Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - May 31, 2010

Here's what not to do this summer.

Dinner last night: Bejing beef and fried rice at Panda Express.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Flag Ceremony

If you don't know how to properly fold an American flag for this Memorial Day weekend, the animated diagram above shows you how.

The good news is that I've known how since I was ten years old. Was I some sort of an Army brat?

Nope, I learned it all from Grandma.

In the house I grew up in, we had a big honking flag pole cemented right in the middle of the front yard. It actually stretched past our apartment on the second floor. It was as big as any you might find in front of the most important of Federal buildings. But it was all ours. Right there where my grandmother could easily see it from her first floor living room window.

More importantly, we used it on all the national holidays. Come Memorial Day or the Fourth of July or even Veteran's Day in November, I would hear the hallway closet downstairs creak open. I'd envision the boxes being moved this way or that. The smell of mothballs would waft up to the second floor.

Yep, Grandma was rooting around for the American flag again.

I'd walk around the neighborhood and not see a lot of the same patriotism on these holidays. Certainly, not an American flag being hoisted up a huge pole at the crack of dawn. But, that's what my grandparents did like clockwork.

After my grandfather died, I could no longer exist in mere passive curiousity.

"You gonna help me now."

Okay, Grandma. I figured it was only going to be a slight diversion to my day of play. Yet, I had no idea how seriously she took this ceremony. The way in which the flag was unfolded. How it was handled with the utmost of care.

And, at the end of the day, the precise folding of the banner. Military style. To the strictest of code. My first few attempts did not go well.

"No, no, no. Not that way. This way!"

The words had a sharp tone. Grandma meant business with this. And I was treating it all like Gomer Pyle, USMC.

After a while, I got it. And we responded on every holiday. Granted we weren't a bunch of Marines following the flag over President John F. Kennedy's casket. But Grandma and I got into a neat rhythm when it was time to put the flag away. We did it as flawlessly as we could. Moreover, we did it with the proper amount of respect.

Several years later, I asked my father about that tradition. What was I missing? What was behind the flag ceremony?

"Well, you do know that's the flag that covered your uncle's casket?"

A funeral held in the south of France where he was killed in the waning days of World War II. A ceremony that nobody in the family had attended. For my grandmother's son. The person I was ultimately named after.

No, Dad, I didn't know that.

In this recent picture of that house years after I left it, the flagpole stands as tall as ever.

Without the flag. Without me and Grandma standing at the base, momentarily watching it proudly flap in the gentle breeze.

Except for the memories, that flagpole stands. Simply and utterly just there.

Dinner last night: BBQ Ribs at Boho.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Classic TV Theme of the Month - May 2010

One of my alltime favorites finally out there on the web and soon on DVD. The theme song montage features the largest contingent of people that I have met or dealt with. Kaye Ballard, the late Herb Rudley, Jerry Fogel, the late Deborah Walley, the late Bob Carroll Jr. and, of course, Madelyn Davis.

Dinner last night: Pepperoni sandwich back in LA.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Soldier Writes...

As we begin our Memorial Day weekend, it might be appropriate for us to consider the words of this 95-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor. He is pictured above. His letter has made its way around the Internet and has been proven to be legit. This was not composed in some rightwing think tank. This is merely one soldier talking to his commander last fall. A plea to the Chief Executive of our country.

Dear President Obama,

My name is Harold Estes, approaching 95 on December 13 of this year. People meeting me for the first time don't believe my age because I remain wrinkle free and pretty much mentally alert.

I enlisted in the US Navy in 1934 and served proudly before, during, and after WWII retiring as a Master Chief Bos'n Mate. Now I live in a "rest home" located on the western end of Pearl Harbor, allowing me to keep alive the memories of 23 years of service to my country.

One of the benefits of my age, perhaps the only one, is to speak my mind, blunt and direct here to the head man.

So here goes.

I am amazed, angry and determined not to see my country die before I do, but you seem hell bent not to grant me that wish.

I can't figure out what country you are the president of. You fly around the world telling our friends and enemies despicable like:

"We're no longer a Christian nation."

"America is arrogant."

Your wife even announced to the world, "America is mean-spirited." Please tell her to try preaching that nonsense to 23 generations of our war dead buried all over the globe who died for no other reason than to free a whole lot of strangers from tyranny and hopelessness.

I'd say shame on the both of you, but I don't think you like America, nor do I see an ounce of gratefulness in anything you do, for the obvious gifts this country has given you. To be without shame or gratefulness is a dangerous things for a man sitting in the White House.

After 9/11 you said, "America hasn't lived up to her ideals."

Which ones did you mean? Was it the notion of personal liberty that 11,000 farmers and shopkeepers died for to win independence from the British? Or maybe the ideal that no man should be a slave to another man, that 500,000 men died for in the Civil War? I hope you didn't mean the ideal 470,000 fathers, brothers, husbands, and a lot of fellas I knew personally died for in WWII, because we felt real strongly about not letting any nation push us around, because we stand for freedom.

I don't think you mean the ideal that says equality is better than discrimination. You know the one that a whole lot of white people understood when they helped to get you elected.

Take a little advice from a very old geezer, young man.

Shape up and start acting like an American. If you don't, I'll do what I can to see you shipped out of that fancy rental on Pennsylvania Avenue. You were elected to lead not to bow, apologize and kiss the hands of murderers and corrupt leaders who still treat their people like slaves.

And just what do you think you are telling the American people not to jump to conclusions and condemn that Muslim major who killed 13 of his fellow soldiers and wounded dozens more. You mean you don't want us to do what you did when that white cop used force to subdue that black college professor in Massachusetts, who was putting up a flight? You don't mind offending the police calling them stupid but you don't want us to offend Muslim fanatics by calling them what they are, terrorists.

One more thing. I realize you never served in the military and never had to defend your country with your life, but you're the Commander-in-Chief now, son. Do your job. When your battle-hardened field General asks you for 40,000 more troops to complete the mission, give them to him. But if you're not in this fight to win, then get out. The life of one American soldier is not worth the best political strategy you're thinking of.

You could be our greatest president because you face the greatest challenge ever presented to any president. You're not going to restore American greatness by bringing back our bloated economy. That's not our greatest threat.

Losing the heart and soul of who we are as Americans is our big fight now. And I sure as hell don't want to think my president is the enemy in this final battle...

Sincerely, Harold B. Estes.

I'll add one more word.


Dinner last night: Prosciutto, provolone, and sweet peppers sandwich from Angelo's Deli in Yonkers. Italian sandwiches always taste better in NY.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Obstructed View

Met fans have been bitching about lousy sightlines in the new Citi Field. Well, it could be worse.

Try this seat in the Minnesota Twins' new stadium. Gee, what part of the baseball diamond are you missing?

Dinner last night: Salad.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday in New York

Wednesday has it all over Sunday in New York. Even if Jack Jones never sang about it.

---Times Square, pictured above, has gotten even more garish. The lights are so bright that you could look up and have Lasix surgery on any street corner.

---It's astounding the number of chain restaurants all over the Great Bright Way. Hello, can we get out of the freakin' food court, folks.

---Because nothing says "pre-theater dinner" more than some microwaved spaghetti from the Olive Garden.

---I look at the lines in the Hershey Chocolate store and I wonder why Michelle Obama hasn't put this on her hate list.

---Because nothing says "post-theater dessert" more than a handful of Hershey Kisses down the gullet.

---There should be a screening process in place before anybody purchases Broadway tickets.

---If you don't have a driver's license with a New York or California address, there are no tickets available for you.

---Before I start getting hate comments, I am making some notable exceptions to selected friends and relatives in Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Texas.

---All others can sit home and watch "Wheel of Fortune."

---Or wait for the next production at your local dinner theater. Adrian Zmed and Audrey Landers starring in "My Fair Lady."

---If you wants my other recommendations on how to "thin the herd," please forward them to me in a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

---You could start by closing down every airport west of Chicago, north of Dallas, and east of Los Angeles.

---Those folks want to vacation? That's what Las Vegas is for. Have yourself a time.

---Another warm weather season has begun and you know what that means? Idiots walking into an airplane restroom with no shoes on.

---You might be used to wading through a lot of urine, but I'm not.

---The same people doing that are also the ones who buy hand sanitizers by the boxful at Walmart.

---These are the days where America needs to be viewed with a laugh track.

---That Gulf oil spill reminds me of an old plotline on "Dallas."

---Obummer has really hopped to it, hasn't he? Essentially trying to clean it all up with a Bounty Towel.

---The Quicker Picker Upper.

---Everybody says that the oil catastrophe was an act of nature. Just like Katrina.

---Except you couldn't blame a hurricane on a major corporation.

