?"

---Then, I realized it was all about some New Orleans slang and I got it. No English spoken there.

---"Where my FEMA?"

---"Where you at?"

---"When da hurricane?"

---And Michelle Obama is worried about candy machines?

---I have one last question for her.

---"Who do ya hair?"

Today would have been my mother's birthday. On second thought, it still is. :)

Dinner last night: Salami sandwich on bread made with sundried tomatoes and a side of onion soup.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's Black History Month!!!

And the NBC Commissary in NY was celebrating in a big way. Jeez, even I'm not that politically incorrect!

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

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - February 8, 2010

A true television classic moment. Johnny Carson, Don Rickles, and the Japanese bath. You don't get this stuff any more.



Dinner last night: Sausage, swiss cheese, onion, and mushroom omelette at Cafe 50s Diner.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Kid Across the Street

From time to time, I troll the obituary on-line archives of the Westchester Journal News. It's not because I'm acutely morbid. I'm just convinced that a distant relative will die and nobody will bother to tell me out here in the hinterlands of Southern California. As if it's against the law to call somebody outside of your time zone.

Well. recently, a deceased name caught my eye. Said person had passed a few years back. But, the mere mention of this family got me to access the life archives in my head and that brought to the forefront some memories. A good one or two. A couple of really horrible ones. And they lived in the dumpy apartment house pictured above. It was the building directly across the street from my house in Mount Vernon. Back then, this dwelling was no bargain. Nowadays, it's a veritable Holiday Inn for crackheads that have illegally migrated to the United States from Haiti.

In the past, I've shared some stories on my old neighborhood chums. My childhood best friend Leo has been a frequent character and remains in my life to this very day. Then, there was the despicable Monte, who constantly reminded me of my future in Hell due to my inability to convert to Catholicism.

And, then, there's today's subjects. Louis and his family.

This motley crew lived on the sixth floor of the dump you see above. Louis was my age and we became friends because we shared a common bond. On a block full of kids going to parochial schools like Mt. Carmel and Sacred Heart, Louis and I were the only ones going to public school. And we were in the same class for grades four through six at the Grimes School on 11th Avenue. So, as a result, it was natural that we would walk home from school together. Do homework as a team. And play over each other's houses. As often would happen in schools, our moms served as class mothers together and consequently became friends as well. This is how strong friendships and connections are formed, right?

Well, sort of.

To me, despite the fact that I enjoyed his company, there was always something that just wasn't right about Louis. And, frankly, the same could be said for the whole family. Louis' cousins (on his mom's side) also lived around the corner and it was one of those families that had bizarre tentacles. You know what I mean. There are three kids in the house and they all have different fathers. Maybe because of the polluted gene pool, none of Louis' cousins were right in the head. One of them, some neanderthal named Vinny, would herald his arrival on our block each day by taking a metal pipe and banging it incessantly on the street lamp.

Louis' immediate family wasn't that insane, but, over the period of a few years, similar warts slowly began to appear. The first warning sign for me should have been Louis' manic competitive streak.

We were in the same class for all our studies and both of us were pretty bright with excellent grades. But, Louis seemed to delight in those days where his quiz or test or essay was viewed as just a little bit better than mine.

"I got an A plus and you only got an A."

Great scores either way. But, Louis made me feel as if I had completely underachieved.

This weird trait began to manifest itself in other areas as well. Now, Louis had a slight speech impediment and, back when, that required you to spend an hour a week in a speech therapy class. I think that, as a result, you had to skip a gym class or a library study period. One week, I was pulled out of my homeroom and told to report to the speech therapist on duty. What was this about? Well, apparently, it had been reported to some of the school higher-ups that I was badly in need of some speech therapy myself. Louis had nicely told them that I had a horrible stutter.

One five minute talk with the therapist upended Louis' fervent desire to have me keep him company in his speech class. After all, as I explained the situation to the guy, I hadn't stuttered once. When I questioned Louis why he would suggest that I had a stutter, he simply answered that he was trying to help.

