Friday, July 31, 2015

The Awkwardness of Summer

Mickey loves children...with a little salt.
Hmmm.  Somebody came out of his shell.
The dog days of summer.
Gee, that Teddy Roosevelt is scary.
Gee, let's go on vacation and stare at this black hole.
Fashion note:  Daisy Dukes don't look good on men over 40.
 Sir or miss, you're in the shot.
 I'd like to give them all a Hawaiian Punch.
 Okay, somebody's been riding with the top down and his shirt off.
 Gee, that's a clever post.
We'll come back for him later.
Oh, Pooh on this vacation.
Gee, now that's a clever pose.

Dinner last night:  Hamburger and potato salad.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Yay! I Finished Reading Another Book - "The Best Team Money Can Buy" by Molly Knight

I read mostly on planes and here's a picture to prove it from my recent LAX to JFK flight.   Right there in my lap in Exit Row 11.  

This takes me back to my summer days of youth when I would devour books about baseball in front of the kitchen fan.  And this tome by Molly Knight was just perfect in so many ways.   Detailing the last two seasons of the Los Angeles Dodgers, it is informative, juicy, and loaded with stuff I never knew.  As much as I follow the Dodgers, Knight astounds me with details all new to me.

Admittedly, this beloved, yet high-priced collection of misfits is an illogical choice to be a winning baseball team.  But, indeed, the Dodgers have been the past two seasons.   In spite of themselves.  Because, as Knight relates in copious detail, there is tons of friction in the clubhouse as a result of it being composed of 25 millionaires who are driving to the ballpark in 25 separate cars.  You wonder how they even managed to win a game in the past three years.  But they did.  

Again, in spite of themselves.

I knew Yasiel Puig, the Cuban export who got entrance into our country via a drug cartel, was a complete jerk.   I just didn't know how much of an idiot and cancer he was and still is.  I do now.

I knew Clayton Kershaw was that baseball rarity.  Super-talented, mega-rich, but, at his core, a completely nice guy.   I just didn't know how nice he was.   I do now.

I always kind of thought that former General Manager Ned Colletti was a bit of a buffoon as he assembled and mis-assembled a playing roster that ultimately couldn't get all the way through October play-off baseball.  I just didn't know how inept he was.   I do now.

And I had a strong sense that Manager Don Mattingly was doing a superlative job running this clubhouse of rich malcontents.   After reading Molly Knight's book, I have a renewed and special appreciation of what he is bringing to this franchise.  He is, after reading this tale, perhaps the unsung hero of this organization over the past five years.

Molly Knight gives us gossip and wonderfully funny anecdotes that you would not get any place else.  For instance, after a super-charged team meeting called by Don Mattingly, the manager asks if anybody else has something to say. Pitcher Zach Greinke raises his hand.

"I've been noticing something.  Some of you guys have been doing the number two and not washing your hands.  It's not good."

You cannot write true life moments like that.  Whether it's in a baseball clubhouse.  Or anywhere else for that matter.

This book is an incredibly fast and joyous read.  Ideal for Dodger fans.  Even good for those who are not.

Dinner last night:  Dodger Dog at the game.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

This Date in History - July 29

I had a tough time decided whose birthday to honor with a photo, so I copped out and will be using both.   I mean, after all, Professor Irwin Corey, who looked ancient when I was a kid, turns 101 years young.  And, of course,...
it's tough for me to ignore my favorite character from the Sopranos.  Here's to you, Tony "Paulie Walnuts" Sirico.

238:  THE PRAETORIAN GUARD STORM THE PALACE AND CAPTURE PUPIENUS AND BALBINUS.  THEY ARE DRAGGED THROUGH THE STREETS OF ROME AND EXECUTED.  ON THE SAME DAY, GORDIAN III, AGE 13, IS PROCLAIMED EMPEROR.

Talk about a nice bar mitzvah present.  Here's your present...Rome.

615:  PAKAL ASCENDS THE THRONE OF PALENQUE AT THE AGE OF 12.

What's with all these rulers with acne?

904:  SACK OF THESSALONICA - SARACEN RAIDERS UNDER LEO OF TRIPOLI SACK THESSALONIKI AFTER A SHORT SIEGE.

Leo of Tripoli must have had some defensive line.

