Friday, June 30, 2017

More Signs of the Times












Dinner last night:  Chicken kabobs.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Those Photos You Find on the Internet

We've all found pictures on the internet via Google searches.   We've used them on our Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and...ahem...blogs.  We're all guilty.

Somehow, everything and everybody winds up on that World Wide Web in some fashion.   Heck, my parents and grandparents' images are up there for the world to see via this blog site.  And my own image is there, thanks to friends who don't adhere to my strict "Len must review all photos before posting" policy.

Whatever the case, I doubt any of us think twice about using a photo we find on-line.   Several of my regular blog pieces are pictorial.   Funny store signs. Mug shots.  These turn out to be most inexplicably my most trafficked and sampled entries.  I am guessing people take some of the photos I post and use them for their own purposes.   

Okay, one of the sites I have used for photo extraction is Awkward Family Photos, which has become so popular that you can actually find these pictures now on a series of greeting cards.  The photo above is used to illustrate that site and I am including it here not to ridicule the kids in the picture.   But I am sure some folks have.   

Hey, it's on the internet so it must be fair game, right?

Well, maybe not.   Here comes the slippery slope and I have the perfect example of that.  Read on.

Admittedly, the commenting on Len Speaks is not frequent.   When one comes in, this is big news.   And I have settings in place that require me to approve the comment before anybody else can see it.   So, about a week ago, I find a proposed comment from a person who will remain nameless (although she used her full name in the body so, in my humble opinion, she leaves herself wide open for on-line problems).   Well, this person was taking issue of a photo I posted in 2013 for one of those "awkward" pictorials.   Ironically, the picture was more cute than deriding.   It was of a baby in a packing crate surrounded by those styrofoam shipping pellets.   Relatively harmless.   But here's the comment I got.

I am asking nicely to please take down the photo of my daughter in the box with the packing popcorn. To you it maybe an awkward family photo but to me it isn't. I didn't give you permission to use this photo. I don't even know how you got a hold of this photo because it is not on social media that I know of. Please do not take things that don't belong to you and put your stamp on it. I want it removed because you do not have permission to use this private family photo.

Now I immediately went back into my archives and removed the photo.  No issue.   But I also did a Google search and found the same photo on-line in some other portal.   The author of the comment claims that the picture was never put on the internet.   Well, maybe she didn't, but somebody connected to her did.   And it clearly got circulated all over the so-called web.   She might be a little trusting in her world, especially since, as I noted above, she used her full name in the comment.   

So, I guess this all prompts a much, much larger conversation about our rights and freedoms in the social media universe.   Gee, I use some sort of photo every single day on this blog site.  While, except for my monthly mug shot parade (and those folks deserve all the comic ridicule they can get), I don't get that offensive.   I've seen a lot worse on some of my friends' Facebook pages.  But where does the line get drawn?

Or does it get drawn at all?

We're all up there on the internet in some way.   And, know that even if you are careful, that photo of you in the unflattering bathing suit is probably being seen by a lot more people than you think.

Dinner last night:  Salad.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

This Date in History - June 28

Happy birthday to Mel Brooks.   Heil Mel!

1098:  ASSASSINATION OF ALBOIN, KING OF THE LOMBARDS.

Who?  What?  No clue.

1360:  MUHAMMED VI BECOMES THE TENTH NASRID KING OF GRANADA AFTER KILLING HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW ISMAIL II.

Who?  What?  No clue.

1461:  EDWARD IV IS CROWNED KING OF ENGLAND.

Aren't they all?

1519:  CHARLES V IS ELECTED EMPEROR OF THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE.

It's a big day to be a monarch.

1776:  THE BATTLE OF SULLIVAN'S ISLAND ENDS WITH THE AMERICAN VICTORY IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY WAR LEADING TO THE COMMEMORATION OF CAROLINA DAY.

And I missed this day in American History class.

1776:  THOMAS HICKEY, CONTINENTAL ARMY PRIVATE AND BODYGUARD TO GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON, IS HANGED FOR MUTINY AND SEDITION.

Hickey has something around his neck.

1838:  CORONATION OF QUEEN VICTORIA OF THE UNITED KINGDOM.

More crowns today.  Jeez.

1846:  ADOLPHE SAX PATENTS THE SAXOPHONE.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Sax.

1855:  SIGMA CHI FRATERNITY IS FOUNDED IN NORTH AMERICA.

When's the beer pong tournament?

1880:  AUSTRALIAN BUSHRANGER NED KELLY IS CAPTURED AT GLENROWAN.

And a bushranger does what?  