---Speaking of POTUS, I watched him last week on one of the news shows. The guy looks like shit.

---The white in the hair is starting to make him look like Benson on "Soap."

---If he looks that bad after a year and a half, who knows what we will see in 2012.

---Mr. Jane Pittman.

---The major nightly news programs finally took him to task on the oil snafu. Finally.

---Even Darla on the Little Rascals probably had to take a dose of castor oil every once in a while.

---Rumor has it that Obummer is skipping the usual Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony at Arlington to spend some vacation time in Chicago.

---Is it a law or something that the President has to go to the cemetery on Memorial Day?

---But, as long as he gets to spend some quality time at "Cominsky Park."

---They're sending Vice Dumbbell Biden instead to Arlington. I can envision this comment from him while standing at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

---"What's his name again?"

---The guy is completely lost. Lost as in addled, not lost as in a TV series finale everybody but me watched last Sunday.

---I was not a fan of the show. Watched the first six episodes of the first season and was just like the title says.


---I did, however, relish in the last two hours of Jack Bauer's final day. Terrific acting.

---And, for once, the noise wasn't ear splitting.

---Although one guy had his bitten off.

---24, I will miss you.

As for this Wednesday, 11:59:59 PM...and out.

Dinner last night: Hanger steak at Bobby Flay's Bar Americain in NY.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Can I Have Your Autograph?

I've never quite understood the big deal about celebrity autographs. You have a name on a piece of paper or a picture and it means what? Maybe they address it to you specifically and this gets you what? Perhaps you are so damn proud of it that you hang it on a wall and who is actually going to be impressed by this?

Yeah, I don't get it. Oh, I have a few strewn around someplace. When I was about twelve, I wrote a fan letter to Paul Lynde and he sent me an autographed photo. Frankly, it was a lot more memorable years later when I interviewed the guy for the college radio station. I went to book signings for Milton Berle and Audrey Meadows, but I did so more for the chance to shake hands with a TV legend. More recently, I went to Valerie Bertinelli's book signing. If you're on this blog regularly, I need not explain more my reasons for being there. Her scrawl adorns this entry.

Still, I have these peoples' signatures and it's no big deal. I've only really sought them if there is a really special reason to do so. When we were writing a project with Linda Ellerbee, I knew that TV writer/producer Marc Cherry was a big fan of hers. He was really impressed that we were working for her. So, we got him a specially autographed copy of her book. He loved the gesture. It meant something to him. And, to me, that's when an autograph makes sense.

Living in Hollywood, I suppose I should be knee deep in celebrity autographs. But I'm not. If opportunities arise in public meet and greets at Hollywood screenings, I might ask for a joint photo. Or, when the Aero Theater ran "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad," I made a point of getting some face time with Kathryn Grant Crosby to ask about "The Big Circus." When Shirley Jones was there for a screening of "Elmer Gantry," I asked for a snapshot with her, primarily because an old friend of mine is a big fan.

Yet, nine times out of ten, I'll see a celebrity out and about and I will leave them alone. Do you want to be stopped by some stranger when you're trying to pick up your dry cleaning? Probably not. And neither does anybody else. So while it is tempting, I leave them alone. I don't talk to them. I don't pester. As a matter of fact, there are several folks that I have seen more times than I have seen some friends. Teri Hatcher? In several restaurants, the Arclight Cinemas, and a few stores. Jon Voight? In the supermarket, the movies, and in the row ahead of me on a flight to NY. Richard Benjamin? Several different drugstores. Bob Newhart? You name it. Walgreen's, Ralph's, the gas station, Best Buy.

The closest I've come to breaking my self-imposed moratorium is when I was standing on the popcorn and candy line at the Egyptian Theater alongside Ron Howard for a "Guns of Navarone" screening. I came close. Almost. I like and respect the guy. Ultimately, I didn't. Why not? Some stooge ran over.

"Ron, will you sign this napkin for me?"

And there it is. The quintessential Hollywood autograph seeker. The one who will go to any length whatsoever to annoy the absolute shit out of some celebrity.

When any star is scheduled to be in attendance at a book signing or a screening, these assholes show up in droves. Usually dressed in Old Navy hand-me-downs and frequently carrying around a shopping bag full of dog-eared memorabilia that is desperately in need of the finishing touch. Somebody's John Hancock.

And these graduates from Loser University pull no punches in their relentless need for emotional validation. They're funny to watch. They're pathetic to watch. But, nevertheless, they are among us with little shame and a very high threshold for personal embarrassment. Grown people with sweat stains on their shirts and underwear logos sticking out of their waist bands. Yet, they consider themselves totally entitled to a fleeting moment with Rhonda Fleming as she writes her name across some 1940s photo of her in a bathing suit.

Watching them in action, I want to laugh. I want to cry. More importantly, as a joint member of this society, I want to crawl under a rock and hide.

Last Saturday night, at an Egyptian Theater screening of "Funny Girl," it got super ugly. For me, in particular.

For some mystical reason, the unspooling of the film was going to be preceded by introductions from the in-person producers of "Glee," as well as one of the megahit's stars, Lea Michele. This dragged out every Sharpie-equipped leech within a five mile area of the theater. Watching these numbskulls prep for the expected appearance of Lea, I was astounded and repulsed by their brazenness. Running here, running there as if Jesus Christ was arriving with fish and loaves of bread. One fat chick went so far as to physically lift up the movie screen curtain looking for an electrical plug so she could recharge her digital camera. Any aspect of dignity had long since touched any of their lives.

Since the "Glee" folks stayed for the entire movie, there are even more predators lurking in the parking lot outside. Because the thought of even leaving Lea Michele with one single moment to herself on this Saturday night was an alien concept to these morons. They blocked the exitway with their posters and calendars. As I walked past one such obese oaf, I made an aside to my friend.

"These people need to get a life."

There was nothing wrong with the oaf's hearing. And I hadn't simply touched a nerve. I had molested it. And he called after me as I kept walking.


Okay, fat? Who isn't a little at this age? Old? A subject for debate. Mother fucking? Not that I can recall. Crippled? Okay, a little arthritic and stiff after a two-and-a-half hour movie. Faggot? Er, no. And, given that this "guy's" screams were reminiscent of Minnie Mouse, this dummy obviously has defective Gaydar.

I wanted to turn around and answer back. Maybe something about him going home to sleep in the same bed with his mother as he pets the eight or nine cats that live in the house. But, I didn't. I kept walking. Well, actually, I kept on limping.

And wondering.

Is this as bad as it gets for the world around us? Or, in these days of TMZ, is the worst yet to come?

The next day, I mentioned the exchange to another friend. And she lamented that this is the way some people make a living. By getting signatures and then selling them on e-Bay or the internet.

And what's worse than some goofballs selling these autographs?

Somebody's obviously out there buying them.

Dinner last night: Pizza in NY to celebrate the end of 24.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - May 24, 2010

What guys really think when they see a trailer for "Sex and the City 2..."

Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich.

Tomorrow: From Nueva York.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Train to the Game

My weekly memory dumps about baseball in my pre-teen years end for a while after today. But, first, I harken back to turning thirteen years of age. And what's so important about that particular benchmark?

It was the age where I had started to go to baseball games by myself. Well, not alone completely. But clearly without adult supervision. Specifically, my father.

Think about it. The time was not that long ago when a couple of new teenagers could pop on the NYC subway without a single worry. These days, if you'd find a thirteen-year-old on the subway by himself, the parents would be expecting an emergency call from Social Services. Back then, we didn't blink an eye. And, frankly, neither did our folks, who were clearly not ogres. It simply was a different era for all of us.

The summer of my thirteenth year found us with this wonderful and new independence. Waiting around for my father's vacation day in order to get to a Met game in Queens turned out to be a drag. Jeez, I'm old enough. I'm already taking public transportation to get to confirmation class and church in the Bronx. Shea Stadium would just be an extended trip. A little bit longer ride.

A 90 minute subway ride to be exact.

Amazingly, the aforementioned argument sailed past the parental judges without a pause for lengthy deliberation. Yes, you can go. As long as it's a day game. And as long as you don't go by yourself.

Well, of course not. Duh. What fun would that be?

As was usually the cases in those days, my typical part in crime and fun was Leo, my buddy from "up the block." He apparently had been rewarded the same clearance from his folks and was primed for a foray into parts of the NY metropolitan area unknown. We worked out a handshake deal on our baseball travels. If he, as a Yankee fan, would go to a Met game with me, I would reciprocate with an excursion to the House That Ruth Built. Such diplomacy and civility is uncommon in society today.

