Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 31, 2015

Don't you just love Mr. Bean?

Dinner last night:  The pre-game buffet at the Dodger Stadium Club.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Dog Days of Summer

I've used this old, old photo of my childhood dog, Tuffy, before.  Sadly, it's the only snapshot I have of my beloved Beagle.  It's also the old picture I have of our hideously ancient kitchen.  But I digress...

Here in Los Angeles, kids have already gone back to school.  Two weeks before Labor Day and that would suck if I was still learning my reading and writing. Back in my hometown of Mount Vernon, New York, our first day back into the dungeon was always the Wednesday after Labor Day.   You dreaded that day like no other.

Of course, the telltale signs had creeped up for several weeks prior.  On TV, you'd see more and more commercials for the new Fall shows.  You'd notice that, at 8PM, it was darker today than it was yesterday.  And, on some days, there was a crispness in the summer air that was a portent of the fall.   Somebody up my neighborhood block would then be tempted to pull out the football for a game of touch in the street.

And, every year, as summer closed and school approached, I would start to have guilt feelings that I needed to purge quickly.  

Had I not played with my dog enough this summer?

I've written the tale here before of how Tuffy came into our household.  She was a birthday present to me when I turned eight years old.   Technically, she was my dog.  And I consumed much of her time in the early years.  There, of course, was the day that I wrote about here as well.   When she went into the vet's office for the surgery that would spay her.  I suffered the same pains and wound up in the nurse's office, convinced that my dog was going to die mid-operation.

For the first few years, Tuffy and I were inseparable.  But, then, as I got older, I was distracted by school, friends, and play.  Suddenly, my dog became our dog.

With both my parents working at night, it fell to my grandmother to be the guardian of Tuffy while everybody was out of the house.  Sure, my dad would take her out for a walk when he came home from work at midnight.  But, for the most part, Tuffy became the property of Grandma downstairs.  The dog would be down there most of the day, following my grandmother's daily schedule to a tee.

Lunch at 11AM.  Tuffy would wait by the table for scraps.  If the door between our part of the house and Grandma's was closed, Tuffy actually could turn the knob with her paws.  

While Grandma took her "beauty rest" from 1PM to 2PM, Tuffy did the same and stretched out on the area carpet between the living room and the dining room.  If it was particularly hot during the summer, she would opt for the cool linoleum floor underneath the dining room table.

At 4PM, Tuffy was back at Grandma's kitchen table as dinner was consumed.   She would always get to lick the plate or suck some stale bread soaked in whatever gravy or sauce had been consumed that day.  My grandmother would then go sit in the yard for a couple of hours.  Tuffy would be nearby, leashed to the railing of the backyard steps.

It was a simple summer life for the two of them.

Until the end of August when I would feel compelled to disrupt the routine.  I would suddenly realize that I would be separated soon from Tuffy.  And, after all, she was still my dog.  It was as if I needed in two late August weeks to reinforce that fact that I was still in charge.  And could see to my dog's every want and need.

Suddenly, I was the one walking her.  Almost all day long.  I would walk her ten blocks to the Fourth Avenue shopping district.  We would walk proudly to the 241st Street shopping district in the Bronx.  We'd walk to the Penn Central train station on Mount Vernon Avenue.  I was clearly overcompensating.  And, while probably not thrilled by the sudden spurt in activity, my dog never wavered in loyalty.  For those two weeks.

We'd play catch in the yard.  For hours at a time, we'd engage in a tug-of-war battle over an old sock.  I took care of all the brushing.  And, in one foolhardy attempt to really show my control, I tried to give her a bath in the yard.  The one who wound up soaked was me.

Then, almost instantly, I was back in school.  And Tuffy was undoubtedly delighted to go back to her normal, quiet routine.

When I went away to college, our time together became even less.  And, unlike those Augusts where I felt that I needed to exert my authority, I did even less with the dog.  It went from my dog to our dog to their dog.

Before I knew it, Tuffy had every ailment in the world.  She had somehow lasted to the age of eighteen.  But there was a tumor growing on her jaw and one August morning, she couldn't even stand.

Grandma was too upset to comprehend.  This was amazing since she was the one almost two decades before who had asked the question.

"What do you want to bring a dog in the house for?"

My dad was a bit in denial as well.  He must have enjoyed those midnight strolls more than he admitted.

It was up to me.  I made the call.  It was time.

On one last August day, Tuffy was my dog all over again.

Dinner last night:  Grilled bratwurst at the Hollywood Bowl.




Saturday, August 29, 2015

Musical Comedy Production Number of the Month - August 2015

Yay! A five Saturday month.  So we get to sample a little of the musical comedy world.  And friends know I can't watch this one enough.

