Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Six Flags Over the Wrong Person

Ah, what wonderful memories.   Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.

Not.   

Here's a Sunday Memory Drawer callback.   All because I saw a commercial on TV about Six Flags Magic Mountain in California.   A place I went to once and will never go back to again.   But that should be no surprise.

Because I hate, absolutely detest any Six Flags amusement park.  I was never a big fan when I was in the correct demographic.  Now a bit older, I couldn't fathom ever visiting one of these places again.  The more thrills a ride offers, the less likely I am to go on it.  The funny thing is that I would tackle a roller coaster or something similar at a Disney park.  As long as I'm not suspended upside down in mid-air, I'll do it.  At a place with the mouse ears.  But, at a Six Flags dump?  Forget it.

This is not to say that I didn't frequent one back in the day.  Right after college, the aforementioned Great Adventure opened in Jackson, New Jersey.  A schlep certainly from the New York metropolitan area, but you made it if a group was going and perhaps, once again, you were trying to get...ahem...close to somebody.  What better place to forge a romantic and maybe even intimate bond while somebody is throwing up onto your sneakers?  Ah, those are the moments that create wonderful relationships.

Except there was one female friend that I went to Great Adventure with, not once but twice.  Despite the fact that I didn't learn my lesson the first time.  Two incredibly miserable days that have discolored my memories of Six Flags Great Adventure for eternity.

Okay, maybe I was a little dumb back then.   This was somebody that I actually liked.  Maybe even in that way which leads to serious dating and then selecting a fabric for living room curtains.  In retrospect, what the hell was I thinking?  But, concentrating on where I was at the time, she was probably as cute as a button. 

Oh, how the mind...and your vision...can play cruel tricks on you.

Well, anyway, it was a summer day right after college graduation.  A time when I should have been looking for gainful employment and a possibly worthwhile career.  Nah, I took July and August off.  And used my free time to live it up.  Heck, I had the rest of my life to be responsible.  I needed to goof off for a bit.

One of those time wasters was an excursion to Great Adventure.  And this would be one of those rare stellar events where my best friend and college roommate would take in the amusement park with a couple of other friends.  They just happened to be girls.  There was no pairing off here.  Just four folks going on some rides. 

Okay, well, maybe I did have a slight agenda. 

But, as luck and age would have it, my college roommate and I tended to be a little annoying on this day.  Fooling around.  Making fun of some of the other people in the park.  And, for some bizarre reason, constantly trying to step on the back of each other's sneakers.

We were college graduates in diploma only. 

All day long, we were each working hard to trip up the other.  Stupid, I know, but there would be plenty of time for civility when we got jobs.  For now, this was our complete focus.  Getting each other to almost fall down.

So, as we went through those chain link mazes that arranged the lines of people waiting to board a ride, we'd step on each other's sneakers.   At one point, he slammed down so hard on the back of my foot that it propelled me forward with a lurch.  Convinced I was going to fall over and fast, I put my hands out to grab onto anything.  For some reason that I can't explain, my right hand was clenched in a fist.

Innocently, my would-be girlfriend happened to be following the chain link maze in the other direction. 

Her face and my fist had a rendezvous.  The meeting place was her jaw. 

Whack!!

I had accidentally punched her in the face.

Like a good sparring partner, the force of my hand made her wobble, but she never went down.  I hadn't scored a technical knockout, but, regardless, I immediately began to apologize profusely.  It wasn't my fault.  My roommate had tripped me.  Blame him.  Are you okay?  Is there anything I can do?

"No, I'm fine."

Ah, good, she was trying to be a trooper.  Or so I thought.

For the rest of the day, we relived this drama over and over and over and over.  Every time I looked at her, she was rubbing her jaw.  Moving it from side to side to make sure it still worked.  And reminding me at every single moment that I had socked her in the face.  I was feeling bad enough as it was.  Although she kept reassuring me that she was fine, she couldn't stop talking about the incident.  I was getting to the point where I wanted to belt her jaw again and, this time, do it so she couldn't possibly speak another word.

Effectively, the day at Six Flags Great Adventure had been ruined.

Let's flash forward to a year later and another example of how I never learn my lesson.  Back to Six Flags Great Adventure.  With the same girl.  This time, I'm bopping along with said person's sister and her own boyfriend.  Luckily, he and I did not have the type of relationship where we felt comfortable stepping on each other's sneakers.

Sadly, that might have been the highlight of the day.

This was one of those summer dates where heat and humidity fit over the New York City metropolitan area like OJ's glove that was one size too small.  You touched something and you were instantly glued to it by the moisture.  A perfect day to sample the water rides at an amusement park.  And, with its enormous log flume ride, Great Adventure was beckoning to us.  I couldn't wait to go on this and get as wet as possible.

Apparently, I was the only one.

"Do we really want to go on the log flume?"

Huh?

I was quite nice asking why she was so reticent.  What I really wanted to ask was....

