Thursday, September 30, 2010
Every so often, there's a celebrity in the midst. Ellen Degeneres with a really crappy Toyota Corolla. Diane Lane working hard not to make eye contact. Greg Kinnear working very hard to get recognized. And Della Reese advising some Mexican on how to correctly wipe down her church bus.
This car wash also got some screen time many years ago. Located virtually next door to the 20th Century-Fox lot, it was used for a major slapstick scene in the Doris Day movie "Move Over Darling." Back in 1963, the car wash looks eerily like it does today. Except, as far as I know, Doris Day is no longer covered with soap suds.
But, even with these Hollywood connections, my car wash visits are usually nondescript. In and out. Quiet time for me, even if I am trying to make eye contact with Diane Lane.
Except last Saturday.
It all started so innocently. My Toyota Highlander had gone through the machine. The super-short illegal immigrant had moved my seat as far up as possible as he drove it to the spot where he would be performing all his post-car wash obligations. I was standing quietly alongside a wall. Sipping a Diet Pepsi. And, then.....
"So, what kind of gas mileage you get out of that Highlander Hybrid?"
A STRANGER WAS TRYING TO ENGAGE ME IN CONVERSATION.
I probably should have gone into Marlee Matlin mode and feigned deafness. But, in one of my life's mistakes, I didn't. I told him that a hybrid isn't everything it's cracked up to be.
The floodgates opened.
"I have a car that's twelve years old and it's still running like a top."
"My mechanic has all the parts for my car and he says I could keep driving it for years."
"I'd never buy anything that didn't have at least eight cylinders."
"I like to hear my engine when I'm driving. Those Hybrids don't make noise."
I had yet to even turn to my right to look at this guy. I was afraid to. The eye contact that Diane Lane had so carefully avoided would be devastating here.
"My wife likes the subcompacts. I won't drive one. My legs are too long."
"Boy, September sure does get hot in Los Angeles."
Ah, a subject change.
"How does the AC work in your Hybrid?"
Okay, not quite.
"They say the heat wave will break by the end of next week, but those guys on TV are just guessing."
"Probably start up a bunch of fires. Most of them are arson."
As if on cue, a fire truck sped by.
"Those trucks are beautiful. I once got to watch them take one apart."
"Those engines are something else. Amazing piece of machinery."
"I bet they'll be electrically powered at some point."
The conversation was making a complete circle. He was making a point with all his pointlessness. Meanwhile, I kept staring at the kid wiping down my car and I wondered if somebody with a chamois cloth could work any slower.
"We've got some big elections coming up."
Okay, the aforementioned circle was not unbroken.
"It will be interesting to see how the tea party does. People are really fed up with Obama."
Pedro, come on, there's no need to empty out the ash trays. I don't smoke.
"I think it's going to be close between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown for Governor."
Where are you, Lord?!
At last, a wave of the towel. My car was pronounced fit to leave. And I was none too ready.
"Okay, nice talking with you."
I had said less than two sentences to the man. He has a very low threshold on how he defines a conversation.
I waved politely. Walking away, I knew exactly how Diane Lane felt. Please don't look at me. And definitely don't say a word.
Dinner last night: Barbecue pork ribs and cole slaw.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
480 BC: THE GREEK FLEET UNDER THEMISTOCLES DEFEATS THE PERSIAN FLEET UNDER XERXES 1 DURING THE BATTLE OF SALAMIS.
Personally, I'm rooting for Boars Head.
1227: FREDERICK II, HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR, IS EXCOMMUNICATED BY POPE GREGORY IX FOR HIS FAILURE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CRUSADES.
Okay, let's think about this. It's just 1227 and there have already been eight other Popes named Gregory? Did they have the life span of a gnat?
1567: AT A DINNER, THE DUKE OF ALBA ARRESTS THE COUNT OF EGMONT AND THE COUNT OF HOORN FOR TREASON.
Obama White House, take note. That's what you do with dinner guests who show up unannounced.
1650: HENRY ROBINSON OPENS HIS OFFICE OF ADDRESSES AND ENCOUNTERS - THE FIRST HISTORICALLY DOCUMENTED DATING SERVICE.
"Good looking Pilgrim looking for same. Let's churn some butter together."
1789: THE FIRST U.S CONGRESS ADJOURNS.
Right around the time of Nancy Pelosi's first face lift.
1907: THE CORNERSTONE IS LAID AT WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL IN THE US CAPITAL.
Hang with me, folks. This joke pays off a little later.
1907: COWBOY STAR GENE AUTRY IS BORN.
This is the day he was back in the saddle for the first time.
1911: ITALY DECLARES WAR ON THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE.
And, once victorious, they went on to conquer love seats and end tables.
1916: JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER BECOMES THE FIRST BILLIONAIRE.
Who was keeping track of this? Did his money belt suddenly sound an alarm?
1941: DURING WORLD WAR II, GERMAN EINSATZGRUPPE C BEGINS THE BABI YAR MASSACRE, ACCORDING TO THE EINSATZGRUPPE OPERATIONAL SITUATION REPORT.
When he moved to Bolivia, Einsatzgruppe changed his name to Smith.
1942: ACTRESS MADELINE KAHN IS BORN.
A wonderful talent who died way too soon.
1955: ACTOR KEN WEATHERWAX IS BORN.
That's Pugsley of TV's Addams Family, guys.
1960: SOVIET LEADER NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV DISRUPTS A MEETING FO THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY WITH A NUMBER OF ANGRY OUTBURSTS.
Bang that shoe! Bang that shoe! Bang that shoe!
1963: THE SECOND PERIOD OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL OPENS.
Number one topic on the agenda? Why the hell were there so many Pope Gregorys centurys ago?
1966: ACTRESS JILL WHELAN IS BORN.
"The Love Boat is making another run........the Loooovvvvee Boat....."
1975: CASEY STENGEL DIES.
Noted Glendale banker and, oh yeah, baseball manager. They checked to make sure this wasn't just another long nap.
1988: CARTOONIST CHARLES ADDAMS DIES.
On Pugsley's birthday. The nerve!
1990: CONSTRUCTION OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL IS COMPLETED.
Here's the joke pay off, gang. And the construction only took 83 years. Who was running the crew? The Three Stooges??
2008: FOLLOWING THE BANKRUPTCIES OF LEHMAN BROTHERS AND WASHINGTON MUTUAL, THE DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE EXPERIENCES THE LARGEST SINGLE-DAY POINT LOSS IN HISTORY.
Yeah, well. We're so much better off now. Not.
Dinner last night: Ham, roasted potatoes, and corn.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Well, let's really think about what's going on in that plane moments before the landing. I've been in a similar situation, so I have first hand knowledge.
This situation didn't arise instantaneously so the flight crew had some time to prep the passengers. First, they would be told to stow all their loose items. Given that JFK is right near a body of water, they were likely told to remove their shoes, which would act as worthy anchors if they wound up in the drink. And, as the flight attendant barks continuously in this video, everybody is advised to "keep your heads down."
Where in that very short procedurial description do you see the words "pull our your video cameras?"