Uh huh.

This eerie one-upmanship soon migrated to our friendships with other kids. Another school pal of mine was Russell and we would play together. On our walk home from school one day, Louis gleefully announced that Russell was coming over to his house to play on a Saturday. I thought that was cool. Damon and Pythias could morph into the Three Musketeers. That seemed obvious to me. Less so to Louis.

"But you can't come over because he's coming to play with me, not you. You can stay home by yourself."

Uh huh.

At some point, I mentioned this all to my mother, who then shared with me some information that parents usually keep to themselves.

"There's some problems over there."

No shit.

And, to put a cherry on a sundae, Mom also came clean with the news that all the adults in the neighborhood were abuzz about Louis' dad. The resident Peeping Tom who had already been caught by the cops once.

Oh.

Still, there were good times and days with Louis. When he came down with one of those kid diseases and was out of school for two weeks, I dutifully brought him his homework every day. One afternoon, he was the only one home and was lying across his living room couch in his underwear. I started to explain to him the next day's assignment for algebra.

"I found a pubic hair on me. Wanna see?"

Er, no.

Louis quickly pulled down his underwear to show me.

"You got any yet?"

This game was now going way too far. History will record that no arithmetic homework was explained any faster than what I shared with Louis that day.

That exchange I did not share with Mom.

Yep, there were definitely issues in that household and things got a lot worse one Memorial Day weekend.

A bunch of us were playing punchball in the street when we suddenly heard the piercing sound of brake screeches on the main thoroughfare of First Street. Uh-oh, Louis had just sent his kid sister, Toni Ann, to go buy our afternoon snack from Luigi's Italian Ices.

She bought the ices but didn't complete the return trip. Instead, she was lying in a pool of blood and lemon ice in the middle of the road. Her body had an ill-timed rendezvous with a pair of radial tires.

There is something incredibly unsettling when you hear the burgeoning sound of an ambulance siren when you know that it is coming to deal with somebody you know.

I don't remember the specifics, but I know she was in a coma with brain damage for several weeks. And the kid was never the same. Last I recall, she was destined for a life in a wheelchair. Naturally, the rest of Louis' family was devastated by this life-altering development. But, oddly, it made the so-called competition with me even more pronounced. And it exploded with ferocity at the end of our year in the fifth grade.

That school year was the first one where we were instructed with a foreign language. And our homeroom teacher, Mrs. Ian, was French-centric. So, all throughout the fifth grade, we were immersed with "je, il, elle, nous, vous, ils, and elles." Both Louis and I took to the lingo like native Parisiens. We were the best in the whole class. At the end of the school year, there would be one commendation card awarded for the best performance in each subject. This would be bestowed in a huge school-wide ceremony with everybody in attendance.

I got the commendation card for French.

And Louis refused to speak to me afterwards.

It gets worse.

For some reason my mom was not able to attend the ceremony that day. So, I was open prey for Louis' mother who was waiting for me outside of school. With guns blazing. And words I remember to this day.

"You think you're so smart. You didn't earn the commendation card. Your mother bought it for you. She's always kissing Mrs. Ian's ass. You're not that smart. You're a little shit. And your mother's a cunt."

I didn't even know what the last word meant. But, after taking this venomous verbal flogging from my friend's mother, I shared it all verbatim with my mom later that day. And, just like on December 7, 1941, we attacked right back.

Except this time my mother was not the pilot.

It was my father who flew the mission.

I have no idea what happened after that. I know I was told to avoid Louis at all costs. But, that became pretty easy within the space of a few months.

His family moved to the other side of town.

I never saw Louis again. Or even gave him another thought.

Until, a few weeks ago on my obituary phishing trip, I ran across his name.

As part of an obituary from a few years back. As one of the survivors of his just-deceased mother.

