Saturday, January 31, 2015

Classic Musical Comedy Production Number of the Month - January 2015

Woo hoo.  A five Saturday month.   We get to celebrate Broadway.

My favorite Sondheim musical "Company."   It was staged and filmed in a terrific New York Philharmonic production several years ago.   Here's the splendid "Not Getting Married" number.

Dinner last night:  French dip panini at the Arclight.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Happy Awkward to You

My birthday's coming.   Please don't take any pictures.   I don't want to wind up on my own blog.
She's a good swimmer.
 What happens when you fight over the first piece of birthday cake.
 She's crying now?  Wait till she hits 40.
 Let's play "Pin the Tail on the Drug Dealer."
This birthday cake comes with the trifecta number at Belmont.
You wonder just how many of these number statues his parents have stashed in the garage.
That's not my daddy!
 It sucks even more when your birthday falls on Halloween.
 Yes, it is chocolate inside.
100 and the cigarette's probably unfiltered.
 101 and the cigarette is still unfiltered.
Hey, Daddy, that's my birthday toy!

Dinner last night:  Bacon and eggs.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Epic Disappointment

Okay, maybe I set the bar too high.   Way, way too high.  But I was expecting a bit more from "Top Five."   And when a movie delivers virtually nothing for you, it is, as the title today says, an epic disappointment.

I've always liked Chris Rock.   I thought he was one of the smarter comic minds to come out of SNL over the past two decades because his humor is a bit more insightful and less self-conscious.  Then, a few years ago, Rock produced an outstanding documentary called "Good Hair," which detailed Black women's seemingly endless quest to achieve hair that looks like that of a White women.   The film was fun and amazingly thought-provoking.   I remember at the time thinking that, if he wanted to do it, Chris Rock could have a fabulous career as a documentary filmmaker, one that is far more interesting than the bloated Michael Moore.

But Rock's next major creative work turns out to be "Top Five" and the extreme high has sunk to a perilous low.  Indeed, this movie is really Chris' sad attempt at mimicking Woody Allen and, unfortunately, he is not up to the task.  Let's face it, in this kind of introspective comedy genre, Woody has an over-forty-year head start.  Plus, if you have seen the latter's 1980 movie "Stardust Memories," "Top Five" is nothing more than a complete copy of that work except for a rap and urban soundtrack.

Rock plays Andre Allen, a renowned comedic legend who has made fluff movies and yearns to be taken seriously as an actor.  To that point, the film takes place on the opening day of Andre's dramatic debut in a movie that depicts a Haitian rebellion.  Andre spends the day worrying about the film's prospects as he walks around NYC with a New York Times reporter (played by Rosario Dawson) in tow.  He bounces from old friend to family to comedy clubs to liquor stores, all the while juggling phone calls from his reality TV star/fiancee back west.  Ultimately, he winds up at a party with his good friends Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, and Whoopi Goldberg.  

If any of this sounds remotely interesting to you, I have done a bad job in setting up this review.

So much happens to Andre in this single day that it's unfathomable to even comprehend.  Laced on are extensive flashbacks to his day with a wilder lifestyle and that's basically long scenes of doing drugs and having crazy sex with hookers.  None of this sets up Andre Allen as being the slightest bit likeable.   And who the hell in the audience can identify with the plight of a comedy legend?  I certainly am not friends with any.  Are you?

This is such a major wrong turn in Chris Rock's career path than I would like to shake some sense into him.  You don't care about anybody in this film and certainly don't want to spend time with them.  This is in vast contrast to that "Good Hair" documentary which was incredibly enlightening.  

I'm waiting for his next attempt in that genre. And will gladly avoid like the plague any future endeavors like "Top Five."

LEN'S RATING:   One-half star.

Dinner last night:  Leftover meat loaf.





Wednesday, January 28, 2015

This Date in History - January 28

Happy birthday to fellow Fordham and WFUV alum Alan Alda.

814:  EMPEROR CHARLEMAGNE DIES.

Centuries before he opens on Broadway in Pippin.

1393:  KING CHARLES VI OF FRANCE IS NEARLY KILLED WHEN SEVERAL DANCERS' COSTUMES CATCH FIRE DURING A MASQUERADE BALL.

Gee, was he under some dancer's dress at the time?

1521:  THE DIET OF WORMS BEGINS.

Some people will do anything to lose weight.

1547:  HENRY VIII DIES.  HIS NINE-YEAR-OLD SON BECOMES KING.

And the kid's already been married twice.

1701:  THE CHINESE STORM DARTSEDO.

Not to be confused with the TV movie Sharknado.

1754:  HORACE WALPOLE COINS THE WORD SERENDIPITY IN A LETTER TO HORACE MANN.

Which was pure serendipity in itself.

1813:  JANE AUSTEN'S PRIDE AND PREJUDICE IS FIRST PUBLISHED.

Book report due Friday.

1846:  THE BATTLE OF ALIWAL, INDIA, IS WON BY BRITISH TROOPS COMMANDED BY SIR HARRY SMITH.

The guy from the old CBS Morning Show??

1855:  A LOCOMOTIVE ON THE PANAMA CANAL RAILWAY RUNS FROM THE ATLANTIC OCEAN TO THE PACIFIC OCEAN FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Please don't try to tell me this happened in one day.

1887:  THE WORLD'S LARGEST SNOWFLAKES ARE REPORTED IN MONTANA.

Wait.  I think the city of Buffalo has something to say about that.

1896:  WALTER ARNOLD OF KENT BECOMES THE FIRST PERSON TO BE CONVICTED OF SPEEDING.

Which means that today we also have the first cop to give out a speeding ticket.

