Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 30, 2015

And so the joyous season of Christmas shopping begins.

Dinner last night:  French dip sandwich.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Hey, Mrs. Brady

And so the holiday season begins with this previously-told tale from many, many Sundays ago.  It bears repeating.

This annual holiday tradition in Los Angeles happens today. It used to be called the Santa Claus Lane parade, then the Hollywood Christmas Parade. Eventually some do-gooders will get involved and this event will be then called the Hollywood Generic December Holiday Parade.

Whatever the case, this was once a big deal and star magnet. From the days when they got the likes of Bob Hope, Lucy and Desi, and Jack Benny to ride on floats, all they get now is the overnight jock at Hot 97 and perhaps some bit player from "The Bold and the Beautiful." I can remember watching it in syndication when I was a kid in NY. I think it's played on the Hallmark Channel.   At some point, people won't care and it's probably going to wind up on public access next to a repeat of last month's City Council meeting.

But, regardless, nobody is going to take away from me the experience of actually working at this travesty for about three years straight when I first moved to Los Angeles. I was a volunteer. A community organizer, if you will.

A friend of mine from church (now sadly deceased) used to be in charge of the parade volunteers. So, I was sucked into this "insider's" look at the parade. Except the first year, my assignment was less than plum. Armed with a walkie-talkie that I couldn't figure out, I was stationed as "crowd control" in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. To make matters worse, I was forced to fear this hideous red vest that made me look like an accident flare on the 405.

While I was not exactly sure why, I allowed myself to get vacuumed up into this disaster the following year. And then the next year.   That's when I got lucky. Except this time around, I was put where my elitist ass indeed belonged. In the celebrity gathering area---the so-called "green room." Which happened to be conveniently located in the bar of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. 


This is where the D-listers fortified themselves for the upcoming drive down chilly Hollywood Boulevard. I saw Santa Claus poised on a bar stool sucking down a beer. The "renowned" Lorenzo Lamas was there with his whole family and was screaming at his nanny. Comedian Rip Taylor sauntered in and, almost immediately, a parade official pointed discretely at Rip's head. This was the signal that his wig was crooked. Rip gave it a slight tug at the side and recreated his hair styling feng shui.

This would be my perch at the parade for the next three hours and nothing could have been sweeter. Watching celebrities behave badly and then slap on an instant smile for the hordes of adoring fans lining the gutters outside. And, of course, this parade offered the location of what would become one of my most ignoble celebrity encounters. 


If you're smart, you'll get the spoiler alert in the title today.

My station was at the door to the "green room." My job was to welcome the celebrities as they drove up and entered the hotel. So, a car pulls up on schedule and out comes two heralded TV moms. Marion Ross from "Happy Days" and Florence Henderson from "The Brady Bunch." Why these two were carpooling is still a mystery to me. They couldn't have possibly used up all their Garry Marshall and Sherwood Schwartz residual money, could they?  But, nevertheless in these pre-Uber days, out they popped and approached the door. Unbeknownst to me, there were three 10 year-old girls lurking about---probably hotel guests. As soon as they saw Mrs. C and Carol Brady, they ran over for autographs.

Marion Ross was a total pro to these kids. Ever gracious, she thanked them for recognizing her and personalized autographs for each of them. Now, since then, I've met a bunch of actors and 99.9% of them are so accommodating to their fans.   

Except...

Florence did the same with the autographs for the moppets, but I could see only the faintest glimmer of a smile.  Hmmm.

Now, it was my turn. I held the door open, ready with a smile and a hello for their entrance.

Marion Ross came over first. She wished me a good evening, a Happy Holiday season, and thanked me for holding the door open for her.

Florence Henderson approached next. Once again, I held the door open, ready with a smile and a hello for her.

Except Flo scowled at me.

"You needed to do a better job keeping those kids away from me."

Huh??? I was stunned by her brazen nastiness. All I could mutter was a voice-cracking "Excuse me."

"You heard me. We can't get blindsided by autograph hounds when we show up for these things."

