Friday, September 30, 2016

Len's Recipe of the Month - September 2016

Coming in just under the wire for September and, frankly, you've run out of time to make this delicious caprese salad.   The whole plate is dependent upon having a good heirloom tomato and you really can only get them about three weeks a year.  So, bookmark this for next September.

This recipe starts with having some good neighbors.   Mine are terrific and they go to the farmer's market regularly.  And bring me stuff.   Two weeks ago, it was a big heirloom tomato.   So what do I conjure up with this?

See above.

You want to make this a layered treat so that every forkful gives you a bite of all the ingredients.   First, take a few slices of Prosciutto Di Parma and lay them side-by-side on a plate.

Take the heirloom tomato you might have gotten from your neighbors and slice it up in about six pieces.   Place the slices evenly across the cold cut.   

Take a small ball of mozzarella cheese and slice it into four pieces.   Put them on top of the tomato slices.    

Okay, you could probably eat it like this but it's key to make a vinaigrette dressing that will bring out all the flavors.

In a mixing cup, combine the following:

Two tablespoons red wine vinegar.

One teaspoon Dijon mustard.

1/2 teaspoon salt.   Don't do more than this.   There's salt in the mustard and the prosciutto and you don't want to be drinking water all night long.

1/2 teaspoon sugar.

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil.

Whisk this all up and drizzle across the layers on your plate.

Go ahead and eat.   Knowing full well that you probably can't have this again until the end of next summer.

Dinner last night:  Hamburger and salad.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Another Ridiculous Moment...

...brought to you by American business.   Hang on for the story.  But first take a gander at the photo above.

Yes, the good old days.   Kids riding the neighborhood delivering the local newspaper.   I think I wanted to be one myself.  We had a local paper in Mount Vernon, New York called the Daily Argus.  I believe I asked my parents if I could apply for a job.   My father probably envisioned that the actual delivery would be left to him.   End of discussion.

But I digress...

Now I've grown into one of those schmucks who still likes to read a newspaper in the morning.   Not on-line.   In my hand.   There are perhaps 14 of us left in the United States.  

Okay, in Los Angeles, I have had the LA Times delivered to me at my doorstep every morning.   It's not done by a kid on a bicycle.   Nope, we get them from a Mexican in a beat-up Chevy Impala.   He goes up to each floor via the elevator and quickly lobs them down each hallway.   If you're lucky, yours winds up close to your doorstep.

Indeed, the LA Times is not a great paper but, then again, I'm one who misses the hilarious headlines of the NY Post.   When it comes right down to it, I still subscribe to the paper for three basic reasons:

The sports page.

The comics.

The Sudoku puzzle.

Oh, and on Sundays, there's a fourth reason.   Coupons!

So, I miss the paper when I don't get it.   And, when you upset your routine, it's really a science project to get your paper stopped or redelivered.   When I moved back in March from the first floor to the second, it actually took until April for the idiot to redirect my paper to the new apartment.   For two weeks, I simply went down to my old place and picked up the paper there.

Vacation stops when I go to NY for a week are another dilemma and it's a crap shoot whether or not you can actually manage this relatively simple task.   Like when I went East two weeks ago.   Dutifully and about a week in advance, I went on-line to put in this temporary halt to my newspaper delivery.   You used to be able to call but getting somebody on a phone for anything these days...well.

I'm in NY and my neighbor e-mails me.   My paper is still showing up.   Okay.   He simply takes the newspaper for me so they don't pile up at the doorway and give others the incorrect notion that I'm...well...dead inside.

I return on the day that my paper delivery is supposed to be restarted.   And, of course, you guessed it.   No paper.   

And no paper on the second day.   I go on-line to report this and look for credit on the papers that were delivered that shouldn't have been.   I ask for that newspaper to be redelivered.   He does so several hours later.

On the third day, the Lord rose and I still had no paper.   This time, I called the LA Times and waited five minutes for a pick-up.   A girl answered.

"Hello, Los Angeles Times, my name is....um....Jennifer."

The "um" is because, from the sound of her voices, she lives in a part of the world where there are no Jennifers.

I explained my issue and she dutifully took down the information for a credit.   The Los Angeles Times is so sorry that this has happened to such a loyal and longtime subscriber.   "Jennifer" will communicate this to the local carrier.  Uh huh.   I tell them that the next day is Sunday and I want my paper delivered as per usual because I am expecting a coupon for 75 cents off on Visa Towels.

You do know what happens next.

Yep, no Sunday paper.   I call again and this time I'm a bit more inquisitive of the gal answering the phone.   This time, she's "Margaret."

Margaret:  "I promise this will not happen again.   Someone will deliver your paper within the next hour.   And there will be stern complaints issued by me to the local carrier."

Me:   "Thank you, but this has been promised over the past three days and nothing has happened. "

Margaret:  "Sir, this is our system and it has been proven to work."