1894:  LABOR DAY BECOMES AN OFFICIAL US HOLIDAY.

Paging Jerry Lewis.

1902:  THE US CONGRESS PASSES THE SPOONER ACT, AUTHORIZING PRESIDENT TEDDY ROOSEVELT TO ACQUIRE RIGHTS FROM COLOMBIA FOR THE PANAMA CANAL.

Dig we must.

1914:  ARCHDUKE FRANZ FERDINAND OF AUSTRIA AND HIS WIFE SOPHIE ARE ASSASSINATED IN SARAJEVO.   THIS MARKS ONE OF THE FIRST SALVOS OF WORLD WAR I.

What did Sophie do to anybody?

1919:  THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES IS SIGNED, ENDING THE STATE OF WAR BETWEEN GERMANY AND THE ALLIES OF WORLD WAR I.

The Krauts will return shortly.

1926:  MERCEDES-BENZ IS FORMED BY GOTTLIEB DAIMLER AND KARL BENZ MERGING THEIR TWO COMPANIES.

But who's the one married to Mercedes?

1926:  DIRECTOR MEL BROOKS IS BORN.

The same day as the Mercedes-Benz.  And they're both still around.

1932:  ACTOR PAT MORITA IS BORN.

Wax on, wax off.

1941:  BASEBALL PITCHER AL DOWNING IS BORN.

Met him once.  Nice guy.

1942:  WORLD WAR II - NAZI GERMANY STARTS ITS STRATEGIC SUMMER OFFENSIVE AGAINST THE SOVIET UNION, CODENAMED CASE BLUE.

Like I said above with all that Treaty of Versailles business.

1950:  KOREAN WAR - SEOUL IS CAPTURED BY NORTH KOREAN TROOPS.

Who's got Seoul?

1964:  MALCOLM X FORMS THE ORGANIZATION OF AFRO-AMERICAN UNITY.

Good thing his dues are only paid for one year.

1969:  STONEWALL RIOTS BEGIN IN NEW YORK CITY, MARKING THE START OF THE GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT.

Annual June parade to come.

1975:  PRODUCER ROD SERLING DIES.

Yeah, what dimension are you entering now?

1978:  THE US SUPREME COURT, IN REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY VS. BAKKE, BARS QUOTA SYSTEMS IN COLLEGE ADMISSIONS.

Well, then, how come lots of places are still doing this?

1997:  IN BOXING, MIKE TYSON IS DISQUALIFIED IN THE THIRD ROUND FOR BITING A PIECE OFF EVANDER HOLYFIELD'S EAR.

Should have marinated first.

2015:  COMIC JACK CARTER DIES.

My grandmother never liked him.

Dinner last night:  BLT Dodger Dog at the game.




Tuesday, June 27, 2017

When Film Critics Go Wild

Somebody asked me if I had stopped reviewing movies here because it's been over a month since I did.   Well, frankly, it's been that long since I went out to one.   There is a decided lack of fare that interests me.

That said, there was a recent film that I missed which I recently caught up to on demand.   I had read lots of wonderful notices back in February when "Get Out" was first released.   It's still resounding with some writers who list it as one of the top 10 movies to be released so far in 2017.  What better way for me to make my triumphant return to movie reviewing?  

Indeed, "Get Out" is yet one more example of how people overreact to the diversity push in Hollywood.  It's remarkable how folks bow down and kneel to the likes of Tyler Perry who produce fairly mediocre stuff.  Because, at the end of the day, "Get Out" is not remarkable screenwriting or directing in any stretch of the imagination.   But it is viewed as such because an African-American wrote and directed it.

In this case, the person at the helm is Jordan Peele, who is part of the popular-with-the-kids comedy team, of Key and Peele.   I've seen Key perform separately and was not impressed.    And this production by Peele, while mildly entertaining, is certainly not the historic epic that film critics want you to believe.   Because, at its core, "Get Out" is nothing but a rehash of a horror movie.    Due to its subject matter, "Get Out" is really nothing but "The Stepford Wives Go to Harlem."   You don't remember "The Stepford Wives" with Katherine Ross?   Well, by all means, catch it out...instead of "Get Out."

Okay, to review this movie, I will be giving away some spoilers.   It's your choice to read on or not.  I might be saving you some dough in the long run.   This film starts out in a way reminiscent of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."   The White girl, Rose, is bringing the Black boyfriend, Chris, home to meet her super-suburban and rich parents played with pomp and much circumstance by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener.   They're okay, Rose assures Chris, because they were both big Obama supporters.