All treks would commence at the 241st Street Subway station, which was a mere blocks away from our homes. Setting out for a baseball game was akin to prepping for a climb up Mount Everest. Once we boarded the trains on the elevated tracks shown above, we would be casting our fates to the gods. And spending a helluva lot of time underground.

The first ten or so minutes on the train was familiar to us. We knew the stops from our past travels to the Wakefield Theater on 233rd Street or my church on 219th Street. Once we got to the first major hub of Gun Hill Road, we steeled ourselves a little bit tighter on those dirty gray seats. We were on less familiar turf.

After we passed through the West Farms Square station heading into the South Bronx, all bets were off. As far as we were concerned, we might as well have been going on an African safari. Unarmed. There were so many stations and train stops. At platforms that scared us just a little. We were not in Mayberry anymore.

174th Street. Freeman Street. Simpson Street.

Hmm, red lights in some of the windows? We were young, but we knew what that meant. Even then.

Intervale Avenue. Prospect Avenue. Jackson Avenue.

We were still on an elevated track. We could see all the treachery around us. We waited for the cool and dark vastness of the subway tunnel at 149th Street and Third Avenue. Sure, the evil would still be there. But, at least, we wouldn't have to see it anymore.

To get to Shea Stadium, we needed to change trains for the Flushing Line at Time Square. You couldn't miss those subway cars headed for Queens. They were painted an ugly pale blue color that now reminds me of an Al Sharpton leisure suit. While figuring out how to maneuver this intricate deviation in travel direction, we would try to get a snack in a place that was virtually snackless. You could try and step over a bum to get a hot dog from a vendor that hadn't cleaned his grill since LaGuardia was mayor. There were gum and candy machines. You might pull the lever for Juicy Fruit and wind up with a package of Sensen.

And, of course, there were the soda machines. Not like the ones we know today with the cans and the bottles. These gave you a cup with some ice. But it was really as dicey as the most crooked roulette wheel in Vegas. You'd put in your coins, pulled the knob for the soda flavor of your choice, and then held your breath. Down came the cup. No ice. No syrup. Only seltzer.

Try it again. Down came the syrup. Down came the ice. No cup.

Try it again. Down came the seltzer. No syrup. No ice. No cup.

One last time. Ice tumbled onto your shoes. And that was it.

We usually found up getting to our baseball game with a critical case of dehydration.

The first time Leo and I journeyed out to Shea, our timing was way off. Who knew how to efficiently manage time in such far off locales? We wound up getting to Shea Stadium two hours before the game. Not even the Mets were there yet. We mounted up to our seats in the Mezzanine and found ourselves squarely next to a drunken Puerto Rican guy. There was nobody but groundskeepers on the field. But, that didn't stop this liquored-up idiot who might have boarded our train at Intervale Avenue.

"Lezz go Mezz. Lezz go Mezz!"

We moved the first chance we got.

The second game at Yankee Stadium was a little easier. First of all, the subway ride was shorter. We changed trains this time at 149th Street-Grand Concourse for the one stop uptown on the Jerome Avenue line. Before you knew it, the grand fortress of Mickey Mantle & Company loomed up like Godzilla rising from the ocean.

On that hot July day, Leo and I had scored some sweet seats in the front row of the field level just past first base. The only problem was that we were not alone. This time, in place of a pickled Puerto Rican, we had gnats. Lots and lots and lots of gnats. They loved our clothes. They loved our ears. They wanted to travel up our nostrils.

Despite the infestation, it was still a great day. Because we were now on our own. Going to baseball games. And, moreover, we could be trusted to get home in one piece.

A change-of-life moment. And one that made it a slamdunk for the next stage of my baseball existence.

The following year was my very first in those Loge Section 7 seats at Shea Stadium every Saturday afternoon. Two chairs that would be with me for most of my life.

Dinner last night: Chicken panini at Pitfire Pizza.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - May 2010

If you don't like this movie, you're not alive.

Dinner last night: Super Dodger Dog.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Your Weekend Movie Guide - May 2010

Mount Vernon, New York. The 1950s. In the distance, you'll see RKO Proctor's where I spent many hours as a kid staring at the magic on the silver screen. Every Friday afternoon, my mother would pick me up after school. A quick bite to eat at the Bee Hive restaurant. And then a double feature.

Yeah, that doesn't happen now. Back when, even the junk on a lousy double bill was better than the absolute shit Hollywood is passing off as prime entertainment these days.

You know the monthly drill. I'll flip through the LA Times movie pages and give you my knee-jerk reaction to what's available to see this weekend. My guess is? There's very little.

Letters to Juliet: Sending it back "address unknown." Find a single guy in a theater where this is playing. I dare you.

Shrek Forever After: Truly the frozen pizza of movie franchises. I've seen them all and can't recall a single moment by the time I've exited the theater and arrived at my car. This is allegedly the last one. Uh huh. If you buy that, then you'll believe Obummer just appointed Lindsay Lohan as his newest economics czar.

Just Wright: Queen Latifah doing her best Katherine Heigl impression in a dreary romantic comedy. She might not be just impersonating Heigh. It's possible she swallowed her whole.

Iron Man 2: The first one was ingenious and smart, thanks in large part to Robert Downey Jr.'s performance. Naturally, Hollywood can't leave well enough alone. I hear the sequel is a mess the size of the Gulf of Mexico.

Robin Hood: From Errol Flynn to Russell Crowe. Who says the world is getting better?

Babies: A documentary that chronicles the first year of life with four different babies around the world. As if any of them do anything different? They spit up, they cry, and they poop. End of movie. Roll credits, please.

Please Give: A very smart comedy that I saw last weekend. A bunch of weird New Yorkers intersect. See it once just to watch Ann Morgan Guilbert, formerly Millie Halper of the old "Dick Van Dyke Show," play a deliciously cranky old lady.

Macgruber: Just one more in a series of examples that demonstrate SNL sketches do not translate to the big screen.

Kick-Ass: Okay, you can officially remove this from the theaters. I have it under good authority that all the mindless 18 to 24ers in America have already seen it.

Exit Through the Gift Shop: Some dopey documentary about a street artist. Only our country would devote this much time and attention to a vandal.

Death at a Funeral: A Blacked-up remake of a comedy that originally came out only three years ago. See it with your most politically incorrect friend. I did.

Harry Brown: Michael Caine, who refuses now to say "no" to any script, as a senior citizen vigilante. In between killing muggers, I bet he still has time to take an afternoon nap.

Nightmare on Elm Street: You know things are rotten when Hollywood starts remaking movies that were downright shitty in the first place.

Solitary Man: Michael Douglas as a former car dealer who lost his business, tries to get back on his feet. I am thinking this is going to do zero box office in Michigan. Who wants to pay $12.00 to see their own miserable lives played out in front of them?

Best Worst Movie: A look at the critically panned cult classic "Troll 2." I've never heard of it. And there was a "Troll 1?" Never heard of that either. Where have I been? Well, obviously, not in theaters playing crappy movies.

The Father of My Children: A filmmaker and his family struggle with his suicidal despair. And hilarity ensues??? Would a Blacked-up version of this movie be "The Fathers of My Children?"

Holy Rollers: A Hasid youth struggles with his beliefs and and faith when he begins smuggling Ecstasy in the late 90s. As long as he's not doing it on a Saturday, what's the problem?

Mother and Child: Reunion is only a motion away. That's a quick way of saying I know nothing about this movie.

The Secret in Their Eyes: I know even less. And, shit, it doesn't even connect to a lousy Paul Simon song.

How To Train Your Dragon in 3-D: That apartment is only one bedroom. If you really need to train your dragon, 4-J is much bigger.

Furry Vengeance: Brendan Fraser vs. some CGI critters. Obviously, Brendan has been getting career tips from Michael Caine. Remember the immortal words of Nancy Reagan? Just say no.

Princess Kaiulani: For those of you masochists looking for a history lesson on Hawaii, this is your movie. As for me, I'll simply wait for the next incarnation of Jack Lord and Kam Fong.

Kites: An Indian romantic comedy. Seriously. Sleepless in New Delhi. One question: who'll be manning the phones this weekend at Dell Computer?

Dinner last night: Proscuitto and roasted red peppers on sourdough bread.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

24 x 8 = 192

Next Monday, Jack Bauer wraps up his last ever television day with the two-hour series finale. Fans of the show will know that, at the moment, Jack is a vigilante looking for revenge and walking seemingly unnoticed through the streets of Manhattan. Bernie Goetz must be relishing this plotline with a big pan of Jiffy Pop on his lap.

So, "24" has gotten super expensive Fox is now opting out so they can move their anti-hero to the multiplexes with a series of movies. Will audiences be asked to sit through a 24-hour movie? Well, the plan is to condense a full day's action into two hours. Or, given the way today's directors don't know how to edit, three hours.

