Thursday, January 31, 2013

If I Tweeted - January 2013

Even though I do have an account, I still don't tweet.  But, if I did, here's what you would have read this month.

#LenSpeaks  Happy new year to all my wonderful friends on the east coast.  May 2013 be filled with health, joy, laughter, and plenty of salt on your table in most NYC restaurants.

#LenSpeaks  Three hours later, happy new year to all my wonderful friends on the west coast.  May 2013 be filled with health, joy, laughter, and brand new earthquake kits.

#LenSpeaks  The Westchester Journal News printed the names of gun owners in Westchester and Rockland Counties.  Big deal.  That means absolutely nobody saw the list.

#LenSpeaks  Even canaries don't read the Journal News...and it's on the bottom of most bird cages.

#LenSpeaks  So it's not okay to have a gun but it's fine if you want to go see any movie directed by Quentin Tarantino??

#LenSpeaks  Saw Denzel Washington at the Golden Globes and he's just three liver spots away from being Morgan Freeman.

#LenSpeaks  Denzel took his daughter to the Globes.  Which means every white woman in Hollywood already had a date.

#LenSpeaks  Has anybody ever really read anything published by the Hollywood Foreign Press?

#LenSpeaks  There is no better weekly hour on television than when "Downton Abbey" is on the air.

#LenSpeaks  "Downton Abbey" spoiler alert for those not in the know:  the show is set in England.

#LenSpeaks  January 2013 is the month for things I really don't care about it.  Like that Hawaiian football player who thought his girlfriend was dead. 

#LenSpeaks  Big deal.  I've had a couple of girlfriends that I wished were dead.

#LenSpeaks  Come on, folks.  Just look at that kid and you know he had major problems with long division.

#LenSpeaks  It's Saturday and I am baking another cake.  Suddenly I have turned into my grandmother.  Except I don't feel like I need a nap afterwards.

#LenSpeaks  No, wait, here it comes....ZZZZZZZZ.

#LenSpeaks  Sorry to hear about the passing of Stan Musial.  The Mets were counting on him for left field this season.

#LenSpeaks  Sorry to hear about the passing of Conrad Bain.  The Mets were counting on him to be their new general manager.

#LenSpeaks  Meanwhile, if you want to buy tickets to the All Star Game at Citi Field, they make you choke down tickets to the home run derby and the celebrity softball game.  No thanks.

#LenSpeaks  Unless, of course, there's a guarantee that Donny Most will be playing for one of the celebrity teams. 

#LenSpeaks  Need to decide what to do with a day off.  What will be more uplifting?  The Presidential inauguration or "Les Miserables?"

#LenSpeaks  That's an easy choice.  Hello, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway.

#LenSpeaks  I love those idiots who get all impassioned about a President who pledges bipartisanship.  Easy to say when it's your party in the White House.

#LenSpeaks  People who actually think bipartisanship can exist in America also think that Obama is a champion of the common man.

#LenSpeaks  What???  That's a wig on Michelle Obama???  Go on!!!

#LenSpeaks  Barack Obama is six liver spots away from being Morgan Freeman.

#LenSpeaks  I don't care that Beyonce lipsynched her song at the inauguration.  As if the President didn't have help with his speech???

#LenSpeaks  Is it me or are those hair extensions on one of the Obama kids??

#LenSpeaks  Those girls are two hundred liver spots from being Maya Angelou.

#LenSpeaks  So, on Saturday night,"Argo" wins the PGA Award and then the next night, they win the SAG Ensemble Cast award.  I smell a Best Picture Oscar.

#LenSpeaks So, er, not so fast, Mr. Spielberg.

Dinner last night:  Chicken apple sausage and red cabbage.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

This Date in History - January 30

Happy birthday, Davey Johnson.  Naturally I will post a picture of him in his 1986 uniform.

1648:  THE TREATY OF MUNSTER AND OSNABRUCK IS SIGNED, ENDING THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE NETHERLANDS AND SPAIN.

However, there's still a battle raging between Munster and Addams Family.

1649:  KING CHARLES I OF ENGLAND IS BEHEADED.

He had just gone in for a trim.

1661:  OLIVER CROMWELLL, LORD PROTECTOR OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF ENGLAND, IS RITUALLY EXECUTED TWO YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH.

Obviously, there was quite the backlog in the ritual execution department.

1703:  THE FORTY SEVEN RONIN, UNDER THE COMMAND OF OISHI KURANOSUKE, AVENGE THE DEATH OF THEIR MASTER.

Later on, with budget cuts, it was only the thirty eight Ronin.

1790:  THE FIRST LIFEBOAT IS TESTED ON THE RIVER TYNE.

And???

1806:  THE ORIGINAL LOWER TRENTON BRIDGES WHICH SPANS THE DELAWARE RIVER BETWEEN PENNSYLVANIA AND NEW JERSEY IS OPENED.

The Original.  Apparently it was later New and Improved.

1826:  THE MENAI SUSPENSION BRIDGE, CONSIDERED THE WORLD'S FIRST MODERN SUSPENSION BRIDGE, IS OPENED IN WALES.

But, was it the Original?

1835:  IN THE FIRST ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT AGAINST A PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, RICHARD LAWRENCE ATTEMPTS TO SHOOT PRESIDENT ANDREW JACKSON, BUT FAILS.

Others would later show him the way.

1836:  SEAMSTRESS BETSY ROSS DIES.

Sew what?

1847:  YERBA BUENA, CALIFORNIA, IS RENAMED SAN FRANCISCO.

So it would have been the Yerba Buena Giants?

1862:  THE FIRST AMERICAN IRONCLAD WARSHIP, THE USS MONITOR, IS LAUNCHED.

And later became a NBC network radio show.

