Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Back Again Comes New Year's Eve and the Littlest Bartender

It's Sunday and New Year's Eve!   That only comes around once every six years.  Woot woot.  

The requisite end-of-the-year celebration results in the requisite end-of-the-year Sunday Memory Drawer.  And the realization that New Year's Eve has gone through phases with yours truly.  Starting with the kid in the photo above.  That's me.  The littlest bartender.

You've read before the stories and seen the photos of the December 31 parties in my parents' basement.  Family members actually enjoying each other's company.  Doing the Cha Cha on the tattered linoleum that used to be in our kitchen upstairs.  And me mixing drinks.

Why the hell was I doing that?  Well, you have to understand my family dynamic.  Age-wise, I was in purgatory.  My teen-age cousins were usually making out with somebody somewhere in the dark recesses of the house.   My mother would warn me.

"Don't go upstairs."

I did once and immediately wondered why X had his hands on Y's....  They saw me standing in the doorway.   A couch cushion was tossed in my general direction.  

In No Kid's Lane, I had to busy myself on the adult side of the party aisle.  And, bored to the hilt, I decided to stand behind the table where all the family booze was lined up.  One relative came up to me.

"Hey, make me a gin and tonic."

Huh?   I was about seven years old.   But, smart enough to know the names on the different bottles.   I poured a whole bunch of gin into a glass.  With very little tonic.

"Whoa!  You put too much booze in there!"

Okay, I thought, I'll pour it out.

"No!  Don't do that.  We don't waste liquor.  I'll drink it."

And that how's this littlest bartender single handedly sunk most of the adult relatives at that New Year's Eve party.  I might have been the only sober one left in that entire basement by 1AM.

Pockets of memories across New Year's Eve.   Despite my position as a one-kid island,  I really cherished those family parties.   Trying to avoid getting a wet smooch from some old codger.  Working hard to make sure nothing on my plate had even remotely come in contact with the dreaded Vita pickled herring on the buffet table.  

Fun times.   And they drifted away too soon.  Just like on Christmas, the family drifted apart for New Year's Eve.   People stayed home.  Alone.   It was too much trouble to go out.   Why?   Most of our family lived within three miles of each other.

Of course, as I got older, I still wanted to celebrate.   The passage of one year into another remained a big deal with me.  And, hell, I was remembering what my cousins were doing upstairs.   When do I get to do THAT?

Yeah, well...

When I should have been groping somebody on a December 31, I was actually celebrating midnight at 6PM.  That was the year I spent New Year's Eve at a Tonight Show taping in New York.  It was taped earlier in the day.   When it was allegedly midnight, Johnny and Ed tossed confetti in the air as we pretended it wasn't really 6PM.  I went home and promptly threw up.   This New Year's Eve would be the first and last time that I had the flu.

More memories as one college party on one December 31 morphed into another.  Playing hockey in a dorm hallway with my roommate's crutches.

There was the year where I was fresh out of college and trying to impress some girl with my ability to cook in that new wok I had just gotten for Christmas.  Note to all: you really do have to chop up the ingredients or your meal can be a disaster.

There was the year where my fractured shoulder was in a sling and I could barely reach for the dice playing Trivial Pursuit at a neighbor's home.  I won the game and the painkillers were delicious, thank you very much.

There was the fateful Eve when I returned from a house party to hear that my mom had just lapsed into a coma at the hospital.  My first official act of the New Year was putting my John Hancock on a "do not resuscitate" order.

Yep, over time, the night of December 31 became less and less important.   It was essentially forced fun.   From those glorious days as a kid to less than stellar nights as an adult, the luster wore off.  There was less and less pressure to have...ahem...a date.   There was less and less pressure to even do something special.

Of course, I have written in the past of one magical New Year's Eve that stands out over almost all others.

1984. 

Typically, I had not made definitive plans, when my good friend Glenn in New York called with a bright idea. He and his wife were going downtown to an oldies club called Shout. In the true spirit of marketing, the place played the song several times that night. My friends even had another girl going, so we could easily divide the drink bill equally four ways.

To be honest, I don't remember who they brought along, because I danced with so many people that night. The night was electric. One big hit from the 50s and 60s after another. At several points out on the dance hall, we toasted catcher Gary Carter, who the Mets had just obtained in a trade. At midnight, they dragged out "Shout" one more time. And we all did. I kissed a few of the other patrons around me. I had no clue who they were. I didn't give a shit. 

