Friday, October 31, 2014

If I Tweeted - October 2014

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

#LenSpeaks  Headed to playoff baseball games at Dodger Stadium.  In 100 degree heat.

#LenSpeaks  I remember going to October baseball in New York.   And in long sleeves and sweatshirts while wearing gloves.

#LenSpeaks  Regardless of the wardrobe, my team still lost.

#LenSpeaks   I'm seeing Hillary bumper stickers all over LA.   Need to get one of my own.   That says, 'BENGHAZI."

#LenSpeaks   If we're going to have a woman president, I want the lady that was on "24."   Or Tea Leoni from "Madam Secretary."

#LenSpeaks   Perfect timing for the Hillary campaign.  Monica is back.  A woman who's been on her knees more than Carol Burnett's scrubwoman.

#LenSpeaks  You remember Monica?  She was one of three women that Bill Clinton had an affair with.

#LenSpeaks   I love the way liberal women talk about NFL players abusing their wives and yet they still lovingly talk about Bill Clinton.

#LenSpeaks   America!  The Double Standard of the World!

#LenSpeaks   2016 will be the Presidential campaign that will kill us all.  One way or the other.

#LenSpeaks  If ISIS doesn't do it first...

#LenSpeaks  Or Ebola....

#LenSpeaks  Or any TV show featuring one or more Kardashians.

#LenSpeaks  All the fuss on Ebola.  Yet, if you watch the baseball playoffs, the biggest health problem right now must be erectile dysfunction.

#LenSpeaks   There are now more pills for that than there are for sinus headaches.

#LenSpeaks   I still love the list of side effects.  "If your erection lasts more than four hours, call a doctor."

#LenSpeaks   If it were me, I'm calling a nurse.

#LenSpeaks   A bigger health issue we face?   The comas we fall into listening to Cal Ripken do color on a baseball playoff game.

#LenSpeaks   His streak is intact.   Twenty straight years as a complete dullard.

#LenSpeaks  TBS has no business broadcasting baseball.

#LenSpeaks   I miss the days of Lindsey Nelson, Ralph Kiner, and Bob Murphy doing Met games.

#LenSpeaks  Watching these Direct TV commercials, I thought Rob Lowe and Super Creepy Rob Lowe were the same person.

#LenSpeaks  The SF Giants' Hunter Pence looks like a mental patient. 

#LenSpeaks  Seeing him walk the streets of San Francisco make me think they've reopened Alcatraz.

#LenSpeaks  Seriously, if I see Hunter Pence coming down the block, I will cross to the other side.

#LenSpeaks   The Giants had Bryan Stow say "play ball" before a World Series game.  Glad to see he recovered.

#LenSpeaks  Except the media keeps calling him the guy who got beaten at a Dodger game.  It happened in the far outskirts of the parking lot!!!

#LenSpeaks   Way out where the cretins park and drink before a game.   We still don't have that whole story.

#LenSpeaks  On Fox Baseball, Tom Verducci and Harold Reynolds are unlistenable.   That's a word, right?

#LenSpeaks  Tom Verducci:  "Lots of weird stuff happens in Game 4 of the World Series."   Like?  Like??? LIKE????

#LenSpeaks   Finally went to an Indian casino and they actually have Indians working there.  Who knew?

#LenSpeaks  PS, they still allow smoking in those places.   And it ain't the peace pipe.

#LenSpeaks  I should have gone there wearing a Braves hat.  Or a Redskins jersey.  Or a T-shirt with John Wayne on it.

#LenSpeaks  Apparently, Madison Bumgarner has amazing healing powers.

#LenSpeaks   Listening to Tom Verducci on Fox, you would think Bumgarner has twelve disciples.

#LenSpeaks  I'm Len and I approve the contents of this blog entry.

Dinner last night:  Sandwich and broccoli salad in the NY apartment.




Thursday, October 30, 2014

This TV Season, I'm Watching....

When I was a kid, I would virtually memorize the TV Guide Fall Preview as I looked for the seven or eight new shows that I would watch every September.

These days, I'm more judicious.  The lack of creativity in Hollywood has necessitated this.   I look for just one new show that might interest me.  And I adopt that show wholeheartedly, especially if I find it entertaining. 

A bunch of years ago, a new show that I selected was "The Big Bang Theory."  That worked out fairly well for them, didn't it?

About six Septembers ago, a new show that I selected was "The Middle."  Smart move.  It flies totally under the radar screen as perhaps the best sitcom on television.  Sorry about that, "Modern Family."

Of course, I've had some bad picks as well.  I latched onto the Broadway-based soap "Smash."   It limped through two seasons.  And, last year, I got involved in that "Hostages" drama with Toni Collette.  Don't look for it.  Long gone.

So, this TV season, the one that intrigued me was "Madam Secretary."  I was curious to see just how much of Hillary Clinton's life would be mirrored here.  Very little, I might add.   And I knew it was shot in New York with a very Broadway-oriented supporting cast.   There's Patina Miller who just won the Tony as the Leading Player in Pippin.  Erich Bergen was just on the big screen in "Jersey Boys" and I also saw him as the male lead in the "Anything Goes" national tour.  Plus the cast also sports Bebe Neuwirth and nobody can resist that.  For all those reasons, I sampled the premiere episode.

And I have been back ever since.