As Chris looks around, especially at the Black help employed on the estate grounds, things don't look right.   The Black folks don't act Black, he tells his best friend on his cell phone.   Now, the buddy is a very intelligent TSA agent, which you know doesn't really exist in the real world.   Nevertheless, in much the same vein as the women were turned into robots in "The Stepford Wives," the White folks in "Get Out" are transplanting ______ of _________ into the heads of __________.  Fill in your own plot twist.

I guess film critics are falling over themselves with praise because this is apparently some monumental sociological statement.   In reality, this is nothing more than a goofy horror flick that is predictable as all get out.   And one reviewer went as far as saying that "Get Out" was a wonderful depiction of the violence being perpetrated on Black people by the White population.

Come fuckin' on.   You've seen this all before and "Get Out" brings nothing new to the table.

LEN'S RATING:  Two-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Grilled beer bratwurst.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Morning Video Laugh - June 26, 2017

Everybody loves a June bride.

Dinner last night:  Rib eye steak and pan roasted tomatoes in balsamic jam.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - "Most Kids Your Age Work During the Summer"


Today's title include the immortal words of my father when I turned 16.   That was an indirect way of saying I needed to find a job.   In reality, I didn't have to look far.

This nondescript street corner in Mount Vernon was the site of a monumental moment in my history.   Yes, the first time a kid my age worked during the summer.  

My first employment ever was literally around the corner. In the winter before my neighborhood chums and I all hit the 16 digit in age, we were excited to see a huge job opportunity start to get erected within a block of our homes. A Carvel Ice Cream store was going up on the property of the local car wash. As a matter of fact, it was a business expansion for the car wash's owner, some ugly creep named Jerry Rattner (he's got to be long dead, so I have no worries using his name). Jerry had the physical appearance of Frankenstein's monster with a personality to match. He probably fancied himself as this big business tycoon. And perhaps he was if you considered that one city block to be the entire universe.

Despite the ultra scary nature of Jerry, the local kids, including my good friend Leo and I, started to stalk him about when the store would be open. Jerry would always grunt the same reply.

"This summer. Come back then."

We chased this dude like showgirls would pursue Flo Ziegfeld. And, always the same garbled answer from the guy with bolts in his neck.

"This summer. Come back then."

Gotcha, Mr. Tall, Dark, and Gruesome.

Eventually, summer on schedule came. And most of us got hired to be the store's staff. I remember the very hot July night when the store first opened. We were decked out in Carvel whites with those stupid paper hats. And the place was packed to the seams as if nobody had ever seen before a two-scoop ice cream cone. One customer blended into another and we were all dizzy by the end. All the while, we had our Incredible Hulk of an employer standing nearby to critique our work. And concentrate on our mistakes.

"Whoa, that's too much whipped cream on there!"

"Whoa, cut the banana in quarters!"

"Whoa, stop giving all the pretty girls extra stuff!"

I wanted to say, whoa, fuck off, you bastard.

Amid all this hubbub, I developed a very real fear in working up one item for sale. It ultimately became a phobia that I needed to conquer and fast.

I was absolutely petrified if anybody ordered a Brown Bonnet.

You might remember that particular treat. A soft ice cream cone which is covered in this chocolate sauce that hardens on contact. You can actually buy the junk now in supermarkets under the brand name "Magic Shell." Well, Brown Bonnets were a very tricky thing to make. First, you swirl the soft ice cream onto a cone. And then you quickly dunk it in the sauce. Except I would always lose the ice cream in the mix. The cone came out without the custard. And this pretty much screwed up the sauce as there was now this glob of ice cream in the can.

"Whoa, that stuff is expensive. You're killing me here!"

Whoa, if only I could kill you right here...


The whole experience for me was torturous. Hours before the store would open to the public each day, you were on duty making all the "fresh" products that were sold in the freezer case. Parfaits, Flying Saucers, the 32 or so flavors of ice cream that were in vats displayed to customers. You'd stand with a tub in front of one of the custard machines. As vanilla ice cream dripped into the vat, you would periodically spoon something else in to create all the wonderful Carvel variations. Spooning in cherries. Voila, Cherry Vanilla. Spooning in chocolate syrup. Voila, Vanilla Fudge Swirl. Spooning in chocolate chips. Voila, Chocolate Chip.

"Whoa, that's way too many chocolate chips in there!"

Fuck off, shithead.

You'd go home at the end of the day, smelling like chocolate. You'd lay in bed at night and dream of the repetitive motion needed to make a cone. Over and over and over. And, throughout your sleep, you'd hear Jerry's voice telling you how you just screwed up one more time.

