Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Last Week of July and the First Week of August

Aw, how cute. 

Yeah, that's complete mortification.  And the last time you'll ever see a picture of me dressed like THAT.

The memory is vivid.   We had rented a cabin just outside of Atlantic City, which was a popular summer destination for my family unit back in the day.  Most people wanted to stay near the Boardwalk and as close to the action as possible.  Not my folks.  Let's have lodging off the beaten path, where it's less noisy.  And less crowded.

And cheaper.

On this particular vacation, one of my older cousins had come along and she had just, well, sprouted on top.  I remember her being very self-conscious on this beach.  There was nobody else within five miles of us, but, still, she was petrified that somebody would actually see her in a bathing suit in "that condition."  So, she'd run lickity split right into the water and quickly immerse herself up to her neck in water.

Meanwhile, nobody gave a shit about how I looked in this get-up.

Ah, more summer memories.  We're right now at that time of the season where our family vacation would happen.  As I wrote several years ago, this was as predictable as Christmas on December 25 and New Years Day on January 1.

It was annual clockwork.

My dad would take his two weeks of vacation every year at the same time. The last week of July and the first week of August. Smack in the middle of the summer. And, very early on in my kid years, this would be the time we would pack ourselves into a car and travel someplace. Loaded down with juice and lots of plums and peaches for the road. And usually Colorforms to keep me occupied. I couldn't bring comic books along to read in the car. I did that once. The decoration I upchucked onto the side of Dad's green Buick wasn't exactly Jackson Pollock.

We only went as far as a one-day drive could take us. Perhaps a long one-day drive, but one day nevertheless. So, essentially, our radius was about 300 to 400 miles. No more. No less. As a matter of fact, I never flew on an airplane until I got to college. I think about this everytime I see some five-year-old throwing Cheerios around on one of my crosscountry flights.

Ideally, my folks and I would travel with another family. Another mom and dad to give my parents somebody to yak with and perhaps another kid or two that I could hang with. There were a few times where we went solo and those trips tended to drag. After 50 weeks together as a family unit, we needed a break from each other as well. Invariably, though, there would be some point in the vacation with another family that something would happen. A sour word exchanged. A nasty look shared. And then the edict would come from Mom.

"Stay away from THEM."

I remember a bunch of these destinations. Lake George, New York, was popular. They had a couple of Disney-like theme parks. Storyland where you walked around some nursery rhyme settings and then fed the wandering animals, as in the photo above. There was another gimmick called the North Pole and it was always odd to visit there in the sweltering July humidity. You got to meet elves and the complete Santa Claus clan. I was always curious why Mrs. Claus never had any kids. My mom would tell me that all the little workers were all the children they needed. I guess I was too young for the real explanation, which was readily apparent when you toured their house. Santa and the missus were sleeping in separate rooms.

The longest trip we ever made was to Niagara Falls, New York. All day in the car. Extra peaches and plums. Sheer boredom. But the view of the falls was worth it, especially when a wave knocked me clear across the Maid of the Mist. In those days, my father was an amateur photographer and loved taking slides with his Argus Technicolor camera. I remember when these particular slides came back from the developer. Somehow, two got superimposed over each other and the Maid of the Mist was poised right on top of the Horseshoe Falls. Was the Fotomat guy fooling around or was it an accident? We'll never know.

I'll always remember Niagara Falls for the huge case of food poisoning I must have got. All I can recall is lying on a hotel bed with alcohol soaked washcloths all over me. There was a visit from a doctor. I think I was there for about two days. At one point, I was visited by Vivian Vance in a nurse's outfit. Sheer delirium without a drop of liquor.

One summer after I had become a baseball fan, our familial trip trooped up to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame. A great, great excursion for me. But, the little hamlet in upstate New York features few hotels and even fewer with air conditioning. One of my mom's pre-requisites for summer fun was the ability to go someplace and sleep in an air conditioned room. Without the cooling at night, my mom was even less impressed with Mickey Mantle's uniform pants displayed during the day.

Atlantic City, in its pre-casino days, was another popular destination over a few summers. The Boardwalk. The Million Dollar Pier. Salt water taffy. The Steel Pier where the Diving Horse worked and where I shook hands with Paul Anka after a performance. I was probably seven years old and already taller than he was. Another year, we saw the Lennon Sisters. Anything connected to the Lawrence Welk Show bored me shitless. I fell sound asleep in the aisle of the theater.

No trip to Atlantic City was complete without a visit to Zaberer's Restaurant. This place was such a big deal that you kept seeing the signs all along the road to Atlantic City.

"Ten miles to Zaberer's."

"Five miles to Zaberer's."

"Zaberer's right around the bend!"

This was a total dress-up eating event and probably the biggest meal we had all year. You made reservations several days in advance and still waited an hour in the lounge for your table and the ultimate heart-stopping slab of prime rib. The big draw in the waiting room was a color TV, back in the days when nobody had one that worked correctly. At Zaberer's, Mitch Miller's beard was not purple.

On one Atlantic City trip, there was such a rift with THEM that my folks and I hightailed it out of there. Up the road to Asbury Park. Where there was nothing to do. And we stared at each other for what seemed to be an eternity. I ran to a bench and buried myself in the library books I had packed for the trip.

It was the last time we ever traveled anywhere as a family. 

Dinner last night: Sausage sandwich at the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - July 2011

I actually met two of the people in this trailer---the late Paul Lynde and our friend, the late Deborah Walley.

Dinner last night:  The pre-game buffet at the Dodger Stadium Club.

Friday, July 29, 2011

If I Tweeted - July 2011


I don't.  But, if I did, this is what you would have read this month...

#LenSpeaks  I woke up on the morning of LA's carmaggedon and was able to get into my bathroom without hitting traffic.

#LenSpeaks  Traffic in Los Angeles was so much easier during this freeway shutdown.  For the first time, I was only twenty minutes late.

#LenSpeaks  Sorry, folks.  The award for biggest traffic tie-up on the west side of Los Angeles still goes to Obama's fundraising trip last year. 

#LenSpeaks  I couldn't leave my garage for three hours because he had to go pick up a check at some billionaire's house.

#LenSpeaks  Any truth to the rumor that Casey Anthony will be joining Charlie Sheen on his new sitcom.  "One Man, One Woman, and What Baby?"

#LenSpeaks  Requisite Amy Winehouse post.  I didn't know her, never heard her music, and never ate at her restaurant.