Don't get me wrong.  "Madam Secretary" is not the best drama ever on television.  While grasping for realism, it too often morphs into the "how are we going to avert nuclear war" story of the week.  But, then again, I watched "24" religiously for its entire run and that rarely made sense either.  Still, "Madam Secretary" gives you a strongly-produced and well-acted hour each week and, unlike all those CSI shows, each episode does not open with a corpse on a slab down at the morgue.

Tea Leoni plays the title role of Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord and her raspy voice alone is worth the process of tuning in.  When the series opens, she's not in the job, but toiling in the law profession and happily married to Georgetown professor Tim Daly and the mother of three kids.  But, the Secretary of State is mysteriously killed in a car accident and the US President, in this case, Keith Carradine, offers her the gig.  Naturally, she's an outsider and is soon butting heads with everybody.

So, we watch as she and her staff negotiate with foreign countries and terrorists and the Ambassador of Canada, who is played by Robert Klein!  In between, she goes home to discuss it all with her husband and kids.  Sometimes she goes to hubby's campus and they ponder the fate of the nature while walking around the grounds.  In this case, Fordham University doubles as Georgetown and, while I never considered the issues of the world on Edwards Parade, I did spend many an idle moment wondering how to get a date for the next mixer. 

If all this sounds rather pedestrian as an hour-long drama, the acting and the production values elevate it all.  And, slowly, a continuing soap-like thread is being introduced.  Elizabeth starts to believe that the previous Secretary's death might not have been accidental.  She starts to suspect people in the White House as traitors and conspirators.  Okay, now we're getting realistic.  And, in true "24" mode, there is now an inkling of a mole on her staff. 

So, I'm sold.  And, when you watch this Madam Secretary at work, you begin to wish she really had the job.   Just like I also secretly wished that William Devane from "24" could really be our President.

Sadly, the country is in much better shape on CBS every Sunday at 8PM than it is in real life.

Dinner last night:  Chinese Chicken Salad.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

This Date in History - October 29

Yeah, this happened on this date.   So did a bunch of other stuff.  Hold onto your hats...and your heads.

539 BC:  CYRUS THE GREAT ENTERED THE CAPITAL OF BABYLON AND ALLOWED THE JEWS TO RETURN TO THEIR LAND.

They let them into Babylon, but what about Islip and Lake Ronkonkoma?

312:  CONSTANTINE THE GREAT ENTERS ROME AND IS MET WITH POPULAR JUBILATION, WHILE MAXENTIUS' BODY IS FISHED OUT OF THE RIVER AND BEHEADED.

I have no clue who Maxentius is, but it sure does suck to be him.

969:  BYZANTINE TROOPS OCCUPY SYRIA.

Looks like it could be a headline for 2014.

1390:  THE FIRST TRIAL FOR WITCHCRAFT IN PARIS LEADS TO THE DEATH OF THREE PEOPLE.

But not beheaded.

1422:  CHARLES VII OF FRANCE BECOMES KING ALTHOUGH HE WON'T BE CROWNED FOR ANOTHER SEVEN YEARS.

Sounds like his paperwork got stuck in Human Resources.

1618:  ADVERTURER WALTER RALEIGH IS BEHEADED FOR CONSPIRING AGAINST THE KING OF ENGLAND.

A lot of good those cigarette redemption coupons are worth.

1658:  NAVAL FORCES OF THE DUTCH REPUBLIC DEFEAT THE SWEDES IN THE BATTLE OF THE SOUND.

Two countries you would not expect to be feuding.

1787:  MOZART'S OPERA "DON GIOVANNI" IS PERFORMED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN PRAGUE.

How do you say "yawn" in Czech?

1863:  EIGHTEEN COUNTRIES MEET IN GENEVA TO FORM THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS.

Coffee and donuts were served.

1886:  THE FIRST TICKER TAPE PARADE TAKES PLACE IN NEW YORK CITY WHEN OFFICE WORKERS SPONTANEOUSLY THROW TICKER TAPE OUT ONTO THE STREETS WHEN THE STATUE OF LIBERTY IS DEDICATED.

Before everything was saved on the Cloud.

1891:  COMIC ACTOR FANNY BRICE IS BORN.

And, in a way, so is Barbra Streisand.

1901:  IN AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS, NURSE JANE TOPPAN IS ARRESTED FOR INJECTING THE DAVIS FAMILY WITH AN OVERDOSE OF MORPHINE.

Well, let's not be hasty.  Let's see how many people actually liked the Davis family as neighbors.

1901:  LEON CZOLGOSZ, THE ASSASSIN OF PRESIDENT MCKINLEY, IS EXECUTED BY ELECTROCUTION.

Because the local beheader was on vacation.

1911:  PUBLISHER JOSEPH PULITZER DIES.

According to his wife, he was no prize.

1921:  SECOND TRIAL OF SACCO AND VANZETTI.

Were either of them beheaded?

1922:  KING VICTOR EMMANUEL III OF ITALY APPOINTS BENITO MUSSOLINI AS PRIME MINISTER.

For that, Victor should have been beheaded.

1929:  THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE CRASHES IN WHAT WILL BE CALLED "BLACK TUESDAY."

Nowadays, the windows down there don't open.

1942:  IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, CLERGY AND POLITICAL FIGURES HOLD A PUBLIC MEETING TO REGISTER OUTRAGE OVER NAZI GERMANY'S PERSECUTION OF JEWS.

