Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday Vs. Wednesday

Only verbal abuse can be charged here.

---The most public divorce trial of Los Angeles Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt has begun. And it promises to get Lawanda Page-ugly.

---Two idiots who are fighting over how much it takes to live comfortably every month.

---Wife Jamie needs a half million dollars to get by every thirty days.

---It could be less if she clipped some super market coupons.

---His monthly condo rent is $30,000. And I wonder if that gets him two parking spaces.

---Gee, six months of Jamie McCourt support just might have paid for Randy Wolf.

---And if she clipped coupons, that could have been Roy Halladay.

---She is actually using one of their five residences just to swim in the pool.

---I want to get to the point in my life where I can devote a single home just to store kitchen ladles.

---Of course, these two idiots also cheated on each other as well. Jamie apparently was regularly screwing her chauffeur.

---Dodger fans are now getting the same treatment.

---With community property laws, they might have to split up the team.

---That would be one way to separate Joe Torre from Don Mattingly.

---As much as I would normally side with no one on these cases, I know for a fact that Jamie is absolutely demented. Trolling the offices and screaming at anybody and everybody.

---But, I guess when you're used to living on a half million dollar budget per month, there are a lot of daily pressures.

---Note to Frank: if you're looking, Sandra Bullock is available.

---It's heartening to know that she picks husbands the same way she picks scripts.

---Badly.

---Forget the fact that she won an Oscar for "The Blind Side."

---It was a bad script.

---Bullock's marital woes are another great example of a Len rule: The larger the tattoo, the bigger the asshole.

---Now we hear her hubby had affairs with two other women.

---And he received congratulatory e-mails from David Letterman, Tiger Woods, and Elliot Spitzer.

---If Sandra's looking, I see that Ricky Martin is back in the news.

---Oh, never mind.

---If you were surprised that Martin is gay, you're also probably searching Imdb.com to see who Paul Lynde's wife was.

---Buzz Aldrin is a contestant on "Dancing With The Stars?" I wonder if NASA is faking that.

---Jeez, is there no limit to how low some people would sink? If he had lived, Richard Nixon would probably be on there doing the samba right now.

---My plasma TV is specially programmed. If I tune to "Dancing With The Stars" for more than five minutes, it automatically explodes.

---They celebrated that scumbag Nancy Pelosi's 70th birthday last week and she doesn't look a day over 75.

---The more I look at her, the more I think they put her face on hot and it ran.

---She talked about praying to some saint that health care reform would pass.

---Now that's a good Catholic. Have you checked the abortion rights in the bill, Nancy?

---A total hypocrite who should be escorted to Gitmo as soon as possible.

---What does waterboarding do to Botox? Gee, I'd love to find out.

---And the Pope is allegedly involved in some sort of sex scandal?

---If you're surprised by that, you're obviously still trying to figure out who Paul Lynde was married to.

Dinner last night: Filet mignon and salad.



Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Your Top 10 Finalists on American Idol - Season 9

While the folks at Fox would clearly offer up a rebuttal, American Idol needs to start advertising that it's in their "final seasons." While the patient in Season 9 seems to still be showing a little life, small tumors are popping up all around. Indeed, it might be time to stop the chemo.

Yes, I'm still watching, but I'm a little less engaged this season. There is an element of sameness to it all. The same audition songs. The same strumming of a guitar. The same devices used for elimination in the results show.

And it will get worse.

Simon Cowell's imminent departure from the show could be fatal. He's the only judge who seems to care and actually has something salient to say about all the song performances. Randy Jackson uses the word "dope" so much that I'm shocked the Narcotics division of the Los Angeles Police Department hasn't shown up at a taping. Ellen DeGeneres tries to make her critiques different, but comes off as totally creepy when she refers to a contestant as a ripened banana. Kara DioGuardi dares to be different with her performance reviews but always sounds like that teacher who, on Parent Night at school, uses ten syllable words to explain why your kid sucks at math.

When you add to this absurdity host Ryan Seacrest's new Bob's Big Boy haircut and his overly dramatic pleas of "standard text messaging rates apply," you'll soon realize that this show might be a goner as soon as Simon picks up his bags of dough and moves to his next home of cynicism. Who would have thought that we'd miss Paula Abdul? Well, okay, it's not that bad.

Of course, it doesn't help that this season's talent crop look like Florida oranges that had been out in freezing temperatures for too long. Every summer, millions of kids show up for Idol auditions. And this is the best they found? Right now, there are perhaps two solid contenders amongst the top ten finalists. The rest might as well line up at the Holiday Inn Express lounge for karoake night right now. Sadly, there are no Carrie Underwoods or Kelly Clarksons here. Heck, there's not even the next Taylor Hicks.

But, press on we do with Season Nine. Here's the top ten Idol finalists in the order that I think they will be eliminated. I might miss a slot here or there, but, ultimately, I think the last person standing will be the best of a sorry, sorry lot.

10. Andrew Garcia: This Mexican guy from Los Angeles had a standout moment during Hollywood Week by singing one of Paula Abdul's big hits. And, just like the former Idol judge, it's been all downhill ever since. His prospects have been careening out of control as if he was originally manufactured by Toyota. Somehow and someway, he inexplicably made it into the top 10. Apparently, a lot of gardeners have speed dial on their cell phones.

9. Lee DeWyze: The judges have fawned over this guy and I don't hear it. His voice is raspy and his delivery is the equivalent of two Ambien pills. Everything he sings sounds like one of those songs that Barney would sing to lull a two-year-old to sleep. He was a paint store clerk from Chicago. I think he will be back there in time to see Benjamin Moore's new line of spring pastels.

8. Katie Stevens: She's sixteen, she's beautiful, and she's lost. It's tough to choose songs that are age appropriate. Most high school juniors are not inclined to warble "Ten Cents a Dance." She's a cute kid in a Jon Benet Ramsey sort-of way. They have made great mention in her back story to include the fact that Katie's grandmother came down with Alzheimer's during the first auditions. At this point, she might even think Katie is really Gogi Grant.

7. Didi Benami: No relation to the kitchen cleanser. She's pretty but her voice screechs like a ten car pile-up on the 405 Freeway. She's got pretty far by swaying and slinking around the stage, which probably would get higher on the rung if the show was called "American Harlot."

6. Tim Urban: Every Idol season, there is one non-singer who hangs around longer than a sinus infection. This time around, it's good looking but talentless Tim, who seems to be channeling Peter Brady with every performance. He's getting pretty far on the votes of hormone-ravaged fifteen year-old girls and even more hormone-ravaged twenty-five-year old gay boys. Tim has been helped by photos of him in a bathing suit competition last summer. He doesn't know how they got out there. Maybe it's because you attached them to a global e-mail??

5. Aaron Kelly: He's sixteen, he's beautiful, and he's short. Seacrest must love having this dwarf around. Actually, I've so far enjoyed this kid's voice and he's done an appropriate job selecting songs. He's getting the thirteen-year-old and seventy-five-year-old voting blocks. Grandma probably just loves to hug him. Part of Aaron's back story is that he's adopted. This means that, as soon as he gets the inevitable record deal, the birth parents will pop out of nowhere with their palms outstretched.

4. Casey James: Every Idol season, there is one would-be rocker who grabs the heavy metal vote. He'll go as far as his electric guitar and washboard abs will take him. Casey is remembered for doffing his shirt during his first audition and causing judge Kara to lick her cougar-like chops as if she was at a Memorial Day barbecue. Any of the Idol producers up on California state labor laws? They probably are now with a yellow highlight all the way through the section on "sexual harassment."

3. Michael Lynche: As if we needed another Ruben Studdard, who I swear I have seen scalping tickets at the bottom of the hill to Dodger Stadium. Mike is big and burly and Black. But, his songs reflect his sweet side. The major focus of his back story was that his wife gave birth while he was in the middle of his Hollywood auditions. A baby arrival that got almost as much attention as the birth of Little Ricky. As if he's the only Black guy who ever got somebody pregnant? Well, he might be the only one who ever got somebody pregnant and was actually married to her at the time.

2. Crystal Bowersox: Sounds like one of those baseball teams from the mid 1890s. This year's resident hippie. Actually, she's more like one of those beatniks you'd find hanging around with Maynard G. Krebs on the old Dobie Gillis show. She's that weird, but with one of the two true talents this season. Her downfall will be that she has the personality of a staple gun. Would it kill her to be a little perkier? I'm thinking, yes. She's the early frontrunner to win, but, at the very end, I think she will be bested by...

1. Siobhan Magnus: She's goofy as all hell, but what girl have I liked that wasn't. Her voice is amazing and she so far has shown great originality, although she should seriously consider toning down the Ethel Merman moment she uses to punctuate the end of every song. Her back story is that she's a professional glass blower. And what more could a guy ask for? I think America will eventually fall in love with her over the flatlined personality traits exhibited by Joan Baez-wannabe Crystal. Siobhan will be the next and perhaps penultimate American Idol.

Dinner last night: Ravioli with broccoli.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - March 29, 2010

The problem with wearing white pants...



