Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - An Actor's Life For Me

Here's an ugly little secret.   I always wanted to be an actor.   And on the stage as you see in this photo of me at the Hollywood Bowl, several years and fifty pounds more ago.  

This all came to light again for me recently as I have been dealing with some agents for a little thing we do.   You'll learn more about it soon.   But, for bizarre reasons, we found ourselves three weeks prior to the event and without a male lead.  Both actors we had previously cast in what is essentially a volunteer production booked work.   The joke became "if you're an actor and you associate with Len, you will immediately get an acting gig...elsewhere."

So, we immediately put out the word to the rest of our cast for a very specific type.

"33-36, male, JFK Jr. type."

I was inundated within a day.   I had more headshots in my house than Errol Flynn.  As I looked at practically every good looking 34-year-old in Hollywood, I thought about this world which I, from time to time, thought about pursuing.   How tough it can be.   How difficult it must feel to be rejected when 500 people show up for the same single role.   I know that actors must develop a strong constitution and not take things personally.

Suddenly, I was glad I wasn't one of them.   

We narrowed our choice to three actors.   To break the tie, we had them read lines for us.  And then I realized my next horror.

I was going to have to tell two of them that they weren't picked.

Yep, suddenly, those acting classes I took for a semester in New York didn't seem like such a good idea.  I had dreamed once of a bucket list item---participating in a community theater production of a musical comedy.  

Nah, no more.  Indeed, my single experience as an actor will have to do.   Way back in the fifth grade.   And even that was horrific.

My fifth grade French class was putting on a performance of "Le Petit Chapeau Rouge." That's "Little Red Riding Hood" for the non-Jerry Lewis fans in the reading audience. Because I had one of the top three grades in the class, I was a shoo-in for a role. 

So was this rather chunky girl who would become essentially "Le Petit Chapeau Rouge Tres Grosse." The third role went to another guy.

The teacher saw me in the lead. 

The wolf. 

And, in retrospect, I should have relished that. I now envision all the great things I could have done with the part. Perhaps a little Paul Lynde inflection. Maybe Snidley Whiplash. As long as it was spoken in French, I had carte blanche....another French expression.

Until I read the script.

At the end of the show, the woodsman arrives to save Le Petit Chapeau Rouge Tress Grosse by embedding an axe into the wolf's head. As Le Lobo falls dead, the entire cast sings a song over the animal's body and dances merrily around the carcass.

Huh?

In my fifth grade egotistical mind, I was uncomfortably frosted by the ending. Sure it was true to the story. But, if I had developed such a likeable and funny rendition of the Wolf, couldn't he be simply caught? That way, even with paws tied, I could be around for the grand finale. I provided my notes to the teacher, who was unimpressed. Actually freakin' angry.

"Who do you think you are, young man?"

I pushed it. Pretty much providing her with a rewrite of the last scene. 

Unknown to me, this was her own script which she had used year in and year out for the past decade.

"You will not change a word, young man. Do you want to be the wolf or not?"

Stupidly, I said "no." I was asked to trade roles with the kid playing the woodsman, who turned out to be a delicious scream as the Wolf.

Yes, I was alive for the end as I bulldozed the chubby heroine around the stage in triumphant song. But, the teacher refused to speak to me the rest of the year. Luckily, it was May and we didn't have much longer to go.

At the end of the school term, I still wound up with an "A+" in French. Merci beaucoup.

That was my farewell performance on stage.   And, with what I know and see now, that's a good thing.   I salute actors all over the world.   I'm grateful for the ones that I am getting to work with.  Your world is a lot tougher than even I could imagine.

Yeah, I'll just write the words to put in their mouths.

Dinner last night:  Sausage cacciatore at Miceli's.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Classic Musical Comedy Production Number of the Month - January 2016

Woo hoo!  Five Saturdays this month.   Time for a classic musical comedy number.   And here's one of the best from "Singin' in the Rain."

Dinner last night:  Grilled Taylor ham sandwich.

Friday, January 29, 2016

What Kind of Business is This??