Me:   "Okay, Margaret, can I ask you a single question?   Where in the world are you sitting right now?"

Margaret:   "I am in the Philippines."

Me:  (following a slight gasp)  "Okay, so my paper in Los Angeles is not getting delivered.   And the process to get this resolved goes from me in LA to you in the Philippines who then will contact somebody back in LA."

Margaret:   "Yes, sir.   That is how it works."

Me:  "Your system is stupid."

Margaret:  "It has been proven to work."

Me:  "No, it doesn't.  Can you give me the phone number of the local carrier?  I can solve this with one phone call within my area code."

This "Who's on First?" routine continued for several minutes, but, luckily, one Salazar Cortez delivered my paper an hour later.   And I was able to get my own issue resolved.   With one sentence that included about a third of Spanish.

Outsourcing on steroids.   And I'm sure each and every one of us has a similar story of trying to get customer service from a person several continents and one big ocean away.

Yes, I know American newspapers are dying.   Reporters are being laid off left and right.   Some journals are even shutting down.

But how much money do you save by outsourcing your delivery service?   

Ah, give me that ten-year-old kid on a bike any day.

Dinner last night:  Steak, baked potato, and salad.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

This Date in History - September 28

Happy birthday, Thomas Crapper and no, he did not.  Invent the toilet, that is.  But, he did....well, you'll see.

551 BC:  PHILOSOPHER CONFUCIUS IS BORN.

So now we have something to write on those little pieces of paper that get stuffed into cookies.

48 BC:  POMPEY THE GREAT IS ASSASSINATED ON THE ORDER OF KING PTOLEMY OF EGYPT.

Pompey the Great is now Pompey the Dead.

365:  ROMAN USURPER PROCOPIUS BRIBES TWO LEGIONS PASSING BY CONSTANTINOPLE AND PROCLAIMS HIMSELF ROMAN EMPEROR.

Talk about being pushy.

935:   SAINT WENCESLAS IS MURDERED BY HIS BROTHER, BOLESLAUS I OF BOHEMIA. 

What happened to the good king we sing about at Christmas time?

1066:  WILLIAM THE BASTARD INVADES ENGLAND BEGINNING THE NORMAN CONQUEST.

Hence, the name.

1238:  MUSLIN VALENCIA SURRENDERS TO THE BESIEGING KING JAMES I OF ARAGON THE CONQUEROR.

Gee, this sure is a tough day to be a king.

1542:  NAVIGATOR JOAO RODRIGUES CABRILHO OF PORTUGAL ARRIVES AT WHAT IS NOW SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA.

He was quite disappointed when he found the zoo was closed for maintenance.

1708:  PETER THE GREAT DEFEATS THE SWEDES AT THE BATTLE OF LESNAYA.

There's an awful lot of guys in history who thought they were Great.

1787:  THE NEWLY COMPLETED UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION IS VOTED ON BY THE U.S. CONGRESS TO BE SENT TO THE STATES FOR APPROVAL.

Back in the days when we actually had united states.

1836:  INVENTOR THOMAS CRAPPER IS BORN.

...but he did invent the ball cock that is used in flush toilets.  And that's a funny name, too.

1844:  OSCAR I OF SWEDEN-NORWAY IS CROWNED KING OF SWEDEN.

But apparently wasn't Great.

1867:  TORONTO BECOMES THE CAPITAL OF ONTARIO.

And the Maple Leafs couldn't be far behind.

1868:  BATTLE OF ALCOLEA CAUSES QUEEN ISABELLA II OF SPAIN TO FLEE TO FRANCE.

Trying to avoid becoming Isabella the Sick.

1895:  SCIENTIST LOUIS PASTEUR DIES.

Don't cry over spilled....

1901:  BROADCAST PIONEER WILLIAM S. PALEY IS BORN.

It's funny that, on the very same day....

1901:  TV HOST ED SULLIVAN IS BORN.

Who wound up making oodles of money for his fellow birthday mate.

1909:  CARTOONIST AL CAPP IS BORN.

H'ppy b'rthdy.

1918:  ACTOR ARNOLD STANG IS BORN.

He was the voice of Top Cat.  And also ate an awful lot of Chunky Candy.

1919:  ACTRESS DORIS SINGLETON IS BORN.

Carolyn Appleby from I Love Lucy!!!!

1928:  THE U.K. PARLIAMENT PASSES THE DANGEROUS DRUGS ACT OUTLAWING CANNABIS.

Buzz killers.

1928:  SIR ALEXANDER FLEMING NOTICES A BACTERIA-KILLING MOLD GROWING IN HIS LABORATORY, DISCOVERING WHAT LATER BECAME KNOWN AS PENCILLIN.

That's what he gets for buying week-old bread.

1934:  ACTRESS BRIGITTE BARDOT IS BORN.

