Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This Date in History - July 31

Happy birthday to Jerry's kid.  He made it big....despite Dad.

30 BC:  IN THE BATTLE OF ALEXANDRIA, MARC ANTONY ACHIEVES A MINOR VICTORY OVER OCTAVIAN'S FORCES, BUT MOST OF HIS ARMY DESERTS, LEADING TO HIS SUICIDE.

And this despite sleeping with Liz Taylor.  Or Jennifer Lopez.

781:  THE OLDEST RECORDED ERUPTION OF MOUNT FUJI.

Can you find this on You Tube?

904:  THESSALONICA FALLS TO THE ARABS, WHO DESTROY THE CITY.

Doesn't they always?

1201:  ATTEMPTED USURPATION OF JOHN KOMNENOS THE FAT.

If that's your nickname, you really must be.

1451:  JACQUES COEUR IS ARRESTED BY ORDER OF CHARLES VII OF FRANCE.

Coeurless.

1492:  THE JEWS ARE EXPELLED FROM SPAIN.

I see a pattern forming.

1498:  ON HIS THIRD VOYAGE TO THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE, CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS BECOMES THE FIRST EUROPEAN TO DISCOVER THE ISLAND OF TRINIDAD.

His fourth voyage there was on Carnival Cruises.

1703:  DANIEL DEFOE IS PLACED IN A PILLORY FOR THE CRIME OF SEDITIOUS LIBEL AFTER PUBLISHING A POLITICALLY SATIRICAL PAMPHLET.

Is this what's going to happen to me and this blog?

1763:  CHEIF PONTIAC'S FORCES DEFEAT BRITISH TROOPS AT THE BATTLE OF BLOODY RUN.

I used to like Pontiac, but only in the four door sedan.

1856:  CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND IS CHARTERED AS A CITY.

Well, if you're going to include Jesus' name, you should be a city.

1911:  ARRANGER GEORGE LIBERACE IS BORN.

"Yeah, my brother George...."

1916:  GAME SHOW PRODUCER BILL TODMAN IS BORN.

And when do we get Goodson?

1919:  SPORTSCASTER CURT GOWDY IS BORN.

"Namath back to pass....."

1929:  ACTOR DON MURRAY IS BORN.

He chose to leave "Knots Landing" after its second season.  The show ran eleven more years.  Mr. Murray, I hope you fired your agent.

1930:  THE RADIO MYSTERY "THE SHADOW" AIRS FOR THE FIRST TIME.

He knows.

1931:  WCBS-TV IN NY BEGINS EXPERIMENTAL BROADCASTS.

Some might argue that they never stopped.

1932:  ACTOR TED CASSIDY IS BORN.

You rang?

1932:  THE NAZI PARTY WINS MORE THAN 38% OF THE VOTE IN GERMAN ELECTIONS.

Not an overwhelming majority, but they had tanks and panzers.

1939:  ACTRESS FRANCE NUYEN IS BORN.

I met her once at a screening of "South Pacific."  A friend of mine made her cry.  E-mail me for the details.

1940:  A DOODLEBUG TRAIN IN OHIO COLLIDES WITH A MULTI-CAR FREIGHT TRAIN, KILLING 43 PEOPLE.

And injuring lots of doodles.

1941:  UNDER INSTRUCTIONS FROM ADOLF HITLER, NAZI OFFICIAL HERMANN GORING ORDERS A GENERAL PLAN FOR CARRYING OUT THE FINAL SOLUTION OF THE JEWISH QUESTION.

Sounds incredibly vague?  In retrospect, we get it.

1945:  MUSICIAN GARY LEWIS IS BORN.

Not a one-hit wonder, but certainly less than ten.

1948:  IDLEWILD AIRPORT IN NY IS DEDICATED.

I wonder what its three letter abbreviation was before it was renamed JFK.

1961:  AT FENWAY PARK IN BOSTON, THE FIRST ALL STAR GAME TIE IN MLB HISTORY OCCURS WHEN RAIN STOPS THE GAME IN THE 9TH INNING.

How did bookies pay this off?

1966:  ACTOR DEAN CAIN IS BORN.

He actually might have been the best Superman.

1971:  APOLLO 15 ASTRONAUTS BECOME THE FIRST TO RIDE IN A LUNAR ROVER.

Whee!!!!

1973:  A DELTA AIR LINES JET CRASHES IN THE FOG AT BOSTON'S LOGAN AIRPORT, KILLING 89.

You will soon understand why this is not a good day to fly.

1987:  FILM PRODUCER JOSEPH E. LEVINE DIES.

And the "E" stood for?  Anybody?

1992:  THAI AIRWAYS FLIGHT 311 CRASHES IN NEPAL, KILLING ALL 113 PEOPLE ON BOARD.

Like I said....

1992:  CHINA GENERAL FLIGHT 7552 CRASHES AFTER TAKING OFF, KILLING 108 PEOPLE ON BOARD.

Cancel my reservation, please.

1992:  GEORGIA JOINS THE UNITED NATIONS.

Some people will do anything to honor Jimmy Carter.

2004:  ACTRESS VIRGINIA GREY DIES.

Wife of Earl, mother of several Crayolas.

2006:  FIDEL CASTRO HANDS OVER POWER TO BROTHER RAUL CASTRO.

"Yeah, that's my brother Raul...."

2012:  MICHAEL PHELPS BREAKS THE 1964 RECORD FOR THE GREATEST NUMBER OF MEDALS WON AT THE OLYMPICS.

Three of which are now on eBay.

2012:  AUTHOR GORE VIDAL DIES.

When this happened last year, I thought he already was.

Dinner last night:  Louisiana sausage at the Dodger game.







Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sluggish in Chicago

Every year, the Hollywood Bowl stages a revival of a Broadway musical.  I've always marveled at how well they manage to do this, given a minimum of rehearsal time as well as the fact that they really only stage the show for three nights.  For this, I salute them.  And show up every single season.

There have been rousing successes.  I'm thinking "Hairspray" with the original Broadway cast.  I'm remembering an absolutely terrific mounting of "South Pacific" with Reba McEntire and Brian Stokes Mitchell.  About twelve years ago, there was a marvelous attempt to revive "Mame" with Michele Lee.

There have been years where the results were quite bad.  A threadbare edition of "Les Miserables."  A truncated version of "Rent" directed by, of all people, Neil Patrick Harris.  A complete miscast production of Mel Brooks' "The Producers."

And then there was this year and their confusing attempt at restaging Kander and Ebb's legendary "Chicago."  It was neither good.  Nor was it bad.  The show simply meandered around the Bowl stage.  It was like a homeless bum going from street corner to street corner, desperately looking for the handout that will never come.

Okay, this is "Chicago" and you can't really mess it up that badly.  It's been around for ages.  I never saw the very first Broadway rendition back in the 70s with Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera.  I did see the revival that opened in the 90s and was there the night star Ann Reinking slid on her ass right into the orchestra pit.  That show is inexplicably still running as they have trotted out every B and C lister known to man into the cast.  If you have yet to do your six months in the "Chicago" production on Broadway, please be patient.  They will get around to you.  The show runs and runs and runs solely for the benefit of Madge and Burt visiting from Oshkosh, Wisconsin and looking to see some Broadway and dine in that Olive Garden overlooking Times Square.

I'm also a big fan of the movie version that won a passel of Oscars and was surprisingly true to the Broadway show.  Once again, the original work is so damn good that it's almost impossible to screw it up.

But you can forget to give it any life.  And that was the big problem with the Hollywood Bowl's "Chicago."  Like the senior citizen you're driving behind on Santa Monica Boulevard, it never goes beyond 25 MPH.  You keep honking but it never goes any faster.  You sit there in sheer frustration.

A major part of the issue goes with the creative team behind the show itself.  Usually, you can count on the Bowl to bring in some real Broadway types behind the scenes.  This "Chicago" gets as its director Brooke Shields.

You heard me.  

Shields has made a career out of being the one who comes into a Broadway show after its original cast is long gone.  Producers want to make sure Made and Burt from Oshkosh keep coming so they bring in recognizable names, regardless of whether or not they have any talent.  Well, Brooke was one of those thousands who got to do the latest Broadway edition of "Chicago."  That fact, however, gives her about as much credence to direct the Hollywood Bowl edition as I have. Wait, I hummed some tunes at intermission on line for the bathroom.  Heck.  where was my offer to stage this?

So, the Bowl brings in a mediocre actress to direct "Chicago" and Brooke, better equipped to design the La-Z-Boy furniture collection she hawks on TV, has no clue what to do.  As a result, the show simply crawls out onto the Bowl stage and immediately cries out "I've fallen and I can't get up."  Suddenly, you're cursing the fact that Susan Stroman opted to take a Hamptons vacation this summer.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood Bowl annual musicals usually provide producers a wonderful opportunity to pepper the shows with a veritable "Who's Who" of Hollywood.   This year with "Chicago," it was more like "Who's That."  I'm sure there were some members of the audience familiar with the cast.  I sure as well wasn't.

In the role of Roxie Hart was one Ashlee Simpson.  Okay, I admit to knowing her name but I had no clue what she's famous for.  Game shows?  Reality television?  Homer's niece from out-of-town?  Anybody??  I stopped reading People Magazine years ago and, as a result, I recognized no one in this show.  As for Ashlee Whoever, she can sing a little, dance a little, and act at no discernible level.  Her acting choices mainly revolved around how crooked she could make her mouth.  In this production of "Chicago," I was sure that the murderous heroine was also recently a stroke victim.

Samantha Barks played Velma Kelly.  Who?  Well, I am told she was in the screen version of "Les Miserables."  I sat in the theater for the screen version of "Les Miserables."  Thanks to this blog, my name might be more recognizable than Samantha's.  And all I did was open a box of Goobers.

Somebody named Stephen Moyer plays the role of lawyer Billy Flynn.  Who?  I am told he's big in some TV show called "True Blood."  It's one of seven dozen vampire programs on cable.  I'm lost.  That's okay.  As the sleazy attorney, Moyer offers....ahem...little bite.

The prison matron was essayed by Lucy Lawless.  Oh, wait, I know her.  Xena, Warrior Princess.  I didn't watch that either.  Meanwhile, the main perk of her performance was long, wavy hair that was obviously a wig purchased from Veronica Lake's estate liquidation.  As a musical performer, I didn't love Lucy.  But it would have been fun to watch her kick the shit out of the orchestra leader.

In the role of the tabloid reporter, played in the movie by Christine Baranski, we had Drew Tablak.  WHO?????  This part was done in drag but Tablak and the biggest thing on his resume is that he once sang in a candlelight procession at Disneyland.  Of course, thinking of Baranski again, this was smart casting.  Everybody thinks she's a man, too.

Finally, a familiar face.  Drew Carey as the hapless Amos AHA Mr. Cellophane.  Except the current game show host has lost a lot of weight and looks like he's under-nourished and ready to be adopted by Sally Struthers.  Meanwhile, Drew looks completely out-of-place in this cast and reminds me of the high senior spring assembly where the faculty had to find a part for the shop teacher.  When Drew Carey, straight from Plinko-land, is your biggest name, you've obviously cast this musical with an EBT card.