#LenSpeaks  Her family said she died from alcohol withdrawal.  Yep, I think she was taking it out of the bottle just fine.

#LenSpeaks  I hear Amy tried to send a voice mail just before she died, but it was hacked by Rupert Murdoch.

#LenSpeaks  It's hot all over the country.  Some call it global warming.  I call it summer.

#LenSpeaks  I now officially have more friends not working than are working.  Yeah, the economy is so much better.

#LenSpeaks  Everybody's talking about raising the debt ceiling.  Why don't we just lower the floor?

#LenSpeaks  Everytime I hear Christine Amanpour's voice on television, I miss Chet Huntley and David Brinkley even more.

#LenSpeaks  It's official.  According to President Obama, George Bush was the second gunman on the grassy knoll in Dallas.

#LenSpeaks  What goes around comes around.  Obama's daughter spilled grape juice on the White House carpet and she told her mom, "Bush did it!."

#LenSpeaks  I wish the press would stop referring to those guys who beat up Bryan Stow as the "Dodger beating suspects."  If this happened outside the Staples Center, would they be "Laker beating suspects?"

#LenSpeaks  It's not like one of the Dodgers held the guy down in the parking lot.  Because we all know that Juan Uribe can't hit a thing.

#LenSpeaks  The Dodgers in 2011 may be disappointing, but it is a joy to watch Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp complete their climb to superstardom.

#LenSpeaks  Harry Potter is over, right?

#LenSpeaks  I don't understand why people have to run and see a movie on opening weekend.    Is the movie any shorter or if you wait a week or two?

#LenSpeaks  If you see some guy driving a Porsche or a Ferrari and he's got a handicapped placard in the windshield, don't you wonder?

#LenSpeaks  How can somebody handicapped climb into one of those cars??  Heh?????

#LenSpeaks  Thanks to the First Lady, there will now be apple slices in McDonald's Happy Meals.  And probably apple slices in McDonald's garbage cans.

#LenSpeaks  But there were no apple slices on the chili dog I saw her wolfing down in the newspaper.

#LenSpeaks  Alice in Wonderland had a tea party.  Who knew she was a Conservative???

#LenSpeaks  Don't you hope there is something called "heaven.org?"  I hate to have my e-mail piled up more than three days at a time.

#LenSpeaks  I guess that, eventually, each of us will be "uploaded."

#LenSpeaks  A question for the ages.  If Jesus had a Facebook page, would he have "unfriended" Judas?  Let's discuss.

#LenSpeaks  Does every asshole have this own blog?  (Looking in the mirror)  I suppose.

Dinner last night:  Pork loin, rice, and broccolini.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dumb and Dumber and Dumbest

A week later, let's close out the whole Carmaggedon discussion with one last shot.  At the three assholes in the photo above.  Well, actually, there are four assholes.  One of them had to take the picture.

During last week's 405 Freeway closure which amounted to less much less drama than the press predicted, these knuckleheads wanted to have some "fun" with the whole hoopla.  What would be the best possible photo opportunity so we can get our self-involved mugs into the press?  Oh, wait, let's have a dinner party on the vacant roadway. 

Sure.  That's the first thing that came to my mind.

So, early one morning of the recent closure, these four schmucks climbed down one of the embankments of the freeway where no one would be working.  They lugged along dinner clothes, food, and a dining table with chairs.  These are dumbbells who probably hire moving and cleaning services for their own homes, but are happy to do the dirty work when it comes to potential photo opportunities. 

The trouble they went through, along with the thought process of the whole process, had to be time consuming.  Whoever employs these four clowns should fire them immediately?  The chick is apparently a television writer, so I automatically know that she is overpaid for what she does.

Meanwhile, the release of this "clever" snapshot was met with few sneers.  The number of people who didn't question for one moment the safety risks these dopes took in achieving their moment of immortality.  The story was met with smiles as opposed to the stern finger wagging they should have experienced.  Trust me.  If one of these morons had been injured in their quest for mischief, you can bet there would have been a lawsuit against Caltrans charging unsafe conditions.  "My God, I got hurt climbing down that highway wall.  That's all your fault, Caltrans."

I love good, old-fashioned fun, but I draw the line on anything that can result in A) injury and B) litigation.  I remember my days in New York, traveling on Metro North from the Greystone train station every morning.  The southbound track had to be approached by climbing a long flight of stairs to a covered trestle.  Then you had to go down a long flight of stairs.  An annoyance but how else could you get to your train?

Well, one schmuck had an idea.  Instead, he would cross over four electrically charged tracks every morning.  Too lazy for stairs.  He'd be smiling every day as he was relishing his clever little shortcut.  One day, I asked him.  Why do you do that?  You could be hurt, I said.

"It's easier.  And funny."

Except you know that his next of kin would be the first ones to sue the railroad if his body had slipped and been found in pieces across the next five or six stops on the Hudson Line.  Negligence, they would charge.  And probably win because they had not prevented this idiot from having his hilarious little moment every day. 

These kinds of actions are not to appreciated.  They should be shunned.  Pay little attention to the jerk with the tin foil hat on his head.    He wants you to notice.  Please don't.

And, as for the four who architected the photo opportunity above, let's put their names out for the record.

Matt Corrigan.  Amanda Corrigan.  Barry Neely.  Jesse Glucksman.

Did they hurt anybody?  No.  But, still, stupid is as stupid does.

Now when they want to Google their names, this blog post will like come up in the search.  And they will see this word as an apt description for each of them.

Idiot.

Dinner last night:  Clubhouse salad at the Cheesecake Factory.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This Date in History - July 27

Where would we be without Norman Lear?

1214:  DURING THE BATTLE OF BOUVINES, PHILIP II OF FRANCES DEFEATS JOHN OF ENGLAND.

The winner went up against Bruno Sammartino of Italy.

1549:  THE JESUIT PRIEST FRANCIS XAVIER'S SHIP REACHES JAPAN.

It doesn't specifically say that Francis Xavier got there at the same time.  Or at all.

1663;  DURING THE GLORIOUS REVOLUTION, THE BATTLE OF KILLIECRANKIE ENDS.

Included only because the word "Killiecrankie" makes me smile.

1694:  A ROYAL CHARTER IS GRANTED TO THE BANK OF ENGLAND.

Killiecrankie.  Yep, still smiling.