Dinner last night: Liverwurst sandwich and cucumber salad.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Leaving My Childhood Church

Here is a great black and white photo of my childhood church, St. Peter's Lutheran Church in the Bronx. The Lenten litany continues.

So, after I got confirmed, it was really more than just my hormones (and my feelings for my fellow Sunday School classmate) that propelled me to start going to Sunday church services. Once you had received and swallowed begrudgingly the wine and wafer, you were techinically allowed to worship like an adult. You could even skip Sunday School and show up at 10AM for the regular service. This gave me one more hour to sleep. And, in those days, there was nothing wrong with a fourteen-year-old making the bus trip from Mount Vernon to East 219th Street all by himself. This all got my dad off the hook. He no longer had to sit in the car outside of church for an hour. He could actually now stay home and read "Dondi" and "Dick Tracy" over coffee and a jelly donut.

So, around 9AM every Sunday, I walked myself down four blocks to get the BX41 bus. Back in those days, it was imperative that you "dress up" for church. I had my own personal wardrobe mistress, AKA my mother, who required nothing less. I was groomed to the nines. Standing at the 241st Street bus stop in a navy blue double breasted sport jacket and matching tie, I looked like that week's co-host on "The Mike Douglas Show." Or maybe I was opening for Joey Bishop at the Sands Hotel. I certainly didn't look 14.

Of course, once at church, I spent my first moments trying to maneuver myself into proximity to the love of my life. But, as I related last week, her presence in an adjacent pew was destined to be shortlived as her family moved to New Jersey. I looked around the chapel and asked a question for the ages.

"Now what?"

To think that I might have to go to church service and actually pay attention?

Luckily, I had, for lack of a better term, a savior. A guardian angel. My father's cousin, who we all called Aunt Ollie.

While my parents and all my aunts and uncles had long since eschewed Sunday church services and chose instead to sleep in, Aunt Ollie was the only one in their generation who kept at her worship. She was there at St. Peter's every single week. Something still drew her in. And, when Cupid cast me adrift, Aunt Ollie pulled me in.

"Come sit with me."

Wow, I was an adult.

Even better, I began to listen to the service. The readings. The sermon in broken English by our German Pastor Hoeniger. And it started to all make sense.

To enhance the experience even more, Aunt Ollie treated me like an adult. A young one, but an adult nevertheless. She always drove me home afterwards and, frequently, our in-car chat had something to do with what we had heard in church minutes before. Aunt Ollie truly enjoyed her religion and her beliefs. And, thanks to her, I began to finally form my own faith. For all of the above reasons, those two hours every Sunday became the highlight of my week. An odd thing for a teenager to admit. Oh, sure, I was doing all the nonsense stuff. But, at least for a little while every weekend, I was grounded. In a very good way.

Sadly, it didn't last forever. I began college. And Pastor Hoeniger, the only minister I had ever known, decided to retire.

There was the usual congregational call for a pastor. There needed to be some pre-requisites. The new guy had to speak German, as there was still, albeit dwindling, a German-based congregation and a weekly service in that language. After several months, we finally got the word. Our new pastor would be Pas

tor Bill Paulsen. Good Lutherans that we were, Aunt Ollie and I eagerly awaited his installation ceremony which was held on a Sunday night. We thought nothing of making an extra church appearance that week.

Except I got a bad vibe as soon as I met the dude. He was barely 30 years old and his hairline had already retreated to the rear. Although it was years before I would make this connection, Pastor Paulsen was a carbon copy of Kelsey Grammer. There was just something that always seemed to be a little off with him. One of his initial Sundays there, he set off his very first stink bomb.

He introduced the concept of "sharing the peace."

It's certainly commonplace in church services now. But, back then, it was scandalous.

"You want me to shake hands with the people next to me?"

The question reverberated over and over throughout the congregation. Obviously, thick-skinned Germans liked their personal space. And felt even more strongly about violating somebody else's. It took weeks for the folks around me to get the hang of this.

Clearly, Pastor Paulsen was looking to change the dynamic of our little church. And he next set his spiritual crosshairs on somebody else.

Me.

Obviously, the right reverend had looked around our church and realized that this was a congregation that was dying. Literally. The average age of our parishioner was probably around eighty. And Paulsen knew that he had to expand the youth ministry of our place.

Enter me.

The Pastor was relentless in trying to involve me in church activities. Brainstorming on events. Stuffing and licking envelopes at his house. For me, it was all starting to feel forced. And, unfortunately but conveniently, I was now a freshman at Fordham University. Doing all the things that college freshmen do. Many of them involved late hours on a Saturday night.

Pastor Paulsen didn't stand a chance.

And, after Aunt Ollie and her family moved upstate, there was no reason for me to show up at St. Peter's. Ever again.

My church going, save for a wedding or a funeral, would be nil for years.

Until I moved to Los Angeles...

The story concludes fittingly on Easter Sunday.

Dinner last night: Turkey reuben at Blue Plate in Santa Monica.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - March 2010

You will remember this as one of my Top 5 Favorite Films.


Dinner last night: Chinese buffet at Panda Express.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Your Weekend Movie Guide for March 2010

This is the Town Theater in New Rochelle, New York. At the time, there were three movie theaters on the same block. Currently, there are no more movie theaters on the same block. Note that the marquee is heralding the next James Bond film. That's fitting since this is the place where I saw most of the Sean Connery and Roger Moore films feature 007.

Unfortunately, James Bond can't save us from the dreck now out in theaters. You know our usual drill. I leaf through the LA Times and give you my gut-wrench, knee-jerk reactions to the garbage playing in dumpy multiplexes that couldn't hold a candle to theaters like the one shown above.

The Runaways: Rock music, Kristen Stewart, and Dakota Fanning. Count me as one of those mentioned in the title of the movie.

The Bounty Hunter: It appears to be another one of those dreary romantic comedies, this one with Jennifer Aniston and the woeful Gerard Butler. My question: how do you make a two hour film out of somebody looking for paper towels?

Chloe: A mysterious young girl affects the life of a college professor and his wife. Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, and Liam Neeson star. This might be tough to watch as Neeson's wife, Natasha Richardson, died in the middle of filming. And that little factoid makes it hard to me to have anything snarky to say about the movie. Even I can have a soft spot.

Shutter Island: But my soft spots don't last for long. This inexplicable Martin Scorsese mess is still cluttering our theaters. After 99% of my friends told me to avoid it, I did just that. Proof positive that even geniuses can miss the bowl on any given morning.

Remember Me: Forget you.

Brooklyn's Finest: I must admit that I saw this picture. One of those gritty New York City street dramas that assumes all Blacks are criminals and all NY cops are crooked. I would disagree with that notion to a degree. I do know some honest policemen.

Hot Tub Time Machine: Even the title sounds stupid. A couple of idiots use a Jacuzzi to go back to 1986. I hope this doesn't try to dabble in a rewrite of history. I'd hate to think that Bill Buckner actually did field that Mookie Wilson ground ball.

How To Train Your Dragon: With lots and lots and lots and lots of newspaper spread out all over the countryside?

The Green Zone: Matt Damon in a thriller about the war in Iraq. I love the fact that these do-gooder actors are so devoted to our involvement in the Mideast, when they barely venture out of their gated communities in the Hollywood Hills. And, once again, if George Bush hadn't invaded the place, some of these movies don't even get made. I'm just saying.

Alice In Wonderland 3D: Can Tim Burton make Johnny Depp look even weirder? Apparently yes. Now I'm waiting for Burton to remake "King of Kings," turning the twelve disciples into flesh-eating zombies.

She's Out of My League: What's worse than a romantic comedy? A romantic comedy targeted to the 18 t0 24 year-old audience.

See What I'm Saying---The Deaf Entertainers Documentary: Read my fingers.

The Hurt Locker: Trying to wring some more box office money out of its Best Picture Oscar. A decent film, but I can give you a list of classic war movies that were much better.

Crazy Heart: Trying to wring some more box office money out of Jeff Bridges' Best Actor Oscar. A worthy performance, even if Bridges' acceptance speech is now in its third week.

The Blind Side: Trying to wring some more box office money out of Sandra Bullock's Best Actress Oscar. Hello, losers out there, you can save your dough and rent it. Or book yourself on an American Airlines flight from NY to LA.

City Island: A dysfunctional family in the Bronx. Like this is a new idea? Meanwhile, I have many fond memories of City Island. The Black Whale Ice Cream parlor. Some beach club which my relatives belonged to. Cool summer night breezes. None of that probably made the movie's final cut. Meanwhile, this is one more film that features Alan Arkin and I am wondering when he will take a few weeks off to clean his house. The guy is the white Morgan Freeman. He turns down no role.

Waking Sleeping Beauty: A documentary on how Disney re-energized its animation division in the 80s. This is definitely on my list.

The Eclipse: A widower is plagued by apparitions and seeks the help of an author of super-natural fiction. Wouldn't it just be easier to go out for Bingo a few nights a week?

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Barack Obama, the Younger Years?

Greenberg: Diary of a Jewish Wimpy Kid?