Now we're talking.

1939:  WARSAW SURRENDERS TO NAZI GERMANY DURING WORLD WAR II.

You really didn't expect them to put up much of a fight, did you?

1951:  CBS MAKES THE FIRST COLOR TELEVISIONS AVAILABLE FOR SALE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC.

So how come all the first color TV programs were on NBC???

1960:  MALI AND SENEGAL JOIN THE UNITED NATIONS.

Who lowered the annual dues?

1964:  ACTOR HARPO MARX DIES.

His last words?   ............................................

1971:  THE PARLIAMENT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM PASSES THE MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT BANNING THE MEDICINAL USE OF CANNABIS.

And even more buzz killing.

1978:  POPE JOHN PAUL I DIES.

He barely had a chance to unpack.

1991:  JAZZ MUSICIAN MILES DAVIS DIES.

Miles is now six feet under.

2003:  TENNIS PLAYER ALTHEA GIBSON DIES.

Game, set, match.

2003:  DIRECTOR ELIA KAZAN DIES.

He was on the waterfront, but now is a bit further inland.

2004:  DESIGNER GEOFFREY BEENE DIES.

No longer in fashion.

2004:  RADIO DISC JOCKEY SCOTT MUNI DIES.

This guy was a real scumbag.  I'm just saying...

Dinner last night:  Chef's salad.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Son of Big Chill

Somebody once told me that there are really only five original ideas for a movie.   And the more I go to films, the more I believe this to be true.

You all remember "The Big Chill?"   A great movie about a bunch of college pals reconnecting after one of their friends commits suicide.   They spend a weekend together to talk and repair their lives.   Indeed, that might be standard movie plot #4 because it's been redone a thousand times.    Most recently, that copycat would be "The Intervention," a small and strangely entertaining film that owes its entire existence to "The Big Chill."  The youngins in this story could be the children or even...gasp...grandchildren of the characters of "The Big Chill."

While the former was a terrific movie that I watched over and over again, "The Intervention" probably has a shelf life of about a week.   I saw it two weeks ago and it's already available on demand.   It's a work that's not going to save lives or win Oscars.   But it's a perfectly good way to spend ninety or so minutes.  

As I said, the plot is Big Chill-ese for sure.   In this case, we're talking a bunch of thirty-somethings...three couples who want to take a weekend at a house that looks just like the one in "The Big Chill" and help a fourth couple with their marital issues.  Essentially, a group of busy bodies who just can't help butting into each other's lives.  

Yeah, that's it. plot wise.

The writer/director/producer/co-star is Clea Duvall and you will recognize her from about two hundred TV and movie appearances.   She has fashioned this script from her real life as she apparently has a similar bunch of busy bodies around her.  As a result, a lot of the humor rings true and there are some genuine laughs as well as awkward moments where friends insert themselves into your business a little too far.   

While the characters are pretty stereotypical including the now token gay or lesbian couple that shows up in everything Hollywood produces in 2016, I give Duvall props for not succumbing to the demands for diversity.   There are no Blacks or Hispanics or Asians or Muslims in "The Intervention."  Maybe there are none in Duvall's circle.   And, frankly, that's okay.  Not every single film should be required to promote the demographic rainbow.

The acting in "The Intervention" is pretty spot-on and the always welcome Melanie Lynskey is perfect as the busiest body of them all.  Yes, there is a sameness to the plot and the movie forges no new ground.  But, frankly, sometimes that's okay, too.  If you're entertained, don't think about how you got there.   Just enjoy the ride.

A side note about "The Intervention."   It's one of those many small independent films that tries to get traction by scheduling Q and A sessions with the moviemakers when it's being shown.   This happens in Hollywood and my screening of "The Intervention" had such a session afterwards.   Clea Duvall was there and I was really curious on how she came to this story...with or without "The Big Chill."  The only problem with this forum was she brought along one of her co-stars, some dipshit named Ben Schwartz, who hijacked the proceedings with his incessant need to be funny and/or drop the F bomb. Indeed, his performance in the movie was by far the weakest and certainly didn't merit a personal appearance.  He was available likely because he couldn't get a date for Saturday night.

Too bad.   Because I was dying to hear somebody ask Clea this question.

"How much did 'The Big Chill' influence you when you were writing this movie?"

LEN'S RATING:   Three stars.

Dinner last night:  Caprese salad.






Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 26, 2016

Boy, do we miss Charles Nelson Reilly?

Dinner last night:  BLT at Cafe 50s.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - All Around Us

Oh, the memories.   My best pal from childhood, Leo, recently revisited this legendary novel.   This is noteworthy because he and I read the book originally when we were much, much younger.   The lure of the story, despite being a classic, was the infamous dirty pages at the beginning.  For years, I remember these passages on Page 23.   Then, for some reason, that morphs into Page 27.