In my own world of suitable responses, I wanted only one. "You fuckin' bitch!" But, I needed to be professional, even though I doubted if I would ever work with her, since she really hadn't done anything new after The $100,000 Pyramid in 1985. I also felt compelled to say something as a semi-representative for the parade.

I responded. 

"I am sorry, Miss Henderson. I did not see them. And I am sure they are very excited in seeing somebody they have enjoyed on one of their favorite TV shows."
She dismissed me with a frown and a wave of her clenched fist. I hoped that she would choke on her Polident-cleaned dentures. Or maybe somebody would knock her cold with a bottle of Wesson Oil. This woman had parlayed a career out of some crappy TV show that was, at the time, over 30 years old. She owes any celebrity to those kids who are, for some bizarre reason, one more generation enamored with that pre-teen-targeted sitcom.

I didn't work the parade the next year. Not if I couldn't live up to Florence Henderson's high standards.

Dinner this week:  Fruit salad.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - November 2015

Remembering Maureen O'Hara this holiday season.

Dinner last night:  Broccoli and rice.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Your Black Friday Holiday Shopping Guide for 2015

My annual gift to you on this, the manic shopping day known as Black Friday.  If you're out in the malls today, you are no friend of mine.   So, instead of fighting with some slob over a sweater, let me help you with these gift ideas straight out of Skymall.
For that cousin you know belongs in Cirque du Soleil.
 Your goldfish should not have more square footage than you do.
 Let's make it easier for Lucky to go piss on the sofa.
 If you could seal up the end and toss it around the house, I might be a buyer.
Unless the name is interchangeable, this T-shirt has a very limited market.
This device can replace your barber.  Until, of course, you need to call him to repair the damage you did.
 Orthopedic surgeon is optional.
You have to be pretty lazy if you need a vacuum to get the lint out of your dryer.
 Wonder why the back of your seat keeps bumping you?
Designed to improve circulation.   But, as soon as you put this contraption on, you know the doorbell will ring.
 For the pervert in your family.

The woman and batteries are extra.

Dinner last night:  No cooking for me this year.   The traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the home of good friend Sue.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving from Len Speaks

Here's our annual T-Day tradition.   The extra-cheesy "Turkey Lurkey Time" from one of my favorite musicals "Promises, Promises."   This version is done by teenagers from the cast of the movie "Camp."  Look closely in the background for a very young Anna Kendrick.

Pass the Alka Seltzer.

Dinner last night:  Sandwich and rice pudding.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

This Date in History - November 25

November 25 is not a good day to be on planet Earth and you'll soon know why.

571 BC:  SERVIUS TULLIUS, KING OF ROME, CELEBRATES HIS VICOTRY OVER THE ETRUSCANS.

With, I am guessing, lots of vino.

1120:  THE WHITE SHIP SINKS IN THE ENGLISH CHANNEL.

White Ships Matter.

1343:  A TSUNAMI DEVASTATES NAPLES AND AMALFI.

And here we go.

1487:  ELIZABETH OF YORK IS CROWNED QUEEN OF ENGLAND.

Love her peppermint patties.

1667:  A DEADLY EARTHQUAKE ROCKS SHEMAKHA, KILLING 80,000 PEOPLE.

Hard to believe there were 80,000 people in a country I never heard of.

1783:  AMERICAN REVOLUTION - THE LAST BRITISH TROOPS LEAVE NEW YORK CITY.

Can you blame them for sticking around?

1826:  THE GREEK FRIGATE HELLAS ARRIVES TO BECOME THE FIRST FLAGSHIP OF THE HELLENIC NAVY.

Go to Hellas.

1833:  A MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE ROCKS SUMATRA.

Now we're cooking.

1839:  A CYCLONE SLAMS INDIA, CLAIMING 300,000 LIVES.

Time to move.

1864:  AMERICAN CIVIL WAR - A GROUP OF CONFEDERATE OPERATIVES TRY TO BURN DOWN NEW YORK CITY.