Meanwhile, America still hadn't caught on.

1947:  ACTOR RICHARD DREYFUSS IS BORN.

Nice fund.

1948:  ACTRESS KATE JACKSON IS BORN.

Nice everything.

1957:  ISRAEL'S PRIME MINISTER DAVID BEN-GURION AND FIVE OF HIS MINISTERS ARE INJURED WHEN A HAND GRENADE IS TOSSED INTO THE KNESSET.

Nothing has changed years later.

1957:  PRODUCER LOUIS B. MAYER DIES.

And people all over Hollywood say "good."

1960:  IN LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, CASSIUS CLAY WINS HIS FIRST PROFESSIONAL FIGHT.

Personally I never ever called him Muhammad Ali.  He's as much of a religious icon as I am.

1960:  AN AIRPLANE CARRYING THE CAL POLY FOOTBALL TEAM CRASHES ON TAKEOFF IN TOLEDO, OHIO.

So, game called?

1961:  SYRIA EXITS FROM THE UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC.

The Middle East has been, is now, and will always be a mess.

1963:  ACTOR ADOLPHE MENJOU DIES.

For some reason, my grandmother liked his acting.

1967:  MONTREAL'S WORLD FAIR, EXPO 67, CLOSES.

But, in two years, the Montreal Expos will open.

1971:  IN MACON, GEORGIA, GUITARIST DUANE ALLMAN IS KILLED IN A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT.

No longer a ramblin' man.

1994:  FRANCISCO MARTIN DURAN FIRES OVER TWO DOZEN SHOTS AT THE WHITE HOUSE.

You missed.

1998:  SPACE SHUTTLE DISCOVERY BLASTS OFF WITH 77-YEAR-OLD JOHN GLENN ON BOARD, MAKING THE OLDEST PERSON TO GO INTO SPACE.

Until, of course, Betty White decides to go.

2004:  ACTOR VAUGHN MEADER DIES.

Forty one years after his career did.

2008:  DELTA AIR LINES MERGES WITH NORTHWEST AIRLINES, CREATING THE WORLD'S LARGEST AIRLINE.

Food still for purchase.

2012:  HURRICANE SANDY HITS THE EAST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES, CAUSING GREAT DEVASTATION.

No joke included.

Dinner last night:   Bacon and cheese omelet.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Somebody Yell "Cut"

When everybody mentions all the problems in the world, how come nobody discusses the length of major Hollywood movies?  Okay, it's not as deadly as Ebola or Isis, but, if we all lulled into a cinematic coma, how are we going to be able to be alert against really important issues? 

Back in the day, movies were a tight and crisp ninety or one hundred minutes.   Stories were told efficiently and with little fat.  Oh, sure, there were some films that really demanded longer running times.   A "Lawrence of Arabia."   A "Giant."  A "Ben-Hur."  But, for the most part, film editors were kept busy slicing and dicing in Hollywood.

Nowadays, directors are so egotistical that they want to use every scrap of celluloid that they shoot. I mean, it's all perfect, right? 

This brings me to "Gone Girl" which is the latest poster child for hiring a film editor or anybody with sharp scissors to bring us a tighter story that won't give us bed sores.   I had heard great things about this mystery.  Crowds are flocking to it.  And, given all the procedural dramas populating television in 2014, this is exactly what audiences are looking for.   A big screen version of some CSI show.  In this case, it's a CSI edition with two parts.  No, make that three parts.  Wait, make that four parts.  Oh, crap, who am I kidding?   This is a freakin' mini-series.

Ben Affleck plays a man bored with his demanding wife.  She suddenly disappears.   It looks like there was a struggle in the living room.  There are shards of glass all around.  Unfortunately, none were used to cut a reel out of the picture.  But, I digress. 

Soon, it looks like Affleck may have killed his wife and stashed her where the bodies of all annoying spouses are kept.  The detectives look to have an air tight case.  The audience wonders when the credits will roll.   After all, CSI shows are only an hour long.  But, at about the time you normally would switch over to the 11PM news, the audience learns that the wife is...well...let's just say, the movie lasts another 90 minutes.  Do the math.

We learn that the missus is really Looney Tunes and, oh, yeah, those cartoons often ran a very tight seven minutes.   As a matter of fact, there's really nobody in this movie that you can like.   If you really want to spend a whole evening with some detestable folks, simply avoid this film and wait for your Thanksgiving family dinner.

Okay, the story on the screen did hold my interest.  But, as depicted by director David Fincher, it plays out so slowly and methodically that you just know that your bladder won't last till the closing credits.  At one point, Tyler Perry shows up as a lawyer and now I'm even more angry, since I had never seen him in a movie before and I was pretty proud of that accomplishment.  Eventually, Neil Patrick Harris shows up and that wakes me up because I'm a fan.  But, he's not around the proceedings long enough and is unfortunately in the scene where somebody finally did yell "cut."  That's a funny gag if you're unlucky enough to see "Gone Girl."

The performances are decent.  The mystery is compelling enough.  But it's all badly in need of a reworking.  This is an incredibly good first draft of a film.  Call me when you cut about 30 or 40 pages out of the screenplay.  And this movie also features a thoroughly unsatisfying climax.   It's like you sit through four hours of an Italian wedding reception only to find out there are no cannolis on the dessert table. 