Dinner last night:  Grilled Taylor Ham on toasted English muffin and salad.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

New Service Provided By Yours Truly

It is award season in Hollywood.   And lots of chatter about people not going to the Oscars as part of a boycott.

Um, I'll go.   All you have to do is invite me.

And that brings up my newest business model.

"Len's Plus One."

Yep, this is ideal for the award presentation goer who might be having relationship issues.   In the midst of divorce proceedings.   Or perhaps the significant other can't exactly handle more than one dirty martini in public.

No fuss, no muss.   Let me be your Plus One.

While not exactly George Clooney, I do clean up well and I don't have to wear a lot of product in my hair.   I can qualify for a variety of different age groups depending upon just where I am in my haircut cycle.  With the recent weight loss, I can fit into a nicely tailored tux and can go with or without bow tie.

I can walk very nonchalantly and quietly down the red carpet.   I'll gladly stand off to the side while you kibitz with Kathy Griffin or Matt Lauer.  My palms don't get very sweaty so, if required, a very brief hand holding moment won't be devastating for you.

Inside the award show you are attending, I also have some advantages.   I can generally eat most non-seafood appetizers at the pre-show without soiling my clothing.  I also will refrain from drinking so I won't be running out to the men's room during commercial breaks, leaving you to be stuck with some nobody from SAG acting as a seat filler for the night.

Tell me who you are particularly rooting for that evening and I can be extra-supportive.  If you are nominated and do win, a kiss on your way up to the podium is optional and totally up to you at no extra charge.  I will gladly participate in any standing ovation that you do, although I will not effusively applaud for any one associated with a Kardashian TV production.

At the after party, I can be as helpful as you want.   I will gladly stand in the background while you schmooze with Steven Spielberg or that TV showrunner you are trying to impress.  And, for those moments when you are stuck in a conversation that you don't want to be in, I will be very happy to work up some body language code system.   Just wave your pinky and I'll be over to say, "Honey, we have to go."

Frankly, I offer the best Plus One service in Hollywood and can adapt to your needs at a moment's notice.   Feel free to contact me as my availability may go fast.  And this offer goes out to both women and men.   The latter, however, will be subject to premium rates and an additional surcharge.

Well, what are you waiting for?   The SAG Awards are this weekend.

Dinner last night:  Leftover bratwurst and peppers.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

This Date in History - January 27

Happy birthday to Mikhail Baryshnikov.   What's the over/under on arthritic knees for this guy??

98;  TRAJAN SUCCEEDED HIS ADOPTIVE FATHER NERVA AS ROMAN EMPEROR.  UNDER HIS RULE, THE ROMAN EMPIRE WOULD REACH ITS MAXIMUM EXTENT.

The nerva.

1142:  SONG DYNASTY GENERAL YUE FEI IS EXECUTED.

Fei?  Feh.

1186:  HENRY VI, THE SON AND HEIR OF THE HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR FREDERICK I, MARRIES CONSTANCE OF SICILY.

And we thought all the Henrys were in England.

1343:  POPE CLEMENT VI ISSUES THE PAPAL BULL UNIGENITUS TO JUSTIFY THE POWER OF THE POPE AND THE USE OF INDULGENCES.  NEARLY 200 YEARS LATER, MARTIN LUTHER WOULD PROTEST THIS.

Attaboy, Marty.

1593:  THE VATICAN OPENS THE SEVEN-YEAR TRIAL OF SCHOLAR GIORDANO BRUNO.

Is it me or did the Vatican have a lot of corruption back when?

1606:  GUNPOWDER PLOT - THE TRIAL OF GUY FAWKES AND OTHER CONSPIRATORS BEGINS, ENDING WITH THEIR EXECUTION ON JANUARY 31.

Well, they didn't hang around long.  Unless, of course, they were executed by bullets.

1785:  THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA IS FOUNDED, THE FIRST PUBLIC UNIVERSITY IN THE US.

Cheerleader auditions scheduled for the following week.