I lasted only the summer and no more. While my friend Leo actually thrived there as a manager and essentially funded his college education right through grad school, I realized that I was much better off on the other side of the counter. Licking the cone and wondering why there weren't more chocolate chips in the ice cream.

The following year, I moved onto another summer job. But, you will simply have to wait one week to hear all about it.  

Because, after all, kids my age needed to work during the summer.

Dinner last night:  Hamburger.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - June 2017

Released forty years ago this month.

Dinner last night:  Stir fry vegetables.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Every Old Protest March Is New Again











Dinner last night:  Hamburger and cole slaw.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dial It Down

Okay, this is long overdue.

Let me preface this all by saying that I am NOT a fan of President Donald Trump.  Nor was I a fan of Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.  Sad to admit that it was my intense dislike of both that had me not pulling either lever last November.

Going back further, I was definitely not a fan of the woefully-in-over-his-head Barack Obama.  Once everybody gets over their political correctness, history will show him to be one of the more mediocre people to hold the top office.   I definitely was also not a fan of George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush or the second term of Ronald Reagan when our country was likely being run by Nancy Reagan, Merv Griffin, and some psychic in Bel Air.

Devouring 20th Century Presidential history books as I do, I can pretty much declare that my favorite Chief Executive over that time is John F. Kennedy, largely because he exhibited the admirable composite of being socially liberally and fiscally conservative, which would be me.

But, while I am largely not a fan of many of the people who sat in the Oval Office, I am definitely a fan of the concept of President itself.  I hold what that job is supposed to be as dear and I view it with great reverence.   That's what I was taught by my parents and my grade school teachers.  Regardless of the party, you held whoever was in that office to the highest regard.

Of course, some of the respect began to wear off as the actual Chief Executives started to demean the position themselves.   Nixon's lunacy.   Clinton blowing his saxophone on late night gab fests.   Obama making regular appearances on comedy shows.   And, of course, Trump acting a regular Twitter fool on a daily basis.

While the last five or so Presidents have played a large part in reducing the reverence of this very important job, we all haven't helped.   The manic-depressive, bi-polar state of our populace has also contributed to the complete desecration of the office of President of the United States.

That said, I have never seen or heard in my life the type of violent vitriole that is rampant today.   Social media amps up the anger and it was not long after his election that I actually saw a Facebook friend of mine openly discuss that Trump should be assassinated.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Meanwhile, on the aforementioned Facebook, I also see a lot of other vile behavior from other friends that I would expect more from.  Cartoons, funny pictures, willy-nilly sharing of completely bogus news and theories from the likes of Breitbart News and Occupy Democrats.   Or you get on your Facebook page carefully edited clips from Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow and Trevor Noah.  A few of my Facebook friends share the rants and ravings of the no-longer-relevant Dan Rather, who literally and inexplicably began one piece by saying he was an avowed independent.  To say Rather is unbiased is like saying a Kardashian sister passed alegbra in high school.

Can I suggest that, in lieu of reading or absorbing all this garbage, you read a book about one of the people who held this office over the past hundred or so years?   I invite you to my home and you can borrow one of my three dozen or so volumes.

Okay, this is America and free speech should be our most cherished right.   Every one is entitled to their opinion.   And all of these thoughts should be tolerated not spit at.  A level of civility was begun by our founding fathers, but, alas, that has been thrown out the window with the baby, the bath water, and the crib.

Look at how the line has been crossed in the past two weeks.  D-list comic Kathy Griffin, who is as funny as a seven-car pile-up on the Harbor Freeway, holds up a bloody head of the President.   New York's Central Park stages a version of "Julius Caesar" where an exact replica of Donald Trump is assassinated on stage to cheers.  Of course, the pinnacle of ugliness came last week when some nut job shot up a bunch of Republican congresspeople as they practiced for a charity baseball game.

Are we proud of ourselves?   Especially when celebrity dopes like Madonna say that the White House should be blown up.  Charming.   Let's keep that disgusting rhetoric going.   Because, as history shows, we are not the most open-minded nations on the earth.   We have indeed resorted to violence to change the direction of our government.

There have 45 Presidents in our history.   That's not a lot.   Of that total, there were four Presidential murders...McKinley, Garfield, Lincoln, and JFK. Percentage-wise, that's high.   Meanwhile, there have eight other assassination attempts during the lifespan of America.   Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Harry Truman all got shot at.   President-elect Franklin Roosevelt was riding in a car when a gunman took aim at him.   The other passenger, the mayor of Miami, took the bullet and died.  