"Gone Girl" might or might not be your cup of tea.  Even better, it should be your cup of coffee.   With a caffeine boost.  Trust me.  Around the 2 hour mark, you will need it.

LEN'S RATING:  Two stars.

Dinner last night:  Leftover turkey chili.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Morning Video Laugh - October 27, 2014

Who doesn't miss Candid Camera??   And this clip features Woody Allen.

Dinner last night:  Turkey chili.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Boo!



Regular readers will remember that I wrote this in previous Octobers.

I hate Halloween. 

Always have.

Always will.

I hated the notion of picking out a costume when I was a kid.   I hated dressed up for adult costume parties.  Thank goodness nobody throws those damn things anymore.   Or maybe they do and I'm just not invited.

I don't care.  

I guess I am just one rotting pumpkin. 

If you want to know all my horror stories about trick or treating and the like, do a search of some past Sunday Memory Drawers.  It's all there in blood curdling detail.

But, there is one part of the annual festivities that I enjoy.   It's the scary movies that turn up on TV.   That takes me back to Saturday nights long ago.

For Chiller Theater and you see the opening above.  Every Saturday night on WPIX, they would run one of them.   For a while, they were hosted by this guy. 
 Zacherley was this NY radio deejay who got an extra gig on the weekends, doing intros for some cheesy horror movie that might have played in the local drive-in circa 1955.  He'd welcome us all every Saturday night.

"Hello, boys and ghouls."

He was creepy as all hell but this pre-teen loved it all.  The problem in my house is that both TV sets, both my parents and my grandparents, were tuned to Lawrence Welk and his bubbles.  I'd have to wait patiently so I could flip some set over to Chiller Theater.  If I did that downstairs, my grandmother was no fan.

"Oh, this is too spooky for me.  I go to bed."

Even better.   That left me alone in my glory with the likes of Mothra, Gorgo, or the wife and/or daughter of some monster.  
For some mystical reason, one of my favorite Chiller Theater movies was this mess called "Frankenstein's Daughter" that was made for about six dollars in 1958.   You'll notice the name of John Ashley, who was the actor who played the hero in this piece.   Well, years later, when my writing partner and I had become friends with the late actress Deborah Walley, she happened to drop his name into the conversation since Ashley had been once married to her.   I immediately blurted out.

Frankenstein's Daughter!

It was a gut, knee-jerk reaction that got me one, make that two, quizzical looks at the luncheon table.  The actor had gone on to perform in and produce dozens of other movies.   But it was this thing that had stayed with me for life.

I could be a strange kid and apparently a strange adult as well.
The best part of Halloween for me was that, at some point during late October, WOR Channel 9 in New York would get around to showing this.  My very favorite Abbott and Costello comedy of all time.

It was another one of those movies that popped up on WOR's Million Dollar Movie all the time and I would be glued to the freakin' TV for the whole week. Bud and Lou in a haunted house. Enough said. But, almost miraculously, the film gets stolen by their co-star Joan Davis, who had such wonderful chemistry with Lou that it's a shame they didn't team up permanently. The dance number they do in the kitchen as they slosh through some rain puddles is absolutely brilliant.  To quote Lou in this movie...

"If you see a pair of pants flying through the air, don't grab 'em.  I'll be in 'em."

I outgrew most of this horror picture stuff as I got older.   But, later on, one movie took hold of everybody's attention and didn't let go.
We had heard all the stories.    Heads turning.   Vomit spewing out all over the place.   And movie patrons getting sick in their seats and literally running up the aisles to safety.

You just needed to be part of that.   The movie was barely open a week when a contingent of my friends ran downtown to the one theater where it was playing.

The line was two blocks long.

We stood in it for an hour.

In a driving snowstorm.

Wind chill temperatures of 10 degrees.

At one point, my friend and I looked at each other.   Our eyes asked the same question.  What the fuck were we doing here?  We left for the warmth of any place else.

I ultimately didn't see "The Exorcist" until it came to Mount Vernon, New York six months later.   In the middle of the summer.   And an air-conditioned theater.  It was still as effective and I was nice and comfortable in my seat.

I can tick off some other horror movies that have captured my fancy.

"The Birds."

"Psycho."

"The Omen."

At some point every few years, I do revisit all of the above via my DVR.

And, yes, I do own a copy of "Frankenstein's Daughter."

Dinner last night:  Szechwan beef with gralic from Century Dragon.




Saturday, October 25, 2014

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - October 2014

Just in time for Halloween.  The very best Abbott and Costello movie ever.  More on this tomorrow in the Sunday Memory Drawer.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so nothing really.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Awkward Photos of October 2014 - Special Halloween Edition

Porky Pig forgot his condom.
 Only you can prevent William Shatner.
Hope the real dogs don't go into heat.
Flush.
Cirque du Soleil comes to your backyard tree.
 Dad really wanted to be Tinker Bell.
If Ella Fitzgerald had married U Thant, he'd be...
Moving back to Kansas.
This is really an old picture or this bunch watches a lot of SNL reruns.
A new colored family just moved in.
Costumes you couldn't do in California because of the paper and plastic bag ban.
Mom gives good heads.

Dinner last night:  Chopped Asian salad with grilled steak.



 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Quick Redemption for Jason Reitman

Well, that didn't take long.