If this all sounds incredibly unremarkable to you, this blog entry has been a success.  While the show itself was there, the energy was not.  There was a lot of gyrating in skimpy clothes from the last Victoria's Secret clearance sale.  But, other than those brief homages to original director Bob Fosse, this "Chicago" was indeed like none other.

It was dull.  

And, so, apparently, I was wrong in an above paragraph.

You can screw up "Chicago."

Dinner last night:  Assorted snacks at the Dodgers charity bowl-a-thon.



Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 29, 2013

There are so many big laughs in this clip from a 70s award show.  The hair and fashion of the audience.  Plus the pairing of Kris Kristofferson and Moms Mabley, my grandmother's favorite comic.

Dinner last night:  Chicken tenders and salad.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Another Met Fan is Born

No, I don't mean the royal baby that entered the world this week.   I'm thinking about my own entrance into a baseball world that can be delightful and, at the same time, very unforgiving.  

I remember it every July 24, which was just this past Wednesday.  I was on a plane winging west after a week in the summer sauna that is New York.  But, on that date, my heart and mind always goes back to that amazin' night many decades ago.  

The first time I entered Shea Stadium to see a game.

My mood this past week was particularly rooted in the past.  I had my annual reunion with my two grade school pals, Cheryl and Diane.  I visited a former work colleague for the first time in about ten years.  And, on July 23, I ventured out to Flushing, Queens for a rare Mets game with my college buddy, the Bibster.  Back in the 80s when there were the likes of Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, and Dwight Gooden were trolling the fields of Shea, we enjoyed many a game together on either his season plan seats or mine.  As a matter of fact, it was on July 24, 1984 that we watched one of the best baseball games we had ever seen in person.  It wasn't a no-hitter or a game that decided any pennant aspirations.  It was extraordinarily ordinary.  But one that we have remembered as a hallmark of our friendship ever since.

But, still not as memorable as that July 24 decades before.  You see the photo at the top?  It was purchased, likely with my saved allowance money, on that maiden voyage to Shea.  I found it again during my recent New York sojourn.

And stared at it.  My very first Mets souvenir.  It probably cost no more than a dollar.  And it was remarkably unremarkable.  You held it one way and it said "Go Mets."  You held it another way and it morphed into the Mets logo.  Like one of those religious badges where Jesus Christ's head alternates with a cross.  

What had made me choose this relic on that night of nights?  I must have deliberated for a half-hour in front of the concession stand.  Perhaps I wanted the ink pen in the shape of a baseball bat.  Nope, I would ultimately buy that on my next visit to Shea Stadium.  Or I could save up for a Mets jacket.  That item would be ordered over the winter via mail order by my mom.  

On this night, it was this badge.  A mere trinket.  

But so much more.

I've remembered that evening here before and the memory is rerun again in my mind.  And how it all started a few months before. 

I was basking in the afterglow of my first days in love with the New York Mets, which had developed along with a case of German measles that kept me home from school for a week the previous April.

Yes, that's how a baseball fan began.  With immediate misgivings from my father who probably was hoping I would follow in his footsteps and pinstripes with the New York Yankees.

Those first months in Metdom were all consuming. I devoured anything and everything about the team. I figured that, to be a true Met fan, I first needed to memorize all the uniform numbers. 

Done.

I tried to commit to memory their batting averages. 

Done. 

But, wait. I soon discovered that the numbers changed every day. 

Oops. 

Well, a new baseball fan was bound to make a mistake or two.

I even tried to impress my dad with my baseball knowledge.

"Mickey Mantle wears number 7," I announced to him with pride.

Dad was starting to smart a little less about my baseball devotion. It wasn't long before he made the ultimate parental sacrifice.

He started to pay attention to the Mets. 

I guess that he figured if his son was this rabid, he might as well get involved as well.  And, in short order, he got sucked in as badly as I did.  I don't remember if there was a formal ceremony, but my father became a Met fan. He joined me on weekends in front of the TV. Games immediately popped on the radio as soon as we got into the car.

On a very hot Father's Day, my family made their usual holiday visitation to see all the dead relatives at Ferncliff Cemetery. Alongside the street where "Uncle Fritz" was buried, everybody hopped out of our car to do the necessary grave trimming. Grandma bounded out with hedgeclippers in hand. 

But my dad and I sat in the car, glued to the Met game on the radio. This was no ordinary contest. My father explained.

"This is history happening. The guy has a perfect game in the ninth inning."

I was a baseball fan, but I still didn't the complete significance.

"But the Mets are losing."

Minutes later, we listened to Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning strike out Met John Stephenson for the final out in this masterpiece. I didn't understand why this was such a big deal, but Dad did. That was good enough for me. Outside, Grandma continued to pull weeds out of "Uncle Fritz" and called out to my grandfather for assistance.

"Pop, get the shears!"

With summer upon us, my lobbying began in earnest. Since Dad was now on board with the Shea Faithful, it was time to complete the circle.

I wanted to go to a game at my other church. 

Shea Stadium.

For one of the only times in our lives together, Dad didn't use his usual response to our going any place.

"It's too far."

"There's too much traffic."

"It's too hot/too cold."

I guess he really wanted to go, too. None of those old standards seemingly applied. And he had a direct connection to some nifty seats. The guy he carpooled to work with had a wife who worked for Rambler, then the "Official Car of the New York Mets." Her dealership had a season box right behind the visiting dugout. She got four seats for a July Friday night. Her husband and her son. My father and his son.

Me.

I counted the days, the hours, the minutes, and the seconds. I started to plan out the Met rotation to see who would be pitching on this hallowed night. It would be Jack Fisher, wearing my favorite baseball number to this day. #22. This date would cement the love affair for all time. 