I'll keep going.  Gerald Ford got shot at not once but twice from the likes of Sara Jane Moore and that Manson chick Squeaky Fromme.   George W. Bush had a grenade thrown at him which malfunctioned.   And, of course, Ronald Reagan came very close to death when he got nailed by the president of the Jodie Foster Fan Club, John Hinckley.  

My count of both completed and attempted assassinations is 12 and that's over 25 percent of our Presidential roster.   When you think about that, I get a sick feeling in my stomach because I was always thought this was a peaceful and great nation.

You hate Trump?  Fine.   Likely, his arrogance will trip him up and the courts will decide his fate.  Or you pray that there are better options in 2020 and you vote him out the way the founding fathers designed this mousetrap.   But, in the meantime, dial it down!  Instead of putting up stupid cartoons or sharing the misguided thoughts of some moronic pundit, take some time and clean out a clothes closet for a donation to Goodwill.   Post a notice about a lost dog in the neighborhood.  Or do something else that helps us all in the community.  What you're doing on social media is just wasting everybody's time, including yours.

Civility is on life support in America at the moment.   But, perhaps, we can all engineer a miracle.

Dinner last night:  Barbecue beef platter at the Dodger game.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

This Date in History - June 21

Happy birthday to Bernie Kopell.  Everybody remembers him from "The Love Boat," but I fond recall him as...see below.

1307:  KULUG KHAN IS ENTHRONED AS KHAGAN OF THE MONGOLS AND WUZONG OF THE YUAN.

This must mean something to somebody.

1582:  ODA NOBUNAGA, THE MOST POWERFUL OF THE JAPANESE DAIMYOS, WAS FORCED TO COMMIT SUICIDE.

Daimyos sounds like a new yogurt.

1621:  EXECUTION OF 27 CZECH NOBLEMEN ON THE OLD TOWN SQUARE IN PRAGUE AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THE BATTLE OF WHITE MOUNTAIN.

Big news I suppose if you're Czech.

1734:  IN MONTREAL, A SLAVE KNOWN BY THE FRENCH NAME OF MARIE-JOSEPH ANGELIQUE IS PUT TO DEATH, HAVING BEEN CONVICTED OF SETTING THE FIRE THAT DESTROYED MUCH OF THE CITY.

Well, that sounds like a fair punishment.

1749:  HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, IS FOUNDED.

Was it lost?

1788:  NEW HAMPSHIRE RATIFIES THE CONSTITUTION OF THE US AND IS ADMITTED AS THE NINTH STATE OF THE US.

Primaries to come.

1798:  IRISH REBELLION - THE BRITISH ARMY DEFEATS IRISH REBELS AT THE BATTLE OF VINEGAR HILL.  

Vinegar Hill right next to Mount Olive Oil.

1848:  IN THE WALLACHIAN REVOLUTION, ION HELIADE RADULESCU AND CHRISTIAN TELL ISSUE THE PROCLAMATION OF ISLAZ AND CREATE A NEW REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT.

It's amazing how much world history I don't give a shit about.

1898:  THE UNITED STATES CAPTURES GUAM FROM SPAIN.

Why??

1905:  AUTHOR JEAN-PAUL SARTRE IS BORN.

Still waiting.

1915:  THE US SUPREME COURT HANDS DOWN ITS DECISION IN GUINN VS. US, STRIKING DOWN OKLAHOMA GRANDFATHER CLAUSE LEGISLATION WHICH HAD THE EFFECT OF DENYING BLACKS THE RIGHT TO VOTE.

No, Trump is not trying to undo this.

1921:  ACTRESS JUDY HOLLIDAY IS BORN.

And she just died on This Date in History - June 7.

1921:  ACTRESS JANE RUSSELL IS BORN.

I had lunch with her once.  Mike drop.

1925:  ACTRESS MAUREEN STAPLETON IS BORN.

Gets mentioned here solely because she was in "Bye Bye Birdie."

1932:  COMPOSER LALO SCHIFRIN IS BORN.

Still with us.   The genius who wrote the themes to "Mission: Impossible" and "Mannix."

1933:  ACTOR BERNIE KOPELL IS BORN.

...because he played Siegfried on "Get Smart."

1942:  A JAPANESE SUBMARIE SURFACES NEAR THE COLUMBIA RIVER IN OREGON, FIRING 17 SHELLS AT FORT STEVENS.

Because bombing Oregon was so strategic during World War II??

1945:  WORLD WAR II - THE BATTLE OF OKINAWA ENDS WHEN JAPANESE FORCES COLLAPSE.

And that's what you get for bombing Oregon.

1947:  ACTOR MICHAEL GROSS IS BORN.

