Thursday, July 31, 2014

If I Tweeted - July 2014

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

#LenSpeaks  It's the Fourth of July and why do we all seem to be a little less free these days?

#LenSpeaks  America is over two hundred years old and the only thing still intact from the founding fathers is that dogs still get scared of fireworks.

#LenSpeaks  Enjoyed a July 4 concert with Steve Martin and his banjo band.  First time I ever saw him perform without a balloon on his head.

#LenSpeaks   Record killings over the holiday weekend in the south side of Chicago.  They must really need a good community activist.

#LenSpeaks   Me:  It's a summer Friday.  Take the rest of the day off.  Me:  Okay.

#LenSpeaks   The Mideast is on fire.  Again.   Maybe they really need a good community activist.

#LenSpeaks   Maybe it's the word "ham" in Hamas that bothers Israel?

#LenSpeaks   By the way, if you're Jewish and pro-Israel and you voted for Obama, please explain your vote.

#LenSpeaks   Does the President ever have dinner and it's not a fund raising event??

#LenSpeaks   Arrived in JFK for a NY visit.  Saw lots of young adults going on vacation.  Gee, when I was in college, my father made me get a summer job.

#LenSpeaks   Lightning strikes all over the NY area.  And I'm out in the middle of the Long Island Sound on a boat.   With a metal rod sticking out of it.

#LenSpeaks   I'm always astounded in NY that drivers don't pull over to the side when an ambulance or fire truck is coming.

#LenSpeaks   24 ends with 12 episodes.  If Keifer Sutherland gets any older, the next one will be over in 24 minutes.

#LenSpeaks   Can Jack Bauer become our President?   Please.

#LenSpeaks   The Obamas are headed for a long vacation again.   Or essentially continuing the one that started on January 20, 2009.

#LenSpeaks  They'll be spending it on Martha's Vineyard.   With all those one percenters they hate.

#LenSpeaks   Meanwhile, their post-WH residence will be in Palm Springs.  All those old and rich people must need a good community activist.

#LenSpeaks   The good news is that there's really only two main streets in Rancho Mirage for them to snarl traffic on.

#LenSpeaks   On my flight back to LA, there is a Mexican tour group.  25 people all wearing the same Niagara Falls t-shirt.   Complete with a tour guide equipped with a clown horn.

#LenSpeaks  Everybody on my flight sounds like Bill Dana.   You'll only get that joke if you're over 45.

#LenSpeaks   Our borders are being flooded with illegal immigrants.   There's not enough car washes and unmowed lawns to handle the crowd.

#LenSpeaks   Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi quotes Jesus when she says these children should not be turned away.

#LenSpeaks   I love these politicians who quote the Scriptures but then promote abortion.  Which Pelosi does.  

#LenSpeaks   I've got an idea.  Why don't we send all these illegals up to SF and let them work at Pelosi's million dollar winery?

#LenSpeaks  Only in America.  A bum is panhandling in a super market parking lot.  Thirty minutes later, he's on the checkout line with me buying whiskey.

#LenSpeaks  On a Dodger broadcast, Vin Scully referenced a busy signal.   Remember what that is?

#LenSpeaks  For all those who are talking about an Obama impeachment, I have two scarier words.   President Biden.

Dinner last night:  Sandwich and salad. 





Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This Date in History - July 30

Happy birthday, Lisa Kudrow.  Where are Joey and Rachel taking you today?

762:  BAGHDAD IS FOUNDED BY CALIPH AL-MANSUR.

Lucky us.

1502: CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS LANDS AT GUANAJA OFF THE COAST OF HONDURAS DURING HIS FOURTH VOYAGE.

His fourth trip?  Wow, he's racking up the frequent explorer miles.

1619:  IN JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA, THE FIRST REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY IN THE AMERICAS, THE HOUSE OF BURGESSES, CONVENES FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Tape delay on C-Span.

1676:  NATHANIEL BACON ISSUES THE DECLARATION OF THE PEOPLE OF VIRGINIA.

Everything's better with Bacon.

1729:  FOUNDATION OF BALTIMORE, MARYLAND.

Good.  Now the Mets have some place to play in October, 1969.

1864:  DURING THE US CIVIL WAR, UNION FORCES ATTEMPT TO BREAK CONFEDERATE LINES AT PETERSBURG, VIRGINIA BY EXPLODING A LARGE BOMB.

That large bomb just may have been Michael J. Fox's last sitcom.

1866:  NEW ORLEANS' DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT ORDERS POLICE TO RAID AN INTEGRATED REPUBLICAN PARTY.  

Note the words "integrated" and "Republican" are together.

1890:  BASEBALL STAR CASEY STENGEL IS BORN.