Dinner last night:  The pre-game buffet at the Dodger Stadium Club.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Open for Business...Sort Of












Dinner last night:  Hamburger and salad.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Health Tip to You

As regular readers will know, I got pretty messed up last Spring.  I became a side effect of some medication which really screwed up my liver to the point where I supposedly was as yellow as Tweety Bird or Bart Simpson.

The whole ordeal prompted me to take a good hard look at my health and, as a result, I pretty much stopped taking (with my doctor's approval) pills other than one baby aspirin a day, Tylenol, and this prescription med for acid reflux. But all this nonsense also provoked me into a different kind of diet as well.  I'm a lot more veggie-centric and there are usually two meals a week with nothing but.   Sadly, I have stopped ingesting wine or alcohol except for the Merlot that shows up for Holy Communion on Sundays. 

I also, for some mystical reason, decided to stop drinking diet soda which I used to inhale by the liter.  I switched this out for fruit juices, lemonade, or carbonated water.   Indeed, if you mix the latter with the former, you get yourself a nice glass of soda anyway.

But ditching the world of low calorie beverages had an amazing and unexpected impact on yours truly.

I lost thirty pounds.   And, according to my trainer, in all the right places.

It is such a myth that diet sodas are helpful in weight control.   I have since learned that these lethal cans actually enhance your appetite cravings.   Psychologically, you think you can drink more because there are zero calories.   Indeed, they will make you increase your calorie intake without you even knowing it.

I also have learned that these sugar-free concoctions will really increase the production of sugar in your system, so, in effect, they are doing just the opposite of what you expect.

I now also have more energy than ever before.   I feel better.  I sleep better.   I am just all round...better.

Okay, I haven't gone completely cold turkey.   These days, I will treat myself to a can of 10 calorie Canada Dry ginger ale one or two times a week.   But, the overall drowning my system in Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi?   That is history.

Try it.  You will see the wonders that can happen.   Wait till you see how those tight jeans fit now.

Dinner last night:  Grilled steak salad.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

This Date in History - August 26

Happy birthday to Macaulay Culkin...who doesn't look anything like this today.

1278:  LADISLAUS IV OF HUNGARY AND RUDOLF I OF GERMANY DEFEAT OTTOKAR II OF BOHEMIA IN THE BATTLE OF THE MARCHFELD.

Ottokar?  Isn't that a ride at Disneyland?

1346:  THE HUNDRED YEARS' WAR - THE MILITARY SUPREMACY OF THE ENGLISH LONGBOW OVER THE FRENCH COMBINATION OF CROSSBOW AND ARMOURED KNIGHTS IS ESTABLISHED BY THE BATTLE OF CRECY.

So far, this is shaping up as a boring day in history.

1466:  A CONSPIRACY AGAINST PIERO DI COSIMO DE MEDICI IN FLORENCE, LED BY LUCA PITTI, IS DISCOVERED.

Such a pitti.

1498:  MICHELANGELO IS COMMISSIONED TO CARVE THE PIETA.

And later the turkey on Thanksgiving.

1748:  THE FIRST LUTHERAN DENOMINATION IN NORTH AMERICA IS FOUNDED IN PHILADELPHIA.

Good.  I have some place to go on Sundays.

1768:  CAPTAIN JAMES COOK SETS SAIL FROM ENGLAND ON BOARD HMS ENDEAVOUR.  

Later they sent this boat up to space?

1789:  THE DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAN AND OF THE CITIZEN IS APPROVED BY THE NATIONAL CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OF FRANCE.

This day in history?  Still boring.

1791:  JOHN FITCH IS GRANTED A UNITED STATE PATENT FOR THE STEAMBOAT.

I thought this was Robert Fulton and not the guy who later partnered on clothing with Abercrombie.

1821:  THE UNIVERSITY OF BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA, IS OFFICIALLY OPENED.  

What time does the book store open?

1883:  THE ERUPTION OF KRAKATOA BEGINS ITS FINAL, PAROXYSMAL, STAGE.

Doesn't that sound dirty?

1909:  ACTOR JIM DAVIS IS BORN.

Jock Ewing!

1910:  MOTHER TERESA IS BORN.

She died in 1997 and they carted her body around for a couple of weeks or so.

1914:  WORLD WAR I - THE GERMAN COLONY OF TOGOLAND SURRENDERS TO FRENCH AND BRITISH FORCES AFTER A 20 DAY CAMPAIGN.

Out in LA, Togoland is a sandwich shop.

1920:  THE 19TH AMENDMENT TO THE US CONSTITUTION TAKES EFFECT, GIVING WOMEN THE RIGHT TO VOTE.