1030:  BATTLE OF STIKLESTAD - KING OLAF II FIGHTS AND DIES TRYING TO REGAIN HIS NORWEGIAN THRONE FROM THE DANES.

Victor Borge would be proud.

1565:  THE WIDOWED MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS, MARRIES HENRY STUART AT HOLYROOD PALACE IN SCOTLAND.

If you read this fast, you think it's the Hollywood Palace.

1793:  JOHN GRAVES SIMCOE DECIDES TO BUILD A FORT AND SETTLEMENT AT TORONTO.

Did Simcoe also have a shoe store?

1836:  INAUGURATION OF THE ARC DE TRIOMPHE IN PARIS.

Good.  Now they have something to put on postcards.

1848:  TIPPERARY REVOLT - IN IRELAND, AN UNSUCCESSFUL NATIONALIST REVOLT AGAINST BRITISH RULE IS PUT DOWN BY POLICE.

It's a long way to...

1864:  AMERICAN CIVIL WAR - CONFEDERATE SPY BELLE BOYD IS ARRESTED BY UNION TROOPS AND DETAINED AT THE OLD CAPITOL PRISON IN WASHINGTON, DC.

The Belle of the Jail.

1890:  PAINTER VINCENT VAN GOGH DIES.

Lust for Death.

1892:  ACTOR WILLIAM POWELL IS BORN.

The Thin Man.

1899:  THE FIRST HAGUE CONVENTION IS SIGNED.

Wait for the second one.  They'll have all the kinks worked out.

1905:  ACTRESS CLARA BOW IS BORN.

She was a hottie back in the day.

1905:  DIPLOMAT DAG HAMMARSKJOLD IS BORN.

Now there's a name that defies forgery.

1914:  THE CAPE COD CANAL OPENS.

Not exactly the one in Panama.

1914:  COMEDIAN PROFESSOR IRWIN COREY IS BORN.

God, he's old.

1921:  ADOLF HITLER BECOMES LEADER OF THE NATIONAL SOCIALIST GERMAN WORKERS PARTY.

Uh oh.

1933:  WRESTLER LOU ALBANO IS BORN.

He also was a cab driver in my hometown of Mount Vernon, NY and had his name painted on the side of the vehicle.

1942:  ACTOR TONY SIRICO IS BORN.

Seriously, he steals every scene he's in with the Sopranos.

1945:  THE BBC LIGHT PROGRAMME STATION IS LAUNCHED.

Fewer calories than the regular BBC.

1948:  AFTER A HIATUS OF 12 YEARS CAUSED BY WORLD WAR II, THE FIRST SUMMER OLYMPICS TO BE HELD SINCE 1936 OPEN IN LONDON.

That Hitler was such a buzzkill.

1958:  US PRESIDENT DWIGHT EISENHOWER SIGNS INTO LAW THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ACT, WHICH CREATES NASA.

Space.  The Next Frontier.

1959:  THE FIRST US CONGRESS ELECTIONS IN HAWAII AS A STATE OF THE UNION.

Vote 'em, Dan-o.

1967:  DURING THE FOURTH DAY OF CELEBRATING ITS 400TH ANNIVERSARY, THE CITY OF CARACAS, VENEZUELA IS SHAKEN BY AN EARTHQUAKE, LEAVING APPROXIMATELY 500 DEAD.

The perfect symmetry would have been 400 dead.

1974:  SINGER CASS ELLIOT DIES.

Should have had soup instead of a sandwich.

1976:  IN NEW YORK CITY, DAVID BERKOWITZ, AKA THE SON OF SAM, KILLS ONE AND WOUNDS ANOTHER IN THE FIRST OF HIS ATTACKS.

A dog told him to do it.  Seriously.

1979:  PRODUCER BILL TODMAN DIES.

He no longer has a secret.

1981:  ON TELEVISION, OVER 700 MILLION PEOPLE WATCH THE WEDDING OF PRINCE CHARLES AND LADY DIANA SPENCER IN LONDON.

She didn't mind the photographers that day.

1981:  URBAN PLANNER ROBERT MOSES DIES.

The real reason the Dodgers moved out of Brooklyn.

1982:  ACTOR HAROLD SAKATA DIES.

Oddjob!

1983:  ACTOR RAYMOND MASSEY DIES.

Paging Dr. Kildare.