1794:  DURING THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, MAXIMILIEN ROBESPIERRE IS ARRESTED AFTER ENCOURAGING THE EXECUTION OF MORE THAN 17,000 ENEMIES OF THE REVOLUTION.

17,000?  Talk about overkill.

1866:  THE ATLANTIC CABLE IS SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED, ALLOWING TRANSATLANTIC TELEGRAPH COMMUNICATION FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Okay, one last smile.  Killiecrankie.  :)

1905:  BASEBALL MANAGER LEO DUROCHER IS BORN.

Sixty-four years later, he had a really shitty summer.

1919:  THE CHICAGO RACE RIOTS ERUPTS, LEADING TO 38 FATALITIES AND 537 INJURIES OVER A FIVE-DAY PERIOD.

How's that community organizing look now?

1922:  TV PRODUCER NORMAN LEAR IS BORN.

And I still miss "All in the Family" to this day.  Boy, wouldn't you like to hear what Archie Bunker has to say about politics in 2011?

1931:  ACTOR JERRY VAN DYKE IS BORN.

Solely around to keep his more talented brother company.

1940:  THE ANIMATED SHORT "A WILD HARE" IS RELEASED, INTRODUCING THE CHARACTER OF BUGS BUNNY.

This should be a national holiday.

1942:  DURING WORLD WAR II, ALLIED FORCES SUCCESSFULLY HALT THE FINAL AXIS ADVANCE INTO EGYPT.

Why was anybody going to that shithole in the first place?

1949:  ACTOR MAURY CHAYKIN IS BORN.

Don't know who he is?  No worries.  The joke pays off a little later.

1949:  INITIAL FLIGHT OF THE DE HAVILLAND COMET, THE FIRST JET-POWERED AIRLINER.

Olivia had her own airline?

1974:  THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES JUDICIARY COMMITTEE VOTES 27 TO 11 TO RECOMMEND THE FIRST ARTICLE OF IMPEACHMENT AGAINST PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON.

Start counting the days, Dick.

1981:  SIX-YEAR-OLD ADAM WALSH, SON OF JOHN WALSH, IS KIDNAPPED IN HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA AND IS FOUND MURDERED TWO WEEKS LATER.

And, as a result, the kid's father wound up with a long run as a TV show host.

1981:  DIRECTOR WILLIAM WYLER DIES.

Not the best day or the best year of his life.

1984:  ACTOR JAMES MASON DIES.

A star is born and then ultimately dies.

1988:  INVENTOR FRANK ZAMBONI DIES.

Now he's really on ice.

1996:  IN ATLANTA, A PIPE BOMB EXPLODES DURING THE 1996 SUMMER OLYMPICS.

And that was the only interesting thing to happen at those games.

2003:  COMEDIAN BOB HOPE DIES.

My writing partner contends that he really died several months earlier but they kept up this scam so the press could celebrate his 100th birthday in May.    I don't deal with a lot of normal people.

2010:  ACTOR MAURY CHAYKIN DIES.

Now that's what I call feng shui.

Dinner last night:  Super Dodger dog at the game.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

All The News That Fits...

If this keeps up, you can change the name of this blog to "Len Speaks About Documentary Films."  Because, once again, the only reason I had to go out to an actual multiplex was because of the promise of yet another compelling documentary.  Come on, you read this blog and you see that I can actually put two grammatically correct sentences together in one place.   Do I look like the type of moron who would go see "Transformers?"

Well, anyway,  "Page One: Inside the New York Times" is another documentary that offered an interesting topic and an opportunity to learn.  Not that I'm unfamiliar with the New York Times.  Although, truth be told, when I'm in New York, I'm likely to read the Daily News.

Nevertheless, as I contemplated a movie about the New York Times, I harkened back to the ninth grade.  I actually had a class called "Current Events" taught by some string bean named Mr. Cawley.  Yes, there was such a course.  And the textbook for us was the New York Times.  Our teacher had an almost inappropriate affectation for the newspaper.   I remember that the first weeks of the semester were spent literally on the proper way to fold the paper in quarters for commuter train reading.  Seriously.

Mr. Cawley also spent a great deal of time showing us how the stories flowed on page one from right to left and top to bottom in terms of importance.  He was teaching at Mount Vernon High School, but I always thought that, inside Mr. Cawley, was the soul of a frustrated national editor.  Eventually, we did actually get around to discussing the news we read in the paper.

But, it's not like he infused in me a lifetime loyalty to the New York Times.  As I mentioned, the Daily News was always a better fit for me.  It had great sports coverage and terrific comics like Blondie and Dick Tracy.  Meanwhile, the New York Times had no funnies, snooty and overrated sports columnists like Dave Anderson and George Vecsey, and a crossword puzzle that required a diploma from Yale.  Over the years, I would buy the Times only on Sunday, solely to look at all the ads for the new shows coming to Broadway.

Of late, I've avoided the New York Times for other reasons.  There have been very public accounts of shoddy journalism and a serious bias in its writing.  While I still read every day the Los Angeles Times mainly for the comics and a Sudoku puzzle, I acknowledge that it has become a horrible newspaper.  But, the New York Times is arguably not far behind.

This is a long way in saying that a movie about the inner workings of a renowned newspaper that may or may not be falling apart had some appeal to me.  At its conclusion, I had instilled in me a bit more respect for the big Gray Lady on 43rd Street in New York.  No, I'm not going to subscribe to the national edition.  But, at least, I can appreciate a lot of what the Times denizens are going through in 2011.

This captivating film focuses on several members of the Times department that focuses on developments in the media.  Indeed, their major task over the past several years has been to report on the demise of a variety of longstanding media institutions, most particularly newspapers.  Nobody gets their news anymore in devices that have black ink that rubs off on your fingers.  Everything is digital as you are news-enlightened by cable news networks, Tweets, websites, and blogs.  Newspapers are becoming more and more of an afterthought.  This is the world the Times guys are now reporting on, even perhaps anticipating their own demise.

Naturally, in 2011, everybody with a blog has an opinion (sorry) and some are taken as gospel.  Therefore, there is purported news that is not fact at all and even the New York Times can fall victim to this as they did during the recent Wikileaks scandal.  The Times got sucked into this and suffered greatly.  Good, unbiased journalism is dying a slow and tortured death and even the New York Times is not immune to the disease.

