Friday, November 30, 2012

The Macy's Awkward Day Parade

It's always fun to dress up like a Chinese restaurant.
Or get dressed like a sperm.
Looks like a Fred Mertz convention.
A couple of dumbbells...and some gym equipment.
If you have a trophy wife, you naturally wind up with a trophy baby.
Pick the future pedophile.  (You may make more than one choice.)
Now why would you throw out a perfectly good baby?
Hey, honey, don't forget to pack the baby.
Insert your favorite politically incorrect comment here.
The amazing new Chia Hairdo.

Dinner last night:  Leftover meatballs and vegetables.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

If I Tweeted - November 2012

Even though I do have an account, I don't use it very often.  But, if I did, here's what you would have read from me this past month.  From Election Day to airplane trips to Liz & Dick.  I tweet it all.

#LenSpeaks  Tomorrow is Election Day when we find out who will be running the country the next four years---Michelle Obama or Ann Romney.

#LenSpeaks  I can't wait for Election Day to be over.  So people on Facebook can stop yakking about politics and go back to telling us how they got drunk last night.

#LenSpeaks  The Los Angeles Times has a nifty voting guide.  I look at their endorsements and do just the opposite.

#LenSpeaks  Early exit polls have Roseanne Barr comfortably ahead.

#LenSpeaks  I voted....in somebody's garage.  I used a hammer to punch out my chads.

#LenSpeaks  When you vote late in the day, the donuts are stale.  Just sayin'.

#LenSpeaks  Idiots on Facebook are rooting for Obama to win states like it's a Big Ten football game.

#LenSpeaks  If you took Romney and four points, you lost.

#LenSpeaks  Ah, we have a new President.  America's final episodes begin on January 20, 2013.

#LenSpeaks  Personally, I can't wait for January 2013.  New episodes of both "Downton Abbey" and "Dallas."

#LenSpeaks  You get the impression that most people think Benghazi is an Italian version of an analgesic cream for sore muscles.

#LenSpeaks  The Middle East is blowing up and people on Facebook are worried about Israel.  Except some of them are the same stooges rooting for Obama.

#LenSpeaks  An idle retro thought.  Whatever happened to Dr. Frank Field??

#LenSpeaks  An idle retro thought I did not have.  Whatever happened to Storm Field?

#LenSpeaks  On my flight to New York, the movie playing is a documentary about that numbskull Katy Perry.  Amazingly, it's more than five minutes long.

#LenSpeaks  In New York for the first time since the storm and everything is...well, wet.

#LenSpeaks  Okay this is officially weird.  Dodger Stadium neighbor Rob Reiner is sitting right in front of me on my flight back to LA.

#LenSpeaks  I may have to ask former wife Penny Marshall how you get a temporary restraining order.

#LenSpeaks  Okay, Rob's in the bathroom for the third time in an hour.  Obvious bladder flow issues.

#LenSpeaks  Radio stations have already flipped to Christmas music.  And I have now officially turned off Burl Ives for the first time in 2012.  It will happen again.

#LenSpeaks  How come I'm not reading that the end of Twinkies is a plot hatched by Michelle Obama?

#LenSpeaks  Personally, I always preferred Drake's Ring Dings.

#LenSpeaks  Fun fact for 2013:  the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination will happen on FRIDAY, November 22.

#LenSpeaks  I just can't get used to Salvation Army workers wearing shorts and Hawaiian shirts.

#LenSpeaks  If you went out shopping on Black Friday, consider our friendship officially terminated.

#LenSpeaks  Looking at the riots in the malls, I now know why they call it "Black Friday."

#LenSpeaks   Angus T. Jones, the kid on "Two and a Half Men" calls his own show filth and tells us not to watch it.

#LenSpeaks  Consider it done.  I stopped watching five years ago.

#LenSpeaks  It's really horrible when you hate your job.  Especially when you're only 19 and you make $350,000 per episode.

#LenSpeaks  Lifetime's TV movie on Liz and Dick might just be the worst show ever produced.

#LenSpeaks  As Liz Taylor, Lindsay Lohan looked more like Ernest Borgnine.

#LenSpeaks  The authorities keep wanting to take her driver's license away.  After that movie, they should confiscate her SAG card.

#LenSpeaks  Way to go, Kevin Clash.  It wasn't just Elmo you were tickling.

Dinner last night:  Teriyaki meatballs, rice, and salad.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

This Date in History - November 28

Happy birthday, Randy Newman.  He loves LA, you know.

1095:  POPE URBAN II APPOINTS BISHOP ADHEMAR OF LE PUY AND COUNT RAYMOND IV OF TOULOUSE TO LEAD THE FIRST CRUSADE TO THE HOLY LAND.

Pope Urban?  Could there also possibly be a Pope Ghetto?

1520:  AFTER NAVIGATING THROUGH A STRAIT AT THE SOUTHERN END OF SOUTH AMERICA, THREE SHIPS UNDER THE COMMAND OF EXPLORER FERDINAND MAGELLAN REACH THE PACIFIC OCEAN, BECOMING THE FIRST EUROPEANS TO SAIL FROM THE ATLANTIC OCEAN TO THE PACIFIC.

And the very first explorers to have a GPS device named after them.

1582:  IN STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND ANNE HATHAWAY PAY A BOND FOR THEIR MARRIAGE LICENSE.