Amazin'!

1916:  ACTOR DICK WILSON IS BORN.

Mr. Whipple!

1918:  POET JOYCE KILMER DIES.

Like a tree, she is also planted.  Well, I thought it was a she.  Thanks to all who notified me of the correct gender.   Hey, you write this every Wednesday without a fact checker.

1932:  PREMIERE OF WALT DISNEY'S FLOWERS AND TREES, THE FIRST CARTOON SHORT TO USE TECHNICOLOR AND THE FIRST ACADEMY AWARD WINNING CARTOON SHORT.

Notice that there is no mouse involved.

1933:  ACTOR EDD BYRNES IS BORN.

Now over 80, I wonder if he still needs a comb.

1934:  BASEBALL COMMISSIONER BUD SELIG IS BORN.

A total wimp.

1941:  SINGER PAUL ANKA IS BORN.

A classic shithead.   Ask anybody out in Los Angeles.

1947:  ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER IS BORN.

This is before he said he would be back.

1956:  A JOINT RESOLUTION OF THE US CONGRESS IS SIGNED BY PRESIDENT EISENHOWER, AUTHORIZING IN GOD WE TRUST AS THE US NATIONAL MOTTO.

Yeah, that held up well.

1956:  ACTRESS DELTA BURKE IS BORN.

Suzanne Sugarbaker!

1963:  ACTRESS LISA KUDROW IS BORN.

As good as she was on Friends, she was even funnier as her twin on Mad About You.

1965:  PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON SIGNS THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT OF 1965 INTO LAW, ESTABLISHING MEDICARE AND MEDICAID.

And also Medidebt.

1971:  DAVID SCOTT AND JAMES IRWIN ON APOLLO 15 LAND ON THE MOON.

At this point, the moon missions were a complete yawn.

1974:  US PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON RELEASES SUBPOENAED WHITE HOUSE RECORDINGS AFTER BEING ORDERED TO DO SO BY THE SUPREME COURT.

Now advertising "final weeks."

1975:  JIMMY HOFFA DISAPPEARS FROM A MICHIGAN PARKING LOT.  HE WILL BE DECLARED LEGALLY DEAD ON THIS DATE IN 1982.

I wonder how many touchdowns were scored over him.

1990: GEORGE STEINBRENNER IS FORCED BY COMMISSIONER FAY VINCENT TO RESIGN AS PRINCIPAL PARTNER OF THE NEW YORK YANKEES AFTER HIRING SOME ONE TO DIG UP DIRT ON DAVE WINFIELD.

 History has given this guy a pass.  I still think he was a bad act.

1996:  ACTRESS CLAUDETTE COLBERT DIES.

It happened one last night.

1998:  BUFFALO BOB SMITH DIES.

Say goodbye, kids.

2003:  IN MEXICO, THE LAST "OLD STYLE" VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE IS MADE.

A German car.  Made in Mexico.  Enough said.

2007:  DIRECTOR INGMAR BERGMAN DIES.

Now that's really the guy with the dark hood.

Dinner last night:   Bacon wrapped Dodger Dog at the game.





Tuesday, July 29, 2014

You Can Go To The Movies This Summer

Oh, it's still pretty dangerous, though.   There is way too much crap polluting the theaters.   Transformers.  X-Men.   Marauding apes.   Tom Cruise.

I was delighted to read the other day that Hollywood is having its worst summer in eight years at the box offices.   Why, you might ask?

Transformers.  X-Men.  Marauding apes.  Tom Cruise.

Last summer, we had the glory of two...count 'em...two movies that were actually watchable and therefore enjoyable.  "The Way, Way Back" and Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine."

Luckily, the latter director offers up a new movie every July and we finally got the 2014 edition.  While "Magic in the Moonlight" might not be one of the Woodman's greatest, it certainly was entertaining and much better than what the critics said.   But, then again, I should be the only reviewer you really need to pay attention to.

Woody's latest is a breath of fresh air.   A cool breeze that is blowing through a dank and desperate Hollywood box office.   Along with the previously reviewed "Jersey Boys," "Magic in the Moonlight" is finally that summer movie discerning adults have been waiting to see.   As long as their last name isn't Farrow.

It's been fashionable to be a Woody hater again.   Mia Farrow and a few of those dozen adopted kids have been voicing their dissent of their former hubby and dad one more time.   Okay, let's forget that Mia Farrow would have had zero career in the 80s and 90s without Woody Allen.   I'm sure those kids were well taken care of.  Yes, it's a bit sick and twisted to date and then marry your adopted daughter.   But, I don't think Ms. Farrow is all that normal either.   As a matter of fact, everything I have ever heard is that she's freakin' nuts.