Remember two days ago I wrote about the utter disappointment of "Men, Women, and Children" mainly because I expect so much more from writer-director Jason Reitman.   Well, he didn't write or direct "Whiplash."  That task fell to 29-year-old Damien Chazelle.   But Reitman was the producer and, for that, he earns major and quick points back in my book.   

You see all those adjectives in the poster above?   Well, as far as I am concerned, yes, yes, yes, yes, and YES.  "Whiplash" is that good and just might be the best movie I've seen so far in 2014.  There is hope and that's the kind that doesn't come with Crosby.

Again, like with the superlative "St. Vincent," you've seen this dynamic and plot before.  Young guy aspires to something.   A mean teacher or mentor stands in the way.  Blah, blah, blah, and then bam.....happy ending.

Well, that's what you get with "Whiplash."   But that's also not what you get with "Whiplash."   Because just when you think you're getting the usual Hollywood conventions, the movie takes you down a path you've never been before.  It is surprising and organic and real.  

A luminous actor named Miles Teller plays Andrew, a young student drummer who hopes to one day rival Buddy Rich in the music world.  He practices so much that his hands bleed.   He manages to get into the Schafer music conservatory in New York City.  He lives and breathes jazz and hopes to get into the school's jazz studio band led by teacher and former jazz pianist Terence Fletcher.   The latter is played by Jason Reitman-favorite J.K. Simmons and this is an Oscar worthy performance.   Because, in Simmons; expert hands, Fletcher is one of the biggest bastards you've ever seen on screen.

Remember Louis Gossett Jr.  as the screaming drill master in "An Officer and a Gentleman?"   Simmons in this movie is worse.

Remember that screaming gunnery sergeant in "Full Metal Jacket?"  Simmons in this movie is worse.

Remember John Houseman as the dastardly Harvard law Professor Kingsfield in "The Paper Chase?"   Simmons in this movie is worse.

Indeed, you hate this man right from the get go.   He seemingly befriends Andrew during a break in class.   Fletcher asks the kids about his father and his mother and his situation at home.   Ten minutes later, he uses the information to humiliate the boy in class.  And we know that we're off to the races.

What results is a constant tug-of-war between teacher and student that is painful to watch.  But it's remarkable acting so you cannot look away for a second.  Paul Reiser shines in the supporting role of Andrew's dad and I had forgotten how good an actor he was on "Mad About You."  Andrew also starts to date a young girl who sells him popcorn at the movie theater.   The young lady is a Fordham student in the film, so yay on that!   Meanwhile, the scene where Andrew asks her out is so genuinely inept that it probably came right out of your and my life.

But, the movie belongs to Teller and Simmons.  Supposedly, there is an autobiographical nature to this story as writer-director Chazelle also has a music background.   Along with the wonderful performances, you're also treated to some great jazz orchestra selections that take you right back to the days of Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show band.   And, yes, that really is Miles Teller on the drums.

There are several plot twists you don't see coming.  One is so startling and incredibly realistic that the entire audience gasped in unison.  As I said earlier, this is a conventional story that ultimately plays out in the most unconventional way.   Oscar voters, please see "Whiplash" and fill out your nominating ballots accordingly.

And, one more time, props to Jason Reitman for the fast turnaround in quality. 

LEN'S RATING:  Four huge stars.

Dinner last night:  Sandwich and salad.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

This Date in History - October 22

Happy birthday to Curly Howard.   I mean, today is still his birthday...even if he has been dead for over 60 years.

362:  THE TEMPLE OF APOLLO AT DAPHNE IS DESTROYED IN A MYSTERIOUS FIRE.

Daphne was originally supposed to be named Geraldine.  Don't get that joke?   Watch "Some Like It Hot."

794:  EMPEROR KANMU RELOCATES THE JAPANESE CAPITAL TO WHAT IS NOW KYOTO.

Moving it around like it's an Asian food truck.

1383:  IN PORTUGAL, KING FERNANDO DIES WITHOUT A MALE HEIR TO THE THRONE, SPARKING A PERIOD OF CIVIL WAR AND DISORDER.

He should have joined RoyalMatch.com.

1707:  FOUR BRITISH ROYAL NAVY SHIPS RUN AGROUND NEAR THE ISLES OF SCILLY BECAUSE OF FAULTY NAVIGATION.

Bad driving?   That's just scilly.

1734:  FRONTIERMAN DANIEL BOONE IS BORN.

Years before he was cancelled by NBC.

1746:  THE COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY, LATER RENAMED PRINCETON, RECEIVES ITS CHARTER.

Good ole CNJ.

1777:  DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, AMERICAN DEFENDERS ON THE DELAWARE RIVER REPULSE HESSIAN ATTACKS IN THE BATTLE OF RED BANK.

How were they repulsed?  By picking their noses in the heat of battle?

1784:  RUSSIA FOUNDS A COLONY ON KODIAK ISLAND, ALASKA.

Which Sarah Palin could see as well.

1797:  ANDRE-JACQUES GARNERIN MAKES THE FIRST RECORDED PARACHUTE JUMP ABOVE PARIS.

Watch out for that tower....WATCH OUT FOR THAT TOWER!   Ouch.

1836:  SAM HOUSTON IS INAUGURATED AS THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF TEXAS.

And they still think they're in a different country.

1859:  SPAIN DECLARES WAR ON MOROCCO. 

They're going to attack any country that featured a Bing Crosby-Bob Hope Road picture.