I'm not sure, but I think this may not be the same Anne Hathaway that was in the Princess Diaries.

1729:  NATCHEZ INDIANS MASSACRE 138 FRENCHMEN, 35 FRENCH WOMEN, AND 56 CHILDREN AT FORT ROSOLIE.

For consistency's sake, let's assume the children were French, too.

1814:  THE LONDON TIMES IS FOR THE FIRST TIME PRINTED BY AUTOMATIC, STEAM POWERED PRESSES, SIGNALING THE BEGINNING OF THE AVAILABILITY OF NEWSPAPERS TO A MASS AUDIENCE.

Today, newspapers are still available.  Except there is no longer a mass audience.

1843:  THE KINGDOM OF HAWAII IS OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED BY THE UNITED KINGDOM AND FRANCE AS AN INDEPENDENT NATION.

First you recognize.  Then you go there on vacation.

1893:  WOMEN VOTE IN A NATIONAL ELECTION FOR THE FIRST TIME DURING THE NEW ZEALAND GENERAL ELECTION.

Those New Zealanders sure are pioneers.

1895:  THE FIRST AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE RACE TAKES PLACES OVER 54 MILES IN ILLINOIS AND THE WINNER COMES IN AT 10 HOURS.

That's five miles per hour.  Just like my dad's old Buick.

1907:  IN HAVERHILL, MASSACHUSETTS, SCRAP METAL DEALER LOUIS B. MAYER OPENS HIS FIRST MOVIE THEATER.

And most of what is playing these days at the movies is barely a cut above scrap metal.

1919:  LADY ASTOR IS ELECTED AS A MEMBER OF THE PARLIAMENT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM.  SHE IS THE FIRST WOMAN TO SIT IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.

But probably not the first one to clean the House of Commons.

1923:  ACTRESS GLORIA GRAHAME IS BORN.

Love those crackers.

1925:  THE GRAND OLE OPRY BEGINS BROADCASTING IN NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE.

Yee ha.

1933:  ACTRESS HOPE LANGE IS BORN.

She died in 2003.  So Mrs. Muir then became a ghost.

1942:  IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, A FIRE IN THE COCOANUT GROVE NIGHTCLUB KILLS 491 PEOPLE.

Why you always look for the exit signs whenever you are in a public place.

1943:  MUSICIAN RANDY NEWMAN IS BORN.

I put his picture up there and all.  But I really don't have a good Randy Newman joke.  Sorry.

1943:  US PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER WINSTON CHURCHILL, AND SOVIET LEADER JOSEPH STALIN MEET IN TEHRAN TO DISCUSS WAR STRATEGY.

And complain about their respective wives.

1949:  MUSICIAN PAUL SHAFFER IS BORN.

I prefer Doc Severinsen.  And Rheingold.

1958:  BASEBALL PLAYER DAVE RIGHETTI IS BORN.

I used to like the guy.  Now he's A SF Giant coach.  Oh, well.

1959:  ACTOR JUDD NELSON IS BORN.

The Breakfast Club opens for business.

1964:  NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERS AGREE TO RECOMMEND THAT US PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON ADOPT A PLAN FOR ESCALATION OF BOMBING IN NORTH VIETNAM.

Yeah, that's a smart idea.

1972:  THE LAST USE OF A GUILLOTINE IN FRANCE.

A head of the curve.

1976:  ACTRESS ROSALIND RUSSELL DIES.

I'm no longer your Auntie Mame.

1983:  ACTOR CHRISTOPHER GEORGE DIES.

He died young, but did sleep with Lynda Day George.  There is a trade off.

1993:  TV STAR GARRY MOORE DIES.

No longer a secret.

1994:  SERIAL KILLER JEFFREY DAHMER DIES.

Rat bastard.

2010:  ACTOR LESLIE NIELSEN DIES.

And don't call me dead.

Dinner last night:  Steak, fries, and broccoli.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Morons of the Month - November 2012

Well, gang, you didn't think I was going to get through the whole month of November 2012 in Blogland without mentioning the recent Presidential election.  Indeed, I wanted to remove myself from it time-wise so I could put my thoughts into perspective.  And, as a result, I can now announce my selection for "Morons of the Month."

It's all of us, really.

Duped again by the politicians of this former great nation.  One that is spiraling toward a sad conclusion.  I give America as we know it about one half-century.  And then it will be likely gone forever.  At least as it was known and devised by our founding fathers.

And each one of us let it happen.

Regardless of who you pulled the lever for on November 6, your vote, luckily still cast in a somewhat democratic existence, really amounts to nothing.  We buy into the talking points and rhetoric more than ever.  No longer do we consider serious issues or the real dilemmas that this country faces.  Nope, nowadays, we let our mindsets be controlled by Reader's Digest-like encapsulations of what we are told to be important.  By the likes of such complete fools as Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, Jon Liebowitz Stewart, David Letterman, and even a complete felon like Al Sharpton.

And we don't bother to keep an open mind anymore.  Nope, our minds and thought processes are rigid and totally categorized.  Single women vote one way.  White males vote another.  Hispanics vote this line.  Blacks vote that line.