Yet, their reporters persist and, in this movie, you fall particularly in love with media writer David Carr.  He's a former crack addict who has gotten his life together and now has some deliciously rough edges.  If you're working in a media organization, you want him on the payroll.  He looks around and see the industry changing not for the better, but still strives to keep step and still not forget that, at his very heart and soul, he needs to be a good reporter.  A fascinating guy, the portion of the movie that showed him digging into the impending bankruptcy of the rival Tribune Company is almost as good as anything you saw in "All The President's Men."

These guys are coping as their jobs and careers face uncertain turns on almost a daily basis.  They deal with a business model that now has the New York Times caving in and charging for internet access.  It is the only way they can survive.  And, amidst, the pompous sturm and drang from the blogosphere, they have to compete professionally and with dignity.  When there are slip-ups, you can hardly blame them. 

"Page One: Inside the New York Times" is worth a look, especially if you look for the days when a morning newspaper in your hands had just the right feel as you ate some Special K flakes or chomped on a bagel with cream cheese.  Somehow, it's not a fluid process if you attempt the same on an iPad.

And, on a touch screen, how would Mr. Cawley be able to describe to us the correct way to fold the New York Times?

Dinner last night:  Chili con carne.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 25, 2011

Only in America.   Except it's not....



Dinner last night:  Chicken parmagiana.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Playing Baseball and Not Getting Dirty

The trilogy continues.  More memories of my youthful days and how we busied ourselves with baseball during the summer months.

Last year, I told you all about our time on the sandlot.  Looking for balls in tall weeds and chasing others down the block.

If it got really, really hot and humid, we didn't necessarily want to exert our energy and sweat through our dirty t-shirts.  Instead, we'd play baseball without leaving our front steps.  With a host of board games that allowed you to manage in the major leagues. 

I've told some of these tales here before but they bear repeating.  Take, for instance...

My very earliest version of a baseball strategy game. Challenge The Yankees. There were a bunch of baseball All-Stars on one team and the Yankees from the 60s. Mickey Mantle either hit a homerun or strike out. There was no other result. It really didn't take a brain surgeon to play this game. It was so easy that even Art Howe could have won a few games. I was always envious that they never did a companion version of this. Slaughter The Mets. But, I was a lot more diplomatic in those days and open to owning things that had navy blue pinstripes on them.

I lost interest in the game when, during a moment of losing disgust, I ripped Mickey Mantle's card in half. Of course, in real life, Mickey would get ripped many times during his career. And snockered. And liquored up. And stinkin' drunk.

Frankly, Challenge The Yankees wasn't all that taxing.  And, somehow, even with Mickey Mantle's card in tatters, the pinstriped wonders always won.

Suddenly, one summer, a browsing visit through Shipman's Toy Store on Fourth Avenue in Mount Vernon provided the answer to my dreams. 

Cadaco All-Star Baseball.

This was a baseball board that finally wasn't Yankee-centric.  It looked like all teams were equally represented.  And it actually took me more than an half-hour to read the game instructions.
From the game board, it looked like this game was personally endorsed by Harmon Killebrew and that was as neutral as you could be.  After all, he played all the way over there in Minnesota.

There were a lot more charts to read with this game, so we immediately felt that our intelligence was being tested.  Ultimately, it was a pretty simple set up.  You had two teams full of all-stars.  Each player was on one of those circular stat cards which fit snugly like a donut over a wheel.  You would spin the wheel and the player's at-bat would be dictated by where the needle landed.  Of course, if a hitter struck out a lot in real life, he fanned a lot in this game because the strikeout pie slice on his card would be huge. 

Once we got the hang of this, we got bored pretty quickly.  It seemed like Willie Mays was always hitting homeruns and nobody else was doing anything but grounding to second base.  Yawn.  Hey, Harmon Killebrew, is this the best ya got?

When we all moved to our teenage years, we hit baseball board game paydirt.  The Big Kahuna of baseball strategy.  Also discussed here before...

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, 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.

Looking back, I wonder how much time I actually wasted on these board games.  Time I could have spent reading a book required that summer by my school.  Or actually exercising a muscle or two in my body.  

Screw it.

I wouldn't trade those special moments for anything.

Dinner last night:  Roasr beef sandwich at the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Classic TV Theme of the Month - July 2011

Cap tip to the late Peter Falk as Columbo.  What a tremendous theme by Henry Mancini.

Dinner last night:   French Dip ham sandwich at Phillippe's.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Your Weekend Movie Guide for July 2011


Wow!  Now this is summertime entertainment.  I remember going to see "Bye Bye Birdie" five times in one weekend at the Loews Mount Vernon theater.  I could see this again this weekend if it was playing someplace in the Los Angeles area.

What I won't see is most of the garbage listed below.  The current pile of horse shit produced by Hollywood.  You folks know the drill here all too well.  I'll sift through the Los Angeles Times and give you my knee-jerk reaction to the excrement being passed off as entertainment at your local multiplex.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows - Part 2:  Okay, I'm not going to slam those people addicted to this series of books and movies.  I saw and read the first one and found it all ordinary, but I'm going to revisit via Netflix shortly.  See!  Even the most closed mind can be ajar momentarily.  I did hear from one Potter fan who hated this closing chapter on the screen.  He claims they wildly deviated from the book and I don't understand that strategy.  One thing that does confound me is the frenzy exuded by fans who absolutely had to see this on the very first weekend of release.  Rhetorical question:  is the movie any different if you wait, say, a week?

Horrible Bosses:  Another surprise for you.  I've seen this.  And didn't hate it.  Sure, it's juvenile and stupid, but the acting, especially by bosses Kevin Spacey and the deliciously vile Jennifer Aniston, makes it work.  This is not a vote from me for toilet humor.  But, when crass is done with a little bit of class, it's acceptable.

Bridesmaids:  Hold onto your hat, Len Speaks readers.  This is another shocker.  I've seen this.  And loved it.  Originally, I was going to ignore the film, thinking it was nothing more than "The Hangover" with breasts.  But, fellow blogger Ken Levine wrote about it glowingly and, if it's good enough for him, I needed to sample.  Sure, there's a bit of raunchiness and the vomiting/shitting scene in the bridal salon goes on a bit too long.  But, at the heart of this movie is some, well, heart.  It's really quite charming with terrific performances from Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph.  It also allows us to savor, in a small role, the wonders of the late Jill Clayburgh, even though her scenes look like they were shot mere hours before she died.  She looks quite ill.