Well, I just bought this and I am going to reread it myself.   PS, in this paperback version, the really spicy stuff is on Page 26.

Regardless of how memories can do acrobatics in your mind, I am looking forward to renewing acquaintances with the Corleone family.   Neighbors like no others you might know.

Or not.

Back in my youthful era of my hometown of Mount Vernon, New York, the city itself was mysteriously and uncomfortably divided.   The New Haven Railroad tracks cut through the center of town and created an odd geographic divide. The so-called "South Side," where we lived was a little poorer and skewed African-American.   The "North Side" was a little more affluent and skewed White and Jewish.

But, in the center of it all, was City Hall.  And, back when I was a kid, everybody in there was Italian.  

Ahem.

I used to hear it all the time in my neighborhood and my own home.   If you need something done on your block or in your school, you called somebody.   And everybody seemed to know that certain somebody with a name ending with either an "i", an "a", or an "o."   Heck, I was a kid and all the racial or ethnic divisions meant nothing to me.   I went to school with all of them and didn't give it a moment's thought.

What I also didn't consider was the folks running the town.   Who knew of such things when you were 8 or 9?  But, when something needed a tree branch cut or an old sofa picked up, whispers started.   I saw it with my own folks.

"Call City Hall and talk to..."

When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted a summer job with the city recreation park.   Playground supervisor.  Hell, it was the cushy gig of all time. Great money and you sat around all day.  Maybe, once in a while, you had to put a Bandaid on some kid's scraped knee.    

Now everybody wanted this job and you had to take a test to do so.  My high school bestie Danny and I did.   The room was full of about fifty hopefuls for maybe five openings.  It was like "A Chorus Line" except with basketballs and slides.   We took the exam but I am sure we didn't exactly get a grade of 100.

My dad stepped in.

"I'll call somebody."

Both of us got hired within the next week.

So, even a few years beyond that, I was cleaning out some drawers where my mother kept mementos.   Newspaper clippings of me making the junior high honor roll.   Old report cards.   And then I stumbled upon a dog-eared page ripped haphazardly from the town newspaper.   It was about a sting operation that nabbed a couple of horse racing bookies.   In among all the names that ended with a vowel was one I couldn't miss.   My jaw hit the floor.

My dad had been arrested.  I looked at the date of the story and did the mental math in my head.  I was probably ten years old when this happened.   How did I miss this?  Was I too wrapped up watching the Three Stooges?

It took me a few days to muster the courage to ask my mother about this.   Of course, this was likely one of the subjects never discussed above a whisper.

"We don't talk about this."

Another classic non-answer brought to you by my parents.  But I was a little older and a bit more relentless.   Whatever happened?

"Nothing.  Your father knew somebody."

Ah, yes.   Somebody.

Dinner last night:   General Tso's Chicken from Panda Express.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - September 2016

With the disgusting Presidential election we have at hand, this great movie comes to mind more and more often.

Dinner last night:  Bacon wrapped Dodger Dog on Vin Scully Night.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Your Weekend Movie Guide for September 2016

Here's what was playing at the Radio City Music Hall in September 1950.  Even back then, you could see that the more important (and possibly Oscar-worthy) films would start to come out as soon as the Fall season hits.

Finally, we might be rid of comic book junk and the usual world-apocalypse nonsense that clutters theaters every Sunday.  Stuff with a brain for people who also have...well...a brain.   Let's keep our movie going fingers crossed.

You know the drill, gang.   I'll wander through the movie pages of the local newspaper to give you my gut reaction to what is out there this week.   Here's hoping there's something there for all of us to see.    

Or you could always wait for "Sunset Boulevard" to show up on TCM.

Southside With You:   The first official romcom starring Barack Hudson and Michelle Day.   Yeah, some asshole in Hollywood thought we all needed to see a movie about their first date.   Fuck.  No.   I hear that the south side of Chicago looks virtually idyllic in this film.   I guess they weren't shooting it during the usual weekend gang war and gun battle.

Bridget Jones' Baby:  Abortion.

Sausage Party:  A dirty cartoon from Seth Rogen.   Which also means it's not funny.   Rogen is as hilarious as testicular cancer.

The People Vs. Fritz Bauer:   Relation to Jack?

Blair Witch:  A reboot of something that shouldn't have been booted in the first place.

Bad Moms:  Joan Crawford better be in this.

Don't Think Twice:  Reviewed here on Tuesday.  Scroll back.

Hell or High Water:   Blog review coming.   There is a finger pointing upward. Is it the thumb or the middle finger?  Stay tuned.

The Hollars:   Are there any families in America that are not dysfunctional?

The Magnificent Seven:   The annoying Denzel Washington shits all over another classic.   Is there an original idea in your head, Stupid?

Best Democracy Money Can Buy:   Certainly not in America.

Beauty and the Beast:  That threadbare story redone again, but not as a cartoon.   Pass.