1875:  THE FIRST TELEGRAPHIC CONNECTION IN ARGENTINA.

Stop....don't cry for me...stop.

1879:  THOMAS EDISON TESTS THE FIRST PRACTICAL ELECTRIC INCANDESCENT LIGHT BULB.  IT LASTED 13 1/2 HOURS.

You can be sure it's Edison.

1883:  THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE IN NEW YORK CITY OPENS WITH A PERFORMANCE OF GOUNDOD'S FAUST.

Who's what?

1903:  STOOGE CURLY HOWARD IS BORN. 

Died by the time he was 48.  But metal pipes to the head will do that.

1910:  DR. CRIPPEN IS CONVICTED AT THE OLD BAILEY OF POISONING HIS WIFE AND IS SUBSEQUENTLY HANGED IN LONDON.

Before we rush to judgment, did anybody get to meet the wife?

1924:  TOASTMASTERS INTERNATIONAL IS FOUNDED.

Because Georgie Jessel needed to belong to something.

1926:  J. GORDON WHITEHEAD SUCKER PUNCHES MAGICIAN HARRY HOUDINI IN THE STOMACH IN MONTREAL, PROMPTING HIS LATER DEATH.

Okay, get out of this.

1934:  IN OHIO, FBI AGENTS SHOOT AND KILL BANK ROBBER PRETTY BOY FLOYD.

Not in the face, please, not in the face.

1942:  ACTRESS ANNETTE FUNICELLO IS BORN.

Second birthday in Heaven.

1957:  THE FIRST UNITED STATES CASUALTIES IN VIETNAM.

As the slide used to say on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show..."More to Come."

1962:  THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS - PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY ANNOUNCES THAT US PLANES HAVE DISCOVERED SOVIET NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN CUBA AND THAT HE HAS ORDERED A NAVAL QUARANTINE OF THE COMMUNIST NATION.

Back then, we didn't take this kind of shit from our enemies.

1964:  JEAN-PAUL SARTRE IS AWARDED THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE, BUT TURNS DOWN THE HONOR.

After all, what's the point of it all?

1966:  THE SUPREMES BECOME THE FIRST ALL-FEMALE MUSIC GROUP TO ATTAIN A NO. 1 SELLING ALBUM.

Hey, what were the Andrews Sisters?  Chopped liver?

1972:  IN SAIGON, HENRY KISSINGER AND SOUTH VIETNAMESE PRESIDENT NGUYEN VAN THIEU MEET TO DISCUSS A PROPOSED CEASE-FIRE IN THE VIET NAM WAR.

You'd need subtitles to understand that conversation.

1976:  RED DYE NO. 4 IS BANNED BY THE US FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION AFTER IT DISCOVERED THAT IT CAUSES TUMORS IN THE BLADDERS OF DOGS.

Are there a lot of dogs who were eating Maraschino cherries?

1978:  THE PAPAL INAUGURATION OF POPE JOHN II.

After John Paul I lasted about as long as a bad sitcom.

1981:  THE US FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY VOTES TO DECERTIFY THE PROFESSIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ORGANIZATION FOR ITS PREVIOUS STRIKE.

Watch out for that tower....WATCH OUT FOR THAT TOWER....Ouch.

1992:  SPORTSCASTER RED BARBER DIES.

Oh, Doctor....never mind.

2009:  TV COMIC SOUPY SALES DIES.

The ultimate pie in the face.

Dinner last night:  Leftover chicken cutlets.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Last Days of Civilization Or Something Like That

The movie "Men, Women, and Children" is bothersome.   It makes you think about the human condition.   Don't get me wrong.  A good film should do that.   In reality, there should be a good movie here.  There isn't.   And the overriding emotion you have as you leave the theater is sheer disappointment.

Jason Reitman is the writer and director and that's a name that I've come to trust over the last few years.  He made two really special films that were almost Billy Wilder-like.  "Juno" and "Up in the Air."  He expertly mixed comedy with thought-provoking themes that resulted in superlative entertainment at the movies.  With his latest, Reitman has completely lost his way.  Indeed, he forgot the humor part of the recipe.  And the end result is a thoroughly dour and depressing look at life in America.

That said life is all wrapped up in technology.  Reitman spotlights some Midwestern town that is regrettably wired.   Everyone is connected to some form of social media and they rarely look up from it.  Gee, how surprising is this?  With some light moments intertwined, Reitman could have done wonders with the subject matter.  Instead, he hits us over the head repeatedly with his sermon.   Yes, yes, we know.  We all spend too much time on our computers, tablets, and phones.

"Men, Women, and Children" is one of those disjointed movies that focuses on about twenty different characters who you know will somehow be connected by the end of the movie.  Gee, how many times has that device been pummeled into the ground of late? 

Adam Sandler (yes, gang, I saw an Adam Sandler) and Rosemary Dewitt are a suburban couple bored with each other.   They seek out new sexual partners on Ashley Madison.com, which is apparently the Amazon.com if you want sex delivered to your door.  Jennifer Garner is a parent suspicious of her daughter's on-line activities and she actually conducts surveillance on her kid.
Judy Greer (who is always welcome on my screen) is a single parent using the Internet to further her daughter's career aspiration of being the next reality TV breakout star.  Meanwhile, there are about a dozen other sad characters who are either texting, sexting, or watching and/or producing porn on their computers. 