But, that's the future and we should be here to salute the past. Eight years of really compelling television. Eight days that, with commercial breaks reducing each hour to 45 minutes, really only totals six days. In reality, Jack owes us another two days of frenzy. But why quibble? This has been great drama and certainly is not your average episode of "One Tree Hill."

If you ever watch "24" and stop to think about it logically for even thirty seconds, you'd realize how utterly preposterous it all is. Jack could navigate the freeways of LA and get from the ocean to Riverside in about 15 minutes. Never once in all these years of Socal driving has Bauer ever hit a SIG Alert or Caltrans working on the road. Meanwhile, going home from nighttime Dodger games, I usually hit one of these roadblocks on an average of twice a month. Of course, Jack has Chloe back at CTU letting him know where those delays are. I have to rely on Captain Jorge in the KABC helicopter.

In eight seasons of "24," I've counted five different US Presidents. Or was there six? I forget who took over when President Wayne Palmer suffered injuries when a bomb went off at one of his press conferences. Was the replacement sworn in or wasn't he? Not an issue for "24." That would have required some deep thinking. Meanwhile, the show gave us not one, but two Black Presidents long before Obummer ditched his Chicago clipboard for the Oval Office. And, frankly, I would have voted for both of them over the White Sox' "number 1 fan." And, the last sitting "24" President was a woman who has beaten Hillary to the punch in a big way. Frankly, most of these Chief Executives on "24" can govern rings around the dodos we've elected to the White House. Another reason why "24" is so frequently unbelievable. Their Presidents actually deserve respect.

I came to "24" late. I started to watch in its fourth season, mainly because they had added William Devane to the cast as the Secretary of State. In the first episode, I had no clue what was happening, except there was an explosion every five minutes and part of LA was demolished. What's not to like about that? But, as with every new day on "24," the new characters and plotlines start to crystalize by the second hour and you are sucked into this visual Oreck Vacuum. It is impossible to turn away.

After Day 4 had ended, I had to see what I had missed in the first three days. So I started Netflixing them in order. I wound up watching the first three seasons in the space of one month. I was totally caught up. And clinically deaf in one ear.

Just before Season 5, I was walking through my Westwood neighborhood and saw some TV production signs on all the street poles. "24 will be shooting here next week. Expect to hear gunfire." Woo hoo. As if gunfire would be an alien noise in Los Angeles? When it's too quiet outside, I call the cops. Nevertheless, the scenes in my hood were the ones where then ex-President David Palmer was assassinated in his Wilshire high-rise apartment. And this wasn't the first time there was a dead ex-President near my house, since the year before they had carted the dead Ronald Reagan past my living room window. No, wait. Which one was the real President and which wasn't? "24" tends to leave its fans hopelessly confused.

Every season on "24" you can count on one character at CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) turning out to be a mole. This had led me to a serious distrust of most of the people that I work with on a daily basis. Had Fox been cognizant of this growing trend in the workplace, they could have made a fortune marketing "24" endorsed tazers. Perfect for that asshole who forgot to reload paper in the Xerox machine. Unfortunately, the studio missed this golden opportunity and we've all had to resort to the black market for our weapons against office supply thievery.

"24" was also remarkable in its ability to define our international enemies long before they came into fashion. Russians? Bad. The Chinese? Bad. The Koreans? Stupid and bad. Muslims? They hide it well, but still bad. And the US Government always recognizes it on "24," and this pretty much explains why the Obama family must be always tuned "Dancing With the Stars" instead.

"24" often got sighted for displaying acts of torture. Scenes like this were always proceeded with a viewer warning. That was a alert to me that I needed to pay even closer attention. With a smile on my face and a Klondike Bar in my hand.

This past day, we got some really delicious methods of "interrogation." One dirtbag swallowed a microchip of information and, in order to remove it from the guy's innards, Jack gutted him like a flounder at the Fulton Fish Market. Not before enhancing the wound pain with some lighter fluid and a blow torch. And the annual CTU mole this season spent an entire episode getting waterboarded and I finally got an idea how harsh this treatment is. It also made me wish that it was the focal point of a new program on the Game Show Network.

The main reason all this nonsense always seemed to be utterly believable was due to the terrific work of actor Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer. And that's a preposterous statement on its own. Good acting? Kiefer Sutherland? Still, Sutherland made it all work as he stripped Jack of one emotional layer after another. It was the role of a lifetime and it's no wonder that he wants to continue it on the big screen. What else is he going to do? Sit in a bar and drink? Oh, he'll probably do that, too.

Yep, "24" was often a mess. But it held our attention, engaged our emotions, and, in a bizarre way, gave us hope. That television can be good. And that the government could make smart decisions once in a while.

When that first movie is done, I'll be there on the opening weekend. With a smile on my face. And a Klondike Bar in my hand.

But, wait! As I write this, Hollywood is rampant with rumors. The proposed "24" movie is a smokescreen and Jack is really "killed" in the last episode. That would be the ultimate and final trick up the producers' sleeves.

Oh, what the hell. I can still have that Klondike Bar and wait to tazer that jerk down the hall who steals my paper clips.

Dinner last night: Lasagna.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Let's All Boycott Wednesday

Except that would be no fun.

---And, if we did, this blog would be missing a day by the end of the week.

---And, by the end of the year, we'd be four weeks behind.

---New Year's Eve would then be tied to Thanksgiving as "the holidays."

---How stupid is boycotting Wednesday? About as stupid as boycotting the state of Arizona. Like these dumbbells were doing in front of the Staples Center before last Monday night's Laker game.

---Props and kudos to Coach Phil Jackson for telling it like it is. And stating that this is all about the federal government not doing the one thing it's been entrusted to do by the Constitution. Protect the borders.

---So, these assholes stand in front of the Staples Center and bitch about what he said. Meanwhile, they probably would have been there anyway.

---Selling T-shirts illegally.

---Hawking spaces in parking lots for extraorbitant fees. Illegally.

---Selling hot dogs wrapped in bacon on grills that haven't been cleaned since the days of Magic Johnson.


---And quite a few of them are standing there on American terra firma. Illegally.

---Mayor Villaramoron has announced that the city of LA is going to boycott Arizona, too. That's fine since I've been boycotting him since he got into office.

---I'll listen to what this jackass has to say when he stops using daily press briefings like a college mixer. He's screwed more reporters than the Tribune Company.

---If any of these nimcompoops would read the freakin' Arizona bill, they would see there is no racial profiling allowed.

---Of course, you have to read it to know that. Why would anybody want to comment on something they haven't read?

---You might want to ask US Attorney General Eric Holder who admitted not reading it on live television.

---I'm not surprised. Looking at this dummy, I am guessing the only thing he reads on a daily basis is Marmaduke.

---Meanwhile, Holder's publicly denying the existence of radical Islamics in this country.

---Saying there are no terrorists running around this nation is sort of like saying there's good acting in a porno film.

---And, speaking of illegals, when do we get to shitcan Obummer's Auntie Zeituni who's been living here illegitimately for years? In public housing!

---A judge has decreed that she can stay and, of course, what black robe was actually going to be the one to deport a relative of the President?

---She didn't want to go back to Kenya because of violence there. Has she ever seen a Walmart in Hempstead, Long Island the day after Thanksgiving?

---Yes, I know she's old. Yes, I know she's a wheelchair.

---Don't we have enough folks here legally who are old and in wheelchairs?

---I still find it hilarious that Obummer wrote lovingly about this old hag in his book. Scribed that she was an amazing influence on his life.

---As soon as it came out that she was living on taxpayer dollars, he suddenly announces that he had lost track of her over the years.

---Gee, I don't talk to my relatives all the time. But I certainly know where to find them if I had to.

---And, even better, they're all legal citizens.

---I think.

---More double standards from the Oval Office. First Lady Michelle Obummer, clearly bored with not getting to scream at anybody in a law office anymore, has finally adopted a cause.

---Fat kids. Because only she knows what we should be eating.

---When the fuck did she become Mary Poppins?

---Every once in a while, it's okay to have a spoonful of sugar.

---Just be happy your kid isn't swallowing a spoonful of Ajax.

---If this harpie is so damned health-conscious, she ought to look across at the guy on the other side of her Serta sleeper.

---Hey, Barry, what about those nicotine stains on your fingers?

---And that ketchup smear on your shirt?

---The lipstick mark on your collar.

---Ooops, wrong President.

---FLOTUS will be happy to know that there is very low "Calories from Fat" content in this blog.

---More nonsense that I can't make up: Woody Allen, who hasn't made a decent movie since Reagan was President, has stated that the American people should allow Obummer to be a dictator for a few years so he can get some good things done.

