Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Sunday Funny Papers

Again, sensory perception conjures up another memory.  

When I return to my New York existence from time to time, I immediately fall into some immediate patterns that I don't really practice in Los Angeles.  There are certain foods I will only crave in New York.  Or schedules that I adhere to there and not here.  The here and there are, of course, interchangeable.

One such beast is Sunday morning.  In Los Angeles, I will wake up and get ready for church.  While dressed and waiting for my hair to dry, I will have an English muffin with Nutella and open up the Los Angeles Times that has been delivered to my front door.  Most Sundays, I will immediately zip through the sports pages and then tackle the Sudoku puzzle.  If I can get that done before church, I am gold.  Usually, I won't tackle the rest of the newspaper until later.  If there is a Sunday afternoon Dodger game at home, I may never finish that Sunday's LA Times.

When in New York, after all these years, I revert back to habits developed decades ago.  And now performed only when I am there.

I don't get a newspaper delivered there so I have to get dressed (with a baseball cap covering my bed head) and drive to the...wait for it...local candy store which is adjacent to the...wait for this as well...local bakery.  I'll get my breakfast of a muffin or a bagel.  Purchase the New York Daily News and, thanks Dad, for establishing that priority when I was five years old.

I drive home.  Lay out the food on the dining room table and open the paper.  

I have to eat my breakfast while reading the Sunday comics.  Or, as you may have called them, the funny papers.

Of course, without the driving, this was my Sunday morning since I was about six years old.  Heck, I was reading the paper before that.  But I absolutely had to this each and every week.  Even when I was going to Sunday School in the Bronx, I couldn't leave the house until those funny papers had been completely absorbed by my eyeballs.

In the summertime, I would particularly savor the whole process.  With Sunday School in remission for July and August, the comics would be lingered over.  I'd take them to my favorite reading spot next to the kitchen fan.  I would wedge myself into that corner.  And spend the next hour lost in the color drawings that seemed to go on endlessly.  

In 2013, the comics in daily newspapers are always condensed to fit now into just two pages.  The type in the Los Angeles Times is so small that I need a magnifying glass to see what Linus is saying.  The same is happening in New York.  

But, back then, the Sunday comic supplement went on endlessly.  And so did I.

There were some Sundays that, despite my ability to read at a very young age, I would go downstairs and let my grandfather do his best Fiorello LaGuardia impersonation for me.  As I sat alongside him at the kitchen with their window fan blasting nearby, I would be enraptured as Grandpa would take me from panel to panel.

"So, Moon Mullins picks Kayo up and puts him to bed and says..."

Grandpa and I had our favorites.
Gasoline Alley, which had a character named Skeezix.  I once asked Grandpa what kind of name that was.  My grandfather's reply : "I don't know but it sure as hell isn't German."

There was the little bald-headed kid named Henry.  He also was apparently a deaf mute.  Henry was written with no lines.   Grandpa and I would survey the panels and then simply chuckle at the end.
There were the continuing stories starring the likes of Brenda Starr, Steve Canyon, Rex Morgan MD, and Winnie Winkle.  For those, you had to read the paper Monday through Saturday to keep up.  But, most of the action was saved for Grandpa and me on Sundays.


While Grandpa was not a fan, I loved the exploits of Dondi.
The kid was close to my age, so I could identify with him.  Except, as I later learned, he was a WWII war orphan, so our similarities ended there.  

At some point, Hollywood attempted to make a movie based on Dondi.  I hounded my dad to take me to see it.  When it came to life before my eyes, I realized it was more fun to read it.  As it turns out, a variety of film historians call it one of the worst movies ever made.  Agreed.

Meanwhile, on the back page, there was Dick Tracy and Grandpa was a fan of him.  At one point, they made a series of TV cartoons based on the character.  This was confusing to me since Tracy was always there at the beginning but never carried through the entire cartoon.  Instead, you saw a bunch of borderline offensive subordinate detectives named Go-Go Gomez, Joe Jit-su, and Heap O'Calorie.  The politically incorrect police today would have a field day.  As for me back in the day, the cartoons were nothing like what Grandpa had to read to me the previous Sunday.  Another foolproof way to confuse the shit out of a seven-year-old.

Somehow, though, my favorite comic strip was always Blondie.
Although the confused person that always sat firmly inside of me couldn't figure out what the comic was called Blondie when it was always about Dagwood.  Still, despite the title issue I would raise, the adventures of the Bumsteads were ideal for me since my family values were being formed on television situation comedies.  Where one of the parents was always getting into trouble and the other, usually smarter parent was there with the wise crack. 