1983:  ACTOR DAVID NIVEN DIES.

Separate Coffins.

1987:  BRITISH PRIME MINISTER MARGARET THATCHER AND PRESIDENT OF FRANCE FRANCOIS MITTERRAND SIGN THE AGREEMENT TO BUILD A TUNNEL UNDER THE ENGLISH CHANNEL.

I'd hate to get stuck down there.

1996:  THE CHILD PROTECTION PORTION OF THE COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT IS STRUCK DOWN BY A US FEDERAL COURT AS TOO BROAD.

Yeah?  Have you seen what kids are writing on the internet these days?

1998:  CHOREOGRAPHER JEROME ROBBINS DIES.

Sharks 0, Jets 0.

2005:  ASTRONOMERS ANNOUNCE THEIR DISCOVERY OF THE DWARF PLANET ERIS.

Eris tu?

Dinner last night:  Chicken and vegetable bowl with Hoisin sauce at Islands.



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Another Documentary That Educates

As I have frequently stated here, I don't read enough.   And, as a result, I don't think I am continually learning as much as I should be.

I'd be a complete melon head were it not for movie documentaries, which are better than ever and frequently an education for me.  Such is the case with "What Happened, Miss Simone?"  I knew nothing about the subject matter, which is legendary blues and jazz singer Nina Simone.  Nada.  Zilch.  Zero.

And now I do.

Truth be told, I had little information before hand about Nina Simone.   I knew she was some jazz musician in the 60s.  Had I ever heard her perform?  Nope. Do I ever remember seeing her on TV?  Nope.  Do I even know what she sounds like?  Nope.

After seeing this documentary by film maker Liz Garbus, I can tell you that Miss Simone's style of music is not my taste.  You get plenty of her vocal stylings in this film.   And none of it resonated with me.  Oh, I suppose, she had a great voice.   But the music was...well...forgettable for me.

Not so, however, the story of her life, which is captivating, chilling, and even horrifying at times.  

As I learn, Nina Simone was hotter than blazes in the late 50s and early 60s, first as a classical pianist and then a blues singer.   Playing every venue from the Newport Jazz Festival to Carnegie Hall.  On the road constantly as dictated by her manager-husband.   When not performing, she was becoming a mother and living in my hometown of Mount Vernon, New York.

But, as the 60s turned into turmoil, Simone got sucked into the civil rights movement and, as a result, lost her way as a performer.  As one of the more violent and angry dissenters, her music takes a nasty and deadly detour.  She frequently talks and sings of "killing all the white people."  Her husband and daughter are lost in their dealings with her.   At one point, Simone inexplicably abandons both and moves to Africa.  

Indeed, as the film unfolds in its linear fashion, you realize that something is just not right with Nina Simone.  

Both her husband and daughter are willing interviewees for this film.   Recordings of Nina's recollections reveal that she may have been a punching bag for her husband.  At the same time, her daughter reveals her own grizzly story of beatings by her mother.  I give both these folks major props for being open to discussing this horrible tale.  

Ultimately, you learn that Nina Simone was manic-depressive and bi-polar. Duh.  At the same time, the film maker here does a wonderful job of showing us a complex, angry, and very bitter individual.   She may have been talented, but she was equally tormented.  

From everything I saw in this movie about Nina Simone, I certainly would not have been a fan.  I didn't like her music.  I didn't like her demeanor.  I found her completely unattractive.   

But, at least now, I do something about her.  So, documentary gods, mission accomplished.   

Consider me a little bit more educated.

LEN'S RATING:  Three stars.

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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 27, 2015

Who misses SCTV?  I do.

Dinner last night:  Hamburger at the Half Moon.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - When A Summer Falls Apart

I generally don't like roller coasters.   But, then again, aren't all our lives really roller coasters themselves?  The exhilarating highs.  The swooping lows.  Who hasn't been there?

I got a taste of this very early on when I was ten years old.  I wrote here just two days ago about the euphoria of July 24.  My first ever trip to a baseball game as a genuine fan.  As I walked out of soggy Shea Stadium, I thought that a summer couldn't get better than this.

I was on the top of the roller coaster.  I couldn't see the drop in front of me. About a week later.

In what would become a lifelong career of having one of two legs compromised, I wound up with what every kid fears in the middle of the summer.  The inability to go out and play with your friends.