1909:  US TROOPS LEAVE CUBA WITH THE EXCEPTION OF GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE.

Funny how long that place has been around.

1917:  CITY-OWNED STREETCARS TAKE TO THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO.

They had to have some place to hang up those Rice-A-Roni ads.

1934:  THE FIRST SKI TOW IN THE US BEGINS OPERATION IN VERMONT.

Well, you didn't think it would be in Florida??

1936:  ACTOR ALAN ALDA IS BORN.

I met him once.   Just sayin'.

1941:  RECORD PRODUCER KING TUBBY IS BORN.

I have no clue who he is.  I just like the name.

1944:  ACTRESS SUSAN HOWARD IS BORN.

Donna Krebs from TV's Dallas!

1956:  ELVIS PRESLEY MAKES HIS FIRST US TV APPEARANCE.

He ain't nothing but a hound dog.

1958:  THE LEGO COMPANY PATENTS THE DESIGN OF ITS LEGO BRICKS.

And so the printing of money begins.

1960:  THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE ANNOUNCED EXPANSION TEAMS FOR DALLAS TO START IN 1960 AND MINNEAPOLIS IN 1961.

And so the printing of money in Dallas begins.

1973:  ACTOR JOHN BANNER DIES.

"Hogan!!!!"

1979:  CBS SUNDAY MORNING DEBUTS WITH HOST CHARLES KURALT.

For those just getting in from Saturday night.

1985:  USA FOR AFRICA RECORDS THE HIT SINGLE "WE ARE THE WORLD" TO HELP RAISE FUNDS FOR FAMINE RELIEF.

In 2015, there's still famine but Michael Jackson is dead.

1986:  SPACE SHUTTLE CHALLENGER EXPLODES AFTER LIFTOFF KILLING ALL SEVEN ASTRONAUTS ON BOARD.

I remember this like it was yesterday.

1994:  ACTOR HAL SMITH DIES.

Otis the Drunk from TV's Andy Griffith Show.

2004:  FOOTBALL PLAYER ELROY HIRSCH DIES.

Dig those crazy, lifeless legs.

Dinner last night:  Leftover garlic chicken.



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Moron of the Month - January 2015

New year, old moron.

Yes, I know I've honored him before.  But, let's face it, the stupidity is never ending.   And his recent forays in the news warrant another look at this complete asshole.  I mean, after all, he's now a White House advisor.

Regardless of who the President of the United States is at any given time, we'll be divided.   There are folks who love him.   There are folks who hate him.  It's as American as apple pie and Chevrolet.  But, despite how you feel about Barack Obama and his administration, no one can deny that one of the cardinal sins he has committed is the elevation of "Reverend" Al Sharpton to the upper echelon of White House advisors.  You will note on Facebook that your most ardent Obama supporters will simply ignore the fact that Sharpton has been invited to the Obama White House over eighty times in six years.  They say nothing on Facebook.  Even they know this is a big mistake.

But, then again, Obama knows exactly what he is getting with Reverend Al.  A professional race monger and agitator whose business model is essentially that of a 1965 protestor.  There is no need to acknowledge how far this country has come.  Nope, in certain minds, this is still Selma, Alabama.  It's like a shrink who's had a long term patient.  If you actually cure the person of their problems, the billing stops and your business model gets hit.  For people like Sharpton and the "Reverend" Jesse Jackson and even Barack Obama, it's all you know how to do so you can stop.

Indeed, the previous "go-to" guy when it came to stirring the pot was the aforementioned jackass named Jesse.   But, the President and he allegedly had a major falling out.   Obama needed a new "emissary" to keep the ranks fired up.  Who better than this fool Sharpton who has consistently shown himself to be the worst of the worst?

Here's a guy who's a college dropout.   He has no discernible career.  He's got a criminal record.  He can barely read.   If you think he can, just watch one of his old appearances when he was a show host (????!!!) on MSNBC and see him struggle with simple words on the teleprompter.

People forget how he inserted himself into the alleged rape case/fraud of Tawana Brawley.  Of course, Al was about 100 pounds heavier there and looked like a cast member on "Hee Haw."
He's got a history of lies and cheats and tax evasions and anti-Semitism and overall hate against anybody that isn't White.  Hey, why not let him have access to the highest office in the land?

Recently, some state governments tried to get back the four million plus dollars he owes in back taxes.  Sharpton alleges that he has zero assets.

JUDGE:  Where do you live?  What about your home?

AL:  I stay at peoples' houses.

JUDGE:  What about your clothing?  The suit on your back?

AL:   I borrowed it.

Regardless of the question, Sharpton has the smarmy answer.  To avoid paying what he owes.

Sure, let's have him sit at a table of renowned community leaders in the White House, Mr. President.

With Ferguson and Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner and all the other skirmishes of late, Sharpton is in the middle.  Agitating.  Annoying.  Throwing gasoline on a match.  These are all very complicated societal issues.  Way over the mental skill sets of this sleazy shakedown artist.

So, naturally, he is endorsed by the likes of Barack Obama and Eric Hold Up and any other leader of the Black community.  No one says a word.  Because, in reality, nobody wants to shut Al Sharpton up.

To see this man sitting next to the President or the NYC Mayor or any police commissioner is one of the biggest hypocrisies in this country today.  

Yep, Al Sharpton is a moron.  But he seems to be getting through our lives on a hall pass.  So, maybe, he's not so stupid after all.  And, of course, the folks that are using and abusing him are geniuses at what they do.  Heck, there's an endless supply of ways they are using him.   Next up?  Picketing the Oscars because nobody of color was nominated in the acting categories this year.

Gimme a break.

The real morons here?  Those of us who say nothing.