1882:  PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT IS BORN.

Just to to be clear, he wasn't President when he was born.  Or was he?

1911:  THE CANADIAN NAVAL SERVICE BECOMES THE ROYAL CANADIAN NAVY.

No mention of Guy Lombardo.

1922:  COMIC DICK MARTIN IS BORN.

Look that up in your Funk and Wagnall.

1925:  ACTRESS DOROTHY MALONE IS BORN.

Constance McKenzie from TV's Peyton Place.

1930:  ACTOR GENE HACKMAN IS BORN.

Don't ride with him.  Better you should take the subway.

1933:  ADOLF HITLER IS SWORN IN AS CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY.

Ach-tung.

1934:  PUBLISHER FRANK NELSON DOUBLEDAY DIES.

Final printing.

1943:  BASEBALL MANAGER DAVEY JOHNSON IS BORN.

Thanks for the lasting memories of a Met world championship.  There may never be another.

1944:  DURING WORLD WAR II, THE BATTLE OF CISTERNA, PART OF OPERATION SHINGLE, BEGINS IN CENTRAL ITALY.

Operation Shingle?  What is the objective?  Give everybody chicken pox?

1948:  AVIATOR ORVILLE WRIGHT DIES.

He came back to Earth...and then kept going.

1951:  ROCK STAR PHIL COLLINS IS BORN.

His real Genesis.

1956:  AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER MARTIN LUTHER KING JR'S HOME IS BOMBED IN RETALIATION FOR THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT.

Which later made him go out and get bombed at the local bar.

1959:  MS HANS HEDTOFT, SAID TO BE THE SAFEST SHIP AFLOAT AND UNSINKABLE, STRUCK AN ICEBERG ON ITS MAIDEN VOYAGE AND SUNK.

But it didn't merit a song from Celine Dion.

1969:  THE BEATLES' LAST PUBLIC PERFORMANCE HAPPENS ON THE ROOF OF APPLE RECORDS IN LONDON.  THE IMPROMPTU CONCERT IS BROKEN UP BY THE POLICE.

Who was the crabby neighbor that complained?

1971:  CAROLE KING'S TAPESTRY ALBUM IS RELEASED.  IT WOULD BECOME THE LONGEST CHARTING ALBUM BY A FEMALE SOLO ARTIST AND SELL 24 MILLION COPIES WORLDWIDE.

It's too late.

1982:  RICHARD SKRENTA WRITES THE FIRST PC VIRUS CODE CALLED "ELK CLONER."

The folks at McAfee thank you.

1994:  PETER LEKO BECOMES THE YOUNGEST CHESS GRAND MASTER.

A game I never learned to play.

1999:  ACTOR HUNTZ HALL DIES.

Satch!

1999:  TV ANNOUNCER ED HERLIHY DIES.

So, macaroni and cheese can kill?

2006:  CORETTA SCOTT KING DIES.

And the kids are still fighting over the old lady's dough.

2007:  AUTHOR SIDNEY SHELDON DIES.

On the other side, there is no midnight.

2010:  TV PRODUCER AARON RUBEN DIES.

The genius responsible for the Andy Griffith Show.

2011:  COMPOSER JOHN BARRY DIES.

The genius responsible for the James Bond theme.

Dinner last night:  Pork yakisoba from Ramenya.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Zero Dark Homeland

Here we are.  Oscar nomination season.  And our multiplexes are flooded with the films that are up for awards this February.  So, astute movie fan that I am, I will endeavor to see them all. 

And that's what led me to "Zero Dark Thirty."  A film that I probably would not have seen otherwise.  I mean, I read the newspapers the day after Osama Bin Laden was killed.  I went over the minute-by-minute accounts.  I saw the well-publicized snapshot of the White House war room grimly watching the events unfold in real time---a photograph that, given the phoniness of Washington DC these days, was probably choreographed a week later.

So, for all those reasons, I didn't expect anything new in this movie.  But, surprisingly, what I got was...

A bonus episode of "Homeland."

Huh, you say?

Read on, I say.

Now it was well publicized that the CIA and the White House opened up the file cabinet and shared proprietary information to film director Kathryn Bigelow so this saga could be told on the big screen.  But, from those folders and undisputed facts, a plot and script is crafted that so resembles "Homeland" that I was waiting for Clare Danes and Mandy Patinkin to make cameo appearances.  All this publicity and frenzy for something I've seen before? 

Hmmm....

Jessica Chastain is Maya, the heroine of the piece and she looks like a a direct descendent of Opie Taylor from "The Andy Griffith Show.".  A CIA operative that is bound and determined to nail Osama Bin Laden.  She is so focused on this that it consumes her entire life. 

Sound familiar, you Homeland watchers out there?

Maya gets some leads and also some dead ends in her quest.  Of course, along the way, she relentlessly badgers her superiors to keep up the search even though they pretty much have thrown their hands up.

Sound familiar, you Homeland watchers out there?

Eventually, she gets some solid information and begins to figure out that Bin Laden is not living in a cave but a house that probably passes for a luxury condo in that area of the world.  She begins to press her bosses with this lead and wants them to do something about it immediately.  But they don't listen to her.

Sound familiar, you Homeland watchers out there?

The parallels stop just short of Maya actually sleeping with Osama in a motel.  Which, of course, would have spiced up the whole movie as far as I was concerned.  Because, with its two-and-a-half-hour-plus running time, there are long stretches of nothingness.  Watching somebody have sex while attached to a dialysis machine certainly would have woken me up.

Now maybe all of this happened just as the government documents laid it out.  But it all seems too Hollywood script-contoured.  And the dovetails to Homeland are likely more than pure coincidence.  Of course, screenwriter Mark Boal says it's all true and there really is a Maya.  We just can't know for sure because, after all, she still works for the CIA and is undercover.