How the heck did they get past New Jersey?

1874:  THE US GREENBACK PARTY IS ESTABLISHED, CONSISTING PRIMARILY OF FARMERS.

A third party never works.

1914:  BASEBALL STAR JOE DIMAGGIO IS BORN.

Starting his consecutive day streak which ends in 1999.

1918:  VOJVODINA PROCLAIMS ITS SECESSION FROM AUSTR-AHUNGARY TO JOIN THE KINGDOM OF SERBIA.

Is there such a thing as a Volvodinian?

1920:  RACE CAR DRIVER GASTON CHEVROLET DIES.

See the USA...in a casket.

1926:  TWENTY SEVEN TORNADOS BREAK OUT ACROSS THE US ON THANKSGIVING DAY.

Good luck getting that Bullwinkle balloon up in the air.

1933:  ACTRESS KATHRYN CROSBY IS BORN.

Meanwhile, future hubby Bing's career is already in full swing.

1947:  RED SCARE - THE HOLLYWOOD TEN ARE BLACKLISTED BY MOVIE STUDIOS.

Commie pinkos.   A sad day for freedom.

1949:  DANCER BILL ROBINSON DIES.

Shirley Temple is heartbroken.

1950:  THE GREAT STORMS OF NOVEMBER 1950 DEVASTATE THE NORTHEAST.

Just in case you're wondering why Grandma didn't make it over for turkey.

1952:  AGATHA CHRISTIE'S "THE MOUSETRAP" PLAY OPENS IN LONDON.  IT WILL BECOME THE LONGEST RUNNING PLAY IN HISTORY.

Good seats now available at TKTS.

1960:  JOHN F. KENNEDY JR IS BORN.

Future journalist, lawyer, publisher, and lousy pilot.  Also will have a shitty birthday in 1963.

1974:  BURMESE DIPLOMAT U THANT DIES.

If Ella Fitzgerald had married U Thant, she'd be Ella...

1981:  POPE JOHN PAUL II APPOINTS JOSEPH CARDINAL RATZINGER PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH.\

The future Pope who quit.

1981:  ACTOR JACK ALBERTSON DIES.

Chico's man.

1984:  THIRTY-SIX MUSICIANS RECORD BAND AID'S "DO THEY KNOW IT'S CHRISTMAS."

The song was a great listen the first thousand times.   Not so much after.

1986:  IRAN-CONTRA - US ATTORNEY GENERAL EDWIN MEESE ANNOUNCES THAT PROFITS FROM COVERT WEAPON SALES TO IRAN WERE ILLEGALLY DIVERTED TO CONTRA REBELS IN NICARAGUA.

What guns?

1987:  TYPHOON NINA DESTROYS THE PHILLIPINES.

More doppler weather.

1996:  AN ICE STORY STRIKES THE CENTRAL US.

Global cooling.

1998:  COMIC FLIP WILSON DIES.

Sadly, he took Geraldine with him.

2000:  THE EARTH QUAKE OF BAKU.

Wherever the hell that is.

2008:  CYCLONE NISHA STRIKES SRI LANKA.

And the hits just keep coming.

2009:  FREAK RAINS SWAMP THE CITY OF JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA.

I don't know about you, but I'm hiding under my bed today.

Dinner last night:  Sandwich.




Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bond, James Bond

Truth be told, I was not a fan of Daniel Craig as James Bond when he took over the role several years ago.   Stiff as a board and playing 007 way too seriously, the franchise really got too somber.   But, with "Skyfall" and the newest edition "Spectre,"   I can safely say that James Bond is back.  And the fun that was missing of late has been restored.

Right from the bat, let's state the obvious.  "Spectre" is way too long.   But, then again, 99.9% of the movies today are.   Film editing is a lost art.  That said, "Spectre" is mostly action and, if your legs grow numb, you will be mesmerized.