I will never forget the pain.  I was "up the block" and playing with my buddies.   Probably something inane with a ball being thrown at something or somebody. I was in front of my childhood best friend Leo's house.  Back then and probably still now, the sidewalk in front of your home had a metal plate where heating oil got loaded for the winter.  I tripped on the metal plate and suddenly my body and my ankle were going in two different directions.

Ouch.  Shut the front door!  Or whatever would be the equivalent saying for a ten-year-old in extreme pain.  

Here comes the roller coaster down that first big drop.

I hobbled home and barely got into the first floor kitchen of my grandmother. My ankle was already the size of a volley ball.  Of course, with no one else home at the time, she was the sole medical advice at hand.   And, naturally, Grandma's remedy for every ailment was the same.

"I'll go get my witch hazel."
Ah, yes, Dickinson's Witch Hazel.   I just looked the stuff up and the company is still around.  It's supposed to be for skin care, but my grandmother used it for everything.  If you had anything wrong, witch hazel would be applied.  I think it also was used to take paint off the garage door.

The witch hazel, in this case, did zero.

We waited for my mom to come home from work.  

"Your ankle is sprained."

Duh.

Of course, I was already well past the age of my kiddie physician, Dr. Fiegoli.  I had already graduated to the adult practice of one Dr. Weisberg, who had the same remedy for whatever it was that was ailing you.   And it wasn't witch hazel.

"Apply an Ace bandage and take aspirin."

Dr. Weisberg would have tried to treat President Kennedy with the same tools if he had been in the emergency room of Parkland Hospital.

So, with all this expert medical expertise, I was doomed.   And stuck in the house.   I remember wistfully sitting in my grandmother's living room.  In her rocking chair with my aching right foot elevated.  Every move either made me cry out in anguish.  Or made the ice pack drop to the floor in a spot where I could not reach it.  

The floor fan blew breezes at me but I was not happy.  The rocking chair was right beside Grandma's big living room window.   And I could see all my friends scampering from here to there.   Ding-a-ling-a-ling.  Oh, great, they're all running for the Good Humor truck.

It was the longest two weeks of my life to date.  My glorious entry into Shea Stadium was now just a faded memory.

At last, my ankle was deemed okay.  I could actually step on it.  And my family had probably run out of ice packs.   I was destined to make my return to the neighborhood for the rest of what was now August.

I remember heading through Grandma's kitchen for the back door.   And, suddenly, it happened.

Ping.

Uh oh, here comes another big drop.

At the time, my mouth was full of braces.  I looked like the front of a Buick Skylark.  And one of those metal rods which was anchored in the back of my mouth had gotten loose.  As a result, a metal wire was now lodged in the inside wall of my cheek.

Ouch.  What the French toast?  Or whatever would be the equivalent saying for a ten-year-old in extreme pain.  

"You can't go outside and play with that!"

Duh.

Of course, the call to my orthodontist, Dr. Arthur Ashe Not The Tennis Player (that's how he actually billed himself), was unsuccessful.

"Dr. Ashe is on vacation and won't return to the office until September..."

The date was immaterial.   Summer had crashed around me.

We had to wait for my dad to come home for the resolution.

"Come out to the garage with me."

It was there with a small pair of pliers that my father inserted into my mouth and cut the errant brace.  The pain was gone, but my teeth for the next two weeks looked like the braces had been put on by a guy wearing an eye patch.   I could now walk again but I looked ridiculous.

Before I knew it, school was back in session.   And I had just that night of July 24 as my one cool summer memory.

Every roller coaster ride does eventually end. But, as we all learn over time, the next rise and drop is always just around the bend.

Dinner last night:  Hot dog at Citi Field.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - July 2015

What's summer without a James Bond trailer?

Dinner last night:  Lemon chicken at Citi Field.

Friday, July 24, 2015

July 24 - Happy Baseball-iversary to Me

As Yogi might say, July 24 happens just once a year.   In the middle of the usual summer heat, I take an otherwise ordinary date on the calendar and celebrate.

Technically, it's the date I officially became a baseball fan.  

I've written before of that very evening...my first one ever at Shea Stadium.  Oh, sure, I had been to baseball games before.  With my day camp.   Or because the oil burner company my dad used to work for part time had season tickets to Yankee Stadium.   