As long as the ironing is done.  Okay, that's a joke and not my real belief.

1930:  ACTOR LON CHANEY DIES.

The man of a thousand faces.  

1935:  POLITICIAN GERALDINE FERRARO IS BORN.

I sat behind her on a flight to NY the day Elliott Spitzer got in trouble.   Her Black Berry at Baggage Claim was buzzing like a bee hive.

1944:  WORLD WAR II - CHARLES DE GAULLE ENTERS PARIS.

This is news?

1970:  THE NEW FEMINIST MOVEMENT, LED BY BETTY FRIEDAN, LEADS A NATIONWIDE WOMEN'S STRIKE FOR EQUALITY.

Jeez, you can vote now.   What else do you want?  Okay, again, that's a joke and not my real belief.

1974:  PILOT CHARLES LINDBERGH DIES.

Dirtbag.

1977:  THE CHARTER OF THE FRENCH LANGUAGE IS ADOPTED BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF QUEBEC.

Still bored by this date.

1978:  ALBINO LUCIANI IS ELECTED AS POPE JOHN PAUL I.

Don't get too attached, folks.

1978:  ACTOR CHARLES BOYER DIES.

Killed himself two days after his wife died.

1980:  ACTOR MACAULAY CULKIN IS BORN.

He's still with us.  His career, however, is not.

1986:  ACTOR TED KNIGHT DIES.

Sad.   He appeared on an episode of my college radio sitcom.

2009:  AUTHOR DOMINICK DUNNE DIES.

He never got over that OJ Simpson verdict.

2011:  THE BOEING 787 DREAMLINER RECEIVES CERTIFICATION FROM THE FAA.

Upgrade please.

Dinner last night:  Chinese chopped chicken salad.




Tuesday, August 25, 2015

He Was A Contender

Once again, this intrepid moviegoer looks for a decent film to see and winds up watching a documentary.  This genre is fast becoming perhaps the only viably interesting alternative at your local cinema.

And even better.   This is a documentary about a movie actor.  How convenient. And ultimately fascinating.  If you thought you knew all about Marlon Brando, guess again.   Director Stevan Riley has given us a compelling look at this enigmatic film star that is impossible to turn away from.

More importantly, the whole biography is told through the words of Marlon Brando himself.

Over the years, Brando apparently committed everything to tape.   Reel to reel and cassettes.   Phone messages from all those old answering machines.   As a result, there is an audio and video history of this guy that pretty much tells the whole story of his life.  Admittedly, he was known as a mumbler.  Boy, that sure is validated here.   You have to strain to understand what Marlon is saying.   But, once you do, it is riveting.

"Listen To Me Marlon" gives you a linear view of Brando's life.  From his less-than-ideal father to his work with Stella Adler to his earthshaking performance in "A Streetcar Named Desire."   Then from "On The Waterfront" to "The Godfather" to some Indian on stage at the Oscars refusing his Best Actor award.   It's all here.

Admittedly, he was a bit of a nut.  Loads of deeply-entrenched demons.  The older he got, the stranger he became.  And, did he have a thing for the ladies?   Vintage interviews with several female journalists are fascinating.   They're trying to do a feature story on him.   He is turning around virtually every question in an effort to get them into bed.  Amazingly candid stuff that is worth the price of admission and a box of Buncha Crunch.

I was a little bummed that they didn't include one of my favorite Brando roles in "The Freshman" where he essentially did a parody of his own serious portrayal of Don Corleone.   But that's a personal quibble that shouldn't detract from the overall delivery of this fine documentary.

Warning: there are some creepy digital busts of Brando's head that pop up from time to time.  They're a bit annoying and it's a story telling device that wears thin after a while.   But, even that shouldn't stop you from seeing "Listen To Me Marlon."

LEN'S RATING:  Three-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Leftover grilled bratwurst and German potato salad.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 24, 2015

I used to love the summer because I got to stay up late and watch "Candid Camera."  The noteworthy thing about this clip is that I know this gas station in Yonkers, New York.

Dinner last night:  Beer bratwurst, homemade German potato salad, and beets.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My Years As A Community Activist

I just snickered as I wrote the title of today's Memory Drawer.   You're probably perplexed.

Len as a community activist?   The guy who hates virtually all politicians.   Today's blog must have been hijacked by Barack Obama.

Nah, it's me.   And, yes, I was.  For a while.

The picture above is Yonkers City Hall and I hung out there a bit when things got really hot in town.   No, I don't mean the temperature.  I had totally forgotten about all this until HBO last weekend began to run a mini-series that revolves around those very years where I might have been found at a city council meeting.  I watched the first two hours of the production and was amazed by its attention to detail.  Much of the footage was shot in Yonkers itself.