Hmmm....

Don't get me wrong.  Literary license is often a necessary outlet when you try to make a movie out of a historical event.  But, the filmmakers involved here are bending over backwards to tell you that this all played out exactly as depicted.  Why don't you just admit the obvious?  You made a film and you needed it to fall into the specific guidelines of entertainment featured down at the multiplex on Route 504 in Bumfuk, Indiana.

There's also been a lot of handwringing about the scenes of torture shown in the film.  For me, it was a wonderful introduction to Waterboarding 101.  Ah, so that's how it's done?  I say, bring it on.  These enemies have no qualms taking American prisoners and beheading them on local television.  If this waterboarding is deemed sadistic, I would argue it could be a lot worse.  And, yes, I absolutely believe we used it and that it was successful.  I mean, we killed Bin Laden, right?  Bravo.

So, "Zero Dark Thirty" gets a lot of Oscar buzz, but, ultimately, doesn't get as many nominations as folks expected.  People are thinking that this is a gut reaction to the scenes of torture.  I am thinking that it's simply because viewers have seen it all before.  Sunday nights on Showtime.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving us a reheated episode of Homeland, please don't go out of your way to tell us that it's not what we're getting. 

As a movie, "Zero Dark Thirty" is flawed, too long, and a bit overdirected.  But, at its conclusion, Osama Bin Laden is still dead.  And that's worth all the Raisinets in the world.

Dinner last night:  Leftover ravioli.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 28, 2013

Hey, Grandma and Grandpa....stay off the Harley.
Dinner last night:  Ravioli and turkey meatballs.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Baked Goods

Oh, my God, it's my grandmother's stove.  Well, not hers exactly.  But this sure does look like it.

I've been going very retrospective with regard to food these days.  Remembering the way we used to cook and dine when I was a kid.  And, for some bizarre reason, I am now duplicating today some habits from the childhood years.

When I was young and trying to sleep a little late on Saturday mornings, I would awaken to glorious smells wafting up from downstairs. 

Grandma was baking.  As usual.

This was her normal Saturday morning habit.  I once asked her how long she was doing this.

"As long as I can remember.  Why do you ask so many questions?"

Indeed.  When it come to her baked goods, I shouldn't have quibbled one bit.  Not that any of it was elaborate.  Grandma was not Paula Deen.

Your basic pound cakes with probably a stick or two of butter.

Bread pudding.  Anything starch that was remotely stale in her pantry got tossed into this mixture.  Waste not, want not.  And then, into the bowl, went about five or six boxes of raisins.

Pies.  With crusts rolled out from scratch.  Usually apple which she had sliced the day before.  But, in the summertime, her pie franchise concentrated on just one fruit.

Rhubarb.  Grown in our backyard.  Now people cultivate their gardens for a variety of vegetables.  Tomatoes. Cucumbers.  Beans.  Who the hell grew rhubarb in their backyard?

My grandmother. 

Once the weather got warm, she'd be out there in the yard with what I remembered as a machete, but was likely just a sharp knife.  Hacking away at the rhubarb plants so we could amass a pile of stalks to stew.

Now I've never made a rhubarb pie myself, although my two cousins in Florida apparently still duplicate Grandma's recipe to a tee.  I do remember the process, though.  These rhubarb stalks would stew for a while.  Then, Grandma would mix in a box of Jello to flavor it all.  This concoction would get poured into a pie crust she had already baked.  Then chilled.  At some point, she'd pull out of the refrigerator and adorn it with fresh whipped cream.  I had likely already licked the beaters for this.

And that was it.  Pure heaven. 

Eventually, Grandma got smart on how to keep the rhubarb pies going all year round.  She'd freeze the rhubarb and then make pies for the holidays.  A sensory perception that I wish I could experience just one more time in my house.

While Grandma was working her baking magic downstairs, there was zero going on in the oven upstairs in our end of the house.  The most my mother baked was never. 

"That's why Schwerger's is in business."

Schwerger's Bakery was on First Street near Eleventh Avenue in Mount Vernon, New York.  Like most bakeries back in that day, it was run by a German family.  And this German family was its ideal consumer base.  Even though there was the weekly allotment of home-baked goods sequestered in Grandma's pantry, I was usually the only one sneaking in there to sample it.  My folks stuck to whatever white box with striped string had been purchased from a bakery when my dad did his Saturday morning errands. 

A cheese struedel.

A crumb cake.

A fruit cobbler.

This would be his (and sometimes my) breakfast for the next couple of days. 

This practice would continue like rote for years.  It actually outlived most of the German family bakeries which went out of business over time.  The new chosen baked good for our family every week came from...

Entenmann's. 

Nothing fancy, but always reliable.  Dad was partial to the coffee crumb cakes.  I loved the chocolate chip loaf.  Grandma?

"I can do better myself."

And she did.  Every time I snuck into that pantry of goodies.

When we finally had neighbors build a house on the vacant lot next door, we were blessed to know the purchasing family that I have written about before.

The Antlers.  Max, his wife Anna, and his sister Minnie.  The fact that we were that close now to a Jewish family was enough of a mindblower for our household.  But, Max, who worked as a baker in the overnight hours, became an instant friend on their second day as neighbors.  He knocked on our back door and Grandma answered it.  Probably reluctantly.

"You eat bread?"

Grandma nodded.

"Well, every morning I will bring home breads and rolls and leave some at your back door."

And that's what Max did every day that he was alive.  Onion rolls, Kaiser rolls, rye bread, pumpernickel.  Every morning.  On weekends, it was even better. 

That's when the pastries showed up.  Of all sorts and shapes and kinds.  My folks and my grandparents gobbled it up as if it was water in the middle of the desert.