The Ghost Writer: I saw this Hitchcock-like thriller a few weeks ago and it is decent. But, something nagged me throughout. The setting was the New England shore, but I just knew it couldn't have been. Why? The film is directed by Roman Polanski, who hasn't seen the New England shore since Cheers was anchoring Thursday nights on NBC.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: I absolutely despise any kind of body ink, so the likelihood of seeing a movie about it is, well, unlikely.

Repo Men: Some sci-fi crap about organ replacement. And I don't think they're talking about the one that Nancy Bea Hefley plays at Dodger Stadium.

The Art of the Steal: A documentary on an art heist. Just in case you Rickey Henderson fans were getting ready to run out to your local multiplex.

Cop Out: The always unfunny Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in a dreary buddy/cop comedy. Directed by Kevin Smith, who should know that, like his ass on Southwest Airlines, there is no seat for me anywhere this movie is playing.

Our Family Wedding: A comedy with America "Ugly Betty" Ferrara. Because everybody's family wedding is so goddamn funny? The ones I went to weren't. And, save for one cousin, they all wound up in divorce. Which, on second thought, is goddamn funny.

Dinner last night: Proscuitto and provolone sandwich from Food.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shtupping the Light Fantastic

I'm not sure what to make of comedian Robert Klein these days.

Backtracking, I've always been a fan. I may have seen him perform in person close to a dozen times, although, truth be, I am counting the four or five occasions when I saw him star in my all-time favorite Broadway musical, "They're Playing Our Song." But, nevertheless, I've seen his stand-up a bunch of times and always enjoyed.

Indeed, I last saw him cracking wise down in San Diego a few years ago when he, Marvin Hamlisch, and Lucie Arnaz reunited for an evening of merriment and "They're Playing Our Song" memories. I recall that he was particularly on fire that night and I was in tears of laughter frequently.

So, last Saturday night, I went to see Klein at the Emelin Theater in Mamaroneck, where he appears annually. Now, mind you, a friend who had seen him there previously gave me a warning.

"He gets a little too Jewish there."

Okay, message delivered.

And now that I saw it for myself, did he ever!!! Was this the Emelin Theater or the Improv of Tel Aviv?

I understand that he probably plays to the audience, which was your typical super liberal, Jewish, upper Westchester couple, out for the evening because they didn't particularly like what was in their Netflix red envelope at home. But, hello??? Or should I say, oy??????

Whereas I'm used to Robert Klein waxing funny on the human conditions and the little things in life like baggage handlers, supermarket packers, and Velveeta cheese, I got only a little of that Saturday night. The words "fuck" and "shtupp" were inserted into every punchline as if he was getting paid by the word from the Obscene Joke Society. Shtupp this. Fuck that. Shtupp her. Fuck you. It was like breakfast with Mel Brooks. There used to be so much more to Robert Klein than Borscht Belt comedy.

Now, I realize that he's an angry guy. I also know from people in the business that Klein is also not a very nice man. And he's gotten a lot worse in the past two decades since he had a very bitter and public divorce from that opera singer. But, still... The world is mad enough. We don't need more of it. And, while he's always been caustic, Klein now comes off as a bitter old Jewish man. Which he probably is in real life. The only problem is that doesn't necessarily make of a pleasant night of entertainment.

Another troubling side was a bizarre reliance on political humor, which I found a little offputting because that's never been Klein's forte. Clearly, he is liberal and played to the notion that the crowd was 100% sympatico. But, amazingly, most of those jokes landed with a thud. Sometimes a snicker, but never a guffaw. Were they also caught off guard by his humor? Or maybe the ultra-left-leaning throng is equally disturbed by the current Washington shenanigans and has gotten off the band wagon at the last stop? Or maybe, regardless of how you feel, the audience simply wants to go out for an evening of some angst-free entertainment. Who knows? But, there's nothing more unsettling than jokes that don't work.

I'm wondering now if Robert Klein is joining an ever-increasing list of things that just aren't as good as they used to be. Beats the shtupp out of me.

Dinner last night: Grilled hamsteak and salad.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Doctor May See You on Wednesday...


Or, if this is 2014, maybe not.

---The first thing I did when I heard the health care reform bill was passed? I looked at my regular prescription bottles to see how many refills I had left.

---I was hoping to see 900. Damn, only three.

---What is good about the bill is that it deals with pre-existing conditions.

---What is very, very, very bad about the bill is that it offers lots more entitlements to people who don't deserve them.

---We've had food stamps. Now we have Lipitor stamps.

---I heard one fat slob on TV commenting about the bill.

---"It's like Christmas. I ain't gotta pay no more bills."

---That's funny. I do.

---Yours.

---And the expenses of a lot of other lazy, shiftless.....

---Er, people.

---I bet you thought I was going to say something else.

---If nothing else, I hope Obummer craps out the rest of the way on his NCAA brackets.

---When he signed this sucker, he was telling people that the bill needed to be done for his Presidency.

---Er, don't you pass legislation for the country, not your own agenda?

---Jeez, let's just package this asshole up and ship him right back to...

---...Hawaii.

---I bet you thought I was going to say something else.

---I also noticed a bunch of my friends on Facebook whooping it up over the bill's passage.

---Let me know when you want to see a hard copy of my tax bill.

---There was one jerk who announced on Facebook that those of us who opposed the bill were "___ licking, ____ sucking, ass wiping, Commie perverts."

---And this is somebody I went to college with!

---And now deleted for eternity from my Facebook.

---Driving through NY last week, there were tons of huge trees toppled and large potholes on major highways.

---Okay, we had the telethon for Haiti. When are we going to raise some dough for the devastation of Westchester, New York.

---"We Are The World. We Are Yonkers."

---I do feel honored. No NY governor quit while I was there.

---Scooting past Citi Field on the way from JFK, I noticed the outside of the scoreboard, which is littered with billboards. A complete eyesore.

---Driving past the new Yankee Stadium, I saw one advertisement.

---"2010 Tickets Now on Sale."

---Once again, the Mets get it wrong.

---Meanwhile, the upper deck at the old Yankee Stadium is almost gone.

---Concrete slabs now available on e-Bay. For the Yankee fan who's always a tough gift buy at Christmas time.

---A very curious exchange between a mother and her young son as they boarded my flight back to LA.

---"Okay, Wyatt, that's one. When you get to three, you will get a time out."

---Oh, my God. Being an unruly kid these days is so much easier than when I was a kid.

---You now get three shots at pissing off Mom?

---And, oh, by the way, there was no such thing as a time out for me.

---Your ass got punished!

---By the way, all those children who grew up in the "time out" era of discipline? They all voted for Obummer.

---When Vin Scully fell out of bed and hit his head on the floor, all of Los Angeles prayed for his recovery.

---If Nancy Pelosi fell out of bed and hit her head on the floor, I'd pray that it was marble.

Dinner last night: Chicken quesadilla back at the LA abode.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

If You've Had Enough of Washington, DC....

The other day, while Washington and all the assholes who inhabit the Federal buildings were besides themselves with the passage of the health care reform bill, I decided to get my mind as far away from it as possible.

By watching the wonderful "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

When you juxtapose the message of this classic film from 1939 with the absolute idiocy of our perpetually corrupt government today, you discover that director Frank Capra was a prophet. Because you could easily interchange the film's central fight with the battle today. A pork barrel dam project that destroys Willet Creek. A health care reform bill that will destroy our nation's future. One in the same, folks.

And, in the movie, the political animals like Jim Taylor and Joe Paine who concoct one crooked deal after another for their own personal gain are really no different than the slaphappy thugs of the Obama Administration. Rahm Emanuel, the satanic Nancy Pelosi, other Democrats who flipped their vote and their conscience at the drop of a hat? No different. I was astounded by the parallels.

Just to give equal time, you could perhaps connect the same dots to other morally bankrupt administrations. Haldeman, Erlichman, and Mitchell, anybody? The list could go on and on. For a country that is allegedly as great as ours, we sure do have a lousy knack for electing the worst of the worst to our most important offices.

So, just where is Senator Jefferson Smith, essayed beautifully by Jimmy Stewart, when you really need him? A true patriot who fights for the people. And realizes he represents his constituency and not his own interests. Frankly, we will never see the likes of Jeff Smith ever again. Certainly not with the bunch of rat bastards trolling the back alleys of Pennsylvania Avenue these days. If there is a Senator Smith in our future, his arrival will probably be too late.

Let's face it, fellow citizens. There are no great leaders anymore. There are only empty shells of men. Concerned only with keeping a job once they get it. Sure, there are long agendas, but none of the items listed have anything to do with you and me. They're all hollow. Every single one of them. Indeed, the President himself is nothing more than a city councilman with a big ego and little substance.

Truth be told, I can remember the glorious celebration of this nation's bicentennial. I certainly won't be around for the tricentennial, but I doubt I will miss much. I'm guessing there won't be much to celebrate. Indeed, there will be little left of the nation that Frank Capra envisioned seventy years ago.

Watch this movie now. Tell me you don't agree. I'd love to plunk down twenty bucks for an extra copy to send to our esteemed POTUS. Heck, maybe I can go over and watch it with him. Sharing one of those beers he likes to hoist. But, my guess is that it would be tough to pull him away from checking out his NCAA brackets on Sportscenter.