And the memories flooded out of my TV and onto these virtual pages today.

The miniseries depicts all the governmental unrest that arose as a result of the NAACP's lawsuit against the city of Yonkers for allegedly practicing segregation in new housing.  A Federal judge got involved and started to impose major fines and potential jail sentences against dissenting City Council members.  In the middle of this fracas was a 30 year-old and virtually inept Mayor Doogie Howser.  He eventually blew his brains out while standing over his father's grave.   You couldn't write this stuff.

Of course, somebody did and now HBO has filmed it in exact and precise detail. Naturally, when it comes to subjects like the construction of low income housing, you have a lightning rod for middle class home owners who see the value of their well-earned properties plummeting.  I had just moved into Yonkers myself and suddenly I found myself in a city that was ripe for tar and feathering.  Since all this nonsense was regularly in the news, I couldn't resist the temptation to watch the weekly fighting that went on at City Council meetings.  It was fun to watch as an innocent bystander.

But then I had my first set of income tax done as a Yonkers resident.  All those fines stemming from the lawsuit were flipped over into city tax that all of us common schlubs were being asked to pay.  For the first time ever, I wasn't getting a tax refund.   And it was all because of the Yonkers city tax.  

Now I was mad.

I started to watch the cable telecasts of the City Council meetings with more fervor.  And then, one week, I somehow found myself propelled to go and see them in person.  What I found there horrified me.

Homeowners showed up and screamed at the council members and the Mayor. The council members screamed at the Mayor.  The Mayor screamed back at them.  It seemed like there was always somebody rapping a gavel trying to bring some order into somewhere.  This was our government in action.  And it was nothing more than an episode of World Wide Wrestling.

But, deep down, I was intrigued by the process of running a city and how ordinary citizens might play into the mix.  Somehow and somewhere, things could get done.

Then I was moved to act myself.  Because ugliness hit home to me not once, but twice.

I was working in Manhattan those days and taking the Metro North train from the Greystone station to Grand Central.  I was parking my new Camry at the adjacent parking lot and paying over fifty bucks a month to do so.  I got off the train one night to find the hubcaps removed.   And gone.

WTF.

Of course, I went through the whole police report business and questioned why my car wouldn't be safe at a public parking lot.  Apparently, my vehicle wasn't the only one to have hubcaps stripped.  Great.  I went through the expense of getting four new hubcaps from Toyota.

Which were promptly stolen two weeks later at the same train station parking lot.

WTF!!!!!!!

The police took my crime reports which I was now getting good at filling out. But I needed something more to appease my wounded self.  For the first time ever, I wrote a letter to my City Council representative.  I had a new guy just elected and he had said that if any of us had a problem, we should reach out.

I reached out.   Three nights later, my phone rang and it was him.  Two days later, there was a noticeable police presence at our train station parking lot. Just like my council representative had pledged there would be.

I had raised an issue to a politician and it made a difference.   Hmmmm.  Maybe there was something to this local government business.  Maybe I should be more active.

When my City Council guy became Mayor, he started some sort of community activist group.   I asked if I could be on it and was welcomed in.   

And then I had the misfortune of attending their first meeting.  The Mayor himself was not there.  But a lot of the usual Yonkers residents were.   The same ones who were always screaming at people.   The cacophony was endless.   I realized that, while I had gotten something done, it was a rare incident. For the most part, issues get lost in the weeds of personal agendas that are dying to be addressed.

I was done.   I skulked back to a world of political indifference.   And I still reside there today.

The HBO miniseries, however, was a good reminder of how things are...and shouldn't be.  In Yonkers.  In Los Angeles.  In your town.

Dinner last night:  Reuben sandwich at the Hollywood Bowl.








Saturday, August 22, 2015

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - August 2015

A drive-in memory for me.

Dinner last night:  BLT sandwich from Clementine's.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Your Weekend Movie Guide for August 2015

Lord, how I wish I had been able to see one of my favorite movies of all time at Radio City Music Hall.   Back when a theater experience was worth your attention and the price of admission.   Today?  Meh.

You all know the drill by now.   I'll sift through the entertainment pages of the Los Angeles Times and give you my knee jerk reaction to what's polluting our multiplexes this weekend.  As for me, where did I put that Blu-Ray edition of "North by Northwest?"

Straight Outta Compton:   A rap music version of "Jersey Boys."   For fans of the music genre only.  Where do you think that leaves yours truly?  But you may be surprised by a future post.

She's Funny That Way:  Director Peter Bogdanovich returns to directing with this new romantic comedy.  There are probably those of you who were anxiously awaiting this and even more of you saying "who."