Everybody but me.  Gee, it didn't look like the stuff we normally get from Schwerger's Bakery.  I would hold up some alien piece of pastry and ask what it was.

"Rugelach."

Huh?

My mother would lean over and whisper to me just in case anybody was listening to her slight prejudice.

"It's Jewish."

Huh?

"I said....it's Jewish."

That was enough for me.  I turned up my nose as I did any food that wasn't American, except for spaghetti, meatballs, and pizza.  Yeeech!

What a stupid kid I was.

My grandfather dipped his rugelach into a cup of coffee and smiled.  He liked it?

"It all goes down the same hole."

It wasn't long before I was a fan.  And the house was filled with even more baked goods.

I don't know why, but I have suddenly started to bake in the year 2013.  On Saturdays.  Just like Grandma.  A butter pound cake came out perfectly.  A crumb cake was okay.  An adventurous bread pudding was okay, but required three Brillo pads to clean the dish. 

But the smells are the same.  And I'm suddenly a little closer to my grandmother all over again.

And, thinking about these past traditions, I think about those Entenmann cakes my dad used to buy every week.  Even though they are now available in Los Angeles,  I don't think I have ever bought one here.

But, on those weeks when I am camped in my Yonkers, New York apartment, what do you find in my kitchen for breakfast every morning?

Yep.  So, sensory perception is not just about sight or smell.  It's also apparently bi-coastal.

Dinner last night:  Chicken skewers at Malibu Fish Grill.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - January 2013

Those movies from the 70s all had this weird grainy look in trailers.  And this one for the terrific "Network" is no different.

Dinner last night:  Turkey noodle soup.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Blizzard of Awkward

How long has that child been growing on your head?
 Dad was a real dummy.
Hey, our bands are on too tight!
 They're part family, part dust mops.
 Never have a community bath during a diarrhea outbreak.
 Cain and Abel go to Sears Portrait Studios.
 He doesn't have a tailor.  He has a gardener.
 I don't care how beautiful pregnancy can be.  This ain't a pretty sight.
 Perilously close to the business end of a dog's lunch.
 The January special on Match.com.

Dinner last night:  Scrambled egg whites and bacon.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Moron of the Month - January 2013

There's a lot of ways we could go to select a very special Moron for the first month of 2013.  Heck, we would be bound to find one in the nation's capital where drama continues again as the country teetered on some imaginary cliff.  Indeed, if each and every politician in the land fell over it, I would shed no tears.  Every one of them a moron.

And, the sentiment is renewed this morning as I look at my first net income of the year and realize it is  lower than the last net income I had in 2012.  Our national leaders, damn you all.  

Morons, morons, morons.

My head is hurting.  I don't want to think about any of them at this moment.  And I certainly don't wish to ramble on about them in a blog piece today.

No, let's have our January Moron be as sublime and inane as possible.  And incredibly inconsequential.

That sounds like it could only be one person.

The Today Show's weatherman and resident asshole Al Roker.
Admittedly, calling somebody on a NBC News-like show an idiot is like saying water is wet.  I can remember the day when journalists on NBC were revered and professional.  Now, you could say NBC stands for "Nothing But Clowns."
Essentially, that's what their news division has turned into as Chet Huntley and David Brinkley do constant flips in their coffins.

Let's just look and who they have on the air.  Their centerpiece anchor Brian Williams.  He hosts their news show "Rock Center."  Fitting, because his head is full of them.  White House expert Andrea Mitchell?  She might as well be the receptionist down at the Democratic National Committee offices.  Face the facts.  Tim Russert's untimely departure ripped NBC News of their last morsel of credibility.

And then there's the mental menagerie called MSNBC.  Loaded with crackpots, frauds, and idiots.  Notice that I didn't say "journalist."  Rachel Madcow, the Morning Schmo, renowned alcoholic Chris Matthews, and alleged felon Al Sharpton.  Those are the people bringing you their unbiased opinions.  Indeed, their viewership base would provide me with enough monthly morons to last a lifetime.  

But I digress...

I remember when "The Today Show" had some real chops in the news business.  They set the bi-partisan tone for your day.  With respected folks like Frank McGee and Frank Blair telling you what you needed to know.

No more.

Somewhere along the line, this program became an entertainment vehicle.  With all the substance of an episode of "Beat the Clock."  And by opening it up to include the hayseed tourists that clutter the streets of Rockefeller Plaza every morning, they essentially turned "Today" into a street fair that looks like it was sponsored by the 99 Cent Store chain.  With screaming fans from Bumfuk, Iowa who think that fine dining in Manhattan is the Olive Garden that overlooks Times Square.

Of course, there's no bigger moron on the "Today Show" than its host Matt Lauer, who reminds me of the stupidest kid in my class all through grade school.  The last time Matt delivered any news, he was riding a bicycle.

But, of course, equally as empty is their meteorologist Al Roker.   He's been cluttering our lives for years and it's pure testimony that any jerk can become a media personality in a country as dumb as ours.

 Roker, ever the buffoon, has been the unknowingly throwback to the old movies of the 30s where the hero always had a Black stooge like Stepin Fetchit in tow.  Al's too stupid to even realize how he was being used.   Let's put him in the most ridiculous costume or position and let the laughs flow.  Or we can show him eating like a pig at a trough.
No world hunger problem at the Roker home.

Meanwhile, while the guy was shoveling it in, nobody in the audience took a moment to realize that they were watching a complete fool.  A national court jester.  Oh, sure, he gave you the weather.  But any moron can rip a national forecast off the wire service and tell you that it was going to snow in New York and be warm and sunny in Los Angeles.