Chicken People:  A look at the word of competitive poultry.  I wrote that just as I read it.

The Dressmaker:  Kate Winslet stars in another weepy tale---her annual acting enema designed to entice Oscar voters.

Goat:  College hazing and abuse.   They should have seen my first year at Fordham.

I.T:  Pierce Brosnan's latest attempt to prove he's relevant.   Spoiler alert: he's not.

Is That A Gun In Your Pocket?:  I don't why you ask...I'm not enjoying this movie.

My Blind Brother:  About somebody's...wait for it...blind brother.

Queen of Katwe:  A young Ugandan girl who....never mind.

People You May Know:   A woman gets pregnant by her gay ex-boyfriend. Will and a Distinct Lack of Grace.

Storks:  The latest animal spotlighted in a dreary cartoon.

Indignation:  Reviewed here recently.   Interesting, talky drama.   Should have been a play.

Kubo and the Two Strings:  Bigger budget could have gotten you three.

The Beatles - Eight Days a Week:   Will be long gone from theaters by the time my blog review runs.   But you can check it out on Hulu.

Cardboard Boxer:   Somebody fights the homeless...literally.

Don't Breathe:   Does it smell that badly?

The Light Between Oceans:   A romance about...good bye.

Mechanic - Resurrection:   All about padding an invoice, I suppose.

Mr. Church:  Who dug up Eddie Murphy?

Snowden:  Oliver Stone's take on the legendary snitch.   Expect him to look like Saint Snowden.

Suicide Squad:   It's your life.

Sully:   On my list.   Clint Eastwood does know how to tell a story.

War Dogs:  A comedy about Middle Eastern terrorism.   Because ISIS is just so damn funny.

When the Bough Breaks:  This movie will fall.

Dinner last night:   Mexican feast at Lucy's El Adobe.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Yay! I Finished Reading Another Book --- "The Eternal Party" by Kristina Hagman

Well, I sort of finished reading another book.   I'll explain.

I was back on a plane and that's really the only time I crack open a book.  By the way, it's an actual book and not a Kindle.   I like the feeling of a book in my hand as I turn the pages.   No scrolling for me.  But I digress.

A friend loaned me this book, knowing that I was a big fan of the old (and then rebooted) "Dallas" TV show.   Larry Hagman, whom I know was an odd duck, was always interesting to me.   This would be a fast read.

Um, no.   Seated in 13C on AA Flight 172 to JFK, I dozed off several times while attempting to read Larry's daughter Kristina's memories of her dad.  You want to talk about uninspiring prose?   This book is filled with it.  Perhaps the dullest writing you will ever encounter.   The ingredient label on a bottle of Snapple is more compelling.

You would think this would be a juicy tome.  I mean, how can you screw up a memoir about a legendary actor living in Hollywood?   Well, Kristina did.   Indeed, I am sure her intentions were good.   She opens the tale with her dad on his death bed.  In the throes of pain, he is babbling jibberish but clearly keeps repeating "please forgive me."  Okay, Kristina's literary journey will be to try and uncover what Larry was seeking forgiveness for.

It beats me if she ever found it.   Now I want to hear her repeating the same phrase for putting this book together.

The saga meanders from her childhood to adulthood as her dad mounted an acting career first on the stage, then film, and finally TV.  Along the way, she liberally recounts their pot parties together.   I guess the father and daughter who smoke joints together form a special bond.  Then there's a lot of family nudity and all sorts of stuff that was perfected in the mud at Woodstock.  This is was quite the free wheeling life style.   And, essentially, that's all the author focuses on.

Yawn.

By half way through the book, I was so completely uninterested by it all that I started to skim the rest of the pages.   I started to look for names that might trigger some nice tidbits.  Patrick Duffy.  Linda Gray.  Victoria Principal. Barbara Eden.   

Nothing.   Even when the TV work was discussed, it was indeed some goofy drug episode or an art gallery showing that Kristina's work was featured in.   Ugh.   At least, she can paint.   She certainly can't write.

Technically, I guess I did finish the book because I did look at every page of it.  But absorb any of it?  Lord, no.

Kristina, please forgive me.

Dinner last night:  Prosciutto, heirloom tomato, and mozzarella salad.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

This Date in History - September 21

Happy birthday to Ricki Lake.   Yeah, I know, I'm at the top of the barrel.  But I always try to salute birthdays of those still with us.  Call me quirky.

19BC:  ROMAN POET VIRGIL DIES. 

He was born in 70BC and it really sucks when you have to use reverse math to figure how old he was.

1435:  AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN CHARLES VII OF FRANCE AND PHILIP THE GOOD ENDS THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE ENGLISH AND BURGUNDY IN THE HUNDRED YEARS' WAR.

The English had a partnership with burgundy?  I thought they drank nothing but tea.