Are you freakin' kidding me???  It's 150 fucking degrees outside and the best way to cool off is to get sprayed with oodles of water.  Why the hell did you come here anyway?   To sit in a hot car and go through the safari land???  We can't do that anyway because my father's Buick has a vinyl top and the baboons like to eat the glue that holds that down.  You stupid pain in the ass!!!

Or something like that. 

I was oddly persistent and I'm not sure why.  Maybe it was just that hot.

I must have been fairly persuasive because she ultimately caved in and went on the log flume.  The big drop at the end of the ride would be just the start of my problems for the rest of the day.

As luck and fate would have it, my friend was the one who got the soaking on the ride.  I mean, Poseidon-Adventure-Shelley-Winters-drowning wet.  On a hot day like this, you'd dry in thirty seconds.

Nope.  She immediately got off the ride and ran into the bathroom sobbing.  Her sister scurried after her.

Uh oh.  I'll go sit in the car.  Maybe with the windows rolled up.

A few minutes passed as I sheepishly waited in a puddle.  Finally, the sister emerged and I was in her cross hairs.

"Nice job.  Now she's drenched and you have no idea what a problem this is causing because she's in the middle of having her period right now and this ride messed everything up and you should be more sensitive and be aware of things like this."

Ummmm......

Now I wish somebody was stepping on the back of my sneakers again so I could fall forever and punch them both in the mouth.

How the heck was I supposed to know any of this?  Is this published information?  Do I look in the New York Daily News every morning for an update?  National League batting averages, Belmont racing results, and, oh yeah, a listing of those women smack in the worst part of their menstrual cycles.

Effectively, another day at Six Flags Great Adventure had been ruined.  While I did go back there several other times, I always was on my best behavior.  The bad memories were always lingering. 

And I always made sure to ask the question if I happened to be going there with a female.

How are you feeling today?  Really?

Hmm, as I flashback to these bitter memories, I now remember there was one more ill-fated incident with this pain-in-the-anus.   And I happened right here in sunny California.

Come back next week for the rest of the story.

Dinner last night:  Grilled cheese sandwich at the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Classic Musical Comedy Production Number of the Month - July 2016

Woo hoo!  A five Saturday month.  We get to enjoy a classic production number from Broadway or film.  And tonight, I will be seeing the Hollywood Bowl rendition of "A Chorus Line."

Dinner last night:  Ham French dip sandwich at Philippe's.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Attention: Proof Readers












Dinner last night:  Barbecue chopped salad.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Like Being Punched in the Stomach All Over Again

But, despite the title above, it's a feeling you might want to experience again. Because, from my vantage point, this was a moment in American history where everything started to change.

For the worse.

Most people will never forget where they were when the OJ Simpson trial verdict was announced.  And, on that very day, our nation became polarized for eternity.   Or as long as this country will exist as a free country.  My guess that is about fifty years.   It's hard to believe how much impact it had.  And all for a common murderer who was as dumb as a post and really only had one single talent in life.   He could run fast.

ESPN has put together this magnificent documentary and it is a must see, even if you think you heard it all about OJ and the trial.    Trust me, I learned so much.   The movie is really over seven hours long and would have been a really long sit when it was released in theaters about a month ago.   But, they have also sliced it into five 90-minute portions that are easy to digest on demand.

However you view it, do so.   You will be riveted and it is the ultimate binge watching experience.

No need to rehash the events of it all.   But, for the first time, you get an exhaustive and compelling look at all aspects of OJ and the subsequent trial and acquittal for two ghastly murders which...you bet...he did commit.  Indeed, it is the first official playing of the race card in America and you will see how that all unfolded from key voices on the sides of both the prosecution and the defense.   Truth be told, OJ could have murdered five other people and he still would have gotten off.    

Film maker Ezra Edelman shows you in great detail how the past work of the LA Police and the Rodney King incident had a direct impact on letting this despicable human being out of jail.   Of course, the irony is that he wound up back in prison for a crime much less heinous.   The good news is that we are rid of this piece of shit for a good long time.

It's noteworthy that the race card got OJ free when he himself hated his own kind.   As you learn from the film, he was being driven away in a police car after being arrested at home.   He saw the throngs of his supporters lining the streets and was quoted....

"Who let all these ni%^ers in Brentwood?"

Learning every angle and facet of this case in this superlative film, you will meet some other despicable characters who are unfortunately still among us.   
For instance, Juror Carrie Bess, who admitted that she voted not guilty solely because of Rodney King.  Or a member of the defense team, Carl Douglas, who is the epitome of the sleazy lawyer.   Or some of the low lifes and dirt bags that like be around OJ because they...gulp...idolized him.

It's all there in this movie.  In black and white.   I guess the pun is intended.

Devote your time to this film.   Because it's as much a part of our American history as the drafting of the Constitution, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11.

LEN'S RATING:   Four stars.

Dinner last night:  Leftover London broil.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

This Date in History - July 27

Where would we be without Norman Lear?  See the new documentary about him.