But, I digress.   I look past Woody's private life because he's given me so much enjoyment in his public career.   I mean, the guy's made 49 films in 48 years.  There have been some gems.  

"Annie Hall."

"Manhattan."

"Hannah and Her Sisters."

"Radio Days."

There have been some mediocre ones, for sure.   But, regardless of the quality, a Woody Allen movie is never uninteresting.   Like director Clint Eastwood, he always knows how to tell a story that will, at the very least, hold your attention.

He does that and a bit more with "Magic in the Moonlight."   As I wrote earlier, critics have said this is a lesser effort from the writer/director.   I found it quite charming and, at times, out loud funny.   It won't win Oscars, but, for a summer movie in 2014, it's really the only thing out there.

This time, Woody's focusing on the 1920s in Europe.  Colin Firth is this super-practical magician who, while dressed as a Chinese guy, creates great illusions that he will readily admit are just that.   Illusions.  Firth is so disbelieving of magic and anything that isn't stark reality that his hilarious rants sound like they could have been voiced by Woody himself in a dozen other films.

Colin is employed to visit a family of aristocrats living in the south of France.   They have been bedeviled by a young American woman who specializes in contacting spirits and the dead.   She's played by Emma Stone, who I happen to believe will be married to me in another life.   Have I ever told you how much I dig her?

I digress again.

Firth's mission is to debunk Stone and expose her as a fraud.   Except she seems to know a lot about him, too.  Is she real?  Is she fake?  One thing Colin knows is that she's damn cute.   And have I ever told you how much I dig Emma Stone?

Of course, you and the rest of the audience knows where this connection is going to go.   The plot's not that original, but the fun is watching how it develops even if you saw every plot turn ten minutes before it happens.  The dialogue is crisp.   The photography of the French countryside is magnificent.   The acting is top notch.   And, have I ever told you how much I dig Emma Stone?

While "Magic in the Moonlight" isn't FUNNY and CHARMING, it's still funny and charming in a way that is well worth your time in an air conditioned theater this summer.   And, as an added bonus, nothing blows up.   There are no computer graphics.  And the world is not coming to an end tomorrow.

All this Woody Allen movie is good natured entertainment.   Anybody got a problem with that??

LEN'S RATING:  Three and a half stars.

Dinner last night:  Ham sandwich.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 28, 2014

I loved summer when I got to watch the old Hollywood Squares with my grandmother.

Dinner last night:  Steak, potato salad, red cabbage slaw.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Sunday Memory Drawer - July 24

July 24 was last Thursday.   The date probably came and went with you.  Nothing special, I imagine.   There was no baseball game for me to go to.  Either on the West Coast or the East Coast.

But the date always sticks with me.  Not once, but twice.  When I spent it at my childhood house of worship.  Shea Stadium.  This year, there were special year commemorations.  The half century celebration and the thirty year celebration. 

Of July 24s spent at the big, now demolished ball park in Flushing.  I've written before about the older memory.   The very first day I entered this stadium which was such a major part of my life.

It seems like only yesterday.

I was a new Met fan, having just met the team while out of school for a week in April with a bad case of German measles.  I was starting to understand the sport.   And my father, usually the family figure who always introduces the sport to a youngster, was gravitating to the team with me.  Dad was a lifelong Yankee fan, having grown up in the Bronx.  But, I guess he thought it would be easier now to adopt the team his little son had just selected.

I was consumed by the games on the radio and the television, but, now, I wanted to actually attend a game at brand, spanking new 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. 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.

So we flash forward two decades.  I had my own Saturday plan seats at Shea.  I didn't have to rely on my dad any more to go to Met games.  Sometimes, I didn't even wait until Saturday to visit Mecca.  I would pop out there on an odd weeknight.

This was one of those nights.  Smack in the middle of the summer.  And I probably didn't even realize the date when the impromptu plans were made to see this contest of the Mets versus the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Flushing guys, after languishing in mediocrity for several seasons, were getting competitive again.  

And here it is.  July 24. 

Now, over the course of my life, I've been to lots and lots of baseball games with lots and lots of good friends.  I've enjoyed every minute of it all.   But, there are two friends that stand out as my ideal baseball game mates.  One would be my best friend from high school Danny, who pretty much was the standard bearer for my Saturday seats until I no longer had them.  But there's also my buddy, the Bibster.  We met in college.  Only children who gravitated toward each other with an almost identical sense of humor and whimsy.   Indeed, he probably deserves a blog posting all to himself.