One reporter called this footage "heroic." Sure, the pilot and the rest of the airline personnel did their jobs heroically. The passenger that filmed this? I would ban them from air travel for the rest of their life. Because, clearly, this numbskull did not follow instructions.
Okay, you could argue back that the person was scared and wanted to record his or her last moments. Baloney! The only thing they wanted to do was score a nifty moment on YouTube or Facebook. I didn't hear on the soundtrack a heartfelt goodbye to Mom or Cousin Trudy in Bumfuk, Texas.
This was no 9/11 situation where cell phones were used to connect to loved ones for last words or even a glimmer of help or hope. Nope, this was one dumb asshole who refused to follow instructions.
It all reminds me of a time where I landed very unceremoniously at JFK Airport. We were making possibly the longest and slowest taxi to the gate. Yet, one stupid son-of-a-bitch thought it was perfectly okay to stand up and get something out of the overhead luggage rack.
The guy was spotted immediately by a very efficient flight attendant who immediately phoned the captain. And the pilot promptly stepped on the brakes and halted the plane.
"Until the person standing sits down, I can not proceed with the taxi to the gate."
Boos cascaded all around the offending moron, who sheepishly sat down. They have air marshalls to stop terrorists. I say we expand their jurisdiction to all those who misbehave during a flight.
They would be my true heroes.
Dinner last night: Grilled chicken cutlet with vegetable salad.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
I was a kid and I was hearing it every day from the other yokels in my school.
"Eh, what's up, Doc?"
"How fast can you eat an ear of corn?"
"Can I show a movie on your two front teeth?"
Years later, screw all of you!
Yes, I had two big ole buck teeth. The Bugs Bunny look all the way. And, as I progressed through each grade in Grimes Elementary School, the nasty comments increased at geometric intervals. Probably because the overhang of my top dental plate kept getting bigger and bigger. I was starting to look like the upper deck at Tiger Stadium.
The answer was an easy one. Braces for you, young man.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Dinner last night: Proscuitto and pecorino cheese on flatbread at Palomino in Westwood.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Ah, the old days. Hell, I don't even remember this. Here is a shot of Radio City Music Hall with the Sixth Avenue Elevated subway station in the foreground. Huh? This was torn down long before I even entered the famed showplace of the nation.
Times may have changed, but we still want to check out a movie on a weekend. Except nowadays there is rarely anything to see. As evidenced below. You folks know my monthly drill. I'll cull through the Los Angeles Times and tell you what's out there in cinemaland. I'll also give you my knee-jerk reaction to all the crap oozing into our multiplexes. The operative word there is, of course, "crap."
Jack Goes Boating: And Jill? Where is she? Philip Seymour Hoffman as a limo driver on a blind date. Or is that a blind limo driver? Which would mean that I might want to call another car service. This is a lot of verbiage to explain that I simply have no interest in this movie. Alpha and Omega in 3D: I guess everything can be in 3D these days. It certainly would have improved how I viewed algebra and geometry.
Machete: This doesn't make my cut.
Easy A: Some dreary and mindless chick flick. For the dreary and mindless chick in your life.
Going the Distance: Okay, okay, full disclosure. I saw it. I like Drew Barrymore. Sue me. As for the flick, it was a little disconcerting. Drew looks horrible in this movie. Did she suddenly hit the age wall? Wow! The girl got old in a big city hurry.
The Town: I'm conflicted. This film about a bank heist got very good reviews. But it's directed by Ben Affleck, who is a complete mystery of a talent. What to do, what to do, what to do?
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger: Woody Allen's annual movie and, as has been his recent history, it's shot in England. Woody, it's okay to take a year off. As a matter of fact, if you want to retire, that's okay, too. Don't you want to stay home and play with your kids, I mean, your wife?
Takers: Another bank heist yarn. Rapper Chris Brown is in it, so count on some domestic violence as well.
Catfish: Filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost document a story involving Ariel's brother, Nev, a 24-year-old New York-based photographer, and Abby, an 8-year-old girl from rural Michigan who contacts Nev via Facebook, asking for permission to make a painting from one of his photographs. It was a matter of time before we'd see movies about Facebook. Coming soon: Farmville - the Movie
Never Let Me Go: As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they grow into young adults, they find that they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits them. Even folks with sleep apnea will be able to get through this without their naps uninterrupted.
The American: George Clooney as an assassin. He'll shoot anybody that remembers he once was a regular on "The Facts of Life."
Legends of the Guardians - The Owls of Ga'hoole: If you can correctly remember this title when you get to the box office, they should let you in for free.
Wall Street - Money Never Sleeps: Oliver Stone giving us an update on a movie that sucked the first time. Michael Douglas' Oscar for the original was one of the most misguided Best Actor awards ever. And that was when he was healthy. Can you imagine what the Academy will give him now that he's sick?
You Again: The trailers play up the fact that Betty White has a supporting role, which means the rest of the movie stinks. Betty, please, I beg you. It's okay to stay home once in a while. Macrame. Knitting. Farmville on Facebook. You don't have to work all the time.
Buried: Ryan Reynolds trapped in a casket. Won't we all be?
Resident Evil - Afterlife: There were three other Resident Evil movies before this one? You're kidding, right?
Eat Pray Love: Still Won't See.
The Last Exorcism: Let's hope so.
Devil: M. Night Shyamalan's latest attempt to rescue his directing career. A group of people stuck in an elevator realize that Satan is among them. I'm thinking it's time for M. Night to pack it and get the night manager's job down at Rite Aid.
The Other Guys: The still-perplexing-to-me Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in a buddy comedy and they are definitely no friends of mine.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
I've written a lot of explosive stuff in this blog. Things that, on a second look, made even me cringe.
But nothing I've done in three plus years of this nonsense has made me endure more beatings than my piece of Jonathan Goldsmith.
Don't get me started again. I just recently regained the feeling in my head, which has sustained repeated cyber blows from the irate comments of his fans.
Yes, the admirers of actor Jonathan Goldsmith. You all know who you are. And now I am beginning to wonder if the super-increased traffic to this blog might be a direct result of this guy's disciples Googling his name every hour of every day.
Okay, okay, I know who he is now. I didn't when he was accepting the cheers of adoring fans when he threw out the first ball at Dodger Stadium. And the screams that erupted every time his weather-beaten mug was shown on Diamondvision.
I got it. I got it. He's the actor who plays the Dos Equus guy in commercials. Certainly not more than a Trivial Pursuit question to me. But, apparently, a lot more to some of the readers of this blog. Welcome to the Day of the Locusts, 2010.
Let's see, after I insinuated that this guy really merited nothing despite the much ado, I have been virtually castrated. I'm stupid. I'm lacking of common sense. I'm a tool. If I were gay, I would know what all the hoopla was about.
And, jeez, I was worried about what I sometimes say about politicians in Washington? From the reaction I got on this goofball, you'd think I was Pontius Pilate on the day before Easter.
So, by including this dude's name one more time in Len Speaks, that's another hit that will happen on Sitemeter when his legions do their Google searches. And I'll take readers anyway I can get them. Even if they hate my guts for lambasting some banal character in a TV ad campaign.
Oh, shit, there I go again!
Wait till they hear what I think about that Old Spice guy on the horse.