Back in 1991, some one tried to kill Sharpton by stabbing in the chest.  Back then, that was sort of like trying to kill Moby Dick with a bobby pin.  But, Al survived.  

And America will never be the same as a result.

Comments?   Anybody?

Dinner last night:  Meat loaf, corn, and salad.

  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 26, 2015

Bing and Bob on the road.   I love the inside jokes these two worked into their films.

Dinner last night:  Garlic chicken and rice.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Pioneer Lifestyle

It really wasn't that long ago.  I think back to my childhood days and realize how primitive my household was.  Oh, don't get me wrong.   We had bathrooms in the house and everything.   But, if my family was trying to keep up with the Joneses...well, they didn't.  

I basically take for granted the modern conveniences I enjoy today.   Shower, spa tub, washing machine and dryer in my own apartment, central heat and air conditioning.  But, back when, those would be luxuries for my family.  I am looking at the photo above and imagining my mother doing the same thing complete with Kent cigarette dangling from her mouth.

She would have to be in the tub because...gasp...we didn't have a shower.

There were two bathrooms in our home. One downstairs in my grandparents' part of the house.   The other was ours upstairs.

Neither one had a shower.  

Indeed, the tub downstairs was a bit more modern.   Ours was a large clunky model from perhaps the 30s.  It dominated the whole bathroom.   And when it was "bath night" for somebody, you lost the use of the room for at least an hour.   It took forever to fill it up.   It took a lifetime to drain when you were done.   But, as I can attest, it was absolutely delightful to just sit and soak.

When I would go in there, I had plenty of company.  A small boat or two.  Usually one or two or seven action figures.   I'd recreate an episode of "Sea Hunt."  Sometimes, the soap acted as a raft.   Thank God we were an Ivory household.   It floated.  

Washing was almost a sidebar event when I was in our vessel of a bathtub.   I could waste tons of time in there.  Until the invariable knock on the door....

"Get out of there already.  I have to go."

Plug pulled.
And, speaking of the wash...

This was not my grandmother's washing machine in the basement, but I could have been.  We weren't that advanced in laundry facilities, either.

Grandma had a room in the cellar where this clunker resided next to a sink.  Proximity to the faucet was a must since you need a long rubber hose to get the water from the tap to the washing machine.  You threw your dirty laundry into the tub and it churned away...loudly...for about an hour.   No matter where you were on my neighborhood block, you knew my grandmother was doing her thing on a Friday morning.

Of course, these things didn't necessarily have a rinse cycle.  Instead, you took your soaking laundry and ran it through the roller on the top.   I was allowed to help with this process.   Carefully.

"Don't get your fingers in there."

Duh.

On nice days, the clean laundry was hung out on the clothesline near my grandmother's kitchen window.  During the winter, she hung it on the clothesline in the basement.  This created a great curtain drop for me when I staged my imaginary Tonight Shows down there.  From behind Grandma's bloomers came me...the star of the show.

Upstairs, we had a more modern washing machine.  It might have been bought in the early 60s.   But, you still needed to engineer a primitive hook-up to the sink via a long hose.  This convoluted contraption made the kitchen off-limit whenever laundry was being done.  And, our clothesline was on the second floor.   During stiff winds and unsecure clothespins, it was frequently that I had go to the next yard to pick up an errant t-shirt.

At one point, the washing machine broke down.   For some reason still a mystery to me, we never had it fixed.  My dad simply lugged the dirty stuff over to the laundromat.  I once asked why we didn't simply get it repaired.

"We might as well buy a new one."

Okay.   So why don't we do that?

"We're not made of money."

Yeah, I heard that a lot.
Now our Philco refrigerator looked a lot like this.  And it worked just fine.   Until the handle on the bottom door broke.  To open the refrigerator, you took a screw driver to push on the mechanism lever.  Voila.  It opened.  So, as a result, we had to keep the screw driver on the kitchen table right near the Philco.  If it got misplaced, we'd have a virtual police dragnet in the house to try and find it.

Again, I asked the obvious question.   Why don't we get the original handle fixed?

"And pay some repair guy an arm and a leg???"

Oh.  Again.
All right, you probably have a food processor like I do.  But, back when I was a kid, my grandmother used this mechanical animal to stretch out leftovers for a couple of days.  If you had ham or roast beef and some cooked potatoes, you simply attached this monstrosity to the end of the kitchen table and made hash.  

There was a method to do this and I always helped because I loved my grandmother's hash.  First, you would put a piece of the cooked meat into the top.   You'd churn away at the same time.   Then, a piece of potato.  Churn some more.   A slice of onion.   Churn.   Then back to the meat.  Churn.   Then back to the potato.  Churn.

You can probably make hash in a Cuisinart in about three minutes.   Using the meat grinder, it was at least a half hour of constant churning.  

We didn't know any better.   This is the life my parents and grandparents knew.  
I often wondered about my friends in the neighborhood.  Were they any better off?  But I'd look at their wash on the clotheslines and realize their life inside was pretty much the same.  

Primitive.  Archaic.  A little old fashioned.

But we're all still here to share in the memories of our simple years of youth.

Dinner last night:  Mushroom cheeseburger at Johnny Rocket's.
  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - January 2015

A classic.   Ideal to watch when it's cold outside but your DVR is nice and warm.

Dinner last night:  Pizza.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Wedding Registries from Hell

Dinner last night:  Asian chopped salad.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The United States of Double Standards

Poor Amy Adams.

In the days following last week's Oscar nomination announcement, she was unofficially dubbed the poster child for disappointment by most of the lame stream media outlets.  The actress, who had just won a Golden Globe for "Big Eyes" several days earlier, didn't get an Oscar nomination for the same role.  She missed out.   But, as described by the media, she was...