We no longer vote as a nation.  We cast ballots in blocs that have walls and moats around them, thereby preventing any remotely different concept from penetrating their mental fortresses.  I've often joked that liberal voters in the states of New York and California could rationalize a way to vote for Adolf Hitler if his name was on the Democratic line in a voting booth.  I can hear the mea culpas now.

"Can you blame somebody for becoming such a horrible leader after such a troubled childhood?"

"Art school can be really difficult if you've got the wrong teacher."

"Heck, I'm one for population control so..."

End that last line yourselves, please.  You think the notion is silly?  There's a mirror in the bathroom if you want to look at yourself.

Indeed, I heard many times since Election Day that the demographic of America is changing.  That one I cannot argue.  In a bizarre way, nothing has changed.  This was a nation built on the merits of immigration.  But, about fifty years ago, that changed.  We are still taking in your tired and your poor.  But, now that group has been infiltrated with one more trait.

Your ungrateful.

So, yes, what built America will now kill it.  Because no one bothers to recognize that the open door policy can no longer be sustained in the 21st Century.

In today's big blog revelation, I will tell you that I reluctantly and begrudgingly voted for the losing Presidential candidate in 2012.  Not that I thought he was a great solution to the woes that have piled onto our worlds since 1965.  But, I thought that, at the very most, he would have at least slowed the certain decline.  Moving us just briefly from the express train to the local track for impending doom.

In retrospect, it probably made no difference.

Meanwhile, on Election night, I was astounded and saddened by the reaction and frenzy some Facebook friends were experiencing by the results.

One kept rooting on the swing states.

"Come on, Ohio.  You can do it!!"

Okay, this is our nation's future, not a fucking football game at Notre Dame.

Meanwhile, one gay couple posted a photo of their champagne toast when it was clear that Barack Obama would be re-elected.

Really?

Just what do you think he will do for you?  Here's a guy who was solidly against gay marriage and, then overnight, changed his mind when he realized this was a voting bloc he needed.  Did they really think that, in the middle of night, Obama awoke with a start, went down to Michelle's room (you really don't think they still sleep together, do you?), and said, "Wow, I've been wrong on this gay marriage thing all along!"

Oh, and what about those Facebookers actively supporting Obama and then, several weeks later, wailing about the state of Israel?  Hello?  Are you even paying attention to how your beloved homeland has been treated by this most recent White House administration?  Or didn't you hear this during your nightly imports of the truth from the likes of Rachel Madcow.

More folks played for complete fools by an American politician.  So what the hell else is new?

Over and over and over on Facebook, I watched people who thought they had made a difference.  And, in reality, did not.  This is a fact that can't be ignored regardless of which schmuck you voted for.

Do they even know what's coming?

Are they aware of all the new tax regulations that will cost all of us, rich and poor, much more in 2012?   I am.  I spoke to my accountant.  He told me.
Are they cognizant of the myriad changes and hidden laws from the new healthcare laws?  I am.  I have spoken to several doctors.  It will be hell for all of us.  Indeed, hospitals will be nothing but extensions of the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Make an appointment and remember to stand on the correct line for the next several hours.

Have they looked around at their own hometown shopping centers?  Small mom-and-pop stores that have shuttered in the past five to ten years because, well, Mom and Pop went broke.  I saw this first-hand in the Westwood Village shopping district on the day after Thanksgiving.  Most small boutiques were empty.  At least, they were still open.  The biggest moneymaker there is the guy printing all the "For Lease" signs.

Sadly, with all of us having less money to play with in the next few years, you know who will suffer most?

Our favorite charities.  There will be less for worthy places like St. Jude's for Children and the American Cancer Society. 

Does anybody notice?  Does anybody care?  

Elections in this land now remind me of the old gag where you hand somebody a piece of paper that says "flip this over."  And, when they do, it says "flip this over" on the other side.  

For fifty years, we keep "flipping this over."  And "flipping it over" again.

Over the next fifty years, we can keep playing the game.  Except, eventually, the piece of paper will be frayed and torn.  

Beyond repair.

Here ends this somber day at Len Speaks.  Come back tomorrow for some guaranteed laughs.  We should do need them.

Dinner last night:  Leftover chili.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 26, 2012

I am sure Black Friday was just hell again this year.  What numbskulls!  Here's a news clip from last year and please pay particular attention to the lady...um..."adjusting" her hair.

Dinner last night:  Beef chili.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Sunday Memory Drawer - End of an Era

Don't worry.  This whole Sunday piece is not going to be about the big Twinkie commotion from last week.  We've heard more than enough about that.  Facebook was a frenzy of gags, most notably by frequent comic posters as Joan Rivers, Albert Brooks, and Martin Short.  Truth be told, I was much more partial to Drake's Cakes when it came to getting my after-school snack from Charlie's Delicatessen on First Street in Mount Vernon, New York.

But this end of an era is about food.  And the end of a long standing dining tradition for me that goes all the way back to my very first job as an advertising assistant for that dumb ass Tom Carvel and his ice cream empire in Yonkers.

Good friends will know my love for Carlo's Italian Restaurant on Tuckahoe Road in Yonkers.  It's been there in the same spot for years.  Hell, who doesn't have a favorite Italian eating place in their past?  After all, unless you're really Italian, you can't make that stuff at home.  And, in my life, there have been several such eateries down through the years.