---Er, Woodman, thinking back to another dictator, how many decent Jewish relatives did you lose?

---Of course, Woody has also just come out in total support of the exiled Roman Polanski.

---What would you expect from somebody who slept with and then married his own step daughter?

---Only in Hollywood: a friend of mine spotted actress Jamie Lee Curtis in the check-out line at the supermarket.

---Her cart was filled with two items. That Activia. And several rolls of toilet tissue.

---Obviously, the shit works. Literally.

Dinner last night: Polish sausage and chips at the Dodger game.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

For Your Netflix Consideration: Bandslam

I can never figure out the movie audiences of today. They line up on opening weekends to see pure crap. And then they ignore completely good stuff that disappears from the multiplexes faster than David Blaine in Times Square. Thanks to Netflix, the smart movie crowd, led by yours truly, can catch up to the films that were ceremoniously dismissed by the CGI-addled assholes.

Such is the case with a little gem called "Bandslam." I vaguely remember some positive reviews for this movie, but once I got around to seeking it out, you needed Sherlock Holmes to find out. Sherlock Holmes the detective, not the sewer swill of a film that opened last Christmas. More movie crap. But I digress.

I popped "Bandslam" onto my future Netflix queue and, like the rest of Hollywood, promptly forgot about it. Well, it finally turned up in a red envelope and now I feel bad about never giving it a second thought. It's a flick that deserves your attention.

The movie came out last year before the TV premiere of "Glee." In light of the latter's success, "Bandslam" should get a second look as it really is the forerunner to the high school glee club saga. It tells the tale of a high school rock band competition in the Northeast. Is it real? Who knows? The movie is set in a Lodi, New Jersey high school, but it was totally filmed in Austin, Texas. Save for that lapse in authenticity, "Bandslam" feels completely real and organic.

Teenager Will Brown is a professional and experienced high school outcast who now finds himself in a new school with all new neuroses ready to bloom, which he explains in his regular one-way e-mail conversations with David Bowie. In an attempt to fit in, he gravitates toward two chicks, Charlotte and Sa5m. Yes, that's her name. The "5" is silent. Will works with Charlotte at a ultra bizarre elementary school art class, where the kids snack on teriyaki beef jerky in between regular ingestions of paste. His relationship with Sa5m is a bit more personal as their mutual lacks of self esteem mesh beautifully.

Will's saving grace is a thorough knowledge of music from rock to the most sublime, given that the girls discover "Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell on his iPod. This bunch, along with a few other miscreants from the cafeteria, are drawn together to form a band. Before you know it, they are entered in the Bandslam competition.

If you think you can pretty much predict the rest of it, you can't. Because "Bandslam" takes some dark turns that keep the viewer off balance and totally engaged. As weird as these kids are, you like them and their band, "I Can't Go On I'll Go On." The name makes no sense, but the members somehow do. They are smart and clever and conflicted and flawed. And what teenager isn't these days? I was finally delighted to see a high school film where the characters weren't overly good looking and completely oversexed. At last, an accurate portrayal and director Todd Graff has obviously spent some time with typical kids. In "Bandslam," somebody like a Zac Efron or a Taylor Lautner would have stuck out like a huge pimple on your forehead.

The ending surprised me as it includes a deliciously memorable rock version of the David Gates & Bread tune, "Everything I Own." Cheesy pop music never sounded so good. And, while I totally expected the David Bowie connection to result in the requisite cameo appearance, it actually pays off in a much bigger way.

I'll also mention Lisa Kudrow's solid performance as Will's overprotective mother. It's hard to believe that "Phoebe" is now playing maternal roles in movies, but time apparently goes on for everybody, including "Friends." Kudos to her for embracing her age and, unlike her TV co-stars, relegating herself to taking parts that she's ten years too old for.

Put "Bandslam" on your Netflix list. A nice way to brighten your evening. Now if I can only stop humming that blasted Bread song...

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

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - May 17, 2010


Dinner last night: Roast chicken, potatoes, and carrots.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Strat-O-Matic Baseball

When I was a kid, the baseball addiction didn't end when the major league game I was watching on TV or attending in-person was over. And that was also the case when I was in high school. And when I was in college. And even years later.

Because, in the off-hours for all those decades, there was Strat-O-Matic Baseball.

The vintage version of this baseball strategy game is pictured above and the one that dogged me and my friends for the first halves of our lives. Using last year's major league rosters or perhaps vintage teams from other eras, you act as the manager. You make the line-ups and the batting orders. You call for the sacrifices or the hit & runs. You change the pitchers during the later innings. You yourself are Gil Hodges, Tommy Lasorda, or Joe Torre. It was fascinating for us.

Back when, Strat-O-Matic Baseball wasn't available in regular stores. You had to send away for it, as if it was a secret club that nobody else could know about. I remember when I saved my allowance to buy it for the first time. I couldn't afford the high-priced postage level, so my game was being sent to me by horse and buggy. For about three weeks, I waited diligently on the porch as the US Parcel Post truck came at the same time every day. If it was a school day, I would run home and pepper my grandmother with queries. Did the truck go by yet? Did my package come? Grandma couldn't take the daily pressure.

"Stop asking me everyday. You make me nervous."

It seemed like forever but the game finally showed up and we were off to the races. The pennant races, that is.

Somewhere in the bowels of the Strat-O-Matic headquarters out on Long Island, there was some guy who decided on how to program each player's cards. The game had two sets of players: pitchers and batters. And their game cards were designed to mirror how they actually had performed the year before in the majors. All tied to the roll of three dice. Just like in Vegas.

One dice pointed you to either the pitcher's or the batter's card. The other two dice added up to a number that you would seek out on the the appropriate card. Sandy Koufax's pitching card had a lot of strikeouts. Mickey Mantle's card had a lot of home runs and a lot of strikeouts. Players also had defensive ratings. If you were a "1," you were a Gold Glove. If you were a "4," you made a lot of errors. If your speed was a "AA," you were as fast as the wind. If your running rating was an "E," you ran like you were carrying a piano on your back.

So, every time a batter came up, you'd roll the three dice to find out what he did. You'd read the three dice and frequently have to refer to about three charts to find out the outcome of his at-bat. It was all very intricate for a bunch of twleve-year-olds.

And we loved every moment. We played it all summer. Often on my kitchen table. But, we and the game were often portable. On hot nights, we'd move out to a front stoop on the block and lay out the game there. which gave industrious ants a great way to transport themselves into my house. Quickly, Grandma was not a Strat-O-Matic fan.

"You're bringing in all these bugs with that stupid game of yours."

Yeah, okay, sorry. I didn't really care. This game was keeping us occupied and out of a lot of normal teen-age trouble.

My neighborhood best chum Leo was naturally a major Strat-O-Matic cohort. To develop a league, we recruited other "managers" as well. Leo's younger brothers and some of the other denizens of South 15th Avenue were likely targets. Admittedly, it was a commitment to play in a league. You had to manually keep your team's stats. You had to finish your games on time. In many cases, Strat-O-Matic provided us all with the first "work" responsibility of our lives.

One summer, we decided to have a league with some of the "oldtime" teams that Strat-O-Matic made available. I managed the 1954 New York Giants, a team connection that my now-Dodger Blue blood finds abhorrent. Leo took a really safe route and captained the best baseball team ever, the 1927 New York Yankees. How do you not win with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in your line-up? Still, that didn't stop Leo from trying to fire up his team for each game. To get his batters to do better, he would place an unlit firecracker on each card. The threat worked. I think Leo and the Yankees won the pennant that summer.

Frankly, I didn't need anybody else to enjoy Strat-O--Matic. I could easily play games myself and manage both squads. One year, I replayed the complete 1969 New York Met season. In a tip of the hat to accuracy, that team won the pennant and the World Series all over again.

While I thought that those of us on 15th Avenue had exclusively cornered the market with Strat-O-Matic love, I soon discovered at Fordham University that there were others in the NY metropolitan area who had been spending their summers doing the same exact thing. When I started working at Fordham's radio station WFUV, I found myself amongst a whole new bunch of Strat-O-philes. Bingo. As soon as the summer months hit, we were clearing off the desk in the newsroom and starting yet another league.

One year, I was managing the Boston Red Sox. I didn't want to be typecast as purely a NY manager. That league was rather intense. I was dealing with people who took their teams seriously. There were no firecracker threats, but some of the other managers dealt with the game as if their lives depended upon each roll of the dice. One day, I walked into the newsroom to find one of my friends talking softly to his player cards and rolling dice every fifteen seconds. I asked Steve what he was doing.

"Having batting practice and a pep talk."