Transformers - Dark of the Moon:  Sorry, gang, no more surprises.  This one's for the scrap heap.  Proof positive that Hollywood has completely forgotten how to make a great popcorn action movie for the summer.  Current executives should be forced to revisit the original Die Hard so they can see how it works.  This one is only to be seen by those whose brain waves flatlined three years ago.  You make a stupid movie for stupid people.

Captain America - The First Avenger: The computer graphics looked so cheesy in the trailer that I'm convinced this movie was bankrolled by Kraft Foods.   A dumb movie for even dumber people.

Zookeeper:  Kevin James and a lot of talking animals.  I wonder which one makes the most sense.  Hint: don't bet on Kevin.

Cars 2:  It's hard to believe that I haven't run to go see a Pixar movie.  But, the original was just okay and the trailer made my eyelids droop.  And it was only three minutes long!

Friends With Benefits:  Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in a comedy where friends use each other for sex.  And, gee, from the title, I thought this was all about 401Ks.  Didn't Hollywood make the same movie just six months ago with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway?

Super 8:  It's on my list, but the movie may disappear before I get the time to sample it.   Allegedly this is Steven Spielberg's best producing effort in decades,  which must mean there are A) no aliens or B) no Nazis.

Bad Teacher:  I hear the only way in which the producers got it right was by including the word "bad" in the title.

The Tree of Life:  Root rot.

Winnie the Pooh:  The original back for some more honey.  And where else but in America can you actually avoid the same movie twice in a lifetime??

A Little Help:  A dental hygenist stunned by the death of her husband bonds with her sister's spouse.  Starring Jenna Fischer, Chris O'Donnell, and probably lots and lots and lots of Kleenex. 

Singham:  An Indian police inspector is transferred to the big city.  McCloud Goes to New Delhi.

Good Day For It:  A man forced to abandon his wife and daughter years earlier must risk his life to settle an old score and reunite his family.  But the good news is that he's staying clear of his slutty dental hygenist.

Sarah's Key: In modern-day Paris, a journalist (Kristen Scott Thomas) finds her life becoming entwined with a young girl whose family was torn apart during the notorious Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in 1942.   How many movies must we endure about the scummy French during World War II?  The assholes ran into the Nazis, rolled over and died.  The End.

Larry Crowne:  Tom Hanks as an unemployed retail guy trying to get his life together with Julia Roberts.  Does anybody still buy Hanks as some everyday normal guy?  Puh-leze.  I hear this is dreadful and mainly because Hanks co-wrote the screenplay.  Tom, stick to what you do best.  Act badly.

Midnight in Paris:  Woody's newest one is a breath of fresh air.  Especially since this is his best movie he's done in fifteen years.  Or, roughly, the age of his last child/current girlfriend.

Another Earth:  On the night of the discovery of a duplicate planet in the solar system, an ambitious young student and an accomplished composer cross paths in a tragic accident.   The logline alone has confused me beyond belief.  If there is a parallel Earth, I wonder if the Dodgers are hitting any better there.

Tabloid:  A new documentary that I have already sampled.  It tells the story of some kook named Joyce McKinney who kidnapped a Mormon boyfriend in the 70s, posed for lots of nude photos in the 80s, lived like a hermit in the 90s, and had her dog cloned in the new century.  Gee, doesn't everybody?  A fascinating but incredibly weird story.

Beginners:  Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer star in this tale.  A young man is rocked by two announcements from his elderly father: that he has terminal cancer, and that he has a young male lover.   Luckily, my own dad only hit me with one of the above.  As far as I know....

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop:  Previously reviewed here in detail.  I am still shocked that this documentary was so uncomplimentary to O'Brien when he had control of the content.  Gee whiz.  He might be even worse than it appears.

A Better Life:  A gardener in East L.A. struggles to keep his son away from gangs and immigration agents while trying to give his son the opportunities he never had.   Another reason to close the borders.

Beats, Rhyme and Life:  Having forged a 20-year run as one of the most innovative and influential hip hop bands of all time, the Queens NY collective known as 'A Tribe Called Quest' have kept a generation hungry for more of their groundbreaking music since their much publicized breakup in 1998. Michael Rapaport documents the inner workings and behind the scenes drama that follows the band to this day. He explores what's next for, what many claim, are the pioneers of alternative rap.   Somewhere in that long description lies the hidden message for me.  No fucking way.

Terri:  All about a large 15-year-old boy in a small town as he struggles to adjust to his difficult life.   Well, you can start by wondering why his parents gave him a first name that's spelled like a girl's.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A story set in 19th century China and centered on the lifelong friendship between two girls who develop their own secret code as a way to contend with the rigid cultural norms imposed on women.   That's funny because, in 21st Century China, these girls don't even make it out of the womb.

Dinner last night:  Meat loaf and broccoli.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Moron of the Month - July 2011

Regular readers know that, over the past two years, I have tried to steer clear of political discussions here.  Not worth the effort and, frankly, the dialogue is exhausting.

But, every once in a blue moon, there comes a situation or a remark or an incident that comes around which is so reprehensible, so disgusting, so heinous, and so devisive that I can't ignore it.   Something that makes me embarrassed to be a member of a country that has the wonderful gift of elected officials.

Yep, thank you, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, my July 2011 Moron of the Month.  The latest in a sadly increasing line of leadership frauds perpetuated on the innocent citizens of America.  She represents a Congressional district somewhere in Houston, Texas and the people who voted her into office should have their citizenship revoked.  She's that hateful a person.

Okay, there's all this talk about the Federal Government debt ceiling being raised and I admit I don't understand any of it.    President Obama says it's necessary to keep the country going, even though we're a whole bunch of trillion dollars in debt already.  Meanwhile, I don't think this nation is any more solvent or broke than we've been in the past three decades. 

But, the conservatives are holding him accountable and don't want the debt ceiling increased because they want more sensible spending.  This nonsense goes round and round and round and we should not forget that Obama, as a Senator, voted against the debt ceiling being raised while George Bush the Second was in the Oval Office.  So, frankly, nobody has any credibility in this argument.

But, then, you have Sheila Jackson Lee weighing in on the debate.  This pile of cow dung in high heels and pearls has her own thoughts on the discussion.  Yep, out of her purse, she pulls her favorite toy.

The race card.

In front of the House of Representatives, this bitch had something to say.

"Only this President---only this one---only this one has received the kind of attacks and disagreements and inability to work.   Only this one.  Read between the lines."

Hmmm?  Gee, I wonder what she's trying to say.