I saw "Spectre" on a most untimely day --- the night following the terror attacks in Paris.   And, in this film, there is an organization committed to creating terror attacks in cities all over the world.   Luckily, Paris was spared on the big screen.  This sinister group called...wait for it...Spectre is led by Blofield and it's interesting that this character has been used previously in the old Sean Connery editions.   Here, the arch villain is played by Christoph Waltz and I can't remember when this actor didn't play a despicable person on screen.   Here, he is ultra-creepy and the quintessential Bond bad guy.

All this nastiness is going on just as the 00 spy program is being closed.  What's the world going to do?  Luckily, James Bond breaks all the rules and does so with a nifty Bond girl played by Lea Seydoux.  So these two travel the globe to track Waltz.  By train.  By helicopter.  By plane.   Most of the time, Bond winds up at the steering wheel of all transportation.   If there's an idle moment, just wait.  There will be an explosion or a gun fight or a building collapse to grab your attention one more time.

Now, there isn't the tongue-in-cheek humor we used to get from Sean Connery or Roger Moore or even Pierce Brosnan.  A smile is definitely not in Daniel Craig's skill sets.  But, in "Spectre," there is a wisp of a personality that is starting to come through and we can only hope that this trend continues as he stays with the franchise.  At least until the day when Justin Bieber is playing the role.

Whatever the case, it's heartening to know that James Bond remains one of the more reliable constants in our film history.

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

Dinner last night:  Steamed veggies.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 23, 2015

A Thanksgiving tradition.   A favorite holiday clip from Everybody Loves Raymond.

Dinner last night:  Roast beef sandwich.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Sunday Memory Drawer - In The Beginning...

No, this isn't a Biblical-related memory.  Unless, of course, John the Baptist hurt his leg by slipping on a wet rock as he waded in the water.

My recent fractured kneecap on my always troublesome right knee might be the next-to-last chapter on what this particular joint has gone through.  The final wrap-up will be likely knee replacement somewhere down the road.   

I'm healing on my own and have even gone back to my personal trainer Christina who is already working her special brand of magic on me.   But, this long journey on the right knee had to start somewhere.   And I remember that day like it was yesterday...

To a day when my right knee was right as rain.  And couldn't predict it two days in advance. 

It was also a day when my right knee actually was the same age as the rest of my body. Nowadays, my doctor says I have the knee of an 80-year-old. Gee, I can recall when it was otherwise.

Flashback to the first gym class of my senior year in high school. I was actually participating that day. It was still way too early in the year to get a medical excuse so I could skip rope climbing and head off to the library for an hour of reading.

Yep, that day I was in my maroon gym shorts and out on the football field, trying to look graceful with some warm-up calisthenics. The teacher that year was a bit of an asshole, who fancied himself as a taskmaster. We were doing exercises way beyond the normal skill sets. No jumping jacks for this chump. We were doing the work of the Green Bay Packers. Next up? Deep knee thrusts.

I didn't get past the second one. A crack was heard throughout the class. 

Everybody turned to watch me fall over in pain.

And that was it for Len's right knee. A life snapping moment.

I could put little weight on it as I was helped off the field. Crap, now I had a legit reason for a medical excuse. For the first time, I didn't have to make something up. Frankly, it was less painful to lie. I was in agony.

My father was summoned to get me. Once home, the household surveyed my situation. Grandma tried to solve it all by suggesting I soak the knee in epsom salts and Witch Hazel, which she thought were the cures for everything. My parental units were a little bit more aggressive for a change. They realized I needed to see a real doctor. This is noteworthy because they rarely went to one themselves. Because, as most of that generation, my folks viewed all physicians as villains. They're only there to take your money.

At least, this time, they realized I needed to see one of those thieves.

Unfortunately, the doctor they brought me to was the worst possible choice. 

And he remained the worst possible choice even if the other selections were Dr. Jack Kevorkian or Dr. Jekyll.

They took me to the Bronx version of Marcus Welby, MD. One Dr. Herman Weisberg.

This dope had his office in the basement of an apartment building on White Plains Road several blocks away. At least, he was convenient. And, after judging all of Weisberg's credentials, his major accomplishment was that he was, well, convenient.