In this film, all the high school kids focus on nothing but sex and I wonder what the hell I was missing during my own wonder years.  One girl uses her smart phone to find a high school jock that will take her virginity.  Other teenagers are lonely and misunderstood.  All of them retreat to their social media for a fix to their problems.  It's all way too grim for a Saturday diversion at the movies. 

That's the big issue with this film.   We get the point.  It is hammered home repeatedly.   With the sternest looks and reactions.  Had Reitman trusted his own past screen history, a little humor would have made the story and its characters much more likeable.   What we have now is about twenty characters we can easily detest in a story that is incredibly predictable.

As the warnings against social media and technology continues, you can soon see where everybody is headed.  You can easily predict which characters will be broken forever and which ones will try to commit suicide.  As uncommonly good as Jason Reitman was in the past, he is incredibly pedestrian here.   And that's what makes this two-hour mess so deflating. 

I sincerely hope that this talent goes back to the comedy/drama genre he was succeeding in just a year or two ago.  Movie audiences want to entertained, not preached at. 

Of course, I'm telling you this in a blog that you're reading on a phone or a computer or a tablet, which is Reitman's point.   In "Men, Women, and Children," he did shoot at the right target.

He just missed.  Big time.

LEN'S RATING:  One and a half stars.

Dinner last night:  Chicken cutlets, peas, and salad.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Morning Video Laugh - October 20, 2014

What a relic.   Angie Dickinson, Otto Preminger, Pat Carroll, and Peter Lawford playing Password.

Dinner last night:  Roast beef dinner compliments of Barbara and sister Jackie.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Color Purple

Not the movie, gang.  But you will see what this means as long as you read on.

Back after Robin Williams passed on at his own hand, I wrote a piece about just how fragile our minds can be.   And just how quickly things can go off the rails for even the more rational person.  The mind can be our best friend and our worst enemy.

In that blog entry, I mentioned my mother's own mental conflicts.  It started very simply.  In one of her first weeks of retirement, she tried to hang some drapes.   She fell and her sofa was the safety net.  She didn't break anything but there was enough physical trauma that her slowly-simmering arthritis started to boil over.  Within weeks, every bone in her body was sore every morning. And she didn't handle it well.

The body aches ramped up her thought process.  Already grappling with a forced retirement, boredom made the arthritis worse.   She started to become depressed and, at the same time, anxious every night as she anticipated the morning stiffness to come.   Calling her on the phone every day was a crapshoot.  I never knew what kind of mindset she would be in.

Ultimately, she sought the help and counsel of her family doctor.  And he immediately hit the prescription pad.

Pain killer.

Anti-depressant.

Anti-anxiety.

A chemical cocktail that sent her spinning.  And it wasn't long after that one of my daily phone calls to her sent me spinning.

"I think I want to kill myself."

My mother could have her goofy moments.  But the tone of her voice told me she was dead serious.  I also had a sense that, if she mentioned this out loud, the odds of her actually doing this was were low.   Nevertheless, I hit the Yellow Pages and looked to see what was available from Westchester County in the way of mental health assistance.

Surprisingly, there were several agencies that anybody can reach out.   My guess is that budget cuts have happened since and none of them exist now.   But I was lucky twenty-five years ago.

In her anguish, my mother had taken to not getting out of bed.   I finally did my own little intervention and paid a visit.  I told her that I had called a county agency and they would assign a psychiatrist to her case.

"I'm not nuts."

You're also not bedridden, either.  I pledged to disconnect her cable TV if she didn't at least see the guy once.

We negotiated a bit.  Essentially I got her to agree for the price of five Lotto tickets a week.  That was another weakness she had.   Lottery scratchers.   But I was willing to overlook that addiction for now.

As I have written most recently, my mom was not a person who shared her life's history.  Ever.  She had a sister and both had been orphaned in their early teens.  Their parents, my maternal grandparents, apparently died at the same time.  Likely from one of those killer influenza outbreaks.  I knew their names, but never saw a picture or heard any stories.  The motto in my house was like the military.

Don't ask.  Don't tell.

So, the thought that my mother was going to open up to some stranger seemed to be a dicey prospect.  And a huge waste of money if she simply went in there to discuss the weather or last night's edition of Jeopardy.

My mom's shrink was Dr. Frenkel and his big claim to fame were some studies he had developed with regard to lights and colors.  His whole business model was constructed around the notion that everybody had a key positive color and a key negative color.  The pro-color would trigger good sensations.  The con-color would spike your pain.  Naturally, you wanted to be awash in your good color and the way you do that is with tinted glasses.  Dr. Frenkel obviously had cut a side deal with Lenscrafters.

After his testing, Dr. Frenkel declared that my mother's positive color was purple. 

So now you understand today's title.

Of course, he had the direct connection to a pair of purple shades for $119.50, thank you very much.  Even more importantly, he also concluded that there was a two-way tie for her bad colors.  The ones that gave her intense pain.

Green and brown.

Holy shit. 

The furniture in her apartment?  Brown.

The wall-to-wall carpeting in her apartment?  Green.

If Dr. Frenkel was correct, my mother was spending her days in several shades of Hell.

Of course, Mom needed more than just a new pair of sunglasses.  Dr. Frenkel wanted to get to the bottom of her pain triggering colors.  And that would be done via a one-hour appointment every Saturday afternoon.