"What is different about this President that should put him in a position that should put him in a position that he should not receive the same kind of respectful treatment of when it is necessary to raise the debt limit in order to pay our bills?"

Okay, I think I'm starting to get it now.

"In the minority community that is the questions that is being raised.  Why is this President being treated so disrespectfully?"

Aaahhhh.  There it is.  If you oppose the President's policies, you're automatically a racist.

Thank you, Sheila Jackson Lee, for being a role model for the nation to follow.  You bigoted piece of shit.

Okay, I'm no more a fan of this President than I was of the last three.  But, I have plenty of friends who did vote for this guy.  All of them White.  And, so did a little more than half of the country.  And, unless I'm missing something in the recent photos, Barack Obama is no more Black today than he was in 2008.

It's about the policies, Sheila.  It's about the policies.

But, of course, in her world, it's always about the skin color.  If it's not, she's got no platform.  Or reason to open her mouth.

This is a woman who closed her office for a day so she could accommodate a visit from Michael Jackson.

This is a woman who introduced Congressional legislation to name that same known pervert, druggie, and pedophile as an international humanitarian.

This is a woman who once demanded that more hurricanes be named with African American-sound names. 

On and on and on and on.  In a land where race relations have progressed and progressed, Sheila Jackson Lee approaches her job as if she just discovered that her White neighbor has Kunta Kinte chained up in the backyard.

Meanwhile, a little Google excavation and you discover that Sheila's psycho rants might not be confined to the floor of the US House.   She's apparently as much of a bitch to work for as she is to work with.

Jackson Lee has one of the highest staff turnover rates in Washington.  Over the last ten years, at least 39 staffers have left with one year.  Over that time, Sheila has employed at least nine chiefs of staff, eight legislative directors, and 18 schedules or executive assistants.  Nine staffers left within two months and 25 left within six months.  Murphy Brown had less turnover.

But, wait, as the Ginsu Knife salesman said...there's more.

Sheila regularly ask that documents be printed in different colors.

She demands two staffers in two cars pick her up from the airport---one for her and the other for her luggage.

Her favorite names for addressing staff members is "motherfucker."

Her former drivers say the congresswoman demanded they run red lights and drive on highway shoulders around traffic.  This caused at least one accident.

On and on and on and on.

Then there's former staff member Mona Floyd.  Fired by Jackson Lee and now suing her former boss for discrimination. 

In her law suit, Floyd charges that Jackson Lee insulted and ignored her visual disability, known as monocular visions which causes eye fatigue and strain, headaches, reduced speed in reading, reduced concentration and comprehension, and general physical fatigue."

Jackson Lee allegedly forced Floyd to read throughout the day from 7AM to 11PM, despite her disability requiring her to take breaks to rest her eyes.  This horrible boss allegedly told Floyd, " I don't care anything about your disability.  I don't give a damn about her disability."

P.S.  Mona Floyd is Black.

It's good to know that, when it comes to pure hatred, Sheila Jackson Lee does have the ability to be an equal opportunity offender. 

This is a woman who needs to be ousted from her elected post as soon as possible.  And, as she is packing up the contents of her office, perhaps she can take a look at the calendar on her desk.

She'll see that it's 2011, not 1863.

Dinner last night:  BBQ pulled pork sandwich at Pink Taco.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

This Date in History - July 20

Happy birthday to Heinie Manush, a baseball player I know nothing about.  But, how can you not like somebody with that first name?

70:  DURING THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM, TITUS, SON OF EMPEROR VESPASIAN, STORMS THE FORTRESS OF ANTONIA NORTH OF THE TEMPLE MOUNT.

My Lord.  It's only seventy years after Jesus and already the Mideast is a freakin' powder keg.

911:  ROLLO LAYS SIEGE TO CHARTRES.

I mention this only because I have no clue who Rollo is.

1304:  IN THE WARS FOR SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE, KING EDWARD I OF ENGLAND TAKES THE STRONGHOLD USING THE WAR WOLF.

Gee, even those pansies in kilts got their licks in.

1738:  CANADIAN EXPLORER PIERRE GAULTIER DE VARENNES ET DE LA VERENDRYE REACHES THE WESTERN SHORE OF LAKE MICHIGAN.

And realizes he should have packed a sweater.

1807:  NICEPHORE NIEPCE IS AWARDED A PATENT BY NAPOLEON BONAPARTE FOR THE PYREOLOPHORE, THE WORLD'S FIRST INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE.

Damn, this sure is a boring date in history.  And a tough one to make jokes about.

1810:  CITIZENS OF BOGOTA, NEW GRANADA DECLARE INDEPENDENCE FROM SPAIN.

See!  Not funny.

1871:  BRITISH COLUMBIA  JOINS THE CONFEDERATION OF CANADA.

Also not funny.

1877:  RIOTING IN BALTIMORE, MARYLAND BY BALTIMORE AND OHIO RAILROAD WORKERS IS PUT DOWN BY THE STATE MILITIA, RESULTING IN NINE DEATHS.

I tried to make an Oriole joke work.  I couldn't.  Also not funny.

1881:  SIOUX CHIEF SITTING BULL LEADS THE LAST OF HIS FUGITIVE PEOPLE IN SURRENDER TO UNITED STATES TROOPS.

Okay, good, the joke is...  Er, never mind.  Not funny.

1901:  BASEBALL PLAYER HEINIE MANUSH IS BORN.

Unfortunately, I used the "heinie" joke in the opening.  I got nothing else.

1903:  THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY SHIPS ITS FIRST CAR.

And it's immediately recalled.  Leave it to the American car industry to bring the funny back to this date.

1916:  IN ARMENIA, RUSSIAN TROOPS CAPTURE GUMISKHANEK.

Which may explain why the Armenians all moved to Glendale, California.

1921:  AIR MAIL SERVICE BEGINS BETWEEN NEW YORK CITY AND SAN FRANCISCO.

Is this with or without pigeons?

1921:  CONGRESSWOMAN ALICE MARY ROBERTSON BECAME THE FIRST WOMAN TO PRESIDE OVER THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

I wish she had been the last.  That's, of course, making the assumption that Nancy Pelosi is really a woman.

1926:  A CONVENTION OF THE SOUTHERN METHODIST CHURCH VOTES TO ALLOW WOMEN TO BECOME MINISTERS.

How long before one of them tries to tell us that Jesus was a girl?