His dad, the renowned Peeping Tom, was still alive. So, too, almost miraculously, was his kid sister, who had been relegated to an existence as a Brussel Sprout. According to the details, Louis was married to a woman named Sue and he had several kids.

Since we all pretty much inherit both the pros and cons of our parents' personalities, I certainly hope his children are okay. And they're not anguishing over whether or not the kid across the street got a higher grade in French class.

Dinner last night: Sausage and peppers at Peppone's.




Saturday, February 6, 2010

Classic TV Commerical of the Month - February 2010

Oh, wow, I got a Slinky for my birthday!


Dinner last night: Roast beef caliente sandwich from Clementine's.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Awkward Is as Awkward Does

More photos that were better off being undeveloped. Take, for instance, the one above. Er, the guy in the green gym shorts. What exactly is going on with him at this very moment?

She always gets into his head.

It might be me, but I always love a good nun-on-stilts act.

Yeeeesh! Does Eddie Bauer even carry pants with that length?

Something borrowed, something blue, something stinks, is it you?

Have we told lately that we have a pool? No, really, have we? Because we do. We have a pool. Really. A pool.

Why do I think that Dad doesn't necessarily stop with churros?

Dinner last night: Leftover turkey meat loaf.








Thursday, February 4, 2010

Two Old Guys at Lunch

I talked a few weeks back about some imaginary old Jewish studio executive grousing about the new Hollywood. Perhaps while chomping on a pastrami sandwich (extra lean, please) at Nate N' Al's. Maybe he's bitching about the business to Ceil the waitress. Or another old business chum of his. Perhaps somebody he knows from temple. Let's call them Saul and Hesse.

The day after the Oscar nominations were announced, here's what I might have "overheard."

"Oy, what's with the ten pictures nominated? With the shit these pishers are putting out these days, they want more than five?"

"As if they're not making enough money. And still they bitch, moan, and groan about paying for the good seats at shul during the High Holy Days."

"Like this Cameron altacocker, who the hell wants to see these meshuggah blue things flying around? Where was the story? Where was the love song? What? Celine Dion is so busy?"

"My wife couldn't be bothered. But, Titanic, I had to take her two times. And she cried like a baby."

"And then I got to pay three dollars more for the stupid glasses that make me look like Swifty Lazar. Oy."

"Then they pick The Blind Side? Hello, did you see? It was like watching Oprah. I didn't buy Bullock running around with that schwatzah."

"If that kid's walking on my block late at night, I got ACS Research on my speed dial. Football, schmootball. Feh! He's up to no Goddamn good."

"Sandra's a nice girl, though. I'd give her a little pickle tickle."

"That's more than I can say about that schwatzah girl in Precious. Oy. A two-bagger."

"What was the pitch meeting for that? Shrek meets Shaft? Who wants to see that? I'll stay out of your movie if you stay out of my neighborhood."

"Mo'Nique wins the Oscar and I guarantee my maid will start slacking off. Just like when Obama got in."

"Did you see the Quentin Tarantino monstrosity?

"Inglourious Basterds? Takes one to direct one."

"I wish him my prostate."

"He actually made me root for Hitler. Who knew?"

"They should give the Oscar to Jeff Bridges. Nice boy, even if his father was a little funny in the head."

"Yeah, too many air bubbles went up his nose. I wouldn't mind George Clooney, though. I think I fucked his aunt."

"No, no, I remember. That was Marilyn Maxwell."

"Oh, right. Tomato, tomatoe. All the same in the dark."

"You think that broad will win Director for the Hurt Locker?"

"Oy, what did she know about war? You didn't see any dames on the set when we were making The Longest Day. They were all back at the hotel, trying on their new lingerie we bought them."

"Those were hookers."

"Yeah, well, I knew I paid for something. Potato, potatoe."

"They say she may win."

"If that means Tarantino loses, then God bless her and her mother."

"Do you even know what District 9 is?"