1825:  THE US CONGRESS APPROVES INDIAN TERRITORY (IN WHAT IS NOW OKLAHOMA) CLEARING THE WAY FOR FORCED RELOCATION OF THE EASTERN INDIANS.

Yeah, that's going to work out well.

1880:  THOMAS EDISON RECEIVES THE PATENT ON THE INCANDESCENT LAMP.

Now you can read in bed.

1888:  THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY IS FOUNDED IN WASHINGTON, DC.

And gives us magazines to look at while waiting to see the eye doctor.

1905:  ACTOR HOWARD MCNEAR IS BORN.

Oooh, Andy.

1908:  PUBLISHER WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST JR. IS BORN.

Rosebud.

1909:  THE YOUNG LEFT IS FOUNDED IN NORWAY.

Not to be confused with the Young Right.   Or the Young Independents.

1918:  BANDLEADER SKITCH HENDERSON IS BORN.

He was on the Tonight Show before there was a Doc Severinsen.

1936:  ACTOR TROY DONAHUE IS BORN.

"Have you been bad with girls, Johnny?"

1943:  WORLD WAR II - THE VIII BOMBER COMMAND DISPATCHED NINETY-ONE B-24S TO ATTACH NAZI U-BOAT CONSTRUCTION SITES IN GERMANY.

Boom.

1945:  WORLD WAR II - THE RED ARMY LIBERATES THE REMAINED INMATES OF THE AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU CONCENTRATION CAMP IN POLAND.

Double boom.  

1948:  DANCER MIKHAIL BARYSHNIKOV IS BORN.

Yeah, I think he dances like...never...these days.

1961:  SOVIET SUBMARINE S-80 SINKS WITH ALL HANDS LOST.

Legs, however, were found.

1967:  ASTRONAUTS GUS GRISSOM, EDWARD WHITE, AND ROGER CHAFFEE ARE KILLED IN A FIRE DURING A TEST OF THEIR APOLLO 1 SPACECRAFT.

Huge setback at the time for the moon expedition.

1972:  SINGER MAHALIA JACKSON DIES.

Praise the Lord.

1973:  THE PARIS PEACE ACCORDS OFFICIALLY END THE VIETNAM WAR. COLONEL WILLIAM NOLDE IS KILLED IN ACTION, BECOMING THE LAST RECORDED CASUALTY OF THE WAR.

Not a distinction you want.

1984:  SINGER MICHAEL JACKSON SUFFERS SECOND DEGREE BURNS TO HIS SCALP DURING THE FILMING OF A PEPSI COMMERCIAL.

Quick, somebody get him a painkiller.

1993:  WRESTLER ANDRE THE GIANT DIES.

Timber!

1996:  GERMANY FIRST OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY.

It's about time.

2004:  TV HOST JACK PAAR DIES.

I kid you not.

2006:  WESTERN UNION DISCONTINUES ITS TELEGRAM SERVICE.

Does anybody ever remember receiving a telegram???

2007:  "I LOVE LUCY" WRITER BOB CARROLL JR. DIES.

One of those rare Wednesdays when I actually know somebody that I am writing about.   A really nice man.  He used to eat my writing partner's French fries.

2010:  ACTRESS ZELDA RUBINSTEIN DIES.

"This house is clean."

2010:  AUTHOR J.D. SALINGER DIES.

Everybody's favorite book report.

2011:  ARAB SPRING - THE YEMENI REVOLUTION BEGINS AS OVER 16,000 PROTESTORS DEMONSTRATE.

There are idiots in this country who actually thought this was a good thing.

2011:  COMIC CHARLIE CALLAS DIES.

Zoom.  Zoom.  A-zoom, zoom, zoom.

Dinner last night:  Leftover beef and broccoli.

  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Anti-Spotlight

As I wrote here several weeks ago, "Spotlight" is an excellent movie that will likely win the Oscar for Best Picture.   It's about real life journalists who go about their jobs using their heads.

"Truth" is a so-so movie about some real life journalists who go about their jobs using their hearts.  And, of course, the end result is the polar opposite of the conclusion of "Spotlight," as well it should be.  But, even in its floundering mediocrity, "Truth" raises some serious questions about the state of unbiased journalism in America.   And you can see very easily how far down the rabbit hole we have all fallen.