But, on all those original forays to a ball yard, I had little clue what was going on.   All I knew about baseball was that those afternoon Yankee games on Channel 11 often delayed my Popeye cartoons.

It all changed one May when I was home sick from school with the German measles.  The Mets were playing three home afternoon games and I had wandered over to WOR Channel 9 to watch.  The team stunk, but I didn't care.   There was something about them that was endearing.   And, in a world surrounded by neighborhood friends and even a father who were Yankee fans, I could be the lone renegade in Met fandom.

Annoying kid that I was, I clamored to be taken now to a game.  Thanks to my dad's work friend whose wife worked for Rambler---the official car of the New York Mets---my very first visit to spanking new Shea was via tickets behind the visitor's dugout.  It was raining and I didn't care.

That was July 24 and how it all started for me.

Ripping the calendar pages off year-by-year and decade-by-decade, there was a July 24 game at Shea Stadium.  I was an adult now.  And, somehow, I was there with my good college buddy, the Bibster.  The Mets were getting good again after years of being bad after several years of being very good.  They were playing the Cardinals and were on the periphery of a pennant chase for the first time in a long while.

The game went extra innings.  The Mets won.  And, while there was nothing terribly miraculous about the victory, the whole game was very, very special. Perhaps it was the company.  Or the environment.  Or maybe a mix of everything that is wonderful about baseball.  It was one of my most perfect nights ever in a baseball stadium.

Yes, the magic of July 24.

So, when 2015 baseball schedules came out last fall, I immediately gravitated to the date so I could see where I would be celebrating one more season.  My mouth hit the proverbial floor.
The Mets would be at home.  Well, Citi Field, but close enough to Shea as the photo above shows.  Playing, of all teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

My baseball universe on two coasts neatly compacted on one date.  Another game where I clap for two teams with one hand.

Yes, July 24.

So, I am there tonight.  With not only the Bibster but Mrs. Bibster as well.

As anniversaries go, this couldn't be better.  July 24 in Flushing.

Dinner last night:  Braciole at Zero Otto Nove in Armonk.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Power of Jade Stones

I write this in NY and I am frankly surprised that I am here.  This July trip was planned a long time ago for a week of some baseball, a lot of friends, and a little bit of business.

Last Saturday, my summer vacation was going the way of hoola hoops and moon rocks.  My knee was in bad shape.

Not my bad knee.  The one that was operated three years ago for a torn meniscus.  Nope, the other one.  The one that has been bad since a high school gym class decades ago.  That's the worse knee of the two.

Working with my incredible trainer Christina, I have been buying time.  I'm way too busy to lay out for a month or so getting, as my father would say, "foreign parts" installed in a joint or two.  But, a few weeks ago, the really bad one flared up and it was enough to go to my internist.  I chose him over my orthopedist because you virtually have to be carrying your limb in a Nordstrom's shopping bag to see him on short notice.

My internist figured it pretty quickly.  I can walk fine.  I can sit as well.  But a flex in one special direction feels like a dagger being inserted by a common criminal.  

"What little meniscus is left is obviously torn."

Thank you for that.

Because meniscus surgery is now and suddenly being looked down upon by most physicians, he wanted me to work with my trainer to calm it down.  And we did.  Despite the fact that I climbed Mount Hollywood Bowl not once but twice in the same week.

And then, last Tuesday, I was getting into my car and the knee bent in that one special direction.

I had to close my car door so most of Culver City wouldn't think I was being murdered.

Back to the internist with thoughts of cancelling my trip.   And would a cortisone shot make a difference?

"There's no place to really shoot the cortisone into."

Thank you for that.  Again.

The advice one more time was to calm it down as much as I could over the weekend.  Lots of ice.  Extra strength Tylenol.  Luckily, it was an oddly rainy July weekend in LA.  It was extra easy to stay home.

Leaving on Tuesday, I wanted one final go-round with Christina on Monday.  I wanted her to pull me together as best as I could be.  Held together with that yellow duct tape you find at crime scenes.  She had a unique plan.

Massaging both knees with warm lotion and jade stones.

Hmmm.

My trainer is into the holistic health universe so I was game for anything.  It was a cool sensation.  Very not so cool in temperature.

When I got home Monday night, I was not even feeling the sharp twinges I had been experiencing Monday afternoon.