It was that free. 

And easy. 

And spontaneous.

Suddenly, I was a kid again.   Mixing gin and tonics for the family.   And feeling so amazingly empowered with fun.

I've never achieved the same serendipity on New Year's Eve since. 

Of late, I celebrate December 31 on the west coast which, in my convoluted mind, stretches out the outgoing year by three hours.  If it's dinner with friends and maybe a glass of champagne, that's all I require.

If you look at all these New Year's Eve celebrations, they almost mirror the phases of anyone's life.  From the innocence of childhood to the unabashed freedom of young adulthood to the seemingly problem-laden world of a grown up.  

Okay, maybe it is an overrated holiday.   But, it is still the passage of time.   And one's life.

Dinner last night:  Chili at the Arclight.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Classic Musical Comedy Production Number of the Month - December 2017

What better way to end the year with this five Saturday month and this wonderful number that needs no introduction?  Especially on the one year anniversary of Debbie Reynolds' passing.

Dinner last night:  Leftover beef tenderloin.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Did You Go Back To Church for Christmas?












Dinner last night:  Sausage and peppers sandwich at Vito's.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Len's Recipe of the Month - December 2017

So this is the week people stock up on half-priced Christmas greeting cards. And all sorts of sales on merchandise that was sold for much much more just ten days ago.

In the same vein, here's a recipe for a Christmas cookie that you can use next year.  Or, frankly, you could make it any time of the year.  After all, who doesn't like a good cookie?

This is another gem I have culled from the Valerie Bertinelli kitchen.  A cookie she learned to make from her grandmother.  Actually, the resulting baked good comes off tasting more like a cake.  Or, as one friend put it at the office party I brought them to, the consistency of a black and white cookie.   Well, that's high praise.

The bottom line is that these things are delicious and the base ingredient is...of all things...ricotta cheese.

Here's how you make some friends.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.   Line two baking trays with either parchment paper or those Silpat liners which are terrific.

In a medium bowl, mix your dry components.  Two cups of flour.  1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.  1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt.   Whisk this all together.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the following:

1 cup of granulated sugar.  

8 ounces of ricotta cheese.

1 cup (two sticks) of softened unsalted butter.

Two eggs added one at a time.

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Put the mixer on low and let it all come together.   After about three minutes, start to add the flour mixture slowly.   If you do it too fast, you'll wind up with flour all over the place like a Little Rascals short.   

When the cookie batter has come together, use a tablespoon to make the cookies on the baking sheet.   They don't have to be perfectly symmetrical.  This mixture should give you about 30 cookies.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until the edges turn golden.

Let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes in the pans and then another 30 minutes or so on a rack.

Meanwhile, make the glaze.  In a small bowl, mix the following:

1 cup of powdered sugar.

1/4 cup of sour cream.

Two tablespoons of melted unsalted butter.

Combine that all and, when smooth, spoon it onto the top of the cooled cookies.  Valerie's recipe called for a sliced almond piece on top of each cookie, but I was going to an office party where somebody had a nut allergy and I didn't have one of those epi-pens handy.   The almonds are optional.

The ricotta cheese will make this a very, very soft cookie.   And quite tasty.   The best thing to do for the glazed cookie is to cool it in the fridge while the glaze hardens a bit.

Merry Christmas.   Or....Happy Easter.   Or....have a wonderful July Thursday afternoon.

Dinner last night:  Short ribs, mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots at the home of good friends Amir and Kevin.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

This Date in History - December 27

It's amazing how slow a news day it was for two days after Christmas.   But, it is John Amos' birthday, so good for him.

537:  THE HAGIA SOPHIA IS COMPLETED.

Who?  What?  Why?

1657:  THE FLUSHING REMONSTRANCE IS SIGNED.

I have no clue as long as it has nothing to do with toilets.

1703:  PORTUGAL AND ENGLAND SIGN THE METHUEN TREATY WHICH GIVES PREFERENCE TO PORTUGUESE IMPORTED WINES INTO ENGLAND.

Now we're paying attention.

1831:  CHARLES DARWIN EMBARKS ON HIS JOURNEY ABOARD THE HMS BEAGLE DURING WHICH HE WILL BEGIN TO FORMULATE HIS THEORY OF EVOLUTION.

Some people go on cruises for the food.   Darwin goes to figure out evolution.

1836:  THE WORST EVER AVALANCHE IN ENGLAND KILLS EIGHT PEOPLE.