The Mets. Me. Together in the same place. I could reach out and touch them. 

Well, sort of.

This would be the best day of my life.

I could barely sleep the night before. Full of awe and wonder?

Nope, it was the rain pelting my bedroom window.

How could this be happening? God, why have you foresaken me? I mean, I went to Sunday School every week. I said my prayers every night. Rain??? Doesn't everybody in the universe know that I'm supposed to go to Shea Stadium tonight? 

And I dreaded the inevitable. This was totally playing into my father's back-up excuse for the usual trilogy of reasons why not to do something.

"It's too wet."

Uh oh.

My father had already taken the night off from work. His friend still wanted to go. The game was still on. Downpour or no downpour, we popped into the car around 6PM for the trip to Flushing.

I can still remember traversing the Bronx Whitestone Bridge with the sparkling lights of Shea piercing the raindrops on our windshield. Coming down the Van Wyck Expressway, the car radio came on with a song that is forever emblazoned in my memory as the tune that guide me to Shea Stadium.  

"Wives and Lovers" by Jack Jones.  Yes, my dad listened to WNEW-AM in the car.

 
Listening to it again, I can see myself in the front passenger seat of that Buick.  Peering through the windshield wipers at my own version of Heaven.

This is where I was going. I had a ticket. Nothing could stop me now.

Thunderclap.

Lightning bolt.

Perhaps my first utterance of a curse word.

"Shit."

Not audible enough to be slapped across the kisser.

When we arrived at the blue and orange aluminum paneled palace, the grounds were a soggy mess. One puddle after another. We huddled under an umbrella. The game would be delayed but only a little. I stared with amazement at everything I saw as I entered Shea for the first time.

"Scorecard, scorecard here."

I wanted one. I would learn how to score that summer.

The souvenir stands. The amalgamated smell of hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, and spilled beer. Like no other aroma. The escalators that raise up to the heavens. Well, in my case, the field level behind the third base dugout.

Billy Crystal has made a career talking about his first visual memory of Yankee Stadium. Walking up the ramp of darkness and suddenly emerging in the sun-kissed stands and the field with the brightness shade of green that God ever created.

Unfortunately, it was a little different for me that evening at Shea. Coming out of the tunnel onto the field level stands, I saw more darkness. And rain. And a soaked canvas covering the playing area. Indeed, having seen the Mets in nothing but Zenith black and white hues, the colors at that moment were almost the same. Muted, dull, and unimpressive.

It would grow on me in a matter of minutes.

Looming up in front of me was the gigantic scoreboard. 
To me, at my tender age, it was nothing short of magical. Colors danced around the white backdrop. It had baseball scores from all around the country. I looked at the Met lineup and immediately recited to all who would listen those players we would be privileged to see that night.

"Number 10, second base, Rod Kanehl. Number 42, centerfield, Larry Elliot. Number 23, right field, Joe Christopher. Number 2, in left field, George Altman. Number 25, at first base, Frank Thomas. Number 12, catching, Jesse Gonder. Number 1, at third base, Charlie Smith. Number 11, playing shortstop, Roy McMillan. Number 22, and pitching, Jack Fisher."

With a less squeaky and even less juvenile voice, I could have replaced the public address announcer.


Around the third inning, little obnoxious Me decided to use my proximity to the Milwaukee Braves dugout and give them a child's version of Hell. No epithets. Just some good natured booing. At one point, their third base coach, Jo Jo White, was amused by me. As he headed back to the dugout, he stuck his hand in his pocket. And pulled out a handful of Bazooka Bubble Gum pieces. He tossed them into a rain puddle on the dugout roof. I grabbed them quickly.  The comic strips were soaked and not legible. The gum, however, was delicious. 

And I suddenly didn't hate the Milwaukee Braves so much.

Truth be told, other than the sense of shock and awe, I remember little about the game itself. Retrosheet tells me the Mets lost, 8-5, in front of a crowd that numbered 20,646.

As far as I was concerned, it was me, my dad, and 20,644 other people.

This game was my first. It would not be my last.  I went home wearing that little badge.

I had no clue that, for years to come, I would remember it all every July 24.

Dinner last night:  Hollywood Bowl hot dog.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - July 2013

Well, what were you expecting in July?  A trailer for "White Christmas???"  And dig that three-year-old Liza Minnelli!!!

Dinner last night:  Lasagna at Enoteca Drago.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Those Hazy, Crazy, Awkward Days of Summer

I don't think there's a long wait for Ken.
The absolute, cheapest burial available.
So horrible a look, this must be Lon Chaney.
Babies are so cuddly.
Celebrating the loss of her Hyman.
Ewwww.  Where food is served????
And they can't drive either.
"And this is why Mommy couldn't breast feed you."
 Oddly enough, that's the best man.
 All those school awards and still no date for the prom.
 Afro Sheen on Steroids.
You can buy anything on Amazon these days.

Dinner last night:  Super Dodger Dog at the game.



Thursday, July 25, 2013

The New Morning Ritual

The evolution continues.

I think about years working in New York City.  Getting up and out of the house at least ninety minutes prior to when I was supposed to be at my Manhattan office.  You needed all this time to get a good parking spot at the train station, procure a seat in the right car on Metro North, and then endure the day's weather as you plodded uptown upon leaving Grand Central Station.

In Los Angeles, I had a fifteen minute traffic-free ride in my car every morning.  No fuss, very little muss.  The only wrinkle was getting up at 5AM and being in the office by 630AM to accommodate the eastern time zone.