And another truth be told, I doubt this clown even gives a shit. And who can blame him? No one else has.

And shame on every single one of them.

Dinner last night: Salisbury steak and broccoli.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - March 22, 2010

The title of this video is "Two Democrats on an Escalator." No shitting you. Very appropriate this morning.

Dinner last night: Leftover sausage and peppers from Carlo's.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Girl at Church

The door to my childhood church, St. Peter's in the Bronx, still features the German words over the door. But it says that God is there in this building. Even though the congregation these days is mostly Caribbean and Black, the German roots still preside in a fashion.

Last week, I graduated to my confirmation class. Soon I would become a full fledged Lutheran. And a young adult.

And one with hormones. This is the place where I encountered the first girl I ever liked. I've told the story here twice before. But, the church theme of the past several Sundays in this Lenten season lends to its retelling one more time.

And, fittingly, it has its roots in my other childhood love. The New York Mets.

Don Cardwell was a right-handed journeyman pitcher who had floated around the major leagues starting in 1957. He wound up being traded to the Mets in 1967. When you look at his stats for his three plus years at Shea, they are quite impressive compared to today's hurlers. In 1967, his ERA was 3.57. It dropped to 2.95 in 1968. At an ERA of 3.01 in 1969, Don was indeed one of the unsung heroes of that miraculous season. He only got into one inning of the World Series, but he certainly was one of the main reasons they got there in the first place. I'm remember one twi-night doubleheader in Pittsburgh during that surging September. The Mets won both ends, 1-0. And it was noteworthy because, in both games, the pitchers drove in the lone run. The second game was won by Don Cardwell.

So what was behind my attraction to him? Well, I thought it was really cool that a veteran pitcher like Cardwell was finally getting to enjoy winning baseball after such a long career.

Oh, yeah. And he was also the favorite Met of the first girl I ever liked.

She had first appeared in my Sunday School class somewhere around the era of Cardwell. And my first meeting was certainly a memorable one. Before the Bible studies began, one of the assistant pastors of my Bronx church would conduct a little mini-service for all the kids enrolled in Sunday School. For some bizarre reason, I had left the house that morning without eating breakfast. Perhaps my father had been a little late with his Sunday morning ritual of stocking up with enough jelly donuts to choke a diabetic horse. Nevertheless, the emptiness of my stomach somehow floated up to my head. Because, as the assistant pastor led us in the Lord's Prayer, my mind started to drift into a catatonic blackness.

"And the power and the glory, forever and ever."

I started to weave forward.

"Amen."

Clunk.

I apparently landed on my face and cut my chin.

When I came to, the assistant pastor was already attending to me as I was seated back in my chair at the table. In my woozy state, I peered down at the end of the table at my new friend. Her look of concern made me weak in the knees all over again.

I immediately made two mental notes. Always eat something before church. And find out what this girl thing was all about.

We wound up in confirmation class together, which ate up two years of Saturday mornings. There were lots of walks to the bus stop. I remember once getting an ice cream cone with her and that was tantamount to heading out to a furniture store and picking out a sofa. There was another girl in the class who also seemed to drift into our midst (translation: got in my way) and I tolerated her, all the time trying to figure out how to "accidentally" throw her in front of the BX 41 bus.

My friend was gold. She seemed to like me. I seemed to love her. And she was the pinnacle of what boys looked for. She could talk baseball with the best of them. Even better, she could talk Met baseball like she was the daughter of Lindsey Nelson. And she loved Don Cardwell for all the reasons I did. This was my Winnie Cooper.

"I now pronounce you boyfriend and girlfriend."

My feelings for her were unfortunately outed by a very unlikely accomplice. My own father.

Her grandfather would pick her up after church every Sunday. He would wait for her in pretty much the same spot as my dad would. One Sunday, she got into her car. I got into mine.

It took a few blocks before I noticed that, as her grandfather bobbed and weaved through the streets of the Bronx, my father was making all the same moves. It suddenly became illogical to me. I wanted to ask my father what the hell he was doing, but I was afraid it would wind up as a protracted dialogue about something serious that I wasn't ready to share with a parent. So I say quietly in horror as he followed her car.

Left turn. Right turn. Right turn. Left turn. Right turn.

WTF, Dad!!!

About one car length forward, she was starting to have the same realization. As she looked out the back window of her car, she had this concerned look. It was as if Princess Diana saw the paparazzi tailing her limo. My friend's look said it all.

"What the heck are you doing?"

What these two unsuspecting 12 year-olds did not know was that, the very night before, Mayer's Restaurant, the premier restaurant and reception hall of the Bronx, had burned to the ground. It was all over the radio that morning, and my father, being the deluxe rubber necker of all time, wanted to see the cinders. Apparently so did her grandfather.

The following Sunday, she asked me why we had followed her car. I stammered like Ralph Kramden and told her the truth. It sounded like a lie.

The two years of confirmation study was an exercise in how a young male calculates endlessly to always someway wind up in a girl's vicnity. I timed my entrances and exits to hers. I always figured out just how much available pew space there was so we could sit next to each other. Most people would come home from church feeling cleansed and renewed. I would crawl in with my head aching from all the strategy I needed to formulate just to be near her.

When we were finally confirmed, the pastor took the whole class to Rye Playland for a day. That presented a whole new world of dating architecture. Now I had to time everything so we wound up on rides together. I suddenly realized that day how easy it was becoming.

Because she was doing the same thing.

My mother had forgotten to pack me a lunch that day. So, when it came time for the midday sustenance, I sat there at the picnic bench like Oliver Twist. The pastor offered to buy me a hot dog. She jumped in quickly.

"He can have half of my bologna sandwich."

We might as well have consummated it right then and there on the grass outside the Dragon Coaster.

And I hated bologna.

But not that day. It was Oscar Meyer's finest nitrate production ever.

We got a little older, but, unfortunately, it ended before all the good stuff. After one summer away from church, I discovered her family had moved to New Jersey.

And the Mets sold Don Cardwell to the Atlanta Braves on July 12, 1970.

Years later, I was in college but still hanging onto my childhood church. As I snooped around the guestbook in the vestibule one Sunday, I saw an eyepopping entry dated the previous Christmas Eve. Her family had been there! And where had I been? At some relative's house watching a family argument.

Crap.

Of course, in college, I was already dwelling on the lost opportunities of my life. And there was nobody at Fordham who could hold a candle to her. I started to think. If her family had visited their old church one Christmas Eve, maybe it was a new tradition. It might have been July, but I already started to plan my outfit for December 24.

It couldn't have arrived more quickly. At Christmas Eve, I sat with my father's cousin, but she would easily be dispensed with if luck would....

....have it. There she was! Two pews over to the left.

"Joy to the World!"

After service, everyone mingled on the icy 219th Street. Even in the cold night air, she immediately recognized me. It was probably the first time she had ever seen in my shaving era. Lou Brock couldn't have moved faster as she came over. The hug couldn't have been warmer.

Her family busied themselves off to the side as we caught up. On high school. On college. She was going someplace in the boondocks of Pennsylvania. It was nice. It was easy. It was special. I asked for her address (pre e-mail days, sports fans) and she offered it willingly so we could stay in touch. Making more seasonal small talk, I inquired what she got for Christmas.

"Engaged."

She held up the ring for me to see.

Oh.

The snow flurries around me picked up with intensity as if my life was being orchestrated by a production manager for a Lifetime movie.

We parted company, pledging to stay in touch. After one written volley in the mail, it all ended.

When Don Cardwell passed away in January, 2008, I reran this story for the second time. And, since she was on my mind again, I did something really creepy.

I went into one of those background check websites and paid $14.95 to get more information on her whereabouts. Allegedly, she's again in New Jersey. Still using the same last name. But, just what does one do with that type of information?

Two years later, apparently nothing.

Dinner last night: Meatloaf at Chat D in Larchmont.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Classic TV Theme of the Month - March 2010

Anybody wonder guess why I remember this one?



Dinner last night: The always wonderful sausage and peppers from Carlo's in Yonkers.


Friday, March 19, 2010

And It's Yet One More Awkward Friday


More fresh slices of Hell, courtesy of somebody's Instamatic Camera. Take, for instance, this guy. It's amazing when you can easily spot a family resemblance.


How to use the word "hump" twice in one sentence.

The incorrect way to ride a horse.

This is either a family with way too much time on their hands. Or rejects from the June Taylor Dancers.

Al Qaeda obviously gets a discount at Sears Photo and Portraits.


Hmmm. Somebody doesn't like the groom.

Beam them the hell out of here.

The library was all out of "Green Eggs and Ham."

Dinner last night: Turkey burger, potato salad, and cole slaw.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reading Ain't Fundamental



It used to be for me.

When I was a kid, there was always a book in progress for me. Whether it was for school or, even better, during the summer curled up next to that big kitchen window fan. An ideal gift for me at Christmas or birthday time? A book. Preferably non-fiction. Biographical. Historical. Concentrating on Hollywood or baseball or the Office of the US President. Slam dunk. If that's underneath the wrapping paper of the gift you're giving me, I'm your friend for life.