In Blondie, nobody ever seemed to grow old.  Alexander and Cookie were eternally in high school.  Dagwood was always sleeping on the couch.  And Daisy the dog was in every frame.  

Life was quiet and good.  Just what I was looking for.

Perhaps that's why, to this very day, I continue to read Blondie every morning.  Oh, sure, the gags have been updated.  There are references to Twitter and e-mails and reality television.  But, the format has stayed the same.  

Life is still quiet and good.  Just what I'm looking for.

On my last NY Sunday, I made the usual drive for my Sunday morning needs.  Only to be greeted by a sign hanging over the stack of New York Daily News editions.

"SORRY, DUE TO A PRINTER PROBLEM, THERE ARE NO COMICS TODAY."

My heart sank. I drove to two other stores before I could pick up a copy of the Westchester Journal News which also features Sunday comics.  Luckily, many of my favorites are included.  But the drama was too much for me to handle.

Eventually, I got home.  The weather was toasty.  I spread out the funny papers on the dining room table.  I devoured my chocolate chip muffin in front of the portable fan that I had propped up next to me.

Suddenly, I was six again.  Grandpa, where did we leave off with Nancy and Sluggo?

Dinner last night:  Chicken tenders at Johnny Rocket's.




 


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Classic Musical Comedy Production Number of the Week - June 2013

Woo hoo!  Five Saturdays this month...and that means a classic musical comedy number.  And just in time for the Fourth of July.   Jimmy Cagney as the "Yankee Doodle Boy."

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

Friday, June 28, 2013

If I Tweeted - June 2013

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

#LenSpeaks  It's amazing how many celebrities use Twitter to reach their fans.  They're the same ones with a horde of bodyguards around them.

#LenSpeaks  Even the President tweets.  Or, in his case, it should be "twits."

#LenSpeaks  Obama tied up LA again on a visit.  What is he raising funds for now?  He's got the job.

#LenSpeaks  He's playing all the dumbbells in Hollywood for post-Presidential work.  A movie based on his life.

#LenSpeaks  And the wigged First Lady will be the new Oprah.  Mark my words.

#LenSpeaks  Only in Hollywood moments:  Saw a bum taking pictures.  With no camera.

#LenSpeaks  Another one.  Valet parking at Kinko's.

#LenSpeaks  A tourist got killed on Hollywood Boulevard.  Unbelievable since there are always at least two Supermans, three Batmans, and one Spiderman nearby.

#LenSpeaks  Went to see "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" national tour at the Pantages.  A night to burglarize West Hollywood.  Every one there was gay.

#LenSpeaks  I mean, Bruce Vilanch was there.  That makes it official, right?

#LenSpeaks  George Zimmer is out as head of Men's Wearhouse.  I guess that's what happens when you kill Trayvon Martin.

#LenSpeaks  I no longer pay attention to information leaks in our government.  Now if somebody actually keeps a secret, I applaud.

#LenSpeaks  But then again how will I know?

#LenSpeaks  Unsolicited surprise:  My housekeeper completely re-arranged the kitchen pantry cabinets.

#LenSpeaks  It's all perfectly arranged.  And now I can't find anything.

#LenSpeaks  Headed to NY and I thank God once again for good health and my status as TSA Preferred.

#LenSpeaks  I love the snarls of other passengers as I zip through security with my shoes and belt still on.  I hear murmuring.  "How did we do that?"

#LenSpeaks  Warm weather is here.  People are traveling.  And still walking barefoot into airplane bathrooms.

#LenSpeaks  Now, on long flights, I try to miss the toilet on purpose.

#LenSpeaks  I still love a thunderstorm at the end of a humid NY day.

#LenSpeaks  Unless, of course, it makes things hotter.

#LenSpeaks  On Father's Day, I dined out on Long Beach, Long Island --- which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy last October.

#LenSpeaks  I was shocked to see homes still boarded up or being reconstructed.  Months later, you can still feel the damage.

#LenSpeaks  Went to the Yankee-Dodger game at the new/old Yankee Stadium.  There was something very cool and retro taking the train there.

#LenSpeaks  The new Metro-North station at the Stadium is a godsend.  I was home in twenty minutes.  And I still had my wallet.

#LenSpeaks  The Yankees have done a remarkable job perserving the team history with this new stadium.