But we also enjoyed the same things at baseball games.  Both life-long fans of the downtrodden bunch at Shea, we started to go to games on weeknights.  On this July 24, I had tickets that resulted from a rainout on a previous Saturday.  We would both pull out scorebooks.  And we would both proceed to manage the game from our seats.  Endless and persistent strategy.  Up in the loge behind home plate on this July 24, we endeavored to stay two strategic moves ahead of Mets manager Davey Johnson.

The weather this night was a little steamy but not terribly uncomfortable.  We had virtually the best seats in the house.  And we did what we did best.   Watched a baseball game.

For some reason, this ordinary July game had it all.  A see-saw contest that perfectly illustrated the highs and lows of being a baseball fan.

Mets up 3-0.

Cardinals take the lead 4-3.

Mets storm back 7-4.

Cardinals squeak ahead 8-7.

Mets tie it in the bottom of the eighth 8-8.

A Keith Hernandez single in the bottom of the tenth wins it for the Metsies.

One of those games that looked like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed at the end of the first "Rocky" movie.  Two objects staggering but trying not to fall. 

We loved every second of it all.  So did the almost 37,000 others in attendance.

It wasn't a game that won a pennant or a World Series.   It wasn't a no-hitter or a contest where somebody hit the cycle.   

It was simply baseball with a great friend.  And perhaps one of the most exciting games I had ever seen in my life.

It was another July 24 at Shea Stadium.   There might have been other times I was there on July 24.   I also may have had one or two in my new baseball home Dodger Stadium.  But there was never anything like the two July 24s.  Twenty years apart. 

But only a second away in my memory bank of lifetime highlights.

Dinner last night:  Turkey burger at the Arclight.

 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Classic TV Theme of the Month - July 2014

I loved summer when I was a kid because CBS always reran this show.

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Don't Forget Your Camera On Summer Vacation

The happiest place on Earth.  Usually.
The Marc Chagall family on vacation.
"It's bad enough we walked to Chicago.  Can we at least get the bus home?"
Wow, South Dakota.  Gee, thanks, Mom and Dad.
I hate these people.
I went to Niagara Falls with my family.  We would never have posed for this picture.
Please close your windows during the jungle safari.
Look at what I brought home from the San Diego Zoo.
They're all set for a water landing.  Just in case this plane is from Malaysian Airlines.
There isn't enough Celebrex in the world for me to do this with my leg.
What was this family's destination?  A new theme park devoted to Ingmar Bergman?
"You told me we weren't gonna get wet!!!"

Dinner last night: Sandwich and German potato salad.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Oh, My

I'm a Direct TV subscriber in Los Angeles and the system regularly sends messages to your receiver about upcoming events.  Most of them are pay-per-view boxing matches and that's immediately ignored by yours truly.  But, last week, I was alerted to the premiere of a new documentary about "Star Trek" actor George Takei.  It's not opening in theaters until late August.

"See it now before everybody else."

As if everybody else is going to run to the theater to see this.  And, oh, by the way, the privilege of seeing it now is $10.99. 

The Dodgers were off this night.  There was no baseball.  What the hell!

And that's the rather quirky back story which explains how I came to see this rather quirky documentary about the rather quirky George Takei.  Did I mention this is all rather quirky?  Whatever the word, I also found this film incredibly entertaining.  And funny.  Admittedly, it was more $8.99 funny than it was $10.99 funny.  I'll make up the two dollars elsewhere.

Truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of the Star Trek franchise.  I have seen the original series in reruns.  It's cheesy but I can understand the allure.  Except there's one problem.   The head character, Captain Kirk, is played by William Shatner who cannot act his way out of a paper bag. 

George Takei was Sulu and he's parlayed quite the career out of one role.  Guest appearances as himself on lots of sitcoms.  Autograph signings at comic book and science fiction conventions.  And, most recently, as an advocate for gay rights.  Not bad for somebody who did a TV show for three measly seasons a half century ago.

Somehow magically, Takei was beamed up onto everybody's radar screen about twenty years ago when he became a regular cast on the Howard Stern radio show.  This is where I became a fan, especially when he would utter his famous "oh, my."  The guy was clever and definitely understood his role in life.  He was going to ride the horse as far as it would go.  And, from what you see in "To Be Takei," the finish line is nowhere in sight.

The premise of this film is rather simple.  The camera basically follows Takei and his "husband" Brad around as they go about their business.  Going to the barber shop.  Scattering ashes on a mountaintop.  Meeting with the loony bin at Comic Con.   And, hilariously, trying to stage a musical about Takei's youth in one of those Japanese internment camps.  Yes, a musical.  You read that right.

For not being about much, "To Be Takei" is pretty entertaining.  You follow his acting career, albeit a short one.  And you watch as he emerges into an activist when he slowly comes out of the closet.  Most notably, the stories from his fellow "Star Trek" co-stars are hilarious.  Apparently, all of them realized that their lead actor had no talent.  Indeed, Shatner himself does commit to an interview and bombastically states that he barely knows George.  What an idiot. 