SNUBBED.

DENIED.

NOT WORTHY.

Okay, it's not like I feel terribly bad for Miss Adams.  She's still making oodles of money.  And, in her yammering of an acceptance speech at the Globes, she thanked everybody but the two writers who singlehandedly got the movie produced after working on it for over a decade.   Yep, no tears on my pillow for Amy.

But it's the wording that bothers me.  One more time, our society loves to emphasize somebody's disappointment and failure.  You don't simply miss.   You are chastised in prose.

I mean, look at all the entertainment we watch.  We so focus on the negative.

Who's going home?

Who's voted off?

Who's fired?

Who's getting killed in the season finale?

I've written this before and it never ceases to amaze me.  How focused we are on the distress and ultimate destruction of another person.  Forget whether they are guilty or not.  Think about how the press handled the likes of Paula Deen and Bill Cosby and the like.  As a nation, we can't wait to kick a person when they are down.

Sad.

But it strikes me as noteworthy right now because of some other things I have heard in the news.

School systems and colleges trying to move away from actually grading students' work.

Youth sports leagues working hard to make sure no child is turned away.

Guaranteed and free junior college education.

So, on one hand, our entertainment is all based on failure.  Yet, we work overtime to ensure that everybody succeeds.

What?  Where is the disconnect here?  How bi-polar can your principles be?

We have no concern for peoples' feelings.  Unless, of course, the people are in our own homes.

It wasn't that long ago when it was a lot different.   Back when I was in school.

There were three levels of classes in my junior high and high school.  Level 1 was for the smart kids and that's where I usually was.  Level 3 was for those children who tried hard but were not that gifted.  Level 5?   Well, that's where they kept those with futures as French fry salters at McDonald's.   Or counter clerks at the Post Office.  There was separation so different expectations and needs could be addressed.   And, in my humble opinion, why not?

I could have tried out for Little League, but I didn't.  Why?  Because I knew I stunk and I didn't want to suffer further embarrassment.  Nobody was fighting hard for me to have a chance to fail publicly because we all knew I would.  

Today, I'd be given that chance to not shine.   And there's something wrong with that.

They want to make it possible for everybody to go to junior college for free and I struggle hard with this notion.  Not everybody is college material.  Sadly, that's a fact.  Is that applicable to somebody who's pretty much tanked his way through high school with sub par grades?  Where's the incentive to work hard and merit higher education when it's going to handed to you?

Is anybody listening?

Heck, I'm all for equal opportunity.  But, when you think about it, we are not all equal.  We all have varying degrees of intelligence and physical prowess and maturity.  I can accept that.   Why won't they let anybody else do that?

How do you prepare youth for life as it in America?   If everything's been a cake walk for 22 years, what happens when they apply for their first job and don't get it?   What does the employer say?   You didn't merit the job but we're going to let you hang around our company anyway?

We push for success, but crave failure as a culture.  Go ahead and enjoy your TV shows and movies and the pain and suffering of your favorite performers, athletes, and characters.  But practice what you preach.  And remember that...

Life isn't always fair.  And, as a result, that's how we all learn to be more complete human beings.

Dinner last night:   Leftover bratwurst and red cabbage.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

This Date in History - January 21

Happy birthday, Geena Davis.  It's also Robby Benson's birthday, but I'd rather look at her picture.

1525:  THE SWISS ANABAPTIST MOVEMENT IS FOUNDED WHEN CONRAD GREBEL, FELIX MANZ, GEORGE BLAUROCK, AND ABOUT A DOZEN OTHERS BAPTIZE EACH OTHER IN ZURICH, BREAKING A THOUSAND-YEAR TRADITION OF CHURCH-STATE UNION.  

I have no idea what any of this means, but it sounds important.

1535:  FOLLOWING THE AFFAIR OF THE PLACARDS, FRENCH PROTESTANTS ARE BURNED AT THE STAKE IN PARIS.

Damn.  Those placards must have said something more than "Let's Go Mets."

1720:  SWEDEN AND PRUSSIA SIGN THE TREATY OF STOCKHOLM.

I always like it when two countries pledge to play nice.

1738:  AMERICAN PATRIOT ETHAN ALLEN IS BORN.

Just in time for the February President's Day sale.

1749: THE TEATRO FILARMONICO IN VERONA IS DESTROYED BY FIRE.

Started by two gentlemen, no doubt.

1793:  AFTER BEING FOUND GUILTY OF TREASON BY THE FRENCH CONVENTION, LOUIS XVI OF FRANCE IS EXECUTED BY GUILLOTINE.

So there goes the new hat he just got for Christmas.

1840:  JULES DUMONT D'URVILLE DISCOVERS ADELIE LAND, ANTARCTICA.

I hope he wasn't surprised that it's freakin' cold down there.

1861:  DURING THE CIVIL WAR, JEFFERSON DAVIS RESIGNS FROM THE US SENATE.

A Jefferson that actually moved on down.

1899:  OPEL MANUFACTURES ITS FIRST AUTOMOBILE.

Drive home in a new 1900 Opel.

1905:  ACROBAT KARL WALLENDA IS BORN.

Died in 1978 when he fell off a wire. 

1908:  NEW YORK CITY PASSES THE SULLIVAN ORDINANCE, MAKING IT ILLEGAL FOR WOMEN TO SMOKE IN PUBLIC, ONLY TO HAVE THE MEASURE VETOED BY THE MAYOR.

Good thing since the Mayor's wife had just gotten a carton of Chesterfields for Christmas.

1915:  KIWANIS INTERNATIONAL IS FOUNDED IN DETROIT, MICHIGAN.