1214:  DURING THE BATTLE OF BOUVINES, PHILIP II OF FRANCES DEFEATS JOHN OF ENGLAND.

The winner went up against Bruno Sammartino of Italy.

1549:  THE JESUIT PRIEST FRANCIS XAVIER'S SHIP REACHES JAPAN.

It doesn't specifically say that Francis Xavier got there at the same time.  Or at all.

1663;  DURING THE GLORIOUS REVOLUTION, THE BATTLE OF KILLIECRANKIE ENDS.

Included only because the word "Killiecrankie" makes me smile.

1694:  A ROYAL CHARTER IS GRANTED TO THE BANK OF ENGLAND.

Killiecrankie.  Yep, still smiling.

1794:  DURING THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, MAXIMILIEN ROBESPIERRE IS ARRESTED AFTER ENCOURAGING THE EXECUTION OF MORE THAN 17,000 ENEMIES OF THE REVOLUTION.

17,000?  Talk about overkill.

1866:  THE ATLANTIC CABLE IS SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED, ALLOWING TRANSATLANTIC TELEGRAPH COMMUNICATION FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Okay, one last smile.  Killiecrankie.  :)

1905:  BASEBALL MANAGER LEO DUROCHER IS BORN.

Sixty-four years later, he had a really shitty summer.

1919:  THE CHICAGO RACE RIOTS ERUPTS, LEADING TO 38 FATALITIES AND 537 INJURIES OVER A FIVE-DAY PERIOD.

How's that community organizing look now?

1922:  TV PRODUCER NORMAN LEAR IS BORN.

And I still miss "All in the Family" to this day.  Boy, wouldn't you like to hear what Archie Bunker has to say about politics in 2016?

1931:  ACTOR JERRY VAN DYKE IS BORN.

Solely around to keep his more talented brother company.

1940:  THE ANIMATED SHORT "A WILD HARE" IS RELEASED, INTRODUCING THE CHARACTER OF BUGS BUNNY.

This should be a national holiday.

1942:  DURING WORLD WAR II, ALLIED FORCES SUCCESSFULLY HALT THE FINAL AXIS ADVANCE INTO EGYPT.

Why was anybody going to that shithole in the first place?

1949:  ACTOR MAURY CHAYKIN IS BORN.

Don't know who he is?  No worries.  The joke pays off a little later.

1949:  INITIAL FLIGHT OF THE DE HAVILLAND COMET, THE FIRST JET-POWERED AIRLINER.

Olivia had her own airline?

1974:  THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES JUDICIARY COMMITTEE VOTES 27 TO 11 TO RECOMMEND THE FIRST ARTICLE OF IMPEACHMENT AGAINST PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON.

Start counting the days, Dick.

1981:  SIX-YEAR-OLD ADAM WALSH, SON OF JOHN WALSH, IS KIDNAPPED IN HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA AND IS FOUND MURDERED TWO WEEKS LATER.

And, as a result, the kid's father wound up with a long run as a TV show host.

1981:  DIRECTOR WILLIAM WYLER DIES.

Not the best day or the best year of his life.

1984:  ACTOR JAMES MASON DIES.

A star is born and then ultimately dies.

1988:  INVENTOR FRANK ZAMBONI DIES.

Now he's really on ice.

1996:  IN ATLANTA, A PIPE BOMB EXPLODES DURING THE 1996 SUMMER OLYMPICS.

And that was the only interesting thing to happen at those games.

2003:  COMEDIAN BOB HOPE DIES.

My writing partner contends that he really died several months earlier but they kept up this scam so the press could celebrate his 100th birthday in May.    I don't deal with a lot of normal people.

2010:  ACTOR MAURY CHAYKIN DIES.

Now that's what I call feng shui.

2012:  THE OPENING CEREMONY FOR THE SUMMER OLYMPICS IN LONDON TAKES PLACE.

Didn't this just happen?

2012:  SINGER TONY MARTIN DIES.

Mr. Cyd Charisse.

Dinner last night: Super Dodger Dog.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Don't Bothering Calling

It's been so long that I barely remember whether or not I liked the original "Ghostbusters."   I know I only saw it once.   I guess that means my feelings toward it were largely ambivalent.

But, I'm certainly not sitting on the fence about the 2016 reboot.   Yep, I hated it.   Because when you pay $15 for a night out at the cinema, you want to see something a little bit more than a SNL sketch with lots and lots and lots of computer graphics.   But, then again, this whole thing might be produced by Lorne Michaels.

Original Ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd is listed as producer.  The cast includes such SNL stalwarts as Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Cecily Strong.   Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson are back with cameos.   So is the catchy hit title song.   I mean, what could go wrong?

Sharpen your pencil.   We're going to make a list.