#LenSpeaks  The only thing missing was a mummified Phil Rizzuto on display.

#LenSpeaks  I never understand why the Supreme Court waits until the last week of June to issue all their decisions.  What the hell do they do the rest of the year?

#LenSpeaks  The Supreme Court remains, to this day, one of the most overrated and false governing bodies of this land.  Politically polarized and not the least bit impartial.

#LenSpeaks  Plus there's the prospect of Ruth Bader Ginsburg after a luncheon salad that included broccoli and cauliflower.

#LenSpeaks  Ruth Bader Ginsburg....speaking of mummified. 

#LenSpeaks  I laughed heartily at Obama's tweets in support of gay marriage.

#LenSpeaks  Here's a guy who made speeches against it just three years ago.  And only changed his stance when pressed for votes.

#LenSpeaks  Day in and day out, the President reveals himself to be a phony.     

#LenSpeaks  As a writer, I would be lost without index cards.  I jot a lot of notes on them.

#LenSpeaks  As a matter of fact, most of today's blog entry was done on them.   

#LenSpeaks  I need to stock up a new supply for July.

Dinner last night:  Louisiana sausage at the Dodger game.       

  

     

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wow!

Yes, wow.

I don't mean it in a good way.  The word "wow" can express your sentiment in two extremes.

In the case of "Man of Steel,"  it's "wow, I can't believe I actually paid money to see this."

The latest Superman reboot is that bad.  Reprehensible.  Vile.  Revolting.

Okay, now that I have your attention.

I can also tell you that "Man of Steel" may be one of the top five worst films I have seen in my life. That's a lot of movies, folks.  But this one does its darndest to repulse me.  And mostly succeeds.

Just for the record, I am a huge fan of the Superman character.  I used to read the comic books.  I ate up the reruns of the TV series with George Reeves.  I enjoyed the movies in the 70s which even the ultra-wooden acting of Christopher Reeve couldn't ruin.  I even liked the 90s TV series with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher, even if the dialogue made Clark Kent and Lois Lane come off more like Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.

About seven years ago, there was another attempt to restart the film franchise with somebody named Brandon Routh as the caped super hero.  It was largely forgettable as we had already seen the story before.  How Superman is born on Krypton.  How he comes to Earth.  How he gets to the Daily Planet.  How he stops crimes and shepherds good over evil.

Yawn.

But, Warner Brothers, never missing an opportunity to make a billion or three, saw an opening for a massive recharge of the franchise.  They turned it over to producer Christopher Nolan, who already had destroyed the Batman character with three movies.  Why not have Nolan shit all over Superman like a cocker spaniel who's been eating the tinsel off the Christmas tree?  When I first heard that Nolan was now involved in Superman, I shuddered.

My fears have been completely vindicated.  He and his hack director Zack Snyder have destroyed the Man of Steel forever.  There's no turning back now.  And once Warner Brothers counts the dough, I'm sure they will order up a sequel or five.

None of which will be seen by yours truly.  Especially if Hollywood wunderkind Christopher Nolan is involved.  I pray each night to God that he doesn't try a remake of something I really love.  Maybe his version of "I Love Lucy."  Where the Mertzes are former Nazi officers on the run from their Holocaust crimes and Lucy is manic-depressive married to an alien not from Cuba, but a planet where wives are sacrificed to a pagan god.

You get the idea.  Nolan has an unhealthy and completely sinister view of the world around him.  He wants it to be ours as well.  The sooner he and his Range Rover do a flip-and-burn on the 405 Freeway, the better for all of us.  Hollywood studio execs love the genius of Nolan movies.  But, then again, Hollywood studio execs, who are mostly between the ages of 22 and 35, can be drug addicts, philanderers, tax cheats, and domestic help abusers.  If Nolan's world vision is as dark as the back of a hall closet, he certainly knows his audience.

But why should that viewpoint be one we need to swallow at the local cinema?  Movies are supposed to be escapist fare where audiences can forget the job they just lost or the teenage child at home they can't reach or the rent they can't pay.  You take that ride for exhilarating fantasy, not grim reality.  Why sign up for more of the same? 

Don't get me wrong.  I love a good action movie that makes your buttered popcorn go down quickly.  The most perfect example of that genre is the very first edition of "Die Hard."  Loud, noisy, explosive, but still with human emotion and heart at its core.  Hollywood escapism at its best.