Realistically, there is no straight news reporting anymore.   That's probably why the ratings of nightly news shows are in the tank.   That's probably why one newspaper after another is closing.   There is no more journalism in America. Now it's nothing but opinions from pundits masquerading as news folks.   It's always fascinating to me how lambasted the likes of Fox News is.   The same clowns doing that are watching MSNBC, which is likely as biased as they come.   In the other direction.   It becomes harder and harder to seek and hear the..truth.

"Speaking of which, the movie "Truth" is hardly that.  The story is culled from a book by former CBS News producer Mary Mapes, played with the delicacy of a falling anvil by Cate Blanchett, is the basis of the script.   And that immediately taints the proceeding because, indeed, Mapes has a major axe to grind.  Back in 2004, she led an investigative team to do a little "got cha" on then-President George W. Bush who was seeking re-election.   The Republicans were mounting a major campaign on challenger John Kerry's bogus military exploits.   Mapes and gang try to prove that Bush had evaded going to Vietnam by getting preferential treatment to get into the Texas Air National Guard.   They get a story and Dan Rather reports it on the air.

Except, in their overzealousness, they miss a few steps in the story and the egg on their faces could make omelets for the entire state of Texas.  As you know, this all results in Mapes being investigated and Rather being put out to the Walter Cronkite pasture.

Indeed, these news folks got exactly what they deserved but they argue about being railroaded.  Seriously?   In the years that have passed, the news media has so totally gone off the rails that Mapes' faux pas now pales in bitter comparison.

The problem with "Truth" is that the source material from Mapes is one-sided.  You never get to see the other side of the issue, which "Spotlight" does with regard to the Boston priests.  As a result, you get half a story and much less of a movie.   

The other complaint about "Truth" is that the acting is incredibly stilted.   You never once believe these are real people.   They all resemble...well...actors who are craving that one big scene to put on their Oscar screener.  The worst of the lot is Robert Redford who never for a moment evokes any comparison to Dan Rather.   If the real Rather was as much as a dullard as he is depicted in the movie, it's a wonder that he held the CBS job as long as he did.

Still, if you see "Truth," you will think about the state of broadcast and print journalism on the way home.   And you will be depressed all over again.   

And that's the only real truth you will get from this film.

LEN'S RATING:  Two stars.

Dinner last night:  Grilled bratwurst with peppers and onions.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 25, 2016

A perfect example of how Audrey Meadows was the unsung hero of "The Honeymooners."

Dinner last night:  Slow cooked Chinese beef and broccoli with fried rice.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - And Then There Were None

Well, that sucks.

The news came out this week that the famed Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan would close its doors shortly.    It will be converted into a grand, high-end ballroom for corporate parties, etc..   Translation: an expensive catering hall.

And, as a result, the great media city of the world now has zero single screen movie palaces in the hub of Manhattan.   

If you're not wiping away tears, you should be.

Okay, admittedly, the Ziegfeld is not an old-time movie palace.   I mean, it was built in 1969.  But, inside there was the feel of one of those legendary cinema showplaces that had been around for a century.  It was opulent and majestic. And a fabulous place to see a movie.

It's actually criminal that the biggest media market of this country no longer has a grand movie theater.   Back in my parents' day and when I was a kid, it was oh so different.   "Downtown" was the place to go if you wanted to see the hot new fare from three thousand miles away.   All the big pictures opened in Manhattan first at places like Radio City Music Hall or the Rivoli or the Criterion.  And that was just in midtown.   On the classy upper east side, the fancier art and foreign films would open up at the Sutton or the Beekman.   

If you wanted to be among the first to see these new movies, you had to be at one of those places in Manhattan.  And my parents would drag me on the subway to do so from time to time.   But, for the most part, we would wait.   As the expression went...

"...till the movies come up by us."