Pulling myself to LAX and then dragged myself out of JFK.  All was good.  

As I write this, my really bad knee is in that very special direction.  Nothing.

Right now, I am vacationing as planned.   And wondering just what's behind those magic rocks that my trainer pulled out of her bag.

Dinner last night:  Sausage and broccoli pasta at Tuscan Brio Grille in Danbury.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

This Date in History - July 22

July 22.  What is Alex Trebek's birthday?

838:  THE BYZANTINE EMPEROR THEOPHILOS SUFFERS A HEAVY DEFEAT BY THE ABBASIDS.

Abbasid sounds like an antacid.

1099:  GODFREY OF BOUILLON IS ELECTED THE FIRST DEFENDER OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE OF THE KINGDOM OF JERUSALEM.

He's in the soup now.

1456:  JOHN HUNYADI, REGENT OF THE KINGDOM OF HUNGARY, DEFEATS MEHMET II OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE.

I looked fast and thought that said Hyundai.

1499:  THE SWISS DECISIVELY DEFEAT THE IMPERIAL ARMY OF EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN I.

Now the Swiss stay out of everything.

1686:  ALBANY, NEW YORK IS FORMALLY CHARTERED AS A MUNICIPALITY.

Because the state needs a capital.

1793:  ALEXANDER MACKENZIE REACHES THE PACIFIC OCEAN BECOMING THE FIRST RECORDED HUMAN TO COMPLETE A TRANSCONTINENTAL CROSSING OF CANADA.

Smart to do this in the month of July.

1797:  DURING THE BATTLE OF SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, REAR-ADMIRAL NELSON IS WOUNDED IN THE ARM AND IT IS PARTIALLY AMPUTATED.

A little more serious than Tommy John surgery.

1812:  BATTLE OF SALAMANCA - BRITISH FORCES DEFEAT FRENCH TROOPS.  

Any loss suffered by France is okay by moi.

1864:  OUTSIDE ATLANTA, GEORGIA, CONFEDERATE GENERAL JOHN BELL HOOD LEADS AN UNSUCCESSFUL ATTACK ON UNION TROOPS.

Those cotton bolls are started to get rotten.

1908:  AUTHOR AMY VANDERBILT IS BORN.

The spoon goes on the right.

1916:  IN SAN FRANCISCO, A BOMB EXPLODES ON MARKET STREET DURING A PREPAREDNESS DAY PARADE.

Well, at least, they were prepared.

1923:  POLITICIAN BOB DOLE IS BORN.

Tell me again why your hand is like that.

1923:  WRESTLER THE FABULOUS MOOLAH IS BORN.

My grandmother always thought she was a dirty girl.

1928:  ACTOR ORSON BEAN IS BORN.

To tell the truth.

1933:  WILEY POST BECOMES THE FIRST PERSON TO FLY SOLO AROUND THE WORLD IN SEVEN PLUS DAYS.

Will Rogers wants to go next time.

1934:  OUTSIDE CHICAGO'S BIOGRAPH THEATER, PUBLIC ENEMY #1 JOHN DILLINGER IS SHOT AND KILLED BY FBI AGENTS.

These days, Public Enemies are what we call politicians.

1937:  THE US SENATE VOTES DOWN PRESIDENT FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT'S PROPOSAL TO ADD MORE JUSTICES TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE US.

Just what we need...more clowns in black robes.

1940:  TV HOST ALEX TREBEK IS BORN.

I'll take July Birthdays for 600, Alex.

1942:  THE US GOVERNMENT BEGINS COMPULSORY CIVILIAN GAS RATIONING DUE TO WWII.

Hopefully, this is a one-time-only event.   Yeah, right.

1942:  THE SYSTEMATIC DEPORTATION OF JEWS FROM THE WARSAW GHETTO BEGINS.

As if such a dastardly act could be systematic.

1947:  ACTOR/COMIC ALBERT BROOKS IS BORN.

Doesn't get as much credit for his genius as he should.

1951:  DEZIK AND GYPSY ARE THE FIRST DOGS TO MAKE A SUB-ORBITAL FLIGHT.  

As opposed to one of those Russian female cosmonauts who was also a dog.

1967:  POET CARL SANDBURG DIES.

Now that all my work has been read, it's time for me to be dead.