The only trouble is that "Die Hard" came out in 1988.  Twenty five years ago and there's a lot of Ritalin now in power all over Hollywood development offices.  A generation raised on video games where somebody always just got killed and there is no remorse to their actions.  Frankly, the first target for any of those gun control fanatics is not the NRA, but the likes of Christopher Nolan.

So, Hollywood has long since forgotten how to make a good summer action movie and "Man of Steel" is a rousing example of this inability.  Most particularly with the Superman franchise, this film has lost all the joy and...yes...happiness that many of us have experienced in our years following this beloved hero.  In the hands of Nolan and Snyder, he's just another brooding extension of their own anger and frustration.  Back in the day, Superman was around to stop some robbers who just held up the First National
Bank of Smallville.  Now, he's here to save the planet from ruthless aliens who float around with more electronic hardware than the stock room at your local Best Buy.  Everybody is looking to kill somebody. 

And, as these battles play out ad nauseam, you realize very quickly that you are watching the same special effect for 143 minutes.  Over and over and over and over.  Somebody picks up somebody else and throws them through a building.  That's it.  You see it once.  You see it a thousand times.  It gets old very quickly.  And, in "Man of Steel," that's all the battle between good and evil has been reduced to.

For real fans of Superman, your franchise has been tinkered with needlessly.  There's no Lex Luthor.  No Jimmy Olsen.  In the body of the always annoying Lawrence Fishburne, Perry White is now...ahem...Black.  And, as played by Amy Adams, Lois Lane is no longer just a newspaper reporter.  She's an interplanetary warrior princess. 

As for the newest Superman, Henry Cavill is suitably handsome and has a physique that must be Photoshop-ed.  The relationship between Superman and Lois is key to any story told in this franchise.  Here, Cavill and Adams are completely devoid of any passion and spark.  If they have any chemistry together, it's during fifth period class at Fairfax High School.

You do get Ma and Pa Kent as well as Superman's baby daddy, Jor-El.  Diane Lane is Ma and I kept thinking that it was only about ten years ago where she might have been up for the role of Lois Lane.  Kevin Costner might be the best thing in the film as Pa Kent and that's when you know the acting choices are really bad in a film.  He's involved in a scene with a tornado that should make this movie banned from any Oklahoma showings.  Meanwhile, as Jor-El, Russell Crowe buys it in the first reel and then keeps coming back in every subsequent reel like he's the corpse in "Weekend at Bernie's."  At least we can all be grateful that, at least, he doesn't sing in "Man of Steel."

But, in any movie that looks like it belongs on your living room X-Box, the acting means nothing in a mess like this.  You come for the explosions and the noises and the violence. 

Over and over and over and over.

There was a screenwriter listed on the credits.  I doubt he typed a single word into Final Draft.

The final big battle, if there is one now that I think about it, consumes the last 45 minutes of this swill.  That's where "Man of Steel" and the cinematic images of Nolan and Snyder become the most grotesque and disgusting.  It's the big war over Metropolis (although I don't remember the city name being mentioned) and aliens are flying all about.  Aircraft are flying into glass skyscrapers.   Particles and debris are falling down onto people running for their lives on the streets below.    Other unlucky folks are falling 110 stories out of their buildings.  You see one happen from that person's own POV.

Sound familiar?

It was all on the Nightly News of September 11, 2001.  A day that was unsettling for all of us.  Visions that many of us still hold close to our hearts.  Yet, for Nolan and Snyder, it's just fodder for their movie's big set piece.  How shameless!  We remember the handwringing of Hollywood at their dastardly act of terrorism.  A decade later, we see that 9/11, for them, was merely a trailer for every action movie made after 2010.

And that's when "Man of Steel," at its nadir of disgust, mystically and almost inexplicably gets even worse.

Lots of people clapped at the end of this movie.  I know some friends who liked it themselves.  Good for them.  I hope the Goobers and Sno-Caps were tasty.  As for me, I left the theater worrying just a little bit more about the state of American film and society, in general.  Am I missing something?  Or are they?

I recoiled to a recent Blu Ray DVD purchase.  Back in the 40s, the Fleischer animation studios made 17 cartoons devoted to the adventures of Superman.  They have been lovingly restored and released for the buying public.  I watched four of them and enveloped myself again into what the Superman character was to me as a child.  These shorts were exciting and fun. 

If you're a fan of Superman, that should be what you're spending your money on these days.  Not the bloated excesses of some Hollywood douchebags who probably hit their wives and kick their dogs. 