Oh, eventually, they would.  And, at least in my hometown of Mount Vernon, New York, you had two glorious single screen movie palaces to relax in all to your self.   Loews' across the street from City Hall.   And the RKO Proctor around the corner on Gramatan Avenue and conveniently across the street from my orthodontist.  

But, Manhattan was the place for the newest first-run fare.  And it was where you wanted to be.

Sadly, no more.   And this is a major blight on New York City.  You've got plenty of 17 or 18-plexes.  But no palace now that the Ziegfeld is going south.  Indeed, the real villain in this piece is the guy who first had the idea of taking a big movie theater and chopping it into two screens.   I hope that dude is residing uncomfortably in Hell.

Waxing nostalgically on the Ziegfeld, I remember going down to it several times during college with pals to see whatever summer blockbuster had just come out.  Later on, it was the place where classic movie restorations had their world premieres and I got to relish in a couple of those.

"Spartacus" with Tony Curtis in attendance.

"Vertigo" with Kim Novak present and accounted for.  I later got to meet her at a similar function in Hollywood.

"Lawrence of Arabia" in 70 MM where you could actually feel the heat of the sand under your feet.   It played the Ziegfeld for a month and I know that both daily showings were sellouts.

And there was the premiere of the restored "My Fair Lady" when my friend, in his haste to meet singer Marni Nixon, literally knocked...wait for it...Donald Trump back into his seat.   Meanwhile, I was on the concession line at intermission and discovered that the film co-star Theodore Bikel was right behind me waiting for his buttered popcorn.

Later on, I was hanging out a lot on weekends around the Upper West Side and, when we were looking for a movie, we always first checked the paper to see what was playing at the Ziegfeld.  I mean, you can go to a multiplex up in Yonkers.   When in Manhattan, you wanted to do your movie viewing the best way possible.

No more.

Los Angeles, at least, has done it right.   There are still single screen classic theaters all around town.   In Westwood, the Fox and the Bruin.   The Nuart still thrives.   And, of course, the restored Egyptian and Aero Theaters which still run classic films all the time.   As a matter of fact, they are both featuring a 70 MM festival over the next two weeks.   I will be hitting the Egyptian next week for a screening of "Ben-Hur."

Something you can't do in New York anymore.   Thanks so much for the good times, Ziegfeld Theater.   You will be missed.

Dinner last night:  Scrambled egg whites with Taylor Ham and cheddar cheese.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - January 2016

Released fifty years ago this month.   Not the greatest Billy Wilder comedy but still watchable.

Dinner last night:  Roasted vegetable salad at CPK.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Your Weekend Movie Guide for January 2016

Check out this nifty ad for "Ben-Hur."  Playing at the Egyptian Theater back in the day.   Probably in 70 MM.  Well, next week at the same venue, "Ben-Hur" will be playing in 70 MM.  Now that's movie magic and count me in.

As for the fare in local theaters this weekend, count me skeptical.  Yes, there are the Oscar nominated films.  But also...tons and tons of crap.  You know the drill, boys and girls.   I'll skim through the LA Times entertainment pages and give you my knee-jerk reaction to what's playing at the local trash heaps.

Meanwhile, I can't wait to see that chariot race again.

Creed:  Blog review coming.  A movie that gets counted out in the second round.

Carol:   On my list to see as there are multiple Oscar nominations.   But people I know who have seen it...well...the word is not positive.

Brooklyn:  Reviewed here recently.  Should really be titled "Ireland."

The Big Short:  Reviewed here just the other day.   A good movie that will make you want to put your life savings underneath your mattress.

Bridge of Spies:   I missed this because it was released when I fractured my knee cap.  Trying to get a screener since friends have told me how good it is.

Concussion:  Blog review coming.  Spoiler alert:  Will Smith still can't act.

The Danish Girl:  Is it me or are there now too many trans gendering stories?And why did this site just tell me that I misspelled that word?

The Hateful Eight:  It's Quentin Tarantino so I supposed the word "hateful" fits.

13 Hours:  The movie the Clintons don't want you to see.   Bill and Hillary will be next door watching "Sisters."

The Revenant:  I hear it's not exactly an episode of "Paddington Bears."