First off, the comedy in the new "Ghostbusters" is pretty much third-grade level.   Plus the story attached to it all is unintelligible.   Once again, there are slime-spitting ghosts loose all over New York City.   And an all-girl team of busters are on the case.   They go here.  They zap some ghosts.   They go there.   They zap some ghosts.  That is pretty much all there is for a plot.

Meanwhile, there may or may not have been some time travel in this movie. For a minute, it appears we're back at a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade circa 1930.   Then, throughout the climax in Times Square, check out the movies playing at the local theater.

"Fists of Fury" with Bruce Lee.

"Willard."

Even the 60s Broadway stage hit "Beyond the Fringe."   

You'll certainly be scratching your head as much as I did.   I asked my theater companion what if my snores had disturbed her.  Surely, I must have missed about ten or twenty minutes of plot.  Or maybe a 60s and 70s Times Square matte painting was all the producers had for a green screen.

The performances are not much better.   Wiig is surprisingly subdued, but the reliably annoying Melissa McCarthy is pretty much her usual one-note self, although we are thankful that she was kept on a "F bomb" ration in this one.   Meanwhile, Kate McKinnon walks through the whole film, either intentionally or unintentionally doing her Hillary Clinton impersonation.   Surely, McKinnon can do something else.   Right?  Right??  Right???

As I said, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson show up to help us remember there were original Ghostbusters.  Oh, look, there's Sigourney Weaver for ten seconds.  Indeed, the lucky one might be Harold Ramis, who was spared the injustice of participation because...well...he died.

And then there's Leslie Jones from SNL.   You may know that she's gotten a lot of flack on Twitter for some of her outlandish and racist remarks.   Well, she doesn't deserve that kind of treatment.  But her performance here is nothing short of a Buckwheat or Farina turn from the old Little Rascals.  Next time she or anybody else complains about the lack of diversity in films, we need to remind them all of Miss Jones' acting choices in this movie.   Shame, shame, shame on you, Leslie.   And anybody else who essayed up a character that takes us back to the days of Stepin Fetchit.

So, you see, there is absolutely nothing worthwhile in this reboot of "Ghostbusters" except, of course, if the outside temperature is 100 and your air conditioner at home is broken.   But, even then, you might be better off sweating it out in your living room.

LEN'S RATING:  One-half star.

Dinner last night:  Grilled steak salad.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 25, 2016

Even dogs like water parks.

Dinner last night:  London broil, noodles, and salad.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Garry Marshall Reminds Me That....

The passing of a celebrity is now a routine event in Hollywood.   It seems like one departs every week.   Most register a blink of an eye from me.   Not Garry Marshall.   Here's somebody we should all salute.

Okay, right from the get-go, Marshall got Len's Lifetime Achievement Award for bringing us "The Odd Couple" with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman.   But, looking at the large body of work he leaves behind, it's clear that Garry Marshall's TV stuff was never going to win Emmys.   And, save for perhaps the critically-acclaimed "Pretty Woman," he wasn't going to win any Oscars either.

And, from the looks of it, Garry Marshall was probably okay with that.  Because he focused on making crowd-pleasing entertainment.   Funny and light.  Hokey and sentimental.   All of it geared to make you smile and cry a little at the end when two main characters hug.

Frankly, there's nothing wrong with that.   

His recent movies were perfect examples of these Marshall-esque productions. They were all centered around an American holiday and were ideal for all those folks who still frequent Hallmark card stores.  These things got skewered by the critics.   Well, I caught up to most of them and...well...I enjoyed each and every one of them.   Of course, they all featured sloppy sentimentality.  But I'd certainly see one of them ahead of seeing the latest "comedy" from the likes of Judd Apatow.   

Who's so bad about seeing something that is comfortable?   I think Garry Marshall had his finger on that very button of America.    That's it is not so bad to be mindlessly entertained.

Marshall wasn't just behind the screen either.   This goofy Italian kid from the Bronx with the funny voice made it all work in his favor with some truly classic comedic turns.   Watch him as the network boss in "Soapdish" or the baseball owner in sister Penny's "A League of Their Own" or the casino manager in Albert Brooks' "Lost in America."   Sheer brilliance.  

And, personally for me, his funniest moments were playing another network boss, Stan Lansing, during the last couple of seasons of "Murphy Brown." Indeed, Garry rewrote and improv-ed his lines there into words that were clearly not on the written page.   I was there.   I saw this happen in front of my eyes.   And, with each take of each scene, Marshall made it funnier and funnier.

But, as I reflected on Garry Marshall's passing this week, I was immediately drawn to one movie that he did which I will never forget.   Most of you probably have by now.
It wasn't a huge moneymaker and certainly not a darling of the critics, as I look back on its history.   But, last Wednesday night, it was the Garry Marshall movie that pulled from my DVD library for another watch.   Because this is the film that resonated with me because...well...it was about me.

Oh, not exactly me.   But no movie has come close to capturing a few years of my life better than "Nothing in Common."