For some reason, my family loved this guy. I thought he was a complete idiot, who took the easy way out with every diagnosis. This is a man who would have looked at JFK's Dallas head wound and sprayed Bactine on it. No medical problem was too complicated for Dr. Weisberg that he wouldn't try to cure it with two Bayer aspirin.

I dreaded his first appearance as I sat with a swollen knee in his examining room.

"What now, Len?"

Oh, I'm sorry, Doctor. Am I pulling you away from something more important while I ask you to do your fucking job and look at my knee?

These days, a parent would take their immobile child to the best orthopedist in town. Maybe even the state. Me? I got...

"This is a mild sprain. Put some ice on it and take some..."

Bayer Aspirin? 

It was so easy to finish all of Dr. Weisberg's sentences.

I did get the deluxe treatment because he did wrap my knee with a gauze bandage. This must have cost extra.

X-rays, Doctor?

"Why? It's not broken."

Indeed, as time would have it, a fracture would have been easier to fix. But, this early non-treatment of a pretty screwed-up joint was a life-changing mistake. My knee was never the same. For a while, it felt like there was some fluid there. I would say something to either my mom or dad. And always get the same response.

"But Dr. Weisberg said it was only a sprain..."

Hello? Do you see me crawling around in front of you?

In retrospect, once I had complete control over my own health care, I could have done more myself. I remember the first time it flared up in college. A bunch of us were headed out to a Long Island club for dancing. Because I could do nothing but sit at the table and drink, a certain crush of mine opted to keep me company for the evening. It was magic time. Okay, so there were some benefits to this fucked up knee thing.

But, by and large, I could have sought out more medical attention and procrastinated to the point of total avoidance. The once-a-decade flare-ups now come every two years or so. There is virtually no cartilege on one side of my knee. Bone on bone, which has become a nifty and creepy party trick. At some point, it will collapse altogether. And, hopefully, at that point, I can have the joint replacement procedure done with a "fix-your-knee" kit bought on the Home Shopping Network.

And so it goes.  Now it's finally cracked in a couple of spots.   And somehow healing on its own.   It's as if my right knee is showing me what it can do.  For the very last time.

Meanwhile, about ten years ago, I read Dr. Weisberg's obituary in the Westchester newspaper. He had died of cancer at the age of 86.

And I wonder how much longer he might have lasted if he didn't try to treat that malignancy with some Bayer Aspirin and an Ace Bandage.

Dinner last night:  Japanese noodle soup.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Classic TV Theme Song of the Month - November 2015

What?  A sitcom with Ann Sheridan????

Dinner last night:  Rice bowl.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Your Weekend Movie Guide for November 2015

Aw, look at this.  People lined up for a blockbuster movie.  Of course, I am guessing there are already some dopes on queue for the new Star Wars picture that opens in mid-December.   Ah, to have time on one's hand...

We're heading into the big holiday picture season and there will be some delicious cranberries and some turkeys.   Some real gifts and coal in our stockings.   You know the drill, kiddies.   I'll sift through the LA Times movie pages and give you my snap junction reaction to the stuff that Hollywood is dumping on a totally unsuspecting public.

Oh, and Goldfinger is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.    No line in your own living room.

SPECTRE:   Blog review coming.   James Bond is back.   But, then again, he hasn't gone anyway since 1962.

The Hunger Games - Mockingjay - Part 2:   The title alone is exhausting.   I'll catch up on Netflix.   Oh, who am I kidding?

Carol:  One of those Douglas Sirk-like 50s soaps with Cate Blanchett as a woman who falls for a shopgirl.  Except for the lesbian part, wasn't that book by Steve Martin?

James White:   A young New Yorker deals with his mom's serious illness. Cynthia Nixon is the mom and I remember her when she was a teenager on Broadway.   

The Night Before:   Seth Rogen as...okay, I'll stop there.

Secret in Their Eyes:   The trailer about a murder case looked good and it's got Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts.  But how often does the script live up to the name cast?