Ride Along 2:  Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Ken Jeong, and Definitely Not Me.

Point Break:  So I guess it's time to remake Keanu Reeves movies?

Star Wars - The Force Awakens:  How was the box office for this?

Joy:  Blog review coming.   A movie totally driven by the lead performance.

Room:  Blog review coming.   God, I have these reviews stacked up like LaGuardia Airport on a Friday night.

In the Heart of the Sea:  A rare Ron Howard bust.   Probably showing on United Airlines already.

Spotlight:  I still think this will win Best Picture next month.

Trumbo:  I hear it's only worth going to see Bryan Cranston's performance.

Youth:  Michael Caine makes a movie a week.

The Lady in the Van:  It's got Maggie Smith as a cranky old lady.   Such out-of-the-box casting.

The Martian:   The Golden Globes had it up for Best Comedy or Musical???!!!

Mustang:  I hear it's about neither a horse or a convertible.

Son of Saul:  Is this anything like "Son of Godzilla?"

45 Years:  Charlotte Rampling is Oscar-nominated for this lady in a troubled marriage.   Screener please.

The Good Dinosaur:  Obviously not a raptor.

Anomalisa:  One of those creepy adult-oriented cartoons.   Paging Fred and Wilma.

Dirty Grandpa:  Robert DeNiro is the American version of Michael Caine.  He also makes a movie a week.

The Abandoned:  A single mom works as a night security guard.   So I guess her children at home are the title of the movie?

Exposed:  Every politician running for President in 2016.

Anesthesia:   A great name for a movie if it's very boring.

The Benefactor:  Richard Gere is a secretive guy who becomes entwined with a young couple.   Seriously, that's the logline.   It says nothing to me.

Daddy's Home:  This world is still not free of Will Ferrell or ISIS.

Krampus:  What you get when the back of your leg hurts and you can't spell.

Sisters:   I have it on good authority that this Tina Fey/Amy Poehler film is a toxic spill.

Norm of the North:  A cartoon about a friendly polar beat who goes to NY.   "The Revenant Goes to Manhattan."

Dinner last night:  Turkey meatballs and salad.



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Not So Affordable Health Care

Most of you know that I had a lousy year in 2015, health-wise.   This was all due to an elusive gallstone and then a fractured knee cap.  Regarding the former, I am not told that the radiologist misread a report in April and totally missed the gallstone which was later rediscovered in November and then zapped out in December.  This idiot ultimately put me through tons of anguish...

...and lots and lots of medical bills, which have finally started to arrive.

Here's the deal.   As an independent person, I paid for my health insurance all by my lonesome.   This amounts to a monthly bill of about 600 bucks a month.   And that's with a deductible of 5000 greenbackerinos.  So, anything up to that amount, I have to cover.

That worked well for all the years I was healthy.  Until 2015.   And then you discover all the things that are not covered and don't contribute to that already astronomical deductible.

You can imagine how this all piled up.

Seven primary care doctor visits.

Four visits to my gastro guy.

One visit to an orthopedist who ultimately sent me to another orthopedist for two more visits.

One knee immobilizer which I am told is not covered by insurance because it is a medical device with heavy tax due to Obamacare.

Two MRIs of the abdomen.

One ultrasound of the abdomen.

One nuclear fusion test.   Sounds cool, right?  It, too, was expensive.

X-rays of my fractured knee on three different occasions.

One emergency room visit for the aforementioned knee.

One shot of morphine in the aforementioned emergency room.

One endoscopy to remove said gallstone.

You can get to $5000 pretty damn fast.  Except some of the above is off the table for coverage due to....wait for it...Obamacare.

So who's the culprit here?   The insurance company?   The medical facilities?  A health care system that now favors only the destitute?   None of the above?

Actually, it's all of the above.   And I am now drowning in paperwork that I don't understand.

Let's face it.  The Affordable Health Care Act is really geared for the completely destitute or those on government assistance.  Even if I was interested in going that route, I don't qualify.  And besides all of my regular doctors told me they don't work with those exchanges.  