And here comes a bunch of Little League teams sporting the same name.

1922:  ACTOR TELLY SAVALAS IS BORN.

Who loves ya?

1924:  COMIC BENNY HILL IS BORN.

Never ever found him funny.

1938:  RADIO HOST WOLFMAN JACK IS BORN.

The real star of "American Graffiti."

1940:  GOLFER JACK NICKLAUS IS BORN.

He's the golfer who didn't figure out how to mix iced tea with lemonade.

1948:  THE FLAG OF QUEBEC IS ADOPTED AND FLOWN FOR THE FIRST TIME OVER THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF QUEBEC.  THE DAY IS MARKED ANNUALLY AS QUEBEC FLAG DAY.

Funny how they figured that out.

1950:  AMERICAN LAWYER AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL ALGER HISS IS CONVICTED OF PERJURY.

Boo Hiss.

1950:  AUTHOR GEORGE ORWELL DIES.

Born in 1903.  He would have had to live to 81 to get to 1984.

1954:  THE FIRST NUCLEAR SUBMARINE, THE USS NAUTILUS, IS LAUNCHED BY MAMIE EISENHOWER.

I'll bet you sampled a bit when you cracked that bottle of champagne.

1956:  ACTOR ROBBY BENSON IS BORN.

The most monotone actor ever.

1956:  ACTRESS GEENA DAVIS IS BORN.

She and Robby could share the same birthday cake.  If, of course, they went to the same school.

1959:  DIRECTOR CECIL B. DEMILLE DIES.

And Hollywood cheers.

1959:  ACTOR CARL SWITZER DIES.

Oh, my God!  Alfalfa just shot himself.

1967:  ACTRESS ANN SHERIDAN DIES. 

All out of oomph.

1968:  IN VIETNAM, THE BATTLE OF KHE SANH.

And the Khe Sanhs keep rolling along.

1976:  COMMERCIAL SERVICE OF THE CONCORDE BEGINS.

Yeah, that will be a short flight.

1977:  US PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER PARDONS NEARLY ALL AMERICAN VIETNAM WAR DRAFT EVADERS, SOME OF WHOM HAD EMIGRATED TO CANADA.

Whenever this happens, you know the politicians is trying to buy votes.

1989: BASEBALL STAR CARL FURILLO DIES.

And Flatbush weeps.

1997:  THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES VOTES 395-28 TO REPRIMAND NEWT GINGRICH FOR ETHICS VIOLATIONS, MAKING HIM THE FIRST SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE TO BE SO DISCIPLINED.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is also a big crook.   Do your research.

1998:  ACTOR JACK LORD DIES. 

Bury him, Dan-o.

2002:  SINGER PEGGY LEE DIES.

Yep, that's all there is.

Dinner last night:  Leftover pot roast.









Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Goodbye, Dummy

And, by that title, I mean that lovingly.

Here's Don Rickles as I'd like to remember him.  I think this is the photo that adorned one of his comedy album covers.  "Hello, Dummy" may have been the name of it.

Driving home the other night from the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills where KABC's Legend Series had presented Don Rickles in performance, I was a little sad.   And thinking that, perhaps, I had seen him play Los Angeles for the very last time.

It's not the lasting memory I would like to keep.

I've always been a huge fan.   I grew up with his appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.   I've even seen him perform live in person maybe seven or eight times.  Whenever that was, it was always on that year's highlight reel of my life.

About seven years ago, I saw him perform in some large Anaheim venue and, after not seeing him live for a number of years, the night was like comedy comfort food.  It was all so familiar, yet so much fun.

He was back in the same place about three years later so I wanted to duplicate the sensation.   But, a lot had happening in those three years apparently.   Don, now in his mid 80s, had lost a little bit of his timing.   He seemed tired and lackluster.  The spark was gone.

Okay, I thought, you've seen him for the last time. And, in the ensuing years, I know he had health problems.   And his son had passed away, which is nature's harshest insult...outliving your child.   I actually was in Madeo's Restaurant one night when Don Rickles and Bob Newhart were seated in the next booth with their wives.  He sounded vibrant in conversation, much less so in appearance.

Yet, I noticed he was still performing from time to time.   And, almost mystically, he was set to play the Saban Theater, a goofy and somewhat dilapidated legitimate theater on Wilshire Theater in Beverly Hills.   KABC was hosting the event.

I should have passed on this.   But, it was in my own backyard.  And, frankly, I have a young friend who relishes show business legends and wants to see them in person just once.   I always promised her that, if Rickles was ever appearing locally, we would go.  With Joan Rivers' death a few months ago, we were both reminded of the mortality of all those great stars.

We decided to go.  

The place was a sellout.  Indeed, we had the cheapest seats available.   In general admission balcony, but even those were almost a hundred bucks.  I got there super early to score some decent aisle spots in this open seating forum.   People were already lined up by the balcony doors.  We were denied access as they were conducting sound checks.   Okay, who's appearing tonight?  The Beatles?

Once they opened the doors, patrons surged forward.   It was the senior citizen version of grabbing a good lawn spot at Coachella.   Yet, it was an eclectic audience of all ages which always good to see.   Maybe Los Angeles knew the same thing I did.

This would probably be the last time.

Indeed, you could tell from the very first moment.   After an overture from the Rickles standard orchestra on stage, house lights dimmed and we were treated to some vintage clips of Don in action.   The screen raised and the comic was already on stage seated in a chair.   No longer is he able to walk triumphantly onto the scene with that gladiator fanfare.   Sitting there with his cane, he looked even older.