So, I spent ninety minutes in a way that I did not expect.  With a guy that I really didn't need to learn about, but did.  And it only cost me $10.99 without leaving my living room.  So, all was well.

When "To Be Takei" hits the theaters in August, it will be your choice if it's worth 15 or 16 bucks.  Plus another fifteen for popcorn and a medium soda.

LEN'S RATING:  Three stars.

Dinner last night:  German cold cuts on pumpernickel.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

This Date in History - July 23

Happy birthday, Daniel Radcliffe.   It's a shame such a good actor will be known forever for those stupid Harry Potter movies.

1632:  THREE HUNDRED COLONISTS BOUND FOR NEW FRANCE DEPART FROM DIEPPE, FRANCE.

Which is apparently Old France.

1793:  KINGDOM OF PRUSSIA RE-CONQUERS MAINZ FROM FRANCE.

Old or New.  Not clear.

1829:  IN THE US, WILLIAM AUSTIN BURT PATENTS THE TYPOGRAPHER, A PRECURSOR TO THE TYPEWRITER.

What's a typewriter?

1833:  CORNERSTONES ARE LAID FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE KIRTLAND TEMPLE IN OHIO.

They must have been some sexy cornerstones.

1840:  THE PROVINCE OF CANADA IS CREATED.

Good, now hockey has some place to play.

1885:  GENERAL ULYSSES S. GRANT DIES.

I've got a tomb for you.

1894: ACTOR ARTHUR TREACHER IS BORN.

Fish and chips are half price today.

1903:  THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY SELLS ITS FIRST CAR.

Not interested until the radio is included as a standard option.

1918:  BASEBALL STAR PEE WEE REESE IS BORN.

I hope he got his nickname because of his height.

1926:  FOX FILM BUYS THE PATENTS FOR THE MOVIETONE SOUND SYSTEM.

Yeah, I know.  We ain't heard nothing yet.

1927:  THE FIRST STATION OF THE INDIAN BROADCASTING COMPANY GOES ON THE AIR.

First Indian sitcom:  The Honeymonsooners.

1929:  THE FASCIST GOVERNMENT IN ITALY BANS THE USE OF FOREIGN WORDS.

Unlike America where English is apparently banned.

1933:  ACTOR BURT CONVY IS BORN.

In the Banana Section.

1940:  RADIO HOST DON IMUS IS BORN.

Dirtbag.

1942:  DURING WORLD WAR II, THE GERMAN OFFENSIVES OF OPERATION EDELWEISS AND OPERATION BRAUNSCHWEIG BEGIN.

Edelweiss was more appealing when it was a song on Broadway.

1943:  THE RAYLEIGH BATH CHAIR MURDER OCCURS IN ENGLAND.

Now don't you want to know what that was all about?

1948:  DIRECTOR D.W. GRIFFITH DIES.

The Death of a Director.

1952:  GENERAL MUHAMMAD MAGUIB LEADS AN OVERTHROW OF KING FAROUK OF EGYPT.

Farouk Off.

1962:  TELSTAR RELAYS THE FIRST TRANS-ATLANTIC TELEVISION PROGRAM, FEATURING WALTER CRONKITE.  

And still there was nothing on.

1966:  ACTOR MONTGOMERY CLIFT DIES.

From here to eternity.  Trip complete.

1967:  ONE OF THE WORST RACE RIOTS IN US HISTORY BEGINS ON 12TH STREET IN DETROIT, MICHIGAN.

Main excuse for rioting:  "it was hot."

1968:  THE ONLY SUCCESSFUL HIJACKING OF AN EL AL AIRCRAFT TAKES PLACE WHEN A JETLINER IS COMMANDEERED BY THREE MEMBERS OF THE POPULAR FRONT FOR THE LIBERATION OF PALESTINE.

This shit never ends.

1973:  MONICA LEWINSKY IS BORN.

Okay, Miss, it's past sixty days.  Please come and pick up your dry cleaning.

1982:  THE INTERNATIONAL WHALING COMMISSION DECIDES TO END COMMERCIAL WHALING BY 1985-86.

Okay, who's going to hire a guy with one leg?

1982:  ACTOR VIC MORROW DIES.

A head of his time.

1984:  VANESSA WILLIAMS BECOMES THE FIRST MISS AMERICA TO RESIGN AFTER NUDE PHOTOS OF HER APPEAR IN PENTHOUSE.

What?  Bess Myerson never got naked?

1986:  IN LONDON, ENGLAND, PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK MARRIES SARAH FERGUSON.