Okay. When it came to Strat-O-Matic, sanity frequently took a back seat.

Then, we had a cheater in our midst. Before long, the word was out that one of our fellow managers needed to be monitored closely. Because if he was down a run or two in the ninth inning, he would pick up the pace of the game so much that some of the batter outcomes were slightly exaggerated. Plus he would hold his cards up in his hand so you couldn't see them as he rapidly rolled the dice.

"2-7, single. 3-9, double. 4-10, home run, I win!"

We all got wise in a hurry.

"Excuse me, Gary, could you put your cards down on the table please? Oh, look, that 4-10 home run was really a ground out to second base. You lose."

When it came to Strat-O-Matic, honesty also took a back seat.

Once we all graduated and life took a hold of each of us, Strat-O-Matic entered the dust collecting phase in each of our individual existences. Oh, the game still existed and was thriving with lots of folks. Just not us.

About 15 years ago, the Westchester County newspaper chain ran a story on Strat-O-Matic fanatics. As a sidebar, they were looking for players to participate in a sudden elimination league tournament that would also serve as the subject of a follow-up story.

Even though I hadn't played the game in some time, I entered.

One night, I was summoned up to the newspaper headquarters in White Plains where I was hustled into a room full of Strat-O geeks. is this what the typical player had morphed into? Was this now a baseball strategy game version of a Star Trek convention? I was given the 1973 New York Mets to manage.

I lost in extra innings and was immediately eliminated. Maybe I should have conducted batting practice and talked more to my player cards.

In the high tech world of today, Strat-O-Matic Baseball is now loaded on your PC. You can play on-line with the actual backdrops of real major league ballparks. All the charts of old are gone, as are the continuous rolls of dice. The computer keeps the team stats for you. I was intrigued enough to buy the new version. And, truth be told, I have enjoyed it. I have replayed the seasons of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, the 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers, and, for old times sake, the 1969 New York Mets. Indeed, the game is much improved and you can go through a whole season of games in lickety split fashion.

My buddy Leo, who now lives just twenty minutes down the 405 freeway from me, came over one Saturday afternoon to sample the "new" Strat-O-Matic. It was just like the old days. And, then again, it wasn't. Somehow, thinking back to my kitchen table with all the charts and dice, there was a lot more magic to our afternoons. It simply wasn't the same.

And, to make matters worse, Leo had left his firecracker at home.

Dinner last night: Deluxe pizza at Boho.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Classic Newsreel of the Month - May 2010

And there, in the background, is good ole Shea Stadium.

Dinner last night: Grilled chicken, potatoes, and broccoli from Fresh Farm Grill.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Separated at Birth?

Are actor Brendan Fraser and new Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan related? Or is this simply a case where Brendan is crossdressing?

Okay, the looks are just fine on a man. On a lady? Er, not so much. But, Elena can take heart. As long as that bag of bones Ruth Bader Ginsburg is on the bench, she won't be the ugliest person on the Supreme Court.

Dinner last night: Italian hero.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Moron of the Month - May 2010

I was late with my April moron. But, I'm already tracking on May. Even at this early date, I doubt we will find a dumber statement or person than this one. And my nominee will just go to show that everyone and everybody is totally eligible for this monthly award. Even if you're a movie critic with half your jaw missing.

Yep, folks, our May moron is Roger Ebert, who gets all ten fingers down as far as I'm concerned.

You may have heard about that big Cinco De Mayo controversy at some California high school last week. Four kids wear shirts emblazoned with the American flag and get pulled by an assistant principal. And his name just happens to be Miguel Rodriguez. The attire is offensive to wear on Cinco De Mayo. Why? Ask Miguel Rodriguez, who took his own personal viewpoint/chip on shoulder and blew it Macy's Thanksgiving balloon-like out of proportion. Especially when you hear that one of the "offending" kids is part Mexican.

Frankly, there was enough numbskullery to go around for the entire faculty of that high school. Especially in light of the fact that Cinco De Mayo itself is a celebration of a very minor Mexican skirmish. Indeed, it's not even a major holiday south of the border. Essentially, the damn day is honored here in America because Dos Equus wants to sell more beer. That's it in a nutshell. There's no real historical value to any day until the marketing department gets a hold of it.

The whole thing had evaporated into a size 12 yawn, but, unfortunately, Roger Ebert got a hold of the news story and felt the need to tweet about it. Okay, I get it. The only way this guy can say anything these days is by typing it. But, that shouldn't give him license to type out everything he thinks. Especially if he's going to type/say something as stupid as...

"@ebertchicago Kids who wear American Flag T-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July."

Where is Gene Siskel when you need him? None of Roger's tweet made any sense. Unfortunately, a couple of goofball rightwingers took Ebert to task in directions they should not have gone. You don't joke about his cancer. But they did and that sadly prompted even more latent nonsense from Roger, who then proceeded to type/speak out on his blog.

"The question is obviously not whether Americans, or anyone else, has the right to wear our flag on their T-shirts. But empathetic people realize much depends on context. If, on Cinco De Mayo, you turn up at your school with a large Mexican-American student population wearing such shirts, are you (1) joining the spirit of the holiday or (2) looking for trouble?"


Now I've always liked and respected Ebert's opinion when it comes to movies. I salute his courage and fortitude. But, during the extended course of his illness, he has gotten more and more outspoken on matters that should not concern him. Cancer apparently comes with a hall pass. Even with all the jawbones that have been removed, it's amazing that his mouth has somehow gotten bigger. I am no more interested in Roger Ebert's opinions on society as I am in hearing what Henry Kissinger thinks of the movie Kick-Ass. Stick to what you know. Tell us what you think about what you know about. Roger, nothing, and I mean nothing, gives you license to speak/type out on an endless list of topics. Particularly ones that are much, much larger than your skill sets.

Mr. Ebert, here's the greatest service you can do for your fellow man. Just tell us how bad "Sex in the City 2" will be. And then close your keyboard/mouth.

Dinner last night: Spaghetti and meatballs.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court Vs. Wednesday

The starting nine for the Washington Idiots.

---I'm thinking Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the shortstop.

---Everytime I see that old bag, I'm reminded of a dead pigeon on the side of the road.

---Of course, this motley crew is in the news because Obummer just got a chance to replace another one.

---I'm looking at this new nominee, Elena Kagan, and I'm immediately reminded of that old SNL character, the androgynous Pat.

---Well, at least, Elena can feel comfortable that she can use either locker room.

---Your choice for a worse sight? Clarence Thomas in his boxers or Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her skivvies?

---With the amount of legal experience that Kagan brings to the bench, I am wondering why I wasn't considered.

---Sometimes I get the idea that Obummer makes these picks based on which friends of his have picked up a lunch check.

---I'm starting a Facebook petition. "One million people who want Judge Judy on the Supreme Court."

---You got a better option? She's a helluva better judge than these assholes.

---I've written it before and I'm writing it again. There is no dumber government contrivance than the US Supreme Court.

---Both sides of the aisle try to clog it with their own biased picks, so that the majority wins.

---Len's solution: Every decision they come up with must be a unanimous vote.

---That would be the truest form of legal pronouncements.

---Of course, that means nothing would ever get done.

---But, still, let's lock these jerks in a room until they all agree.

---The downside? Who wants to be caged up that long with Ruth Bader Ginsburg? You just know she smells of mothballs and pee.

---And I have this idea that Clarence Thomas uses way too much Brut cologne.

---One more shout out to Betty White for making last week's SNL semi-watchable.

---Now there are rumblings that they want to put her on next season's "Dancing with the Stars."

---Question to Hollywood: Are you trying to kill her?

---Of course, Betty, you do have the final say. Once in a while, it's okay if the password is "no."

---If she's that bored sitting at home, she might want to invest in the premium movie package on cable.

---Old is in. Now there's an 80-year-old powerhouse singer, Janey Cutler, who is this year's version of Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent."

---Now if we could only get film producers to realize that demographics can stretch beyond the age of 25.

---And 35. And 45.

---Thumbs down to all those dopey Brits who booed Julie Andrews last week. They paid 150 bucks to see her in person and got pissed when she sang only two songs.

---Hello, dummies? Is your tea too strong? Have you read a newspaper? Have you leaned out your apartment window in the past ten years? Julie doesn't sing anymore.

---It's a good thing that Teddy Pendergrass died. They might boo him for not dancing.

---If you hear a knock on your door, that just might be the US Census taker.

---Or a home invasion.

---From what I could see of some of those census takers, it might be both.

---I love these TV commercials telling you why it's important to fill out your census form. Because if you do, wonderful things can happen to your community.

---So, if you're counted, there's money coming your way? Are we counting the population or running a Publisher's Clearing House contest?