If you are not familiar with it, a very young Tom Hanks is starting out his career in advertising and the media...just like I did.   He's an only child...just like I was.  He's on a roll and nothing can stop him....just like I thought.   But, suddenly, the phone rings and he learns that his parents, played by Jackie Gleason and Eva Marie Saint, are divorcing.

And life changes...just like it did for me.

It's the moment that happens to a lot of us.  That passage of life when roles reverse.   The child becomes the parent.  The parent becomes the child.   When you're an only, you feel it even more.  There is loneliness.   There is no one to turn to when one or both of your parents become ill.   In this film, Jackie Gleason's character faces critical surgery.  Indeed, Gleason himself was ill and would die a short while after the film was made.   As a matter of fact, I read that Jackie was reluctant to do the movie and kept refusing until Garry Marshall reminded him of something.

"Do you really want the last movie you ever made to be 'Smokey and the Bandit'?"

Gleason signed on immediately.

There is so much in this movie that reminded me of my life the first time I saw it.   Thanks to illness, both my parents got old at a relatively young age.   And I was on call.  

"I lost my contact lens."

"I can't find my driver's license."

"I'm out of toilet tissue."

It all happened to Hanks in the film.  It all happened to me in real life.   And somehow Garry Marshall melded it together in a way in which we were one in the same.   It was all there.   The emotions.   The loneliness.   The ultimate gratification that I wouldn't have wanted to serve my folks in any other way.

There is one moment in the movie that repeated itself verbatim in my life.   Jackie Gleason's character and my dad uttered the same line.

They're both going into surgery the next morning.   I was there in the room with my dad.   And, just like Jackie Gleason's character, my father said the exact same thing.

"Go home.   Let me get some rest so I can enjoy the operation tomorrow."

My eyes glistened again when I saw this scene last week.   For more than one reason.

I wish I had mentioned this movie to Garry Marshall when I met him.   But, unfortunately, it was between scenes of a "Murphy Brown" episode.   As timing would have it, the intro happened when we were both standing in front of urinals in the bathroom.  And, almost like it was written, I won't forget his words to me as we finished our discussion and our peeing.

"Let's both wash up before we shake hands."

Dinner last night:   Tuna melt at the Arclight Cafe.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - July 2016

The very first time we were afraid to go into the water.

Dinner last night:  Grilled beef knockwurst, potato salad, and pickled beets.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Don't You Love the New York Post?












Dinner last night:  Salad bar.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Len's Recipe of the Month - July 2016

Back when I was a kid, there was a German delicatessen on the corner of 238th Street and White Plains Road in the Bronx.   It was really no different from any other delicatessen, but, for some strange reason, they made really, really good German potato salad.

The place went out of business when I was in college, but I have craved that taste ever since.   And wanted desperately to duplicate it.

I sought out recipes on-line.  Then, I asked for the counsel of the lady who runs the German cold cut store here in Los Angeles.   I've talked about that place before.   Johnny Mathis buys his bratwurst there.

So I pulled together all this info and adapted it myself.   On the very first try, I got the taste that I was looking for.   Nailed it.  And now I will share this with you in the event that this summer has you craving some German potato salad.   Lots of folks like it served warm.   For me, chilled in the refrigerator is the way to go.

Here's how you do it.   

Take three medium-sized potatoes and peel them.   Use Yukon Gold as they offer the best flavor.

Take a mandolin and...  What?  You don't have a mandolin??  Well, go down to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and buy one, for God's sake.

Carefully slice the potatoes in medium-sized slivers.  Watch your fingers.   That's the problem with owning a mandolin.

Take all the potato slices and dump them in a pot of boiling salted water.   Let them cook for about 20 to 30 minutes.   Go fold your laundry and check your e-mail.

Drain the potatoes in a colander.   What?  You don't have a colander??   What the hell are you doing in a kitchen???  Anyway, let the potato slices cool in the sink, which is where I hope you put your colander.

While that is happening, take four slices of bacon and crisp them up in a pan.   When done, let them cool on a paper towel.   Save the drippings.   You will want to use them.

So you've got potatoes cooling and bacon draining.   Now slice up a medium sized red onion into small bits.  

In a measuring cup, pour 3/4 of a cup of apple cider vinegar.   Don't use balsamic or white vinegar.   This one has the flavor you want.   Whisk in the bacon drippings from the pan.  Now whisk in two tablespoons of sugar.   

In a bowl that you can refrigerate, place the potatoes.   Break up the bacon into small bits.  Use your hands.   Those things are your best tool in the kitchen.   Add the onion pieces.   Pour the liquid mixture over the potatoes, bacon, and onions.  Mix well.

Here is what the hardest part always is for me.   Fight with a roll of Cling Wrap for a piece that will cover the bowl.   This will often take me about twenty minutes.

Let it chill in the fridge for a couple of hours and then.....ENJOY.

Auf wiedersehen.

Dinner last night:  Hamburger and macaroni salad.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

This Date in History - July 20

Dedicated to those people who still believe that this moon landing was filmed on a soundstage.