In retrospect, I wish I had ten years in the office pool.

1989:  ACTOR DANIEL RADCLIFFE IS BORN.

Loved him on Broadway in "How to Succeed."

1992:  A VATICAN COMMISSION, LED BY JOSEPH RATZINGER, ESTABLISHES THAT LIMITING CERTAIN RIGHTS OF GAY PEOPLE AND NON-MARRIED COUPLES IS NOT EQUIVALENT TO DISCRIMINATION ON GROUNDS OF RACE OR GENDER.

And this is the guy who resigned as Pope, right?

1995:  COMET HALE-BOPP IS DISCOVERED.

Hale Bopp?  He had a big song in the 50s, I think.

2010:  JOURNALIST DANIEL SCHORR DIES.

Washed up on...

2011:  SINGER AMY WINEHOUSE DIES.

Because there was way too much wine available in that house.

2012:  ASTRONAUT SALLY RIDE DIES.

Roger and out.

Dinner last night:  Chinese chicken salad.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Near As I Can Figure

"Third Person" is a lot of movie.   And, at the same time, really no movie at all.

You might recognize the name of the director and writer.  Paul Haggis did the same chores on "Crash," which was a surprising winner of the Best Picture Oscar several years back.  I actually enjoyed that film, which was a collection of seemingly unrelated stories about LA that snapped conveniently together like a jigsaw puzzle at the end.  I remember sitting in the theater and saying repeatedly, "Ah, I get it."

I wasn't so lucky with his latest movie.  If the first one was called "Crash," "Third Person" should really have been entitled "Wreck."  Instead of me sitting in the theater and saying repeatedly, "Ah, I get it," I kept shaking my head from side to side and saying "you've got to be kidding." 

Never have I let a theater more confused about what I just saw.  Near as I can figure, there are three supposedly unrelated stories about busted relationships.  I had a feeling that, given Haggis' past work, these would tie together eventually.  Some did.  Some didn't.  Or did they? 

Near as I can figure, the three stories were set in New York, Paris, and Rome.  Okay, but how come one of the characters in the New York story suddenly appears briefly in a Paris hotel?  And one of the Rome characters seemingly does a walk by in Paris? Were my eyes playing tricks?   Was this a part of the nap I enjoyed between the fourth and fifth reel?  Whatever.   The only thing I really started to appreciate was that I had seen "Third Person" at a bargain matinee price.

Near as I can figure, one of the stories involved Liam Neeson as a down-on-his-luck writer who is having a Paris fling with girlfriend Olivia Wilde while still mourning the pool death of his son.  By the way, can we really stop having Neeson always mourning the passing of a loved one in movies?  I mean, with the untimely death of his wife Natasha Richardson some years back, it's a little creepy that he continually plays this out on the big screen. 

But, I digress....

Near as I can figure, the second story is in New York (maybe) with Mila Kunis and James Franco fighting for custody of their young son because she supposedly tried to kill the kid.  I think.  This tale involves lots of histrionics for the actors who are either trying to get Oscar nominations or pass kidney stones.  One scene with Kunis is so overwrought that you'd think she just found out boyfriend Ashton Kutcher just signed up for three more seasons of "Two and A Half Men."

The third story involves a con artist in Rome (maybe) who steals designs for clothing.  I think.  The crook is played by Adrien Brody and, oh, by the way, I'd love to see his nose in a contest against Danny Thomas.  Brody falls in love with a hooker.  I think.  He, too, is mourning the loss of a child.  I think.  You can never be too sure with this movie. 

Towards the end, characters in each of the disjointed yarns start to morph away as if this film is suddenly being crafted by magician David Blaine.  There is some connective tissue between the stories and the characters, but it all seems forced and gratuitous.  And you don't care at all. 

Indeed, "Third Person" gives us a two-hour-plus visit with a lot of broken people.   That's apropos since the movie itself is broken.  If only the projector had followed the same course.  This is an exercise in complete confusion and, if you truly want to be this addled, you might as well just turn on C-Span for an afternoon.

In a forced effort to find something positive to say here, I will tell you that Haggis' real-life wife is the same actress who used to play Larry Hagman's secretary Sly on the old "Dallas" series.  I always liked her on that.  And I liked her husband's work on "Crash." 

That's as upbeat as I can be in this review of "Third Person." 

Near as I can figure.

LEN'S RATING:  One star.

Dinner last night:  Brought a sandwich for my flight back to LA.





Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 21, 2014

I loved summer because I got to stay up and watch Johnny Carson.