A new routine began.  I'd pick her up and drive up to the doctor's Scarsdale house.  After dropping her off, I would venture to a White Plains mall for a time-killing lunch and then go pick her up when she was done.  One Saturday, Dr. Frenkel was off his schedule and, when I came by to retrieve Mom, she was still inside his office. 

I sat patiently and quietly in the waiting room which was certainly not insulated for sound.  I could hear every word of Dr. Frenkel's session with my mother.  I thought quickly about covering my ears.  Maybe I'd hear something I didn't want to know.  But, my attention was piqued.

Dr. Frenkel had closed in on why Mom hated the color brown.

She was talking about a brown teddy bear.  She loved it so.  And, when she was five years old,  it was taken away from her by...

I walked quickly outside.  I didn't want to know.  Her pain and anguish needed to be private.

And I never did find out.  I decided that splurging on Lotto tickets was probably the least of what my mother had dealt with in her life.

Dinner last night:   Sausage pizza at Fabiolus Cafe.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Classic TV Theme of the Month - October 2014

Just audio today, folks, but such memories.   The theme song to the old Mets post-game show.  "Kiner's Korner."   And it's a polka!!!

Dinner last night:  Chinese chicken and lo mein from Panda Express.

Friday, October 17, 2014

When Movie Marquees Were Fun

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Upside of Having My Own Individual Health Care


Yeah, it's all on me now. 

As an independent business person, I now shoulder the responsibility of paying for my health care in full.  I was on one of those blasted COBRA plans for a while, but that ran out.  After my financial consultant did an exhaustive search of the marketplace, I finally got hooked up with a new insurance provider.  And, per his directive, I steered completely clear of those Obamacare exchanges which he predicts will promptly collapse in a year or two. 

So, it's extra money outgoing every month.  My deductible is sky high but I'll hit it quickly when I get run over by a bus on Wilshire Boulevard.  That said, I am not actively seeking a speeding bus on Wilshire Boulevard.  But, it's something that I have to do because I do take care of myself.  Plus I like my doctors and I am keeping my doctors.  

But, even with this new but necessary hassle, I have uncovered a bright side to it all.  The silver lining that supposedly exists with every dark cloud.   Pick whatever your favorite metaphor is.

Because I changed my health plan coverage, I never again have to walk into a CVS pharmacy.  Praise God.

About ten years ago, I did all my regular prescriptions at the pharmacy embedded in the Ralph's Supermarket in Westwood.  Okay, it wasn't exactly like when I was a kid and you got the personal care and attention of your local drug store proprietor, in my case, either Mr. Goldstein or Mr. Post.  But the Ralph's pharmacists were very professional and nice to deal with.  I would use their automated refill phone line to call in and then I simply picked up my prescriptions somewhere between the milk refrigerator and the frozen food counter. 

My last regular employer, however, changed health care companies several years later and you were required to get all your prescriptions either by mail or at a CVS pharmacy near you.    The good news is that there was a CVS in my neighborhood.   The bad news is that this CVS might as well have been in Islamabad.  Or Tijuana.  Or Tokyo.  Or anyplace except America.

Okay, given the diverse nature of the metropolis in which I live, I can expect to be confronted by a variety of nationalities, races, and creeds as I go about my weekly errands.  At the CVS near me, every single person behind the pharmacy counter is either Arabic or Asian.  That wasn't a problem for me.   Until I started to actually try and get my prescriptions.

First off, there is always a line of at least six or seven people waiting.  Part of the problem here is that there is always a language barrier between the customer and the pharmacy worker.  I might be crazy but I still like it when I get to press "1" to continue in English.  At this CVS, it's "4."  Right behind Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. 

So, as a result, nobody can get their prescriptions picked up in under an hour.  And don't expect them to be correct either.   Probably half of the time that I used CVS for renewals I called in electronically, the orders were A) not ready B) wrong or C) needing a doctor call that never seemed to get made.  Meanwhile, you'd stand there for 45 minutes and keep hearing the same announcement over the PA.

"Pharmacy call holding on Line 1."

"Pharmacy call holding on Line 2."

"Pharmacy call holding on Line 3."

This was sheer torture.  I thought about seeking out another CVS outlet but friends told me they were just as bad.  I started to wonder if CVS was a plot against Americans.   Forget about the damage that can be done by Ebola Al Qaeda or ISIS.   The really efficient way to kill Americans is by fucking up their statins and pain medication at your neighborhood CVS.

So, when I was at last relieved of this burden by switching health care plans, I hightailed it right back to Ralph's.  And, yes, it is an international conclave behind that counter, too.   But all of them speak perfect English.   When I asked the head guy to call CVS and get my prescriptions moved, he was happy to do so.

"We're doing that a lot lately."

No shit, Sherlock. 

And when he loaded me into their system, he immediately told me that my Celebrex was not covered by my new plan.   I explained that nobody covers it and I've been paying full price for several years.   The druggist then stunned the heck out of me.

"Here's a link to a website where you can get discount coupons for Celebrex."

Me.  Jaw.  Floor.

The druggist welcomed me back to the fold.   And now, when I pass by the CVS hell hole I used to visit, I only feel compassion for the folks in there.   Those waiting in front of the counter since yesterday.   Trying to spell the word "Crestor" to somebody who doesn't even use our alphabet.

Dinner last night:  Hamburger and salad.