Except...

Somewhere in the past five years, I have stopped reading. Oh, I'll start a book. Then, without finishing it, I'll start another. Maybe go back to read the first one some more. Then, perhaps start a third. And, almost mystically, I rarely finish any of them. They sit around my bedroom begging for my eyes to go cover to cover. The pleas go for naught.

I've now run around of room for these books in waiting. I keep buying them. I keep unwrapping them. I keep watching them pile up. I made my New Year's resolution to resume my reading. It lasted for about a week. My cleaning lady must be befuddled by what is going on with my bedroom bookcases. And on top of my printer. And on any available shelf.

Books just screaming for attention.

In an effort to get cracking, I've decided to document all the ones that are strewn about at the moment. This doesn't even include the ones tucked away neatly that went unread.

Game Change: I'm about a third of the way through this recount of the 2008 Presidential campaign. I actually brought it to NY and did about 60 pages on the flight yesterday. Woo hoo.

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho: I bought it from the author at a screening of Psycho two months ago. I have looked at the photos.

Tony Curtis' autobiography: I got up to the part where he slept with Marilyn Monroe. The first time.

Forever Blue: Biography of Dodger owner Walter O'Malley.

100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die: I read about fifteen of them.

Faith and Fear in Flushing: A Met fan bitching about the Mets. You would think I would have jumped at this one.

Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin: I'm halfway through the Liberty part.

Stupid Black Men by Larry Elder: I got stuck around the Stupid part.

Franklin and Lucy: I normally devour books about FDR. The price sticker is still on it.

Book about the Ed Sullivan Show: I've skimmed the section about the Beatles and Topo Gigio.

MTM Quality Television: A compendium on the MTM Enterprises programs. I read the chapter on "Rhoda."

Sixty Feet, Six Inches by Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson: For some reason, I'm even further away from reading it.

Finding It by Valerie Bertinelli: You would think this was first on my list.

The Jack Benny Program: A history of his radio and TV show. Part of my research for a radio show we are planning.

Blondie, The Bumstead Family History: A compilation of my most favorite comic strip. I'm so far behind that Cookie hasn't even arrived yet.

FDR's Deadly Secret: Alleges that he died of skin cancer. I will let you know when I finally open it.

A biography on Walt Disney.

An autobiography of Hollywood producer Walter Mirisch.

A biography on Otto Preminger.

A biography on Hollywood director Victor Fleming.

A book on Frank Sinatra's film career.

1960: A book on that year's Presidential election. I bought it at Dallas' Sixth Floor Museum. When I was there two years ago!

Traitor to His Class: Another new book on FDR. At least, it was new when I got it.

An American Film Institute book detailing conversations with noted filmmakers. Several have died since I received this gift.


This list is quite pathetic. And, I realize now something even worse.

I am now wasting my time and writing about not reading.

But, now that this inadequacy is out there for all to see, this blog will be my challenge. I will strive to finish books and tell you when I did. Welcome to the Reading Police. So, do your job. Tell me to hit the books right now.

Okay, I think I heard one of you. Off I go.

Dinner last night: Black forest ham sandwich and salad at the NY abode.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Unsafe On Any Wednesday

Everybody, get out of the way!! Runaway Prius!!!!!

---All those in the crowd who believe the asshole who was driving this thing, raise your hands.

---Hmmm, I see none. Smart, smart people.

---Read up on this piece of shit who made these allegations and you'll figure out quickly that this is a complete hoax.

---For instance, the dummy was five months behind on his Prius car payments.

---Filed for bankruptcy.

---$700,000 in debt.

---Apparently screwed some folks out of big bucks in some rental properties he owned.

---But, wait, he said he's not in this Toyota thing for the money.

---Uh huh. And you can also believe that Michelle Obama is coming to my house for high tea.

---First off, if your car is racing out of control, how the hell can you hold a steering wheel and dial your cell phone at the same time???

---Meanwhile, he probably had his lawyer waiting on the other line.

---You've heard of Balloon Boy? Now, meet Prius Man.

---The handwringers in the audience all say this jerk should get the benefit of the doubt.

---That actually works in reverse for me. All people are guilty until proven innocent. Len's Code of Ethics.

---Who is getting blamed more now? Toyota or George Bush?

---And who would you prefer to see in the passenger seat of a defective Toyota? A crash dummy or Nancy Pelosi?

---Trust me, there's not that much difference.

---Okay, the crash dummy is better looking.

---Just so you know, if Nancy Pelosi was involved in government someplace in Central America, she would have been shot in the head by now.

---But only if the bullet could penetrate all that Botox.

---Which, by the by, is not covered by the health care reform bill.

---I've heard of more and more people catching up to "Precious" on DVD and shaking their head in confusion.

---The movie is the cinematic equivalent of having your genitals tazered repeatedly.

---I've heard a rumor that, in the sequel, Precious will get set on fire.

---But still pull herself up by her Adidas shoelaces to collect welfare once a month.

---Just a rumor.

---Uh oh! Runaway Prius!!!!!

---I was getting my hair cut and flipping through some of those gossip magazines. Both I and my hair stylist Lisa were lamenting about the people depicted on those pages.

---And wondering who the fuck these celebrities are.

---What the hell is a Kendra???

---Who the heck is Jake Pavelka and why do I care?

---Where did all these friggin' Kardeshians come from???

---I long for the old days. The celebrities were true stars. And the headlines were better.

---Like when Lana Turner's daughter stabbed her mother's mobster boyfriend.

---Now that's fun stuff.

---Nowadays, we are asked to worry about Kate Gosselin getting a tear in her Ugg boots.

---Whoever she is.

---Wait!!! Runaway Prius!!!!!!!

---The best line during my haircut? My hair stylist lamenting about all these food allergies she has developed.

---"I used to drop acid. Now I can't even eat a piece of rye bread."

I can't write funnier than that. I'll quit while I'm still only two runs behind. And head off to New York.

Dinner last night: Chopped steak and salad.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dear Blog, Happy Birthday to You

Yesterday, little Len Speaks, you had your special day. Three years old. All toilet training and now wearing long pants. What a big boy you are!

In all seriousness, I had no idea that, when I first posted a blog entry on March 15, 2007, I'd still be doing it three years later. I had no clue that I would be also posting something every single day. Originally, I figured I'd write when I had something to write about. It was nothing more than a writing exercise that a few friends could enjoy. But, lo and behold, I must have a lot on my mind.

Whew!

Now, I have people reading this thing from all over the world. Either some folks have very high thresholds of boredom or I really do have something to say. Funny most of the time. Serious a little of the time. Always compelling I hope.

I commemorate my time here at the annual date as well as whenever we hit a momentous count in daily entries. 500, 1000. I'll probably wax philosophically at the 1500 mark. And again next March. If I'm here, I hope you'll be here, too.

There are readers who have their special favorite days. The Monday video laugh. The Wednesday ramble of nastiness. The Sunday memory drawer which has evolved into my memoirs and a virtual outline of a movie script. I've lost readers along the way for some things or opinions I wrote. I've gained others for writing the same things or opinions. Frankly, if the emotions shown here were not raw and uncensored, there would be no point in writing them down.

Truth be told, I've managed to keep this up without writing or composing every single day. The real writer figures out a way to be productive and procrastinate all at the same time. For instance, I'm headed to New York tomorrow and will have less time to blog. But, I pre-write so much material that I have plenty in reserve. The Monday videos and the Saturday classics are already lined up right through the end of April. At the same time, if something really interesting occurs during this trip, I'll figure out a way to get it here within a day or so.

And there's always one piece in my arsenal that is my back-up in the case of a power failure, an earthquake, or a police riot. Just so you know, when you sign on here one day and read a piece about my hatred of cats, you'll have a clue that something really nasty has happened in my world. Then again, I may ultimately run it and then keep something newer as my cyber failsafe.

I've tuned up the blog engine and will press on for the next 10,000 miles or so. I'm still adding new features. My imaginary lunch companions Saul and Heshe will return. I've started my Moron of the Month series. And, once I get a hang of the new Flip Video camera, you might really be seeing more and more of me here.

As for the Sunday Memory Drawer, that is serving as therapy for me. I am recalling moments and elements of my life long buried. I don't know how much deeper I can get, but, right now, the well is bottomless. And I have a spin on future installments that I could use the help of some good friends.

Daily readers have probably seen some names of folks/friends turning up regularly. Well, I've decided to spotlight some of them and then I want to turn over the following week's Sunday piece to them. If you write it, I will post it. I've reached out to some of you previously and will continue to find the rest of you. The only stipulation is that I have final cut of the editorial content and your story has to involve me in some way. After all, the title of this blog is not Mortimer Speaks.

Hopefully, your memories of me will be happy ones. Naturally, I am not expecting Barack Obama to make a submission.

Thanks for reading and smiling and laughing and thinking. You'll never know what you'll see here. Like, for instance...here's a photo I took of the used-to-be-foxy Katharine Ross at a screening of "The Graduate" last weekend.

I told you. More surprises to come. Until tomorrow....