What's a gallstone to do?

I have no answers to the problem facing a lot of Americans.  It's totally out of my skill set and pay grade.   I just know that I am now one of them folks who are struggling to deal with a system that clearly does not work.   And I've got the bills to prove it.

Dinner last night:  Leftover spaghetti.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

This Date in History - January 20

Happy birthday, Arte Johnson.   Want a Walnetto?

250:  EMPEROR DECIUS BEGINS A WIDESPREAD PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IN ROME.   POPE FABIAN IS MARTYRED.

Cardinal Bobby Rydell was spared.

1265:  THE FIRST ENGLISH PARLIAMENT TO INCLUDE NOT ONLY LORDS BUT ALSO REPRESENTATIVES OF THE MAJOR TOWNS HOLDS ITS FIRST MEETING, NOW KNOWN AS THE HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT.

That had to be on my very first world history quiz.

1576:  THE MEXICAN CITY OF LEON IS FOUNDED.

So?

1649:  CHARLES I OF ENGLAND GOES ON TRIAL FOR TREASON AND OTHER "HIGH CRIMES."

I want to know what those high crimes constitute.

1788:  THE THIRD AND MAIN PART OF FIRST FLEET ARRIVES AT BOTANY BAY.  THEY DECIDE THAT IT IS UNSUITABLE FOR THE LOCATION OF A PENAL COLONY.

Is it me or is January 20 a pretty boring day in history?

1841:  HONG KONG ISLAND IS OCCUPIED BY THE BRITISH.

Those Brits sure did get their mitts around some nifty cities and countries.

1887:  THE UNITED STATES SENATE ALLOWS THE NAVY TO LEASE PEARL HARBOR AS A NAVAL BASE.

Let us know how that works out.

1894:  CARTOONIST HAROLD GRAY IS BORN.

And, in a way, so is Little Orphan Annie.

1896:  COMIC GEORGE BURNS IS BORN.

Made it all the way to 100, he did.

1920:  ACTOR DEFOREST KELLEY IS BORN.

Beamed up.

1920:  THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION IS FOUNDED.

Troublemakers.

1929:  COMIC ARTE JOHNSON IS BORN.

Vvvvery interesting.   Because I thought he was dead.

1930:  ASTRONAUT BUZZ ALDRIN IS BORN.

One small step.  Oh, wait...that was the other guy.

1937:  ACTRESS DOROTHY PROVINE IS BORN.

She was kind of hot back in the day.

1941:  A GERMAN OFFICER IS MURDERED IN BUCHAREST, ROMANIA, SPARKING A REBELLION AND POGROM BY THE IRON GUARD.

Pogrom always looks misspelled.

1942:  WORLD WAR II - SENIOR NAZI GERMAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE "FINAL SOLUTION TO THE JEWISH QUESTION."

Diabolical bastards.

1945:  WORLD WAR II - THE MIKLOS PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF HUNGARY AGREES TO AN ARMISTICE WITH THE ALLIES.

Who was worried about Hungary as a world threat??

1946:  DIRECTOR DAVID LYNCH IS BORN.

Who did kill Laura Palmer?

1949:  POINT FOUR PROGRAM, ECONOMIC AID TO POOR COUNTRIES, IS ANNOUNCED BY PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN IN HIS INAUGURAL ADDRESS.  

What about poor people here?

1954:  IN THE US, THE NATIONAL NEGRO NETWORK IS ESTABLISHED WITH 40 RADIO STATIONS.

Hey, that's an N word, too.

1956:  TV HOST BILL MAHER IS BORN.

Idiot.

1958:  ACTOR LORENZO LAMAS IS BORN.

Son of Fernando Lamas and Arlene Dahl.

1981:  TWENTY MINUTES AFTER RONALD REAGAN IS INAUGURATED, IRAN RELEASES 52 AMERICAN HOSTAGES.

The basic FU to Jimmy Carter.

1984:  ACTOR JOHNNY WEISSMULLER DIES.

Cheeta was devastated.