Steve Jobs:  I hear good things from people who hate writer Aaron Sorkin and co-star Seth Rogen.   That would be me.  Might be one of those clothespin movies.

The 33:  Dramatic retelling of that Chilean mining disaster.   Spoiler alert: the ending is on the internet.

Truth:  I hear this tale about how Dan Rather got fired by CBS is anything but the title.

Trumbo:  One of those Oscar buzzers about the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

Suffragette:  Women's fight to vote.  This did happen, right?

Love the Coopers:   One of those dreary dysfunctional family Christmas movies.  Everybody thinks that "if they only filmed my family during the holidays."  Well, they keep doing it and the results ain't funny.

Spotlight:   Another Oscar buzzer.  The journalistic investigation into sexual abuse by Boston Catholic clergy.   All The President's Men?   All The Priests' Boys.

Bridge of Spies:   This highly touted real-life spy drama from Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg is almost gone from theaters already.  Not a good sign.

Brooklyn:  Coming of age back in the day when Brooklyn was a big deal.   Good news...it is again.

The Peanuts Movie:   Oh, good grief, Charlie Brown.

By The Sea:   Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as a tormented married couple.  Go ahead.   Stretch your imagination.

Shelter:   Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Mackie are homeless in New York. Trust me.  I never see people living in refrigerator boxes who are that good looking.

Miss You Already:   Funny.  I don't.

I Remember You:   Funny.  I don't.

#Horror:   It was a matter of time before hashtags wound up in movie titles.

Criminal Activities:   Insider trading with John Travolta.  Um, take your shares in Scientology and dump them.

Entertainment:  A beleaguered comic travels the desert doing isolated gigs.
Did you hear the one about the beleaguered comic who...

Drone:   A documentary about...well, guess.

Altered Minds:  Judd Hirsch as a shrink who conducts experiments on his adopted children.  Taxi!

Legend:  Tom Hardy plays the notorious Kray brothers who dominated the British underworld in the 60s.   Not your grandmother's Patty Duke Show.

Room:  Brie Larson as a young woman imprisoned in a shed for years.  I swear I didn't know she was in there.

Burnt:  Bradley Cooper as a celebrity chef with z mixed-up life.   And you thought you had problems, Bobby Flay?

The Funhouse Massacre:   What?  No hashtag???

Heist:   Robert DeNiro in a movie about crooks who hijack a city bus.   Paging Keanu Reeves.

Joe's War:  A young Marine home from Iraq suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Surprised?

My All American:  An undersized football player play for the fable University of Texas coach Darrell Royal.  Paging Rudy...

Dinner last night:  Sausage pizza.





Thursday, November 19, 2015

Not This Year

I am overcome by the beauty of this photo.   And it will have to serve me well this holiday season.

Thanks to clumsiness and a resulting fractured knee cap, I won't be making my usual early December trip to New York this year.   Probably this is just as well.   With snow and ice, the last thing I need to be doing is messing up the bone healing that my body is so quickly achieving on its own.  I do not want to add writhing in pain to my already growing 2015 lowlight reel.

But, still, this is going to be a bitter pill to swallow.   This will be the first time since 1999 that I will miss the wonders of Christmas in the Big Frozen Apple. Indeed, these trips over the years have been like clockwork.   I almost work on a precise schedule.   This is the day in the trip where I see such-and-such for dinner.   This is the day in the trip where I see such-and-such for lunch.

And, as has always been the case, there's Broadway.   There would be at least one or two shows with my Great White Way denizen Lorraine.   I would always take my childhood pal Dolores out for another show with dinner before hand at the Palm or Sardi's.  I think about one of the last times she and I did this and, in the middle of a Saturday night snowstorm, we literally slid down 45th Street.  

And, of course, there was the December trip about four years ago.  Out with Lorraine, it was not snow, but rain and wind which were the elements at hand.   The kind of Manhattan cavern night where holding an umbrella was akin to walking across a tightrope with a Wallenda.   Crossing the pothole-laden street, I stepped into a divot and felt something in my left knee.  Hmmm.   That didn't feel so hot.   It would be weeks later that I would learn of a meniscus tear.