1745:  A HANOVERIAN ARMY UNDER THE COMMAND OF SIR JOHN COPE IS DEFEATED IN TEN MINUTES BY THE JACOBITE FORMS OF PRINCE CHARLES EDWARD STUART.

Doesn't say much about Cope's leadership if he gets his ass kicked in ten minutes.

1780:  BENEDICT ARNOLD GIVES THE BRITISH THE PLANS TO WEST POINT.

Must have been harder to commit treason in the days before Wikileaks.

1792:  THE NATIONAL CONVENTION DECLARES FRANCE A REPUBLIC AND ABOLISHES THE MONARCHY.

Or should that be...repubic?

1827:  JOSEPH SMITH IS REPORTEDLY VISITED BY THE ANGEL MORONI, WHO GAVE HIM A RECORD OF GOLD PLATES, ONE-THIRD OF WHICH SMITH HAS TRANSLATED INTO "THE BOOK OF MORMON."

Possible newspaper headline:  Moron Visited By Moroni.

1866:  WRITER H.G. WELLS IS BORN.

He wrote the "Time Machine" so he could also be born in 1896, 1926, and 1956.

1897:  THE "YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS" EDITORIAL IS PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORK SUN.

In the middle of September.  Virginia might have forgotten this three months later.

1912:  ANIMATOR CHUCK JONES IS BORN.

Can somebody tell me why September 21 is not a national holiday?

1931:  ACTOR LARRY HAGMAN IS BORN.

Mary Martin was his mom and she got to fly around on Broadway.  Well, so did he before he stopped drinking.

1934:  A LARGE TYPHOON HITS JAPAN, KILLING 3,036 PEOPLE.

So that's what pissed them off...

1937:  J.R.R. TOLKIEN'S "THE HOBBIT" IS PUBLISHED.

Never read the book, never saw the movie.

1938:  THE GREAT HURRICANE OF 1938 MAKES LANDFILL ON LONG ISLAND IN NEW YORK, KILLING 500-700 PEOPLE.

But that didn't necessarily piss them off as much.  Because, after all, Pearl Harbor was not attacked by Massapequa.

1944:  ACTRESS/AUTHOR FANNIE FLAGG IS BORN.

When she dies, will she be at half mast?

1950:  ACTOR BILL MURRAY IS BORN.

Who ya gonna call?

1953:  LT NO KUM-SOK, A NORTH KOREAN PILOT, DEFECTS TO SOUTH KOREA AND IS ASSOCIATED WITH OPERATION MOOLAH.

Mentioned only because of his name.  And perhaps his association to a legendary lady wrestler.

1957:  RADIO HOST MARK LEVIN IS BORN.

He's always angry when there's a Democrat in the White House.  Well, be prepared for more anger.

1964:  MALTA BECOMES INDEPENDENT FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM.

Because people from Malta are a force to be reckoned with?

1968:  TV STAR RICKI LAKE IS BORN.

She was hot for about 26 seconds.

1971:  BAHRAIN, BHUTAN, AND QATAR JOIN THE UNITED NATIONS.

Countries that are only important because they show up in crossword puzzles all the time.

1972:  PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT FERDINAND MARCOS SIGNS PROCLAMATION NO. 1081 PLACING THE ENTIRE COUNTRY UNDER MARTIAL LAW.

You think he was ticked off this day?  You should have been there the time he got his wife's credit statement from Payless Shoes.

1974:  ACTOR WALTER BRENNAN DIES.

No foolin', he was the Real McCoy.

1974:  AUTHOR JACQUELINE SUSANN DIES.

Once was more than enough.

1976:  SEYCHELLES JOINS THE UNITED NATIONS.

She sells seychelles by the seashore.  I guess they'll let anybody in.

1981:  BELIZE IS GRANTED FULL INDEPENDENCE FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM.

Well, it worked out okay for Malta.

1981:  SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR IS UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED BY THE U.S. SENATE AS THE FIRST FEMALE SUPREME COURT JUDGE.

Like I said.  See above comment about Seychelles joining the U.N..

1989:  HURRICANE HUGO MAKES LANDFALL IN SOUTH CAROLINA.

Destroying thousands of homes and amounting to about sixteen dollars worth of damage.

1998:  ATHLETE FLORENCE GRIFFITH JOYNER DIES.

The race is over.

2007:  ACTRESS ALICE GHOSTLEY DIES.

Many people thought she was Paul Lynde's sister.  She wasn't.

2007:  TELEVISION PREACHER REX HUMBARD DIES.

Many people thought he was an idiot.  He was.

Dinner last night:  Pepperoni pizza at the Dodger game.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Okay, I Won't...

...think twice about giving this review.   And, since you insisted, don't be surprised if it's not the glowing accolade you want.

Or something like that.