So, in the very short period of Len actually giving movies a rating, "Man of Steel" is the first film to earn this auspicious grade.

LEN'S RATING:  ZERO STARS.

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This Date in History - June 26

Happy birthday to Eleanor Parker.  The star of one of my favorite TV shows "Bracken's World."  Never heard of it?  Not many people have.

221:  ROMAN EMPEROR ELAGABALUS ADOPTS HIS COUSIN ALEXANDER SEVERUS AS HIS HEIR AND RECEIVES THE TITLE OF CAESAR.

And orders a salad by the same name,

363:  ROMAN EMPEROR JULIAN IS KILLED DURING THE RETREAT FROM THE SASSANID EMPIRE.  GENERAL JOVIAN IS PROCLAIMED EMPEROR.

Rome sure does run through leaders, don't they?

1409:  THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IS LED INTO A DOUBLE SCHISM AS PETROS PHILARGOS IS CROWNED POPE ALEXANDER V AFTER THE COUNCIL OF PISA, JOINING POPE GREGORY XII IN ROME AND POPE BENEDICT XII IN AVIGNON.

How many Popes does it take to screw in a light bulb?

1541:  FRANCISCO PIZZARO IS ASSASSINATED IN LIMA BY THE SON OF HIS ANTAGONIST.

Leaving his grandson to later pitch for the Chicago White Sox.

1718:  TSAREVICH ALEXEI PETROVICH OF RUSSIA, PETER THE GREAT'S SON, MYSTERIOUSLY DIES AFTER BEING SENTENCED TO DEATH BY HIS FATHER FOR PLOTTING AGAINST HIM.

And you thought dysfunctional families were new?

1819:  ABNER DOUBLEDAY IS BORN.

The inventor of baseball.  God bless him.

1870:  THE CHRISTIAN HOLIDAY OF CHRISTMAS IS DECLARED A FEDERAL HOLIDAY IN THE US.

Nice thing to do in the middle of the summer.

1886: HENRI MOISSAN ISOLATED FLOURINE FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Can Crest toothpaste be far behind?

1892:  AUTHOR PEARL S. BUCK IS BORN.

And the Earth is Good.

1909:  COLONEL TOM PARKER IS BORN.

Somebody loved his mother tender.

1917:  THE FIRST US TROOPS ARRIVE IN FRANCE TO FIGHT ALONGSIDE BRITAIN AND FRANCE AGAINST GERMANY IN WORLD WAR I.

And what do we need the French for?  Oh, yeah, fresh bread.

1922:  ACTRESS ELEANOR PARKER IS BORN.

Another one of those actresses that I wish was my mother.

1927:  THE CYCLONE ROLLER COASTER OPENS ON CONEY ISLAND.

And, as a result, the concept of vomiting is invented.

1934:  PRESIDENT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT SIGNS THE FEDERAL CREDIT UNION ACT, WHICH ESTABLISHES CREDIT UNIONS.

In a weird way, this makes sense.

1938:  SINGER BILLY DAVIS JR. IS BORN.

Had this not happened, it would have been the Fourth Dimension.

1944:  THE BATTLE OF OSUCHY IN POLAND ENDS WITH THE DEFEAT OF THE POLISH RESISTANCE FORCES.

Osuchy was really Ouch-y.

19i45:  THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER IS SIGNED IN SAN FRANCISCO.

So how come New York got stuck with this monstrosity?

1948:  WILLIAM SHOCKLEY FILES THE ORIGINAL PATENT FOR THE GROWN JUNCTION TRANSISTER, THE FIRST BIPOLAR JUNCTION TRANSISTOR.

Any time I see the word "bipolar" in print, I automatically think of Carrie Fisher.

1948:  SHIRLEY JACKSON'S SHORT STORY, "THE LOTTERY," IS PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORKER.

Who hasn't done a book report of this?

1961:  CYCLIST GREG LE MOND IS BORN.

How long did he need training wheels?
 

1963:  PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY GIVES HIS "ICH BIN EIN BERLINER" SPEECH IN GERMANY.

And later that year....."ich bin ein corpse."

1974:  THE UNIVERSAL PRODUCT CODE IS SCANNED FOR THE FIRST TIME TO SELL A PACK OF WRIGLEY'S GUM IN TROY, OHIO.

Price check!

1993:  BASEBALL STAR ROY CAMPANELLA DIES.