For the worst ever, you would expect more than eight people dead, right?

1845:  ETHER ANESTHETIC IS USED FOR CHILDBIRTH FOR THE FIRST TIME IN GEORGIA.

100, 99, 98......zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

1901:  ACTRESS MARLENE DIETRICH IS BORN.

Alert the boys in the back room.

1905:  COMIC CLIFF ARQUETTE IS BORN.

Charlie Weaver to block.

1911:  "JANA GANA MANA," THE NATIONAL ANTHEM OF INDIA, IS FIRST SUNG IN THE CALCUTTA SESSION OF THE INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS.

Which means every worker in 7/11 stops for two minutes.

1927:  "SHOW BOAT," CONSIDERED TO BE THE FIRST TRUE AMERICAN MUSICAL PLAY, OPENS AT THE ZIEGFELD IN NEW YORK.

That ole man river....

1932:  RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL OPENS FOR THE FIRST TIME.

The first movie did not appear until the next month.   The film?  "The Bitter Tea of General Yen."

1935:  REGINA JONAS IS ORDAINED AS THE FIRST FEMALE RABBI IN THE HISTORY OF JUDAISM.

Oy.

1939:  ACTOR JOHN AMOS IS BORN.

Most people remember him from "Roots" or "Good Times."   I recall him as Gordy the Weatherman on "Mary Tyler Moore."

1945:  THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND IS CREATED WITH THE SIGNINGS OF AN AGREEMENT BY 29 NATIONS.

Couldn't make it an even 30?

1966:  THE CAVE OF SWALLOWS, THE LARGEST KNOWN CAVE SHAFT IN THE WORLD, IS DISCOVERED IN MEXICO.

Those swallows who did not make it to Capistrano.

1968:  APOLLO 8 SPLASHES DOWN IN THE PACIFIC, ENDING THE FIRST ORBITAL MANNED MISSION TO THE MOON.

Not counting Alice Kramden's trip there in 1955.

1978:  SPAIN BECOMES A DEMOCRACY AFTER 40 YEARS OF FASCIST DICTATORSHIP.

Because as Chevy Chase told us, that Franco guy finally died.

1983:  POPE JOHN PAUL II VISITS MEHMET ALI AGCA IN PRISON AND PERSONALLY FORGIVES HIM FOR THE 1981 ATTACK ON HIM.

"But don't do it again."

1985:  PALESTINIAN GUERRILLAS KILL 18 PEOPLE INSIDE THE AIRPORTS OF ROME, ITALY, AND VIENNA.

Random, I think not.

2002:  DIRECTOR GEORGE ROY HILL DIES.

Of all his great films, I think "A Little Romance" was my favorite.

2007:  FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER BENAZIR BHUTTO IS ASSASSINATED.

Bye, Bye, Bhutto.

2012:  GENERAL NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF DIES.

Atten-shun.

2015:  HARLEM GLOBETROTTER MEADOWLARK LEMON DIES.

Fouled out.

2016:  ACTRESS CARRIE FISHER DIES.

You may have read this somewhere.

Dinner last night:  Leftover beef tenderloin and vegetables.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

One Long Ass Movie Title

Since there are very few movie marquees left, film makers can now go to town coming up with movie titles that would not fit up in lights.   And the folks associated with "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" are no different.

Indeed, there's not much to change in this movie which should nestle in a boatload of Oscar nominations.  It's the type of film and performances that last with you long after you dumped your popcorn in the trash receptacle.  While not a production for everybody, "Three Billboards yada yada yada" tells a tale that is compelling from beginning to end.

The always welcome Frances McDormand plays a Missouri woman who is fed up with the Ebbing police department because they seem to have packed it in trying to solve the rape and murder of her daughter.   This is the kind of role that has you picking out an Oscar dress ahead of time.  McDormand can do so right now.

The Ebbing police department is played by Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell and they are not exactly Sheriff Andy and Barney.   They're the ones in McDormand's crosshairs and hence she challenges them by posting messages on three billboards.   A fourth billboard should tell Harrelson and Rockwell to tux shop for Oscar night, too.

The same goes for screenwriter/director Martin McDonagh who is also Oscar bound for this ultra dark black comedy/drama that takes you some really uncharted film territory.  If this comes up short at all is in the last fifteen minutes, where it appears they're not sure how to end it.   But, like many local crimes, they go unresolved and perhaps that's the point they are trying to convey.