Grandma:  Lily Tomlin stars and that alone gets me there with a box of Goobers.

The Man from UNCLE:  Paging Robert Vaughn.  Paging David McCallum. Paging a new script.  Stat.

Southpaw:   Unless this is about Clayton Kershaw, I'm not interested.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl:  Strictly for...well...teenage girls.

Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation:   Reviewed here recently.   It's your mission.  Please accept it.

Pixels:  There are not enough on my screen to watch this.

People, Places, Things:  Not Me, Not at a Theater, Not in a Seat.

Irrational Man:  Woody Allen's annual summer release is allegedly a complete misfire.

Fantastic Four:   Probably a lot less than...well...fantastic.

Samba:  I don't think this is a documentary about the dance.   I'll sit this one out.

Terminator Genisys:   If you see this movie, you'll probably wish Arnold was still Governor.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl:  Reviewed here recently.  The title says it all with emphasis on the dying part.

The Kindergarten Teacher:  When I was there, my favorite part was nap time.

The End of the Tour:  A real life dialogue between a novelist and a Rolling Stone reporter.  Oh, I'm sorry.  Did you hear me yawn?

Sleeping with Other People:  There are only about five different romantic comedy plots.   This is probably one of them.

Learning to Drive:  Ben Kingsley teaches Patricia Clarkson how to drive. Seriously, that's the elevator pitch that got this made.

Top Spin:   A documentary about competitive ping pong.  This will test my theory that everything is potentially a good topic for a documentary.

Ant-Man:   Should be on a double bill with The Man from UNCLE.

American Ultra:   A stoner and his girlfriend.  Not enough drugs in the world for me.

The Curse of Downers Grove:   Probably living there is curse enough.

When Bette Met Mae:   A documentary about the two stars meeting at a 1973 party and this one sounds like fun.

Sinister 2:  I'll wait and binge watch Sinisters 1 through 8.

Minions:  It's a cartoon, but I thought it was a Yiddish word.   Hmmm.  Myabe this movie is both.

Mr. Holmes:  I hear good things about this Sherlock Holmes as an elder movie.  

Dark Places:   Stay away from them.   And that includes theaters playing this.

The Gift:  An old high school friend torments a young married couple.   Probably voted in the yearbook as "Most Likely to Torment a Young Married Couple."

Tom at the Farm:  Last I remember, it was Dick and Jane at the farm.

Mistress America:  A lonely college freshman and her stepsister.   The word "stepsister," by the way, is never good in movies.

Vacation:   They've remade the National Lampoon movie and, as expected, it's supposedly no...well...vacation.

Trainwreck:   I bet it is.

Ten Thousand Saints:   What kids in Catholic schools are forced to memorize by the fifth grade.

Shooting the Warwicks:   With the death of Whitney and Bobbi Kristina, doesn't Dionne have enough problems?

The Runner:   Nicolas Cage stars which means nobody will be able to understand a word of dialogue.

Ricki and the Flash:   Review coming shortly.  Meryl Streep sings!

Cop Car:   One Adam 12.

Fort Tilden:   Two Brooklyn women go to the beach.  Well, gee, that's never happened before.

Some Kind of Beautiful:  Pierce "My films usually go straight to DVD" Brosnan falls for his wife's sister.    And that's the kind of plot that does go straight to DVD.

Digging for Fire:   A married couple discover a bone and a gun. Gee, why didn't I come up with that plot??

Being Evel:   A documentary about the crazy stunt guy named Knievel.   Might be a good one to wait for on Netflix.

Big Sky:  A teenage girl has a fear of open spaces.   Well, then, let's take her on a ride to Vegas.

Dinner last night:  Chef's salad.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mystery Post

This is the sister blog post to last week's entry about looking marvelous.  Yes, I still do.

Well, now that my ailments have cleared or become more manageable, I feel marvelous, too.   That may be perhaps due to the fact that I'm really enjoying what I am doing in life.

Beyond my usual career mayhem, I have thrown caution to the wind and I am proceeding once more fully down creative avenues.  Vague?  I am keeping it such.   Of course, there are those of you who will see this entry on Facebook and will immediately raise your hands.  Yeah, I know you know what's going on.  

At the same time, it's the most free and gratifying that I have felt in a long, long time.  In 2015, there are so many different portals in which one can be creative. And, since everybody is now realizing that you can't get anything done while operating within the proverbial box, we are now working outside of it. Because if you stay inside the box, you will remain...well...inside the box.  A lot of this timing is...here comes a big word...serendipitous.

Our approach to creative expansion these days is fearless.   I don't dread hearing the word "no" any more.   Why?  Because if you hear that word, it means you had the courage to ask the question in the first place.