"Don't Think Twice" is a mess of a movie that has you expecting hilarity and then receiving large doses of bitterness and anger.   I mean, it's all about these members of a NYC-based improv group.   Think the Groundlings or Second City.  Well, as soon as you watch the first five minutes, you know you are in trouble. 

Because you see this group on stage performing and they are woefully not funny.  Now, I'm not sure that wasn't the design of film maker and co-star Mike Birbiglia.   Maybe they're supposed to suck and that's part of the intent.   But, since they are not even slightly amusing, that makes everything which follows totally unrealistic.

You see, like in the Groundlings and Second City, improv actors like this are all gearing for the same thing.   To get a job either performing or writing on that great Saturday sketch comedy show we all know and usually detest.  Yes, SNL. In this film, it's called Weekend Live, but they do little to hide that it is SNL.   There are guest hosts like Ben Stiller and Lena Dunham.   The announcer sounds just like the late Don Pardo.  And the show runner depicted is unmistakably an unflattering caricature of Lorne Michaels.   I am guessing that Birbiglia has been spurned in real life by SNL because there's a lot of venom spewing here.

Unbelievably, one member of the troupe gets an audition with SNL, I mean, Weekend Live and gets the job.   This upsets the rest of the improv folks and they react with varying degrees of meanness and envy.  In one respect, you can't blame them because Jack, as played unconvincingly by Keegan-Michael Key, is the worst of the bunch.   Indeed, Key himself is also the worst actor of the bunch on the screen, so it's a double whammy.   Jack gets the gig because of his wonderful Barack Obama impression and that certainly is a device that will render this film even more untimely and uninteresting come January 20, 2017.

But, Jack achieves stardom and the rest of the movie is one big pity party whose invitation you wish got lost in the mail.  The characters are so unsavory and unlikable that you actually wish the projectionist would play the film at double speed so you can get the hell out of there even sooner.  

But, at its core, it's the improv work you see them doing that totally upends the whole movie.   How can you get invested in people trying to achieve show business stardom when they are just so plain untalented and...more specifically...unfunny?

I will add that "Don't Think Twice" is yet another movie that has gotten some very positive critical notices.   Plus there was laughter and even a little applause from the crowd I saw it with.   Most of that audience appeared to be young actors.  Hey, maybe you have to be closer to the subject matter to get it.   But, one more time, I'd care a lot more about the members of an improv group if they could just...well...do good improv.

Plus I'm just one of those people who thinks that actors are better when there is a writer behind them.   Ahem.

LEN'S RATING:  One star.

Dinner last night:  Chopped kale salad with bacon and cherry tomatoes.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 19, 2016

I want to try this.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so nothing much.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Back to School and Then Some

We know the kids have gone back to school because the buses tie up traffic every morning and afternoon.

Ah, September.

The Fall prospects were doubly ominous for me.   Not only was I going back to school, but Sunday school at church was also kicking in.   Jeez, can't a kid get a break?

The photo above is one from my childhood church.  St. Peter's Lutheran Church on 219th Street.   It looks like something out of the Little Rascals.   Since my family roots helped to build this church, I am thinking my dad was once in the same position as these urchins.   

I would be, too.   Many years later.

I do remember the pastor in the picture. By the time I was one of these tykes, the guy had the word "Emeritus" in his title and was about to have his first one-on-one with God himself. He had already turned over the reins of the place to another German, Pastor Hoeniger. 

But, one thing that did not change over the years? Sunday school classes like this one. 

This, indeed, may have been a confirmation class, judging by the way the boys are dressed. Time, however, did remove the bows from the hair of the girls I studied with. Mercifully.

In the circle of life of our family, my dad would drive me to the same church for a similar Sunday school class.  For an hour beginning at 9AM, he would sit in his car outside the church, reading up on Gasoline Alley and Moon Mullins in the funny papers. I was inside, learning how to recite the Apostle's Creed. 

And not exactly loving the experience.

For us, Sunday School was one big room. Long rows of tables and, as you had birthdays, you moved from one table to the next like it was a Parker Brothers game. First, you were at the kindergarten table. Then, the first grade table. Then, the second grade table. As you progressed around the room, you noticed that there were less and less crayons as you grew up. 

At the kindergarten table, you colored some drawing of Noah loading animals on his arc. At the first grade table, you got to memorize the writing at the bottom of the page you just colored.

"Noah loading animals on his arc."

Done.

By the second and third grade tables, you were starting to hear Bible stories. But, not the traditional ones. Instead, because we were kids and more likely to identify with somebody else our own age, there were books devoted to Jesus as a small boy. Going to temple. Helping out his father in the carpenter shop. Totally strange. Little Jesus as if he were the star of a situation comedy.
"Leave It to Jesus."

In retrospect, it was all absurd. But, back when, we bought it hook, line, and sinker.