70:  DURING THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM, TITUS, SON OF EMPEROR VESPASIAN, STORMS THE FORTRESS OF ANTONIA NORTH OF THE TEMPLE MOUNT.

My Lord.  It's only seventy years after Jesus and already the Mideast is a freakin' powder keg.

911:  ROLLO LAYS SIEGE TO CHARTRES.

I mention this only because I have no clue who Rollo is.

1304:  IN THE WARS FOR SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE, KING EDWARD I OF ENGLAND TAKES THE STRONGHOLD USING THE WAR WOLF.

Gee, even those pansies in kilts got their licks in.

1738:  CANADIAN EXPLORER PIERRE GAULTIER DE VARENNES ET DE LA VERENDRYE REACHES THE WESTERN SHORE OF LAKE MICHIGAN.

And realizes he should have packed a sweater.

1807:  NICEPHORE NIEPCE IS AWARDED A PATENT BY NAPOLEON BONAPARTE FOR THE PYREOLOPHORE, THE WORLD'S FIRST INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE.

Damn, this sure is a boring date in history.  And a tough one to make jokes about.

1810:  CITIZENS OF BOGOTA, NEW GRANADA DECLARE INDEPENDENCE FROM SPAIN.

See!  Not funny.

1871:  BRITISH COLUMBIA  JOINS THE CONFEDERATION OF CANADA.

Also not funny.

1877:  RIOTING IN BALTIMORE, MARYLAND BY BALTIMORE AND OHIO RAILROAD WORKERS IS PUT DOWN BY THE STATE MILITIA, RESULTING IN NINE DEATHS.

I tried to make an Oriole joke work.  I couldn't.  Also not funny.

1881:  SIOUX CHIEF SITTING BULL LEADS THE LAST OF HIS FUGITIVE PEOPLE IN SURRENDER TO UNITED STATES TROOPS.

Okay, good, the joke is...  Er, never mind.  Not funny.

1901:  BASEBALL PLAYER HEINIE MANUSH IS BORN.

What an unfortunate first name.

1903:  THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY SHIPS ITS FIRST CAR.

And it's immediately recalled.  Leave it to the American car industry to bring the funny back to this date.

1916:  IN ARMENIA, RUSSIAN TROOPS CAPTURE GUMISKHANEK.

Which may explain why the Armenians all moved to Glendale, California.

1921:  AIR MAIL SERVICE BEGINS BETWEEN NEW YORK CITY AND SAN FRANCISCO.

Is this with or without pigeons?

1921:  CONGRESSWOMAN ALICE MARY ROBERTSON BECAME THE FIRST WOMAN TO PRESIDE OVER THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

I wish she had been the last.  That's, of course, making the assumption that Nancy Pelosi is really a woman.

1926:  A CONVENTION OF THE SOUTHERN METHODIST CHURCH VOTES TO ALLOW WOMEN TO BECOME MINISTERS.

How long before one of them tries to tell us that Jesus was a girl?

1928:  THE GOVERNMENT OF HUNGARY ISSUES A DECREE ORDERING GYPSIES TO END THEIR NOMADIC WAYS, SETTLE PERMANENTLY IN ONE PLACE, AND SUBJECT THEMSELVES TO THE SAME LAWS AND TAXES AS OTHER HUNGARIANS.

Well, that's a stupid rule.  Isn't that what gypsies do?  Move around?  Meanwhile, we had some in my neighborhood when I was growing up and my grandmother said that, if I looked them straight in the eye, they would put nails in my throat.

1932:  IN WASHINGTON DC, POLICE FIRE TEAR GAS ON WORLD WAR I VETERANS WHO ATTEMPT TO MARCH ON THE WHITE HOUSE.

Almost as dumb as forbidding gypsies from moving.  Who tosses tear gas on a war veteran???

1938:  ACTRESS NATALIE WOOD IS BORN.

The kind of wood that doesn't float.

1940:  DENMARK LEAVES THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS.

They shifted to a division that had the designated hitter.

1940:  CALIFORNIA OPENS ITS FIRST FREEWAY, THE ARROYO SECO PARKWAY. 

How many minutes before it was completely clogged?

1944:  ADOLF HITLER SURVIVES AN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT LED BY GERMAN ARMY COLONEL CLAUS VON STAUFFENBERG.

How many Jews would have been saved if this guy could shoot straight?

1949:  ISRAEL AND SYRIA SIGN A TRUCE TO END THEIR NINETEEN-MONTH WAR.

A fat lot of good that did.

1953:  THE UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL VOTES TO MAKE UNICEF A PERMANENT AGENCY.

And gave cheapskates an excuse not to give out candy on Halloween.

1969:  APOLLO 11 SUCCESSFULLY LANDS ON THE MOON.

And the astronauts were introduced almost immediately to Alice Kramden.