1976:  JAPAN COMPLETES ITS LAST REPARATION TO THE PHILLIPPINES FOR WAR CRIMES DURING WWII.

They should did take the slow payment plan.

1991:  JEFFREY DAHMER IS ARRESTED IN MILWAUKEE AFTER POLICE DISCOVER HUMAN REMAINS IN HIS APARTMENT.

Spleen?  What spleen?

1992:  NEAR MEDELLIN, COLOMBIAN DRUG LORD PABLO ESCOBAR ESCAPES FROM HIS LUXURY PRISON FEARING EXTRADITION TO THE US.

Luxury prison????

2008:  ACTRESS ESTELLE GETTY DIES.

Sheer brilliance on the Golden Girls.

2013:  ACTOR DENNIS FARINA DIES.

The actor, not the Little Rascal.

Dinner last night:  Sandwich and German potato salad at the NY apartment.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Curiosity Killed the Moviegoer

"The Overnight" is a dreary sex comedy that I had the misfortune of seeing after I read an article about the film.  It sounded a little bit raunchy and salacious.  That's what I get for being...well...never mind.

Okay, it all sounded to me like an updated version of "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice," which dared to show us wife swapping back in the late 60s.  I only caught up to that film recently on Turner Classic Movies.  When I read about "The Overnight," it sounded very familiar.  

Okay, I was curious.   Now revisit the title of this entry above.

In the years since "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice," times have changed.  Oh, boy, have they changed?  The older film was probably considered quite dirty back in the day.  Now it might be as tame as the latest production from Pixar. That's because "The Overnight" in 2015 takes things much, much, much further.   Writer-director Patrick Brice probably fancies himself as quite the daring filmmaker.

And yet, with all that 21st Century freedom, "The Overnight" winds up being as uninteresting as it can be.

Adam Scott of the Len-never-watched TV show "Parks and Recreation" and Taylor Schilling of the Len-never-watched TV show "Orange is the New Black" play an ordinary and a bit conservative young couple recently relocated to LA from Seattle.  They're watching their young son play with another boy in a playground and then meet his overly friendly parents played by Jason Schwartzman and some French nobody called Judith Godreche.  Realizing that the new-to-town couple hasn't made many friends, they invite them over for a pizza dinner so the two youngsters can have a sleepover.

Of course, the concept of sleepover you know will eventually extend to the parents.  With a clear de-emphasis on the word "sleep."  Before long, wine and drugs replace pepperoni pizza as the evening's entree.   And the neophytes realize that their new friends are quite...well...liberal.

But this is 2015 so things immediately go down the toilet literally and figuratively.  Skinny dipping reveals that Schwartzman has a rather large...well...thing and I will add that there are computer graphics at play here. Meanwhile, Scott is quite self-conscious about his rather small...well...thing. This is not an incidental plot point.   About twenty minutes of the movie is devoted to penis envy and unenvy.  As a result, the only person in America who likely has "The Overnight" in their #1 queue on Netflix is Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

Meanwhile, the wives run out to pick up snacks at a store and Godreche makes a side trip to a massage parlor where she works a quick shift giving a handjob to one of the locals.  At the same time, we are "treated" to countless videos in her other place of employment as she works as a model on videos that demonstrate the correct way to use a breast pump.

All the while this is going on, I am wondering how the hell I talked myself into seeing this.   And, oh, yeah, does this screening room have some hand sanitizer available?

The good news about "The Overnight" is that, at 79 minutes, it is mercilessly short.  And, no, I'm not making another joke about Adam Scott's character.  At the end of this swill, nothing much happens and that's the big letdown. Because, as ugly and ultimately stupid this movie is, you at least want to see something transpire on the big screen.  When the four idiots get to the point where they will actually...well...pair off (and not necessarily with the opposite gender), the movie ends as abruptly as well...fill in your own joke.

Seriously, if you're thinking that "The Overnight" is going to give you some great jollies and a laugh or two, you're better off searching the TCM program grid for their next showing of "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice."  In retrospect, that film, produced almost 50 years ago, was a lot more daring than this garbage bag waiting for the Monday trash pickup.

LEN'S RATING:  One-half star.

Dinner last night:  Hamburger and salad.




Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 20, 2015

I loved the summer because I got to stay up and watch Johnny Carson.   It was even better if he had some animals on.