I remember my folks and their love for Bruno's Restaurant.  It was just south of the Yonkers Raceway.  A white rectancular building that looked from the outside like an insurance office.  But, inside, you found the old waiters in the short red vests and the cocktails ready to be mixed as soon as you walked in.  For a long while, my parents and I went there every Sunday afternoon for dinner.  And, at the immediate ready was a big tall glass of beer for my father and a Tom Collins for my mother.  Me?  It was a Coke.  But, the best part of this weekly excursion for me would be the appetizer.  A shrimp cocktail with the silver dish embedded in ice shavings.  Adult food which I just adored.  Inhaling the shrimp and hot sauce.  Then dipping the little crackers to sop up whatever sauce was left.

After the Bruno-mania died down, my folks' new Italian haunt was Sorrento's on White Plains Road and 232nd Street in the Bronx.  This became the place for them to go for the next five years.  Underneath the elevated tracks of the Number 2 IRT line, you'd be chowing down on the best pizza in the world with a soundtrack of clickity-clack-clickity-clack-clickity-clack.  Besides the good food, I loved the trip to Sorrento's because, while my mother was having her post-meal coffee and cigarette, I got to run down to the corner where a large toy store was situated.  I had enjoyed a good meal and maybe was even going to get to go home with the newest Colorforms set.

Flash forward to college and new traditions of fine Italian cuisine would be initiated by my chums at Serenata's on Webster Avenue in the Bronx.  A hole-in-the-wall joint where we adopted a steadfast rule for the three or so times a week we would go there for lunch.

"You can't have the bread if you've ordered a hero."

You had to be there to get the humor.  Or, given the way we were assholes in college, maybe you didn't.

Once I was a full-fledged adult, I would soon adopt my own life long Italian restaurant tradition.  At the aforementioned Carlo's.  And it started so innocently. 

I was working for Carvel and our advertising offices were housed in the dumpy Carvel Inn, a tax write-off of a hotel which was probably best remembered for one night stands with some skank you met in the disco up the road.  That, by the way, is not a first-hand experience for yours truly.   We worked downstairs and my office mate, Ellie, turned to me around noon time.

"Let's try that Carlo's for lunch."

Okay, it was close enough.  This was back in the days of punching clocks and being mindful of your sixty minutes only for lunch.  If you were not back to your desk in an hour, the rumor was that Tom Carvel himself would have you dipped in piping hot Brown Bonnet sauce.  So, to go out to a leisurely lunch required time and precision not seen since the Allied Forces landed on Normandy in 1944.

Well, we did venture to Carlo's and it was a complete dump.  Booths and tables that had seen better days, likely during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s.  Dirty counters.  Leather cushions that was so cut up that they might have been used as props in a local high school production of "West Side Story."

But the pizza was glorious.  Perhaps the best I have ever had.

Ellie and I began the tradition of going there every Friday, threats of immersion into hot fudge sauce be damned.  The only person that seemed to work in the place (other than those in the kitchen) was this waitress with hair piled up in a Marge Simpson-like coiff.  Back then, she told us this was a long time family business and she was one of the owners.

Eventually, I left Carvel and headed off into other career directions.   After a year or so, I discovered that I missed Carlo's and headed back one Saturday night with my best friend from high school, Danny.  This would be the first of a thousand or so such visitations.  In the interim, things had changed.  A make-over had been engineered.  Gone was the decor of the 40s.  Insert wood paneling and tables of....the 80s.
We didn't care.  The food was terrific.  And the line was out the door on a Saturday night.   There was no waiting area in the restaurant.  So, regardless of the elements outside, it was commonplace to see folks milling around Tuckahoe Road waiting for their turn.  In the rain.  In the snow.  In the humidity.  In the deep freeze.  No price was too high for great Italian food.

And, for years, Danny and I were among the throng.  Soon, I would be sharing this culinary find with any friend I could drag along.  I took my father there for Father's Day.  I took my mother there for Mother's Day.  If I was dining out in Westchester, you'd likely find me at Carlo's.

I noticed that the big-haired waitress/owner was gone.  The guy running the place was this hulky bald-headed guy that looked like a Batman villain.  His name was Pete.  He, too, boasted that he was the owner.  The husband of the waitress?  We never figured that out definitively.  Meanwhile, he seemed to have more daughters than the Lennon Sisters and they all worked at the place.  Whatever the case, Carlo's was still a family production.

Pete was essentially the maitre d' and ran the seating in "Seinfeld Soup Nazi" style.

"You two go to that table over there.  You three?  Over on the left.  You!  Sit there."

He was just a little scary.   But it was the price you paid for delicious lasagna.

On one Saturday night, the wait list was particularly long.  I think Danny and I were headed to the movies, so we opted to leave because of our timing.  No big deal.

Until the very next time we went back to Carlo's.  Pete had noticed.

"You two walked out on me!!!"

Ummm.

"Don't do that again!"

Er........

We never did walk out again.

Regardless of what coast I live on, Carlo's remained a regular stop for me.  And, over time, I never deviated from one special dish.

Sausage and peppers with roasted potatoes on the side.

Exactly the way I liked it.   With very little gravy.   Sausage, peppers, onions, and some pieces of tomato.  Perfect.  And, since the portions were so large, I always took half of it home for the next day.  This, combined with a house salad with Pete's secret dressing, was my favorite meal to have anywhere.