Today, on my own and happy to be so, my commute is 3 seconds.  Or how ever long it takes me to walk the five feet from my bed to my desk.

I rarely run into traffic.  If there's anybody in my way now, it's likely due to a home invasion robbery.

So, without a schedule imposed by somebody else, I now adhere to my own.  But one that I have robotically instituted in an all-important effort to establish a new routine.

A refined ritual, as it were.

Instead of rubbing my eyes at 5AM to my bedside clock radio set to KABC, I let nature poke me awake around 7AM.  It's amazing how your body adapts to a schedule.  My clock radio gathers dust now as opposed to turning on at 4:59AM.  

I have always been one to jump out of bed quickly.  Well, now, the jumping happens only after I have completely stretched out the rusty joints called my knees.  But, as always, I'm immediately alert and raring to go.

The computer goes on.  I immediately check out e-mails and the world.  If it has not exploded overnight, I move on.  I clear out some of the word plays made by those Friends on the east coast.  Q-I.  R-E-L-A-X.  D-I-T-C-H.  Done.

As if I am scheduled to be some place on time, I shave and shower.  That routine never varies.  Razor.  Deep face cleanser.  Sinus rinse.  The morning Pepcid tablet.  Shower stall.  Hair shampoo.  Soap up.  Rinse.  Hair conditioner.  More soaping up.  Rinse again.  

I dress, but now the major decision is which pair of jeans to wear with which polo shirt.  

I open the front door as I used to.  I pick up the morning LA Times.  I drink my orange juice.  I take my morning cocktail of 17 or 18 different vitamin supplements.  I toast my English muffin.  I flip through the newspaper.  I read the comics.  I solve the Sudoku.  Without a destination, I take ten minutes more for the crossword puzzle.  My mental calisthenics.  

Then I commute.  Into my bedroom/office.

And, for the next three or four hours, I do nothing but write.

Maybe it's this piece.

Or some e-mails to business associates working with me on some upcoming projects.  

Or a continuing rewrite of a script started fifteen years ago.  I get notes from friends on it.  I proceed to rewrite some more.

I wrap up a treatment for a dream project in my head for years.  Now it's on paper.  Literally.  I printed it out hard copy to be registered at the Writer's Guild.

I hear my cell phone ping.  Ah, another Word play.

Z-E-B-R-A.

By 10AM, I am in need of a coffee break.  I head into the kitchen and brew a cup in the new Keurig invention.  I bring it this morning's edition of hazelnut back to my desk as you see above.  I continue on.

Writing, writing, writing.

Without leaving the house, I have never felt more vital or alive.  There will need to be days and mornings where my focus will be have to be financially elsewhere.  That will come in due time.  For now....

Writing, writing, writing.

By noon, I have exercised my mind enough.  Time for lunch with a friend.  Perhaps it's one of the two days in the week when I exercise my body with the trainer.  Or, if it's every other Thursday, I have to leave the house by 10AM so my cleaning lady can Swiffer in privacy.  

It's a ritual.  It's mine for now.  It won't be forever.  But, as I think about my existence before, I have no idea how I managed to enjoy a life then.  

Because this is one nifty life today.

Dinner last night:  Travel day.  A Big Mac.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This Date in History - July 24

Happy birthday, Linda Harrison.  One of the knockouts from "Bracken's World" and a major star of my puberty.

1148:  LOUIS VII OF FRANCE LAYS SIEGE TO DAMASCUS DURING THE SECOND CRUSADE.

The French get uppity and it's still early.

141:  THE BATTLE OF HARLAW - ONE OF THE BLOODIEST BATTLES IN SCOTLAND, TAKES PLACE.

And blood doesn't wash out of kilts easily.

1487:  CITIZENS OF LEEUWARDEN, NETHERLANDS STRIKE A BAN ON FOREIGN BEER.

What does anybody have against Lowenbrau?

1567:  MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS, IS FORCED TO ABDICATE AND IS REPLACED BY HER ONE-YEAR-OLD SON.

Leaving a baby in charge...never a good idea.

1701:  ANTOINE DE LA MOTHE CADILLAC FOUNDS THE TRADING POST, WHICH LATER BECOMES DETROIT, MICHIGAN.

I guess somebody had to.

1823:  SLAVERY IS ABOLISHED IN CHILE.

As if anybody wants to live there...period.

1847:  AFTER 17 MONTHS OF TRAVEL, BRIGHAM YOUNG LEADERS 148 MORMONS PIONEERS INTO SALT LAKE VALLEY, RESULTING IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF SALT LAKE CITY.

And the Osmonds rejoice.  Millions of others don't.

1866:  TENNESSEE BECOMES THE FIRST US STATE TO BE READMITTED TO THE UNION FOLLOWING THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR.

But, please be aware that there will be an added processing fee.

1897:  PILOT AMELIA EARHART IS BORN.

On this day, people knew where she was.

1901:  o. HENRY IS RELEASED FROM AUSTIN, TEXAS AFTER SERVING THREE YEARS FOR EMBEZZLING FROM A BANK.

Who knew?  How's that for a short story twist?

1915:  THE PASSENGER SHIP SS EASTLAND CAPSIZES WHILE TIED TO A DOCK IN THE CHICAGO RIVER.  A TOTAL OF 844 PASSENGERS AND CREW ARE KILLED.

While tied to a dock??  Gee, how many would have died if they ever made it out of port??

1920:  POLITICIAN BELLA ABZUG IS BORN.

The original yenta.

1924: ARCHEOLOGIST THEMISTOKLIS SOFOULIS BECOMES PRIME MINISTER OF GREECE.

With a name that scores 80 points in Scrabble.