Dinner last night:  Pepperoni pizza at the Parlor in Dobbs Ferry.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Sunday Memory Drawer - "It's Too Damn Hot"

Writing this from New York, it is a typical July week.  While the temperatures aren't in the 90s, the humidity was incredibly high for a few days.  You take a shower and then the simple act of toweling off works up a sweat.   You need to soak off all over again.  The vicious cycle of summer weather on the East Coast.

Oh, how I remember.  It was brutal when you were an adult and working in the airless bowels of Manhattan.  Drenched in perspiration by the time you reached your office at 8AM.  Dreading 5PM when you would leave the air-conditioned comfort to go home.  Praying that the cool air would follow you to the Metro North train up to Westchester.  Only to get to your track in Grand Central Station to hear...

"Hot car."

That meant the air wasn't working.  And you would get home not to remove your clothes but peel them off gingerly one layer at a time.

But, when I was a kid and had no place to go during the summer, heat and humidity wasn't necessarily a big ordeal.

Oh, who am I kidding?  It was disgusting.

There would be a stretch of days, usually in July, where the heat would reach 100 degrees and the humidity in the air was as thick and damp as a dirty kitchen mop.  The severity of the weather would be uttered in all corners of my house.  Usually started by my mom with the title of today's blog entry.

"It's too damn hot."

Yet, off to work, she would go. 

My father, of course, had little to say about most things.  But, as he would head off to this night job in a Connecticut factory, Dad couldn't resist turning the torrid weather into another warning for yours truly.

"It's hot.  Don't be running around like a lunatic."

Yes, sir.

So, as per usual during the summer, I'd spend most of the time home with my grandmother downstairs.  And her reaction to the heat would be simply to sigh as she moved about the house.

Making her lunch of a bologna sandwich with jelly (Don't ask).

"Sigh."

Lying down on the couch for her afternoon beauty rest.

"Sigh."

Turning on the TV to watch her soap operas.

"Sigh."

Meanwhile, my beagle Tuffy would pretty much find a cool spot under the table on the dining room linoleum and not come out for hours.  Until, of course, she noticed my grandmother making her way to the kitchen for dinner.  That would get my dog's attention.  Except, on the hottest of the hottest days, my grandmother would make the announcement....

"Oh, it's too hot to cook."

That meant supper was going to be a plate of cold cuts.  I'd probably run around the corner...no, wait...walk around the corner to Charlie's Delicatessen for some German potato salad and cole slaw.  Preparing a stove-less dinner.  Afterwards, Grandma would go out to the backyard and sit in the beach chair.  Every five minutes, she'd make the same pronouncement.

"Oh, there's no breeze."

I'd venture "up the block" to see my buddies.  The hot weather usually had knocked them for a loop, too.  This was not a neighborhood of great luxury.  There were no backyard swimming pools.  We didn't have the convenience of fine summer resorts nearby.  Only Glen Island Beach in New Rochelle, which was a bus ride away.  Or the dreaded and unholy Orchard...AKA "Horseshit"...Beach in the Bronx. 

During the really, really hot weather, we didn't play much or have our usual after-dinner baseball game in our favorite vacant lot.  Nope, when it was this sultry, we all simply languished on somebody's front steps.  And waited for the arrival of the Good Humor Truck at 8:47PM every night.  Then we'd all retire from the exhaustion of doing nothing.

Now, also in the less regal environs of 15th Avenue in Mount Vernon, New York, there was really no such phenomenon as central air conditioning.  You'd look at the rundown apartment building across the street and see contraptions hanging out of windows.  Most of them didn't enjoy this extravagance. 

No, wait, we did have an air conditioner in our home.  A huge, clunky piece of metal that looked like it had fallen off John Glenn's space capsule during descent.  It was placed in our upstairs living room window.  And, because of the electricity needed to get it going, I needed a court order to be allowed to turn it on.

"It only goes on when we say it does.  Do you think we're made of money?"

So, indeed, the air conditioner really never went on until my parents were home on the weekend and the hot, steamy weather had extended to Saturday and Sundays.  These days bring back some of my happier memories of doing an activity as a family.   We had one of those accordion doors to close off the living room from the rest of the house.   And we'd sit in air conditioned comfort to watch old movies on Channel 5 or maybe the Million Dollar Movie on Channel 9.  Dinner time would come around and my grandmother's words would now be channeled into my mom.

"Oh, it's too hot to cook."

When that happened with my folks, it was a simple phone call.

"DON'T COOK TONIGHT.  CALL CHICKEN DELIGHT."

And, while licking off our fingers in the living room, we'd tune into another old movie on the television.

Of course, I've already written about my most favorite lair on uncomfortable summer nights but it bears repeating on this July Sunday. 

Right next to the kitchen fan.