Years and years and years zoomed by.  Everything at Carlo's remained an amazing constant.  

Until early this year.

We had noticed that Pete started to move slowly.  And then we didn't see him much.  The Saturday night hordes were still there.  But the legendary owner was not.  When we asked, we were told he only stopped by now on Sundays.  Supposedly, he was still the owner.

Meanwhile, we noticed other changes.  All the family employees had disappeared.  The wait staff now appeared to be an eclectic bunch of kids working their way through college or community service programs.  While the crowd still stood outside waiting to be seated, the real endurance test started to be getting a waitress' attention once you were at a table.

Er, miss....

Nothing.

Orders were mixed up.  Diners were ignored for long periods of time.  While the food was still good, the actual process of dining at Carlo's had turned into an obstacle course.

Yellow flags started to wave before me.

And, then, two visits ago in September, it all completely fell apart.

We ordered the pre-dinner salad as usual.  It tasted completely different.  And I noticed big chunks of blue cheese throughout.  Note to all: I despise blue cheese.

I flagged the waitress and, fifteen minutes later, she came by.  Since when do you put blue cheese in your house salad?

"We always have."

Okay, I have almost thirty years of my dining business invested in this place.  You have never put blue cheese in your salads.

"We always have."

It was no use going into a protracted Abbott and Costello routine with this girl who was probably failing Basic Algebra at Roosevelt High School across the street.  And the evening became even more unthinkable.  My sausage and peppers arrived.

Er, what is that?

There was sausage, indeed.  And peppers, too.  Covered in some brown gravy.

I tasted it and was completely repulsed.   It was pot roast gravy.  

Er, miss...

Another waitress sauntered over eventually.  I asked her when they started to put mashed potato gravy on sausage and peppers.

"That's the way we always have done it."

Umm, no.  I asked her to go and question the cook.   Ten minutes later, she returned.

"The kitchen says that's the way we always have done sausage and peppers."

And what un-parallel universe had I fallen into?   That night, I took none of the dish home for leftovers.  I barely touched what was on my plate.

But, old and pleasant habits are tough to replace.  On my last trip to New York, I tried again.  This time, there was a larger-than-usual crowd hanging about outside.  What happened, I wondered.  Had there been a fire?  One would-be patron gave me the lowdown.

"We've been waiting for 45 minutes."

I peeked inside.  There was utter chaos.  And I noticed one waitress walking by with a plate full of sausage and peppers.

Brown gravy.

I was done.  And, sadly, like all great TV shows and baseball player careers and Twinkies, everything must come to an end.

Where ever Pete is, I hoped he noticed that we had walked out on him.  Likely for the last time.

Dinner last night:  Steak sandwich at the Arclight.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - November 2012

A classic movie just recently restored beautifully for Blu-Ray.

 
Dinner last night:  Chicken carbonara pizza from CPK.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Your Black Friday Shopping List from Skymall

No need to head out to the shopping malls early this morning.  Simply order from Skymall.com.   And here are some nifty holiday gift ideas for those people you truly despise.
For the screwball cat lover in your life.  This is an emery board so that little Fluffy can give those claws nice and sharp and shred your upholstery as efficiently as possible.
This laser contraption helps you grow hair.  For those idiots who purchased this, it does not, however, increase the production of brain cells.
A Christmas ornament in the shape of a pierogi.  I've got nothing.
Designed for those who like to nod off but are afraid of having their chin hit their chests.  And you know who you are.
Father and son T-Rex hoodies.  FYI, my father and I never ever dressed in lookalike outfits.
This little stick allegedly cures hiccups.  It can, however, cause choking.  So, there is that little trade off.
This supposedly keeps mosquitos away for 120 hours.  Hour 121?  Start scratching.
Fireworks for your kid's room.  If you're really too lazy to schlep him down to the local park next July 4...


Sadly, this would have been a great holiday gift for John F. Kennedy Jr..

Ideal for napping on planes.  Or, just in case, you are pulled into an impromptu game of "What's My Line?"

Dinner last night:  It was Thanksgiving.   What the hell do you think?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Thanksgiving Day Tradition

I run some version of this here every year.  The "Turkey Lurkey Time" number from one of my favorite Broadway musicals, "Promises, Promises."  This one features the original singers from 1968.  We miss you, Hal David.

 
Dinner last night:  Bacon cheeseburger from Monsieur Marcel.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This Date in History - November 21

Happy birthday, Nicollette Sheridan.  As if I need an excuse to post a picture of you. 

November 21 is apparently a relative day...as birth dates go.  You will see.  But, first...

164 BC:  JUDA MACCABAEUS, SON OF MATTATHIAS OF THE HASMONEAN FAMILY, RESTORES THE TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM.  THIS EVENT IS COMMEMORATED EACH YEAR BY THE FESTIVAL OF HANUKKAH.

So, now we know how that started.  Where's my dreidel?

235:  POPE ANTERUS SUCCEEDS PONTIAN AS THE NINETEENTH POPE.

Boy, those Pope names got a lot easier later on.  Leo, John, Paul...Ringo?

1620:  PLYMOUTH COLONY SETTLERS SIGN THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT.

Pass the cranberries.

1789:  NORTH CAROLINA RATIFIES THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND IS ADMITTED AS THE 12TH US STATE.

Thank goodness.  Now Mayberry is part of our nation.