Speaking of which, he was out at Dodger Stadium last Tuesday night. Here he is with Jamie Carroll and I wonder how much money our beloved infielder demanded to pose in a photo with this asshole, who also undoubtedly sports some kooky cult-like following.
Can this country sink any further in their endless adoration of complete and utter mediocrity?
We'll see how long it takes for the rocks to be thrown at me for these comments. Oops, here comes one now. Ow!
Dinner last night: Spaghetti and meatballs.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Your weekly history lesson. That Nero was a bust, wasn't he?
66: EMPEROR NERO CREATES THE LEGION I ITALICA.
And, to his credit, there was no designated hitter.
1499: TREATY OF BASEL MAKES SWITZERLAND AN INDEPENDENT STATE.
And they've been sitting on the fence ever since. And also on top of a lot of our hidden money.
1598: BEN JONSON IS INDICTED FOR MANSLAUGHTER.
Incited to murder by somebody who taunted him for not knowing how to correctly spell his last name.
1692: LAST PEOPLE HANGED FOR WITCHCRAFT IN THE UNITED STATES.
At least until Fox News debuted on the air.
1776: NATHAN HALE IS HANGED FOR SPYING DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.
He had but one life to give for his country and this was apparently it.
1789: THE OFFICE OF UNITED STATES POSTMASTER GENERAL IS ESTABLISHED.
And he probably had four weeks vacation from the get-go. Meanwhile, in 2010, try to find a mailbox on a street corner. It is impossible.
1869: RICHARD WAGNER'S OPERA "DAS RHEINGOLD" PREMIERES IN MUNICH.
Followed a year later by the sequel "DAS PABST'S BLUE RIBBON."
1888: THE FIRST ISSUE OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE IS PUBLISHED.
For the very first time, there is now something to read in a dentist's waiting room.
1893: THE FIRST AMERICAN-MADE AUTOMOBILE, BUILT BY THE DURYEA BROTHERS, IS DISPLAYED.
Who ever heard of the Duryeas? After that, I guess there were no bailout dollars for them.
1908: THE INDEPENDENCE OF BULGARIA IS PROCLAIMED.
So what do Bulgarians shoot off every September 22? Anybody?
1927: DODGER MANAGER TOMMY LASORDA IS BORN.
Still with us, even though he has long since gone off the Slim Fast diet.
1944: DURING WORLD WAR II, THE RED ARMY ENTERS TALLINN.
The Holiday Inn was full.
1956: SINGER DEBBY BOONE IS BORN.
And her life is officially lit.
1961: SCOTT BAIO IS BORN.
What's worse than a sixteen year-old called "Chachi?" A 49 year-old who is called "Chachi."
1975: SARA JANE MOORE TRIES TO ASSASSINATE PRESIDENT GERALD FORD.
A fun month for the President who remembered to duck not once, but twice.
1980: IRAQ INVADES IRAN.
Doesn't this happen like every single day?
1989: SONGWRITER IRVING BERLIN DIES.
At the age of 101. I hope there were no news stories that called his passing tragic.
1991: THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS ARE MADE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC FOR THE FIRST TIME BY THE HUNTINGTON LIBRARY.
A big deal at the time, you can now read them on your Kindle.
1996: ACTRESS DOROTHY LAMOUR DIES.
Goodbye, farewell, sarong.
2007: MIME MARCEL MARCEAU DIES.
I have no words.
Dinner last night: The terrific buffet at the Dodger Stadium Club.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
This is a long overdue honor. For pretty much the whole newspaper. But, this particular month, it's earned by their sports department. Even more specifically, the writers who cover the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lucy will s'plain.
I'm one of those staunch holdouts. I love a daily newspaper. Not reading it on-line. I need the actual feel of the paper in my hands. The prints coming off onto my fingertips. I've been that way ever since I was a kid.
My father, when he wasn't working nights, would go down to the 241st Street Subway station in the Bronx around 830PM. That's when the first edition of the next day's NY Daily News would be thrown off a truck. Tomorrow's news tonight. That used to be the marketing slogan. Frankly, it was a complete waste of ink, particularly if you were looking for baseball box scores. The line for that night's Met game would show that the Phillies didn't score in the top of the first inning. That was it. Oh, yeah, the Met battery was Tom Seaver and Jerry Grote. So much for lots and lots of information.
But, still, he'd bring that paper home and I would devour it for the funnies, the movie ads, and the like.
To this day, wherever I am, I need a morning newspaper. On the train in NY. At my desk in California. Out here, on the What's Left Coast, we've got one singular choice. The Los Angeles Times. I'm lucky enough to find it on my doorstep at 530AM every day. But, except for baseball scores, movie reviews, Sudoku puzzles, and Blondie & Dagwood, I probably would be skipping it altogether.
Like most other media outlets, fair and unbiased journalism has gone the way of Silly Putty and Colorforms. Back when, the newspaper would give you accurate and unstilted accounts of the world around you. The only opinions you would find were in the Letters to the Editor, where Minnie from Bainbridge Avenue in the Bronx would bitch and moan about spending too much in the emergency waiting room of Fordham Hospital. The rest of the paper would be as straight as an arrow.
Not any more. Especially for rags like the rapidly regressing New York Times and even the New York Daily News. And even more especially for the Los Angeles Times.
If you don't have the most left-leaning point of view in the universe, the Los Angeles Times is not for you. Their front page headline might be "Malia Obama Suffers Infected Cuticle." Meanwhile, in the lower quadrant of the front page, you might read "Former President Ronald Reagan Dies. Details inside on Page 45."
You get the picture. Now, usually, I can endure the relentless carping of Conversative and Liberal ideas, better known as the Clash of the Non-Titans that is choking the life out of our nation. But, after a while, it becomes the same point made over and over and over. You'd have to be a card carrying member of the Orpah Book Club to be so stupid that you don't get it.
But, those flagrant and incessant opinions have now filtered the LA Times sports pages. Most notably with their coverage of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For some reasons, there are major axes to grind and Lizzie Borden must be the department editor. The writers there hate the McCourts who own the team, and there's no argument here. I, too, will not be happy until they are dropkicked on the fly back to Harvard Square. But, all of this venom now envelops every move that the team makes and there is no middle ground as far as the Times scribes are concerned. This is not reporting. It's a daily morning bonfire.
The latest victim of the attacks is the incoming Dodger manager, Don Mattingly. You all know that he will assume outgoing Joe Torre's role at the helm next season. Apparently, there was a three year contractual clause signed as early as last spring.
Okay, so from the reaction in the LA Times, you would think Mattingly was Richard Speck and he had just walked into a dormitory of student nurses. One writer after another pretty much disemboweled him in print. It would be no surprise to me if Don hightailed it back to Indiana and spent the rest of his days watching them change the luncheon menu at the Cracker Barrel. And it will get worse next spring when he finally sits in the seat and gets shelled in print just because he alternates between blue and black ink when filling out a line-up card.
You see, in the eyes of the LA Times, the Dodgers can do no right. And they laid it on pretty thick during this managerial change. Torre stepped down because the McCourts have no money. Mattingly has no experience. Triple A manager Tim Wallach should have gotten the job. It's a good thing they weren't around for Jackie Robinson's first game in the majors. The liberal-minded Times would have found fault with that, too. Oh, sure, they brought up Jackie. But, how come the stadium organist refuses to play anything from Porgy & Bess?