1931:   A FIRE AT AN ELDERLY HOME IN PITTSBURGH, PENNSYVLANIA KILLS 48 PEOPLE.

And melts 48 walkers.

1935:  THE DUST BOWL HEAT WAVE REACHES ITS PEAK WITH A TEMPERATURE OF 109 DEGREES IN CHICAGO.

But it's not humid.

1936:  ACTRESS RUTH BUZZI IS BORN.

Want a Walnetto?

1937:  ALABAMA DROPS RAPE CHARGES AGAINST THE SO-CALLED "SCOTTSBORO BOYS."

A perfect idea for a Broadway musical.

1945:  ACTRESS LINDA HARRISON IS BORN.

And, other than being gorgeous, her biggest accomplishment was being married to Richard Zanuck for a while.

1946:  COMEDIAN GALLAGHER IS BORN.

No cantaloupe is safe.

1950:  CAPE CANAVERAL BEGINS OPERATIONS WITH A LAUNCH OF A BUMPER ROCKET.

And hundred of nearby Florida residents call up their realtors.

1951:  ACTRESS LYNDA CARTER IS BORN.

Wonder Woman!!!!

1959:  AT THE OPENING OF THE AMERICAN NATIONAL EXHIBITION IN MOSCOW, US VICE PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON AND SOVIET PREMIER NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV HAVE A 'KITCHEN DEBATE."

Coke or Pepsi?

1966:  GOLFER TONY LEMA DIES.

6 feet under par.

1969:  APOLLO 11 SPLASHES DOWN SAFELY IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN.

Moon rocks for sale.  Cheap.

1974:  THE US SUPREME COURT UNANIMOUSLY RULED THAT PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON DID NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO WITHHOLD SUBPOENAED WHITE HOUSE TAPES AND THEY ORDER HIM TO SURRENDER THEM TO THE WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR.

Wait.....I haven't finished editing them yet.

1980:  ACTOR PETER SELLERS DIES.

The Pink Panther Doesn't Return This Time.

1982:  HEAVY RAIN CAUSES A MUDSLIDE THAT DESTROYS A BRIDGE IN JAPAN, KILLING 299. 

Sorry, that Chicago boat still wins for biggest July 24 calamity.

1983:  GEORGE BRETT BATS FOR THE KANSAS CITY ROYALS AGAINST THE NEW YORK YANKEES AND HITS A GAME WINNING HOMER NULLIFIED IN THE PINE TAR INCIDENT.

Pine tar?  I don't see any pine tar.

1998:  RUSSELL EUGENE WATSON JR BURSTS INTO THE US CAPITAL AND OPENS FIRE KILLING TWO POLICE OFFICERS.

So much for the 2PM tour.

2002:  DEMOCRAT JAMES TRAFICANT IS EXPELLED FROM THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ON A VOTE OF 420 TO 1.

I supposed Mr. Traficant was the 1.

2005:  LANCE ARMSTRONG WINS HIS SEVENTH CONSECUTIVE TOUR DE FRANCE.

Yeah, no drugs there.

2012:  ACTOR CHAD EVERETT DIES.

He really needed a Medical Center.

2012:  ACTOR SHERMAN HEMSLEY DIES.

Really movin' on up.

Dinner last night:  Wonderful cheesesteak sandwich at Citi Field




Tuesday, July 23, 2013

There's Junk and Then There's JUNK

Here I am.  Your blogger on demand.

I got a request last week from a good friend who asked me if I had watched "Sharknado" when it first aired. 

"You definitely should blog about it."

Okay, I had little interest in this made-for-TV disaster movie.  I had seen a couple of people comment about it on Facebook, but my time is limited with nonsense like this.  Besides, it was airing on the Syfy Network and I don't even know what channel that is on my system.  

But my friend mentioned it was airing again.  And, oh well, if I can get a couple of good lines out of it...

I'll do my best.  This blog piece goes out to you.

Truth be told, I'm glad I watched "Sharknado."  Because it confirmed to me what I have been thinking for some time.  And a concept that some politicians and media types have been using to their advantage.

America is a stupid country.

We're in a land where mediocrity reigns supreme.  Entertainment put together on a budget of three dollars and brought to you in a marketing frenzy that makes you actually feel guilty if you miss it.  Lambs led to a slaughter.  Sheep marching innocently single-file until they walk right over that cliff.

"Sharknado" is a microcosm of that dire state of affairs.

Supposedly, in its first airing, "Sharknado" had ratings that were below what a typical Syfy movie would do.  Of course, as I said, I have no clue what a typical Syfy film is.  But, once the cretins at the Syfy Network recognized the buzz of their movie, they aired it a second time and...whamo...audience levels increased 40%.

This would be totally acceptable if "Sharknado" was good junk.  

Good junk?  What is that?

Well, for instance, "Mahogany" with Diana Ross was good junk.

Any horror movie with the likes of Jamie Leigh Curtis or Jennifer Love Hewitt is good junk.

Any early 60s film produced by Ross Hunter and starring any combination of Lana Turner, Sandra Dee, and Troy Donahue is good junk.

Films that are so bad that they are good. 

"Sharknado," however is a movie so bad that it's downright cancerous.  Reprehensible to the Nth degree.  And, as lemmings gathered to watch and tweet about this, one more validation that we are one dumb nation.

The plot, if you call it that, is mind boggling.  There are water spouts in the Pacific Ocean that suck up thousands of killer sharks.  Here's the first vile act committed by the Syfy shitheads.  In the wake of the Oklahoma tornadoes, we get to see this? 