1986:  IN THE US, MARTIN LUTHER KING JR DAY IS CELEBRATED AS A FEDERAL HOLIDAY FOR THE FIRST TIME.

And will continue...as long as it's on a Monday.

1990:  ACTRESS BARBARA STANWYCK DIES.

Alleged had a long time affair with Agnes Moorehead.

1991:  SUDAN'S GOVERNMENT IMPOSES ISLAMIC LAW NATIONWIDE, WORSENING THE CIVIL WAR IN THE COUNTRY.

Like it's out of today's headlines.

1993:  ACTRESS AUDREY HEPBURN DIES.

No breakfast today.

1998:  WRESTLER BOBO BRAZIL DIES.

Inventor of the famed Cocoa Butt in the head.

2007:  A THREE-MAN TEAM, USING ONLY SKIS AND KITES, COMPLETES A 1,093-MILE TREK TO REACH THE SOUTHERN POLE OF INACCESSIBILITY FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1958 AND FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER WITHOUT MECHANICAL ASSISTANCE.

And this is a big deal why?

2012:  SINGER ETTA JAMES DIES.

At last.

Dinner last night:  Leftover pulled pork.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why We Hate Banks, Lesson 1

So I went to a movie and my 10th grade Economics class broke out.   That's sort of like what "The Big Short" feels like.   Except there was no quiz at the end.   

Indeed, in some mysterious way, "The Big Short" managed to take a dry and often confusing subject and make it reasonably understandable for those of us who haven't thought about finance since...well...10th grade Economics.   For the director Adam McKay to do that is absolute magic.   Because when he needs to explain some intricate financial situation to the audience, he cuts away to a porn star taking a bubble bath.  Or chef Anthony Bourdain in a kitchen making a pasta sauce.  If only the porn star was available for my 10th grade Economic class.   I mean, Mrs. Auerbach was pretty hot but she didn't do skin flicks.

"The Big Short" is one of those many movies out these days that are "based on a true story."  But, of course, we all know this one because most of us lived through it very recently.   The 2007-2008 housing meltdown and ultimate financial crash from which...I am sorry to those who believe otherwise...the country has never ever rebounded.  This movie tells the story of five or six bankers and/or investment brokers who foresaw the mortgage system collapse and either did nothing about it.   Or chose to make money off it. 

The folks depicted are all allegedly real people and they have the lousy wigs to prove it.  Steve Carell and that always loopy Christian Bale, in particular, sport hair styles that would be upgraded after a visit to Fantastic Sam's.   Frankly, I'm surprised that I enjoyed this movie as much as I did, given the presence of three actors I totally despise...the aforementioned Carell and Bale plus the always annoying Brad Pitt.   Still, as an entertainment piece, "The Big Short" is quite serviceable and even gets genuine laughs in certain scenes.

Perhaps that is a problem with the film in general.   Many of the folks in the audience laughed along as the evil banks maneuvered their way out of this calamity.   But, in reality, this was no laughing matter to those who lost homes and jobs in a very short amount of time.  Maybe the laughter that ensues from "The Big Short" is a little too soon.

Another quibble I have with the movie is the fact that the federal government's hand in giving out mortgages to people who were totally unqualified to be home owners is totally glossed over.   Let's face it, the seeds of this collapse started way back in the days of Jimmy Carter and Freddie and Fanny Mac and whatever else those bogus loans were called.   That fact is hardly addressed in "The Big Short" and, given the political leanings of Hollywood, that should be no surprise at all.

Still, if you can get past that fact check, "The Big Short" is amazingly watchable and understandable.   Plus there is a wonderful "Crazy Stupid Love" reunion in the film with the likes of Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Marisa Tomei.  That alone is worth the price of admission.

And I never got any cast reunions back in 10th grade with Mrs. Auerbach.

LEN'S RATING:  Three stars.

Dinner last night:  Spaghetti and meat balls.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 18, 2016

A classic scene from "I Love Lucy".....65 years old this year!

Dinner last night:  Barbecue pork ribs, rice, and cucumber salad.