He immediately apologized for sitting down.   There's an infection in his leg and doctors say it will get better.   I'm not so sure.  I hear he's been sitting in performance since last year.  At several points, he looked like he was dying to stand up.   And tried to.   He was successful just once.

Oh, sure, there were the usual gags to the folks in the front rows.   The audience members plucked up to the stage for participation in a skit.  There was a laugh or two.   But, something was clearly missing.

You can't really fault Don.   He is 88 and obviously work keeps him alive.   But, given that this was an event sponsored by a radio station, it was inexplicable that the audio system was so bad.    You could hear Rickles for sure.   But, you couldn't understand him.   He was essentially overmiked.   And, so, most of the insults were lost in garble.  

To pad the usual show that used to feature the comic pacing from stage right to stage left, there were more pauses for even more film and TV clips.  The audio was messed up on those, too.   I wondered what the folks downstairs, with ticket prices of $250 and up, were thinking.

In his thank yous, Don referenced all the show biz pals who had come out for the evening.   He singled out good buddy Bob Newhart who also got a standing ovation and now I'm hoping to see him perform just once while he still can.

I realized at that moment that the assembled group of fans and close associates had probably one mission in mind.

To see Don Rickles for the last time.

And I think we did.   

I was sorry that my friend didn't get to see the real Don Rickles experience.   She was philosophical.

"Well, at least, I got to see him once."

One more reason why, if you find a performer you truly enjoy, you should see them in person at the earliest possible convenience.   You never know how life will take its next sad turn.

Dinner last night:  Bratwurst and red cabbage.




Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 19, 2015

Always worth a watch.   Classic, spontaneous television.

Dinner last night:   Pot roast with carrots and onion plus German cucumber salad.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Anatomy of a Neighbor

Today's memory jog is part old, part new.  There's an additional development to the story that happened during my December visit back East.

It just goes to prove that, even if you think nothing more could evolve, it does.   

Ladies and gentlemen, the photo above is my New York apartment building.  Well, "Yonkers, NY and Hasting-on-Hudson border" apartment building.  Look at the red car in the snapshot and count up to the fourth floor terrace right above it.  That's my place.  Recently and wonderfully renovated.  New kitchen.  New bathroom.  New walls.

Alas alack, there is no new neighbor next door.  On one side of my unit, there resides some crazy shit.  As it was there when I bought into the building some twenty two years ago.

I wish I could call her by name.  I don't even know it.  Only her last name appears on the directory downstairs.  Never bothered to find out more information.  I never need to.  I simply refer to her as...

The Crazy Bitch Next Door.

I became aware of her as soon as I checked in.  Fat.  Dumpy.  A bad dye job.  And horrible taste in men.  Correction: repeated horrible taste in men.  There have been several.

For somebody as slovenly as her, the Crazy Bitch Next Door certainly managed to keep herself connected to the male species.  Over the past nearly two decades, most of those years were spent with a live-in boyfriend.  Go figure.

There was one in place when I moved in.  I learned that pretty quickly as there was a knock-down, drag-out brawl every night.  They would all start the same way.  You'd hear her shrill voice carping for about five or ten minutes.  And then "he" would explode. Dishes would break.  Doors would be pounded.  Everything but her neck snapping in two.

One night, my writing partner was at my apartment.   We were working on a Nickelodeon sitcom at the time.  It had been a productive evening and he got set to leave.   As I walked along with him to the elevator, the latest Golden Gloves semi-final match had broken out.  My pal got a first-hand listen to the battles that I had been hearing...and talking about.

He was actually horrified at the ferocity of the language.  Of course, being it was the dead of winter with snow on the ground, there were boots adorning everybody's front door step.   Including those of the lummox next door.   

My writing partner, always ready to do some mischief, picked up one of the boots in one swift motion.   He ran over to the garbage compactor.   And tossed it down the chute.

"That's what he gets for hitting her."

In retrospect, we didn't think this through completely.   It would have funnier had he simply hidden the boot for a few weeks and then simply returned it unannounced to the front door weeks or months later.

Nevertheless, it was grounded up with last night's stale pizza and potato peelings.   

As my luck would have it, I was waiting for the elevator on my floor the very next day.  And was immediately joined by Bluto from next door.   He looked perturbed.

"Hey, are you on the co-op board here?"

Um, no, I answered.  Trying to be smooth as silk, but, in reality, nervous as all Hell.

"Well, somebody stole my shoe!"

That elevator ride couldn't end fast enough.

 For a long while, there was some quiet.  For a month or two.  And, then suddenly....

Another boyfriend moved in.

The pattern repeated itself.  You'd hear her shrill voice carping for about five or ten minutes. And then "he" would explode. Dishes would break. Doors would be pounded. Everything but her neck snapping in two.

Unfortunate bad luck in men?  Um, I began to wonder if the common denominator here was female in gender.

Around this time, I moved to Los Angeles.  On my second day in Southern California, I called my east coast voicemail to check on any messages.  I was astounded by what I heard.

There had been a call from some guy in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He identified as the brother of my neighbor otherwise known as the Crazy Bitch Next Door.  He was wondering if I could go and check on his sister as she had not been heard from in five days.  She had given him my name as an emergency contact and the guy wanted to know if I could check to see whether or not she had been beaten into a bloody pulp.

Huh????

This loon and I had never shared more than two words of dialogue.  So, she had pulled my name off the doorbell, looked up my phone number in the White Pages, and had put me in the unfortunate potential position of identifying her body down at the county morgue.

Not only was she desperate for men, she was also really hard up for any acquaintances.  Or witnesses to her possible demise.

I called the brother back and left a message.  Er, I'm in Los Angeles at the moment and, if she's dead, I'm guessing somebody will eventually call the building manager about the stench coming from Apartment 4-A.