But, worse than that, Roker started to take himself seriously over the years.  All of a sudden, he wanted us to believe that there was actually more than air in that balloon.  He goes in for gastric bypass surgery, drops a literal ton, and suddenly he's an expert on nutrition.  He becomes Michelle Obama without the wig.

Out comes a book on sensible eating.  Out comes a DVD on weight loss.  And he's in our face about what we eat.  

Come the fuck on.  Roker's "sensible" lifestyle had nothing to do with his own willpower or any actions on his part.  It was all thanks to some rich surgeon who got his valves so all the hot dogs, clams, and cannolis had no place to go.  Puh-leze.
 

But in America, this now constitutes importance and celebrity.  I've lost multiple pounds several times in my life but nobody is looking to me for advice on a national basis.  And, frankly, I could probably do a better job of explaining a wind chill factor than Al Roker.

It gets worse.  Last week, Al went really over the top.  Or, in this case, out the bottom.

For some reason, he left the need to share with us, the unassuming and increasingly dumb television audience, of an unfortunate experience he had at the White House back in 2002.

He was on assignment because, apparently, cold weather fronts now start with the President as well.  Without warning, the recent gastric bypass surgery gave him a bit of gas.  So he did what most people do in the same circumstance.  You turn around, make sure nobody is nearby, and you try to do it silently.

Except this wasn't gas. 

And Al Roker let us know that he pooped his pants in the middle of the White House.

Al continued the annoying story.  He ducked into a men's room...in the White House....and took his underwear off, ditching them in the garbage.  That had to be a very special day for the White House custodian in charge.  Meanwhile, Roker continued on with his visit.  Going commando.

Eleven years later, Al Roker was compelled to tell us this tale.  And he seemingly was delighted to do so.  And then shocked when the story got lots of attention.

For Pete's sake, that's exactly what he was hoping.  Because when you're eternally devoid of any talent or credibility, the only thing you've got left is your own bowel movements.

But, in America these days, there is sadly no criterion for the phrase "too much information."

And just when you thought you had it all from this dope, take a look at the antics of an alleged "newsman" at this week's Presidential inauguration.
 
The Secret Service should have fired their guns when they had a good shot.
 
Dinner last night:  Steak and broccoli slaw.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This Date in History - January 23

Happy birthday to Arlene Golonka of "Mayberry RFD" fame.  I'm pretty sure there's no other blog in the world that is using her picture of her today.

393:  ROMAN EMPEROR THEODOSIUS I PROCLAIMS HIS EIGHT YEAR OLD SON HONORIUS CO-EMPEROR.

This nepotism that Garry Marshall would be proud of.

971:  IN CHINA, THE WAR ELEPHANT CORPS OF THE SOUTHERN HAN ARE SOUNDLY DEFEATED AT SHAO BY FIRE FROM SONG DYNASTY TROOPS.

I got nothing to say about this.  But I do have another joke about the historical fact above.  Theodosius?  I hope he has a brother named Supercalifragilisticexpiallie.

1510:  HENRY VIII OF ENGLAND, THEN 18 YEARS OLD, APPEARS INCOGNITO IN THE LISTS AT RICHMOND AND IS APPLAUDED FOR HIS JOUSTING.

No wonder he had all those wives.  He was quite the swordsman.

1556:  THE DEADLIEST EARTHQUAKE IN HISTORY HITS SHAANXI IN CHINA, KILLING 830,000.

The planet must have actually felt lighter after that happened.

1656:  BLAISE PASCAL PUBLISHES THE FIRST OF HIS LETTRES PROVINCIALES.

His kids were called the Little Pascals.

1737:  PATRIOT JOHN HANCOCK IS BORN.

The inventor of the signature.

1789:  GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY IS FOUNDED.

And we still don't know what the hell a hoya is.

1849:  ELIZABETH BLACKWELL BECOMES THE UNITED STATES' FIRST FEMALE DOCTOR.

And you all thought it was Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

1870:  IN MONTANA, US CALALRYMEN KILL 173 NATIVE AMERICANSS, MOSTLY WOMEN AND CHILDREN, IN THE MARIAS MASSACRE.

And they call the murderers Marias.

1897:  ELVA ZONA HEASTER IS FOUND DEAD IN WEST VIRGINIA.  THE RESULTING MURDER TRIAL OF HER HUSBAND IS PERHAPS THE ONLY CASE IN US HISTORY WHERE THE ALLEGED TESTIMONY OF A GHOST HELPED SECURE A CONVICTION.

Casper for the Prosecution.

1919:  COMEDIAN ERNIE KOVACS IS BORN.

Killed in 1962 in a car crash one half block away from where I live in LA.

1920:  THE NETHERLANDS REFUSES TO SURRENDER EX-KAISER WILHELM II OF GERMANY TO THE ALLIES.

They were, however, willing to give them Hoyt Wilhelm for their bullpen.

1928:  ACTRESS JEANNE MOREAU IS BORN.

When she's sad, can you say she is morose?

1933:  ACTRESS CHITA RIVERA IS BORN.

Thank God they didn't spell it "Cheetah."

1939:  ACTRESS ARLENE GOLONKA IS BORN.

She was a fox....a really long time ago.

1941:  CHARLES LINDBERGH TESTIFIES BEFORE US CONGRESS AND RECOMMENDS THAT THE UNITED STATES NEGOTIATE A NEUTRALITY PACT WITH ADOLF HITLER.

When you read stuff like this, you start to think his baby was better off with Bruno Hauptmann.

1943:  DUKE ELLINGTON PLAYS AT CARNEGIE HALL FOR THE FIRST TIME.

You know how he got to Carnegie Hall?  He practiced.

1951:  PILOT CHESLEY SULLENBERGER IS BORN.

You want me to land where???

1953:  LA MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA IS BORN.