So far, we're not hearing the word "no."  As we communicate with some creative types, it's not coming up a lot.  Instead, we're hearing a lot of "yes." And "of course."  A few "why nots?"

It's daring and exciting and downright fun.  And we definitely have some...

Moe Men Tum.


Yes, I'm being vague, but I will share more when the time and the advantage is right.  Social media is going to play a large part of this success because...well...it is 2015.

This is, as the slide on the old Tonight Show used to say, "more to come."  You never know unless you try.   And, if you believe in something and yourself, why the hell not?

So, hang on because, at some point, all will be revealed.   And, trust me, you won't want to miss the boat when it sails.

And, indeed, you've already received your first clue.

Dinner last night:  Chicken salad sandwich.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

This Date in History - August 19

Happy birthday to Jill St. John and why the hell not?

295 BC:  THE FIRST TEMPLE TO VENUS IS DEDICATED BY QUINTUS FABIUS MAXIMUS GURGES.

His son was Quintus Fabius Maximus Gurges Junior.

43 BC:  GAIUS JULIUS CAESAR OCTAVIANUS COMPELS THE ROMAN SENATE TO ELECT CONSUL.

No wonder the Roman Empire fell.  Who can remember all the names?

561:  MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS, WHO WAS 18, RETURNS TO SCOTLAND AFTER SPENDING 13 YEARS IN FRANCE.

What was that?  An extended sleepaway camp?

1692:  IN SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS, FIVE PEOPLE ARE EXECUTED AFTER BEING CONVICTED OF WITCHCRAFT.

They think that's a crime.  Wait till everybody meets the new Darren.

1759:  BATTLE OF LAGOS DURING THE SEVEN YEARS' WAR BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND FRANCE.  

Oh, Lagos.  There goes my snap together toy joke.

1812:  WAR OF 1812 - AMERICAN FRIGATE USS CONSTITUTION DEFEATS BRITISH FRIGATE GUERRIERE OFF THE COAST OF CANADA EARNING THE NICKNAME "OLD IRONSIDES."

Oh, frigate.

1839:  THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES THAT LOUIS DAGUERRE'S PHOTOGRAPHIC PROCESS IS A GIFT FREE TO THE WORLD.

Yeah, that eventually led to movies and they are definitely not free.

1848:  THE NEW YORK HERALD BREAKS THE NEWS OF THE GOLD RUSH IN CALIFORNIA.

I got here almost 150 years later.  Too late.

1854:  THE FIRST SIOUX WAR BEGINS WHEN US SOLDIERS KILL LAKOTA CHIEF CONQUERING BEAR AND IN RETURN ARE MASSACRED.

Where's Randolph Scott when you need him?

1871:  INVENTOR ORVILLE WRIGHT IS BORN.

Fun fact for Wednesday:  Wilbur was four years older.

1883:  DESIGNER COCO CHANEL IS BORN.

Inventor of the last minute Christmas present.

1909:  THE FIRST AUTOMOBILE RACE AT THE INDIANAPOLIS SPEEDWAY.

Varoom.

1921:  PRODUCER GENE RODDENBERRY IS BORN.

Going where no one named Gene Roddenberry has gone before.

1931:  JOCKEY WILLIE SHOEMAKER IS BORN.

And he's off.

1934:  THE FIRST ALL-AMERICAN SOAP BOX DERBY IS HELD IN DAYTON, OHIO.

Varoom.  Well, sort of.

1934:  THE CREATOR OF THE POSITION FUHRER IS APPROVED BY THE GERMAN ELECTORATE WITH 89.9% OF THE POPULAR VOTE.

You vill be sorry.

1940:  ACTRESS JILL ST. JOHN IS BORN.

So do you think hubby Robert Wagner has told her what happened that night on Catalina?

1944:  DURING WORLD WAR II, PARIS, FRANCE RISES AGAINST GERMAN OCCUPATION WITH THE HELP OF ALLIED TROOPS.

As if you thought they could do it by themselves.

1945:  VIET MINH LED BY HO CHI MINH TAKES POWER IN HANOI, VIETNAM.

Already it starts.

1946:  PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON IS BORN.

The man Hillary slept with once.

1948:  TIPPER GORE IS BORN.

The ex-wife of the man who was the vice president to the man that Hillary slept with once.

1953;  POLITICAL CONSULTANT MARY MATALIN IS BORN.

Her marriage to James Carville is a microcosm of the political situation in this nation.

1955:  IN THE NORTHEAST US, SEVERE FLOODING IS CAUSED BY HURRICANE DIANE, CLAIMING 200 LIVES.