"Is that where I live in Brentwood? I forget my councilman's name."

"No, District 9 is that space movie. With all the aliens."

"Enough with the Martians already. I was done with them when Ray Walston was still alive. Oy vey."

"How you even going to fill out your Oscar ballot?"

"Me, I can't be bothered. I give it to the Mexican who cleans my pool."

It went something like that.

Dinner last night: Turkey meat loaf and grilled vegetables from Gelson's.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Brake For Wednesdays...

....and I accelerate for ground hogs.

---It was not the week to be a Toyota executive.

---Given the usual quality and care they put into their cars, this gas pedal fiasco is a corporate disaster.

---What won't be reported in the press will be the number of top level Toyota honchos who commit suicide over this.

---That's what they do over there. Hari kari.

---"I disgrace my business."

---And then you plunge a knife in your own stomach.

---All in all, a very good system.

---I wish Washington DC would adopt the same practice.

---Which would mean that 85% of the Obama White House would be dead this morning.

---Although you'd need a pretty sharp knife to cut through the horsehide skin of Nancy Pelosi.

---The ground hog tells us that there are three more years of Barack Obama.

---BTW, POTUS has been yakking up all the deficits this country will be facing in the coming years.

---Uh huh, Obama worrying about deficits is sort of like a hooker telling us she's worried about getting a sexually transmitted disease.

---Five words you thought you would never hear? Academy Award Nominee Sandra Bullock.

---I knew that, by expanding the Best Picture race to include ten films, a piece of junk or two would slip in. But, we really got Blind Side-ed, didn't we?

---That crap is nothing more than a Lifetime movie with a big budget.

---Heck, now I regret not submitting that stuff I shot on my new Flip Video camera.

---Frankly, I think the moviegoing public is ready for a five minute video tour of my home.

---The biggest Oscar nomination injustice? They didn't tab Chris Rock's "Good Hair" for Best Documentary.

---Meanwhile, Mo'Nique is the first ever Oscar nominee to have an apostrophe in her name.

---Which isn't exactly U'Nique.

---I want to take an informal poll. Do you all prefer L'En or Le'N?

---Alec Baldwin is one of the co-hosts of the Oscar ceremony this year. This serves as your official warning.

---While we're on the topic of bloated assholes, you've certainly heard that a bunch of idiots re-recorded the "We Are The World" song.

---This time, it's not for Africa. They're singing for Haiti.

---And that's fitting since most of the jerks who were singing have Haitians cleaning the toilets in their homes.

---Amidst all the big rock stars I've never heard of, they also included Tony Bennett and that big bazoo Barbra Streisand.

---Tons of big egos and two incredibly big noses.

---By the way, isn't it time for Miss Malibu Asshole's next farewell tour?

---She's said goodbye so much that I just know one of these times she'll actually mean it.

---It's time, Babs. Retire to your backyard and watch your lummox of a husband cut his toenails.

---Don't get me wrong. I've always adored Streisand's talents.

---And despised her as one of the biggest hypocrites ever to walk the planet.

---I just love the way the Jackson Family train wreck keeps dragging dead Michael's alleged children.

---He tried to protect their privacy when he was alive. Now, they're getting trucked out for car wash openings.

---They did finally bury Michael, right?

---Looking at the list of Grammy winners this year, I now realize that I have not listened to any record produced after 1990.

---What the fuck is a Lady GaGa?

---Whoever she is, I am betting that John Edwards slept with her.

---Does anybody realize that this slimebag of a politician was about two primaries away from being our President?

---But, then again, what's the difference? A guy who screws a lot of women? Or somebody who is fucking everybody?

---Please don't ask me what I thought of "Lost."

---Saw the first five episodes of the series, missed the next two, and then didn't bother coming back because I was....lost.

---I don't watch it. I don't care. And I don't care if you care that I don't care.

---So, there!

Dinner last night: Chicken quesadillas.