Now this is one freakin' asshole.  I can't wait for the day when "LA Mayor" is removed from his name. 

1957:  AMERICAN INVENTOR WALTER MORRISON SELLS THE RIGHTS TO HIS "FLYING DISC" TO WHAM-O TOY AND THEY RENAME IT THE "FRISBEE."

Thereby inventing a whole new way for college students to waste their time.

1973:  PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON ANNOUNCES THAT A PEACE ACCORD HAS BEEN REACHED IN VIETNAM.

He was still a crook.

1976:  SINGER PAUL ROBESON DIES.

Even rivers can stop flowing.

1977:  RESTAURANTEUR TOOTS SHOR DIES.

Now off the menu.

1977:  "ROOTS" PREMIERES ON ABC.

I passed.

1986:  THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTS ITS FIRST MEMBERS. 

Surprisingly, Slim Whitman was not one of them.

1989:  PAINTER SALVADOR DALI DIES.

Goodbye, Dali.

1997:  MADELEINE ALBRIGHT BECOMES THE FIRST WOMAN TO SERVE AS US SECRETARY OF STATE.

That's debatable.  I mean, the woman part.

2002:  REPORTER DANIEL PEARL IS KIDNAPPED IN PAKISTAN AND SUBSEQUENTLY MURDERED.

I remember the gruesome video.

2003:  ACTRESS NELL CARTER DIES.

Aint respiratin'.

2004:   ACTOR BOB KEESHAN DIES.

For sale:  One Treasure House.  Needs work.

2005:  TV PERSONALITY JOHNNY CARSON DIES.

Missed by yours truly to this day.

2011:  FITNESS EXPERT JACK LALANNE DIES.

Juicing kills.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just a salad.





Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An Idol Thought

If you look at today's title and think this is going to be a blog entry on "American Idol," you are dead wrong.  I haven't watched that show in three seasons.

Nope, it's something on my mind and you will get the connection by the end of the piece.  Spoiler alert for those who care: this will ultimately be political in nature and apropos given all the nonsense presented by our government over recent months.  Consider this your official warning.

For a variety of reasons, I've been thinking about my DNA.  Not in a clinical sense.  There is nothing wrong with me physically or mostly mentally.  But I've been pondering what I do and how I do it---essentially how life has unfolded for me and what still might lie around the corner.  

I'm one of those folks who truly believes that the person you become as an adult is a direct result of what you see as a child during the first ten years of your existence in this dimension.  After all, we all are influenced by external factors.  And, of course, there are very few external factors at hand in those initial Wonder years.  Indeed, there are really only two.

Your parents.

I think more and more about what I saw as a child.  A mother and father who were frequently at odds.  If I looked inside the households of some contemporaries, I bet I might see the same arguments in play there as well.  Nevertheless, a sometimes rocky union could be why I have never really trusted romantic relationships completely.

I remember my parents and I can tell you exactly the elements of my adult psyche and where they came from.  

The stoicism from my father.

Impulsiveness from my mother.

It's what likely was the tug of war that caused many of their skirmishes.  Years later, I know that they are both inside of me.  And what causes all of my internal battles.  

Add in the mix as well my grandmother's stubborn streak, her need to have instantaneous results, and a sense of humor.  I spent a lot of time with her as a child.  Her hand in formulating my DNA is also evident.

I can be stubborn.

I can be impatient.

I can be funny.

So there it is.  All laid out for you.  Everything chemical that makes me who I am.

And I think this is how all peoples' personalities are formed.

From the most common of folks to the President of the United States.

The current Chief Executive was sworn in for a second tour of duty.  A little over half the country is euphoric at the notion.  A little less than half the country is spitting nails at the prospect.

And then there's me, who likes the guy as much as I like any American politician.

I don't.  There's not a decent one in the country at this time.  Few gives a damn about you or me.  They only simply want to enjoy the perks that go with the position, every single one being an elitist at their core.

But I pay particular attention to our President today.  I see anger.  I see petulance.  I see an almost insatiable desire to stir up derision in this country.  Hey, there are not talking points constructed from the headquarters of a national committee.  It's what I see and what I hear.

And, historical buff that I am about American Presidents in the past century, I have read a lot about all of them.  Each and every one with DNA that came from some mother or some father or some grandparent.

I read about the dysfunctional upbringing of our current leader.  A father who was a polygamist and one who essentially ditched his child.  A mother who, for lack of a better word, was a bit of a wild child.  A mixed marriage.  Grandparents of different colors.

How could anyone grow up in this environment and not have it impact their own DNA?  

It didn't.  I see it every day and in every way.  Yet, nothing is ever said.  He is viewed as perfect.    The ideal man.  Almost God-like.

An idol.

I told you I would get to the explanation behind today's title.

None of us can escape our own DNA.  But, when it comes to what forms our leaders at their earliest ages, shouldn't we all pay just a little more attention?  Because they are all human beings.  Just like us.

Just like me.

Dinner last night:  Ham, turkey, and cheese panini with homemade broccoli slaw.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 21, 2013

Presidential Inauguration 2013?  Well, here's the flip side.  If Bob Hope could lampoon any President, so can I.
Dinner last night:  Traditional English roast dinner - Prime rib.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - A Book About the Mary Tyler Moore Show

 Continuing on the Mary Tyler Moore Show thread that started last week...

A few years after MTM went off the air, I was totally engrossed in the reruns which generally played night after night at the time.  Enough time had passed since the infamous final episode where the entire WJM News team, sans Ted, got fired.  I thought it was high time to bring it back.  Well, at least in a book that would be all about the Mary Tyler Moore Show production.

The number of books I had written to date?  None.