Dinner last night: Meat lasagna at Maria's Italian Kitchen.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - March 15, 2010

Ow!


Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich with horseradish.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Sunday School


Part Two of My Childhood Church Saga.
I do remember the pastor in the photo above. By the time I was one of these tykes, the guy had the word "Emeritus" in his title and was about to have his first one-on-one with God himself. He had already turned over the reins of the place to another German, Pastor Hoeniger. But, one thing that did not change over the years? Sunday school classes like this one. This, indeed, may have been a confirmation class, judging by the way the boys are dressed. Time, however, did remove the bows from the hair of the girls I studied with. Mercifully.
When last we left my father, he was sitting in his car outside the church, reading up on Gasoline Alley and Moon Mullins in the funny papers. I was inside, learning how to recite the Apostle's Creed. And not exactly loving the experience.
For us, Sunday School was one big room. Long rows of tables and, as you had birthdays, you moved from one table to the next like it was a Parker Brothers game. First, you were at the kindergarten table. Then, the first grade table. Then, the second grade table. As you progressed around the room, you noticed that there were less and less crayons as you grew up. At the kindergarten table, you colored some drawing of Noah loading animals on his arc. At the first grade table, you got to memorize the writing at the bottom of the page you just colored.
"Noah loading animals on his arc."
Done.
By the second and third grade tables, you were starting to hear Bible stories. But, not the traditional ones. Instead, because we were kids and more likely to identify with somebody else our own age, there were books devoted to Jesus as a small boy. Going to temple. Helping out his father in the carpenter shop. Totally strange. Little Jesus as if he were the star of a situation comedy.
"Leave It to Jesus."
In retrospect, it was all absurd. But, back when, we bought it hook, line, and sinker.
At the beginning of every Sunday School session, we all stood as one group. Kindergarteners right through to the sixth grade. And we recited prayers and sung hymns as led by the wife of the church council president. One such Sunday service had disastrous results for me, which you will read more about in next week's installment. But, for us, I guess this was a worship service. After all, we were not allowed upstairs to the main sanctuary. That was for the grownups. Downstairs, we had other life issues to grapple with.
"Hmmm, should I make Jesus' robe blue or green?"
The only time we got to go up to the big people's church was at Christmastime. The Sunday School annually put on a Yuletide pageant of carols and recitations. For this, my mother would make an in-person appearance. Which had been preceded by weeks and weeks of arduous rehearsals at home as she put me through my paces for whatever small contribution I was going to make to the show. Usually, the littlest kids had to memorize two or three lines of rhyming verse. She called it "saying my piece." For hours on end, I had to stand in the living room and recite it. Over and over and over and over and over. Laurence Olivier rehearsed "Hamlet" less.
And the words I had to say were always silly. Crafted by that same wife of the church council president, our Christmas pieces seemed to have been lifted from Bazooka gum wrappers.
"Tis the season, tis the reason, for glory to seize us, and love you, Baby Jesus."
Or something like that. The afternoon pageant couldn't end soon for me. Mom would be beaming in the front row as if I was Lincoln on the battlefield at Gettysburg.
Eventually, my Sunday School years ended with the natural progression. You moved to a Confirmation class with the Pastor. This was no small feat. Two hours every Saturday morning at church for two solid years. You didn't become a Lutheran easily those days. But, the whole process was made a little less painless for me.
You see, there was this girl in my Sunday School and confirmation class.
The story has been twice told here. Next Sunday, it will be thrice told here.
Dinner last night: Chicken stir fry at Cafe Montana.





















Saturday, March 13, 2010

Classic Newsreel of the Month - March 2010

A Stupid Human Trick from 1933.


Dinner last night: Smoked turkey sausage.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Moron of the Month - March 2010

Introducing a new monthly feature. On these cyberpages, I will spotlight that public individual who has done or said something so ridiculously stupid we can't even begin to ignore it. Frankly, these days, I'm afraid it will be pretty hard to pin down just one winner every thirty days. There's liable to be a line of nominees that stretch down and around the block.

But, for this inaugural honor, the first selection for Moron of the Month was quite easy. Ta da.......


....Tom Hanks. For whom life is a box of chocolates and whose head is a noggin full of marbles.

Personally, I've always thought Hanks was a bit overrated as an actor. In the 90s, he latched onto two consecutive roles that even an empty-headed actor like Vince Vaughn couldn't fuck up. Bingo, one Oscar, then two. All of Hollywood lays down at his swollen feet and the guy is installed on Mount Olympus for eternity. And somehow deemed an intellectual.

If Hanks is an intellectual, I'm Albert Einstein in front of a blackboard with my latest nuclear theory. P.S., I'm not. Unfortunately, Hanks has taken a little knowledge and spread it around so much you would think he's got a lot to spare. P.S., he doesn't.

Fortunately and/or unfortunately, Steven Spielberg cast this lummox in the D-Day inspired drama, "Saving Private Ryan." A very good film, but frequently considered the best World War II movie ever produced. P.S., it's not. But, one nasty side effect of Hanks being in that film is that it somehow promoted him to be the world's greatest and single authority on that war. He's now run over everybody with that alleged accolade like he's Rommel driving a Panzer tank. Hanks becomes all things WWII. He produces the mini-series "Band of Brothers." He shows up on the shores of Normandy on a regular basis as if the original invasion was his idea. Meanwhile, he's about as much of an expert on the war as Bob Costas is an authority on baseball or Billy Crystal is an authority on the New York Yankees. P.S., none of them are.

Hanks' affectation for World War II is mildly laughable, especially since I myself devour any and all written or filmed material on the war to end all wars. I'd welcome the opportunity to go one-on-one with Forrest Schlump in a trivia quiz. But, not content to simply be Mr. Smarty Pants, the bloated Hanks takes it one level too far.

His new HBO WWII mini-series, "The Pacific," starts this weekend and, as executive producer, he's making the usual rounds to promote it. And making a complete ass out of himself.

It seems that Tom's big talking points are all about how our battle with the Japanese during those fateful years was based on racism. "They were different from us and we hated them for that."

Huh?

Not content to let stupid enough alone, Hanks prattles on and equates our contempt for the Japanese to our country's actions in the Middle East. "Isn't that an interesting coincidence?"

HUH??????

What an idiot!!!! I sit agape at his moronic comments and wonder if he had the holes in his head professionally installed.

In his neverending desires to advance the liberal viewpoints of today, Hanks essentially revises history. And, in the process, he reveals that he knows absolutely nothing about the war that he frankly has used as a convenient career enhancement. And, one more time, some dope in Hollywood climbs up on a soap box to take potshots at the last eight years of a Presidential administration. Mark my words and read my lips, I was no great fan of George W. Bush. And you can blame a lot on him. You cannot pin the entire history of the world on the guy. At some point, some asshole is going to claim that Bush was the centurian who speared Jesus Christ in the side on Good Friday. Come on, folks. Enough!

Did America hate the Japanese during those years? Bonsai, you betcha. Were there racist elements to this? Bonsai, you betcha. I am guessing you can still drive up and down the California coast and find some traces of barbed wire fences used for the internment camps. But, they did attack us at Pearl Harbor while two of their own emissaries sat talking peace with President Roosevelt in the Oval Office. They killed thousands of our innocent soldiers. Meanwhile, what about our disdain for the Germans and the Italians? That was alive and unfortunately well. Was that racism as well? Did we want to kill everybody that was blond-haired and blue-eyed or dark-haired and olive-skinned because they, too, were a little different?

The world was at war, Mr. Hanks. If you went to the library and looked at some microfilms, you'd notice that it was in all the big newspapers. Sometimes even in big print headlines. A major international conflict you have never ever experienced in your own lifetime where your biggest battle was probably over a parking space at Whole Foods in Santa Monica. There was a lot going on in this country that you, Mr. Hanks, couldn't even begin to imagine. And don't forget what was happening in Eastern Europe to tens of thousands and millions of Jews. A development that was well known to but overlooked by President Roosevelt until it was too late. So, face the facts, Fathead, the hatred was deep and widespread. America did not own the patent rights to it.

Hanks is frequently and mistakenly compared to the great Jimmy Stewart and his daughters should sue everytime this is mentioned in the press. Because, back when, Hollywood backed this country in war hook, line, and sinker. Without even blinking an eye. Or mentioning it constantly in press releases. How many air missions did somebody like Stewart fly in the name of his country? And how often did he talk about it afterwards? The answer to the first question is "many." The answer to the second question is "hardly ever." Hollywood, like the rest of the country, was unified and steadfast in one cause. Even Bugs Bunny took on the Japs in the cartoons. We were all together in this ordeal. Perhaps for the last time in our history.

Hanks, and other industry blowhards like Barbra Streisand and Denzel Washington, fancy themselves as experts on the world condition simply because they read the table of contents in the Los Angeles Times every morning. Indeed, nobody should listen to them because, in reality, their comments have little substance. Their modus operandi in life should be singular and simple. Shut your fucking big mouth and make your movies or sing your songs. Period. Exclamation point.