By throwing so much negativity out there, they stir up the same sentiment in fans and it is completely unwarranted. The smart and discerning Dodger fan knows we have no idea what kind of manager Donnie will be. Nor do we know whether or not Tim Wallach would make a decent skipper. All of a sudden, the latter is nothing short of Jesus Christ lugging a cross over a sea of palms. The Times drums in to us that we are missing our shot at the next Mike Scioscia. Does anybody know this for sure? Really?
And the notion that Mattingly has no previous experience? Here's a crosstabulation I would like to see. How many of the Times writers who are carping about this actually voted for Barack Obama? Hmmm. I thought so.
It's all ugliness and terribly unfair to all concerned. I don't mind opinions from a columnist, but this is ridiculous. Where is the level-headed smart baseball coverage we'd like to see? Save for the always consistently even-handed Ken Levine and Josh Suchon on KABC's Dodger Talk, it's non-existent in Los Angeles. And largely due to the only newspaper in town.
Maybe the LA Times should look itself in the mirror. They should consider why nobody is reading the damn thing. As the advertising dollars dwindle, the paper keeps getting smaller and smaller. At this point, the menu down at the Cheesecake Factory offers more useful information. And even the print keeps getting tinier and tinier. The font size for the comic strip page is just like the last line on your eye doctor's wall. You know. The letters you can't read.
Is this any way to run a newspaper? Apparently not. But, it's a darn good way to ruin one. As for me, I'll keep getting it delivered. I need that feel on my fingertips every morning. Using a microscope to see what Dagwood just said to Mr. Dithers. Struggling through the Friday Sudoku, which is always labelled "diabolical." And hoping like hell that I'd read some decent stories on baseball and the state of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Yes, I'll still be a subscriber. But I wouldn't be surprised if Don Mattingly cancels in the morning.
Dinner last night: Turkey burger.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
When I was a kid, perhaps the smartest thing the Mount Vernon, New York public school system initiated was the concept of the green slips. Everybody wanted one. You would be proud to bring it to your teacher once you got one. And it was something you strived to achieve every year.
A test score? Nope. The green slip was your validation that you had, yes, survived another check-up with the dentist. I can still see those green slips in my mind and, to this day, I imagine that I receive another one when I go for my three annual check-ups every year. The green slips got us all into regular and positive dental habits at a very young age. Perhaps the last smart thing that Board of Education ever did.
Of course, the route to my own personal green slip wasn't a simple one. Nobody likes to go to the dentist. I liked it even less. It was a scary place, made even more so by our family dentist, Dr. Reiner.
Okay, he was a nice man. Let's not confuse him with Dr. Caligari. Or Laurence Olivier's character in "Marathon Man." The problem was that Dr. Reiner was old. He looked to be 100. Given that he undoubtedly aged prematurely, his real age was probably closer to 80. Way too old to be playing in my mouth with some electrical apparatus with very sharp points and edges.
Despite his Moses-like demeanor, my family trooped off to Dr. Reiner regularly. Once again, all my relatives were medically myopic. In our tribe, physicians were handed down through generations like old clothing or vintage silverware. You went to somebody because your father went there and his father went there. The only problem is that doctors and dentists can't simply be restored with some spit and polish. Without that painting of Dr. Dorian Gray in the basement, these people all got old. And I was reminded by that every time I saw Dr. Reiner shuffle me into the examining room. An annual visit which was always preceded by my annual question.
"Why do we still go to Dr. Reiner? He's so old."
The standard volley was always returned.
"Because we do. You ask too many questions."
Dire matters were made even more disastrous when you realized where Dr. Reiner's office was. On the second floor of a row of stores on White Plains Road and 237th Street in the Bronx. Outside the window next to the examining chair sat the elevated subway tracks. And a train went by every two minutes.
Dr. Reiner would approach with one of his chosen weapons.
"Open wide, young man."
The sharpest point known to man would enter my oral cavity. And, then, suddenly...
CLACKETY CLACK CLACKETY CLACK SCREECH CLACKETY CLACK SCREECH CLACKETY CLACK.
There goes the 2:15PM Express to Gun Hill Road. Meanwhile, was that warm liquid in my mouth blood? Was that warm liquid in my pants something altogether different?
Imagine going in for eye surgery and your surgeon is Michael J. Fox.
I fantasized my mother getting him to sign the green slip without an examination. Did dentists take bribes? What was Dr. Reiner's price? How could I avoid going into that chamber of horrors? With a tottering old geezer poking around my mouth amidst the greatest cacophony of metal noise since the Industrial Revolution.
And I was one of the lucky ones. I never had any cavities. Still, I didn't even trust his hands with that little circular mirror. But it could have been worse. The rest of my family was always there for some more advanced work.
It's too late to do an official survey but I'm thinking most of my relatives didn't have a complete set of teeth. And nobody would actually hide this fact. They couldn't. When drunk, they would puke up their upper plate into the toilet. Or, like my dad's cousin Helen, lose them while swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. Over time, I ran across more dentures than ever Efferdent could imagine. My dad's mouth was pristine. Few others were. And, whenever I went to the dentist with my mom, there was always some aunt, uncle, or distant cousin there to have an extraction done by Dr. Reiner. I'd sit quietly looking for the hidden shovel in my Highlights for Children puzzle. Meanwhile, on the other side of Dr. Reiner's dungeon, I'd hear the whirring of a drill. And moans. Lots and lots of moans. I'd pray for some sound to drown it all out. CLACKETY CLACK CLACKETY CLACK SCREECH CLACKETY CLACK SCREECH CLACKETY CLACK.
Over time, I ran across more dentures than ever Efferdent could imagine. My dad's mouth was pristine. Few others were. And, whenever I went to the dentist with my mom, there was always some aunt, uncle, or distant cousin there to have an extraction done by Dr. Reiner. I'd sit quietly looking for the hidden shovel in my Highlights for Children puzzle. Meanwhile, on the other side of Dr. Reiner's dungeon, I'd hear the whirring of a drill. And moans. Lots and lots of moans. I'd pray for some sound to drown it all out.
CLACKETY CLACK CLACKETY CLACK SCREECH CLACKETY CLACK SCREECH CLACKETY CLACK.Ah! Thank God for the 11:15PM local to Dyre Avenue. Gratefully, my time with Dr. Reiner would come to an end soon. I needed to go to another specialist.You see, I needed braces.To be continued.Dinner last night: Grilled sausage and sauerkraut at Stefan's in Santa Monica. Tasted fine, but the food went through me faster than it went. Sick as a dog two hours later.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to jail. The hairdo alone should get her five years.
"Well, Mr. Photographer, since you got the camera out, would you mind getting me a couple of nudie shots for my man?"
I don't think she planned on this today.
I'm guessing he killed a lot more than bugs.
Lord only knows.
Apparently it's illegal to be a hockey referee.
Please throw the key in the river. Dinner last night: Homemade sausage and peppers.
Please throw the key in the river.