At the beginning of every Sunday School session, we all stood as one group. Kindergarteners right through to the sixth grade. And we recited prayers and sung hymns as led by the wife of the church council president. One such Sunday service had disastrous results for me, when a lack of breakfast made me faint face forward.   It was very well timed.  At the end of the Lord's Prayer.

"Forever and ever...amen."

Thud.

For us kids, I guess this was a worship service. After all, we were not allowed upstairs to the main sanctuary. That was for the grownups. Downstairs, we had other life issues to grapple with.

"Hmmm, should I make Jesus' robe blue or green?"

The only time we got to go up to the big people's church was at Christmastime. The Sunday School annually put on a Yuletide pageant of carols and recitations. For this, my mother would make an in-person appearance. Which had been preceded by weeks and weeks of arduous rehearsals at home as she put me through my paces for whatever small contribution I was going to make to the show. 

Usually, the littlest kids had to memorize two or three lines of rhyming verse. She called it "saying my piece." For hours on end, I had to stand in the living room and recite it. 

Over and over and over and over and over. Laurence Olivier rehearsed "Hamlet" less.

And the words I had to say were always silly. Crafted by that same wife of the church council president, our Christmas pieces seemed to have been lifted from Bazooka gum wrappers.

"Tis the season, tis the reason, for glory to seize us, and love you, Baby Jesus."

Or something like that. The afternoon pageant couldn't end soon for me. Mom would be beaming in the front row as if I was Lincoln on the battlefield at Gettysburg.

Eventually, my Sunday School years ended with the natural progression. You moved to a Confirmation class with the Pastor. This was no small feat. Two hours every Saturday morning at church for two solid years. You didn't become a Lutheran easily those days.

And that meant I was now going to a school seven mornings a week.

Yes, a kid could not get a break around here.

Dinner last night:  Crispy honey shrimp at PF Chang's.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Classic TV Theme Song of the Month - September 2016

All aboard.  Here's two versions of the opening.   First is the standard.


And then this is what they used after star Bea Benaderet died. Dinner last night:  Bacon and cheddar frittata.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Moron of the Month - September 2016

Frankly, I am getting tired of bestowing this monthly honor to one of the many politicians running our country.   Let's take a rest this September and salute this creature.   The woman sitting in Seat 13B on AA Flight 172 on Thursday, September 8.   LAX to JFK.  Okay, this isn't a picture of her.   I was afraid to take her photo with my phone, thinking that the image might break it.  In truth, this picture might be a little flattering.  The troll on the plane was much more hideous.

And, thanks to a malfunctioning rear door light, I got to spend about eight hours cooped up with this gnome.   Yes, we were about 30 minutes in the air when the pilot came on the PA to announce...

"We have to return to Los Angeles.   We have a warning light that the rear door is open."   

Just like what happens when you haven't closed your car trunk properly, except at 30,000 feet.  

I didn't get too freaked out because I've had this happen before.   No sweat.   They would fix it on the tarmac and, as the pilot predicted, we would be back up in the air with the same plane.   

A long, long, long day.  Made worse by this gabby yenta across the aisle from me who did not shut up for a single five second period.   She glommed onto a seat mate, one of those Beverly Hills types who was 60, desperately trying to look 50, but with plastic surgery that made her look like she was 70.   Seriously, her face looked like it had been lifted by two 12-year-old kids on a school 4-H project.   

So, the woman with the tightened puss got sucked into a dialogue with the big mouth, who literally dominated the conversation from LAX to the baggage claim at JFK.   This would have been fine but she was loud and didn't know how to measure her own volume.   Every word was destined to call the hogs grazing on the south 40 of the biggest ranch in Texas.  You could not miss a single oral thought for hours.

"You can't overcook kale."

"My brother has had a urinary obstruction for the past five years."

"I prefer those Colgate whitening strips."

"And another thing..."

"Hillary Clinton looks best when wearing muted colors."

"Flight attendant, this man wants to know if you have Ovaltine on board."

"Louis Vuitton makes the best luggage."

"And another thing..."

"I have to get up and pee on average three times a night."

"Flight attendant, you never got back to me about this gentleman's Ovaltine."

"I used to be on Xanax, but it started to make me gassy."

On and on and on.   Now, all of this is verbatim and you can accuse me of not minding my business.   But, I couldn't help but hear every annoying word because she was so freakin' loud.  Somewhere over Montana, I was praying for several terrorists to step forward on board so I could say..."Use your box cutter on her throat first."

Even on the ground, she kept up this yakky pace all through the terminal and pulling her rollaway off the conveyor belt at baggage claim.   I noted that it was not Louis Vuitton so this confirmed that this blabbermouth was full of shit.   

She popped into a cab outside for a destination.  When I got to my lodging later that night, I turned on the 11 O"Clock News.   I expected that the first story would be about some taxi driver being arrested for shooting his fare in the head.  I mean, her head.

Sadly, it was not.

Dinner last night:  Had a long day of travel so nothing really.