I didn't care.  So, along with my friend. Djinn from the Bronx, as co-writer on the project, we forged ahead in attempting to contact all those folks who had a hand in the making of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  To entice their participation, we included a little pop quiz on MTM trivia.  Hopefully, it would have a two-fold benefit.  They could be pleasantly amused.  And also aware that we knew our stuff.

Back in those days, there was no e-mail or Facebook.  Our major attempt at contact?  A letter enclosed in an envelope with a stamp on it.  Amazingly, we got some responses.

Show creator Allan Burns wrote back and corrected some spelling mistakes on our quiz.

Writer Lorenzo Music, who had voiced "Carlton the Doorman" on Rhoda, offered any help he could.   "I know what I know."

Henry Winkler, who had one of his first TV acting stints in a MTM episode, would help if he knew the name of our agent.

Linda Kelsey, who also had one of her first TV acting job in a MTM episode, would help if she knew the name of our agent.  Perhaps she had just eaten lunch with Henry Winkler.

Walter Cronkite, yes, that Walter Cronkite, would commit to giving us five minutes.

Writer Treva Silverman wanted to know how we had found her address.

We had held back on approaching the cast as we figured they would fall in line if the original writers had agreed.

And then one letter hit a real bulls eye.  One night, I got a phone call from an executive secretary.

For Grant Tinker, the former husband of Mary and the one time head of MTM Enterprises.  At this moment, he just happened to be the president of the entire NBC TV network.

Ummm.

Would I be available for a call from him the following night at 6PM?

Gulp.

He was very interested in what we were doing and would be happy to help.

I wanted to replied that I should be revived from my dead faint by tomorrow at 6PM.   Instead, I simply stammered "yes" and "goodbye."

Somehow, I got through the next day.  And thought the entire time that, at 6PM, Grant Tinker, the grand pooh of NBC Television, would be calling me on the kitchen wall phone in my North Broadway, Yonkers apartment.  I suddenly began to panic.  I envisioned a complete telephone system shutdown that stretched across Westchester County.  Or worse?  A phone call from a friend that just wouldn't shut up.

I decided that all personal relationships on that day were suspended.  I had time for no one but Grant Tinker at 6PM.

Starting at 530PM, I parked myself on the kitchen stool and didn't flinch.  I wanted to be ready.   And then I started to think about stupid details.

Could I possibly say "hello" without my voice cracking like a teenager going through puberty?

How many rings should I allow?  Picking it up on the first ring would convey a sense of anxiousness.  Allowing more than two rings might be rude.  Back in the 80s, there was no way to check out protocol on the internet.  There was no internet.

As the digital clock on my then-very clunky microwave oven clicked from 559PM to 600PM, the phone rang.  NBC was the number one network at the time.  And, apparently along with the ratings crown, promptness was also a part of "Must See TV."  I went for the second ring pick-up and answered not with a "hello" but my name.

"Hold on please for Mr. Grant Tinker."

Yeah, I think I can manage that.  I fantasized that he was wrapping a phone conversation with Ted Danson.

"Hi, Len."

Wow, first name basis right off the bat.  I like this guy.  I called him "Mr. Tinker."

He was pleased that somebody was taking the time to chronicle MTM and that I apparently had a passion for what they had created.  He loved our quiz with or without the spelling mistakes cited by Allan Burns.  And then Mr. Tinker offered to set up access for us to look at all the historical records for the show which had been donated to the University of Wisconsin.  Why there, I asked?

"They were the first ones who asked."

Oh.

Of course, after about twenty minutes of an incredibly congenial dialogue, we got around to the main event of questions.  How would I get the cast to participate?

"They all will.  But you'll never get Mary."

Mary. 

I was on the phone with Grant Tinker discussing his ex-wife.  Hello???

Mr. Tinker (I figured that if Mary could keep calling Lou "Mr. Grant", I should do the same thing with Grant) elaborated that, despite the success of the show, she wasn't looking to relive the past at that point.  Her son had killed himself right after the series went off the air.  She had just embarked on a new marriage.  

"She's trying to move forward and doesn't want to look back."

Oh.  Well, that sucks.  My thought, not a statement.

While he pledged his help, Mr. Tinker didn't think the book would be as robust and compelling without his ex-wife's participation.  And I tended to agree.  

But, still, it was an exciting phone conversation.

Ultimately, there was no book to pursue.  And, about five years later, when there was one authored by these two lofty media culture professors, it was dull as dirt.  

And, among all the acknowledgements, there was no mention of Mary.  Mr. Tinker knew from what he was talking about.

Within the last two weeks, I discovered that there is yet another book about the series coming out.  Entitled "Mary and Lou and Ted and Rhoda," I am hoping that this time somebody got it right.  I totally expect it was a lot easier to get a hold of the cast for participation.  After all, the phone likely doesn't ring as much as it used to for the likes of Edward Asner and Valerie Harper.  Maybe I should have revisited it.  Perhaps a lost opportunity.

As for my buddy Mr. Tinker, I would run into him a few times once I moved to Los Angeles.  At a car wash.  In a French restaurant.  I was at the next table.  He was clearly having a romantic evening out.  At the Daily Grill where he was having lunch at the next booth with MTM director Jay Sandrich.  We were seated with legendary Lucy writer Madelyn Pugh Davis.  With some trepidation, she felt compelled to go and say hello to them.

I'm glad she didn't offer to introduce us.  I doubt that Mr. Tinker would have remembered calling me in my Yonkers kitchen about two decades ago.

Or maybe he would have.

Anyway, let me salute the Mary Tyler Moore Show one more time with this wonderfully rare clip.  The curtain call that was broadcast only once after the original airing of the series finale.  One of a kind memory.

Just like the show itself.