Dinner last night: Homemade sausage and peppers.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Continuing with my pledge to try and finish books and then report on them here. What's it been? Three months since the last one?
Truth be told, I first cracked open Tony Curtis' memoir entitled "American Prince" late last year. Riveting, heh? Not only could I easily put it down, I actually misplaced it for about a month.
I generally do enjoy Hollywood bios and autobios. Now, I've always heard that Tony Curtis is a bit of a shithead, but he did star in one of my favorite movies of all time, "Some Like It Hot." That was enough for me. Ultimately, my goal was to finish the book while Tony himself was still with us.
As a Tinseltown memoir, this was exactly what I expected. A cookie cutter of a life and career if I ever read one. Just fill in the star's name.
I was born.
I moved to Hollywood.
I slept with some women.
I made a few movies.
I slept with some women.
I made a few more movies.
I married a woman.
I made a few more movies.
I slept with some women.
I divorced a woman.
I married another woman.
I made a few more movies.
I slept with some women.
I divorced another woman.
I made some more movies.
I took some cocaine and then slept with some women.
I married a woman.
I took some more cocaine and then slept with some women.
I divorced a woman and then took more cocaine.
And so on and so on and so on.
Yep, "American Prince" was pretty unremarkable. But it did force me to unwittingly read another book by co-author Peter Golenbock, a writer I had previously swore off for life. Golenbock is well known as being one of the biggest hacks in sports journalism. Apparently, now he's taken his erroneous facts and misspellings and moved them to Hollywood. And it didn't take long for Peter's amateurish work to infiltrate poor Tony's life. When he referred to the famous movie producers, the Mirischs, as the "Meerichs," I knew that Golenbock was back in his usual mediocre form.
Longtime readers may remember my own encounter with this screwball. Here's a Len Speaks flashback. Now let me tell you the story of how my path crossed with this guy, who is widely known among sportswriters as one of the biggest assholes who ever scrolled paper into an electric typewriter.
Now let me tell you the story of how my path crossed with this guy, who is widely known among sportswriters as one of the biggest assholes who ever scrolled paper into an electric typewriter.
Like scum on a pond, Golenbock has manuevered his way through a series of sports biographies. I actually read a few of them. There was one about Billy Martin, which spent about half of the book listing historical accounts of Martin's blood alcohol content. There was one I didn't read. Mickey Mantle was the subject and it was roundly dismissed because Golenbock dreamed up a fictitious backstory to Mantle's childhood, and the author was not shy in admitting this.
Then there was the Golenbock tome that I purchased and read with unflagging interest. "Amazin'." Allegedly, an oral history of the New York Mets. All he had to do with this book was stitch together interviews with loads of folks who had been associated with the Mets since 1962. How badly could he f^#k this up?
Pretty badly, as it turns out. Throughout the pages, Golenbock would recount Met history in between all the personal reflections from his interviewees. And, as he did so, Golenbock relayed one factual mistake after another. Not just one or two. I could pretty much find an error on every other page. A book that should have been as definitive as Webster's Dictionary was the Hurricane Katrina of the literary world. When he got to the 1986 World Series and went into great detail about how cold it was at Shea Stadium on that Sunday night for Game 1, I wanted to heave the book through the nearest window. I was there that night. Yes, it was cold. Very cold for a SATURDAY NIGHT. Indeed, anybody who has the slightest interest in baseball knew that Game 1 of the World Series started on a Saturday night right through the 80s and into the 90s. And this is documented on tons of statistical websites, baseball history books, etc..
I looked at the book jacket and copied down the publisher's website. There would be a carefully toned, but pretty snarly e-mail that trashed this monumental waste of my time and money. As examples, I used about four or five of the more obvious mistakes. I felt better doing so and really expected nothing in return except the standard e-mail reply "your letter will be reviewed shortly."
Well, not only did the publisher respond but they also forwarded my e-mail to Mr. Golenbock's manager. Mrs. Golenbock. And she was none too happy that I had been so forthcoming about my thoughts on her husband's shitty book. Or so I learned from the e-mail that she sent me.
At first, Mrs. Hack was quite defensive about her hubby's work. As a matter of fact, she told me that I would be happy to know Peter's proofreader is one of the best in the business. But, knowing how much I wanted to make sure that subsequent printings of this book were emended, she asked me to go through the book and write down all the errors for her.
Given I didn't want these two idiots to think that I took their offer for a fall internship lightly, I answered her back. I asked her to tell me how much Peter's proofreader was paid and that I would correct his several hundred missteps at twice the salary. I also contended that said proofreader might not be the best in the business and probably, in another book, missed the fact that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1942.
My offer was naturally dismissed.
Yet, the story continues. About a month later, I am reading the Mets' monthly magazine, "Inside Pitch." A writer takes on the topic of Golenbock's "Amazin" and announces that it is a must-read and must-have for all Met fans. The article looked like it was copied directly from the publisher's press release.
Enter Len's letter to the editors of "Inside Pitch."
I related about 10% of the errors I found in Peter's book and then also told about the subsequent exchange with the author's frau. I closed with the announcement that "Amazin'" was a must-burn for all Met fans. For some reason, I included my e-mail address.
Yet, the story continues.
Several weeks after my letter appeared in the pages of "Inside Pitch," I got another e-mail. From famed NY baseball writer Jack Lang (who has since passed away). As a matter of fact, Jack, who was not up-to-date on this new-fangled e-mail contraption, wrote that he was having his son type up his note to me. Essentially, on behalf of sportswriters all over the NY area, he wanted to thank me for publicly, and at last, calling to attention what a horrible writer and disservice Peter Golenbock has been for almost two decades. Apparently, Peter's lack of talent and knowledge has been whispered around NY press boxes for years, but no one dare mention it in print. But, I did. As a thank you, Jack asked me for my address so he could send me his own definitive version of Met history, which he did in short order.
About a year later, I noticed that "Amazin'" had been released in a soft cover version. I wondered about the status of Mr. Golenbock's proofreader and whether even the five or so bloopers I had cited were even considered by his dopey wife. I turned to the section on the 1986 World Series.
Yep, Game 1 was still played at a freezing Shea Stadium. On a Sunday night. Nobody bothered to do a thing. Mr. and Mrs. Golenbock didn't give a shit. Perhaps they were already moving on to court Tony Curtis.
I have yet to crack the binding on the Tony Curtis tome. But, given that Tony's input was probably crucial, he certainly wouldn't get the facts of his own life wrong. Right?
Still, I wouldn't be surprised to read his memories and reflections on making "Some Like It Hot." That hit comedy from 1959 which co-starred Jack Carson and Marilyn Maxwell.
Well, thankfully, Golenbock did get Marilyn Monroe's name right. But I had no clue that Tony Curtis was once married to Vivien Leigh.
Well, thankfully, Golenbock did get Marilyn Monroe's name right. But I had no clue that Tony Curtis was once married to Vivien Leigh.Dinner last night: Cashew chicken and potato pancakes from Gelson's back in the LA hood.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Live from NY, it's Bedbug Live. While these things crawl around your mattresses, let's see what history has to say about this day.
668: EASTERN ROMAN EMPEROR CONSTANS II IS ASSASSINATED IN HIS BATH AT SYRACUSE, ITALY.