This is one highly recommended movie and you will be hearing it a bit on Oscar night in between Jimmy Kimmel's unsuccessful attempts at comedy.

Just go up to the box office and say "Three Billboards."  They'll know what you mean.

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

Dinner last night:  Christmas dinner...beef tenderloin with potatoes, Brussels sprouts with pancetta, cucumber salad, and tomato soup.




Monday, December 25, 2017

Monday Morning Video Laugh - December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!   Today more of a smile than a laugh.   Enjoy it all!

Dinner last night:  Bacon and cheddar omelet before church service.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Twas The Night Before Christmas...My Way

Back by popular demand.   Just like Linus and Frosty the Snowman, the holidays would not be the same without this tradition.

And what better thing to do on Christmas Eve than to bring back this warm chestnut from blog days past.  It worked before.   It will work again.

Just imagine us in front of a warm Christmas Eve fireplace. Snug as bugs in rugs. And I open this book to read it aloud to all assembled. 

How utterly delightful! 

How comforting! 

How could I possibly get through the whole thing without making a bunch of snarky comments?  The green print is the poem.   The blue print is yours truly.

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

Okay, it's me now. An ignoble start to this Christmas chestnut, because right from the get-go, you find out they've got rodents in this place. 

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. 

Giving rise to another horrible childhood nightmare when Monte, my "alleged  friend" up the block who liked to spew a lot of Catholic hate my way, told me that St. Nicholas was obviously Catholic and didn't visit Protestant homes. 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; 

I have never dreamed of fruit. Even once. 

And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap, 

Bedtime headwear? The only person I ever saw in a nightcap was Fred Mertz. And what's with the nonsense about a nap? When you go to bed at nighttime, it's not a nap. It's called "going to sleep!" 

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. 

If there ever was commotion in our neighborhood, we didn't immediately think it was Santa Claus. It was probably the woman next door coming home drunk from the local gin mill. Once, she fell right through my grandmother's lilac bush. 

Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter and threw up the sash. 

"Threw up the sash?" You never should have tried to eat it in the first place. 

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of mid-day to objects below, 

If I was reading this as a kid, I would have started to giggle at the mention of "breast" and probably not get through the rest of the poem. I'm just saying... 

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer, 

This is one of the only Christmas passages that gave you any perspective on the size of the reindeer. Were they babies? And, if so, is this not animal cruelty? Making these things run all over the world in one night?? 

With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. 

Had we no prior experience with Christmas, would we immediately know it was St. Nick? On any street corner in December, there are tons of imposters. There are myriad ways that a scam artist could bilk thousands of unsuspecting children on Christmas Eve. After all, nobody is awake to demand proper identification. 

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name; "Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!" 

Okay, no mention of Rudolph. When does he get invented? And perhaps he was nothing more than a urban legend designed to get Gene Autry a couple of Gold albums. And don't you wonder just a little about Vixen? With a name like that, I wonder which of the other reindeer she was doing. The smart money is on Dasher. 

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all! 

I typed that just as Clement Moore wrote it originally. What's with the inability to capitalize properly? 

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky; 

Dry leaves? How do these turn up in a winter poem? My guess is that Moore started writing this in September or October and simply got sidetracked during the process. I know just how deadly writer's block can be. Who knows? Maybe this was supposed to be "Twas The Night Before Halloween." 

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, with the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too. 

So is this proof that Santa only brought toys? That runs contrary to some other images we have. Of Mr. Claus riding a Norelco razor up and down some snowdrifts. And Santa was prominently displayed on that carton of Kent cigarettes my mother always got as well as the box of Canadian Club my dad got from his friends around the corner. 

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. 

The way our roof was arched, there was absolutely no way that the sleigh and reindeer could have kept their balance. At least, three of those suckers would have tumbled off. Right into Grandma's lilac bush, lying next to the drunken neighbor. 

As I drew in my head, and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. 

You see, this always presented a major problem in our house. There was one chimney fireplace. In Grandma's dining room. And it was sealed with cement. I once asked her how Santa Claus could get in. She told me not to ask a lot of stupid question. 

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; 

Dressed in fur? Are we absolutely 100% sure that there was a Mrs. Claus? Because the image I'm getting is Liberace. Except no gay guy allows himself to get this dirty ever. 

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. 

You see a sprightly old gentleman? I'm seeing a homeless bum down in Santa Monica. 