1976:  HANK AARON HITS HIS 755TH HOME RUN, THE FINAL HOME RUN OF HIS CAREER.

The true leader in this category, not that Barry Bonds asshole.

1977:  JOHNSTOWN IS HIT BY A FLASH FLOOD THAT KILLS 80.

So there really was a Johnstown flood???

1984:  OFFICIALS OF THE MISS AMERICA PAGEANT ASK VANESSA WILLIAMS TO QUIT AFTER PENTHOUSE PUBLISHES NUDE PHOTOS OF HER.

As if Bert Parks never saw a pubic hair in his life.

1987:  ACTOR RICHARD EGAN DIES.

Well, that, at least, got his teeth unclenched.

1999:  ACTRESS SANDRA GOULD DIES.

Gladys Kravitz!!!  Well, the second one.

2005:  ACTOR JAMES DOOHAN DIES.

Beamed up.  Really.

2007:  TELEVANGELIST TAMMY FAYE BAKKER MESSNER DIES.

Mascara kills.

2013:  JOURNALIST HELEN THOMAS DIES.

Years after she first started to look like death.

2014:  AFTER FIVE DECADES, THE US AND CUBA RESUME FULL DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS.

Babalu.

2015:  ACTOR THEODORE BIKEL DIES.

I met him on line for popcorn at a screening of "My Fair Lady."

Dinner last night:  Chopped chef's salad.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Okay, Stop

If you're a regular reader here, you know it's full disclosure and that I review every movie I see.   And you know that there are some films I have seen because I had to get out of the apartment while the housekeeper was there.

This is not one of those times.  Truth be told, I saw "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" because I was getting my car serviced and I had two hours to kill at the movie theater conveniently located next door.   Timing-wise, it was either this or that Ellen Degeneres fish cartoon sequel.

I picked wrong.

Okay, I will admit there were moments in "Popstar...blah, blah, blah" that I laughed.   Like your typical SNL show when there is one good sketch in the whole ninety minutes, I did chuckle about five times.   But, the rest of this misfire is totally forgettable.  Indeed, it's like a ninety minute SNL sketch.   It will get cold faster than those broccoli sprouts you steamed in a wok last night.

"Popstar" fancies itself as a homage to "This is Spinal Tap."  It's a documentary parody about a Justin Bieber type and, given the target, you realize how easy those jokes should have gone.   But, whereas you could watch "Spinal Tap" over thirty years later and still enjoy it, "Popstar" is so laden with topical references that it became dated twenty minutes after its release.   It proves one more time that Hollywood films are no longer built to last past the Sunday night of opening weekend.

There are two major issues with "Popstar" beyond its general lack of humor.   That would be its star, Andy Samberg, who is the latest "mystery talent" to come from the SNL gene pool.  I still haven't figured out the success of Will Ferrell and now we have to deal with Samberg who's not as talented as he himself thinks he is.  Plus, in this specific movie, he's playing the Beiber-like title role and, given that Samberg himself is pushing 40, you can imagine how miscast he is.

My other problem with this dreck is the language.    Most of the words in the script are either "F" bombs or "D" bombs.   What's a "D" bomb?   Well, the last two letters are the same as in the "F" bomb and you should get the picture by now.   I'm not a prude but this profanity adds nothing to the humor and is totally gratuitous.   Don't expect to see this shown on a plane anytime soon.   Unless, of course, 89 minutes of the audio is silenced

Well, I didn't really expect much from this movie, so I suppose I'm not that disappointed.   Plus my car is fine and the tires got rotated.   Next time, however, I just might bring a book for the Culver City Toyota waiting area.

LEN'S RATING:  One-half star.

Dinner last night:  Leftover barbecue chicken.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 18, 2016

You must have an IQ of 25 or higher to go on this ride.

Dinner last night:  Barbecue chicken thighs, macaroni salad, and marinated cucumbers.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - One Vacation Destination

Next weekend is the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony and I am guessing thousands of Met fans will be motoring up to Cooperstown to see their hero Mike Piazza get his plaque on the wall.   I no longer count myself as one of his fans after reading his incredibly whiny autobiography.   And, of course, for some misguided reason, he chose that tome to publicly trash Vin Scully.   

Stupid, stupid.

The Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown is probably a carnival.   If you really want to go there and enjoy the place all to yourself, try another weekend.  But, by all means, go.   

I myself have been to Cooperstown twice in my life and I pledge to go one more time before I play on that big diamond in the sky.  The next time will be the occasion where I really celebrate its existence.   My first two trips don't necessarily count.

Ah, flashback...

My first visit to Cooperstown came when I was about ten or eleven.   It was an ignoble experience because it would be one of the last summer vacations my parents and I took together.   Already we were running out of places to go because my family unit didn't really go any place that you couldn't drive to.   And, while we used to vacation with other families, all those connections started to drift off.   Indeed, Cooperstown would be a place we would venture...just the three of us.