Hoverround on sale.  Cheap.

1997:  THE US SUPREME COURT RULES THAT THE COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT VIOLATES THE FIRST AMENDMENT.

Long live Korean porn.

2003:  POLITICIAN STROM THURMOND DIES.

Born in 1902.  Finally, says everybody listed in his will.

2003:  THE US SUPREME COURT RULES IN LAWRENCE VS. TEXAS THAT GENDER-BASED SODOMY LAWS ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

There are no words.

2007:  FASHION DESIGNER LIZ CLAIBORNE DIES.

Out of style.

2012:  WRITER/DIRECTOR NORA EPHRON DIES.

No longer sleepless.

2012:  ACTRESS DORIS SINGLETON DIES.

Carolyn Appleby on I Love Lucy!

Dinner last night: Dodger dog at the game.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Unified Shock

I guess this is how news travels in 2013.

I was at the Yankee-Dodger game in the new Bronx ball yard last Wednesday night.  Sometime in the first inning, my friend was looking at his phone and suddenly exclaimed.

"Oh, my God, James Gandolfini died!"

The people around us heard him.  They, too, started to look at their own lifelines or whatever device they use to connect to the world.  I did the same.  I already had two e-mails with the news.

This was happening all over Yankee Stadium.  You could feel it.  You could see almost 41,000 folks suddenly looking at their mobile connections.  I learn later that, in a luxury box downstairs, actor Stephen R. Schirripa, who played Bobby Baccaleri on "The Sopranos" was doing the same thing.  He was getting texts from the likes of Lorraine Bracco and other cast members from the HBO show.  Close friends with their fallen comrade, they were getting the news like the rest of us.

And you could hear the wave cascade across the arena.

Murmur, murmur, murmur, murmur.

This was news traveling at the speed of light.  Or 4G smart phones.

It became all anybody could talk about for several innings.  It's the closest I have felt to other breaking and shocking news that has whacked us all behind the knees over the years.

The explosion of the Challenger.

The shooting of President Reagan.

9/11.

History buffs will likely recall similar feelings. 

The Dallas motorcade.

The shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald.

The deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.

The somewhat sudden death of President Franklin Roosevelt.

In all those cases, it was radio and television breaking in with the details.  You had to be tuned to one of those media to be part of that information thread.  Today, it's almost instantaneous.

It is truly a different world.

And, from what I could see, hear, and feel, it consumed all into a sense of palpable grief.

Here was a guy who was just on TV last week.  Well, not really.  But I just finished re-watching the entire Sopranos series on HBO.  There was a New York connection to the guy as I sat in the warm summer night air that wafted through Yankee Stadium.  He was one of them.  Us.  The memories of this guy were still very fresh.  And, now at the untimely age of 51, he was gone.

And Yankee Stadium, as well as lots of other public places, was feeling it all at once.  A sudden and gripping shock, unexpected as all get out.  I mean, there would be no such crowd murmuring if our phone had told us that Nelson Mandela had just croaked.  That guy's been a favorite bets on death pools for the past ten years.   But, Gandolfini?  He was just here.  Now he's gone.

I was a fan of his work on the Sopranos.  Having just seen the series again, I now was viewing it not for the stories, but the acting choices by the cast.  They were all remarkable, but heads above them all was Gandolfini.  He enveloped the role like it was a tailor-made Hugo Boss suit.  The scenes he did with his two female co-stars, Edie Falco as Carmella and Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Melfi, were acting clinics.  Realistic and organic.  Lives spread out before us.

The news coverage of James Gandolfini's death eventually and almost predictably went over-the-top in our worlds now governed by TMZ cameras.  For Pete's sake, CNN devoted almost all of their on-air time to his passing on Thursday.  New Jersey Governor Chris "Krispy Kreme" Christie announced that the state's flags would fly half-mast.  A bit of an extreme honor, especially since he did the same for drug-addled Whitney Houston and the notoriously adulterer Clarence Clemons. 

It was almost as if a President had died.

We get a little too crazy over celebrity in America these days.  Isolated in our own worlds, we develop uneasy and way-too-close alliances with movie stars, musical icons, and TV characters.  We fail to put them all into their most proper perspective.

But, fittingly, a shock to our systems can transcend all logic.  And, for about an hour last Wednesday night, our unified grief for a guy who was simply a terrific working actor made total sense.

Dinner last night:  Lots of liquid.  It's colonoscopy time.