His eyes---how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! 

Possibly warning signs of melanoma or even high blood pressure. 

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow; 

One verse later, we have our medical diagnosis. "Mouth drawn up like a bow." He's had a mild stroke. 

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; 

A stroke brought on by heavy smoking. 

He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly. 

I never understood this image. Do me a favor. Take a jar of jelly and empty it into a bowl. It doesn't shake. It just lies there. Inert. Now, if Moore had known about Jell-O at the time, this reference would have worked. But, then, you have the rhyme problem. Jell-O, bellow, hello, mellow. The whole poem falls off the proverbial map. 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; 

Another misnomer. Fat people are not always happy. Most are depressed, having eaten themselves into a coma for deep seeded psychological reasons. 

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread; 

Or maybe I did. An old guy winking and making overt gestures. Hello, Pedophile. 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, 

Head twisting. Body jerking. I'm thinking Parkinson's. What about you?

And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; 

Once again, I'd ask my grandmother how Santa could get out with a sealed up  chimney in our house. Once again, I'd hear, "You ask too many stupid questions." 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle, 

I never knew what a thistle was, let alone how much down you got from one. And, how about the noise this bunch generates as they leave? For what purpose? Aren't they simply going to fly over to the house next door? 

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night." 

Yeah! Me, too! 

Dinner last night:  Meat pizza at IPic Theater in Westwood.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - December 2017

Well, technically, it is a Christmas movie.

Dinner last night:  Reuben panini.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Everybody Loves Santa....NOT!












Dinner last night:  Chicken noodle soup.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Dear Santa...












Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just some ice cream.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

This Date in History - December 20

Happy birthday to David Wright, who should have had a more robust baseball career than he did.   Damn injuries.

217:  CALLIXTUS I IS ELECTED AS THE SIXTEENTH POPE, ALTHOUGH HIPPOLYTUS OF ROME IS ELECTED AS A RIVAL POPE.

I see a reality TV show here.

1192:  RICHARD I OF ENGLAND IS CAPTURED AND IMPRISONED BY LEOPOLD V OF AUSTRIA ON HIS WAY HOME TO ENGLAND AFTER THE THIRD CRUSADE.

Another day I slept through in tenth grade World History.

1606:  THE VIRGINIA COMPANY LOADS THREE SHIPS WITH SETTLERS AND SETS SAIL TO ESTABLISH JAMESTOWN, THE FIRST PERMANENT ENGLISH SETTLE IN THE AMERICAS.

Permanent as in these guys are still there?

1803:  THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE IS COMPLETED AT A CEREMONY IN NEW ORLEANS.

Keep the receipt.

1860:  SOUTH CAROLINA BECOMES THE FIRST STATE TO ATTEMPT TO SECEDE FROM THE UNITED STATES.

If only that had been permanent.

1881:  BASEBALL EXECUTIVE BRANCH RICKEY IS BORN.

His father's name was Lime.

1916:  WORLD WAR I - THE BATTLE OF VERDUN RESULTS IN A FRENCH VICTORY AFTER MORE THAN 9 MONTHS OF FIGHTING.

The French had to win something sooner or later.

1924:  ADOLF HITLER IS RELEASED FROM LANDSBERG PRISON.

What a stupid parole officer.

1932:  ACTOR JOHN HILLERMAN IS BORN.

From "Magnum, PI."  One of those actors that I thought had already died until he actually did about a month ago.

1942:  WORLD WAR II - JAPANESE AIR FORCES BOMB CALCUTTA, INDIA.

Meh.   But "Calcutta" was a great instrumental hit by Lawrence Welk.

1946:  PSYCHIC URI GELLER IS BORN.

Attention, all you spoons and forks.

1946:  TV PRODUCER DICK WOLF IS BORN.

At one time, he had every single show telecast on NBC.

1946:  THE MOVIE "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE" IS RELEASED IN NY.

Oddly enough, it had originally come out in August.

1951:  THE EBR-1 IN ARCO, IDAHO BECOMES THE FIRST NUCLEAR POWER PLANT TO GENERATE ELECTRICITY, POWERING FOUR LIGHT BULBS.

Four light bulbs that are probably illegal in 2017.

1957:  THE INITIAL PRODUCTION VERSION OF THE BOEING 707 MAKES ITS FIRST FLIGHT.

Food for purchase.

1961:  PLAYWRIGHT MOSS HART DIES.