I didn't see the Crazy Bitch from Next Door until two years later during one of my New York sojourns.  Fittingly, I ran into her at the fourth floor garbage chute.  There was no acknowledgement from her.  No "hey, I'm still alive."  No "thanks for being my emergency contact and I'm sorry for forgetting to mention that to you."  No "my brother is sure enjoying those Cincinnati Reds." 

Nothing.  I was better off that way.

I would discover over my trips home that there was somebody new melting her butter in 4A.  He looked a bit like a Nazi sympathizer to me.  He certainly wasn't being too sympathetic to her.  The slugfests were regularly scheduled.  I understood from other neighbors that the police frequently showed up like clockwork.  Our building didn't need a superintendent.  It required a referee.

One Sunday night, I was nestled into my apartment during my first NY trip of the year.  Around 6PM, I shoved some garbage down the chute.  As I ambled past 4A, the usual fracas was in place.

"You're acting like a fucking lunatic."

"Fuck you."

"No, go fuck yourself."

Our floor was definitely R-rated.  But, still, I thought nothing of it all.  Business as usual at the Riveredge apartment complex.

Around 10PM, I was lying on the couch and noticed flashing red lights outside.  Okay, also business as usual at the Riveredge apartment complex.  There are lots of older folks in the building and they were frequently, as my father would say, being "carried out feet first."

Except that, a few minutes later, I heard a commotion out in the hallway.  Okay, this is close enough for my attention.  I opened my front door to see my neighbor from across the hall.  She's been there for about seventeen years and is quite pleasant.  Her husband never screams for her to go fuck herself.  Tonight, the two of us were just being plain nosy.

Down the hall, we saw that the conclave of firefighters and police were gathered in front of Apartment 4A.  And they were questioning the Crazy Bitch Next Door.

"I don't know what happened.  One minute he was fine and then he just went nuts."

Fine?  Like around 6PM when you were both engaged in a major fuck-off.

As we could piece together the timeline, the boyfriend did indeed go a little bonkers.  And lit a newspaper torch.  Which he proceeded to run up and down the hallway with.  Checking to see if the smoke detectors were working.

Yes, business as usual at the Riveredge apartment complex.

Apparently, Mr. Skinhead was already chained up in the police car downstairs and preparing for an extended stay at the local nervous hospital.  But, the way the Crazy Bitch Next Door was telling the tale, the whole affair was completely innocent.  As if he had simply found an eyelash in his minestrone soup.

Something propelled the cops to enter into their apartment.  Moments later, the first flatfoot exited.  Carrying two rifles.

My across-the-hall neighbor gasped. 

The second cop exited.  He was carrying two spears.

Spears as in "the natives are chasing Johnny Weissmuller in one of those Tarzan movies" spears.

I gasped.   And George W. Bush was looking for the weapons of mass destruction in Iran???

We were astounded by the arsenal of the warloads being housed just fifty feet away.  The Crazy Bitch Next Door noticed that we were watching the whole proceedings.

"Oh, he doesn't use these things.  He has them just for show."

For show???  Like a display???  You live in a studio apartment, not the Museum of Natural History!!!!

The Crazy Bitch Next Door somehow mistook our nosiness for concern.  She walked down the hall to talk to us.

OH, MY GOD, PLEASE.  TELL ME THAT YOU DON'T WANT TO HAVE A ONE-ON-ONE CONVERSATION ABOUT THIS!!!

That's exactly what she wanted to do.  We were trapped.

"Well, he's bi-polar.  And he's been drinking.  We went to the hospital yesterday to get more medication, but they made us wait for eight hours and his healthcare coverage had expired...."

OH, GOD, MAKE THIS STOP.

My across-the-hall neighbor did just that.

"Hey, not for nothing, but we've been hearing this shit from your apartment for years.  And we've all called the cops because we're sick and tired of hearing this crap.  And, oh, by the way, you have lousy taste in men."

Slam dunk.  Score the goal.

The Crazy Bitch Next Door stared at us for a minute.  Yeah, we all knew.  How could we not?  She slowly backed away.   Sheepishly, she replied.

"Well, I'm sorry to have bothered you."

I resisted the temptation to call after her.

"Hey, after twenty years, I still don't know your name."

You would think that, after this episode, there would be no more drama.   Well, think again.

Last month on my holiday trip to New York, I arrived around 5PM on a Wednesday.   As usual, I immediately called my elegant neighbor Liz who is essentially my apartment's caretaker.  She immediately came down for a hug.  And to be bring along her new fiance that she was dying for me to meet.

As Liz and her new beau George were talking to me, I couldn't miss the sound of rushing water coming from my bathroom.   I asked Liz if she heard it, too.

"Yes and I heard it on Sunday, too, when I was checking on your apartment."

Liz and I both looked in my bathroom.  It was bone dry.  We felt the walls and the floor.  No leak.  I was not surprised.   My entire bathroom and the adjoining pipes were new as a result of my extensive renovation a few years back.   But, still, the sound of water was unmistakable.

All night, the cascade never stopped.  Indeed, to sleep, I had to close both the door to my bathroom and my bedroom.  I felt like I was staying in a motel right across the street from Niagara Falls.

The next morning, I immediately went down to the maintenance staff.   I brought one of them to my apartment to hear Old Faithful.  He pledged to start checking the line of apartments that corresponded with me as well as the studio apartment on the other side.  Somebody had a leak some place.

Ten minutes later, he was back at my door.  It didn't take him long.

"Len, I need you to be my witness."   

He led me into my neighbor's apartment which he had opened with a pass key.  The Crazy Bitch was nowhere to be found.