---Nowhere on the census form is this question.

---"Are you a US citizen?"

---Now, admittedly, there are many, many totally legit folks in this country who are legal immigrants. Perhaps on a green card or waiting to be sworn in.

---But, there are also many, many, many more totally illegit folks who entered this country by cuddling up with a tire iron in the trunk of a Ford Escort.

---Here's what they should do with the census information. Crosstab it with the US Internal Revenue Service records.

---And that's how you use the census to get more money for your community.

---Civility is dead. To the asshole who was sitting in front of me at last Sunday's Dodger game and told me that I clapped too loud: you should have showed up before the fifth inning. I wasn't clapping then.

---You told me the noise was piercing through your head. Well, it's not my fault that the sound goes straight through with nothing to stop it.

---It was a fucking baseball game. Not Mother Theresa's funeral.

---And hopefully you figured that out when you got home and found all my pistachio shells in your bag.

Dinner last night: Italian chopped salad at BJ's.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Sights and Sounds - Sunday in the Ballpark with Len

Another slice of life. Specifically, mine.

As regular readers will know, there is nothing more relaxing for me than an afternoon baseball game in my seats at Dodger Stadium. Scorebook on my lap.

Here's a random snapshot taken at last Sunday's game. It's the bottom of the fourth inning. The Dodgers are leading 1-0. The Rockies have Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound. Matt Kemp leads off the inning. I had no idea whether the action would be exciting or merely run-of-the-mill.

Makes no difference. It's all baseball, which means it's all good. Enjoy. The wonderful sights and sounds of a baseball stadium.

The Dodgers ended up winning 2-0 behind the stellar pitching performance of Clayton Kershaw.

Dinner last night: Turkey sausage, rice, and stewed tomatoes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - May 10, 2010

Surprise! Saturday Night Live was watchable last week for the first time in 20 years. And all it took was giving over the hosting chores to 88-year-old veteran Betty White. Her stint was prompted by some stupid Facebook campaign, but so what. She was terrific.

Originally, they said that, in deference to her age, they would use her sparingly on the show. But she wound up in so many sketches that I'm convinced Lorne Michaels thought he was mentioned in Betty's will.

Here's her monologue. Bravo, Betty!

Dinner last night: Italian hero with cappacolla, salami, and roasted red peppers.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Mom and Baseball

The saga of my early baseball fandom continues with this special Mother's Day tie-in.
As I immersed myself in the Mets back when, it wasn't long before my fanaticism was legend around my own home. Dad had bought in completely. But there were others who needed to comment on this profound development.
Grandma heard the news and asked me who the Met manager was. When I replied it was Casey Stengel, she announced that she knew who he was and that she liked him. Then, she proceeded to tell me all about the Brooklyn Dodgers for some reason. They were called "Da Bums" and her cousin was a big fan of them. Which was apparently convenient because she called him a bum as well.
Grandpa said he preferred the Giants, but I explained to him that they had already moved to San Francisco.
"When the hell did they go way out there?"
Grandpa, who read the newspaper religiously every single day, had apparently missed the Daily News that week in 1957 when the Giants left town.
My mother was, however, completely removed from the baseball hubbub. When I held my little mini-press conference to announce that I was now a baseball fan and my favorite baseball team was the New York Mets, she reacted with the same two word phrase that she used whenever something positive entered my life.
"That's nice."
And that was it. There was little intertwining between me and my mother when it came to the sport. From time to time, my fandom prompted some conflicts when I had commandeered the then-only TV set to watch a Met game. Mom had other visual destinations.
"Merv Griffin's on."
I invariably lost out and had to resort to the radio play-by-play. Shortly thereafter, I did get my own portable TV for my bedroom. But still, I preferred to commandeer the only-color TV set in the house to watch a Met game. Amother maternal skirmish ensued.
"Mike Douglas is on. Go watch in your room."
But, that's only black-and-white.
I never won.
There was one summer evening where I was watching a Met game on the Zenith Color TV console in the living room. Tom Seaver was going into the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs with a perfect game. I was beside my self with euphoria. Enter Mom intent on turning the channel and finding out what Merv and Totie Fields were up to. I had to sell the importance of the baseball event through to her.
"Tom Seaver's pitching a perfect game."
Mom looked at me quizzically.
"Is that good?"
As my dad had explained to me several years earlier when we listened to the ninth inning of Jim Bunning's perfect-o against the Mets in a cemetery, I relayed the importance of such a feat to Mom. It was enough to keep the TV tuned to WOR Channel 9. And she watched along with me.
Five minutes later, Jimmy Qualls got a single, broke up Tom Seaver's bid for immortality, and ruined my evening and perhaps my life. It was rare for me to do so in front of a parental unit, but I let out an expletive.
Or something like that. Mom didn't totally get the moment or the significance or the pain.
"It's over. Channel 5, please."
And that was the sum total of combined activity for me, my mother, and baseball for the next several decades. Once I had my Saturday Plan seats at Shea, the only time the sport came up with her in conversation was with the same exchange. Over and over.
"Mom, I have a Met game Saturday.'
"That's nice."
Over and over.
"Mom, I'm watching the Met game tonight."
"That's fine."
Over and over.

Until it happened.
I don't know exactly when the world spun off its axis. But it took me completely by surprise. I was an adult by then. Calling the parental units once a day to check in and make sure they hadn't done anything to themselves. One night, in the middle of the most mundane of mundane conversations with my mother, she dropped her version of Enola Gay.
"Did you watch that Met game this afternoon?"
Who is this? And what have you done with her?
"That new announcer the Mets have. Tim McCarver. She's good looking."
No, seriously, where is she? Where is my mother?
She went on about the game. And did so the next day. And the day after. And the week after. And, most amazingly, she was starting to make sense. Slowly, she was picking up the intricate nuances of the game. And virtually parroting Tim McCarver.
"There's no way Mookie should have been bunting in the eighth inning."
"What was Davey Johnson thinking? I don't bring Doug Sisk in from the bullpen in that situation."
"Ron Darling walks way too many batters."
I wrote Tim McCarver a note and told him what he had done to my mother. He took the compliment graciously. Except he had no idea how far off the beam she got. She was tuned to every game on TV. If they were playing on a weekday afternoon, she had the radio on at work. And she could recite their uniform numbers. I remembered that this particular feat was one of my earliest claims to fame when I had become a Met fan years before.
The circle of life had come full circle.
It helped that, in the mid 1980s, the Mets were a pretty good team whose bandwagon my mother had jumped on. These were the days of Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Jesse Orosco, and Darryl Strawberry.
And my mother's favorite Met of all time. Dwight Gooden. My mom's keen interest in the Mets had reached its full maturation in 1984, which was Gooden's rookie season. She took to the young pitcher as if he was her own son. While her Met fandom rarely wavered, it peaked significantly every five days or so when he was on the mound. Again, I was confounded by this all. Why Dwight Gooden? Why the Mets. Why now?
During the championship year of 1986, Mom's TV set went on the fritz right in the middle of the playoffs. She went from apartment to apartment in her building, looking for an available TV set and couch. Ultimately, she went to one of those furniture rental stores and leased a portable TV for the next three weeks.
The following season, when Gooden was suspended for cocaine use, my mother's world crumbled. I actually saw her cry over this. Tears that I had never seen when some relatives had died. Indeed, once I got used to this amazing human transformation, I was quite pleased. Mom had recently retired. Or actually had been unceremoniously retired. Other senior citizens tended to fall into funks when the work world is removed from their orbits. But, my mom didn't have time to get bored. She had the Mets.
There was only one more ribbon that needed to be tied around this package. It took a while, but she finally asked.
"I want to go to one of your Saturday games with you."
I realized I had uttered a similar phrase to my dad years earlier. In some ways, my mother's fandom was equal to what I had gone through when I was ten years ago.
Whereas my very first impression of Shea Stadium on a stormy Friday night was one of dampness and darkness, my mother's emergence from the tunnel into the Loge Section 7 stands was idyllic. The sun was shining. The weather was warm. The field shone like the most exquisite of jewels. And she enjoyed herself. To a degree.
"I like it better on TV. I miss Tim McCarver."
And, for that very reason, she never went to another game. With me. Or with anyone else. But, at least, there was that one special Saturday.
Dinner last night: BBQ Chicken Salad at Pig N' Whistle.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Classic TV Commercial of the Month - May 2010

Anybody remember this stuff? A show of hands, please.

Dinner last night: Friday night pre-game Ham French Dip at Philippe's.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Neat Mother's Day Gift Ideas from Skymall

On my last crosscountry flight, I flipped through that great collection of junk otherwise known as the Skymall catalog. Let me share with you these great gift ideas for Mother's Day. My mom's gone, but there's no reason why you can't bestow on your own these nifty little items. And be prepared to be immediately tossed out of the will.