Okay, at least I was excited by the prospect.  This was a dream for me.  Home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Given my new love for America's sport, this was a great choice on their part.  I couldn't wait to walk on Doubleday Field, where the game was allegedly invented.  I was dying to see all the plaques in the Hall itself.  And buy some nifty souvenirs.  

Plus it didn't look like that far a drive for me to be cooped up in the back seat of that year's family Buick.  

At least, it didn't on the map.

For some reason, my father, who was usually buttoned up on the driving part, opted not to drive up to central New York State on a highway.  He used back roads that seemed to add a week to the trip.  

Oh, look.  A farm house.

Oh, look.  A farm house.

Oh, look.  A cow.  And another farm house.

I fell into a coma.

Meanwhile, my mother was equally as pissed in the front seat.

Oh, look.  A farm house.

Oh, look.  A farm house.

Oh, look.  A cow.  And another farm house.

She wanted to put my dad into a coma.

When we finally arrived within the city limits of Cooperstown, another glitch raised its ugly head.  My folks hadn't exactly done their homework on lodging possibilities.  Given it was summer and close to that year's Hall induction ceremonies, rooms were scarce.  We wound up at a motel off the main drag that hopefully has been upgraded since then.   At the time, there was one major problem with the place.

There was no air conditioning.

Well, we didn't have it at home either.  But, here in hot and sultry Central New York State, we wanted it.  Badly.  As far as my mother was concerned, that's the whole reason why you go to a hotel during the summer.  Thanks to our lack of planning, we had no other options.  This would be our pressure cooker for two nights.  

The tension was as thick as the night air.  After the day of repeated farm houses, my parents were exhausted and wanted to go to bed.  The only child was once again reduced to finding his own fun.

I turned on my transistor radio and was transported to a magical world.  For some reason, you can pick up lots of out-of-town baseball game broadcasts at night.  I figured that this was because I was in Cooperstown, the mecca of all baseball.  Indeed, it was more likely that the calm night air allowed radio signals to travel further.  Nevertheless, I was in heaven.

Wow, it's the Pittsburgh Pirates game!

Wow, it's the Cleveland Indians game!

Wow, it's....

A voice came from the dark on the other side of the room.

"GO TO SLEEP!!"

I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame the very next day.  I savored every plaque and piece of memorabilia.  I took several weeks of allowance and purchased some baseball books from a local souvenir vendor.  And, while I couldn't actually walk on Doubleday Field due to some ill-time sprinkler activity, I sat in a dugout and pretended to be Yogi Berra.  

Even my mom seemed to enjoy the day, despite the fact that this was a good two decades before she became a Met fan.  She probably was simply happy to be out of the rotisserie grill that was passing for our motel.

But I could feel some friction going on between Mom and Dad.  They said little to each other in the car going home.  Except for one terse suggestion from my mother to our driver.

"Take the highway home."

If this was the next-to-last family vacation, you probably will want to know about the last one.  The excursion that killed it for all time.

Given that bitter memory, I wanted to revisit Cooperstown as an adult.   I figured I would appreciate it even more.   So, my best friend from high school and I decided to do an overnight trip there.  

This time, we would not take the road that led us through the back end of Farmville.   This time, I would call ahead and secure really respectable lodging. And, since I was indeed my mother's child, it would absolutely have to feature air conditioning.

But there was one little curveball.   My pal and I had never really traveled together before.

Oh, don't get me wrong.   We didn't fight or anything.   The drive up, eschewing my dad's ultra-scenic route, went by quickly.   We were able to go through the Hall and see all the new exhibits that had been added since my family had gone there.   And the weather was beautiful to the point where air conditioning might not have been needed.   

We had dinner and then checked into our hotel room which actually did look like the picture on the brochure.   Using my noggin, I had even secured a two bedroom suite so we both had some privacy.  

The plan was to visit the Hall again the next day to see the stuff we missed.   But a night's sleep would be welcome.   We retired to our rooms.

And then I learned something about my buddy that I never knew.

He snored.   I don't mean little snores.   I mean big snores.   The kind that sounded like you were living next door to a lumber mill.   The kind that were audible from a bedroom two walls away.

What the f????

There was my first trip to Cooperstown where I didn't want to sleep because I wanted to listen to faraway games on my radio.   And now there was my second trip to Cooperstown where I desperately wanted to sleep and couldn't.   I suddenly realized what it must be like to live next to those subway train yards. Or blocks from the landing pattern at JFK Airport.  I think those folks get used to the noise there after a while.   But, trying to sleep two doors away from this...???

I don't think my friend knows this and, if he reads this entry, he will know it now.   

I went out and slept in the car that night.

He asked me the next day as I slouched through the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Is your back bothering you?"

Um, lumpy mattress.

"Mine was fine.   I slept great."

Grrrrr....

Yes, I want to go back to Cooperstown one more time.   Maybe I better do it alone.

Dinner last night:  BLT sandwich at Cafe 50s.