Meanwhile, this weather pattern is headed straight for Los Angeles, a town that barely survived Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  It's hard to believe anything could be worse than that, but it is.  Sharks land on the Santa Monica Pier, the famed ferris wheel rolls into an office building, and we're ready for our first commercial break. 

Speaking of which, the Syfy sales team should be recognized for filling a two-hour slot with more commercials than actual program content.  I timed the breaks at six minutes.  If you don't own a DVR, you were screwed.  If you're boycotting advertisers who were in the Paula Deen shows, you definitely should add to your list any of the products that were hawked during "Sharknado."

Of course, it doesn't take long before somebody looks at the storming skies and utters the phrase "global warming."  Liberal Hollywood doesn't miss a shot at relating to us everything they heard Bill Maher say last week.  When it was mentioned a third and fourth time, I checked IMDB to see if Senator Harry Reid was listed as a story editor.

So, the flooding of Los Angeles begins with homes destroyed and here's the second despicable sin waged by the assholes at Syfy.  In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we get to see this?  If ever there is another horrifying freak of nature, may the homes of any Syfy employee in New York and Los Angeles be the first to be destroyed.

But, wait, I forgot the sharks.  As LA goes underwater, there are sharks all around and no, they're not agents at William Morris.  They're in the McClure Tunnel eating folks stuck in a traffic jam.  They're popping out of sewer drains like Art Carney in "The Honeymooners."  Oh, look, they're in the pool and the Mexican guy just skimmed it for leaves.  Oh, well. 

Eventually, they're swimming around your living room and you try to divert one by having it eat portraits of Aunt Marge and Uncle Phil.  When one unsuspecting character is munched on along with a La-Z-Boy recliner, there is a sea of red that would make Cecil B. DeMille envious.  It prompts one survivor to look at the water and say, "hmm, it must be that time of month."

Really?  Menstrual jokes, too??  Where does it stop?

Of course, to make sure the viewer recognizes all the sights he saw last summer on the StarLine tour bus, all of your favorite Hollywood landmarks are amateurishly filmed and destroyed.  One slob says, "My mom said that Hollywood would be the death of me" and then is impaled with the "O" from the legendary sign.  A shark flies through the lights on top of the Hotel Roosevelt.  It's a feeding frenzy very similar to the last time new Nike basketball shoes went on sale in Compton.

While all this is going on, the viewer is also peppered with Twitter messages in the lower corner of the screen.  It seems all of Hollywood was watching as the likes of C-listers Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, and Patton Oswalt all chime in their comments as "Sharknado" unfolds.  Oh, sure, Syfy had nothing to do with this.  This was all purely spontaneous??  Right, and I'll also sell you the Chinese Theater for a dollar.  Oh, wait, it was destroyed, too?? 

I hear that, in the original airing, one of the Twitter comments was from the late "Glee" actor Cory Monteith and that was one of the last things he did.  If so, perhaps that lethal dose of heroin and alcohol was not so bad in comparison.  This Tweet was excised from the airing I saw.  As if any of the slime buckets at Syfy could have that much decency.

Indeed, this is a movie and concept you should be able to have fun with, but it's nothing but a backed up toilet in a bar at 3AM. The production values are sheer offensive.  In one shot, it's raining.  In the very next, the sun is out.  Sun in, sun out.  Rain in, rain out.  Sure, Los Angeles has microclimates but this is ridiculous. 

Meanwhile, the characters drive around in vehicles with process shots and rear projection that was much better done in 1933 by Warner Brothers.  The cars move like those rides you put your kids in for a quarter in front of the local super market.  Apparently, the producers spent all their money on paying has-beens to Tweet and nothing on the actual film itself.

Oh, and speaking of nobodys, that's the entire cast of "Sharknado."  Folks who haven't acted in years or, in the case of star Ian Ziering, didn't make it to the final rounds of "Dancing with the Stars."  The characters who are mean don't survive.  The good guys do, except for actor John Heard who gets eaten after trying to fend off a shark with his favorite bar stool.  These are all actors desperately trying to keep up with their SAG dues and nothing else.

Just when you thought it couldn't be any worse, "Sharknado" overachieves.  The aforementioned Ziering is swallowed whole by one shark while he's carrying a chain saw.  Now there's one fish who will be having some TMJ issues soon.  But, from the stomach, Ziering cuts his way out of the fish and brings with him a character that had been also swallowed whole two commercial breaks ago.  Who will we see next?  Pinocchio and Geppetto??

If any of the above sounds remotely funny, it's sadly not.  You realize that you've been had by the marketing "gurus" at Syfy five minutes after the first fish arrives.  There's not a single moment of cleverness or originality throughout and yes, one helicopter pilot predictably announces "we need a bigger chopper."  That remote control click you just heard came from Steven Spielberg's media room.

When "Sharknado" ends, the producers giggle a little bit more by flashing the title card you see in most French or Italian movies.

Fin.

The End.

Oh, I get it.

In reality, after watching "Sharknado," my head felt a little lighter as there were clearly fewer brain waves traveling through.  I can only imagine how viewers who are dumber than me must feel.  Me?  I can put it all in perspective.  I worry about all those who cannot.  And were suckered by a bunch of snively backslappers and marketing nabobs at Syfy.  Folks that are giddily announcing that "Sharknado 2" will take place in New York. 

Expect these idiots to show Staten Island and Long Beach, Long Island  completely decimated.  Hey, do you really expect them to show any compassion in their quest for a few rating points?

Please don't ask me to review the sequel.  I'm closing the on-demand feature of this blog for a while.

But there were a few good gags in here, right?

Dinner last night:  Had a gloriously big lunch of Italian specialties at the home of grade school friend Diane, so no need for dinner at all.










Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 22, 2013

Back when late night television was spontaneous...and Ed McMahon was drunk.