It was usually after 9PM.  My mom would be asleep in the living room on those nights when it was too hot to dream.   She needed to be crisp for her morning run to work.  Dad was still toiling in his factory.   Grandma had long since decided that summer rerun television was for the birds and announced that it was "too hot to watch television."

There was only one place for me.  Our kitchen.  With the enormous fan in the window.  It made the sound of the D train rushing through a local subway station. But, like ocean water crashing up against a shore, there was something oddly soothing with that loud whirring of our kitchen fan. I could listen to it for hours. And frequently did. Way up close. I was a weird kid.

And electric fans had been the way our family kept cool during the summer. 

My grandmother had one mounted in her kitchen downstairs as well and that must have been how people stayed cool during World War II. Apparently, there are all sorts of scientific solutions on how to use the fan to get gusts of wind going throughout the house. It must have been handed down like family lore, because both my dad and Grandma were cooling experts.

If you're in the bedroom, you turn on the kitchen fan and then close all the doors of the house except for the room you're in. Voila. The whole opening in the home gets all the intake and you have a breeze. Naturally, I would invariably go into one of the other rooms and then I would hear the wail.

"Close the door!!"

But, after 10PM every steamy summer night, I had to be near that monster of a fan.  For the breeze, but also for the noise.  It shut me into my own special world.  This was my "alone" time and I valued it.

So did my dog Tuffy, who would sequester herself in her sleeping box and keep me quiet company.  This would be my hideaway for the next three hours.

First order of business?  I'd make myself a sandwich with one of the German cold cuts my father had bought the previous Saturday morning.  Usually my beloved Taylor Ham or some Cervelat.  Wait, didn't I just have a Good Humor ice cream?  No worries.  That had to be...wow...over an hour ago.

For two summers, I would spend the 10PM hour playing out past New York Met seasons with my Strat-O-Matic baseball game.  These were the versions of the popular strategy game that were not computerized.  I'd follow the games of an earlier season schedule and simply replay the games.  Then, I'd record the stats in a spiral bound notebook.  The goal was to see if I could duplicate the same statistics that each player had actually recorded in that season.  And was it possible for me to manage the New York Mets and improve their overall record?

I told you I was a weird kid.   And obviously an only child.

I was only good for about two or three games a night.  I had to set aside quality time for my next nightly activity.

Reading.  And summer was the best time to do it.

I couldn't wait to hit a book around 11PM and go till about 1AM or whenever Dad popped home from work and sent me to bed. Even then, my reading preference tended to be more film and sports biographies. I would attack a novel from time to time. Usually, if some best seller was being made into a movie for summer release, I would race to finish the book before seeing the film. I remember vividly the breakneck speed at which I finished "The Godfather." 

And, for this innocent youngster, Page 27 was more education than I ever needed.

But, the simple act of nightly reading was not the complete nirvana. I had another bizarre ritual that went along with it hand-in-hand.

I needed to have a glass of iced tea at my side.  Usually the Nestea powder brand.  Nobody in my house had the time or the inclination to brew it from scratch.

I'd then take the kitchen chair and put it as close to the monstrosity of a kitchen fan, which was always spinning on the highest speed.   It was situated right next to a china closet, which created a pretty dark corner and a very small space.  No worries.  I was snug.  And there is where my summer nightly reading took place. With a tensor lamp and me wedged in between the fan and the china closet with a good book. It was almost like my own private little cave.

To this day, the sound of an electric fan does a little more than just comfort me. It blows me right back to Don Corleone, Rhett and Scarlett, and a biography of Charlie Chaplin.

Before I knew it, I would be stirred back to reality by a male voice.

"Go to bed already."

Yes, Dad.  My father would look at me in my odd nightly set-up and shake his head.  

"Oh, it's too hot to even yell at you."

Dinner last night:  Carlo's in Yonkers redeems itself with a great eggplant parm and a cannoli. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - July 2014

Here's why I wasn't allowed to watch the second feature at the Elmsford Drive-In.

Dinner last night:  Sausage and peppers at Modern Restaurant in New Rochelle.

Friday, July 18, 2014

July Has 31 Awkward Days

Grandpa dressed as Howard Stern last Halloween.
Fashion note: Men don't look good in Daisy Dukes.
 A welcome mat for pedophiles.
This woman really needs to pay close attention to the walls of her husband's home office.
Proof that six heads are not better than....well, you know the rest.
How Green Was My Allie.
Tube socks on sale at Walmart?
Not even ten years old and the thighs are already chunky.
Okay, who's adopted in this picture?  More than one selection is allowed.
"Grandma, your finger tastes funny."
 What a bunch of boobs.
If you've ever taken a naked photo with your family, please remove me from your Christmas card list.

Dinner last night:  Steak dinner at the home of good friends Roby and Bruce.