1861:  CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT JEFFERSON DAVIS APPOINTS JUDAH BENJAMIN SECRETARY OF WAR.

Hey, Judah.

1877:  THOMAS EDISON ANNOUNCES HIS INVENTION OF THE PHONOGRAPH, A MACHINE THAT CAN RECORD AND PLAY SOUND.

Edison and I share the same birth date.  Just sayin'.

1905:  ALBERT EINSTEIN'S PAPER, "DOES THE INERTIA OF A BODY DEPEND UPON ITS ENERGY CONTENT?" IS PUBLISHED AND LEADS TO THE MASS-ENERGY EQUIVALENCE OF E=MC2.

I know he was a genius and everything.  But he sure sounds like a dullard at a dinner party.

1916:  A MINE EXPLODES AND SINKS HMHS BRITANNIC IN THE AEGEAN SEA, KILLING 30 PEOPLE.

Hey, I remember this game.  You sunk my battleship!

1920:  BASEBALL STAR STAN MUSIAL IS BORN.

Stan the Man!

1920:  BLOODY SUNDAY IN DUBLIN, IRELAND DURING THE IRISH WAR OF INDEPENDENCE.  THIRTY PEOPLE ARE KILLED.

But no bottles were broken.

1922:  REBECCA LATIMER FELTON OF GEORGIA TAKES THE OATH OF OFFICE, BECOMING THE FIRST FEMALE US SENATOR. 

Back then, they were calling it "Senatoress."

1934:  ACTOR LAURENCE LUCKINBILL IS BORN.

And here come the relative birthdays.  Lucie Arnaz's husband.

1937:  ACTRESS MARLO THOMAS IS BORN.

Phil Donahue's wife.  Danny Thomas' daughter.

1941:  ACTRESS JULIET MILLS IS BORN.

Hayley's sister.  John's daughter.

1942:  THE COMPLETION OF THE ALASKA HIGHWAY IS CELEBRATED.

You can see Russia from it.

1944:  BASKETBALL STAR EARL MONROE IS BORN.

Marilyn's brother.  Okay, not.

1945:  ACTRESS GOLDIE HAWN IS BORN.

Kurt Russell's...   Oh, wait, they still haven't gotten married.

1945:  HUMORIST ROBERT BENCHLEY DIES.

Now called Robert Cryptley.

1952:  SINGER LORNA LUFT IS BORN.

Sid Luft's daughter.  And the mother was somebody, too.

1959:  AMERICAN DISC JOCKEY ALAN FREED, WHO HAD POPULARIZED THE TERM "ROCK AND ROLL," IS FIRED FROM WABC-AM FOR REFUSING TO DENY ALLEGATIONS OF PAYOLA.

Rocked and really rolled.

1959:  BOXER MAX BAER DIES.

Jethro's dad.

1963:  ACTRESS NICOLLETTE SHERIDAN IS BORN.

Telly Savalas' stepdaughter.

1964:  THE VERRAZANO-NARROWS BRIDGE OPENS TO TRAFFIC.

Good, because, otherwise, those marathoners would have to learn how to swim.

1967:  TALKING ABOUT THE VIETNAM WAR, GENERAL WILLIAM WESTMORELAND SAYS "I AM ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT, WHEREAS IN 1965, THE ENEMY WAS WINNING, TODAY HE IS CERTAINLY LOSING."

What war is he watching?

1969:  BASEBALL STAR KEN GRIFFEY JR. IS BORN.

He had a famous dad, but the name escapes me.

1974:  RADIO PERSONALITY JOHN GAMBLING DIES.

No longer rambling.

1980:  A DEADLY FIRE BREAKS OUT AT THE MGM GRAND HOTEL.  87 PEOPLE ARE KILLED AND MORE THAN 650 ARE INJURED.

Talk about coming up craps.

1981:  TV ANNOUNCER HARRY VON ZELL DIES.

And, now, George and Gracie....

1986:  COMEDIAN JERRY COLONNA DIES.

Who got all those unopened jar of moustache wax?

1986:  NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER OLIVER NORTH AND HIS SECRETARY START TO SHRED DOCUMENTS IMPLICATING THEM ON THE SALE OF WEAPONS TO IRAN. 

A great tie-in promotion for Office Depot.

1988:  BASEBALL STAR CARL HUBBELL DIES.

I love his Explorer.

1993:  ACTOR BILL BIXBY DIES.

The Funeral of Eddie's Father.

2002:  NATO INVITES BULGARIA, ESTONIA, LATVIA, LITHUANIA, ROMANIA, SLOVAKIA, AND SLOVENIA TO BECOME MEMBERS.

They must have lowered the annual dues.

Dinner last night:  Sandwich and broccoli salad.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Perks of Being Surprised by a Great Movie

Sometimes, going to the movies is like playing a slot machine at a casino.  You hear there's a hot machine and you drop in one coin after another.  Nothing.  And then there are times when you make one single investment and you hit the mother lode.

I've been burned by movie reviews extolling the healing powers of a film.  And then I walk out of the theater half asleep and with an aching back.  And then there are times when I go in with the lowest of expectations and, well, there's that slot machine hitting all the bars again. 

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is a jackpot.  Normally I would bypass a movie like this.  From the ads and the plotline, you'd anticipate a dreary teenage comedy.  But, I was reading Entertainment Weekly and they were mentioning some of the cast as sleepers in the Oscar nomination races.