Well, at least they saved on the crime scene clean-up.
921: AT TETIN, SAINT LUDMILA IS MURDERED AT THE COMMAND OF HER DAUGHTER-IN-LAW.
The very first truly hated mother-in-law.
1254: ITALIAN EXPLORER MARCO POLO IS BORN.
Little did he know that he would also start a popular swimming pool game.
1616: THE FIRST NON-ARISTOCRATIC, FREE PUBLIC SCHOOL IN EUROPE IS OPENED IN FRASCATI, ITALY.
If this place is close to Pompeii, does that mean they get a "volcano day?"
1776: DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY WAR, BRITISH FORCES LAND AT NEW YORK' KIPS BAY SECTION.
When did they move on to other telephone exchanges like Murray Hill and Bigelow?
1789: THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE IS ESTABLISHED.
More jobs provided by the 1788 stimulus bill.
1812: THE FRENCH ARMY UNDER NAPOLEON REACHES THE KREMLIN IN MOSCOW.
Smart of them to make the trip before the winter weather comes in.
1821: GUATEMALA, EL SALVADOR, HONDURAS, NICARAGUA, AND COSTA RICA JOINTLY DECLARE INDEPENDENCE FROM SPAIN.
So when do they declare their independence from the United States?
1835: THE HMS BEAGLE, WITH CHARLES DARWIN, REACHES THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS.
I don't really give a shit except that the ship is named after my favorite breed of dog.
1851: SAINT JOSEPH'S UNIVERSITY IS FOUNDED IN PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA.
The college that also brought you the baby aspirin.
1907: ACTRESS FAY WRAY IS BORN.
Which makes her 25 years old when she's fooling around with King Kong. Talk about peaking early.
1916: DURING WORLD WAR I, TANKS ARE USED FOR THE FIRST TIME AT THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME.
Despite many stateside "anti-tank" demonstrations.
1918: COMEDIAN NIPSEY RUSSELL IS BORN.
We salute September 15 in every way because Nipsey Russell was born this day.
1935: THE NUREMBERG LAWS DEPRIVE GERMAN JEWS OF CITIZENSHIP.
A big news day in Germany. See below.
1935: NAZI GERMANY ADOPTS A NEW NATIONAL FLAG WITH THE SWASTIKA.
So who was the marketing genius that came up with this logo?
1944: FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT AND WINSTON CHURCHILL MEET IN QUEBEC TO DISCUSS WAR STRATEGY.
And liquor was served. Lots and lots and lots of liquor.
1952: THE UNITED NATIONS GIVES ERITREA TO ETHIOPIA.
Who even knew that Eritrea was up for grabs? Did we miss out on a good deal or what?
1959: NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV BECOMES THE FIRST SOVIET LEADER TO VISIT THE UNITED STATES.
He was supposed to visit Disneyland, but backed out when he learned he might get wet on Splash Mountain.
1981: SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR BECOMES THE FIRST FEMALE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES.
Years later, Ruth Bader Ginsburg becomes the first ugly female Justice of the Supreme Court.
1981: VANUATU BECOMES A MEMBER OF THE UNITED NATIONS.
Not to be confused with Xanadu, which did not become a member of the United Nations, but was a lousy movie nonetheless.
1998: MCI WORLDCOME OPENS ITS DOORS FOR BUSINESS.
And they haven't stopped calling in the middle of dinner ever since.
2007: MATCH GAME STAR BRETT SOMERS DIES.
"When Brett passed on, they decided to put in a ___________."
2008: LEHMAN BROTHERS FILES FOR CHAPTER 11.
And so ends John McCain's bid for President.
Dinner last night: Had a big lunch, so you'll never know what I would do for a Klondike Bar.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Filmmaker Rob Reiner sits right below me in Dodger Stadium. My season tickets are in the loge. His seats are in the field level, but with the exact same sightline. Whenever I see him out at the ballpark, I'm tempted to shout down to him. And thank him for some of the wonderful movies he's made.
The Sure Thing, which is one of his first and one of my alltime favorites.
This is Spinal Tap.
Stand By Me.
The Princess Bride.
When Harry Met Sally.
On other nights, I want to yell down and ask him what the hell he was thinking when he made...
A Few Good Men, which is grossly overrated and features some of the cheesiest overacting in film history.
The Book of Us.
Alex and Emma.
The Bucket List. See description above for A Few Good Men and apply it here as well.
Yep, you can see the extremes. Rob Reiner's film portfolio as a director is wildly erratic. You enter a theater for one of his movies and you'll be either wildly ecstatic or grossly disappointed.
Okay, Rob, I've seen your newest production "Flipped." I'm calling down to you from the loge.
"Flipped" is another coming-of-age snapshot from the late 50s and early 60s and please don't dismiss it out-of-hand just for that. Somehow, Rob takes a tired premise (or, in this case, a children's book) and makes it fresh and organic. Because, as trite and overdone as the plot is, I had no clue where it was headed next.
"Flipped" is sappy but thoroughly enjoyable entertainment. A ninety minute film without a wasted moment and, compared to three-hour-long junk like "Avatar" and "Inception," Rob's movie appears to be a master class in economical screenwriting and editing.
The film tells the tale of two pre-teens growing up across the street from each other somewhere in Michigan during the Kennedy years. Bryce and Juli are what you would call middle school sweethearts, but start off at opposite ends of the universe. Pivotal moments in their youth and their relationship are told twice, once with Bryce's narration and then again with Juli's narration and viewpoint. When you watch them connect and then almost violently disconnect over and over and over, you wonder how anybody that age remained friends.
Even smarter in the script co-written by Reiner are the parental characters essayed by the likes of Anthony Edwards, Aidan Quinn, Rebecca de Mornay, and Penelope Ann Miller. There's not a Barbara Billingsley or Hugh Beaumont in the bunch. They drink. They argue. They make snide comments behind their neighbors' backs. They're authentic. Believe me, I saw it all in my own house and my childhood neighborhood. As an added bonus, John Mahoney also shows up as Bryce's grandfather and this actor never does anything wrong. Again, the people are real. The emotions are ones that you indeed may have felt at one time in your own life.
Reiner naturally peppers the soundtrack with all those memorable hits of the late 50s and early 60s. This might be one of the last movies to feature a parade of music from that era. As filmmakers get younger and younger, we'll soon be treated to nostalgic looks back at the music of the 80s and, gasp, the 90s. At that point, I may stop going to the movies altogether.
I was dreading the end of the film, primarily because I was convinced that Rob would make the cardinal mistake of showing us the kids as adults. But, almost miraculously, he probably knew that was not the way to go. You are focused on Bryce and Juli as you knew them for the previous ninety minutes. Less was more. The wisest choice a film director ever made.
So, back to the loge and my imaginary conversation with Mr. Reiner...
"AND, ROB, THE STREET SIGNS FOR 'BONNIE MEADOW ROAD?' THAT'S WHERE ROB AND LAURA PETRIE LIVED. YOUR DAD'S SHOW. I GET IT."
Another small gold nugget in a bullion of a good movie.
Dinner last night: Cold cuts and deli salads.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The calendar reminds us anew.