Dinner last night:  Steak and grilled zucchini at my good friends, the Foresters.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My First Hero

When you're five or six and your leisure hours are spent in front of the television, it's only natural that your very first obsession would come from the tube.  

For me, it was Popeye the Sailor Man.

Back when, I waited for the late afternoon hours when cartoons prevailed on WPIX Channel 11 in New York.  The station had all these staff announcers who would do station breaks.  To maximize their salaries, they'd then dress them up into costumes and let them introduce the fare for the kiddies.  You had Joe Bolton who became Officer Joe Bolton when they put him in a policeman's get-up.  He'd introduce the Three Stooges, which was sort of verboten in my house. I'm thinking my parents were afraid I'd follow suit and hit my grandfather in the head with a metal pipe.

The guy I really waited for was Captain Jack McCarthy.
Once again, another staff announcer who was costumed for the youngsters.   Around 4PM every afternoon, he'd walk in on some boat set constructed for three bucks.  He'd ring a ship's bell and extol...

"Three bells, four o'clock, time for Popeye the Sailor..."

I never understood how three bells signified four PM, but I didn't care.  I'd lie down on the floor in front of the television and revel in my spinach-eating hero.

I hear today that kids are turned off when watching anything shot in black-and-white.  That was not the case with me.   The older, the better.  And that went with Popeye cartoons as well.  I'd long for the ones from the early 1930s because they were the best.  

It was sheer euphoria for me if the cartoon opened with those opening and closing boat doors.   Because those were my very favorite Popeye adventures.
Those were indeed the funniest cartoons.  Oh, sure, they all followed the same script and plot line. Popeye is out with Olive Oyl.  Bluto tries to steal her away. Popeye gets pounded into a manhole cover or an iron press.  Out comes the spinach.  Munch, munch.  And Bluto gets his ass thoroughly kicked.

But the oldest ones featured this guy Jack Mercer's voice as Popeye and the man loved to ad lib.   So, as a result, you had to listen closely to the words because Popeye was always muttering something funny under his breath.  So, every time a cartoon was rerun for the twelfth or thirteenth time, I was still mesmerized.   My ear was glued to the soundtrack because I was convinced I had missed something funny.  Or maybe I thought there would be new jokes replacing the old ones.  

Yeah, I was a weird kid.

Of course, my obsession carried over to other facets of my world.   

Popeye pajamas.

A Popeye doll that kicked Zippy the Chimp out of my bed for a while.

A toothpaste company had a promotion.  If you sent in two box tops, you got this nifty Popeye hand puppet.

Of course, to quote my grandmother...

"You're too rough with everything."

In short order, Popeye's head went the way of Marie Antoinette.   This forced Grandma into action.

"Don't come into the kitchen.  Popeye is having an operation."

I waited dutifully outside in the same way that my grandmother the orthopedist had surgically repaired Jerry Mahoney's arm onto this body.  He was soon as good as new.

I then spotted sheer ecstasy.  In Shipman's Toy Store on Fourth Avenue in Mount Vernon, New York.  The ideal melding of my favorite toy and my beloved TV hero.

I was a Colorforms nut.  And now Popeye was the subject of its newest edition. I never quite grasped the concept of Popeye's career change.  But I was in heaven.  Of course, as I did with most of my Colorforms, pieces kept disappearing.  My mom would find them all over the house.

"I found Wimpy's hamburger in the living room ash tray."

Oh.

Now my mother apparently hoped that my Popeye mania would extend to the dinner table.  Just like my hero, she wanted me to develop a taste for spinach.   The first spoonful that went into my mouth?

Bleeech!!!

Okay, so I wasn't completely Popeye-driven.

It's funny that, as I look back upon this time in my life, this obsession never really changed.  A few year back, a DVD company put out all the black-and-white cartoons in one set.   I devoured them one rainy Sunday afternoon.  And I was still straining to hear Popeye's ad libs as if a new one had emerged.  

Meanwhile, on my desk at home, there are two bendable plastic figures.
If I'm writing and I am stuck on something, I will pick one of them and channel back.   To that day when I first heard a funny line muttered by Popeye under his breath.  All of a sudden, I'm five again.

But, the more things stay the same, some do change.

I will happily eat a spinach salad these days.

Dinner last night:  Steak, fries, and vegetables.