The Michael nobody remembers from "Family Ties."

1952:  PILOT WOP MAY DIES.

Included here only because the name made me laugh.

1957:  ELLEN FAIRCLOUGH IS SWORN IN AS CANADA'S FIRST FEMALE CABINET MINISTER.

If you insist.

1963:  POPE PAUL VI IS ELECTED.

Probably the biggest nose of any Pope.

1964:  THREE CIVIL RIGHTS WORKERS ARE MURDERED IN MISSISSIPPI BY THE KLU KLUX KLAN.

No, that wasn't Donald Trump riding the third horse.

1970:  PENN CENTRAL DECLARES BANKRUPTCY, LARGEST EVER US CORPORATE BANKRUPTCY TO THIS DATE.

That was no way to run a railroad.

1980:  COMPOSER BERT KAEMPFERT DIES.

Wrote "Swingin' Safari," the very first theme to TV's "Match Game."  So there.

1982:  JOHN HINCKLEY IS FOUND NOT GUILTY BY REASON OF INSANITY FOR THE ASSASSINATION OF US PRESIDENT REAGAN.

You talking to me?

1987:  ENGINEER MADMAN MUNTZ DIES.

Also a name that made me laugh today.

2001:  ACTOR CARROLL O'CONNOR DIES.

Sheer brilliance as Archie Bunker.

2003:  AUTHOR LEON URIS DIES.

Really Exodus.

2005:  EDGAR RAY KILLEN, WHO HAD BEEN ACQUITTED FOR THE MURDER OF THOSE THREE CIVIL RIGHTS WORKERS, IS CONVICTED OF MANSLAUGHTER WHEN THE CASE IS RE-OPENED.

It's about time.

2009:  GREENLAND ASSUMES SELF-RULE.

If you want something done right...

2015:  BASEBALL PLAYER DARRYL HAMILTON DIES.

Maybe there will be a Broadway musical about him.

Dinner last night:  Bratwurst at the Dodger game.







Tuesday, June 20, 2017

That Wild and Wooly World of Social Media

It's kind of funny.   I remember about 25 years ago when e-mail was all the rage.   People would ask me all the time.

"When are you going to get yourself an AOL account?"

Oddly, I was resistant to this technology at the time, thinking it was going to be a flash in the pan.  Suddenly, I had turned into my dad when we would pressure him about getting a color TV.

Eventually, I would relent and know that I "got mail."   Today in 2017, I actually have four different e-mail addresses for a variety of businesses I am involved in.

And, amazingly, I am now all in.   And continually amazed by the power of social media.  Not only is it so prevalent, but it's all quite illustrative of just how fragmented our media consumption is these days.

Hey, back in my youngster days, I was one of those geeks who followed the Nielsen ratings for all my favorite TV shows on the...gasp...three major television networks.   I can recall that a show that reached 30 million viewers each week would likely be cancelled because they garnered less than 30 percent of the total audience.

Contrast that to something I just read about the premiere of the "Twin Peaks" reboot on Showtime.   They put out a press release on the ratings of its premiere episode.   500,000 folks.   Wow.   Gee, another 29,500,000 more and they would still get cancelled by ABC if it was 1981.

Of course, it's all about reaching folks in the different portals.   ABC's "Designated Survivor" got renewed for a second season largely because its delayed viewing via DVR or streaming is the highest of any prime time show.  

The social media portals are now the way to go for content and entertainment. And I learned this from first-hand experience.   I'm part of a potential TV project and we are trying to decide which video direction makes the most sense for our audience.   We decided to try and get a following even before we knew where it was going.  So I very quickly developed a Facebook and Twitter page for the show.

Luckily, most of our regular cast already have strong social media followings from their past career exploits.  One "forward" or "retweet" from them exposes us to about 100,000 potential customers.   So, we recently did a social media shoot of some interviews with the actors as we ramp up promotion.   As a complete aside to that day's festivities, we did a quick photo with the actors and I posted it that night at 6PM Pacific.  By 8PM Pacific, it already had 1,500 hits on Facebook alone.   When I looked at the stats overall, our little production, with zero episodes in the can to that date, has an awareness of over 20,000 people.  Okay, that's not at the "Twin Peaks" Showtime level, but you have to start some place.

This is how it goes in 2017.   And, to think that I didn't even want to sign on to AOL in the first place.   By the way, I still have that original AOL address for old times sake.   And, ultimately, my father was happy that we got that color TV.

Dinner last night:  Leftover barbecued baby back ribs.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Morning Video Laugh - June 19, 2017

So how was your Father's Day family barbecue?