Flooding will do that to a person.

1960:  IN MOSCOW, RUSSIA, DOWNED AMERICAN U-2 PILOT FRANCIS GARY POWERS IS SENTENCED TO TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT BY THE SOVIET UNION FOR ESPIONAGE.

Comrade, da plane, da plane.

1960:  BASEBALL STAR AND BROADCASTER RON DARLING IS BORN.

Now that Tim McCarver has retired, he is the best color announcer working today.

1969:  ACTOR MATTHEW PERRY IS BORN.

The weakest Friend...acting-wise.

1977:  COMIC GROUCHO MARX DIES.

Tough week for legends.  Elvis died three days before.

1989:  RADIO CAROLINE, THE OFFSHORE PIRATE STATION IN THE NORTH SEA, IS RAIDED BY BRITISH AND DUTCH GOVERNMENTS.

So we'll just track this Allman Brothers album for now.

1989:  SEVERAL HUNDRED EAST GERMANS CROSS THE FRONTIER BETWEEN HUNGARY AND AUSTRIA, PART OF THE EVENTS THAT BEGAN THE PROCESS OF THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL.

Mr. Gorbachev...tear down...yeah, yeah, I know.

1991:  SOVIET PRESIDENT MIKHAIL GORBACHEV IS PLACED UNDER HOUSE ARREST WHILE ON HOLIDAY IN THE UKRAINE.

You should never have torn down...yeah, yeah, I know.

1991:  BLACK GROUPS TARGET HASIDIC JEWS ON THE STREETS OF CROWN HEIGHTS IN NY FOR THREE DAYS AFTER TWO BLACK KIDS WERE HIT BY A CAR DRIVEN BY A HASIDIC MAN.

It could have been worse.  He could have been a Hasidic cop.

2009:  TV NEWS PRODUCER DON HEWITT DIES.

Hey, my watch has stopped.

2010:  OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM ENDS, WITH THE LAST OF THE US COMBAT TEAMS CROSSING THE BORDER TO KUWAIT.

Well, gee, I'm glad that's over.  Oh, wait...

Dinner last night:  Hamburger.








Tuesday, August 18, 2015

When Does The CD Box Set Come Out?

This weekend's 100 degree temperatures in Los Angeles severely lowered the standards for anybody seeking a movie to go see and escape the scorching heat. Just like back in the 40s and 50s when America sought out movie houses which had the only central air conditioning in house, so did I.  And, as long as it wasn't based on a Marvel comic, I was game for anything.

Both "Trainwreck" and "Ricki and the Flash" popped up on my Moviefone app and I know it got bad reviews.   But, I resorted to my rule of thumb.   

"Don't trust any good reviews for a Judd Apatow comedy and any bad reviews for a Meryl Streep movie."

And my adage bore out.   While I didn't avail myself of the opportunity to see just how awful "Trainwreck' was, I did get to see "Ricki and the Flash" and was pleasantly surprised.   And cooled off as well.

Okay, this may be the first Meryl Streep movie that doesn't get her the annual Oscar nomination for her performance.    That's probably more due to the fact that the film is a comedy and no reflection on her acting chops.  But, once again, Streep shows off some amazing range as an aging hard rock singer and guitarist for a cover band that stars in...of all places...a bar in Tarzana, California.  And, along with fellow band member Rick Springfield (???!!!), their music in this film is exhilerating and light years better than anything you would hear on pop radio today.

Of course, there's a slender thread of a plot that you have seen multiple times before.   Ricki ditched her family years ago to pursue her singing career which resulted in one vinyl album.   But she is called in by the stuffed shirt of an ex-husband Kevin Kline, who, as usual, gives a terrible performance.   Their daughter, played by real-life Meryl daughter Mamie Gummer, has been ditched by her husband and has tried suicide.  Ricki comes to help if she can.   

Of course, there are other obstacles.  Kline is now married to a snooty wife, played to perfection by Broadway's Audra McDonald.  There are two other children that call Ricki "Mom"----a recently out-of-the-closet gay Adam and a soon-to-be-married-to-upper-crust society Josh.   Of course, as soon as we hear there's a wedding being planned, I knew exactly how this film would end.  This is as predictable as cole slaw at a summer picnic.   But, somehow and in some way, it works.  This is not the usual compelling and riveting drama you would expect from Meryl.   But it entertains and that's all you want when it's 101 outside. Plus when you get a visit from Charlotte Rae (???!!!) in the last reel as Grandma, that's the cherry on top of your melting hot fudge sundae.

So, if you're sweating and looking for a cool diversion, there are worse movies you can find at your local multiplex.   Much, much worse, to be sure.

LEN'S RATING:  Three stars.