But her bathtub faucet was on.  Full blast.  Luckily, the drain was open.   But I am guessing next summer's water shortage in Westchester County can be attributed to this egregious waste of H2O.  She had obviously left the apartment...for several days...with her water running.

Both the maintenance guy and I shook our heads.   I tried to put a smile on it all.

"Well, at least, she wasn't lying face down in the tub with an axe buried in her skull."

The maintenance guy laughed.   Yeah, he had heard the stories, too.

And I still don't know her name.

Dinner last night:  Sandwich.





Saturday, January 17, 2015

Classic TV Theme of the Month - January 2015

What classy opening credits there used to be.   And check out this later season version for "Designing Women."   It wasn't that long ago and already we've lost Dixie Carter, Jan Hooks, Meshach Taylor, and Ray Charles.

Dinner last night:   Leftover pasta and broccoli.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Your Weekend Movie Guide for January 2015

My home away from home.   And this is the time of year to go to this industry-oriented movie complex in Hollywood.  The Oscar nominations are out.  The voters are out in droves.   And, while you might not necessarily recognize the faces around you, there is a sense that they all work in the film business.  And have Oscar ballots at home.

So, we're lucky these days because the Oscar nominees give us something to see.   But, count on it, there's also plenty of junk out there.  You know the drill, folks.  I'll sift through the LA Times entertainment pages and give you my knee-jerk reaction to what's playing.  A lot of it has already been reviewed on these blog pages.   But, then again, there are always new surprises.

And nightmares.

The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five Armies:   I am happily continuing my long standing tradition of avoiding any movies done from J.R.R. Tolkien books.

Exodus - Gods and Kings:  And it is written:  Thou shalt not see this.

Top Five:   Review coming.  I am backlogged after the holidays.  Please be patient.  Your readership is important to me.

Mr.  Turner:  See Top Five.

Big Eyes:  See Top Five and Mr. Turner.

Foxcatcher:   Reviewed here.  My eyelids have been drooping ever since.

Wild:  See Top Five, Mr. Turner, and Big Eyes.

The Gambler:  A remake of the 1974 film.   I didn't see that one either.

Still Alice:  Julianne Moore trying to remember how to win an Oscar as she portrays a woman who forgets her name.

A Most Violent Year:  I thought that was 1968, but these filmmakers apparently have other years in mind.

Annie:   Reviewed here recently.   Avoid it like it's the Ebola virus.

The Interview:   Reviewed here recently.  My e-mail address has not been hacked...yet.

Let's Kill Ward's Wife:   OMG.  June Cleaver??!!!

Selma:   And here I thought this was a documentary about the female comedy writer who worked for Sid Caesar.

Night at the Museum - Secret of the Tomb:   Is there a viable reason to continue this film franchise?   This movie is noteworthy because it includes the final screen appearances of Robin Williams and Mickey Rooney.

Taken 3:  Liam Neeson in another action thriller.   Surprise?   Anybody?

The Woman in Black 2 - Angel of Death:  You mean there was a first installment?  

Song of the Sea:   I have no clue what this is, but it reminds me that Disney still has not released Song of the South on DVD.

The Imitation Game:  Reviewed here recently.   A perfect, old-fashioned "let's get a leg up on the Nazis" thriller.

Into the Woods:  Still on my list to see.   At which time a review will be written and posted here.   Probably after I post my reviews of  Top Five, Mr. Turner, Big Eyes, and Wild.

American Sniper:  See what I just wrote for Into the Woods.  Ditto.

Paddington:  That damn bear.

Unbroken:   So you thought the North Koreans were an angry lot?   Wait till you hear what Japan did during WWII.

Inherent Vice:  Paul Thomas Anderson takes another look at 70s Los Angeles.   You get the impression he has access to a wardrobe department that has lots of bell bottom pants?

Little Accidents:  A mining disaster.   Which strikes me that the title is supposed to be ironic.

Blackhat:  A huge cyber crime.  Is this being released by Sony?

The Wedding Ringer:   Who is Kevin Hart and why does he get movie roles?

Match:  No clue, except I'd only be interested if it starred Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Fannie Flagg.

Loitering With Intent:  FYI, it's not a documentary about the occupy movement.

Zero Motivation:   What I feel about most of these movies listed here.

Black November:  A rebellion in Nigeria.  It stars Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, and Anne Heche who are all about as Nigerian as I am.

Diving Normal:  A graphic novelist fights for a beautiful woman.  Just how graphic does he get?

Druid Peak:   A teenager tracks wolves in Wyoming.  And you thought they were all glued to their Smart Phones?

Spare Parts:  Four Latino high school students battle MIT in a robotics competition.   Jamie Lee Curtis is listed in the cast.  Expect some product placement for Activia.

Three Night Stand:  Virtually never happens.

The Touch of an Angel:  This is a documentary about the German persecution of Jews during the 1930s.  In case you thought it had anything remotely to do with that old TV show.

Son of a Gun:   That would be a pistol.

Pretty Rosebud:  Paging the estate of Orson Welles.

Appropriate Behavior:   Rarely found on this blog, thank goodness.

Vice: The logline sounds like this is an updating of Westworld.   Bruce Willis is in it.  You've been warned.

Leviathan:  A Golden Globe winner from Russia.  That's enough to scare me away.

Predestination:  Ethan Hawke is a time traveler.   He's probably just happy to finish one movie that didn't take twelve years to film.

Two Days, One Night:  The French version of Up in the Air.   Marion Cotillard plays a woman who loses her job.  Je suis Unemployed.

The World Made Straight:  Looking at that title, you wouldn't expect that this is about some folks in a rural Appalachian community.

Dinner last night:  Pasta with broccoli, garlic, and olive oil.