Dinner last night:  Barbecue baby back ribs in the slow cooker plus homemade cole slaw.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - When Father's Day and Your Dad's Birthday Came at the Same Time


Here's Dad in a photo I have used before.  I don't have many others because, frankly, my father was usually the guy behind the camera as opposed to in front.

I am guessing this is some sort of graduation or confirmation photo, because Dad was usually in a suit for only two possible occasions---a wedding and a funeral.  Otherwise, he was dressed the same way.  A polo shirt, slacks, and a windbreaker.  And that's how I had him dressed for his own trip into eternity.  But, that's not the focus today.

My father's birthday was June 20.  So, each year with the timing of Father's Day, I had a double whammy.  Two celebrations rolled into one.  Every six years, the two "holidays" coincided.  Yes, I was able to get by with one gift.  But, when the dates didn't sync up, I was often faced with coming up with two different commemorations. 

As a result of this mess of a calendar, all the birthdays and Father's Days sort of morph together.  I don't have specific memories about them.  But, there were three Father's Days that do stick out of my memory drawer with great prominence.  Some I have written about before, but all good memories are always worth repeating. 

Take, for instance...

On a very hot Father's Day, my family made their usual holiday visitation to see all the dead relatives at Ferncliff Cemetery. Alongside the street where "Uncle Fritz" was buried, everybody hopped out of our car to do the necessary grave trimming. Grandma bounded out with hedge clippers in hand. But my dad and I sat in the car, glued to the Met game on the radio.

Except this was no ordinary contest. My father explained.

"This is history happening. The guy has a perfect game in the ninth inning."

I was a baseball fan, but I still didn't the complete significance.

"But the Mets are losing."

Minutes later, we listened to Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning strike out Met John Stephenson for the final out in this masterpiece. I didn't understand why this was such a big deal, but Dad did. That was good enough for me. Outside, Grandma continued to pull weeds out of "Uncle Fritz" and called out to my grandfather for assistance.

"Pop, get the shears!"

And here's another one from many years later.  On this particular year, the birthday and the Dad's Day festivity was on the same day.  So, I decided to leave it up to my father as to what he wanted to do.  Most of the time when I did this, he'd simply shrug and say he'd be happy to stay home and read the Daily News funnies. 

Except, this time, I was startled. 

He wanted to go to the movies.

Huh?

Yep, another story told here previously.

When I got to the age of 10 or 11, I stopped going to the movies with my parents. There were friends, both boys and girls. Cousins. Classmates. I learned how to do the whole cinema thing without parents intruding pretty darn quickly. Eventually, the only way my father was playing into the movie going experience was by dropping us off or picking us up at the Loews Mount Vernon or RKO Proctor's.

Until a few years later. When "The Godfather" came out. And became the absolute "must-see" movie across all sexes and age groups. It was Father's Day and my dad's birthday at the same time.  I offered to treat him to something.  Imagine my surprise when he blurted out his request.

"Let's go see The Godfather."

Uh-oh.

In previous years, such a suggestion from my father would have found me quickly putting on my jacket and running to the car like Maury Wills.

But not that day.

"Er, okay," I responded with a lump in my throat.

It was one thing for me to sit alongside my father in a darkened theater and watch "The Longest Day" or Jerry Lewis in "The Nutty Professor." That was a snap and the Milk Duds would easily slide down my gullet with those movies. But, "The Godfather." This was a relatively adult movie. Well-reviewed but certainly much more mature than "Operation Petticoat." And there was one very specific segment of the film that I really dreaded seeing on the big screen with my dad ensconced in the adjacent seat.

Page 23.

Mario Puzo's novel had already made the rounds of my neighborhood buddies. For us, reading that book was a rite of passage. More so than "Silas Marner" or "Last of the Mohicans."

And it was because of Page 23. The very start of the Corleone saga set at Connie's wedding. When Sonny Corleone takes one of the bridesmaids upstairs and violently...well, you know.

We knew all the words by heart. It was like sex education. Right there in front of us. On Page 23. It was raw. It was real. It was relentless. And easy to share with your pals up the street. But, in front of your father? That was one of those planets we didn't orbit ever in our household.

As I sat on the passenger side of our huge Buick LeSabre, I secretly hoped that Francis Ford Coppola had neglected to film that scene for the screen. But, from a friend who had already gone through his cinematic de-flowering, I knew it was there intact for all to see. Maybe the film would break. Perhaps a fire would break out in the smoking section of the theater right at the beginning of the movie. I hastily devised a plan to spend a lot of time in the bathroom for the first ten minutes of the film. Sorry, Dad, lunch didn't agree with me.