Truth be told, I had been interested in watching "The Pacific." But, now after Hanks' asinine statements, my time could be better spent. Perhaps using an aircan to clean out the soot from my computer keyboard. Or re-arranging the clothes hangers in my closet. More likely, I might open up one of my books on World War II and revisit the conflict one more time. Maybe the renowned "At Dawn We Slept," the widely respected account of the war in the Pacific. And when I'm done with it for the third time, maybe I'll messenger it over to Tom Hanks' mansion in Brentwood. Where he can read it for the very first time. And maybe even learn something.

This is why Tom Hanks is my very first Moron of the Month.

Dinner last night: Chicken tenders and risotto.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"I'm Mad As Hell...."

I hear ya, Howard Beale.

It's happened again in the wonderful little universe I call Len.

My writing partner signed onto his on-line bank account to find that his money had been drained out like the town pool at the end of the summer. His hard earned money was used by some skell in Brazil. Supermarkets, pet stores, department stores all south of the Equator. A professional job indeed. The rat bastard was crafty enough to keep every single purchase under sixty bucks, so none of it would be flagged as suspicious activity.

This would all fall under the banner of "annoying news" except for the fact that this has happened before. To both of us. Multiple times. Between the two of us, a couple of normal run-of-the-mill White guys, we have been financially poached a grand total of seven times collectively over the past three years. Just what are the odds of that?

Neither of us is stupid. We don't post our debit card numbers on bathroom walls at the Cheesecake Factory. I very carefully cover my area whenever prompted for my PIN number. Indeed, I think we're all very safe using plastic money when in reputable restaurants, stores, etc.. As we both tracked back on the felonies perpetrated on us over the years, we found a common thread tied to these crimes. All of them happened when we momentarily let a credit or debit card get out of our hands for a moment.

The pizza delivery guy that has to run his card. The cab driver that needs to have my card swiped through one of those machines as I return home from the airport. Those instances where we, for a nanosecond, are too trusting and cede momentary control of our lives.

And, in all of the above cases, the culprit was Hispanic and/or Black.

Sorry. I'm not trying to paint everybody with one brush. But, this is a statement of truth. One of those factoids no one is allowed to verbalize in public. Because if you do dare speak the truth, you can be labeled as a hatemonger or a racist.

Oh, sure, there are White people who commit crimes. And I can say that freely here. But, if I connote our credit card thefts to someone with a skin tint several shades darker than mine, I am counseled that I can't say such a thing.

Yet, when a Black cab driver bitches to me about having to run my Amex card and two days later I am paying for over five thousand dollars of Greyhound bus tickets from a terminal in South Central LA, aren't those dots imminently connectable?

No, wait, I'm not supposed to say that.

I relayed all this frustration to the wrong friend a few days ago. He explained that all this crime was happening because of the frustration around the lagging economy. Perhaps people are really desperate when they have to feed their children.

Oh, boo fucking hoo.

About a year ago, I was forced to lay off four people in a corporate downsizing. Two men, two women. Three White, one Black. Except for the absence of a Hispanic person, this is a pretty good cross section of our population. Well, I'm happy to announce that all four have gotten jobs. In the past year, I never heard that any of them had resorted to crime in order to pay their food bills. I'm sure the times were tough and unsettling, but they got through it.

Without the unauthorized assistance of a stranger's debit card.

Meanwhile, on one of my past card thefts, over a thousand dollars was spent on stereo equipment down in Compton. I know how dire a family's plight can be when Dad is out of work and the boom box needs an upgrade.

Wait, I'm not supposed to say that, right?

So, President Obummer last week announces all these new regulations designed to keep banks and credit companies from gouging us all with fees. Don't get me wrong. Some of those charges are astronomical. But, I'm a weird guy. I tend not to get involved with a credit card that has the ability to raise the interest rate another 10 percent every six months. They're not doing that in secret, you know. It's always covered in all that fine print you so quickly signed off on when you ordered that new credit card. Sure, it's in a font size that could fit on the back of an aspirin, but it's there. In reality, the credit card company has done nothing wrong. And, surprise, surprise, in our happy world of free enterprise, they're a business and looking to make money. How dare they?

And, for every fatcat banking executive sitting in a Lincoln Town Car on top of a mound of an annual bonus, that same company also employs hundreds of worker bees also trying to put food on the table. If you restrict what that company can do to stay afloat, who gets thrown under the bus? The dude in middle management. The administrative assistant. The kid in the mailroom. They're all out of jobs now.

Ever wonder why credit card fees always get raised? Greed may be a portion of the equation, but not all of it. After all, where do you think a credit card company gets the money when they have to pay out for the five thousand dollars of bus tickets I didn't buy? The asshole has his trip to Bumfuck, Alabama and my account is credited for this fraud. But, Greyhound still got their dough. In truth, can you really blame the credit card company for raising a fee? How else can they pay for all the crime that has pretty allowed the thieves to get off scott free? And get a nice big hug from Auntie Bertha.

Since I'm now saying a lot of things that I'm not supposed to say, let me continue.

Healthcare reform. Yes, insurance companies can get a little piggy when it comes to large numbers at the bottom of their bills. But, again, they need to pay some freight to stay in business. Why is that so much harder these days? Ever look at an emergency room where non-emergencies are hogging up time and money? Tax dollars wasted because somebody would rather "use the system" than go to a regular physician when little Shaniqua has the sniffles. A good reason to overhaul the whole industry, right? I'll let you know the answer in ten years or so when I really need some medicine that I will no longer be eligible to get.

Yes, I know. I'm not supposed to say that.

Those banks are in a pickle, too. Overly regulated to the max since Jimmy Carter and his hillbilly family were keeping their broken washing machine on the White House south lawn, lenders were forced to give out mortgages to a bunch of people who had absolutely no business owning a home. So, when these lowlifes can't pay their mortgage because they just had to buy their kid that expensive pair of sneakers Kobe Bryant's been wearing, the whole housing market and our national economy collapses like Brittany Murphy in a shower stall. Yes, let's stop those evil banking nabobs at the top from getting their annual bonuses. But, in the process, even more lowly slobs pay the price. Truly industrious people who won't be able to make ends meet. And they won't have the luxurious benefit of my debit card.

I am sick to everloving death of listening to the morons in Washington prattling on and on about how big business is greedy and corrupt. Oh, sure, I bet some of their profit margins are padded. But they also are trying to stay afloat in light of how they are being robbed deaf, dumb, and blind by segments of our society who feel they are owed so much for doing so little.

Yes, I know. I'm not supposed to say that.

What I can say without reproach is that my credit and debit cards now have so many firewalls attached that I'm surprised even I can spend my own money. All because of that phantom creep out there. I can acknowledge that he does indeed exist.

I just can't say he's Hispanic or Black.

Even if he is.

Dinner last night: Bacon turkey burger at Islands.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Best Performance by a Wednesday in a Midweek Role

No 3-D glasses needed here. You'll be able to read the nastiness without them.

---The red carpet has been officially rolled up. And now you can finally make a 15 minute drive through Hollywood in the usual time.

---45 minutes.

---I'm always curious what happens to all the Hollywood Boulevard bums go when the Oscars take over the Kodak Theater.

---They could move them temporarily downtown, but they're liable to get mixed up with all the bums in City Hall.

---George Clooney didn't look like he wanted to be at the Oscars.

---Or maybe somebody reminded him that he got his start on "The Facts of Life."

---With Natalie, Blair, Jo, and Tootie.

---By the way, it's time for Barbra Streisand to put on her kerchief, pick up that bag of clothespins, and call it a career.

---Everybody is still making a big deal over which stars got left out of the dead roll call at the Oscars.

---Farrah Fawcett still can't get a break. First, she checks out just three hours before Michael Jackson. Now, the Academy includes him for his one film and forgets she made at least ten movies.

---Lousy movies, but ten nonetheless.

---A friend reminds me they forgot Beatrice Arthur, too.

---Bet you can't name three movies she did. Answers below. Don't read ahead.

---Meanwhile, I'm particularly pissed because they totally forgot another Hollywood star who croaked last June.

---GALE STORM, anybody????

---She made a ton of shit in the 40s. And, yes, it was shit, but still...

---No only did Hollywood make a lot of dough off Beatrice Arthur and GALE STORM, but the two of them singlehandedly kept several bartenders solvent.

---Driving around town on Oscar weekend is fun, because you see lots of parties happening at lots of restaurants.

---With lots and lots of gas guzzling stretch limos, town cars, and Escalades shuffling stars around.

---The same assholes who bark day in and day out about being "green."

---The one thing that Hollywood produces better than anybody else? Hypocracy.

---Watching the Oscars, I also made another observation. Unlike last year, nobody made much mention of Obama or hope or change.

---The closest thing you got to hope on Sunday night was a lobby poster of "The Road to Morocco" with Bob and Bing.

---And the only change anybody was concerned with was the coins they needed to tip the valet that brought around their Range Rover.

---GALE STORM!!!!

----Just reminding you again.

---Could it be that Tinseltown has jumped off the Obummer band wagon? Or maybe the Screen Actors Guild gets the shaft in the new healthcare plan?