Mr. Kitty Carlisle.

1967:  A PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD METROLINER EXCEEDS 155 MPH ON WHAT IS NOW AMTRAK'S NORTHEAST CORRIDOR.

Which means it forgot to stop at any stations.

1968:  THE ZODIAC KILLER KILLS TWO IN VALLEJO, CALIFORNIA.

Bad horoscopes.

1968:  AUTHOR JOHN STEINBECK DIES.

Of Mice and Corpses.

1971:  BUSINESSMAN ROY O. DISNEY DIES.

I didn't know they were Irish.

1971:  THE INTERNATIONAL AID ORGANIZATION DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS IS FOUNDED IN FRANCE.

Hey, we're all without Borders now that the book chain closed.

1973:  SINGER BOBBY DARIN DIES.

At 37.   Now that's young.

1982:  NEW YORK MET DAVID WRIGHT IS BORN.

Wow, he is already 35???

1985:  POPE JOHN PAUL II ANNOUNCES THE INSTITUTION OF WORLD YOUTH DAY.

Take a Youth to lunch.

1989:  THE UNITED STATES INVASION OF PANAMA DEPOSES MANUEL NORIEGA.

Adios.

1994:  POLITICIAN DEAN RUSK DIES.

The head of Rusk University?

1996:  AUTHOR CARL SAGAN DIES.

Into the cosmos.

2001:  COMIC FOSTER BROOKS DIES.

With all the liquor in him, he will never decompose.

2007:  ELIZABETH II BECOMES THE OLDEST MONARCH OF THE UNITED KINGDOM..

And used the same handbag all these years.

2009:  ACTOR ARNOLD STANG DIES.

Top Cat now on the bottom.

Dinner last night:  Leftover roast chicken.




Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Christmas Gift from Hollywood

"Wonder" is one movie that sneaked up on me.  I knew very little of the 2012 best selling novel by R.J. Palacio, but apparently it became mandatory reading for school kids of all ages.  I also knew little of the movie adaptation until friends on Facebook started to talk about.

Now I know all about it.   And I am a huge fan of this film, which is a must-see this holiday season.   A production without CGI or violence.   One you can take the kids to see.   

A movie the way it ought to be.

But, don't get me wrong.   This is not a sappy children's picture because, sorry to say, adults can identify with the message that resounds in every frame. Because, after all, haven't we all experienced self conscious moments in school, business, and life in general?   "Wonder" speaks to all of them and I am reminded of the message ever since I saw it.

Now, at first blush, you would think that "Wonder" is a medical drama.  Fifth-grader Auggie Pullman has had a rare facial deformity since birth.   It is explained quickly as a genetic abnormality during reproduction.   Smartly, director Stephen Chbosky doesn't dwell on the technicalities.   This is all about the feelings of Auggie and the family and friends around him.

"Wonder" spans across one single school year as the previously home-schooled Auggie is going to be mainstreamed much to the worry and consternation of his parents, played in marvelous under-stated choices by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson.  At first, Auggie hides himself under a NASA space helmet, afraid to show himself to the typically cruel school children.   And who among us hasn't had our own issues there?   For instance, here's what I used to hear...

You're fat.  (I was a chubby kid)

You have four eyes.  (I wore glasses)

You're spoiled.   (I was an only child)

Indeed, Auggie doesn't get treatment that is much better than we all endure in life.   Slowly, with the help of teachers and friends, he comes out of his shelter.  Oh, sure, there are treacherous spills in the road on this journey.   But Jacob Tremblay (as Auggie) is magical in showing emotions that we have all experienced.

But his story is not the only one here.   There are set pieces throughout which focus on all the people that Auggie comes in contact with.   His older sister Olivia who has quietly grown up in her kid brother's shadow.  The fellow classmate who has been asked by the principal (a restrained and terrific Mandy Patinkin) to be Auggie's friend.   Even the sister's best friend who considered Auggie to be the kid brother she never had.   You watch all their lives unfold as we see that, no matter how well off you seem to be, everybody has some broken parts.  The juggling of all these tales is masterful story telling and, at the very least, this screenplay deserves a multitude of awards.   It could easily get mawkish and overly sentimental, yet it never ever does.

I cried several times over the last minutes and I am sure you will, too.   Because there's a little of Auggie in all of us.   The recognition prompts the tears.

Tears of joy.

LEN'S RATING:  Four stars.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just a salad.