No such luck.

As soon as the first strains of Nino Rota's haunting theme, I was glued to the street. There would be no missing reel. No smoke. No imagined diarrhea. My eyes were riveted on the screen.

Page 23 comes very early in the movie. I avoided all side glances to my dad. I focused on the screen like I was reading an eye chart in the optometrist's office.

There was no sound or motion to the right of me. As quickly as James Caan had started the process up on the big screen, it was over. It was never discussed. Either then or later. My dad and I simply proceeded very nicely to the graphic murders, horse decapitations, and all the wonderful other fun that is "The Godfather."

My father and I never saw another movie together.

During his last years, the Father's Day/birthday celebrations got very simple.  All he wanted to do was go out to dinner.  Eventually, we even locked into the same location.  

A Victoria Station in Yonkers.  Famous for steak.  And, more importantly, for Dad?  

A fully-stocked salad bar.

I remember my dad's euphoria the first time he saw one.

"They have beets!"

"They have hot peppers!"

"German potato salad!!!"

This was all stuff my father used to buy regularly at a delicatessen on White Plains Road in the Bronx.  Now he was seeing it for the taking in an honest-to-God restaurant and he couldn't contain his excitement.

The hell with the steak.  Dad made three trips to the salad bar alone.

"Will they let me take a new plate?"

Of course.  They're chilled in the refrigerator.

"Chilled plates??!!"

This concept alone was equivalent to a polio vaccine for my father.

These were his later years.  And, conveniently, these very simple pleasures were his favorites.

Happy Father's Day today, Dad.  And, oh, yeah, happy birthday on Tuesday.

Dinner last night:  Hot dog at the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Classic TV Theme of the Month - June 2017

My late dad's birthday is this coming Tuesday.  A perfect time to run the theme song for one of his favorite TV shows.   Yeah, I know.  I don't get it either.

Dinner last night:  Salad bar.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Your Weekend Movie Guide for June 2017

This great popcorn movie opened fifty years ago this month and set up for a rollicking summer at the cinema.   I'm still shocked that Jim Brown couldn't outrun those grenades.

Meanwhile, Hollywood starts its 2017 summer and I doubt there will be anything as entertaining.   You know the drill, boys and girls.   I'll zip through the movie pages of the LA Times and give you my gut reaction to the crap in our theaters this weekend.   

Or watch for "The Dirty Dozen" on TCM.

Wonder Woman:   On its opening weekend, everybody in the universe but me saw it.  I can't believe the attention.   What am I missing?

The Mummy:   Starring Tom Cruise, the Dummy.

The Hero:   About some old cowboy that's a lot like Sam Elliott.  Oh, wait, it is Sam Elliott.

Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Men Tell No Tales:  I'd walk a plank first.

Paris Can Wait:   So can this movie.

Band Aid:  If the film sucks, maybe it won't hurt so much when you pull it off quickly.

Megan Leavey:   All about a female soldier and her dog.   Here, Lassie!

Beatriz at Dinner:   I hear this is a dreadful tale about people talking politics over dinner.   As if our own personal lives aren't bad enough.

Dean:  Paging Frank and Sammy.

It Comes at Night:  For me, it's cold sweats.

Norman - The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer:   Say the title and the movie is over.

My Cousin Rachel:  Based on a novel by Daphne du Maurier.   Book report optional.

The Wedding Plan:  After her fiance calls off their wedding a month before the ceremony, a woman decides to keep the reservation and trusts God will provide her with a husband.  Let me know how that works out.

Churchill:  Self-explanatory.   I hope.

All Eyez on Me:   A biopic about Tupac Shakur.   Eyez and well, also a sheet.

The Book of Henry:   This might be the forgotten Gospel.

Can Hitler Happen Here:   No, this is not a documentary about our current President.

Cars 3:   As a movie franchise, it's a better amusement park ride.

47 Meters Down:   Two women trapped in a shark cage.   You'll need a bigger cage.

Rough Night:  A bachelorette party goes south when the male stripper dies.   That's like the perfect elevator pitch to get my attention.

Pray for Rain:  Murder in drought-stricken California.   We told that guy not to water his lawn.

Moscow Never Sleeps:   How else can you keep up with all the information leaks?

Maudie:  Ethan Hawke as a folk artist in love with some old timer.   Free admission with an AARP card.

Long Live the King:  A documentary on King Kong.  Now that's interesting to me.

Kill Switch:  People harvesting energy from parallel universes.   I literally yawned halfway through that sentence.

Dinner last night:  Leftover pasta.