---By the way, what will be over first? The discussion on the healthcare plan or that stupid hillbilly bank heist plot on 24?

---How do we get Jack Bauer to pistol whip Nancy Pelosi? Ideas, anybody??

---Meanwhile, I clocked this week's 24 episode at 43 minutes. So, essentially, the show should be retitled 17.2.

---You have a moment now to check my math. And that will give me another opportunity to...

---GALE STORM!!!!!!

---Will this week's disgraced New York politician please identify yourself?

---Nixon is probably looking down from heaven at all the shit in Washington and thinking, "You thought I was a crook?"

---There are certain photographic angles where Obummer's head really looks like my grandmother's sugar bowl.

---Who's a bigger thug? Sonny Corleone or Rahm Emanuel? Text your votes to me.

---Meanwhile, I have only one more thing to say.

---GALE STORM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And the three movies Bea Arthur was in? Lovers and Other Strangers. History of the World Part 1. Mame.

Dinner last night: Lasagna at Pecorino.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Saul and Heshe Talk the Oscars

Our old friends, Saul and Heshe, are two gristled Hollywood veterans. Yesterday, they had their post-Oscar lunch at Nate N' Al's in Beverly Hills and talked about what they had seen the night before. Chewing the fat as long as it's not on the pastrami.

"Oooh, boy, is the show over yet?"

"Oy, hello, hotel operator. Wake-up call and the morning temperature, please. Can Hollywood give this shit out in less than four hours?"

"By the time it was over, the red carpet had faded to pink."

"What was with that opening number? Does Doogie Howser now show up at every single awards ceremony?"

"People love him. I think he made an appearance at my last prostate exam. By the way, PSA under 4, thank you very much."

"Steve Martin was funny. Alec Baldwin? Needs to start eating more radishes and leafy greens. Smaller portions when you want a nosh."

"Yeah, more salad bar and less kvetching at the daughter. But I still miss Johnny Carson. Where was Bob Hope?"

"They're dead. Don't you read Variety?"

"I know, I know. I read Army Archerd."

"Yeah, well, he's dead, too. You need to start reading more on that world wide web."

"They were making out like Martin and Baldwin are this big comedy team. Hello? What did they make? One movie together?"

"It's not like they're Bud and Lou running around in Hold That Ghost with Joanie Davis."

"Did you see that girl from the Precious movie?"

"Vey iz mir. She's got a face only a social worker could love."

"I'm glad she didn't win. Would have taken another hour to get her out of the chair."

"No fooling. One Adam-12, Jaws of Life, please report to the front row at the Kodak."

"Did you see that crappy set? What was with all the lamp shades? They were on sale?"

"They shouldn't hang that stuff up in a room full of Jews, if you know what I mean. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge."

"And tell me what's so funny about that alter kocker Ben Stiller with the meshuggah blue make-up. He takes a bit and runs it into the ground."

"You would think he would know better about time. Didn't he even watch his parents on Ed Sullivan?"

"He's no Stiller and Meara? Hell, he's not even Wayne and Schuster."

"Jeff Bridges yakking and yakking and yakking. His father knew how to keep his mouth shut."

"Well, he was underwater all the time."

"They could have had Roger Ebert accept all the awards. Except he can't type that fast."

"All those dancers. Did you see? They were the same bums that hang outside on Hollywood Boulevard. And it's not like they got the good ones. What? Spiderman is so busy?"

"Yeah, but the dancing was still better than all those years with that big mouthed schvatzah Debbie Allen. Thank God she was home. Probably throwing chicken bones at the television screen."

"Jeez, did you get a load of Barbra Streisand? She looks like an old Jew woman."

"Hello, she is an old Jew woman. Two cards short of a canasta meld."

"And, Barbra bubbalah, a new dress once in a while? Update the wardrobe."

"Meanwhile, it's the same hair style she's wore since Garry Moore was smoking on television. Gorgeous, it's not like you're still running around Central Park singing Second Hand Rose. Fantastic Sams, please."

"Oy gevalt."

"Do you ever go see those things they nominate for shorts?"

"When they start to give out the awards for the shorts, that's when I go to the bathroom so I don't have an accident in my shorts."

"Damn small bladder. My urologist, feh."

"That Sandra Bullock is a nice girl. Reminds me of Gale Storm from My Little Margie. If I were thirty years younger and didn't have all this acid reflux..."

"You still wouldn't be able to nail her. Lauren Bacall is more your speed."

"Back in the day, she was everybody's speed. Bitch."

"Oooh, boy, oh, boy. What a bitch."

"And where was Farrah Fawcett when they showed the "here's who's dead now" thing? What? You all got short memories?"

"She didn't give you enough free samples of that Wella Balsam shampoo? But they had time to show that skinny little schvatzah Michael Jackson?"

"Also dead, according to the Hollywood Reporter."

"What the hell movie was he in? I didn't see him in Mad, Mad, Mad Mad, Mad, Mad World with Sid Caesar and Uncle Miltie. Oy vey."

"Well, at least, they didn't show our names. Still kicking. We're good to go for another year."

"Yeah, I'm alive. Knock wood. I don't hear my name on the Oscars? I go upstairs, take one of those pop-up pills, and k-boing! Then I try to get a little something off the missus."

Dinner last night: Hamburger and macaroni & cheese.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - March 8, 2010

I don't make this shit up. While you don't see any of the fight, my theater of the mind is imagining it all just fine.

Dinner last night: Taboulli pasta salad.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My Childhood Church

It's the Lenten season and that's a mandate for self reflection. So, I'll join in here on the next few Sundays. Self reflecting.

All about my childhood church which is pictured above in its current condition.

St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church on East 219th Street in the Bronx. Still there, although now there is the recent addition of a fellowship hall to the building's right. Remarkably, the main portion of the church looks the same as it did when I first walked through its doors when I was around four or five.

Actually, I was in there a little sooner than that. I was baptized there at the age of four months. Despite my usually astute photographic memory, I recall little about that day. I am guessing my parents were in attendance, although I would not be shocked if my mother stayed home with one of her sinus headaches. And I'm pretty sure the sprinkling of the water would have freaked me out. But, I figure this was one of those mega-family events that dragged out from the woodwork every distant relative or friend. After all, there was the post-christening promise of good food and even better booze.

It was fitting that my family was there in this church on that day because pretty much everybody in our tribe attended St. Peter's. In European countries around the turn of the 20th century, the village church was the fulcrum of all activity. Everybody was the cousin of somebody else. Or married to the cousin of somebody else. And all social activities centered around whichever steeple dominated the center of town.

Those traditions followed these folks when they migrated to the United States. My grandparents and their compatriots all came from Germany and landed within a ten block radius. The center of the circle? St. Peter's. And, from everything my grandmother told me, pretty much everything they did for fun back when had some direct or remote connection to the church. Dances, parties, weddings, funerals. My family alone probably managed to keep the place open 24/7.

Now, of course, Grandma's recollections to me about the church needed to be taken with several grains of salt. Or a whole container of Morton's Salt. Maybe even Lot's wife herself. Because, as I remember her stories, I have been able to now poke some holes into the plotline.

Grandma told me that our family helped to construct the church. I bought that hook, line, and sinker. Except my recent Internet research tells me the church was built in 1894, a good 10 to 15 years before my grandparents got off whatever boat they came over on. There were some other urban legends as well. When I heard that Jesus himself had gone to the hardware store with my grandfather to pick up some nails, I knew that Grandma's memory had become a little fuzzy.

But, the story she told about the gala party held to celebrate the burning of the church mortgage is valid. It is mentioned prominently still on the church's current website. This happened around 1944, smack in the middle of World War II. Grandma was also right about how devastating that war was for our church. Of the total congregation, there were almost seventy people who served overseas in the conflict. Indeed, there were five who did not come back. Grandma's son, my uncle and the person I was named after, was one of them.

I've recently gone through some of my parents' wedding photos and all of them show off St. Peter's Church in glorious black and white. Probably fitting that they were not in color since my mother had experienced a nasty sunburn that day. To get a healthy tan for the wedding, she had gone to an apartment rooftop, "Tar Beach," the day before. And promptly fell asleep. Still, the wedding photos of them exiting St. Peter's are still fun to look at.

Because, in retrospect, I don't remember seeing them at church very much when I was around.

While the church was a great part of my family's socializing early on, it became inexplicably less so once the next generation was born. Oh, the kids had to go to church. There was no hearing our argument otherwise. But, my parents, my aunts, and uncles seemed to get a hall pass on the in-person worship. From time to time, I would ask my mother why she didn't go to church.

"It's a long story."

I'd ask my father.

"It's a long story."

What had happened? I didn't understand. Grandma and Grandpa were still going. There was a conveniently scheduled German-spoken service every Sunday after the English worship. I asked Grandma why my parents didn't go to church.

"Go ask them."

Er, I did. It's apparently a long story.

And a mystery that was never ever solved for me.

But, dutifully, my dad would drive me there every week while I went to Sunday school, which began for me as soon as I entered kindergarten.

And sit in the car outside reading the Sunday funnies.

To be continued...

Dinner last night: Bacon turkey burger at Magnolia.