Dinner last night:  BLT sandwich at Blue Plate.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Classic TV Theme of the Month - January 2013

I doubt this made anybody forget William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Dinner last night:  Honey walnut shrimp at Panda Express.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Your Weekend Movie Guide for January 2013

Here's the famed Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles.  With the footprints in the front.  No, Lucy was wrong.  John Wayne's block is not loose.  

Meanwhile, they've just changed the name of the place.  From Grauman's Chinese to TCL Chinese...whoever the heck they are.  Regardless of what they call it, the theater is a terrific place to see a movie.  A true palace.  The photo above is likely the world premiere there of "Hello Dolly."  These days, the place usually features whatever is the latest action dreck dumped on the unsuspecting moviegoing public by the idiots in Hollywood.

And, speaking of cinematic junk, here's what is being unloaded this weekend at your local movie house.  You know the drill by now.  I'll sift through the movie pages of the Los Angeles Times and give you my knee-jerk reaction to the crap out there.  Good luck to all of us.

 Gangster Squad:  Los Angeles when it was run by gangs in the 30s and 40s.  It's still run by gangs except now they don't speak English.

Not Fade Away:  An incredibly slight story of the 60s in New Jersey by Sopranos creator David Chase.  How do you take such a potentially interesting era and make it so uninteresting?

Silver Linings Playbook:  Quirky but entertaining.  Some say this is the dark horse for big Oscar wins this February.

Jack Reacher:  Tom Cruise.  Pass.

Les Miserables:  I have yet to see it.  I am waiting for that rare moment where I can't be anymore depressed than I am at that particular time.  Met fans are already using the title to describe their team's 2013 prospects.

The Impossible:  One family deals with the 2004 tsunami.  Why anybody would want to spend their Christmas vacation on a third world beach continents away gets what they pay for?

Django Unchained:  The D is silent.  If only the director would learn to shut the hell up.

A Haunted House:  How can you screw up comedic possibilities by putting Black people in a haunted house?   Well, apparently, this movie did just that.

The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey:  The really unexpected journey would be me actually going to a theater to see this. 

Life of Pi:  Who doesn't like Pi?  Well, if you remember my review, I didn't.

Parental Guidance:  It made zero money, but this Billy Crystal-Bette Midler comedy was quite pleasant and a terrific time waster.  So, if you're like I was and need to bring your car to the dealership for servicing, this is the picture to see while you wait. But that should be the only reason to see it.

The Guilt Trip:  Friends tell me this was the official 2012 Christmas film for Jews.  You know, the movie they go to see on Christmas Eve after a dinner of Chinese food.

Promised Land:  Go frack yourself.

Lincoln:  Terrific acting.  Less than terrific film editing. The movie that most closely resembles my freshman year American History class at Fordham University.  My class eventually ended.  This film does not.

This is 40:  A big screen version of pancreatic cancer.

Zero Dark Thirty:  I have a review coming next week.  While you wait to read that, go see "Parental Guidance."

Texas Chainsaw 3D:  When the killer gets around to California or New York, call me.

Rust and Bone:  What was left of Sandy Koufax' elbow in 1966.

Amour:  One friend told me that this Oscar-nominated movie from Austria is good but excruciating and depressing.  The last two emotions are exactly how I feel watching any Judd Apatow film.

Mama:  If you don't get enough of Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty," you might want to see this horror film about an evil presence tormenting two young girls.  On second thought, I did get enough of Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty."

Officer Down:  The 1,467th iteration on a dirty cop trying to redeem himself. 

Brief Reunion:  An entrepreneur has his life turned upside down by the appearance of a former classmate.  Stifling a yawn as I type this.

Argo:  The Ben Affleck thriller which proves that yes, there is at least one creative bone in Ben Affleck's body.

Hyde Park on Hudson:   Face-slappingly dull.  How do you manage with the usually compelling subject matter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

Broken City:  Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe in a tale about political corruption in a major city.  Likely set in either New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago.  The good news is that I only have homes in two of them.

The Last Stand:  The leader of a drug cartel busts out of a courthouse and speeds to the Mexican border, where the only thing in his path is a sheriff and his inexperienced staff.  This stars Arnold and Johnny Knoxville, two very good arguments against all those gun control rulings the President released this week.

Luv:  An 11-year-old boy gets a crash course in what it means to be a man when he spends a day with the ex-convict uncle he idolizes.  Major points off because the filmmakers obviously can't spell.

Let My People Go:  At Passover, Reuben, a French-Jewish man living in Finland with his Nordic boyfriend, finds himself back in Paris with his zany family after a lovers' quarrel.  Oy.  You might want to let the audience leave as well.

56 Up:  Director Michael Apted revisits the same group of British-born adults after a 7 year wait. The subjects are interviewed as to the changes that have occurred in their lives during the last seven years.  This is the fifth or sixth look at the same people.  I haven't seen any of the other movies so I'm way behind.  Meanwhile, I once chatted with Apted on a plane all the way across the country without even knowing who he was.

The Rabbi's Cat:  Set in Algeria in the 1920s, a rabbi's cat who learns how to speak after swallowing the family parrot expresses his desire to convert to Judaism.  Just to be clear, this is a cartoon.  And I had no idea that Sylvester was Jewish.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Faced with both her hot-tempered father's fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love.  The little kid in this is nine and now the youngest person to be nominated for Best Actress.   I hear wildly mixed things about this.  I have friends who loved, loved, loved it.  I have friends who walked out in the middle.  Me?  I'll stay home and watch the Good Times marathon.

Quartet:   At a home for retired opera singers, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva and the former wife of one of the residents.  Directed by Dustin Hoffman and starring Maggie Smith.  So, with that pedigree, why am I not rushing out to buy tickets?

Dinner last night:  Bacon and cheese omelet.