Hmmm.

A smarter cinematic choice I couldn't have made.  I was thoroughly and pleasantly surprised by the power of this movie which is nothing like what I expected.  This is not a bunch of horny high schoolers trying to simultaneously figure out how to get laid and pass English.  Well, okay, there's some of that in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."  But, if you think you know this movie in the first reel, be aware that the journey to the last reel is in the opposite direction.  Comic moments juxtaposed with dark moments.  Extreme ups.  Deathdefying downs. 

Just like life. 

The kids in this movie are all damaged and that sure is the way our orbits do spin.  As a result, this is the most realistic depiction of teenage angst in years.  Forget John Hughes, Molly Ringwald, and Ferris Bueller.  The characters in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" provide the most accurate portrayal of high school issues yet.

The writer and director of this film is Stephen Chbosky and, apparently, his original novel was must reading for the young adult set back in the 90s.  Not being a young adult back in the 90s, I never heard of this book.  I hear from those who were young adults back in the 90s that this tome is revered almost as much as "Catcher in the Rye."  Whatever the case, Chbosky translates it all to the screen and you can tell that this is a life he may have lived himself.  It's all real and organic. 

The main character is Charlie, a new freshman at some Pittsburgh high school.  You know he has some issues from the get-go because he keeps remembering moments with a now-dead aunt.  But, as he enters the school with trepidation, his first challenge is to find a lunch table he can sit at.  He winds up with a bunch of seniors who don't play the class game.  They recognize Charlie as a non-conformist primarily because they're a little off the beam themselves.  Patrick is tall and gay, while his stepsister Sam is cute and certainly conflicted as well.  You know that Charlie and Sam will connect.  At the same time, that's the last predictable moment in this movie.

After that seemingly formulaic opening scene, you expect little new from "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."  That's when it becomes like a "Pin The Tail On the Donkey" game.  You're suddenly blindfolded, spun around three times, and pointed in the direction of nowhere.  You'll get that tail on the donkey.   But you'll have to go through mounds of torture to do so.

Just like high school.

Just like life.

At its conclusion, you realize that director Stephen Chbosky has surprised and startled you in so many ways.  To tell you more would be to ruin the movie for you.  You can't know where it's going because you shouldn't know.

Just like high school.

Just like life.

The acting in this film is superlative.  Logan Lerman as Charlie deserves Best Actor consideration for an Oscar, despite the fact that he might be the only one in the category this year not playing a President.  Meanwhile, supporting nods should go to Ezra Miller and Emma Watson as stepsiblings Patrick and Sam.  It's refreshing to see how good an actress Watson can be when she's not reduced to flying around Hogwarts on a broom.  There's even a compelling twist on the character of the typically supportive English teacher who befriends Charlie.  That also could have easily fallen to routine levels.  Here, as played by the usually annoying Paul Rudd, the teacher becomes one more intricate layer in what is already a challenging onion to peel back.

Forget what you thought if you saw the poster or the trailer.  "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is one to savor.

Dinner last night:  Roast beef sandwich as I am back at the NY apartment for two nights.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 19, 2012

A classic scene from "Everybody Loves Raymond" that I've run before.  Not the way to cook your Thanksgiving turkey.  Patricia Heaton is wonderful here.   I wonder how much of the action was ad libbed.

Dinner last night:   Muffaletta panini and salad.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Fat Kid

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let's talk food.

Here's Spanky of the Our Gang comedies.  Admittedly, a fat kid.  Especially when he got older and Hal Roach kept putting him in those outfits that were two sizes too small.

My clothes at the same age did fit.  But, I, too, was a fat kid.

I go back to photos from when I was five or six.  What do I see?

A fat kid.

I look at snapshots from when I was twelve or thirteen.  What do I see?

A fat kid.

It wasn't until my senior year in high school that I did something about all of this.  And, frankly, despite what First Lady Michelle Obama will tell you, my weighty issues were not a result of a variety of external factors. 

Nope, it wasn't economic.  My folks didn't make a ton of money, but they still managed to put decent food on the table.

Nope, it wasn't because my parents weren't home a lot.  Once I hit the age of eight, both of them worked at night.  I ate dinner with my grandmother.  She also didn't have a ton of money, but she managed to put decent food on the table.  Okay, using Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup as spaghetti sauce was a lousy choice.  But, still, most of it was edible.

Yep, I was a fat kid because I was destined to be fat.  I had a metabolism that worked slower than Uncle Joe at Petticoat Junction.  And, living in the sometimes-frozen Northeast, there are several whole months in the winter where you can't go out and play.  The only opportunity to burn calories is by unwrapping the Hostess Twinkies.

When I would ask my mother about the tonnage that was uniquely me, she provided an answer that totally removed the burden of responsibility from my ever-broadening shoulders.

"You're just big-boned."

Now what the hell does that mean?

My parents took a philosophical approach to their tubby child.  Both told me that this would be something I would grow out of.  And, of course, they always provided the other disclaimer designed to absolve me of all worries.

"Look around.  You're not the only one."

Okay, I looked around and I was one of the only ones.  True, there were some friends who had some pounds on them.  Others at school or "up the block" had bodies where you could count the ribs like the keys on a xylophone.  Actually, most of them were built like greyhounds.  And had the athletic prowess that came with svelte bodies.