Yeah, I can't go that route this year.   But, still...

There's something about Broadway and the holidays.   A special treat.  Going back to the days when my mom would take me to the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall.   Back then, we went rain, snow, or shine.  We didn't care.

When I figured out that I was going to be New York-less this holiday season, I did what most Los Angelinos would do.   I hit the LA Times and the internet.  If I can't go to the theater there, I will do it here.   Gee, there's bound to be something on tour here.

Okay, If/Then with Idina Menzel at the Pantages.  Okay, maybe.   But, more likely in the category of meh.

The musical version of Bridges of Madison County at the Ahmanson.   Double meh.

A singalong to the White Christmas movie at Disney Hall.   Um, I want to hear Rosie Clooney sing not the slob from Pasadena next to me.

I will find something.   I remain undaunted.   Tis the season.   Even if it won't really be.

Dinner last night:   Leftover Chinese beef and vegetables.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

This Date in History - November 18

Happy birthday to Linda Evans.  It's not the same unless Joan Collins is pulling your hair.

326:  THE OLD ST. PETER'S BASILICA IS CONSECRATED.

They turned it into orange juice?  Oh, wait, I read that wrong.

1105:  MAGINULFO IS ELECTED THE ANTIPOPE.

How come we don't have an Antipresident?

1210:  POPE INNOCENT III EXCOMMUNICATES ROMAN EMPEROR OTTO IV.

Don't you wish there was a Pope Guilty?

1307:  WILLIAM TELL SHOOTS AN APPLE OFF HIS SON'S HEAD.

What a waste of fruit.

1493:  CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS FIRST SIGHTS THE ISLAND NOW KNOWN AS PUERTO RICO.

And he's proud of this?

1494:  FRENCH KING CHARLES VIII OCCUPIES FLORENCE, ITALY.

There are worse choices to occupy.

1626:  ST. PETER'S BASILICA IS CONSECRATED.

It's the new basilica.   And no need to repeat the orange juice joke.

1790:  THE FUTURE FREDERICK II, THE KING OF PRUSSIA, IS GRANTED A ROYAL PARDON AND RELEASED FROM CONFINEMENT.

So I guess he was royally screwed.

1809:  IN A NAVAL ACTION DURING THE NAPOLEONIC WARS, FRENCH FRIGATES DEFEAT BRITISH EAST INDIAMEN IN THE BAY OF BENGAL.

Tigers can swim?  Admittedly, a weak joke but I have nothing else.

1865:  MARK TWAIN'S SHORT STORY "THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG OF CALAVERAS COUNTY" IS PUBLISHED BY THE NEW YORK SATURDAY PRESS.

Wake me when Tom Sawyer shows up.

1883:  AMERICAN AND CANADIAN RAILROADS INSTITUTE FIVE STANDARD TIME ZONES, ENDING THE CONFUSION OF LOCAL TIME.

And they still don't run on time.

1903:  THE HAY-BUNAU-VARILLA TREATY IS SIGNED BY THE US AND PANAMA, GIVING THE UNITED STATES EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS OVER THE PANAMA CANAL.

If we build it, they will come.

1909:  SONGWRITER JOHNNY MERCER IS BORN.

Ac-cent-tchu-ate-ing the positive.

1918:  LATVIA DECLARES ITS INDEPENDENCE FROM RUSSIA.

Live and Lat live.

1923:  ASTRONAUT ALAN SHEPHERD IS BORN.

First American in space.  Not counting Flash Gordon.

1926:  GEORGE BERNARD SHAW REFUSES TO ACCEPT THE MONEY FOR HIS NOBEL PRIZE.

Fool.   

1928:  THE FIRST SOUND CARTOON "STEAMBOAT WILLIE" IS RELEASED BY WALT DISNEY.

Disney calls this date Mickey Mouse's birthday.