Take, for instance, the photo above. It's a tissue box/surveillance camera. To catch those dishonorable people who are lying about a sinus condition. It obviously has some everyday business applications. Hide it in the boardroom and watch in secret as your staff trashes the bejeezus out of you.

It's a bug vacuum. When a rolled newspaper and a tissue won't do the trick...

A kit that allows you to track the DNA and lineage of your dog. What difference does it make? Any way you slice it, little Fido's gonna have to deal with the inevitable. Mom was a bitch.

This is allegedly a head massager. Actually, it looks like those claws you'd find in an arcade machine. The ones where you try to grab a toy. Maybe she's trying to capture her own head. It could be a great party game. Astound your friends.

For the completely friendless. This innocent little box supplies you with your own personal applause or laugh track. Get the Barack Obama model which has a battery that lasts for four years.

A toilet training kit for little Frisky. You just might want to save on the carpet cleaning from the very get-go and drown the sucker in the bathtub.

Hey, don't wave for the police to stop you when you're weaving down the street and hitting every parked car on the block. Save time and worry. Find out your alcohol level ahead of time so that Officer O'Flaherty can quickly transport you to the jail cell of your choice.

For the woman who has everything. Or even better, for the woman who has absolutely nothing. Between the ears. A matching hat and sock puppet. From the Shari Lewis memorial fashion line.

Dinner last night: Smoked turkey and side salads.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Join My Facebook Group to Discuss How Stupid Facebook Groups Are

I'm constantly convulsed by the nonsense I read on this social network. Of course, you might ask me the obvious question.

"What the hell are you doing there?"

Well, not revealing pertinent details of my life, for one. Not posting photos that were better left in the camera. Not milking computer cows or feeding pixelated chickens. Not pronouncing my most intimate likes and dislikes.

And most certainly not joining a group devoted to some cause of the day. I alternate between amusement and embarrassment at some friends of mine (real ones, not just acquaintances on Facebook) who feel the need to vindicate their opinion for all to see. Lately, there is a new "petition" up there every single day. And a sucker signing on to them every minute.

Here are just a few of the groups I have spotted of late. And keep in mind that I found them because somebody I know and used to respect just jumped on its bandwagon.

Dogs Without Borders: What the hell is this in the first place? Do we really care if a dog doesn't have access to a bookstore?

Bring Justice to Victims of Abuse - Arrest the Pope: I have noted that most of the names attached to this petition are either Jewish or Irish. As if the Pope really cares? But, then again, what are the odds that the Vatican has its own Facebook page? If I were this Benedict, I'd ramp up my McAfee spam controls ASAP.

We Support a Ban Against Golf Umbrellas in Crowded Cities: Huh? No, really, I mean, huh? There are three of my contacts in this group. I'd call them to find out what this is all about, but I've already burned their phone numbers.

I'm A Sexy Jew: I know several of the folks in this group. Obviously, there are very lax requirements on being a member, but none of these are. Sexy, that is.

Petition to Remove Facebook Group Praying for President Obama's Death: This even crossed a line for me. But, my burning question is whether there really is a Facebook Group Praying for President Obama's Death. I decided to search for it. I never found it. So, I'm now thinking that this is just another liberal salvo tossed at the other side of the aisle. Totally fabricated bullshit.

I Bet We Can Find 1,000,000 People Who Support Same Sex Marriage: Frankly, I think this group is aiming low. Why not 2 million? Why not 20 million? As long as you don't count on the state of Utah, I think the possibilities are endless.

Boobs Make Great Pillows: All of my "friends" in this group are male under the age of 30. When it's still fun to lay across somebody's breasts. Later on, you want to get off them. Mainly, because they tell you "get off them."

Get 1,000,000 People to Sign Against the Arizona Immigration Bill: Those of you that I know in this group, please take note. Your Len friendship severence checks are in the mail. I have one last word for you. Adios.

Get 1,000,000 People To Sign in Favor of the Arizona Immigration Bill: I have some ex-friends that you shouldn't count on for virtual signatures.

I Hate Cancer: This group begs a follow-up question. Who doesn't? I have never seen a more pointless group in my life. Makes me want to start my own Facebook club. I Love Breathing.

Facebook, Respect My Privacy: Okay, cue the cuckoo clock. How totally moronic is this? You're worried about Facebook putting too much of your personal information out there? But, at the same time, you've posted last summer's photo of you at the beach and, frankly, you need to lose some of that gut. I haven't seen an overhang like that since the old Tiger Stadium was open.

Dinner last night: Teriyaki turkey burger at Islands.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I Slow Down For Wednesdays

And I might not slow down for people darting in front of my car.

---This is a highway sign you see in border states like Arizona and California. Trust me when I tell you that it's not a warning that you're in proximity to a family on a TV game show.

---It's funny that they depict a family of three scooting over the border. Usually, it's more than that.

---A lot more than that.

---A lot, lot more than that.

---Three brothers, two sisters.

---One of the girls is eight months pregnant.

---Two dogs, one of which has fleas.

---A lazy uncle who has an arrest record.

---Grandma in a wheelchair and frequently incontinent.

---Welcome to America, one and all!

---My tax dollars are at your complete disposal.

---I love the morons (several of them friends of mine) who so vehemently oppose Arizona's proposed Senate Bill 1070. But, ask any one of them what's in it.



---Well, ummmm, er............

---Yeah, I know. You haven't read it.

---It's easy to track down and digest. And you'll realize it's simply a reiteration of the laws the Federal Government stopped enforcing years ago.

---Goofy liberal hand wringers (several of them friends of mine) worry that human rights are being infringed upon.

---Have you seen the pictures of the violence caused at border towns by drug runners slipping into this country?



---Well, ummmm, er............

---Yeah, I know. You haven't seen them.

---Meanwhile, you have places like West Hollywood announcing that they will be boycotting Arizona.

---Which means that it really sucks to be a gay Diamondbacks fan living on Kings Road right now.

---If you're an illegal immigrant in Mexico, do you think you get the same red carpet treatment?

---Yeah, the red on the carpet is your blood. Because the authorities down there are probably like the banditos in "Treasure of Sierra Madre."

---"Badges? We got da stinkin' badges."

---Look the wrong way in Mexico and your teeth are invited to a mixer hosted by the butt head of a rifle.

---Our country is continually slapped in the face by foreign countries and we inexplicably keep showing them where they can find our other cheek.

---Take, for instance, the seven-year-old Japanese rock guitarist who played the National Anthem at Dodger Stadium last Sunday.

---Cute and adorable throughout, the kid played the anthem to the point where it sounded like the starting line of the Indy 500. A complete and utter mess.

---The dummies in the crowd cheered. Really???

---At the same time, if a seven year-old American rock guitarist went overseas and destroyed another country's anthem, he would probably not live long enough to be eight.

---So, just how much fertilizer does it take to blow up a standard SUV?

---The numbskull tourists walking around Times Square saw the smoke coming out of the van and probably thought it was an ad.

---"Hey, look, Myrtle. Smoke coming out of that truck. Cool. Just like it used to come out of that Camel cigarette sign."

---If you blow up fertilizer, does it smell? Another treat for the Times Square tourist.

---"Hey, Myrtle, take a whiff. Just like home."

---When I heard that there was a bomb on Broadway, I just asumed that they had revived "Young Frankenstein."

---The terrorist was from Pakistan. Living in Connecticut.

---Stiffer border controls with Rhode Island might have prevented that.

---Of course, we first had NY Mayor Bloomberg suggesting that the culprit was probably somebody upset about health care reform.

---Or maybe the dude is just pissed that New York elected another jackass for a mayor.

---Everytime I hear and see that chucklehead Janet Napolitano, she reminds me of a teacher who can't even keep the sophomores from attending the freshman school dance.

---The bomb guy was put on a "no fly" list Monday morning and got on a flight at JFK Monday night.

---Well, that's obviously working well.

---Meanwhile, Grandma from Oklahoma was being detained for trying to board with too large a can of hair spray.

---Columbia Pictures presents the Three Stooges in "Homeland Security."

---NYPD, of course, sprang into immediate action.

---The President had a statement the very next morning.

---Which is actually pretty fast for him. He took eight days to inspect the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

---Maybe he was walking there?

---It seems like the only way to get Obummer's immediate attention is to have a Black Harvard professor involved.

---But, then again, stiffer border laws in Massachusetts might have prevented this.

Way too much news this week. Now I've got a headache.

Dinner last night: New Orleans Shrimp at the Cheesecake Factory.