1928:  THE GOVERNMENT OF HUNGARY ISSUES A DECREE ORDERING GYPSIES TO END THEIR NOMADIC WAYS, SETTLE PERMANENTLY IN ONE PLACE, AND SUBJECT THEMSELVES TO THE SAME LAWS AND TAXES AS OTHER HUNGARIANS.

Well, that's a stupid rule.  Isn't that what gypsies do?  Move around?  Meanwhile, we had some in my neighborhood when I was growing up and my grandmother said that, if I looked them straight in the eye, they would put nails in my throat.

1932:  IN WASHINGTON DC, POLICE FIRE TEAR GAS ON WORLD WAR I VETERANS WHO ATTEMPT TO MARCH ON THE WHITE HOUSE.

Almost as dumb as forbidding gypsies from moving.  Who tosses tear gas on a war veteran???

1938:  ACTRESS NATALIE WOOD IS BORN.

The kind of wood that doesn't float.

1940:  DENMARK LEAVES THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS.

They shifted to a division that had the designated hitter.

1940:  CALIFORNIA OPENS ITS FIRST FREEWAY, THE ARROYO SECO PARKWAY. 

How many minutes before it was completely clogged?

1944:  ADOLF HITLER SURVIVES AN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT LED BY GERMAN ARMY COLONEL CLAUS VON STAUFFENBERG.

How many Jews would have been saved if this guy could shoot straight?

1949:  ISRAEL AND SYRIA SIGN A TRUCE TO END THEIR NINETEEN-MONTH WAR.

A fat lot of good that did.

1953:  THE UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL VOTES TO MAKE UNICEF A PERMANENT AGENCY.

And gave cheapskates an excuse not to give out candy on Halloween.

1969:  APOLLO 11 SUCCESSFULLY LANDS ON THE MOON.

And the astronauts were introduced almost immediately to Alice Kramden.

1976:  HANK AARON HITS HIS 755TH HOME RUN, THE FINAL HOME RUN OF HIS CAREER.

The true leader in this category, not that Barry Bonds asshole.

1977:  JOHNSTOWN IS HIT BY A FLASH FLOOD THAT KILLS 80.

So there really was a Johnstown flood???

1984:  OFFICIALS OF THE MISS AMERICA PAGEANT ASK VANESSA WILLIAMS TO QUIT AFTER PENTHOUSE PUBLISHES NUDE PHOTOS OF HER.

As if Bert Parks never saw a pubic hair in his life.

1987:  ACTOR RICHARD EGAN DIES.

Well, that, at least, got his teeth unclenched.

1999:  ACTRESS SANDRA GOULD DIES.

Gladys Kravitz!!!  Well, the second one.

2005:  ACTOR JAMES DOOHAN DIES.

Beamed up.  Really.

2007:  TELEVANGELIST TAMMY FAYE BAKKER MESSNER DIES.

Mascara kills.

Dinner last night:  Chicken cacciatore and polenta.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Dreaded Community Activist

Los Angeles survived Carmageddon.  Almost 16 hours early.  Hell, I was even on the road by 1130AM Sunday as the photo above attests. 

Caltrans got their work done on the Mulholland Drive Bridge and this overpass is now halfway gone.  Those idiots who were dying to see the last Harry Potter adventure all got to the theater of their choice.  Life pressed on.  Widening of the 405 Freeway can continue as if extra lanes are really going to solve traffic problems on weekdays when cars are lined up from Santa Clarita to the Mexican border.

Ultimately, Carmageddon was a whole lot of nothing.  Traffic was light and it was as if Christmas morning had been moved to July 16.  The result was so refreshing that other cities should consider demolishing their bridges as well.  My first suggestion?  The Whitestone Bridge in New York.  But, I digress...

As well as it came off, no one knew it would be that easy.  Lots of media hype and hysteria.  Except we had no benchmark to know whether the frenzy was real or Memorex.

And, the whole construction process itself, as we learned last week, was probably unnecessary.  Except for, in large part, the garden gnome in the photo below.
Wendy-Sue Rosen.  

Who is she?  What is that?  Is it for real?  You might be asking all those questions.  Well, I'll splain.

First off, somebody with a hyphenated first name is immediately suspect in my book.  Is it because the parents couldn't decide a name if they were having a girl...or having a girl?  Looking at her in the picture, she's hardly conjuring up images of the Petticoat Junction girls or one of the denizens from Hazzard County.  

But, her dopey first name is hardly Wendy-Sue's biggest offense.  Yep, she's one of those community organizers and you know how welcome they can be.  One of those flapping mouth do-gooders who hasn't encountered a civic group or organization that they can't join.  And endeavor to engineer some power grasp in an undying quest to be self-important. 

So, as this recent 53-hour road closure was in the planning stages, Caltrans worked closely with community groups to ensure the least amount of inconvenience.   In fact, it's recently revealed that they present an alternate plan that will be less taxing on the citizens' nerves and wallets.  Apparently, the easier way is the cheaper route as well.  A rare moment when a government department is being mindful of their constituents.

Except when they presented said revised plan to some Brentwood Homeowners Association.  Headed by the munchkin shown above.  And, of course, said revised plan didn't fly as far as they were concerned and they effectively stopped it dead in its tracks.

The argument wielded by Wendy-Sue and her bunch of moronic minions was that they didn't like the alternate plan's treatment of the Mulholland Drive Bridge's demolition.  They, of course, cited the always annoying "environmental impact."  And then dropped in all those other words that showed they had more love for a bridge than their own neighbors.  "Esthetics."  "Rustic character."  "Wildlife."  The legal jargon in their complaint was mind-numbing.

Meanwhile, it's a fucking bridge.  And, frankly, I've never seen deer scampering across it during rush hour.

When you Google Wendy-Sue Rosen, you discover that she can't keep her mouth shut...ever.  She joins every community group possible and quickly ascends to the top leadership post because you just know that she's a pushy pest.  One of those human mosquitos that foists her lifestyle views on everybody else because she couldn't possibly be anything but wrong.  I'm sure she's all for energy-saving lightbulbs, better snack machines in schools, and rights for goldfish to swim outside a bowl on your kid's dresser.

I looked at her Facebook page.  More of the same. 

The Federation of Hillside and Canyons Aassociation.

California State Parks Foundation.

Los Angeles Mountain.

Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy.

Save Malibu Lagoon.

Save Franklin Canyon.

And, oh, yeah, she likes Barack Obama.  Big surprise.