Ah, the annual dread of any fat kid.  The twice-a-year physical education stunts we each at perform courtesy of the President's Council on Physical Fitness.  Most of my friends looked forward to these exercises.  I kept touching my forehead and praying for a fever that would take me out of school for a month or two.

The 50 Yard Dash.  Run as fast as you can from one spot to another in the gym.  And the slowest time in school history goes to....

Me.

The 600 Yard Dash.  Six laps around the Grimes School Playground as if somebody actually did do such a precise measurement.  How do we know 600 yards equals six laps?  Maybe it's only five.  Anyway, this was a complete endurance test and I still think I never finished the last one.  Of course, the slowest time in school history goes to...

Me.

The Shuttle Run.  Run down a lane.  Pick up an eraser.  Run back with the eraser.  Put it down.  Pick up another eraser.  Run back.  Put it down.

What the hell does this prove anyway? 

As for me, I couldn't do it all in one fluid motion.  It was more like...

Run down a lane.  Stop.  Bend over.  Pick up an eraser.  Run back with the eraser.  Stop.  Bend over.  Pick up another eraser.  Run back.  Stop.  Bend over.  Put it down.

By the time I was finished with a Shuttle Run, the Council on Physical Fitness was now being supervised by a completely different President.

Still, my mom and dad remained stoic on it all.

"You will have your time."

Yes, but when?

Meanwhile, I was the slowest and most uncoordinated kid in the neighborhood and school.  Last one always picked for a team.  Oh, yeah, him. 

You would think this torture would have moved me into adopting my own actions to combat this heavy burden?

Nah.

I suppose that, with all the healthy meals I was getting, the real culprit at large here was the famous in-between snacks.  Yes, there were some.  A lot.

For a while, my best neighborhood buddy Leo and I made it a point to take a stroll over to Charlie's Delicatessen.  The walk was good exercise that was likely negated by our purchase of Yodels, Ring Dings, or those fruit pies that have about 2,000 calories each.  While Leo also sported a few extra ounces as well, he never seemed to be deterred when it came to after-school sports.  He could run and jump.  Me?  I could huff and puff.

Thinking back on it all, the at-home meals, while reasonably healthy, could have come with more stringent portion controls.  PS, there were none. I'd often clean my plate and then get it piled up a second time. 

"You want more?"

Of course.

So, there was always an extra slice of pork roast, another scoop of mashed potatoes, or another hunk of rhubarb pie.  As I got into high school, this cute ittle habit got a bit more disdain from my usually accommodating parents, especially from Dad.

"What time does the balloon take off?"

Now my plus size wasn't endearing, it was downright ugly.  And unhealthy.

The cow tipping point came in senior year of high school.  On the very first gym class of the year, my right knee gave out and started a lifetime of hobbles for me.  With me on the Autumn disabled list, the little activity and exercise I usually endured had dwindled down to zero.  I would come home from school, plant myself in front of the television, and open the wrapper of something.  And then something else.  And then something else.

By December, I would scrape both the walls on both sides of any hallway. 

I'm not sure what propelled me to venture onto a diet.  At the time, there was this doctor Dr. Irwin Stillman schlepping from one talk show to another hawking his water diet.  Of course, since he was on television a lot, I got to see him a lot. 

Hmmmm?  Drink eight glasses of water a day?  I can do that.

Hmmmm?  And watch your portions of food?   Can I do that?

As soon as January 1 passed, I announced my plans to flush out my system.  And pretty much have to hit the bathroom between every single class of my school day.  I dictated to my parents what I would need to achieve my goal of losing fifty pounds.  Low calorie this.  Sugar free that.  To their credit, they got behind me.  And, frankly, if they were behind me at this point, you really couldn't see them.

Rim shot.

Along with the Stillman Diet, I started to exercise.  Every night at 7PM for thirty minutes, I would close the door to my room and do as many calistenics as I could come up with.  Sit-ups, push-ups, twists, turns.  I had no clue what I was doing, but it sounded and felt right.

By April, I had lost it all. 

After a lifetime struggle, I had conquered my weight.  For now.  I assumed athletic prowess came with this as part of the deal.

I took two empty soda cans down to the driveway and placed them at opposite ends.  It had been years since I attempted that damn Shuttle Run.  But now?  I had to see.  Can I finally do it right?

I ran down the driveway.

Stopped.

Bent over.

Picked up the can.

Ran back.

Stopped.

Bent over.

Put the can down.

Picked up the other can.

Ran back.

Stopped.

Bent over.

Put the other can down.

Okay, so it still took me the same amount of time.  But I noticed one thing.

I was still breathing.

Yes, it's been a lifelong struggle.  Watching what I eat.   Going up.  Going down.  Always making sure there's some sort of daily exercise.   Now I work with a trainer twice a week.  Right now, I probably have the best muscle tone in my life.  Looking at myself in the bathroom mirror after a shower, what is that I see?  My God, I have an ab.  I'm not exactly Channing Tatum, but there is one there.

But, still.  It's a struggle.  If I'm over your house for dinner and you ask me the fated question.

"You want some more?"

I probably won't refuse.  Just to be polite.

Dinner last night:  Kung pao beef from First Szechwan Wok.