1939:  ACTRESS BRENDA VACCARO IS BORN.

Sharing it with Mickey.

1940:  WORLD WAR II - ADOLF HITLER AND ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER GALEAZZO CIANO MEET TO DISCUSS BENITO MUSSOLINI'S DISASTROUS ITALIAN INVASION OF GREECE.

What-a a mess-a.

1942:  ACTRESS LINDA EVANS IS BORN.

People totally forget she was on the Big Valley.

1942:  ACTRESS SUSAN SULLIVAN IS BORN.

Must be Prime Time Soap Actress Day.

1961:  US PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY SENDS 18,000 MILITARY ADVISORS TO SOUTH VIETNAM.

With 18,000 different opinions.

1963:  THE FIRST PUSH-BUTTON TELEPHONE GOES INTO SERVICE.

Weeping for the death of the rotary dial.

1969:  BUSINESSMAN JOSEPH P. KENNEDY SR. DIES.

Father of the dead President....and renowned Nazi sympathizer.

1970:  US PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON ASKS CONGRESS FOR $155 MILLION IN AID FOR THE CAMBODIAN GOVERNMENT.

And people still are starving in America.

1978:  IN JONESTOWN, GUYANA, JIM JONES LED HIS PEOPLES TEMPLE IN A MASS SUICIDE THAT CLAIMED 918 LIVES.

The original drinking of the Kool Aid.

1988:  US PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN SIGNS A BILL INTO LAW ALLOWING THE DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG TRAFFICKERS.

By his last year in office, I doubt he knew what the hell he was signing.

1991:  SHIITE MUSLIM KIDNAPPERS IN LEBANON RELEASE ANGLICAN CHURCH ENVOYS.

That's a lot of shiite.

1994:  MUSICIAN CAB CALLOWAY DIES.

Hi-de-ho.

1996:  A FIRE OCCURS ON A TRAIN TRAVELING THROUGH THE CHANNEL TUNNEL FROM FRANCE TO ENGLAND.

That tunnel is the last place I would want to be in a disaster.

2002:  ACTOR JAMES COBURN DIES.

He was one of the people who got out in "The Great Escape."  Um, not this time.

Dinner last night:   Leftover beef stew.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Yay! I Finished Reading Another Book - "Split Season 1981" By Jeff Katz

Well, sort of finished.  Remember the other day when I wrote about movies that I walked out on?  If "Split Season 1981" was a film, I would have been in the lobby so damn fast.   As it was, I finished the book by skimming the last several chapters so quickly that even Evelyn Wood would have been impressed.

How can you screw up a book on baseball for me?  Well, apparently, quite easily.  Because author Jeff Katz, the so-called mayor of Cooperstown, has essayed a historical tale that is so dreadfully dull that it literally took me five months to finish it.

This should have been a slam dunk.   Oh, wait, that's basketball.  As the secondary title says, "Split Season 1981" is all about Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the strike that saved baseball.  I remember the summer well.   Baseball players went on strike in mid-June and didn't come back to work until August.   This resulted in a split season where there were division pennant winners for the first half and the second half.   It was all very convoluted.

And that's exactly what the book winds up being.  Convoluted.   And dull as the infield dirt.

Maybe it's because that the labor negotiations are a function of telling the story. But Katz mires himself in all the minute details of the legal standoff that the book ends up reading like a daily law journal.   More than once, my chin hit my chest as I struggled to hold up the book in front of me.  

Again, in the author's modest defense, I don't know how you can write this tale without taking us through all the weeds.   But, it kills the middle third of the book and most readers are likely never to recover.

And, unlike, for instance, Molly Knight's recent superlative book on the Los Angeles Dodgers, the author here gives us no new information than what you might have read in the newspapers at the time. I yawned so much that my cheek muscles actually hurt from the exercise.

Indeed, any baseball book usually has a fan in yours truly.   And, for "Split Season 1981" not to achieve even one one-hundredth of that distinction is the ultimate shock.   

Dinner last night:  Beef and vegetable stir fry.