Shaddap!

Meanwhile, the Internet search for Wendy-Sue doesn't show any real employment.  Except, of course, for some Universal Studios job in the 90s which she must have left after filing and winning a huge sexual harassment lawsuit against her supervisor. 

Sexual harassment?  Really?  What was wrong with him?

So, obviously Wendy-Sue Rosen is not only a buddinsky, but also a litigious one.

We all know the type.  You probably have one on your homeowner's association.  Or your kid's PTA.  Or your church council.  That drone who was aptly described by my father as the one "with all the answers to none of the questions."  They live their lives around these committees because that addresses deep-seeded needs for gratification and power.   Perhaps they got beat up in the school yard.  Or didn't get asked to the junior prom. 

Unfortunately, their neuroses become our problems.  Under the guise of helping their neighbors.  Phooey!

So, thanks to Wendy-Sue Rosen, Los Angeles had the prospects of a difficult weekend.  Folks had to cancel plans.  Others might have missed their flights out of LAX.  Hospital workers had to spend the days in a hotel so they wouldn't miss their shifts.  The latter are our real community heroes.  Not bozos like Wendy-Sue Rosen.

Indeed, maybe there was some subtext involved in her captivation of that Mulholland Drive overpass.  After all, don't trolls usually live under a bridge?

Dinner last night:  Proscuitto, provolone, and tomato panini.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 18, 2011

Okay, why are the oldest men in the world carrying something this heavy???


Dinner last night:  Pepperoni and mushroom pizza from Hoboken Pizza.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Baseball in the Neighborhood


Okay, where did I leave off last Sunday with my tales of baseball as a kid?

I was in my backyard throwing a rubber ball against the brick stoop, conjuring up an imaginary play-by-play of some mythical game involving the New York Mets.

Well, the good news is that I wasn't stuck in a solitary environment for long.  Once I hit the age of eleven or so, we embraced the playing of the sport in a much bigger way.

We went to our own personal stadium for our own nightly edition of baseball.

In the photo above, you see a townhouse complex in the background.  That, gang, was our vacant lot.    Firestone Stadium, if you will, since the tire store was already a fixture on the same block years ago.   This ugly patch of land was surrounded by tall weeds.  It was surrounded in the back by a fence that prevented folks from falling onto the New Haven Railroad train tracks that cut through the city of Mount Vernon.  On another side, the border of the lot was comprised of a warehouse for Sunshine Biscuits and a Carvel Ice Cream stand which later morphed into an independent custard supplier called "La Creme."

In the middle of this mess of broken down buildings and weedy grass was an area of dirt.   A perfect fit for a make-shift baseball diamond.

And our nightly home on summer evenings.

Our routine was pretty simple.  The neighborhood chums and I all wrapped up dinner by around 6PM.  Stomachs full, we'd gather and march ourselves down to the lot for a pick-up game of baseball.  Or softball, in our case.  We had about a two-hour window of playing time.  By 8PM, darkness would set it and we'd have to wrap up the competition for the evening.  Besides, we all needed to be back on our block by around 8:30PM for the 8;43PM arrival of the Good Humor Truck.

Our group varied by day.  My best neighborhood buddy, Leo.  His brothers.  Some other urchins with a myriad of monikers.  Fred, Dominick, Gary, Glenn, Johnny.  It wasn't necessary to pull together eighteen players that would fill out two baseball teams.  We certainly didn't have critical mass.  Nor did that swatch of baseball dirt have the room for more than five or six kids in the field.

At the far end of the patch of dirt, there was a huge boulder stuck in the ground.  This served as the home plate area and the "dugout" for whichever team was batting.  The hitting group also needed to supply a catcher.  Without one, the first pitch would be thrown into the weeds and lost for posterity.

Game unfortunately over.

Since there was a major four lane street that served as our "outfield," we had to establish some strange rules.  Kids were liable to hit the cover off the ball and send it into traffic, which might ultimately kill the one of us retrieving it.  So, if you hit it really, really far, you were automatically out.  A homerun was awarded if you hit the ball and it landed directly on the sidewalk before the big street.  It was harder than you thought.  Arguments ensued.  We were ideal candidates for the implementation of a replay camera.

Of course, invariably, some jerk would clobber the ball and send it flying into a phalanx of automobiles.  The speed of a car would grab hold of the trajectory and, before you knew it, the ball was five blocks away.  Or down a sewer.

Game unfortunately over.

My friends on the block were pretty athletic so games were competitive. Leo, embracing his Italian heritage,  fancied himself as the next Ron Santo so he always played third base and did it flawlessly.  Others were scattered around the infield.  Usually, the kid stationed in the outfield was the speediest.  He'd be the one chasing the ball around the cars.  Ideally, this guy was not only the fastest, but the most expendable.

There was, however, one link in the chain.  Around the patch of dirt were all these pretty decent athletes.

And then there was me.

Uncoordinated.  Clumsy.  A little chunky.  And slow as shit.

The solo baseball games in my yard had prepared me for nothing.    But I wanted badly to fit in and be part of the big doings every night at Firestone Stadium.

Luckily, my batting eye was quick to develop.  After a while, I became a decent hitter.  Not Mickey Mantle, but hardly Mickey Mouse either.  I could take a turn at the plate and hardly embarrass myself.

In the field, however?  I was a mess.  There was just too much to do.  Bending.  Running.  Catching with two hands.  Throwing.  Way too complicated for me.

One day, I took a turn as the pitcher.  At least, I could toss a ball underhand and then let my defense do all the hard work.  I learned to put some spin on the ball.  I figured out how to arc the ball to my advantage.  Okay, it wasn't exactly a Hall of Fame career.  But, pitching soon became my forte.  And it was a heck of a lot safer than chasing a ball and a bus down First Street.

As I got older by a year or two, I got a little more agile.  Gee, maybe I could play the field someplace?  I was one of the tallest kids there so first base was an obvious spot.  You see, any high throws from the infielders might not necessarily sail over my head and into the weeds.  For once, one of my physical attributes gave me an advantage.  My height would prevent the ball from getting lost.

Of course, there was the day where a throw to first base was obscenely high.  The ball even missed the weeds.

There was a house next to the lot.

There was a kitchen window in the house next to the lot.

CRRRRAACK!  SMMMMASSSHHH!

And we all heard the same voice in our heads.

"RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Game definitely over.

Dinner last night:  Bratwurst from Steingarten.