Dinner last night:  Steak and macaroni salad.




Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 17, 2015

Art Linkletter had a whole career doing nothing but talking to kids.

Dinner last night:  Hot dogs and homemade macaroni salad.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Name Game

Yeah, that's me.   The one on the left.  Back in the day when my name was...Lenny.

Out of the wilderness, I have had some recent conversations with old friends who still, to this day, call me...Lenny.  It's sort of like they have legacy rights to do so.  I don't correct them.   Indeed, when some of them do, I don't even blink.

For instance, I just had my traditional summer reunion with my good pals from grade school, Diane and Cheryl.  To them, I am Lenny.  They don't really know me any other way.   Heck, that's what my name was back in the second grade when I met them.  Unless, of course, if I was dealing with my teacher.   In that case, it was Leonard.  

Are you confused yet?

On the same New York trip in July, I had my traditional summer reunion with my seat neighbors from many years at Shea Stadium.  Now I met them when I was a full-fledged, card-carrying adult.   Yet, they call me Lenny.  And I don't know why.   And I let them.  This was actually the topic of our conversation for two innings.   We were there with, as usual, my high school best friend Dan.  He used to call me Lenny.  Now he calls me Len.  Ironically, I still call him Danny as that's how I remember him from the ninth grade.

Still not confused?

As you can see from the name of this blog, it's Len Speaks.  And the evolution from cute little Lenny to the adult snarky Len is a story I will share.   Indeed, the transition was not all that easy.

I was named after my father's older brother, who was killed in France during the very last weeks of World War II.  On his Social Security card as it is on mine, it's Leonard.   But, from the stories my grandparents used to tell about the old days, their son was always called Lenny.   And, since it had been passed down to me intact, I became Lenny, too.

Truth be told, I was never really crazy about it.   The "y" at the end of it always, to me, made it sound like a pet's name.   Tuffy.  Frisky.  Lucky.  Lenny.  I always felt my dinner was going to be served in a bowl on the kitchen linoleum.  

Meanwhile, in my universe of friends "up the block" and in school, nobody had names ending in "y" that could be confused with a hamster or a parakeet.  I was almost a little envious of them for having what were, in my mind, more adult names.  The anxiety of it all moved me to ask the question of my mother.

Can I change my name?

You would think that I had come into the house with dynamite strapped to my body.

"How dare you?"

Well...

"You would be insulting your father.  And your grandparents."

I later would learn that Mom was also put off because, as the family rumors go, she actually went on a date with my uncle before my father.

So, the suggestion didn't go far.  And I tabled it all.  Uncomfortably.  Right through high school where the "y" sound was even more horrible to my ears.

I eventually landed at Fordham University and the college radio station WFUV-FM 90.7.  That freshman year, I got to do one of my first on-air performances on the nightly news.   I was going to provide the weather.   Oddly enough, one of my high school pals, also now at Fordham, was anchoring the newscast that night and he introduced me.

"And now, with the weather report...Lenny."

INAUDIBLE SCREAM.

It sounded even worse now being broadcast over 50,000 watts across the entire New York metropolitan area.  I don't know what made me do this but I made the correction right then on the air.

It's Len.

Of course, given this was my virgin go-round in front of a radio microphone, I had alerted a lot of people to listen in to my forecast of clear and cooler.   That would include my family.   Indeed, there was a lot of confusion simply trying to explain to my grandmother how to switch her radio to the FM band.   She barely left WOR-AM.   

I knew that the name change would be noticed and I prepared myself for that revelation when I got home.  Naturally, the first one I heard from was my dad.

"So you're Len now."

He didn't seem to be bothered but I felt I needed to give some well-thought-out rationale.

I explained to my father that the idea came to me because of Ron Howard.   When he was Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show," he was Ronny.  Now that he was a director and being treated more seriously, he calls himself Ron.   I simply adopted the same thought process.

"I never watched Andy Griffith."

Oh.

So, my name flip was essentially no big deal.  Grandma didn't even know about it.   She had never figured out how to change to the FM band on her radio.   And I was Len forever more.

Oddly enough, a few years back, I was doing a title page for a script and, inexplicably, had typed an extra "n" to my name.  Lenn.

Hmm.  I liked the look.  It was different.  

I thought about the years I had spent, simply fighting to change my name the first time.

Nah.   I'll keep it as is.

Of course, if you're a friend who knows me as "Lenny" to this day, you are special.   I don't mind it.   Because that means you're a connection to my childhood.   You probably knew my parents.  Or my grandparents.   And was part of a much simpler life for all of us.  

To those folks, it's Lenny Speaks.   And proudly.

Dinner last night:  French dip panini.