Yesterday was September 11.
It seems impossible that it was nine years ago that we endured this horror as a nation. The events still are as fresh as my memory of what I had for dinner last night (which is, as always, included below). At the same time, you would think that six years would have been plenty of time for our country to be further along in its international relations. Sadly, we must all bow our heads in despair.
I have written in an earlier blog that, for reasons only someone who grew up in New York could totally comprehend, I regret not being there in the metropolitan area on that day. It was a lonely and helpless feeling for me 3000 miles away and three hours earlier. Most of my life had been in New York and this was a reminder that I had moved away from some very good friends.
For me, that day started very ordinarily. I was dressing to the local TV news. Since I like to work NY hours even in Los Angeles, I was up early enough to see the second plane hit. I watched this unfold before me in my bedroom, but, still, I did not disrupt my routine. Finish dressing. Go to the kitchen for a little breakfast and my eighteen vitamin supplements. Back to my bedroom and bathroom for teeth brushing, hair drying, and the final comb. Despite the drama, I never broke step.
I still left the house at the same daily appointed time. I still got into my SUV and left the garage. I was two blocks away at a traffic light on Wilshire Boulevard. Howard Stern was on my "free" radio as usual, but he was still live as opposed to the usual West Coast tape delay. He was watching his studio television. And, suddenly, the first tower collapsed. Howard's voice cracked as he described it and he sounded like he never has before. I was finally frightened.
I made an immediate and abrupt U-turn on Wilshire and headed home.
I knocked on my roommate's bedroom and woke him up. I had never done that before and certainly have not tried it since. But this was unprecedented. We popped on the television and watched. Moments later, the second tower fell. There was still a fire at the Pentagon. He thought about his sister and her family living five minutes away from there. I got an urgent e-mail from a cousin that I had not heard from in about a year. She was praying that I would answer, given that she was aware of my bi-coastal existence. Scary, scary stuff in a country where democracy allegedly reigns supreme.
My company's office in NY had evacuated their building. There were thoughts that some plane might be headed to the West Coast for another target. Our company's head was also in NY that day and he sent word back that he was fine. But, there was no other direction for the LA staff. I reflected on the senior management in place in the LA office. Most of them can barely make a decision regarding lunch, let alone if there was some sort of emergency in the building. I told my roommate that I needed to go into the office.
It was the calmest LA freeway day ever. While there was the usual bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, no one seemed to be their customary hurry mode. Eerily quiet. And borderline pleasant.
As I had suspected, the corporate managers who bothered to come in that day were totally unassuming when it came down to any level of authority. (Most of these dimwits have since been flushed out of our sewer system.) The most senior of directors, who packed only 30 watts of brain power on a good day, was sitting in his office. His feet were up on the desk and his door was partially open as he surveyed his breakfast. The standard "don't bother me" mode. I noted that we would be getting no salient authority from him on that day. So, I made my own executive decision.
I went from office to office and floor to floor. I talked to people I didn't know. I gave them all the same message.
"If you want to stay here for a while to talk, please feel free to do so. But I am closing the office. Whatever you choose to do, please be safe."
I recited my speech so much that I can repeat it verbatim nine years later. Most people took me up on the offer. By the time I got to the senior manager's floor, he had already gobbled up his scone and coffee and left the building to head for wherever ineffectual business people live. I kicked the last person out of the building at 1045AM Pacific time. Just as Mary Richards had done at WJM, I turned out the lights.
On the way home, I drove past my church. There were strangers walking around the parking lot. They weren't casing the joint. They were people from the neighborhood looking for some sort of a safe haven. I called my pastor and told her to open the doors wide.
I then passed the Federal Building in Westwood. I finally grasped the enormity of it all. There were soldiers all over the grounds. They were all looking to the sky with their rifles held high. They were ready to shoot at anything or everything.
Like most Americans that day, I consumed a lot of visual memories on television. By 530PM, the immense tension had created an appetite. My roommate and I decided to venture out for food. Wilshire Boulevard, which is usually a speedway at that hour, was empty. You could shoot a cannon down the block and not hit anybody. All of a sudden, it was like Christmas Eve. There were no restaurants open. For once, people were staying home and having a cherished dinner with their loved ones.
The only eatery open happened to be the delicatessen/restaurant, Nate N Al's, in Beverly Hills. Regardless of what was transpiring on the other coast, there would be people who would not be denied their brisket with gravy. Inside, we would have our most surreal moment of a day that was filled with 1000 of them. In the booth beside us, we found Rodney Dangerfield. Sitting in his pajamas. With the worst case of bed head known to man.
I remember this all with fresh sadness. It is just one story of 200 million others that lived through that experience.
And, unfortunately, there are another 3,000 or so stories that were never quite finished.
Dinner last night: I'm in NY. What else??? The fabulous sausage and peppers at Carlo's in Yonkers following the Met-Phillie game.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
So why this theme song today? Well, yesterday, I was in major Neil Patrick Harris mode. He and his boyfriend were in front of me on the airport security line at LAX. I was wondering if the new Emmy would fit through the scanner.
Standing next to me at JFK baggage claim? You guessed it. So, who's following who, Doogie?
Dinner last night: Roast beef, German potato salad, and cole slaw at the NY hovel.
Friday, September 10, 2010
As you read this entry and realize that I actually saw "The Switch," you'll probably think you need glasses.
Well, the reason I went to this movie is simple.
I needed glasses.
More specifically, I needed them fixed. The photo-gray lens were requiring a bit of a touch-up. Lenscrafters wanted two hours to do the job. I didn't want to drive home and come back. So, I wandered down to the handy multiplex in the same shopping mall.
It was completely a matter of timing. The starting time for "The Switch" matched the workload of some optometrist. Perhaps the most unique story on how somebody contributed to a movie's box office gross.
Admittedly, I had hated the above advertisement for the film. I knew it was about some sperm mix-up and the way that Jason Bateman is staring into that cup couldn't be signaling anything but a smarmy comedy.
And, for the first half-hour, that's exactly what you get. Smarminess with an espresso boost. The usual disgusting hi-jinx that you would get from any other poorly written sex comedy released in the past ten years. Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman are longtime friends. Her biological clock is ending faster than a Jack Bauer day. She wants to be artificially inseminated. Bateman wonders why she doesn't bother to consider him. And, without telling her, he pulls a little switcheroo and commits the most vile act that any supposed movie "hero" has ever done.
Yeah, I know. It sounds dreadful. And putting all those elements in place, the film certainly is. Dreadful.
Then, almost miraculously, the plot flashes forward seven years and it's like you're in a different movie altogether. The rainbow after the tornado. I was astounded just how good "The Switch" could be after starting out so badly. Indeed, the real switch happens to the audience.
Bateman is reunited with Aniston who now has a son and she thinks it's the work of somebody's else sperm. So, he bonds with the kid as an "uncle," except he's really the father.
I know, I know. It still sounds dreadful. But, trust me, it works.