Dinner last night:  Pizza with prosciutto and roasted peppers at Pizza and Brew.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Grandma's Rhubarb Pie and Other Concoctions

Well, here's a photo of yours truly guaranteed to cool you off on a hot summer Sunday.  Or send your finger scurrying for the "escape" button on the computer keyboard.

Yes, this snapshot of Mr. Knobby Knees is back, but for a different reason.  I want you to look past me (it's not hard) to the greenery growing in our backyard with that super-fancy wood fencing.  You know what that stuff is?

Rhubarb.

And, as I have written before, it was the staple in our family for many, many summers.  The one dish that my grandmother was truly famous for.  Requested by lots of relatives every summer weekend and many winter holidays as well.

Her rhubarb pie.

I guess every family has one or two treats that become traditions.  And every relative has a specialty dish that they alone make and are proud of.

My mother didn't bake pastries, but she sure did make a delicious meat loaf.  Her secret?  A beef and pork blend of chopped meat.  Remembering this, I attempted the same several months ago.  When I asked the butcher for this specifically, he looked at me quizzically.  He had never heard of such goings on.

My dad, when pressed to cook, had one great dish that he made over and over.  Pork chops in tomato sauce with peppers and onions.  His secret?  He cooked it all in an oven bag.  These days, this is common.  Back then, this innovation would have gotten him his own show on the Food Network.

I've written about my Aunt Helen recently and I remember her always making those little pizzas with English muffins.  Slap some mozzarella down.  A dollop of tomato sauce.  Into the toaster muffin.  Voila.  Pizza.  For some bizarre reason, I thought this was delicious.  In retrospect, it's probably the quickest meal in the world.  How lazy can you get?

My mother's goofy sister, Anne, supposedly had a secret formula for this really tasty salad dressing.   I mean, people gushed over this stuff every time there was a family gathering on Long Island.  It would make its appearance on the table as if royalty had arrived.  I'd ask what was in it.

"Oh, that's my secret recipe.  I never tell anybody how I make it."

Uh-huh.

Until one summer when I spent a week out there.  And saw my aunt in the kitchen.  

Pouring the vinegar up to the line on the bottle and then adding oil to the next line on the bottle.

It was a freakin' Good Seasons mix. Hello, the bottles are still around.   

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there was Grandma.  I've written before about her culinary exploits.   Baking pies and cakes every Saturday morning with the amazing flavors and smells wafting up to my bedroom on the second floor.  Of course, her cooking skills were limited and very much in accordance with mindsets developed around the Great Depression which she guided a family of four sons through.

Making the most of little.

Leftover chicken bones used for soup.

Discarded ham or pork bones.  Also employed in a soup.

Spaghetti adored with a sauce that was nothing more than a can of Campbell's Condensed Tomato....wait for it...Soup.

Yeah, that was gross.

So, here in 2013, I've been all about sensory perception.  Trying to relive the past through the sense of sound or smell or feeling.

Or taste.  

As noted, I have attempted successfully Mom's Meat Loaf.  I have tried to devote some Saturdays to baking and, yes, the smells (albeit 3000 miles from where first experienced) are very, very similar.  And, for God's sake, there is now a Good Seasons salad bottle now in my refrigerator.

But, the piece de resistance for me was to experience anew that spectacular rhubarb pie.  This desire has nagged at me for years.  I know my cousins Gini and Lisa in Florida regularly make the same rhubarb pie.  But could I?

I remember Grandma's process to this day.

She'd be in that makeshift garden you see above.  Pulling out the rhubarb plants when they were ripe.

She'd wash them thoroughly in the kitchen sink and then chop off the leaves.  You use only the stalks.  She'd put the chopped up stems into a pot with a little water.  I recall them cooking all day.  Lisa tells me it's really only ten minutes.

Naturally, Grandma would have already prepared, from scratch, a pie shell or three.  As the rhubarb got stringy and soft, she'd add lots of sugar to offset the naturally tart flavor of the stalks.  And the secret weapon...a box of strawberry Jell-o.

This would all gel in the refrigerator overnight.  I remember they always seem to have rhubarb in some shape or form in our homes.  There was always a bowl of it in the refrigerator.  I have a visual image of my grandfather eating the filling for his lunch.  And containers of the stuff in the freezer so Grandma could have this summer plant ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas pies.

While I'm no Duncan Hines and had no inclination to enter a pie crust from scratch, the filling was something I wanted and needed to do.  At a local farmer's market, I bought the stalks.  Then, with my cousin Lisa handy in a Facebook chat, I concocted the filling.  Step by step, stalk cube by stalk cube.

Somehow, it came together.
I remember that Grandma's rhubarb pie could sit in the refrigerator for several days with the whipped cream topping always in place.  My experience recently has been whipped cream that collapses within the hour.  I got some quick lessons from an actual chef of a famous LA restaurant as well as my friend and writing partner.  

The cream whipping took ten minutes.  Grandma's topping was never too sweet.  I held off on the sugar.

It worked as this photo, worthy of a Three Stooges short, will attest.
And the cream held for the ultimate serving.
Several friends, never before exposed to rhubarb pie, loved it.

As for me, the taste triggered memories.

Running through the kitchen after an afternoon playing with my friends in the neighborhood.

Opening Grandma's Frigidaire and setting that pie.

One slice left.

"Can I have it?"

Yes, you can be young again.  

And now, like Grandma, I plan to do it over and over.  Making rhubarb pies to share with friends for dinners and the holidays.

I think it's the right thing to do.

Dinner last night:  Sausage and peppers at Carlo's in Yonkers.  Brown sauce again.  WTF!