"The Switch" starts to shine because it is written totally from a male viewpoint and this is incredibly rare. "(500) Days of Summer" did the same thing last year and this film resonates in a similar fashion. The movie feels new and fresh. You feel Bateman's angst, guilt, and desires. He bonds with the boy who is not your typical wisecracking moppet. As a matter of fact, the kid's got some problems. He's slightly neurotic. He collects picture frames. And he's a hypochondriac. Bateman tries to get the youngster to deal with all his issues, all the while knowing that he hasn't dealt with his own. Meanwhile, Aniston is off the screen for all this and really not missed. For all I know, she could have been off having lunch with Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer.
Unfortunately, the plot does need to tie up the loose ends and you have to be reminded of the despicable way in which the film started. It's an unfortunate, but necessary return to the formulaic storyline. Bateman must pay for his sins and all looks hopeless until...
Well, you could probably write the ending. I did. But, I was still mesmerized by how I arrived there. I went from Point A to Point B and shrugged at both ends. Yet, the journey in between was unexpected and welcome. What was I seeing? Were my eyes playing tricks on me? Do I need my glasses that badly?
Am I suggesting you run out and see "The Switch?" Hmmmm, probably not.
But, if your glasses need a repair...
Dinner last night: Homemade roast chicken with wild rice and broccoli.
Tomorrow from Nuevo York.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Does Joe Torre even know what to do if he has the first week of October off? It hasn't happened in a decade and a half. If the man is stuck, I have suggestions. Supermarkets are open. Home Depot has normal store hours. And he can hammer a nail into that broken whatchamacallit which is Item No. 7 on the "Honey Do" list.
He just won't be going to Dodger Stadium to manage a game. Maybe ever again.
Just another on a long list of things to contemplate during the early Dodger Blue winter.
There's nothing like a baseball fan's emptiness when you realize your team won't be playing past October 3. Unless, of course, if you consider the empty seats at the ball park as bandwagons make their very last stops on the route to Nowhere.
I remember similar Septembers in New York as hot dog wrappers and dreams blew aimlessly all over the Shea Stadium outfield. Now, in my perch from the Loge Level at Dodger Stadium, I still have that wonderful view of majestic mountains. Hot dog wrappers get little propulsion from nature. The only breeze in Chavez Ravine comes from the third strike swing of Matt Kemp. What can you say about a baseball season when the only highlight was Vin Scully's glorious announcement that he will return to broadcast next season?
As many things that went right for the Dodgers in 2008 and 2009, the same things turned horribly wrong in 2010. A flawed team that had amazing resiliency when it came to figuring out how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. When the weight of the world always seemed to land on closer Jonathan Broxton's back and, let's face it, he still probably has a few pounds on that same world. When we learned those banned fertility drugs really must have had some recuperative powers on Manny Ramirez' hamstrings. When if there was ever a smart move to the bullpen, it always turned out to be very, very stupid.
What next? Baseball provides us with the wonderful ability to turn the page quickly and I can take some small solace that I don't have to watch the Dodgers lose in some diabolical fashion to the Phillies one more October night. So, where does a fan's mind go for comfort?
The future, of course.
In what promises to be a lively offseason, the Dodgers have their work cut out. First and foremost will be the status of ownership. We will have that popular TV classic "Divorce McCourt" played out for several weeks. Who gets the team? Jamie or Frank? Who gets the four dozen homes they've purchased? Jamie or Frank? Who gets the temporary shaft? All of us. For Pete's sake, if Lucy and Desi could figure out how to divvy up Desilu, these two knuckleheads should be able to settle up on a few swimming pools and, oh yeah, a Major League Baseball franchise. But, then again, this is what happens when you take two people from Boston away from their clam chowder for a couple of years. Trust me, the sooner Jamie and Frank are kicked back to a parking garage on Mass Ave, the better.
Then, there's the issue of team management. Joe Torre's three-year deal is up and he may be inwardly frosted about having October all to himself for the first time in 15 years. He's 70 and, most recently, he is finally looking it. But, then again, George Sherrill could age Dorian Gray. Right now, nobody knows what Joe is going to do, but the smart money is now betting that he cashes in his Dodger dollars and starts to polish up that Cooperstown acceptance speech. Personally, he shouldn't end his career with this dud of a team. I'd have him take a one-year farewell tour and let him use Billy Crystal as a bench coach on odd numbered Saturdays.
But if Joe does opt out, who's next in the hot seat? Hitting coach Don Mattingly has been long considered Joe's heir apparent and, as long as he practices a lot over the winter with his Strat-O-Matic game, I'm okay with Donnie Baseball. Hasn't managed in the minors? Minor league managing experience is vastly overrated when you consider all the successful skippers who never got any. Look no further than the guy vacating the job.
Other Dodger blog-o-philes are pushing the candidacy of Triple AAA manager Tim Wallach, the former Expo-Dodger third baseman and possible New York mens clothier. These Dodger fans are frantic with fear that Tim's another Mike Scioscia in the making and he will get away in the same fashion. To make that assumption is not only folly, but unfair to both Wallach and Scioscia. If Tim deserves it, he gets the job on that basis and not simply because he copied a career path. The fact that I can type doesn't mean I'm the next Neil Simon.
Regardless of whether it's Mattingly or Wallach, both guys are still going to have to deal with a young offensive core that was tepid in 2010. Matt Kemp has swung at balls as far away as Arcadia. James Loney barely has enough power to light midnight mass. And, before he busted his pinkie, Andre Ethier was on his way to a batting Triple Crown. Since then, he can't even get one at Burger King.
Meanwhile, catcher Russell Martin has been on crutches for two months and walking around the dugout like that cuckolded husband in "Double Indemnity." Shortstop Rafael Furcal has been on the disabled list several times and only Conan O'Brien has been paid more for working less in 2010. Equally hobbled, Manny Ramirez came and went and came and went and came and then really went all the way to Chicago. Fans should not be surprised that the Dodgers have averaged only two runs per game. I'm wondering how they have scored that many.
Is 2010 an aberration? is the team really this mediocre? Or is the whole season a nightmare that could be erased as soon as Dr. Bob Hartley wakes up again? Regardless, this was a baseball season where the Dodgers simply came up one element short in every single game. If it wasn't the hitting, it was the fielding. If it wasn't the fielding, it was the bullpen. If it wasn't the bullpen, it probably still was the bullpen. Always one step behind and usually eight games back.
For the long cold (okay, in Southern California, cool) winter, I'm holding onto the bright spots of this past season. Jamey Carroll's heart. Ryan Theriot's professionalism at second base. Hong Chi Kuo's almost perfect year in the bullpen, despite his left arm's second career as a Waterford Crystal candy dish. And the long-awaited emergence of Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley as the leaders of the pitching staff. While they're not yet Koufax and Drysdale, they're certainly moving in that direction. And, even better, both are still available to pitch if it's Yom Kippur.
So, I have five game tickets left and I'll be at every one of them. With my scorebook in my lap, my 2010 expectations in the garbage, and my 2011 hopes already in my mental hatchery. Who will manage? Who will be the hitting leader the team sorely needs? Who will introduce Jonathan Broxton to Jenny Craig? When will Matt Kemp finally emerge fully-formed? And how long will it be before Rhianna calls the cops on him?
All will be revealed next season. For now, I'm just doing what I'm told.
I'm waiting for next year.
Dinner last night: The salad bar at Gelson's.